High magnification macro photography

Discussion in 'Nature' started by girishmenon, Nov 12, 2013.

  1. [​IMG]
    I want to magnify the smallest of smallest bugs.
    I'm new at macro photography and I find that I derive great joy in magnifying the smallest of smallest bugs. These bugs are so small and they just sit still. I'm not interested in chasing butterflies and fast moving ants. I make all my photos using a tripod and macro focusing rail.
    I've been shooting all my photos with a Tamron 90mm lens and 3 extension tubes (13mm, 21mm and 31mm) attached to the back of the lens but I still need more magnification. I need more magnification still.
    Will a 2x teleconverter help my cause?
    Will a 2x teleconverter eat into DOF?
    What about a 2-element close focus filter?
    Would it be ridiculous to use a 2x teleconverter + 3 extension tubes?
  2. SCL


    Why not get a dissecting microscope, the type used for watch making, printed circuit work, rock analyses, and lab dissections? Typically they have magnifications up to about 15x ( but may go higher) and many have a tube for your camera to mount on. Also, unlike a traditional microscope, they rely on light reflected off the surface of the specimen, rather then through a thin slice of the specimen. A reasonable used one can usually be found for less than the cost of a good macro lens.
  3. More magnification will result in less DOF, no free lunch here. WRT a microscope, you'll need a trinocular type, this will allow the connection with a camera.
    More DOF: perhaps a bellows or a dedicated macro lens will help: in case you're Canon user: a MP-E 65 lens offers 1-5 x magnification (at a price!), I don't know if there are similar lenses for other brands. Research other options.
    I have seen very nice results with high magnification with a compact superzoom + macro lens. I don't recall the details but the results were stunning. In this case the smaller sensor gives you more DOF.
  4. [​IMG]
    Here is a picture of a the year on a US penny coin. This is the "96" in "1966"
    I used a Nikon DSLR with a bellow (PB-5 I think) with a manual focus 20mm f2.8 wide angle lens on a reversing ring.
  5. stemked

    stemked Moderator

    Hi Girish.
    It's out of print, but if you can get a copy of John Shaw's "Close ups in Nature' (at least I think that's the name of the book) you'll find it is an excellent reference.
    A couple of points to make.
    Many, if not most 2X Teleconvertors unless of very high design will degrade your image, often significantly. And if you are looking at closeup/diopter filters you really want to get the highest quality ones you can, and they "ain't" cheap. Cheap ones really degrade your image, especially along the edges of the image, but high quality ones can be outstanding and have the obvious advantage that you will not loose stops of light.
    I have used 'all three extension tubes' but then you start to have to deal with other optical issues, I believe refraction is the main issue. As I'm not familiar with the physics involved I'll leave that for others to comment about.
  6. I started out with a good quality close up lens like the Canon 500D close up lens. Not that expensive compared to a macro lens and the quality was pretty impressive. Maybe you can add it to your current setup. In the old days a lens reverse ring was pretty interesting and cheap too but I'm not sure you can do it with modern cameras.
  7. High magnification photography of moving subjects is very difficult. Several problems.
    Getting the magnification. Controlling motion (yours and the subject's). Placing the very thin plane of best focus where you want it. Managing the subject.
    Solving the first takes money and knowledge. I can't help you with money. Most of the knowledge you need is in Brian Bracegirdle's little book Scientific Photomacrography and in Lester Lefkowitz' somewhat larger book The Manual of Closeup Photography. Lefkowitz is better for beginners than Bracegirdle, less dry. Both wrote before digital cameras and Canon's 65/2.8 MP-E macro lens (for use from 1:1 to 5:1) came along. Avoid John Shaw's books. He's a fine photographer, a terrible teacher, and much too Nikon-centric.
    Lefkowitz is better at motion control than Bracegirdle. The easiest way in the field is to shoot with electronic flash. You'll have to learn about that, set it on "auto" is a poor option.
    Best focusing practice is to set the lens for the magnification desired and move the camera/lens assembly to position the plane of best focus. With moving subjects a single lens reflex camera is essential. Practice, practice, practice. With digital -- I assume you shoot digital -- practice is a frustrating as with film but costs a lot less.
    As for managing your subjects, you're on your own. Practice, practice, practice. And learn to think like an insect.
    The ways you want to get the magnification aren't even second best.
    Get the books. Study the books. You asked a relatively short seeming simple question. It wants a book-length answer. Bulletin boards are inherently hostile to long answers, and that's what you need. Read the books. Now that I reread your question, I think that you need a good general beginner's book. The best I know -- I like it so much that I used to give copies of it away -- is A. A. Blaker's Field Photography. Al's a much better teacher than Shaw. You can find used copies of the books, well, maybe not Bracegirdle, through on-line used book dealers. Find 'em through, in alphabetical order, abebooks.com, alibris.com, amazon.con, and so on. Get the books. Study the books.
  8. What is your budget? The answer to that will help guide recommendations.
    I think you first need to determine the range of magnification you want. With a 90 mm lens you would need 90 mm of extension just to get to 1:1 magnification which will be unwieldy. Depending on what you are photographing even something simple like a 50 mm lens (you may already have one) with the extension you have will take you to > 1:1. (In theory you should probably reverse a lens in this situation but I think that is more or a pain than its worth)
    Second, the greater magnification the more challenging obtaining adequate light will become.
    Third, make sure you have a tripod adequate to the task - vibrations not noticeable ordinarily will ruin your macro photos - and use a cable release or on camera timer if available.
    I agree with Douglas that a teleconverter is not the ideal way to achieve extra magnification. If you use a closeup lens as David suggested do as he recommended and get one like the Canon 500D or Nikon equivalent that has 2 elements to minimize chromatic aberration. Single element closeup lenses are cheaper but you "pay" for that in image quality.
    Finally I second Douglas' suggestion of John Shaw's book "Closeups in Nature". I found it quite readable and helpful for practical photomacrography. I did not find Bracegirdle's book "Scientific Photomacrography" very helpful as an introduction - unnecessarily technical with discussions of lens systems that are not relevant to the novice.
    I would add: Shoot, shoot, shoot! Learn the technical details as you need them to achieve what you want but don't let them bog you down.
  9. I've experimented with a 1.4x teleconverter combined with 3" of extension tube on my Sigma 70mm 1:1 macro and it reached a final mag of around 4x. But you have to expect some degradation when using any lens beyond the parameters it was designed for. The question is which degrades it more, the extension tube and converter or just magnifying the 1:1 shot, and usually it's the latter. You can also try to reverse mount a lens as well. I did that on my 50mm and also got around 4x mag.
    But if you want professional quality work then you need to buy a lens/bellows combination specifically designed for macro work, and then use focus stacking to achieve your desired dof.
  10. Thanks for all the comments. Have ordered the books :)
  11. If you use a 50mm or 35mm lens with the same extension, you'll get higher magnification. Working distance will be less, of course. In the 1970s, like many people, I used a 35mm lens reversed.
  12. The best way to learn is to study specialist macro forums.
    As for combinations, I have used prime plus achromat supplementary and long extension and have even put a (high quality) TC in that lineup. The advantage of supplementaries is that they do not add diffraction in the way that teleconverters do. You can even stack two of them with no obvious loss of quality.
    I tend to give more details of my gear than do many macro specialists. Put my name and/or e6filmuser into a Google image search. (NB Because of the way Google works, not all the images returned in the search result will be mine, this effect increasingly so as you scroll down).
  13. This is an update on my high-magnification setup:

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