Stacked lenses for macro work.

Discussion in 'Nature' started by ellis_vener_photography, Sep 6, 1999.

  1. I checked the "Equipment - macro lenses" category but saw no questions
    relevant to this topic. I understand that it is possible to stack two
    lenses, front end to front end via a male-to-male step ring. As I
    recall if the prime lens (the one mounted to the body) is a high
    quality zoom like the 80-200mm f/2.8D AF-Nikkor or similar lenses from
    Canon it is then possible to use other, shorter lenses as high quality
    close up lenses, I believe the range was from 85mm>20mm (?). Does
    anybody have any experience with this technique and would you be
    willing to shar some guidelines and tips? I am trying to go beyond .65x
    magnification and closer to 1:1.
  2. It's really only a trick worth using when you are going for more than 1:1 magnification. At .65x and 1:1 you're probably better off with either a real macro lens, extension tubes or good 2-element closeup diopters.

    John Shaw's book on macro work is a good reference.
  3. There is a new, as in the past couple weeks new, Canon lens, the MP-E 65mm f/2.8 1-5x Macrophoto, that claims to go from 1x to 5x without any funny stuff to put on it. This may be an option to rent, as I know you are using a Nikon system. I am sure it will be a while before quality reviews hit the street. But, this is an odd lens: 15 degree feild of view for a 65mm, minimum aperature of f/16, a working distance of less than a foot at most and inches for the real purpose. Canon claims that metering will work with the 1N, other models the TTL metering may be off. Do not know why that is. Nonetheless, this may be an option if you care to rent.
  4. I've never heard of the stacked lens technique that you described, though it certainly sounds intriguing! However, a method that I employ, due to the fact that I am currently without a macro lens, is to use extension tubes and a reversal ring. The extension tubes provide that magnification, while the reversal ring, basically a bayonet with male threads on the other side, allows me to mount a standard or wide-angle lens back to front. This helps correct for the corner-sharpness issues related to photomacrography with extension tubes, and results in photos that exhibit better sharpness edge-to-edge. Furthermore, you can do some extremely high magnification this way. I don't know if cost is an issue to you (you apparently own an 80-200/2.8) but this route is somewhat cheaper than buying a dedicated macro lens. You do lose meter coupling, but the results are probably sharper and of higher contrast than what you would get with the zoom method, as ther is less glass involved. If quality is of utmost concern, however, purchase a Micro-Nikkor 105/2.8 and have fun.
  5. John Shaw does a good job of describing this technique in his book "Close-Ups In Nature". He only devotes a page or two to it, but you'll learn more about it there than you could here. Have fun.
  6. I used this method for small lichens with good results. I mounted a 200/4 tele onto the camera and coupled it with a 50/1.4 lens that shared the same filter thread (55mm). The resulting magnification was 200mm / 50mm = 4 : 1 . I also tried a 28/2.8 (= 7.1 : 1) instead of the 50/1.4 but it caused extreme vignetting; the same appeared with a 35/2.8 (5.7 : 1) and a 90/2.5 (2.2 : 1), all had the same filter thread (55mm). It seems that the added lenses' diameter must be pretty high; a 50/1.4 and perhaps also a 50/1.8 or a 35/1.4 are appropriate. But I doubt that you can avoid vignetting with your voluminous tele zoom; you should consider a (perhaps slower) tele prime. There is no need for a fast on-body lens anyway, you have to stop down to f8-f16 to achieve acceptable edge sharpness. A focusing rail is also extremely helpful [I still have none :-( ]. All in all, it is a technique for tinkers and the picture quality is of course lower than usual, but the resulting pics are quite amazing and well worth the five bucks for the coupling ring. As previous posters wrote, coupling lenses is not sensible for "ordinary" macro magnifications (1 : 2 to natural life size or slightly above).
  7. The Shaw reference is definately the best. However, I'll try to give you a little info:

    • The reversed lens should be close in filter size to the prime so as to minimize vignetting.
    • You should really try to stick to 4:1 and below (as given by Magnification=FL(Prime)/FL(reversed) ) when using stacked lenses. Beyond that, you start developing progressively more extreme distortion, etc.
    • According to Shaw, if you're doing this infrequently, you can use duct tape to hold the lenses together. I'd instead suggest checking with B&H or Kirk for male-to-male filter adapters that allow you to stack. (Can't explain the cost discrepancy between the two companies...)
    • You should keep the reversed lens prime and light to avoid putting undue strain on the threads of each lens.
    • You can use zooms as the prime, but prime primes (huh?) will usually work a bit better. Of course if you're using pro zooms, you'll do better than with a third-party consumer zoom, but that's fairly obvious...
    • Plan on wasting lots of film. If you think vibration and drafts are a problem at 1:1, you ain't seen nothin' yet.
    TTL flash does work with this setup. If you're using a lens that allows manual stopping as the reversed, set it for wide open; the prime will do the work. Shaw also recommends using an end cap with a hole cut into the center to protect the contacts on the reversed lens. As mentioned before, this technique is really for going past 1:1. If you're just trying to go to life-sized, or slightly past, there are easier ways. That's all I can think of for now; good luck.
  8. Like others, I can't quite figure out why you would go this route for 1:1, but knowing you, you must have a plan in mind. I frequently now just use a 2X to go to 1:1. When I tried the method you have described, I ran into the following problems: 1. Metering problems; 2. Long exposures for the change in effective aperture; 3. Vignetting; 4. Problems in focusing and keeping the camera steady.
  9. Hi Ellis, I am by no means an expert on super macro, but I have used this technique with good success. I used a 200mm prime lens and also a 100-300 5.6 Nikkor with an 85mm f2 reverse mounted in the front. I also used the same setup with a 50 1.8 reversed. I have no idea of the magnification but a guess would be 3x or more. The depth of field is very shallow and you must focus best using a rail. Also the reversed lens you leave wide open because it is only acting as a sophisticated diopter. I definitely agree that the Shaw boof on close-up photo is very worthwhile, but he uses a rather uncommon setup with a 90 short mount macro or something. You have to try a few combinations t see what works best. My results after some practice were excellent, but first came a bit of frustration. Good Luck!
  10. It is possible to make a coupling set up by taking two preferably used filters-I used two worn out 50mm UV filters with glass removed and epoxied them back to back. Worked great to couple a 200 f4 Nikkor to a 50 f1.4 as the front lens.

    Problems: 1. Working distance is so short that it is difficult to get enough light on the subject. 2. The depth of field is so short that it is difficult to keep the entire image in focus unless it is exceptionally flat.

    I did not find this arrangement that usfull. If 1:1 is your objective it is better to use a 55 mm nikkor with a PK13 extension ring. The working distance is about 12" and depth of field is not that much of a problem - set F-stop to F11 to F16 for best results.

    Good luck John Surgent
  11. Stacked lenses are a technique used by John Shaw to get to very high magnifications in the field. You have to use trial-and-error to find combinations that work without vignetting. I would not try to stack a lens on a zoom as it gets to be alot of glass surfaces. Your best best up to about 3X is to use an ordinary helicoid-focusing macro lens, probably at least 90mm in focal length for decent working distance at higher magnifications. If the lens doesn't focus to 1:1 by itself, use an extension tube to get to 1:1. To go past 1:1, use a reversing ring to reverse the lens and you can get good performace in the 1X to 3X (and even 4X) range typically. Moreover, you just have to carry 1 lens and 2 accessories (extension tube set and reversing ring).
    Another highly desirable configuration for high magnification is to use a variable length extension tube with bellows mount macro lenses each of which is highly optimized for a given magnification. When these have to be mounted on a bellows, it is a clumsy configuration for working in the field, as pointed out by John Shaw in his book, Closeups in Nature. However, with a variable length, auto extension tube, these work very well, better than reversed or stacked lenses, imho. Unfortunately, Olympus is the only 35mm vendor to offer this setup at this time, although Minolta has a similar idea in the form of a reversed zoom lens that zooms between 1X and 3X.
    One thing to watch out for is macro lenses that use internal focusing instead of focusing by extension. These have advantages in keeping the lens from extending too much and becoming awkward, but they get shorter in focal length as they focus more closely, so you won't get as much working distance as you expect. All 200/4 Micro-Nikkors and
    the 105/2.8 AF Micro-Nikkor are all internal focus lenses. The 105/2.8 MF Micro-Nikkor focuses by extension.
    My own preference is for a macro lens without floating elements if its primary usage is macro work. With these lenses, it doesn't matter how you get the extension. With a lens with floating elements, you want to be sure the lens helicoid is fully extended or as close to fully extended as possible when mounting an extension tube so that the floating elements are in the close focus correction configuration. This means you have to match the extension tube length very carefully to the magnification desired. I find this enough of a hassle that I prefer a traditional, non-floating element macro lens for closeup work. My own choice is the Tamron SP 90/2.5 but the Vivitar 90/2.5 Series 1, Tokina ATX 90/2.5, Tamron SP 90/2.8, are all excellent macro lenses. The Tokina and Vivitar ones have an optical extension tube that corrects for loss of flatness of field at close focus, though this may not be all that important.
  12. 1) I noticed the same problem with the 24/2.8 and 8mm extension: performance is best with the lens set at minimum focusing distance (CRC doing what it was designed for). This makes the combination less flexible, because small differences with this combination make a dramatic change for the image!

    This 24mm + 8 mm extension, set at minimum foc.dist. can produce very sharp and contrasty 'macro' images, up to appr. 1:2,5. With the lens set at infinity, the corners are really bad, with details being 'stretched'.

    When applied selectively, the combination gives a completely different view on small subjects, which to some will seem too distorted and to others exactly the opposite: a more 'natural' image than what you get from longer lenses, similar to what you experience when you move your eyes physically closer to the subject. Pay attention to dust and dirt on the lens' front-element: they easily come within DOF (!) and become distracting highlights when a flash is used off-camera.

    2) I have used the same 24mm frequently with a reversal ring and added extension to go beyond 1:1. From daily use I never noticed a difference between focusing-settings and the acquired sharpness/contrast. Sharpness is very acceptable, even at apertures like f16 (effectively even much smaller), contrast often gives less satisfaction. Possibly needs some more experiments. In terms of quality, this is my preferred > 1:1 macro-method, though working in darkness and extremely close working distances can be a serious drawback.

    Stacking lenses (105 macro + 24mm or 50mm) did not radically improve the working distance and certainly not the image quality.

    The use of 105mm + 13mm ext. + TC14B + 13mm ext. gives quite acceptable quality and provides a little more comfortable working distance while reaching beyond 1:1.

    Good luck,
  13. I tried an old Nikkor-Q 200/4 AI (nice strong barrel, goes to f32, $75 on EBay, plus you can use it on the beach) and a 50/1.4 AFD. Working distance is very short (~1 inch) and depth of field very shallow (I suggest subjects that are flat). A rail - ideally a geared one rather than a slider -- is essential (you might even consider sticking one on top of a slider like the one RRS makes).

    I thought it was hard to use and the whole experience convinced me that I get better pictures at 1:1 or lesser rep ratios.

    I think tubes work better that supplementary lenses generally, but that's just personal bias.
  14. Have used old Nikon 200mm f/4 as prime lens(attached to camera via a PN-11 extension, so as to have the tripod closer to the balance point) and 105 mm f/2.8 used wide open as close-up lens (reversed and attached to 200mm via filter thread adapter) Gives a very sharp bright 2:1 image, easy to focus visually, and lots of room between lens and object for lighting. Depth of field is minimal, even with the 200mm set to f/16 or f/22, and vibration is a major problem, both because of the length and weight of the lenses, and because of the magnification. Mirror lock-up is a MUST, but you have to be careful not to move the camera while you're locking up the mirror, otherwise the focus can shift. I found even shifting my weight on the wooden floor beside the camera/focussing rail/tripod between focussing and taking the picture caused unacceptable focus shifts. When it worked it was great, but I learned to take several shots of every set-up, to ensure that at least one was free of vibration and of shifts in focus. The problems are even worse with the 4:1 magnification you get with a 50mm lens in front. For less than 2:1, I'd use a macro lens and extension as needed.

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