Friday, February 13, 2009

Inexpensive Macro Photography

I've moved this post, please head over there to see my newest photography reviews.

I am very much enthralled with the abstraction of macro photography (as seen in my photos) and I'm all about cheap. So, let me combine the two, here is a cheap way to shoot macro. The nice thing about this solution is that it will work on just about any camera, DSLRs as well as Point and Shoots.

Here it is, the Opteka 52mm 10x HD² Professional Macro Lens. This 'closeup filter' attaches to the front of a lens with a 58mm filter thread. Opteka sells this closeup filter in several different kits, each one containing a different 'step down filter adapter' that allows it to fit different lens filter sizes. 58mm is the size of many Canon lenses including the ubiquitous Canon EF-S 18-55mm IS. On this page, Amazon has a boatload of kits to fit just about any DSLR and many point and shoots.

Essentially, adding one of these to your lens is like putting a magnifying glass in front of your camera. The images below show how it compares to a true macro lens, the inimitable Nikon 60mm Micro. The first image is with the 60mm at full extension, at this 'zoom' the 60mm is a 1:1 ratio. That means that image is fully filling the sensor at a one to one scale. The next image is with the Opteka fit on the standard Nikon 18-55mm AF-S VR kit lens at 55mm and focused as close as possible. Following that, is a shot with the same lens, but without the 18-55mm so the impact of the closeup filter and be readily seen. The last image is with the Opteka attached to the wonderful Nikon 50mm f/1.8D AF-D.

Click on an image to see the larger, straight from the camera, image.

Nikon 60mm Micro

Opteka on the Nikon 18-55mm AF-S VR lens

Nikon 18-55mm AF-S VR lens without the Opteka

Opteka on the Nikon 50mm f1.8 AF-D

The Opteka brings the 18-55mm quite a bit closer, almost to 1:1. Same goes for the Opteka on the 50mm. The images a softer than the 60mm Macro, but for $30, it seems like a bargain to me. On these smaller lenses at longer focal lengths there is no noticeable vignetting, but there will be on fatter lenses. The 18-55mm will show vignetting as you zoom out, but it works best for macro shots at 55mm, so there is no reason to be zooming out.

The depth of field is noticeably more shallow in the image from the 60mm, this is because the closer you get, the shallower your depth of field becomes. All the images were shot at f14 so it is apparent that a lot of light is needed to make a macro shot work. Unless you want to exaggerate the shallow depth of field, in which case, attaching the Opteka to the 50mm f1.8 really makes things interesting. Even though the 60mm is rated as an f2.8, that is not fixed, the closer you focus, the more it stops down. It is only f2.8 at about 6 feet to infinity, then starts to stop down and ends at f5 at its closest (1:1) focus.

Now, if you put the Opteka on the 50mm f1.8, it does not stop down, it shoots at whatever aperture you want from 1.8 too 22.

OK, so what happens if the Opteka is attached to the 60mm? It does get in closer, but the trade-off of sharpness is, in my opinion, is not worth it. Without the opteka, the 60mm will frame the helmet from top to bottom with a little space, with the Opteka attached, most of the domed head would be cropped out. At that point, the depth of field gets so shallow that a great deal of light is needed to stop down all the way to the 60mm's minimum aperture, f57.

One last note, I've tested the Opteka with the 50mm f1.8 on a full frame FX camera (Nikon N75) and there is no noticeable vignetting there either.

No comments: