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You don't necessarily need a macro lens to do macro photography. By mounting a prime lens "backward"—with the front elements closest to the imaging sensor—you can turn it into a low-cost macro lens. All you need is an inexpensive adapter called a reversal ring. A sense of adventure helps, too, because your camera's normal metering and focusing features don't work when the lens is attached backward.
In this course, photographer Ben Long details the tools and techniques of lens-reversal macro photography. After investigating reversal ring options, the course explores the focusing and exposure techniques involved when shooting with a reversed lens.
I've changed lenses. I've got the Canon 50mm f/1.2. I had the 1.4 earlier. I changed because of the filter size and you'll see why in a little bit. But I'm going to start by reversing it and taking a picture. I'm in Aperture Priority. I've dialed in to F8, hitting my Depth of Field Preview button and taking the lens off. This should all be old hat to you now. I have now fixed the aperture of this lens to F8. It's going to hold it on to the camera backwards. Switch into Manual mode and take a shot. I'm taking a shot because I want to show you the difference between magnification with this lens reversed normally, and magnification after we do something else to it.
Okay. Here we go. That looks pretty good. So I've taken a 50mm lens, which normally has a normal field of view -- that is a field of view that's roughly equivalent to the human eye -- and I've given it this tremendous macro power. But what if I want more macro power than that? I want you to think about what's going on with this lens, or any lens really. Light is coming through the lens and it's being bent and twisted and slowed down by the optics in there and an image is being projected out the back onto the image sensor and that's the image that I'm seeing in my final picture. What if there was a way that I could zoom in to that image and take a crop out of the middle of it? I would have even a closer image.
I would have even more magnification power. All I need is some kind of optical device that zooms in to things and makes them -- oh, I happen to have right here a Canon 70-200 Telephoto lens. If it was possible to get this lens reversed onto the front of this lens, then this lens would project a magnified image out the back and this lens would zoom on and grab only the middle of it. I presume by now that -- there is really no if about this, I wouldn't be mentioning this at all if it wasn't impossible. So let's get started.
This is a fairly simple process to do once you've got the right equipment. It starts by taking the 70-200 and mounting it on the camera. I'm not going to reverse it. I'm going to mount it normally because again, I want the full magnification power of this lens. With it, I'm basically taking a picture of what's coming out at the back of that lens. Now this lens has 77mm threads on it. This lens has 72mm threads on it. It turns out that all threads have a gender.
So normally, lenses have female threads on the end. So filters that go on have male threads. So if I had a way of doing female to female threads here, I could attach the front of this lens to the front of this lens. Well, it turns out there is such a thing. It's called a Coupler Ring, and I happen to have one right here. So this is basically male threads on both sides. I looked around on Amazon. I have two different filter sizes here. I've got 77 and 72. I looked around on Amazon and some other camera sites, I could not find a 72mm coupler, but I could find a 77mm coupler. It's fine. I only need one or the other.
So I'm going to take this 77mm coupler ring and attach it to the end of the lens with these 77mm threads. This is just like screwing in a filter. This is basically a filter with nothing in it and the other kind of threads on the other side. So I'm going to just screw this on. It attaches just like any other filter. I need to be very careful to screw it on straight and these large filters, you've got to be very careful with because it's easy to bend them and screw them on crooked. Now I'm ready to screw something else onto the front of this. Unfortunately, this lens has the wrong filter size, its 72 instead of 77.
So I went back to Amazon and looked around some more and I found a Step-Up Ring. This is a 72-77mm Step-Up Ring. What this does is basically change the thread size on the end of this lens. So if I attach this here, I can now -- that's going on wrong. If I can get this attached here, I will be able to attach 77mm threads to it. If this had been say a 79mm lens, then I would need a Step-Down Ring. I would need 79-77.
So that's on there and this is on here. I'm ready to flip the lens over and try screwing it on here. This is actually, as far as getting things threaded, the easiest step because this lens is nice and heavy. It really makes it go on pretty evenly. I want to be careful about how far I tighten this down because I don't want to not be able to get it off. Otherwise, both of these lenses will be stuck this way forever. I also do not have any additional filters on here. I don't have UV or Skylight filters on either lens or polarizers or anything else. It's best to take all those extra filters off because it's just more things that can be sandwiched and stuck together.
Now I have a lens with ludicrous magnification power. There are some caveats about using it though. Remember this lens was set to F8 or 5.6 or something ahead of time. It's still set that way. If you want to control the aperture of this array, this is where you need to do it. Your long lens that's in front needs to be set to wide open. So I'm going to go back to Aperture Priority. I can use Aperture Priority because I've got all of my contacts still going between the camera and my Telephoto lens.
I'm going to dial it down to 2.8. That's as wide as it will go. I've still got this set at F5.6, so I'm going to have some decent depth of field. The problem I'm going to have here -- I've also actually got auto focus if I want it, but I'm not going to use that. I'm going to just focus the way I normally would. The problem I'm having here is that it's going to be really hard to hold this stable. So it's a little slow. Let me bump up my ISO. It's on a 2.8 and I'm ready to go here. So here's my shot.
As you can see, I am in much closer than I was when I had only the reversed 50. You can also see that this lens is going to have to be cropped. It's got that bad vignetting around it there's nothing I can do about that. Still, this is a 23 megapixel camera. I can crop a lot and still have a very sizable image. If it's not sizable enough, if I want to get an even closer, I could add some extension tubes. Just like I did before I'd stick some extension tubes. They would go right here between the camera and the Telephoto lens. So this is a way to get a lot more magnification power.
I would not run out and buy this configuration of lenses with the idea that then I'm going to go macro shooting. There are great lenses but if you're really serious about macro shooting, go get a macro lens. If you do have some lenses and want to put them together in a configuration like this, you heard my thought process for how I figured out the rings. You need a coupler ring for one of the lenses and then the appropriate Step-Up or Step-Down Rings. The way you put them together is you need a long lens attached to the camera and a shorter lens that's reversed. It doesn't have to be a zoom. It just needs to be a fairly long lens like a 200 like this and then a 50 or shorter to go reversed on the front of it.
So if you've already got some of these, it doesn't take that much space to carry a couple of extra rings, they don't weigh anything. And in a pinch, they can give you a tremendous amount of macro power.
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