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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.
In case you haven't tried it yet, I want to actually show you some lens reversed photography here. I have a Canon 5D Mark III with a 50 millimeter 1.8 on it. Now you can do lens reversal with just about any lens. It's going to be easier if you're using a smaller lens. Shorter focal lengths give greater magnification than longer focal lengths. So I'm going to first take a picture with the lens on normally as one would do. I've got some nice flowers here. Now the thing about this lens, it's a very, very good lens but its minimum focusing distance is about right here, so I'm a long way from this flower, that's as close as I can get.
It's not really a macro shot, is it? So what I'm going to do now is do just what I would normally do if I was changing a lens, I'm going to take the lens off. But I'm going to now turn it around and hold it back up against the camera body. Now and you can see it's taking me some work to get into the right place. I want to make sure that the opening to the body is completely closed. But now with it reversed, I can get in real close here. I'm shooting at ISO 1600 because it's kind of dark in here and I want to keep my shutter speed up.
This is what I can get with the lens backwards. This is a macro shot. I'm in very, very close. Now this is a completely viable way of shooting macro. You can get great work with this, but it's a little bit of a hassle and potentially dangerous to your camera. I've definitely got trouble holding it against the camera all the time. If you have smaller hands you may not be able to do it one handed. I need to be sure that I'm not getting any light leaks by holding it in the wrong place. My camera body has a little pin right here, which makes it even harder to keep it in the right place without it bumping around.
I am of course also exposing the sensor chamber, so I'm at greater risk of dust. And if I'm not careful, I could jam a finger in there and mess up my mirror. Fortunately, there's a way that I can actually mount the lens unto my camera in a reversed position. This is a reversal ring. Let's set this down here. It's got threads on one side, just like a lens filter that you would attach to the end of your lens, and on the other side it's got the proper band at mount for your camera, assuming you bought the right reversal ring.
So what I do is to take the threaded end and screw it unto the front of my lens. I mean the true front where the lens filters go. So just as with the lens filter, I'm being very careful to screw it in straight. Now this thing is very skinny, if you get it on too tight, there's not much to grab unto to unscrew it. So I recommend not screwing it down too far, especially if you're attaching it to another filter on here because it could be very difficult to unscrew this from the filter. Now what I've got is a lens with a lens mount on both ends.
I'm going to attach the front of the lens to the camera. It's just like attaching any regular lens. I line up the red dots and just twist it unto my camera. Now again I want to be very careful not to tighten everything down too much, because I may not be able to get the adapter off. So now I'm ready to go. At 20 or 30 bucks, this thing is steal. I have nice macro lenses, but I don't always want to carry them. With this in my bag or in my pocket and just some kind of lens that it fits on, I've always got macro capability available.
Now I can shoot just like I always would, it's very easy. I can even do something else with it. I can wave at people while I'm shooting now because I'm not having to hold the lens myself. My mirror chamber is protected and I can shoot all day this way. When shopping for a reversal ring, I made sure to get one that worked with my everyday walk around lens, that is the one that I almost always carry. So for me that's going to be maybe a 50 or a 35. The reversal ring is so small that it fits in any bag or any shirt pockets, so it's easy to carry.
I also tend to work with a 24-105 zoom very regularly, so I got a reversal ring that fits that. This is a 77 millimeter ring; I can put it on that. Again, I'm going to have a better luck with the shorter end of the lens. So if I get somewhere and I see a great macro shot someplace place where I really wasn't planning on macro shooting, then I can just flip my lens around and get going. So you need to, when you're shopping for a reversal ring, first find the thread size of the lens that you want to reverse, that should be marked on the end of your lens. And of course, you want to be sure you're buying a lens mount that's correct for your camera because there are also reversal rings for Nikon and Fuji and Panasonic and all the others.
This ring is a Canon mount, 58 millimeter, reversal ring. The one I have is not actually made by Canon, it's a third-party ring and you'll find lots of these on Amazon, at camera stores and so on and so forth. So this is a very inexpensive, very easy way to get true macro functionality without having to buy a new lens.
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