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Working with close-up lenses

From: Foundations of Photography: Macro and Close-Up

Video: Working with close-up lenses

As you saw in the last movie, extension tubes can get you closer to your subject, but you will definitely pay an exposure price when you use them, because they will darken your image, and require you to use slower shutter speeds and lighter apertures. For close-up photography, extension tubes can also sometimes be overkill, because they will get you all the way into that macro range. If you find that you're wanting to get just a little bit closer, then instead of an extension tube, you might want to consider a close-up lens. This is a special attachment that screws onto the end of your camera's lens. But unlike an extension tube, a close-up lens is actually an optical element. There is glass in here, and that glass gives you extra magnifications.

Working with close-up lenses

As you saw in the last movie, extension tubes can get you closer to your subject, but you will definitely pay an exposure price when you use them, because they will darken your image, and require you to use slower shutter speeds and lighter apertures. For close-up photography, extension tubes can also sometimes be overkill, because they will get you all the way into that macro range. If you find that you're wanting to get just a little bit closer, then instead of an extension tube, you might want to consider a close-up lens. This is a special attachment that screws onto the end of your camera's lens. But unlike an extension tube, a close-up lens is actually an optical element. There is glass in here, and that glass gives you extra magnifications.

Now, there are a lot of close-up lenses on the market, and some of them are very inexpensive, and for the most part, you want to stay away from all of them, but two different close-up lenses. The problem is that the glass in most close-up lenses, especially the inexpensive ones, just isn't very good. What's more, engineering an optical element to work on a range of unspecified lenses is very complicated. If you have a nice lens on your camera, it's a shame to wreck its image quality by sticking a bad close-up lens on the front. So, here is how it works. I have the 24-105 on my camera, and I'm going to take a picture of this flower.

And, as you have already seen, with this lens, I can get to about right here, and still achieve focus. Any closer, I am inside the minimum focus distance, and everything goes soft. So, I'm going to take a picture here. So, here's my shot. Now, I'm going to stick my close-up lens on; it just screws on to the front, just like a filter. And, just like filter, I want to be careful about . . . I don't want to screw it on too tight, because I've got another filter on here, and I don't want them to all come off together. Now, with the close-up lens on, I can get into here. So, without the close-up lens, I was out at about here. With the close-up lens, I can get a few inches closer. I'm still focusing just by moving in and out.

I'm not seeing a light drop-off like I did with the extension tubes. And, when I am in focus, this is what I can get. So, this does let me get a lit bit of extra reach, and get in a little bit closer. Now, as I said, I can really only recommend two close-up rings. Both of them are made by Canon. Don't worry. Even if you don't use a Canon camera, these can still be made to work with your lens. Over the years, Canon has made a range of close-up lenses. At the time of this shooting, you can get the 250D or the 500D. This is the 500D.

Now, the number is simply a measure of magnification. And, we'll talk about what that means in a minute. The D means that it's a dual-element lens; that is, there are actually two lenses inside, just as there are multiple elements inside your normal camera lens. In the past, Canon has also sold single element close-up lenses, which lack that D moniker. Single-element lenses are cheaper, but the dual element close-up lenses definitely yield higher-quality. You can get a 500D for about $150 bucks, so it's a little pricey, but it's less than a new lens, and it does yield very good image quality.

It's a reasonable way to do some experimenting with close-up shooting without having to invest in a macro lens. They come in a few different thread sizes, so you need to be sure to get one that matches the filter thread size of the lens that you want to attach it to. If your lens doesn't have a matching thread size, you can get a step-up ring that will adapt your lens threads to the close-up lens's threads. If you're a non-Canon shooter, you'll likely have to do this. Even if you have a macro lens, a close-up lens can be a handy thing to have in your kit. For one thing, it'll give some extra oomph to your macro lens, but more importantly it's light and easy to carry.

So, if you don't want to tow your macro lens around, you can just take your regular lens, and one of these, and still have a good close-up option, not a full macro option, but it's going to let you get a little bit closer. Now, the 500D is intended for lenses with a focal length of 70-300 mm. You can put it on any lens that has the correct thread size, but at shorter focal lengths, you're just not going to see much of an advantage. To figure out how much magnification you'll get with a close-up lens, you divide the focal length of your lens by the number rating of the close-up lens. For example, on my 24-105, if I set it to 100, 100 divided by 500 (this is the 500D) gives 0.2.

So, with my close-up lens, an object will have a size of 0.2X. 1X is actual size, so 0.2 is going to be a little bit smaller than that. A close-up lens scores over an extension tube, because it doesn't cut the light that's passing through the lens, and because once you focus through it, you can zoom in or out, and your image will still be in focus. With an extension tube, you have to refocus if you've zoomed your lens. However, a close-up lens is more expensive than a set of inexpensive extension tubes, but it's also smaller and easier to carry.

Again, these Canon close-up lenses are the best ones out there. And, even as good as they are, they still have some softness around the edges. You'll just need to evaluate for yourself whether it's a deal-breaking softness. Note that if you have a polarizing filter, or even a UV or skylight filter, that can cause some bad vignetting when used with the close- up lens. So, if you normally keep one of those on your lens, you may want to take it off when you use the filter. You'll just have to do some tests of your own to see if you really need to do that. Extension tubes are going to let you get much closer than a close-up lens. Extension tubes will actually get you into full macro power, something that this can't do. Also, adding extension tubes to a macro lens gives you a lot more power than adding a close-up lens to a macro lens.

So, if you can only afford either extension tubes or a close-up lens, I'd go with the extension tubes. If you'd like a light-weight, easy-to-carry option for getting a little more close-up power, then a close-up lens is a good way to go.

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This video is part of

Image for Foundations of Photography: Macro and Close-Up
Foundations of Photography: Macro and Close-Up

47 video lessons · 16661 viewers

Ben Long
Author

 
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  1. 3m 54s
    1. Welcome
      2m 17s
    2. What you need to know for this course
      1m 37s
  2. 20m 33s
    1. What is close up?
      2m 21s
    2. Understanding minimum focus distance
      3m 55s
    3. Comparing wide lens and telephoto
      1m 55s
    4. Understanding depth of field and focus
      2m 11s
    5. Working with extension tubes
      4m 30s
    6. Working with close-up lenses
      5m 41s
  3. 28m 7s
    1. What is a macro photo?
      4m 15s
    2. Understanding how to shoot macro with a reversed lens
      5m 37s
    3. Using a point-and-shoot camera for macro
      1m 55s
    4. Working with backdrops for macro
      3m 45s
    5. Practicing macro by shooting in the kitchen
      12m 35s
  4. 58m 38s
    1. Choosing a macro lens
      2m 4s
    2. Exploring macro lens features: Focal length
      3m 16s
    3. Understanding macro lens shutter speed
      7m 6s
    4. Shooting basics with a macro lens
      8m 24s
    5. Getting closer with macro lenses and extension tubes
      11m 13s
    6. Working with depth of field and macro
      5m 1s
    7. Understanding depth and composition in macro
      6m 43s
    8. Working with subject holders and support
      6m 36s
    9. Shooting with the Canon 65 mm
      8m 15s
  5. 13m 12s
    1. Working with macro stabilizing options
      5m 45s
    2. Working with sliders for macro
      2m 44s
    3. Working with a bellows
      1m 55s
    4. Working with viewfinders in macro
      2m 48s
  6. 52m 59s
    1. Working with direct light
      6m 13s
    2. Macro and the angle of light
      2m 24s
    3. Augmenting direct light with reflectors
      6m 42s
    4. Continuous lighting to add fill to a macro shot
      5m 55s
    5. Lighting your macro scene with continuous light
      4m 50s
    6. Lighting the macro scene with strobes
      4m 59s
    7. Setting up a macro-specific flash unit
      3m 21s
    8. Shooting with the Canon Macro Twin Lite
      7m 56s
    9. Shooting macro in a light tent
      3m 31s
    10. Shooting macro on a light table
      7m 8s
  7. 19m 44s
    1. Field shooting for macro, starting at home
      7m 5s
    2. Managing backgrounds in the field
      7m 39s
    3. Shooting macro water droplets
      5m 0s
  8. 56m 19s
    1. Creating a simple manual focus stack
      4m 40s
    2. Creating a focus stacked image with manual merge
      6m 17s
    3. Creating a focus stacked image using Helicon Remote
      11m 6s
    4. Working with a StackShot rail for focus stacking
      11m 46s
    5. Merging a focus stack with Photoshop
      11m 12s
    6. Merging photo stacks with Helicon
      6m 53s
    7. Understanding the aesthetics of depth of field
      4m 25s
  9. 1m 5s
    1. Next steps
      1m 5s

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