If you are into macro photography but think is all about buying more equipment and a proper macro lens worth a lot of money, well this is not entirely true.
To get you started with macro photography and get great results you don’t actually need all the stuff you are thinking about. I will tell you from my own experience and show you some great results I’ve achieved using a non-macro that with some budget accessories will get you great results.
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Let’s explain in a few words how a macro lens works. First of all, we need to understand just some basic optics principles, really simplified for this article. A regular camera lens has it’s focal plane closer to the sensor plane than a macro lens.
A macro lens has it’s focal plane (principal focal point) further away from the sensor of the camera, allowing to have a greater magnification ratio standing closer to the subject. Not getting into a deep explanation a macro lens needs a larger barrel and have more glass elements to be able to do this with a great sharpness usually better than a regular lens.
But let’s not get discourage by this, there a few ways to achieve getting the focal plane away from our sensor without losing too much sharpness and quality on the way. The most commons ways are:
In this article, I will focus on the method of Extension tubes as per my experience being the cheapest method with better quality results.
The simplified optical scheme above describes how and the image is captured by the camera’s sensor using a regular lens. Magnification of the lens is the relation between the Focal Length of the lens and the actual distance from the focal plane of the lens to the object.
From this relations is easy to highlight how if the Focal Length of the lens is increased therefore the magnification will also increase. Allowing to have a bigger subject in our photo.
Here comes the use of the extension tube, as it shows the scheme above the use of a regular lens plus an extension exactly does what we need, enlarging the focal length of our regular lens to convert it and do the work of a macro lens.
There are many cheap extension tubes to choose from, being the ones without autofocus capability being among the cheapest. I don’t recommend this get one with the right electronic contacts for your lenses and camera so you can work with auto focus.
Most of the extension tubes kits come with three tubes (12mm, 20mm & 36mm) that can be stacked together or used separately, remember when you stack the tubes the range of the focus distance in your lens will change and be reduced so some lenses will have trouble auto-focusing when stacking the tubes. Prices can go from 20€ to some of the good sets like the Kenko set that can go above 100€ which still is a fraction of a good Macro lens.
Practice and patience are key to get better results with macro photography. In the next article, I will be writing about the use of flash, post-processing and other key aspects to improving your results. So get out there and start shooting!