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6.3 Guide to Macro Lenses

All lenses have a limit to how close they can focus on an object, and on a normal lens this isn't very close. A macro lens can allow you get close... really close! In this lesson you will learn about macro lenses and how to use them.

6.3 Guide to Macro Lenses

All lenses have a limit to how close they can focus on an object, and on a normal lens this isn't really that close. A macro lens can allow you to get close, really close. In this lesson you'll learn about macro lenses and see how to use them. Macro photography is extreme closeup photography. Usually of very small objects. In which the size of the subject in the photograph is greater than it is in real life. By some definitions a macro photograph is one in which the size of the subject on the image sensor is life-size or greater. However, in other uses, it refers to a finished photograph of a subject at greater than life size. The ratio of the subject size on the sensor plane to the actual subject size is known as the reproduction ratio. Likewise, a macro lens classically is a lens that's capable of reproduction ratios greater than one to one. Although it often refers to any lens with a larger reproduction ratio. Magnification describes the size an object will appear on your camera's sensor compared to its size in real life. The closer you place your lens relative to the subject, the larger that subject will appear in the image. There are several lenses that have a macro feature and the amount of image magnification will depend on the lens. Using a remote switch or shutter release device can also greatly improve the sharpness and control over the macro photos. Because the camera no longer moves as a result of you pressing the shutter button. Another option is to set the camera to a ten second timer as this will give the camera time to settle down and stop moving. Pressing the shutter button, even with the self time can still have issues, because it can potentially nudge the camera and mess up your composition. At higher magnification, photos will have a correspondingly shallow depth of field. The control over the focus point is much more critical than normal. Precision adjustments should almost always be made using manual focus. If your lens is really close to the subject you'll have an issue with light as well because the lens will be blocking light from the front of the object. In these cases you might want to investigate using a dedicated macro flash that attaches to the front of the lens. A pretty inexpensive way to get into macrophotography is to use normal lenses and extension tubes. An extension tube increases the lens' magnification by an amount equal to the extension distance divided by lens' focal length. For example, adding a 25mm extension tube to a 50mm lens will give you a magnification gain of .5x. So, if the lens' original magnification was .15x then the new magnification will be .15x plus .5x. And that'll be .65x. Let's take a look at an example. All right in this example we're gonna check out how to shoot some macro-shots. First we're gonna check using some lenses that have a macro capability. Then we're gonna switch over and use some lens tubes. And we're gonna see what we can get with those as well. Now first I have set up a Tamron 28 to 75 F2.8 lens and this has a macro capability, and basically this means that it can focus much closer than a normal lens. And if this were on a full frame camera this would be a standard zoom lens, but because this is not a Canon 7d. Its going to act more like a lens that's in between a standard zoom lens and a medium telephoto lens. You can also see that I have my camera set up on a tripod and its on a device called a focus rail slider. And what this allows me to do is get precise control over the focusing because it has a little worm gear. So I can precisely adjust the position right and left, and back to front, on my camera. And this helps because manual focusing on photographic lenses can be very tricky to do. So this device is going to help position the camera, which in turn is going to help move the focus point. And it's gonna make focusing a lot easier. So first we're gonna check out what we can get with this lens and then we're gonna switch up lens and we're gonna check out using some extension tubes. I'm in live view mode what I'm gonna do is I'm gonna punch in and I'm gonna adjust the focus and make sure it's all set. Then what I'm gonna do is I'm gonna put my camera in ten second self timer mode. And that's because with my battery grip on this focusing rail slider on the tripod if I touch it's gonna wanna wobble around a little bit. Now I could use a cable release mechanism, or a remote to fire the shutter. But ten seconds should be plenty of time to let the vibrations settle out. Now the settings that I'm using here on the manual mode, ISO 100, F9. I don't wanna go too much past F11 on this camera because that's going to get into defraction territory. And my exposure time is at 2.5 seconds, and that seems to be just about right. So I wanna take a shot here and we're gonna see what this looks like. I wanna try one more at 1.6 seconds and we'll see what we get. Basically, with this lens, that's about the best that we're gonna get because. This lens is set to 75 millimeters and we're at the closest focusing distance that we can get with this lens. We can't get it any closer and get it in focus. So if we want a more macro shot if we want something that's closer and have a higher reproduction ratio we're gonna have to use a different lens, or change our setup. So what I'm gonna do is I'm gonna change up lenses and we're gonna try this again with a different setup. All right, now I've switched lenses. Now I'm using a Quantaray 70 to 300 millimeter lens with a macro capability. It's not a very good lens, but we're gonna check it out and see what we can get with it. Now with this lens, order to get to that macro capability, we have to be between 180 and 300 millimeters. Then right here on the lens, there's a little switch. And we can switch it over to macro. And when it's in normal mode, the focusing stops here, but when we switch it over to macro, now we have a little bit more focus range to work with. So you can see I am going to have to reposition my camera because the minimal focusing distance is 3.1 feet. So I'm gonna pull my camera back. And I'm also gonna push my little rolling setup out. At 300 millimeters we are getting more of a macro shot here. I'm gonna fire off a shot here and see what we get. Ten second timer should be plenty of time for the lens to settle down and stop moving. Nice, that's not bad. I'm gonna switch off what we're shooting that here and see if we can get anything maybe a little bit more interesting. Gonna try another shot here, 3.2 seconds and see what we get, very nice. I bet you can see it's pretty close. We can see a lot of detail there. Again depth of field is really, really shallow. So that's what a macro-type lens will give you. But let's switch it up now and let's try an extension tube and see what we can get. All right, for this example we're gonna be using this extension tube and we're gonna use my Canon Nifty 50, 50 millimeter F1.20 lens. This is the extension tube that I'm gonna be using. It's made by Photo Diox. It's made out of aluminum. And this actually comes in a few different parts. So what we have is a seven millimeter, a 28 millimeter. And a 14mm extension. With these we can vary the amount of lens tube extension that we can put on the camera. So what I'm gonna do is first I'm gonna start with the 7mm which isn't going to be much. And as you can see what I'm gonna do is unscrew the back. This is the part that's going to go on the camera. It has the camera mount on it. I'm gonna screw the seven millimeter with the lens mount on it. Now this is not a smart lens adapter. You can see there's no electronic contacts on the lens. What this means is that all electronic communication will be disabled from the lens. That's because this is a cheap lens extension tubes and that's just one of the things that you have to deal with. But it's not really a big deal because we're gonna manual focus anyway and the only thing left to deal with is going to be setting the aperture. Now, that's gonna be a little bit of a trick because, we won't be able to physically set the aperture on this lens because it doesn't have a manual aperture control. So what we can do is, there's a little workaround. Normally when you are shooting a photo on your camera what happens is when you half press the shutter button, the lens stays wide open so it can be very bright while you're composing the image. So this is a F1.8 lens. So it's gonna stay at F1.8 right until you take the picture. In the right when you take the picture the aperture's gonna close down, it's gonna snap the photo and then it's gonna open back up so you can see what you are doing. But there's a little work around that we can do, that we can lock the lens at F9. So what I'm gonna do is I'm going to press the depth of field preview button on the side of my camera. And when I do, it's gonna put the aperture F9, and all I have to do is take the lens off and then, as you can see, the lens aperture is locked down to F9. Now what I can do is lock this down on the camera. Now we're all set up at F9. Now let's see what we're gonna get with this extender and this lens. I'm gonna turn the camera back on. Put it in Live View mode. Now one problem with this is going to be that it's gonna be really dark. So we're gonna have to crank up the iso here so we can see what in the heck we're doing. Going to recompose this and get it down here. Going to punch in and get this nice and in focus. I'm gonna set the iso back down and I'm gonna take a shot and see what we get. Now, the cool thing about doing this with this prime lens is that it's much sharper than any of the other lenses that I've used for this example. This lens, in particular, is very, very sharp. And F9, it's gonna capture some pretty cool detail. We can see all kinds of really cool scratches. And dings and dents on the front of this flashlight. But, we can increase the macro power even more by adding some more extension tubes. So, let me hook that up and let's see what that looks like. So now I'm using the seven millimeter extension tube and the 14 millimeter lens extension tube. And now we're gonna get another little bump here in what we're gonna be able to see. Which is pretty cool. I'm also gonna drop this down try and get this a little bit more level. Whoop that's too low, with the flashlight here. [BLANK_AUDIO] Very cool. Now, what I'm gonna do is I'm gonna switch around again, and I'm gonna use the full lens tube extension, which is the 7 millimeter, the 14 millimeter and the 28 millimeter extension, and we're gonna see what we can get with them. All right now, what I have is the whole lens tube adapter all built up. I'm gonna punch in and focus up. And focusing is going to be super critical when we're using this much lens tube extension. I'm gonna try again and see what we get here. All right that's a little bit dark so I'm gonna go for a longer exposure time. This time I'm gonna go for six seconds. There we go. Now we're getting somewhere. We can see all kinds of really cool detail. So you can see that lighting can be a definite problem because as you get this closer to the object it's gonna block some light from hitting the front of the object. So you can look at things like a ring flash or a dedicated macro flash. These are things you can buy or you can rent from places like borrowlenses.com. We could set up a couple of speed lights and set them off to the side. And we're gonna look at some examples in just a few minutes of some images that I took with a few speed lights set up just like that. Now, it's not gonna work to put a speed light on top of your camera, because, it's not going to be able to get down in front of the lens from that angle. It's just, no way you're gonna get enough light intensity with your speed light on your camera to get what you're looking for. But that just gives you an idea of what you can do with a macro extension tube. It's super easy, very inexpensive. You know, we're talking about this macro extension tube was under $30. This prime lens was like a hundred bucks but you can use this with any lens. I can put a standard zoom lens on here and it would've worked just the same. The problem is that when you get heavier lenses on a lens tube extension like this, it puts a lot of stress on the lens tube extension. And on the lens mount, because you're putting a heck of a lot of weight, way out here. I'm not saying that it would break, but it's something that I don't really want to chance, you know. My standard lens is a good bit heavier and it's gonna put a lot of stress on the camera body, because you're basically making a giant lever. So let's check out a few more examples of some macro shots. So, the next group of examples that we're going to check out here I shot with my camera just about in the same position as you just saw. But, for the lighting most of these shots were done using two speed lights with some radio triggers. And, basically I just held them on the other side of the camera. Or for some of these shots I just set them on a table, pretty easy stuff, and with the speed lights I was able to move the position of the light and get some different lighting looks. You can see my my bracelet here that I shot two different ways, one was with a more strong light coming from the left and this one was kind of equal intensities from the left and right. You can see I shot a bunch of different things, this is my leather wallet, and just check out the detail that you can get. I mean, it's really pretty incredible. We're also going to look at some stuff that you may find a little bit disturbing. This is my finger and there's all kinds of weird stuff in between the ridges of my fingerprint here that you can see. And, it's just really incredible the amount of detail that you can get with something so simple, just a lens extension tube and camera on a tripod. See, we got a HDMI cable here and you can really see the texture on the gold contacts, really cool stuff. This is a super old flash that doesn't really look that dirty but on the macro shot it looks like I buried it in the sand. I mean, it's got so much dust and little hair particles here. Speaking of hair. Here's another shot of I believe this is my arm hair here. But just check out the incredible detail. I mean, you can, you can really see the texturing of the individual hairs here. And now we're gonna check out a bunch of images that I tried to do of my eye. Now, many of these were difficult because I was shooting this by myself. And so that's why you see several of them out of focus. But I got a bunch in focus and these shots turned out really, really cool. You can see the detail in the iris here. For some of these I just use one flash at about a 90 degree angle to my face, and that really lit up the texture of my eyeball in a really interesting way. I tried a few more with two flashes, one to the right, one to the left, just to give it a little bit more even exposure. And it worked really well. But after 80 or so shots, I did get about 20 shots that were nice and in focus with some very cool lighting, and these turned out really cool. [BLANK_AUDIO] Now that you have an understanding of macro lenses and macro shooting, you're ready to move on to the last lesson in this course. Where we're going to wrap things up with some final tips.

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