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Macro Photography Gear On The Cheap - Stretching Your Budget

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I haven't done one of these in awhile but I wanted to show folks how you can grab some macro photography gear and shoot macros on a limited budget.

 

Gear I'll be discussing:

 

Sigma 50mm f/1.4 lens (or f/1.8)

Pretty standard 50mm lens other than the part of it being a f/1.4 lens instead of the f/1.8 lens that most everyone can afford. The 50mm f/1.8 lens is a staple that retails for ~$100-140 depending on where you shop at and can be bought for $50-65 on the used market. The f/1.4 version that I have just happens to be faster but that doesn't really matter since we'll be shooting macros with the lens stopped down to f/11 for the purpose of the exercise.

sigma_50mm_lens.jpg

 

Nikon 105mm f/2.8 AFS VR lens - could be any true macro lens that goes down to 1:1

nikon_105mm.jpg

 

Extension tubes. Old set that I've owned forever. Does not autofocus.

kenko_tubes.jpg

 

Raynox M-250 attachment. ~$75 from Amazon with Prime (can be had for cheaper elsewhere). Pretty simple magnifying adapter that fits on the front of any lens with the included bracket. You can also use step/step down rings if the bracket doesn't work with the lens having a 49mm front element.

raynox_m-250.jpg

 

Reverse mount adapter

(reserved)

 

Your current smartphone. Depending on your lighting, it can be done on full auto or with some slight tweaks on your phone. Lighting changes over your tank might entail tweaking your lighting to a "whiter" setting than what you're typically running at normally for when you want to take a picture or adjusting the custom white balance on the phone itself.

 

LG G4 used on full auto for this shot with no changes in WB needed (I run my whites at approximately the same levels as my blues on the LEDs).

lg_g4_perspective_081716.jpg

 

Smartphone. Image on left is on full auto. Image on the right is on manual with WB cranked up to 7400K, the max that it will go.

lg_wb_adjustment_081716.jpg

 

Shots will include the the setup shot on the left showing what it looks like along with a picture of what it's capturing on the right hand side. Pictures will be unedited from the camera with the following notes:

  • Resized
    • 800 px on the long side - no one wants to see huge images eating up all the screen real estate
  • Conversion from RAW to JPEG
    • Straight off the sensor with no editing, such as sharpening
    • Also allows you more latitude to alter white balance as needed later on if it's off (no alterations to white balance in these shots since that's been set on the camera beforehand).
  • Handheld
    • Most people don't have one to begin with and I never use one myself even though I have one
  • Full frame sensor -
    • Just what I have and use. For those with a cropped sensor (1.5x, 1.6x, 2x, etc.) the magnification that you get will be higher than what you see in my pictures
  • f/11, ISO 1600, 1/80 ss
    • Fixed set of numbers so that we're comparing apples to apples with the images off the sensor

So with that in mind, let's take a closer look at what each of the options above offers when used alone and when used in conjunction with each other.


50mm f/1.4D at max magnification with a working distance of 0.45 meters (~1.5')

sigma_50mm_perspective_081716.jpg

 

Disregard the frags strew about on the sandbed - some of them are going to the swap this Saturday to be given away for free and some just needs to be mounted to the rocks.

 

50mm lens + Raynox M-250. The bracket didn't allow me to use the M-250 in front the 50mm unless I held it in place by hand. This resulted in the vignetting (darkening of the corners) that you see in the picture. I ordered a set of step down rings and will reshoot the picture to see if this goes away once I receive them.

sigma_50mm_raynox_perspective.jpg

 

50mm lens + 36mm extension tube. This is the maximum size extension tubes that you get from the typical set. Adding any more tubes to the setup and it becomes unusable since your focusing distance is very short (i.e. you'll hit the glass before your subject comes into focus).

sigma_50mm_35mm_perspective.jpg

 

50mm lens + 20mm extension tube

sigma_50mm_20mm_perspective_081716.jpg

 

50mm lens + 20mm extension tube + Raynox M-250. This gives you basically the same perspective as with the single 36mm extension tube by itself. As in the prior shot with the M-250, I had to hold it in front of the lens. Thanks to the extension tube, I didn't have any signs of vignetting.

sigma_50mm_20mm_raynox_perspective_08171

 

Next up, we'll take a look at using a true dedicated macro lens (can be used up to 1:1, which is what we're setting our lens at for this exercise).

 

Nikon 105mm f/2.8 AFS VR lens. Doesn't have to be this lens, but any true dedicated macro can get you this close to the subject. The differences in the focal length of the lens dictates your working distance.

nikon_105mm_perspective_081716.jpg

 

105mm VR + 36mm extension tube. This gets you a closer look at the subject, but at the same time you might have to compensate for the loss of light (notice how this picture is darker than in the previous shot with just the lens by itself).

nikon_105mm_36mm_perspective_081716.jpg

 

105mm VR + 68m extension tubes. All tubes in a typical set used. This gets you closer to the subject, but it's rather unwieldy to use and you lose even more light.

nikon_105mm_allextensions_perspective_08

 

105mm VR + Raynox M-250. Gets you slightly closer to the subject than using the full set of 68mm of extension tubes. Also, you'll notice that the picture is noticeably brighter than using extension tubes since you're not losing light.

nikon_105mm_raynox_perspective_081716.jp

 

105mm + 68mm extension tubes + Raynox M-250. Extremely close up using both extension tubes and the M-250. This setup is really hard to handhold because of the sheer size of the setup, but more importantly, the focusing plane is extremely narrow (missed it by less than a hair). If you need something this close, I'd recommend either bellows or using a tripod.

nikon_105mm_allextensions_raynox_perspec

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Hello,

 

I am a new reefer and have taken all my pictures thus far with my phone. I have been wanting to look into DSLR, but I am too overwhelmed and never "get around to it" (because I'm avoiding it, and it's just more money in this already expensive hobby). You have inspired me to go ahead and start searching the internet in my quest to learn about photography (other than a [surprisingly good] smartphone camera).

 

Thank you so much!

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Be sure to submit this for an article as well.

 

http://www.nano-reef.com/articles

 

Will do! I'm gonna add in a bit more before submitting. Not sure how the articles works though in regards to whether replies can be sent from the article format versus a regular thread.

 

Hello,

 

I am a new reefer and have taken all my pictures thus far with my phone. I have been wanting to look into DSLR, but I am too overwhelmed and never "get around to it" (because I'm avoiding it, and it's just more money in this already expensive hobby). You have inspired me to go ahead and start searching the internet in my quest to learn about photography (other than a [surprisingly good] smartphone camera).

 

Thank you so much!

 

Hmm, good point about the phone aspect of it. While it isn't the best tool for macro photography, it can work. There might be more tweaks needed either with your current lighting setup or with the settings on the phone itself but it can be done.

 

I just shot this picture on full auto on my smartphone (LG G4). No editing done other than to resize to 800 px on the long end as in the other pictures in this thread.

lg_g4_pic_081716.jpg

 

Edited OP to include the sample. :)

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Will do! I'm gonna add in a bit more before submitting. Not sure how the articles works though in regards to whether replies can be sent from the article format versus a regular thread.

 

 

Hmm, good point about the phone aspect of it. While it isn't the best tool for macro photography, it can work. There might be more tweaks needed either with your current lighting setup or with the settings on the phone itself but it can be done.

 

I just shot this picture on full auto on my smartphone (LG G4). No editing done other than to resize to 800 px on the long end as in the other pictures in this thread.

lg_g4_pic_081716.jpg

 

Edited OP to include the sample. :)

I don't know anything about photo editing. I upload my photos to Flickr and use the BB Code for the size I want. My phone is a Droid Turbo. I think it has a 21 megapixel camera.

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I don't know anything about photo editing. I upload my photos to Flickr and use the BB Code for the size I want. My phone is a Droid Turbo. I think it has a 21 megapixel camera.

 

No photo editing done to the picture. I just resized it and uploaded it to my server for linking. All the settings should be done on the phone prior to you snapping the picture. I posted a follow-up image with a top down shot, with the pumps off, one on auto and the other one with the adjusted settings on the phone prior to shooting.

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No photo editing done to the picture. I just resized it and uploaded it to my server for linking. All the settings should be done on the phone prior to you snapping the picture. I posted a follow-up image with a top down shot, with the pumps off, one on auto and the other one with the adjusted settings on the phone prior to shooting.

Ahh I see. This is very interesting! I will have to play with this when I get home.

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