Macro lens, extension tubes, macro filter, or bellows?!

Discussion in 'Beyond the Basics' started by TamiyaGuy, Nov 13, 2008.

  1. TamiyaGuy

    TamiyaGuy No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I've always loved taking close-up photos. You know, the usual: flowers, insects, random household objects, etc. I've been using my Nikon 18-55 up until now, and, as great as it is, I just want to get that little bit closer. And I'm afraid I have absolutely no idea where to start.

    Ideally, I'd like to get a reproduction ratio of 1:1 or more, and my 18-55 can currently get me to 1:3. So where do I go from here? I guess the obvious answer would be to get a macro lens, but currently I can't find one that is "perfect" for me. The Nikon 60mm looks good, but I wonder if that, at a 1:1 ratio, I would be getting too close to the insect. The 105mm, while better in terms of focal length, had some serious AF issues when I tested it. As for the Sigma, only the 150mm macro has HSM, and that seems a bit out of my price range.

    So that leaves bellows, a macro filter, and extension tubes. The idea of a bellows unit sounds great, but I wonder if it might be simply too complex for me to be able to lug around all the time, attaching & detatching it every time I see a bumble bee. I think the same applies to extension tubes. But as I said, I'm pretty much in the dark about these two. Am I wrong? What are the other advantages or disadvantages to these options?

    So that just leaves the macro filter. To be honest, I'm rather tempted by this. It's relatively cheap; a high-end one costs about £50. But I am slightly worried by the reproduction ratio. According to a website, a +4 close-up lens will be able to focus down to about 20cm (although that's with a "Standard 50mm lens"). And considering that the 18-55 focuses down to 28cm, that doesn't seem like a massive leap. Surely it's different for my lens? Also, what is the difference between a +4 filter and a +10? Is it just more magnification?

    I think that's about it, if someone could either list the advantages and disadvantages of each option, I would be very thankful. If one seems like a very good choice, then who knows, I might buy it. Or, considering it's that time of year... someone else might ;).
     
  2. dEARlEADER

    dEARlEADER TPF Noob!

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    I don't know about other people but most of my macro work is manual focus anyways...

    if ur on a budget pick up a used sigma 105 or tamron 90 and go nuts.... i bought my sigma used for $280....
     
  3. benhasajeep

    benhasajeep TPF Noob!

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    The shorter macro lenses are ok for flowers and such where it doesn't matter that you need to get close.

    What I currently have is a Nikon 105 macro lens, auto extension tubes, and a manual bellows set. Plus an x-y mount head for critical placement and focusing.

    Thinking of getting a longer macro lens. But have not considered the shorter one.

    As for filters, I am in the opinion that most will optically degrade the image quality. There probably are a few good ones out there. But the ones at my local store seem to be pretty cheap.
     
  4. djacobox372

    djacobox372 No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    most tubes and bellows will cause you to lose light metering and autofocus.. but that's for macro work.

    There's a outfit in hong-kong that sells a bellows extension for $25 on ebay... I bought one and love it.. I can't believe it was so inexpensive.
     
  5. Overread

    Overread has a hat around here somewhere Staff Member Supporting Member

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    You could check out the Raynox macro filters - from what I have read they can give better results than extension tubes:
    http://raynox.co.jp/english/dcr/dcr250/indexdcr250eg.htm
    http://www.juzaforum.com/forum-en/viewtopic.php?f=19&t=3460

    That said nothing beats a proper macro lens - you could consider a sigma 70mm on budget if you want - though your fixed with manual focusing only that is no problem as auto focus is almost impossible to use with macro work - manual is the way to go.

    Honestly though any of the macro primes (barring the 50mm ones) are quality lenses so if you do go for any of them you will get a sharp lens. Interestingly also is the fact that some macro photographers consider there to be no working distance advantage for macro work - and the if a bug lets you get close you will (good field skills help too). This comes much from those who use the canon MPE65mm where you can be only a fists distance from a subject at times.

    http://nocroppingzone.blogspot.com/
     
  6. TamiyaGuy

    TamiyaGuy No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Thanks for the help, guys! I must admit, I'm not good at manually focusing at all. My method with my 50mm f/1.8 is to wait until I see the focus conformation dot, then fire 3 shots off. I suspect that with a moving subject (flower in the wind, anyone?) and me handholding it, this just won't cut it. But whatever, I'll certainly try it in the camera shop. To be honest, I don't trust myself, I'm a little short-sighted too.

    The idea of getting a dirt-cheap bellows set or tubes sounds pretty good, but only for fun, I understand. I just want to get really, really close.

    Also, thanks OverRead, I never even considered getting a non-AF-S lens up until now. I was actually tempted by the Sigma 70mm and 105mm, but the lack of a motor just made me instantly dismiss them from my mind. Once again, I'll certainly have a look now that I've narrowed my choices down.

    The reason I was asking about filters is that I don't think any camera shop nearby stocks them, so I can't test them out. I guess that when coupled to a basic lens like the 18-55, image quality would be very bad (I know it's actually pretty good on its own, but when hte image is enlarged, what, 3 times, I'm not looking forward to it :p).

    So, yeah, thanks guys. I'm putting a macro lens on my Christmas list for sure :).
     
  7. Overread

    Overread has a hat around here somewhere Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Tamiya with regard to focusing with macro I tend to do this:

    1) set the lens to a specific focus point - on a dedicated macro lens it will have the magnification ratios shown on the wheel - I tend to stick of 1:1 (full macro) unless its something like a flowerhead, butterfly, dragonfly or large bee - then I move back a bit with the focus - just so as I can get the whole body into the shot.

    2) With the focus set I approach the target - moving by body so that the focus is where I want it - the only time I adjust the actual focus is if (as I said above) the subject won't fit in the frame

    3) as you do this have the shutter button half depressed (remember AF is off) which will not only mean that when you press the shutter you cause less handshake, but also it activates the focus assist beam - ergo the camera will show a red blip when something is in focus on the screen - which is a great help - provided that that is where you need the point of focus to be of course ;).

    That is how I do handheld - the lack of AF completly is only a limitation if/when you use the lens for normal shots of non-macro subjects.
     
  8. TamiyaGuy

    TamiyaGuy No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Wow, thanks so much for those tips, OverRead. I never thought of locking the AF, then moving. Well, I'll be sure to try it out if and when I test these lenses out. Thanks again!
     

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