Macro Photography Without a Macro Lens

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Love macro photography, but can’t afford a macro lens? These nifty little gadgets may be for you!

A reverse mount adapter, or “reversing ring”, like this one from Fotodiox, is an adapter that attaches to the filter thread on the front of a lens and makes it possible to attach the lens in reverse. The lens can focus very closely when mounted in reverse, and the wider the focal length used, the closer you can focus. Reversing rings are now available that accommodate all electronic camera functions, including open aperture metering, to be used. A reversing ring can be used in tandem with an extension tube to increase versatility. Reversing rings are purchased in diameters that match your lens, and can run anywhere from $20 to $50 dollars. If you’re interested, here is a tutorial on how to make a home-made reversal ring.

Extension tubes work by extending the distance between the lens and the sensor – the further the lens is from the sensor, the closer the focusing distance and the greater the magnification. Systems like this Kenko DG Auto Extension Tube Set are available that contain separate tubes of various lengths. These can be stacked and combined as desired to decrease or increase magnification. Extension tubes can be purchased individually or in sets, and typically run between $70 and $200 dollars. The Lensbaby products are also very popular and provide a lot of flexibility in techniques in addition to macro photography.

A teleconverter like this one from Sigma acts like a magnifying glass on the end of your lens and provides a larger image to aid in macro photography. Working distance from the camera to the subject remains the same, but a longer exposure time may be necessary to accommodate the reduction of light reaching the camera’s sensor. Teleconverters can run from about $100 to $300 dollars.

Use one of these budget-friendly solutions to indulge in your love of macro photography! If you have other options or advice for macro photography without a macro lens, please let us know in the comments.

Want more information on macro photography? Check out these other articles from Beyond Megapixels:
- Macro Photography 101 – Part One
- Macro Photography 101 – Part Two
- Macro Photography and You

Photo Credit: “The Pink Rose” by elbfoto on Flickr Creative Commons.

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  • Tony_Davis

    One option I think you missed representing are close up filters. At least in the US you can buy a 3-pack set from Ritz camera with a +1, +2 and +4 filter (screw in – so you must buy for your lens thread size), which can be stacked for magnification values from +1 through +7. Other companies can be found to sell these on Amazon as well.

    I have used them on my Canon 50mm f/1.8 and the Canon Kit 18-55 f/3.5-5.6 IS lens as well, both with excellent results, and an even cheaper choice to 'test out' if Macro is something you want to get into, before spending too much in equipment, and it allows you to possibly use auto-focus unlike the reverse macro ring.

  • Tiffany

    Hi Tony, I didn't think of close up filters! Great suggestion and probably the most inexpensive of all.