Macro Photography — Experimenting With Different Equipment

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By Steve Russell

Usually when I sit down to write an article I end up writing a lot of words and include a few photographs. For today’s article, I thought I’d include a lot of photos and write fewer words.

Macro photography has long been one of my favorite approaches to photography. It’s possible to create stunning images with nice bokeh and most of all, create an image of something that allows the viewer to see the subject in a manner they’re not used to seeing.

For this article I decided to approach the subject from a somewhat technical perspective instead of an artistic one. I have included 18 images of the same orchid blossom, using various combinations of two lenses, extension tubes and tele-converter. The images are arranged by lens/extension tube/tele-converter combination and with each combination I captured an image with my Canon 7Dand my Canon 5D Mark IIand displayed them side by side.

If you’re not familiar with extension tubes, they are a hollow tube that is attached between the camera body and the lens. The tube increases the distance between the lens and the sensor and makes it possible to move the lens closer to the subject and still be able to focus on the subject.

The tele-converter, in this case a Canon 1.4X, increases the magnification of the lens thus capturing an image closer while still maintaining the same distance from the subject.

The reason for using two camera bodies is to demonstrate the difference between a crop frame sensor (the 7D that has a ratio of 1.6 and will always be the image on the left of the pair) and a full frame sensor (the 5D).

All the images are SOOC and are intended to demonstrate the approach and not to be fine art. Okay, enough talk.

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This is a full frame image of the blossom that serves as the base line image. It’s taken with a Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro Lens. For the image on the left taken with the 7D, the distance from the front edge of the lens to the blossom was 20″. The distance from the front edge of the lens to the blossom in the image on the right (the 5D) was 13″. Because I wanted the same size image with both camera bodies I had to move the crop frame sensor farther away from the subject.

All the remaining images were taken with the lens at the minimum distance from the subject that still allows for a focused image. Just to be clear, the lens controls the focusing distance. The sensor controls the size of the image. That’s why in the image above, the lens-to-subject distance had to be different for the two bodies to enable the capture of the same size image with each.

Note that there isn’t anything magic about the Canon lens other than it’s a great lens. You could expect similiar results with any other similiar size macro lens. For example, the Nikon 105mm f/2.8G Lens

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These images were both taken with the 100mm macro lens and a lens-to-subject distance of 5″.

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This image was captured using the 100mm macro lens and a Canon 12mm Extension Tubeand a lens-to-subject distance of 4.5″

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100mm Macro lens and a Canon 25mm Extension Tube and a lens-to-subject distance of 4″.

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Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L Lens with the lens zoomed to 200mm and a lens-to-subject distance of 45″.

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200mm lens (70-200mm zoomed to 200) with a 1.4 tele-converter and a lens-to-subject distance of 45″. Note that the tele-converter doesn’t affect the lens-to-subject distance but does make the subject appear larger.

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200mm lens with a 12mm extension tube and a lens-to-subject distance of 32″. Notice that the use of the 12mm extension tube captures an image that is roughly the same size as using the 1.4 tele-converter. The difference is the lens-to-subject distance of 45″ with the tele-converter and 32″ with the extension tube.

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200mm lens with a 25mm extension tube and a lens-to-subject distance of 24″.

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200mm lens with the 12mm and the 25mm extension tubes stacked and a lens-to-subject distance of 21″.

I didn’t address the impact of the various attachments on shutter speed and aperture. Just remember that anytime you put something between the lens and the camera or in front of the lens like an ND filter, you’re going to affect the amount of light passing through the lens to the sensor. For example, the 1.4x converter reduces the light by one stop. Keep this in mind when using extension tubes and converters.

With a true macro lens you can get a lot closer than with other lenses. However, using the 200mm lens that has a minimum focusing distance of approximately 4 feet and adding extension tubes or a tele-converter can still result in some very nice images. In fact, the 200mm lens with the 1.4 converter is ideal for photographing butterflies and other flying insects. You won’t get the multiple eyes of the house fly this way, but you can capture an image of a butterfly without scaring it away. Experiment with your equipment and see what kind of results you can achieve.

Photo Credits:
All photos by Steve Russell

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