reversing a lens for cheap macro

Started Aug 24, 2013 | Discussions thread
Michael Benveniste
Michael Benveniste Veteran Member • Posts: 3,355
Re: reversing a lens for cheap macro

However, I am thrilled by the possibility to reverse one of my lenses and get a huge magnification. I am thinking about using two lenses, a 55-300mm mounted to the camera (Nikon D5200) and a prime 35 f/1.8 lens attached to it via a reverse ring. I understand that if I reverse just a single lens and attach it to the body all electrical contacts will be lost and I will have to do everything manually. So I don't want to do this. However, if I use two lenses, the one attached to the body in the usual way (the 55-300 in my case) will be perfectly connected. The one that is reversed on the top of it (the 35mm one) will be disconnected, of course, but will this matter? Isn't it true that the camera will be able to do the autofocus and all meterings with the 55-300 one?

Using a macro reversing ring to reverse mount your 35mm on your 300mm zoom does not interfere with the electrical communication between the camera and zoom in any way. You'll need a 52mm<->58mm macro reversing ring, but such things are available for less than $5 on fleaBay.

That's the good news. Now the bad news. Since the 35mm f/1.8 is a "G" lens, you'll need to find a mechanical means of holding the aperture lever open on that lens. Otherwise, the 35mm lens will stop down to f/16 and let very little light reach the zoom.  Personally, I'm not comfortable with the idea; I'd be afraid of fouling up the action for standard shots.  But it's your gear and your call.

Here's the in-between news. Under very good conditions, it may be possible to get metering and some autofocus to work. Here is an example I just shot using a D800, 70-300mm VR, and a reversed Pentax 645 45mm f/2.8. Both lenses have 67mm threads; I would have had to use 2 step-up rings to reverse my ancient 35mm f/2.8 PC:

Full Image at 25% size

100% crop of the letter R --

To get this shot, I mounted the D800 with 70-300mm VR and reversed 45mm on a Beseler Copystand designed for medium format gear. I then brought a full-spectrum CFL in a reflector as close to the coin and camera as I dared.  Next I "prefocused" by using the copystand adjustments until I could see the lettering in the viewfinder.  I then switched to Live View, moved as far away from the rig as my MC-30 release would allow, held my breath, let Live View acquire focus and took the shot.  The results, as you can see, are not exactly spectacular.

Prefocusing is necessary because the minimum and maximum focus distance of this combination differ by only about 4mm.  With the 55-300mm and 35mm f/1.8, it would be even less. Working distance was probably in the 50-70mm range.

In my opinion, lens quality, vibration, and focus accuracy all contribute to the softness of this shot.  Neither the 70-300mm nor the 45mm is designed for this, and the CA on the right side of the shot is probably just the tip of an iceberg of aberrations.  I shot this on the second floor, and I could quite clearly see vibration in live view when I moved or breathed.  Finally, it appears that live view tried to maximize the contrast of the surface scratches rather than the lettering.

So there ya go.  What you propose to do is possible, but requires very good support gear, decent lighting, and above average patience.  For my troubles, I ended up with indifferent results; I wish you luck in doing better.

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I miss the days when I used to be nostalgic.

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