Lens Use Guide for Macro Photography

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Adrian Harris
Adrian Harris Veteran Member • Posts: 5,855
Lens Use Guide for Macro Photography
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In another thread Trevor asked a very good question regarding which of two lens options would provide most magnification. I don't have one of the lenses in question so had no idea but expected the results to be similar. So was amazed to find out how different the final measured answer was from my own guess, when it was displayed so clearly in a visual manner by Martin who photographed a ruler.

This reminded me of some practical tests I performed for a talk last year when club members asked how do close-up lenses and extension tubes alter lens behaviour with regard for macro work. I apologise for not including this in Trevor's original thread, but thought that as these tests referred mainly to other lens types and combinations, that it would probably be best as a separate article.

Thus my article begins: Lens Use Guide for Macro Photography.

To try and help myself understand what lenses or combinations with adaptors would be best to use when intending to photograph various insects I realised a visual chart would help me, and started by creating the following simple insect size and distance graph to printout, for which I could overlay information afterwards.

Print this out full size on an A4 sheet.

The next step was creating a simple setup to measure my lenses and combinations of adaptors.  The photo below shows the kitchen table test bench and all items required.

To start the test set the lens to a fixed zoom position (I suggest widest angle to start with), then measure and note down the closest and furthest distance at which it will focus, and also note down the maximum width you can see in the viewfinder at both the nearest and furthest focus distance.

After taking all the above measurements for both the lens widest angle and also at maximum zoom, note the test results down. I used the following simple table (and created one for each different lens I tested).

Because a graphical image (as opposed to numbers) always works better for me with regard to understanding and retaining, I then plotted the test results from all my lens combinations onto the blank Insect-Distance graph, ...and this is now pinned on the office wall for quick reference.

Below you can see how differently certain M43 lenses behave when zoomed when fitted with an extension tube as opposed to a close-up lens.

I hope the above diagram will be a useful guide to some who are wondering what lens to use for what insects.  Will try to answer any questions regarding clarification.

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