Silkmoth, Bombyx mori
OK. So you have a yearning to try Macro work? Ladybugs, Mantids, Flowers or anything else that springs to mind. But that $1000.00 105mm f/2,8 VRII Macro Lens is just a little beyond the budget? You should have gotten an 18-55mm Kit lens with your DSLR or you have a nice 28-70mm f/2.8? Your not sure if spending so much money will be worth it? There are a number of solutions. You can buy an adaptor ring or reversal ring, which mounts into your DSLR body and the other end is threaded so that you can reverse your lens and screw it into the adaptor. This effectively turns your lens into a macro lens. Sure there will be no metering. Focus and exposure is manual and you will have to determine the correct exposure, by trial and error. Set mirror lock-up and use the best tripod you can afford. A small shutter release is also a definite must. All of which prevent camera shake and blur. So choose an object that is stationary, like a coin, or flower or rings. This reverse ring will cost you all of maybe $25-00. Don’t like it? Too much effort? Then macro is probably not for you. You see, even with a dedicated Macro lens you will eventually only manually focus. Focus and composition is so critical on macro’s that you can’t let the camera’s AF do it for you. Whilst the exposure is auto on such a lens, you might sill need to add flash or fill light to your subject. Trust me, its better to set that up manually too, you will want to control the light direction and intensity more often than not, meaning off camera flash. iTTL or eTTL is pretty pointless then, unless you insist on running it using an ext cable. There are many online macro tutorials, all I’d like to say here is go cheap first. Go manual. You have more control and if you find that going from stationary objects to moving beetles or bees becomes near impossible, yet you are still keen to try, then go for a few extension rings. You get manual and automatic version of this. If you can afford it, take the auto’s. It’s one less thing to worry about when you start chasing live subjects. Sure you can throw the bug into the deep freeze for 5 minutes and haul him out in a state of narcosis, but you don’t have a fridge in the veld 100 miles from home. So you need to practice before you hit the road.
This image was shot with a set of Phottix AF Macro Tubes coupled to a Sigma 28-70mm f/2.8 EX DG and a YongNuo YN-460 II Speedlight that was fired with a set of Phottix Tetra Triggers and an IR Remote Control. Outlay for flash, AF ext tubes, batteries, triggers and IR RC (excluding camera and lens) about $390-00 vs a dedicated 105mm f/2.8 VR macro lens of about $1000-00, no flash or batteries…
A word of caution, the smaller macro lenses around 40/50/60mm tend to minimum focus (1:1) TOO close to the subject. The front element is literally a few cm’s or even a few mm’s away from the subject, and if it’s a live subject, it’s scared off long before you can focus. This is true for extension tubes combined with normal short tele lenses. But at least you haven’t made a $700-00 to $1000-00 mistake. This then is the attraction of the huge 180mm Macro’s. 40cm / 18″ closest focusing distance but thats one huge chunk of glass, and thus heavy to lug around. In everything there are compromise, especially photography.
If you are going to buy a real macro lens, also don’t bother with those 70-300mm “macro” lenses. You normally don’t get 1:1 lifesize ratios, they tend to be 1:2 or often 1:3. Maybe you have one of these lenses. Go right ahead, switch it to macro and try it. Not what you expected right? If macro is for you, get at least a 100mm (Canon) or 105mm (Nikon) mount from Canon, Nikon or Sigma. I use a 180mm f/3.5. It’s a chunk of glass weighing in at 2.1 lbs (965g) and no OS/IS/VR. (ETA: Sigma have released an OS f/2.8 version in Jan 2012.) Tripod only unless you have arms like Arnold…which I don’t! But it’s closest focus distance is 18″ from the subject. Get something in the 100-150mm range. Thank me later