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    Buying guide: close-up photography equipment

    | Reviews | 11/01/2010 15:41pm
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    Take a look at close-up gear for every budget: reversing rings, extension tubes, close-up filters and macro lenses

    Reversing rings are a low-cost, yet effective way to get into macro photography – they really do give impressive results. A reversing ring is simply a metal hoop with a bayonet fitting, to match your lens’s filter thread, on one end and a screw fitting on the other. As the name suggests, they work by mounting the lens directly onto the camera body, introducing a short extension, which makes the lens focus close and gives a high but fixed magnification. Your working distance also becomes fixed.You’ll get life-sized images that are razor sharp in the middle, but softer at the edges than you’d get with a macro lens. Only a select few offer electronic coupling too – be prepared to go Manual!

    If you’re itching to photograph the world up-close you’ll need some specialised gear – here we explain the four main routes into fantastic macro photography…


    Reversing Rings

    Reversing rings are a low-cost, yet effective way to get into macro photography – they really do give impressive results. A reversing ring is simply a metal hoop with a bayonet fitting, to match your lens’s filter thread, on one end and a screw fitting on the other. As the name suggests, they work by mounting the lens directly onto the camera body, introducing a short extension, which makes the lens focus close and gives a high but fixed magnification. Your working distance also becomes fixed.

    You’ll get life-sized images that are razor sharp in the middle, but softer at the edges than you’d get with a macro lens. Only a select few offer electronic coupling too – be prepared to go Manual!

    Pros:

    Inexpensive, very small, life-sized results can be used with tubes or bellows to get closer than 1:1.                                                                                                                  

    Cons:

    Fixed magnification, fixed focus point, usually only work in Manual or Aperture Priority modes.

    Price range:

    From around £25 for a known brand or as little as £3 on eBay.

    Extension Tubes

    Extension tubes are basically metal tubes with bayonet fittings on both ends, so they fit between the camera and lens and extend the distance from lens to camera sensor. The tubes are available in a variety of lengths and can be bought singularly or in a set of three (Kenko’s range is popular). If you opt for good quality tubes, they’ll connect your camera’s electronics with those of your lens, enabling you to retain control of both the aperture and autofocus. Plus, lens quality will remain unaffected. One thing to consider when using tubes is that the longer the combined length of the tubes, the longer the exposure – your DSLR’s auto modes will compensate for this.

    Pros:

    Good quality results, varying degrees of magnification, lightweight.

    Cons:

    More fiddly than other methods, the longer the lens you’re using, the more extension tubes you’ll need.

    Price range:

    For branded tubes around £50 each or £115 for three, about £4 on eBay.

    Close-up Filters

    Close-up filters, also known as close-up lenses or macro filters, attach to the front of your lens or lens adapter. They have diopter ratings stretching from +1 to +10 and can be bought individually or as sets. You can stack the filters for increased magnification, but when you do so you have to put the strongest filter closest to the lens and work down.
    Close-up filters decrease your depth of field, so you have to work with small apertures. Quality isn’t as good as with a reversing lens or extension tubes, but they’re a good first step into the world of macro, especially for occasional use.

    Pros:

    Small, light, cheap and easy to use.

    Cons:

    Quality isn’t as good as other methods, depth of field is lost.

    Price range:

    Hoya sets cost around £60, unbranded sets cost from £9 on eBay.


    Macro lenses

    If you’re serious about close-up photography, and want professional-looking results, a dedicated macro lens is the obvious choice. The quality you’ll get from a macro lens is second to none, because they’re manufactured solely for this purpose. Where as normal lenses are optimised so that sharpness and contrast get better towards infinity focusing, macro lenses are the opposite – providing brilliant sharpness, contrast and high general image quality up close. Macro lenses are generally bitingly sharp bits of glass, which is why many pro photographers use them as portrait lenses (although sometimes they can be too sharp for this!). As well as the ability to capture truly stunning close-ups, they’re capable of shooting anything else you come across.

    Pros:

    Superb optical quality, lenses double as a general purpose lens.

    Cons:

    Most expensive option for close-ups.

    Price range:

    From around £240.

    If you’re considering buying a maco lens be sure to read our buying guide.

     


    Posted on Monday, January 11th, 2010 at 3:41 pm under Reviews.

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