Friday, 28 September 2012

Using a +10 macro lens

There are many ways to achieve macro photo capabilities. The easiest is of course to buy a dedicated macro lens, like the Panasonic-Leica 45mm f/2.8 1:1 macro. However, that is an expensive lens, and I am often looking to test cheaper alternatives. I have looked into a number of options, see the table at the end of this article for a list.

Some macro options involve offsetting the lens further away from the camera, or reversing it, effectively cutting off the electrical communications between the camera and the lens. This has the negative side effect of removing the possibility to control the focus and the aperture of the lens.

Probably the cheapest and the simplest solution is to buy a close up filter to be screwed into the front threads of a lens you already have. These are typically rated as +1, +2, +4 and +10. I decided to try the most extreme, the one rated as +10:





One strange thing about the macro filter I got, is that the glass extends beyond the rear side of the metal ring. This means that when screwing it into a lens, the glass elements might meet, potentially damaging either. To avoid this, I used a 46mm stand off ring between the macro ring and the lens. Here they are mounted to the Lumix X 45-175mm f/4-5.6:


When using the +10 close up filter, the Lumix X 45-175mm f/4-5.6, the lens becomes 1:2 capable at 45mm, and 1:0.6 at 175mm. The working distance is 8cm through the focal length range. Here is a typical setup at 175mm focal length:


And the result image, taken with an aperture of f/13:


Sadly, the image quality is rather poor. As you can see, there are some significant chromatic aberration artefacts. Perhaps close up filters with a lower rating, e.g., +2, provide a better quality. But then again, they also give less magnification.

One big advantage with this method is that you can control the aperture from the camera. The focus can also be controlled, however, at this magnification, you are limited to very small fine tuning of the focus distance only. You must do the focusing by moving the object into focus.

Used on the Sigma 30mm f/2.8

I also tried to use the close up filter on the Sigma 30mm f/2.8 EX DN lens, which shares the 46mm filter thread.

In this case, I could do without the stand off ring. However, I could not screw the close up filter completely into the filter threads, as the glass surfaces would meet, which I don't like.

Using this solution, I was able to get a 1:2 magnification, with a 6cm working distance. Here is the output image:


In this case, I did not see any severe chromatic aberration artefacts, but then again, the enlargement is not nearly as large.

Other options

Here is a summary of various ways to achieve a macro ability:

Methodmagnificationworking distanceaperturefocus
Using a dedicated macro lens, the PL451:1 max6cmautoauto
Macro extension rings, and a legacy normal lens1.4:1 in my example6cmmanual, if the lens has an aperture ringno focus possibilty
Macro reverser ring, with Lumix 14-42mm2.5:1 - 1.15:12-4cmno control of aperture from camerano focus possibilty
Olympus ZD 50mm f/2 lens with extra 65mm extension2:13cmno control of aperture from camerano focus possibilty
Lumix G 45-200mm with reversed normal lens3.5:15cmautoauto, but only small adjustments
Lumix X 45-175mm with +10 close up filter (this article)1:2 (45mm), 1.7:1 (175mm)8cmautoauto, but only small adjustments

Conclusion

This study perhaps shows that there are no free lunches. The cheap macro front filter lens is simple to use, but gives poor image quality. For the ultimate in image quality and simplicity, the best is probably to buy the Panasonic-Leica 45mm f/2.8 1:1 macro. in the first place.





15 comments:

  1. (first comment here, very nice blog BTW ,-))

    I recently bought a cheap (8 USD) 8x close-up filter, and I use it on my 14-42mm Lumix, without any standoff ring.

    I think the pictures don't look too bad (there is some chromatic aberration, but not as bad as what you show). I posted a few pictures I've taken with it here (unless otherwise mentioned, the filter is always on):
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/52348098@N07/sets/72157631647374672/

    Not sure how it would look like with a longer lens, but I suspect that the standoff ring may make it worse: I tried taking pictures with an old Olympus OM 50mm f1.8, using a 49mm->52mm step-up ring so I could use the same filter, and chromatic aberration is very bad. (http://www.flickr.com/photos/52348098@N07/sets/72157631647376250/)

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    1. This is a very interesting comment. I think that my close up filter has a poor design issue: The rear part of the lens element protrudes to the rear of the metal filter ring, hence the need for the stand off ring.

      I tried to use it on the Sigma 30mm f/2.8 as well now (updated the article). In this case, I could do without the stand off ring, but I could not screw the close up lens fully into the filter threads. The results look better, but the enlargement is much less impressive.

      Thanks for your comment!

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    2. Actually, I just tested the same thing with my 14mm f2.5 pancake, with a step-up ring (46->52mm). Limited chromatic aberration in that case, as well (but very low magnification of course).

      I also took a picture of a ruler, and I get 8.7cm of it at 14mm, and 4.3cm at 42mm, so only 1:4.8 and 1:2.4 magnification, not really "macro" by your standards ,-)

      I don't know if you got it from the same source as I did (it looks very similar...), but this review (http://club.dx.com/reviews/text/17323/190849) says that the 8x is optically better than the 10x. Also, it doesn't protrude at the back of the filter (only at the front), so I don't have the same kind of problems as you have.

      For sure, it's no replacement for a real macro lens, and you don't get as much magnification, but it's still interesting for some shots, especially when you consider its price...

      I'm thinking of buying the Panasonic 45-150mm when it becomes available, would be interesting to see how the filter performs with that lens. Or if you have a chance to test it with your 45-200mm maybe ,-)

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    3. Sounds like you got the more useful close up filter, by far!

      My filter is 46mm, and hence, it does not fit to the 45-200mm lens, which has a 52mm front lens thread. And based on your experience, putting the step up filter between them is probably not the best idea.

      I think the +10 close up filter is probably ok, for the price, the big problem is the rear of the lens, which protrudes too much.

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    4. Hi!

      A follow-up on this. I bought the 45-150mm lens, and the 8x filter gives a nice 1.15x magnification at 150mm focal length. I wrote up a post on this here: http://drinkcat.blogspot.sg/2013/03/macro-photography-cheap.html.

      As you also observe in your images, the filter introduces quite a bit of chromatic aberration, but this can be corrected using panotools/hugin (tca_correct and fulla): http://drinkcat.blogspot.sg/2013/03/macro-photography-correcting-chromatic-aberration.html . The final images are not very sharp (I have to stop down to f/22 to get some depth of field), but I think they look decent, especially considered the price of the adapter.

      Thank you!

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    5. Great stuff! I love your use of free software like Hugin. Very good inspiration!

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  2. I have the Panasonic/Leica macro, and luckily I have forgotten how much it cost me ;)
    Olympus now has a macro lens for m4/3, the 60mm. From what little I've read, it's comparable to the Leica.

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  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  4. You don't mention 3 more solutions:
    a. Legacy macro lens, e.g. 90mm f/2.8 one which gets 1:1 magnification. Good working distance, good IQ. Only drawback is MF-only.

    b. Olympus 12-50mm kit lens (has pseudo-macro mode at 43mm). Has AF. Drawbacks - only 0.72x magnification, short working distance.

    c. New Olympus 60mm f/2.8 macro.

    P.S. I myself use both Vivitar 90mm f/2.8 legacy macro lens and the Olympus 12-50mm kit lens.

    I had tried the close-up filters and legacy lens with extension rings before that, but found both had to work with, and the IQ was pretty poor too.

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    1. Yes, you are quite right. My list is not complete, I have just listed the possibilities that I have used.

      Thanks for your comments! It's interesting to see the pseudo macro mode of the Olympus 12-50mm f/3.5-6.3 lens. Strange that the macro mode applies to focal length 43mm. But the 0.72x magnification is not that bad. This is a fairly good magnification, you can photograph items that are about one inch horizontally.

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  5. Have you tried using the Raynox DCR-250 Macro snap on lens? I've used it successfully on my GH2 using 45-200mm f/4.0-5.6 Lumix G. I got it for $70 originally for my Lumix FZ50

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    1. I haven't tried it. However, the Raynox macro rings are essentially the same as the ordinary macro rings you can buy off the internet. Raynox have just been better at marketing their stuff.

      The Raynox macro lenses work better because they have a smaller rating than the ring I tried. So it is a bit like using lenses with a smaller rating, e.g., +2 or +4.

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    2. I guess that means I got ripped off. I thought Raynox rings are different because the lens is a little over 1cm thick, unlike the macro ring that looks like filter rings. Anyway, it was just a suggestion because I'm pretty satisfied with the clarity & sharpness of the Raynox macro lens. The one I purchased was made in Japan. BTW - I love your website, I enjoy reading all your reviews & articles here. Thanks for all the great info!

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    3. I wouldn't say that you have been ripped off. The macro lens works fine with you, and that is what is important. I think you are right that they are made to better specifications than the simple lenses which can be bought cheaply.

      It could also be that I have been mistaken about the quality of the Raynox lenses, of course.

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  6. The problem its the aperture of f/13... try at f/8 at the lens sharp point...

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