Friday, December 14, 2012

Macro Surgery

I have been doing a little bit of amateur photography now for quite a few years. My first camera was a Minolta (I forget what model. It's in storage and I should probably rescue it at some point). But since the advent of the digital photography age I put off making the jump to digital photography for a long while until I eventually purchased my first DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) camera a couple of years ago. I did that in anticipation of the annual flowering of the Chihuahuan desert every March, April, and May. However, that didn't happen because we didn't get any rain for the next two years.

Homemade Bread and Tuscany cheddar rolled in pepper and  grains. This was a rye seed and  red pepper flake. Canon 35-80mm converted to Macro
I have since been taking pictures however of the small flowers and small things that inhabit this desert I live in. I am very much interested in taking photos of the little things, or as it is called, macro photography. After extensive research I decided to purchase a Canon T2i DSLR. It came with a standard lens 18-55mm and then I purchased the Canon EF 100mm macro lens as well. Those are the mainstay of what I use when I take photos here in the desert.

However, I really would like to get closer to my subjects and that would mean purchasing the Canon MP-E 1x-5x macro lens. Starting at the low, low price of 950 bucks left me breathing out of a small paper bag for a few minutes until I stopped hyperventilating. Well, I guess that's out of the question. So, there is always more than one way to do something. I set about doing more research on how to accomplish my goal of super macro photos on a cheaper budget. And what do ya know! I happened to see a forum for photographers that said I could purchase a lens for relatively cheap, under 50 bucks, and after a bit of minor easy surgery on the lens, produce a super macro lens.
Very small camera screws-converted 35-80mm Macro Lens
Canon 100mm Macro Lens
So I did just that. But not without some trepidation. I mean, actually take something related to a camera apart? Well, it felt almost like I was committing sacrilege on a sacred object. So I said okay. I purchased two Canon 35-80mm standard lenses for cheap on Ebay. I received the lenses yesterday and kept one to use as a back up lens for photos and the other I performed surgery on. Wow! I was impressed with how close I could get to the subject and produce a basically good photo. As with any macro lens, the closer you get to the subject the narrower will be the depth of field or how much in focus the area around the subject will be. There is practically no way around that...almost. There are programs that you can use to get around that. You would need to take multiple photos of the subject with each progressing to place the focused area in different areas of the subject. Then the program would combine those photos to make one photo with most of the subject in focus. I have not tried that yet. Yet.

I have taken photos of the same sample subject using my now converted lens and my Canon 100mm macro lens in order to compare the two. Notice that the 100mm lens has the subject as being sharper but also just at the 1:1 ratio or as the same size as real life. It is impressive I think. All the photos were taken utilizing only a small lamp on a table and hand held. I didn't want to go to the trouble of setting up the tripod. The sole purpose of this was just to see how much of a difference it would make versus using my current 100mm macro lens. Using the 100mm lens I was able to step back quite a bit from the subject but a 100mm macro is a fixed lens and it will only allow a certain distance. However, the now converted  35-80mm lens has zoom capability but one still has to physically move themselves forward or backward to gain focus while zooming in on the subject. I am impressed with this method.

Canon 100mm Macro Lens
Converted Canon 35-80 mm Macro Lens

I cut open a malted milk "robins egg" from the makers of Whoppers malted milk balls.  Canon 35-80mm converted to  Macro

I think I'm going to have an interesting next few months playing around with this new macro lens. I can now get closer to my subjects here in the desert.


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