On-the-Budget Macro Setup Will Help You Shoot Great Fine Art Photography

I have been a huge fan of extreme macro photography for quite some time now. While experimenting with a lot of different equipment, and many different theories, I learned a lot about macro photography, and what it takes to assemble a high quality system, while on a budget. There several components to a macro setup to discuss, and I will focus on the lens, and the equipment needed to attach it to the camera body, and turn it into a macro lens, whether it was intentionally built to be a macro or not.I have seen a lot of beautiful Fine Arts Prints of Macro subjects shot with fairly inexpensive setups. First of all, please understand that currently most cameras are automatic, in their focus, metering etc. Of course, this was not the case 20 or 30 years ago, when a lot of macro technology was being developed. This being said, I want to make sure that you understand that this setup will be a manual setup. However, it will work well with either a film or a digital SLR camera.Modern cameras have been getting smaller, and more automated; however, for macro photography, smaller size, and automation are not necessarily an advantage. There are some really great macro lenses available for modern SLRs from all big vendors. However, their prices are commonly over $500. If you add the cost of artificial lighting, you are looking at paying around a grand. Our goal here is a quality yet low cost alternative, so let’s get to it.The first thing that a good macro setup needs is something which all modern film and digital SLRs lack. What could they all possibly lack? An adjustable distance between the lens, and the film plane, or a digital sensor. Macro is about getting very close to the subject and magnifying it to its original size, or preferably larger. Having the ability to extend the lens away from the camera allows the camera to achieve focus at a much shorter distance, than if the lens was fixed to the camera.So here’s what we need to get the lens broken away from the camera. Many people have heard of, or seen a bellows, which is nothing more than an accordion made out of some type of a synthetic material, painted black, with a lens mount on one end, and a camera mount on the other. The accordion is fixed on its horizontal plane, and the rail to which it is fixed allows it to extend and contract on that fixed plane. This device has the camera attached to it, and allows the end with the lens attached to be moved closer or further away from the camera’s film/digital plane. This makes for an excellent start. The Macro bellows such as this is commonly sold by specialty camera stores, and many stores online. A search on eBay will lend you one for under $100. Look for a bellows with a correct mount for your camera, and an M42 mount on the lens end. I know you are asking yourself right now, why not the correct mount for my lenses? You are more than likely shooting with an automatic film, or a digital SLR, and this will be a manual setup, and your lenses do not allow manual aperture setting. This means that you will not have any depth control, because your lenses will be at their widest opening. Depth of Field is essential in Macro photography. It is a must.At his point we have a bellows but we need a lens. I will discuss getting a good lens in detail in another article, but to summarize, any normal to telephoto lens with an M42 mount will complete this kit. A lens which was designed to be macro is best, but a plain normal 50-80mm lens will work. Just remember, the lens should have aperture control, and manual focus, which will help you precisely adjust your composition, and will let you control depth of field. Older lenses from manufacturers like Carl Zeiss, or Pentax are of excellent mechanical and optical quality, despite their age. Once again, eBay is a good place to pick one up. Do not expect to pay any more than appx. $150.So, for under $300 is it possible to have a better setup than a $500 macro lens. Yes, your results will be better with this setup, than with even the most expensive automatic macro lenses. Give this a try, and stay tuned for more articles on the subject of Macro Photography.

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