Quality Nikon macro lens - extreme magnification

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by kombi45, Jun 11, 2005.

  1. kombi45

    kombi45 Guest

    I have a 55mm MF Nikon 2.8 "micro" lens, and am looking for something
    that can offer _extreme_ magnification and a larger focus area at close
    range. The problems with the one I have is a very limited range of
    focus (about 40/50% of the image is in focus when at minimum distance,
    ~3.5"), relatively mild magnification, and I'm not a big fan of the
    manual focus as this will make all but the stillest of still

    I wouldn't mind getting a great used lens rather than a mid-range new
    one. The budget is in the $400 to $600 range. Also, can someone post
    some pics that they have taken with a lens of this ilk?



    PS - sorry for the cross post to alt.photography, as this is somewhat
    of a thread in progress...there are minor mods, in my defense!
    kombi45, Jun 11, 2005
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  2. kombi45

    Sheldon Guest

    IMO your problem is depth of field, not the lens. You're going to have to
    stop the lens down to increase your depth of field and use slower shutter
    speeds or higher ISO speeds. When shooting something like a flower, keep in
    mind if you focus on the top of the flower half your depth of field will be
    in thin air, so you have to learn to focus at the center point of your DOF.
    I have a manual focus 55, but fell in love with a 105 f 2.8 AF I had a
    chance to play with.
    Sheldon, Jun 11, 2005
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  3. kombi45

    Stacey Guest

    -No lens- will change this on a given camera format. The narrow range of
    focus is directly tied to the amount of image magnification vs the format
    of the camera. Changing lenses and/or focal lengths has absolutely NO
    effect on this. The only thing that changes the focus depth at the same
    magnification is the f stop used. Then you get into the sharpness loss from
    stopping down to far which is what makes macro work so difficult. Objects
    with lots of depth are almost impossible to capture in a single shot. There
    is software that lets you combine multiple images to create more DOF in
    those situations. The smaller sensor cameras have an advantage as far as
    DOV in this type of situation.
    Wouldn't matter if your spend $6000, it isn't going to change optical law.
    Stacey, Jun 11, 2005
  4. kombi45

    Richard H. Guest

    As Sheldon mentions, the shorter lens in macro mode will get you a very
    shallow DOF at a low-f setting. The fix for this is higher-f to bring
    more into focus. I don't think you'll find much variation between
    manufacturers here.

    Below are some fixed-length macro lenses... As you look at them, watch
    out for the "with optional life-size attachment" caveat, which will add
    to the cost to actually get 1:1 magnification.

    100mm 1:1 lenses:

    50mm 1:1 lenses:

    And if you've got deep pockets...
    150mm 1:1 f2.8 (nice!):
    180mm 1:1
    200mm 1:2

    If you don't really need to be up-close, a longer lens should let you
    get the same shot from a greater distance, but usually in exchange for
    higher f-stop. (e.g., where you might spook the subject by getting
    close with a short lens)

    Richard H., Jun 11, 2005
  5. kombi45

    kombi45 Guest

    Which is my point exactly - shooting anything but the stillest of
    subjects will be impossible with this lens. For this reason, I am
    looking around for a different one.

    kombi45, Jun 11, 2005
  6. kombi45

    Stacey Guest

    What you don't understand is changing to another lens or focal length isn't
    going to change the depth of field at all. It isn't like they can
    magicallty make it have more DOF at a given magnification! Then again
    you'll have to waste some money to figure this out for yourself it seems..
    Stacey, Jun 12, 2005
  7. kombi45

    Deedee Tee Guest

    It is true, DOF at the same aperture setting and at the same
    magnification does not depend on focal length. In other words, you
    will get absolutely the same DOF, all other factors being the same,
    with 55mm, 105mm or any other focal length, any lens brand and any
    optical design (possibly as long as it not a composite optical system
    like a microscope or telescope). Even a pure reflector lens without
    transmission optical elements will give you the same DOF. Focal
    length, however, does affect the width of the angle of view, so the
    background and composition of a non-flat scene _will_ look different
    in the picture.

    The only things you can do to change DOF:

    1 - close the diaphragm. This increases also diffraction, i.e., the
    picture (including the in-focus areas) will become less sharp. At very
    closed diaphragm, the picture ends up being less sharp than at more
    open settings. Each lens has an optimal aperture, beyond which
    diffraction begins to affect the picture noticeably. So your diaphrag
    settings will be a tradeoff between DOF and overall sharpness.
    While there _might_ be slight differences in optimal aperture among
    different lenses, depending on the optical design of the lenses and
    shape of the diaphragm (I am not positive there are indeed such
    differences), they must be small.
    However, there is less diffraction at longer focal lengths at the
    same diaphragm opening. This is because the diaphragm opening at f/16
    at 105mm focal length is almost twice the area than a 55mm at f/16. So
    you can use longer focal lengths and smaller diaphragm openings
    (=higher diaphragm stops) before diffraction limits the picture
    resolution. Whether a longer focal length is acceptable for your
    particular picture, of course depends on a lot of other factors
    (nature of the subject and background, composition, light source,
    availability of a steady tripod or macro stand, availability of
    working room around the subject, availability of money to buy long,
    big, heavy and expensive macro lenses, etc.).

    2 - make a stack of pictures with a rather open diaphragm, while
    gradually moving the camera toward the object or away from the object
    between shots. This will give you a set of pictures with the focus
    plane gradually moving from one picture to the next. Post-process the
    stack in software with one of several software packages (e.g.,
    Registax, Helicon Focus, a few others I don't recall now). The
    software chooses the parts in focus from each picture and combines
    them together into an extended focus picture. Not always good, because
    different algorithms may produce different artefacts, but often better
    than any optical DOF at high magnification. Of course, applicable only
    to immobile subjects.

    3 - use a composite optical system, i.e. a microscope with separate
    objective and ocular (or projection lens). I _believe_ this gives you
    a higher DOF than a simple optical system (=macro lens), but
    diffraction cannot be avoided as often forces the use of very low
    numerical apertures in the objective, so this is also a tradeoff.

    4 - there were once experimental devices called scanning optical
    microscopes, which worked a little like stacking but illuminated the
    object on a very narrow plane and a long exposure was needed to move
    the illumination plane along the depth direction. Plenty of
    characteristic artefacts, and the hardware was quite expensive.
    Today's confocal laser microscopes work in a partially similar way,
    but are used only at very high magnification (AFAIK) and the image is
    a computer-generated rendition, not a true picture. I have not looked
    on the web for scanning optical microscopes and there _might_ be some
    commercial product, but I do know I have never seen one in practical
    use in a research lab.

    5 - use a scanning electron microscope.

    6 - use an atomic force microscope.
    Deedee Tee, Jun 12, 2005
  8. kombi45

    Paul Furman Guest

    In another one of these macro threads, there was debate on which end to
    stop down with a reversed-lens-on-a-normal-lens setup. I tested this:

    and there is a big difference. Stopping down the reversed lens creates a
    softer image with less flare & reflections if I'm interpreting
    correctly. Stopping down the lens attached to the body creates a sharper
    image but unnatural looking. I'm not clear how diffraction plays into
    this trade-off.

    I believe it's possible to use a panorama stitching program like the
    free panotools that preserves layers. Then you have to go in & manually
    erase out the layers.
    Paul Furman, Jun 12, 2005
  9. kombi45

    Kitt Guest

    I have the Phoenix 100mm AF version of the Vivitar/Phoenix/Etc. family
    of this lens and I can't say enough good about it's image quality. I
    think it's the third or fourth one down in Richard's list. The lens
    body is cheap hard plastic and the AF is pretty noisy, but the image is
    great and it's only $140 or less brand new, so if you're careful with
    it, you should get great results for very little money. BTW, the 1:1
    diopter is included unless something has changed since I bought it. I
    was lucky enough to have an old set of diopter lenses I used on an old
    Mamiya SLR that had a 49mm filter thread size, so I can even go bigger
    by stacking if I sacrifice a little image quality. I repeat.. I just
    love it. It's gotta' be the bargain hunters buy of the decade in
    Kitt, Jun 12, 2005
  10. kombi45

    Richard H. Guest

    That sounds like a good deal indeed.

    According to B&H, the min focal distance is ~17 inches - is this
    correct? (They have it wrong for my lens, which will focus down to
    ~1.5-2.0" in macro mode.)

    How would you compare the image size at 17" with the lens cap shots
    taken below at 105mm (2.5" distance)?

    Richard H., Jun 12, 2005
  11. kombi45

    Richard H. Guest


    I've launched a space on PBase with some sample macro shots using a
    Nikon zoom/macro lens. See http://www.pbase.com/hornbaker/macro_tests

    I was actually surprised at the results, and you'll see why you're
    getting poor shots shooting f2.8 in macro mode. I never thought I'd be
    saying this, but I wish my lens went smaller than f22.

    Also, you can see the results at 50mm vs. 105mm, if you're going to get
    a fixed lens. All things being equal, I think I'd opt for a longer
    macro lens, as long as it still had a short min focal distance. For the
    results you're describing, you'll probably want a 1:1 lens.

    I'll be interested to hear what Kitt has to say about the Phoenix lens,
    because the focal distance can have a huge impact on the end result.
    The first pen pic I put on PBase was taken at 105mm and 13.5" - even
    shorter than the min distance posted for most of the fixed macro lenses.
    In practice, I can move up to ~2.0" from the subject, yielding about a
    3x increase in size. (I don't know if this is a unique feature of this
    lens, or the specs listed on B&H for the macro lenses are generaly wrong
    about the min focal distance, because they all seem about 10x higher.)

    Richard H., Jun 12, 2005
  12. kombi45

    Deedee Tee Guest

    Just FYI, some macro equipment that could be given a thought (alhough
    probably not for professional use):

    Kenko makes a macro lens for SLR cameras that goes from 0.25x to 1x
    (0.7 to 1.7x with a special extension tube). Diaphragm seems fixed at
    f/8. This might or might not have some uses. See
    (unfortunately in Japanese, but you can get an idea from the
    pictures). You would need to use a Nikon DSLR in manual mode though.

    Kenko also makes a pinhole equivalent to 50mm f/250. It is of course
    affected both by softness (not being a lens) and diffraction, but it
    might have some uses in macro (I should expect a DOF from infinite to
    less than 1 cm from the front). You can make your own pinholes to
    experiment with, of course.

    I saw weeks ago a (60mm?) macro lens in Yodobashi Camera in Shinjuku,
    somewhat similar to Kenko's but another brand (sorry, something
    totally unknown that I forgot since). It also had a LED illuminator
    accessory, and apparently could focus to 1-2 cm from the front lens,
    so the max magnification should be quite high. The whole thing looked
    almost like a prototype, down to an apparently homemade album of test
    shots. The price was quite high, if I remember correctly.

    The Grayfield Optical Inc publicise what they call a 3D Optical
    microscope, which they claim has a DOF of up to 30mm. See
    http://www.grayfieldoptical.co.uk/docs/3DOMa.pdf. I can see no
    explanation of the design or principles, nor of prices for the
    equipment (the only things for sale seem to be a demo video of the
    microscopes and, on another site, a ludicrously expensive 60x macro
    attachment for Coolpix cameras). A web search shows that this company
    is often mentioned in connection with other activities ranging from
    very unlikely and unproven "scientific" theories to outlandish claims
    of "revolutionary" discoveries, with the myth of the Rife microscope
    (an "invention" from the 1930's claiming to achieve far higher
    resolution than the theoretical maximum for photon optics) figuring
    prominently among them. So this company, its web site and its products
    may well be no more than a smokescreen. But you are welcome to form
    your own opinion.
    Deedee Tee, Jun 13, 2005
  13. kombi45

    Hunt Guest

    Ben, as others have stated, it isn't the lens. One partial solution is to
    build a macro-strobe system, so you CAN stop down. Most Nikkor macro/micros go
    down to ~f/32. All you need is more light, and a macro-stobe system is the
    best way to do it.

    Hunt, Jun 13, 2005
  14. kombi45

    kombi45 Guest

    I ended up buying a 52MM reverse adaptor for the 55MM lens. It looks
    like I'm getting at least 2:1 now.
    kombi45, Jun 14, 2005
  15. kombi45

    scamper Guest


    Here are a couple of thoughts on macro/micro photography:

    1. In the macro/micro range, the focus/distance interact. Use the
    focus ring to choose the size of the image and move closer/farther to
    actually focus.

    When you're shooting a dynamic subject, try this: Choose an object
    about the size of the subject you want to shoot (i.e. a flower that
    you'll want to show with the butterfly on it). Focus in on the flower
    and get your sizing and settings ready in advance. Then, without
    changing the focus, chase butterflies by moving the camera forward and
    back to achieve focus.

    Don't worry too much about auto-focus. I doubt you'd have much luck
    with it in the macro range. Focus changes image size - distance
    controls focus.

    2. For depth of field, the other writers are right. You need a smaller
    aperture to get better depth of field and for that, you'll need better
    light. You can try reflectors if your subjects allow it. For chasing
    butterflies, you'll probably need one (or more) flashes mounted on a
    bracket and precalibrated.

    As stated, once you get past a certain aperture, (f8-f16, depending on
    focal length) you get more depth of field but lose overall sharpness on
    the picture.

    3. A longer focal length macro lens lets you get a similar shot at a
    greater distance (good for chasing butterflies). This doesn't change
    your depth of field all that much, but it makes the background fuzzier
    than you'd get with a wider-angle lens.

    Good luck,

    scamper, Jun 14, 2005
  16. kombi45

    kombi45 Guest

    Thanks, Ed. I reversed the 55MM lens, and the cool thing about that is
    the DOF changes are automatically seen when adjusting aperture.
    However, at 55MM it's tough to get close to anything living! Also, can
    the Nikon AF macro/micro lenses be used in manual focus as well?? I am
    thinking about going with a 105MM lens new. I noticed a tiny knick on
    the front glass of the used one I have, as well.


    kombi45, Jun 14, 2005
  17. kombi45

    Stacey Guest

    To maintain the same magnification, you have to change the position from the
    subject so the perspective changes but the DOF at the focus plane given the
    same magnification doesn't change. That's why they make lots of longer
    tele macro lenses 'cause it doesn't cost you any DOF and give you more lens
    to subject distance for lighting. The whole "shorter lenses have more DOF"
    hype/lie/BS falls apart when you are doing macro work.
    Stacey, Jun 15, 2005
  18. kombi45

    kombi45 Guest

    Should I be concerned with greater vibration in a macro lens at longer
    focal lengths? Just shooting about 100 or so shots to get started with
    a 55MM up close lens, I found it EXTREMELY difficult to maintain focus.
    I ask because I am considering purchasing the 105MM Nikon
    macro/micro/up-close lens.

    kombi45, Jun 15, 2005
  19. I use my 105mm exclusively handheld and really enjoy it. The thing to
    remember is using good lighting techniques and enough light when getting in
    close. Here is a pic I took shortly after getting the 105mm. The head of
    the mushroom isn't that much bigger than 0.25".


    Here is a test shot of a penny with a 50mm f/1.4 reversed in front of the


    I always brace myself and hold my breath when hitting the shutter. I would
    definitely get the 105mm as it gives you more working distance that allows
    for better lighting techniques.

    Rita Ä Berkowitz, Jun 15, 2005
  20. kombi45

    kombi45 Guest

    Thanks, Rita, good stuff! Here's some results I got with the Nikon
    55MM reverse mounted to my N80 (the D70S will be on my doorstep
    tomorrow!), with Kodak 400UC, and scanned into a cheap-o Epson
    Perfection 2580:



    http://www.pbase.com/sirchandestroy/image/44812700 (for comic relief)




    The last one is a perfect example where a digital camera would save me
    a bunch of time. I (accidentally) did a great job of focus-bracketing.
    I have another shot of the insect where he is completely out of focus,
    except the tentacles, and the surface (a porch lamp) is in prefect
    focus. I'm currently working to get them together.

    Anway, thanks for your input - I think I will be picking up the 105MM
    lens. Oh, and I know it's probably been covered, but why reverse mount
    a macro to a xx-xxx lens?


    kombi45, Jun 15, 2005
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