Thursday, June 1, 2006
Closer And Closer Macro
The OP Guide to close-up gear
Close-up photography lets you explore a whole new world of outdoor photo possibilities. You can fill the frame with tiny subjects or colorfully abstract small portions of larger subjects. While there are several definitions of close-up photography, we'll go with the simplest one here: photographing subjects at closer range than the minimum focusing distances of standard lenses allow. Today, camera equipment manufacturers offer lots of ways to "get close."
Probably the simplest way to focus closer is by a using a close-up lens. Close-up lenses look like colorless filters and screw into the front threads of the camera lens just like filters.
A close-up lens' strength designation indicates the distance at which the camera lens will be focused, in fractions of a meter, when the camera lens is focused at infinity: a +1 close-up lens will focus the camera lens at one meter; a +2 close-up lens at a half-meter; a +3 close-up lens at a one-third meter and so on. The closer you can focus with a given camera lens, the bigger your subject will be on film or the image sensor; so the higher the designation number of the close-up lens, the greater the magnification.
• Relatively inexpensive
• No light loss
• Takes up little space in a camera bag
• Cheap close-up lenses cause a loss of image sharpness
• You can't focus at infinity with a close-up lens attached
• You need a set of close-up lenses for each different-diameter camera lens (or buy a set of close-up lenses to fit the largest-diameter lens and use step-down rings)
• Like filters, close-up lenses can cause vignetting with wide-angle lenses
The best close-up lenses are the two-element apochromatic lenses, available from Canon, Century Optics, Hoya and Nikon. Attach one of these to a quality camera lens, and you can get superior image quality.
Extension tubes are hollow spacers that mount between the camera body and lens, extending the distance from lens to film or sensor, causing the lens to focus much closer than normal. Many pro bird photographers use an extension tube with their super-telephoto lenses to get frame-filling shots of the smaller chirpies. The longer the extension tube(s), the closer the attached camera lens can focus.
• No reduction in image sharpness (although some camera lenses don't perform as well as others at very close focusing distances)
• Very rugged
• Can be used with virtually all your lenses
• Reduces the amount of light transmitted to the film or image sensor
• You can't focus out to infinity when using an extension tube.
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