DIY macro lens

Ever wondered what to do with that old worthless kit lens that’s been sitting in the cupboard for ages because you couldn’t bear to throw it out? Why not give it a new lease on life by converting it into a macro lens!

What is macro?
Macro photography is fun – they’re the super close up shots of flower hearts or ball point pen points or insect eyes or… you get the idea. Anything that results in an image the same size or larger than the original subject is a macro.

You can buy dedicated macro lenses for your DSLR but before you spend the money, you might want to try it out and see whether or not macro photography takes your interest. At the end of this post I’ll talk about some of the other ways you can take macro photos.

How I made it
Any lens can be used – but I’d go with a swap-meet cheapie or an old kit lens that probably came with your camera – or maybe two cameras ago. The key is to remove the front element of the lens, leaving the rest intact. That way it will mount to your camera like a bought one. It takes courage because the chances are you will be making an irreversible conversion. I must admit, I had my qualms when I picked up the hammer…

I had no real idea this would work at all, so it was a bit of an experiment. And I had a lens that had almost zero monetary value and was just gathering dust in the cupboard. So it was a zero cost experiment. I figured that it would at least partially work – the surprise was just how well it worked!

And I wasn’t kidding about the hammer – the  whole lot appeared to be securely glued in place, so I placed a cloth over the front element and gave it a couple of sharp blows, then removed the glass bits. The rear element was some way behind the front so I figured it would be okay. And it was – these lens elements are glass, not plastic so there was little chance of scratching it.

And it works a treat – it does try to auto-focus, but really with such a shallow depth of field you are better off switching to manual focus and moving the camera closer to or further from the subject until it is in focus. The result is stunning, as you can see in these shots of a small robot-shaped tea infuser.

Tea infuser with cup shown for scale

Tea infuser with cup shown for scale

robot face (macro)

robot face (macro)



tea infuser robot arm

tea infuser robot arm

And a little closer

Rivet on tea infuser arm

Rivet on tea infuser arm

As you can see we can get pretty close – and with excellent sharpness!

There are two other ways to take macro photos without modifying a lens:

Macro Tubes
These are tube elements that have no glass in them, they are essentially a spacer to go between the lens and the camera. I recommend getting the ones with live electrical connections and that way you will retain the auto focus function on your existing lens. These will work with any lens that fits your camera – they are made in all popular fittings – canon, nikon, sony, pentax and so on. They are quite inexpensive and usually come in sets of three sizes which you can use individually or in combination.

Reverse lens mount
These are a ring-like fitting that has a camera fitting on one side and a screw thread on the other. You buy the ring fit the filter size of the lens you want to use and it enables you to mount your lens backward onto the camera – that makes it an instant macro! Again there is no auto focus, but as a quick and easy way to take macro shots they work pretty well.

So there are several ways to take macro photos without it costing a heap of your hard earned money – Have fun and let me know how you went – in the comments section below 🙂

Magpie ‘selfies’: ioShutterPro – remote DSLR trigger for the iPhone

I’ve been experimenting with ways to remotely trigger my camera and thus not scare off the birds that drink from our bird bath. Enter ioShutterPro – an app for the iphone along with a lead that connects the phone to the camera.

Magpie larks

Magpie larks

The app enables several ways to control the camera, including by sound, shaking the phone, bulb for long exposures, by timer or by time-lapse – enabling those great flower opening sequences – which is its main advertised use.

There is also a related app called ioShutterCam from the same guys at enlightphotopro.com that enables you to do all these things just using your iphone camera – no need for the big DSLR camera for that one!

All this came about when a couple of young magpie larks came to drink at the bird bath one hot day. They were chirping away happily so I pulled out the camera and quietly entered the kitchen hoping to catch them through the window. But no, as soon as I came into view they took off like startled magpies!

Time for a better setup. I pulled out the tripod and focused the camera on the bird bath, connected the ioShutterPro lead to the phone and the camera, set it on sound trigger and before long the magpies were back. This time, as they called to each other they took their own photos – maggie ‘selfies’!

Magpie larks

Magpie larks

Here is the setup I used

ioShutterPro app

ioShutterPro app

This setup could be used for many types of sound triggered photography, such as self-triggered jumping shots making yourself look weightless – just be sure you have a soft place to land!

What would you use a sound triggered camera for? Let me know in the comments 🙂




Some light reading – levitation photography

Have you ever seen those photos of people, apparently weightless, floating in mid-air as though someone had turned off the gravity button?

A little light reading

A little light reading

It’s easier than it looks.

Ingredients:
Camera, tripod, smart phone with sound trigger software (ioShutterPro – from Enlight) and a remote trigger connected to the smart phone. Oh, and a subject willing to fly… For some reason Sharon didn’t want to do this, so I set it up to take my own photo.

How it’s done:
You want a fast shutter speed so use flash if indoors, or a fast setting if outdoors. In this case I was indoors and so I set the camera up on the tripod.

Switch to manual focus and focus on the spot where the jump will take place. I set up a second tripod and focussed on that, before moving it out of the way.

Set up the camera’s flash and set up the phone’s ioShutterPro software to use the sound trigger

Take up position – perhaps on a small step just out of camera sight, and jump, while nonchalantly reading a book. At the same instant make a sound to trigger the photo. It takes a bit of practice but soon you can coordinate it all together – for quite a decent effect 🙂