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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Macro images with AF 50mm f1.8 and extension tube fabricated at home

I have always wanted to try my hand at shooting macros. But, my gear, a nikkor 70-300,which I use for my birding shots, a nikkor 18-135, which I rarely use and a nikkor 50mm f1.8 which I used just a few times, left me ogling at all the amazing macro shots on the net.

Next I went looking for a macro lens and drooled over everything from the Tamron 90mm to the Nikkor 105 VR and the Sigma 150 and 200mm lenses. Of course the cost and the fact that I felt it was not worth spending that kind of money on a hobby left me shooting bird pics 99% of the time.

Recently I came across an article about extension tubes, lens reversing and freelensing. 2 sleepless nights later and after a lot of research on the net, I decided to give it a try.

Setup for the experiment

Camera: Nikon D80
Lens: Nikkor AF 50mm f1.8 -this has a manual aperture control – very useful when the lens can’t speak with the camera and you need to control aperture.
Extension tube: Fabricated out of an old shuttlecock box (for those don’t play badminton, look at the pictures below or check with your nearest sports goods shop :) )

Note: Nikon users (not sure about canon) when the lens is not connected to the cam, the aperture is automatically set to the smallest aperture (highest aperture value), so you would have to manually change the aperture as required.


1. First I figured out that my 50mm fit in nice and snugly into the ‘tube’ (shuttlecock box) and went around 30mm inside (approximately – it does not really need to be exact)
2. For 1:1 magnification the length of the tube (distance to back end of the lens) needs to be equal to the focal length of lens – so to achieve that I cut out a portion of 90mm length from the box (50mm+30mm –amount the lens went into the box +10mm just to be extra sure)
3. Next I put the D80 into Manual mode – and this is important as otherwise you will only get and F_ _ or FEE error and you will not be able to click/shoot as the lens would not be detected by the body.
4. Next I held tube near the body and . . . that’s it ... my macro set-up was all ready to use
5. Later I also experimented with inserting the 50mm lens the wrong way into the tube (reversing) and took some test shots with that

Note: Since the lens is not in contact with the body
1. You need to set the aperture manually
2. To focus you need to move closer or further to the subject (nothing else works)
3. The Depth of field with this setup is really really small and to shoot flat objects you would need at least f4 or greater. For my experiments on a wasp (dead one) I had to use f16 to f22 to be able to get a decent part in focus)
4. Also with the aperture at f16 or f22 you really need good light and I had a tough time trying to control the exposure with my inbuilt flash

Well that’s the theory part :) . Some sample pics are attached below. Please remember these are some of the 1st pics that I have taken with this set-up and hopefully with a little practice they can only get better.



Shuttlecock box cut to approximately 90mm
Side angle on the lens in the tube

50mm lens sitting snugly in the fabricated tube
I Rupee coin - closest focus with 50mm lens

Macor of 1 Rupee coin (no crop) with 50mm and fabricated extension tube

Macro of 2 Rupee coin (same size as 1 rupee coin) with 50mm and fabricated extension tube

Macro of wasp (dead) with 50mm and fabricated extension tube

Another angle - Macro of wasp (dead) with 50mm and fabricated extension tube
  Note: All images are direct from teh camera with no editing cropping etc. Just converted the files from RAW to JPG in photoshop and resized and added watermark in PICASA for uploading.

Thanks for looking. If you have any queries please let me know and I will be glad to try and answer them.

:) This is so much fun, I am now going to try this on flowers ....


atomicmak said...

this is truly great work umang. would love to see some great macros soon from the platform we have :)

kaleidoscope said...


Deepakdk said...

Nice DIY experiment. I know the feeling of elation after achieving it.
Two additional tips :
1. Attach a body cap cut in the center or a reversing ring (can get on eBay) on the other end of the tube. This can fit perfectly on the lens mount.
2. U can use a diffuser (home made with plastic bottle - Check my or Yogendra's stream) then use the on camera flash, this will take care of the low light problem.

Best use a tripod :-)

Deepak kul

Kartikey said...

gr8 article...inspired me to buy an extention tube..

marvellous thoughts said...

Hi Umang,

Great article. I am going to try it this weekend. But how you have attached the tube to the camera? Or you holding the tube in one hand and the camera body in other hand? I am planning to buy in extension tube that if I manage to get it in few hundreds. Again thanks for the nice article. Waiting for your reply.

Flicker Id: BrewingColors

Umang said...

Could not find your email id and hance posting here ...
1. Yes i was holding the camera body in one hand and the tube in the other ...
2. Extension tubes can be got on ebay for around 600/- but these ones do not have metering or auto focus ... Kenko makes AF tubes but they cost quite a bit.

Hope this help and all the best with your set-up.


Geek Photography said...

Thanks for review, it was excellent and very informative.
thank you :)