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A Trio Of Macro Solutions But No Dedicated Macro Lens...

Roses, Lensbaby Composer With Double Glass Optic and Macro Converter, f/16

Brush Flower

Spider vs Bee

Macro photography is a part of the art I really enjoy. When I used the Fuji S5700 I loved nothing better than sticking it in Super Macro Mode and then going sneaking up on unsuspecting insects, but now in the wide-world of SLR's things are a little more complicated and a lot more confusing.

Aside from running out and dropping over 400 notes on a dedicated Canon Macro Lens there are a few other options, so I thought I'd explore a few today with some example photographs. I tend to do most of my macro photography in our back garden because I'm quite lazy and can't be bothered to lug extra lenses around when out and about on a photo walk, so the simplest (and lightest) option will probably be the one for me....

50mm f/1.8 With Jessops 2x Extender:


An unusual option this, but I thought I'd give it a go when I picked up the Canon EF 50mm F/1.8 Mk. 1 from the car boot sale a few weeks ago. I'd had the extender for several months (another car boot bargain) and as I snapped the fifty on to see what it looked like as a 100mm, I realised that it would also magnify anything at the lenses minimum focussing distance, so it might work as a macro accessory.

Lets see a quick shot:


Not too shabby. Nice magnification and quality is OK. This could be a good macro solution, but it would mean I'd have to have the fifty and the extender in with my regular kit, and there's not much room in my Lowepro Photorunner...

Canon EF-S 55-250 (At The Long End)

This is the macro option that most appeals to me, and should have been blindingly obvious, but i haven't realised how close the Canon EF-S 55-250 can focus when it's at the long end, and the answer is pretty close indeed:


As you can see, the 55-250 when zoomed all the way, but then focussed on something close (1.1m) offers a magnification similair to the 50mm with the extender, but in a package that I already carry and is image stabalised for sharp shots at slower shutter speeds...nice.

M42 135mm f/2.8 Helios Manual Focus Lens With Extension Tubes and EF-M42 Adapter:


This is the fiddliest option, consisting of an old lens, extension tubes and lens mount adapter. It's also the trickiest to operate, with manual focus, no ETTL flash, and a dark viewfinder when stopped down for a larger Depth of Field.

It does however offer excellent magnification:


The above garden spider is about the size of your finger-nail, all from a piece of glass and adapters that cost less than £20 for the car boot and eBay. A great option, but it does need a lot more effort than the other two lenses. Which would you go for?


For maximum magnification and some very special images, the M42 lens with extension tubes is a real winner. The 50 with the extender is ok, but as it doesn't offer any more "reach" than the 55-250 there isn't much point in going with that choice.

For now I'll be exploring the capabilities of the 55-250, with the M42 combi for the real close up stuff. I've had a quick go with some close-up filters, but again I felt that the 55-250 was better. One thing I really need to try are proper Canon extension tubes (that retain auto-focus and auto-exposure) but reduce the minimum focussing distance of any EF lens... Watch this space!

Thanks, Rob.

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