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Entries in m42 (13)


Canon 600d / T3i Macro Photography On The Cheap, M42 Lenses With Extension Tubes... 

(If you can't see the video please click here.)

Macro photography is normally considered an expensive and complicated part of photography. Specialised lenses, difficult techniques and a required attention to detail that is only beaten by expert landscape photographers, the capturing of the small could be seen as a large challenge.

It doesn't need to be this way. Anyone with a Canon dSLR can buy a M42 lens on the cheap, grab some M42 extension tubes, and add an EF-M42 lens mount adapter and you'll be good to go. Be adventurous, shoot hand-held with flash, and try plenty of different angles. Sure, you'll get loads of out of focus blurry shots, but one in twenty will be good, and you will surprise yourself.

Thanks, Rob. 


Cheap Lenses For Your Canon 600d / Rebel T3i: Go M42! 

(If you can't see the video please click here.)

I don't know about you, but when in comes to lenses for my Canon EOS 600d / T3i dSLR, the cost of OEM glass is just too exorbitant. True, with my 18-55, 55-250, 50mm, 40mm & 100-300 I've got a fair collection - but only the 18-55 and 40mm are lenses I've bought new, all the rest were second hand.

M42 lenses on the over hand offer a budget alternative that'll give you a myriad of different choices to expand your collection. Produced from the '50's to the '70's, these screw mount lenses were popular because they were cheap and fitted several different camera manufacturers bodies. 

Head on over to eBay and pick up a M42 lens to EF mount adapter, they can be had for a few quid (don't bother with the AF confirm ones) and they you'll be all clear to play with M42 glass.

There is however a big caveat - DON'T PAY OVER THE ODDS! M42 lenses are great to get you started and offer some interesting options (200mm F3.3 sound good?) but always check Amazon and eBay for the prices of new and second hand genuine Canon EF or EF-S lenses. Never underestimate the benefits of auto-focus and image stabilization.

Look out for M42 lenses at car-boot sales, thrift stores, charity shops, garage sales and with relatives. Take your adapter along so you can make sure it is actually an m42 mount, and check the glass for fungus (a little doesn't matter) and that the aperture rings and blades move. Look out for an "a" switch or a pin on the back of the lens that allows the blades to move. Most of these lenses will come with an old Praktica or Pentax film SLR, so pay a cheap (but fair price), then rush home and start shooting.

When you're using your M42 lens, the simplest method is to shoot in aperture priority mode. Set the f/stop on the lens and your camera will adjust the shutter speed to get a good exposure. If your viewfinder is a bit dark, focus at the widest aperture, then click the ring round to the setting you want just before you take the shot.

M42 lenses. Go get 'em!

Cheers, Rob.


Canon dSLR Macro Photography On The Cheap - M42 Lenses & Extension Tubes


(If you can't see the video please click here.)

I remember when I got my Canon 350d / Digital Rebel XT. It was a second hand purchase from eBay, body only, no lens, but a bargain at the time for two hundred pounds. I already had a lens, an EF 28-80mm that I bought from the local car boot sale, so I was sorted for everyday photography. The problem was that I had been spoiled by my previous camera, the Fujifilm Finepix S5700 / S700. The little Fuji has an excellent fixed zoom lens, being able to focus on subjects a couple of mm from the lens, then right out to infinity.

So, as you can imagine, I felt a little restricted with my Canon 28-80mm. No macro capability at all, and that's a genre of photography I enjoy. I started to look around at the price of Canon EF macro lenses, but they're well out of my price range and budget. I had a really nice Minolta 50mm f/1.4, so to start off with I was looking for some sort of Minolta to Canon EF lens mount adapter. They are available, but have to include a lens, and that decreases the overall optical quality of the lens, so that kind of spoils the idea in the first place.

Then I discovered M42 lenses. M42 is a lens mount standard that was used by several manufacturers from the '50s to the '70s. Using a screw mount, with manual focus and aperture rings, the modern demands of auto-focus and auto-exposure, with the associated electrical communications required, meant that the mount was obsolete by the 1980's, along with the tens of thousands of lenses manufactured. Now, 30 years later, with a M42-EF lens adapter, we can use these lenses on our Canon dSLR's, and there's no lens in the adapter to degrade the optical quality.

That's enough of a history lesson, now I had a cheap way of adding a macro capability to my new dSLR. There's plenty of bargain lenses to be had at car boot sales, thrift stores, charity shops and flea markets. To give any lens macro capability you just need to add extension tubes. These go between the lens and the camera body, giving you the ability to take great macro shots. Luckily for us M42 extension tubes are cheap as chips and easy to use, just keep looking at those car boot sales!

As you can see in the video, using extension tubes and m42 lenses offers its own challenges. You're loosing a lot of light, and your depth of field can be only be mm wide, making focussing tricky. When shooting flowers and plants, I use a zoom (for easy focussing), a tripod, a remote release, and if the light is poor, flash or perhaps a torch to paint my subject with light on long exposures. If I'm photographing insects, moving objects, or I just don't want to be slowed down with a tripod, i will use a fixed focal length lens, and my current favourite is the Helios 135mm f/2.8. When shooting hand-held I'll be using the pop up flash on my camera too, so I can keep the shutter speed up to avoid camera shake problems.

The main problem you'll have when shooting macro with m42 lenses and extension tubes is focussing. dSLR's don't have aids in the view-finder to help you get your photos sharp, so you've got to be careful and practice a lot. Something that doesn't help is the way that M42 Lenses work with dSLRs. To adjust the aperture you turn the ring on the lens, but the problem is that the aperture blades do actually close up when you go to the smaller apertures. This is unlike with an electronic lens, where the aperture blades only "stop down" when you press the shutter button.

So, as you can imagine, with an M42 lens when you go to the smaller apertures your view finder gets pretty dark. What I do is to do all my focussing at the widest aperture, then "stop down" to a tighter aperture to increase my depth of field and get more of my subject in focus.

Hopefully I've convinced you to explore macro and close-up photography the cheap way, grab yourself a lens mount adapter, and get out there hunting down cheap m42 lenses and extension tubes!

Cheers, Rob.

What Do You Think?

Do you use m42 lenses with extension tubes for macro work? Maybe you could share your experiences with dedicated macro lenses or close-up filters? Please add your comments below.


Macro Work With The Helios 135mm F2.8 M42 Lens

Bee And Flower

Now I've got the huge Lowpro Flipside 400AW as a camera bag, I've got the opportunity to lug around a lot more lenses than just my Canon EF auto-focus glass - so I've been playing around with my old Helios 135mm f2.8 m42 manual lens, with some extension tubes, to see if it'll be a good macro option.

The answer to that is yes - with a number of limitations. The Helios 135mm f/2.8 can capture incredibly beautiful, detailed photographs, just look at the large version of the above image, but the depth of field (the amount of the photo in focus) is very, very small. Also, despite the f/2.8 maximum aperture, this lens works best for macro when used in conjunction with a flash to keep shutter speeds up.

The Helios 135mm will claim its space in my camera bag, after all it's a great, fast, telephoto lens as well, but I am going to keep looking for a fast m42 prime in the 80-100mm focal range, that might be slightly better for macro work.

Cheers, Rob.


Brush Flower


Macro Fun In The Garden With Extension Tubes And Flash

Suzannes's Baby Strawberries

Up until the end of June, I'm going to be producing colour photographs exclusively - no black and whites for me - and I've always found flowers and plants a great source of rich colours and interesting subjects.

I screwed the m42-ef lens onto my Canon EOS 350d / Digital Rebel XT, then added a few extension tubes, which transforms my old m42 manual focus Soligor 90-230mm zoom into a macro set-up. Then I headed off out into our garden, among the flowers, fruits and vegetables, to see what I could find.

I used my tripod for must of the shots, but by using my 350d's pop-up flash I managed some hand-holding too. As you'll see from the pictures, when shooting macro with extension tubes your depth-of-field (how much of the shot is in focus) gets really small, so only a small part of the photos are sharp.

Post processing was handled by Adobe Camera RAW & Photoshop, plus I've started to play around with a Nik Photoshop plug-in, Viveza 2, so more on that in a few weeks when I'll post a review.

I hope you enjoy the photographs, then maybe grab a lens adapter, an old lens and extension tubes, and enjoy some macro photography on the cheap.

Flower Detail

Yellow Rose In Garden

Leaf After Watering

Leaf With Flash

Flower Viewed From Side

Cheers, Rob.