This post will cover 5 ways on how to avoid the high cost of macro photography lenses. I don't have anything against buying a good lens for shooting macro photography. I'm just like you-I don't want to spend a ton and I look for ways to save money on most of my photography gear.
If you go ahead and decide to spend money on a macro lens, you still have a way to keep the price down. Typically traditional macro photography lenses are generally between 50 and 200mm in focal length. But what's the best length lens for the macro photography you do?
The better quality macro lenses have a fixed focal length. They don't zoom, so you want to get it right when you choose the best close-up lens for your needs.
Many zoom lenses have macro settings, but they often don't have a full 1:1 magnification capability. What's that mean to you? Maybe that's not such a big deal. You really don't have to have a 1:1 magnification to create some great close up images. Let's explore that next.
You can avoid the high price of a dedicated macro photography lens by just using a zoom lens that is designed to include close focusing. After all, do you really need to achieve that 1:1 magnification get get some great close-up photos?
A true MACRO lens can produce an image on the sensor where the subject is exactly the same size at it is in real life in front of the camera. If you photograph an insect that is one inch long a true macro lens will give you an image on your sensor that is exactly one inch long too.
In the days of film photography, macro photography was very technically challenging. Because many modern digital cameras have smaller than full-sized sensors, it's easier to get good results with macro photography.
One of the ways to save money on getting macro photography equipment that avoids the expense of getting a true macro lens is to get extension tubes. This is the way I've saved on buying a true macro lens for many years. That's the fact, Jack. These tubes contain no lens elements inside so there's no possible degradation of the image at all.
This is my favorite of the 5 ways to save that this blog post covers. I like to save money and I'm a big fan of what matters most to me. That's image quality. It's an oldie but goodie way to save on macro equipment that's been around along time. I've used a Canon 85mm f/1.8 lens combined with these stack-able extension tubes as a handy alternative to a macro lens for many years.
This first photo of the branch was taken without any macro assistance from any special lens, filter, or tubes. The minimum focusing distance to the pine cone is about 27 inches to the subject.
With a normal minimum focusing distance of just under 3 feet for this lens, I would not be able to get enough for a decent shot of the texture in my subject.
I used the same 85mm lens with a 13mm extension tube to take this photo below of the same branch.
With the single 13mm extension tube, my minimum focusing distance goes all the way down to about 13 inches or about 1/2 of the distance. Extension tubes are stack-able and can be stored with lens caps on both ends to keep them dust free.
In the close up photo below I was able to move all the way in to less than 10 inches with the 85mm lens.
The photo above feels more like it was taken with a traditional macro lens. What happens when we fully eliminate the cost of a macro lens capable of super close photography:
Scroll down just little bit more to see another degree of magnification. This time it's the result of using 3 extension tubes at the same time, rather than a macro photography lens.
Using all three at once would more than quadruple your ability to come in closer and get a great magnification.
This is my own least favorite. This is exactly what I did when I first played around with shooting close-ups as a pre-teenaged photographer. My father had screw-on filters.
They were fun to use, no doubt, but the image quality was pretty poor. They were great for me a beginner macro photographer, but my images were not very sharp.
A close focusing filter is just a thicker filter (like a mini magnifying glass) that screws onto the end of whatever lens you're already shooting with. When you use one you'll be able to focus from a closer distance to your subject.
You can save money and avoid buying a new macro lens by using a reversing ring adapter on any lens you already have. That's a separate technique that we won't delve into too deeply in this post, but here are points on saving money that way.
Here is a simple video that show you how to use a reversing ring and turn yours your everyday lens into a super close-up lens so that you won't have to spend money on a true macro lens. Using a Lens Reversal Ring.
Keep shooting. Keep learning. Keep improving