DIY Super Macro!

This post is way backdated (June), but will be one of the biggest geek posts I had. Beware the geek attack, get your inhalers ready!

Ever wondered how photographers got shots like these?

1/100s, F8, ISO50, 85mm film equivalent

They either bought a SLR and put a macro lens on, or they used the cheap reverse macro trick. There are a few ways to do this:

1) Take out the lens of an SLR/dSLR and turn it backwards. Yeah, make it look like you’re putting it on… the wrong way. Of course, this is not safe because dust will get in, and you’d have to guess your exposure, and focusing is by moving closer or further from the subject.
2) Same as step 1, but buy an expensive reverse mount adapter.
3) Reverse an SLR lens and attach it to the front of your camera. Your camera’s lens needs to have a screw thread (most prosumers do) or a lens adapter that has a screw thread (Canon Powershots and some Sony point-and-shoots have it). Of course, if you are using a SLR/dSLR, your lens will almost always have a screw thread.

The problem with 3), of course, is that when you reverse an SLR lens, both sides are female! One lens has to screw onto the camera’s screw thread.

Therefore, you could buy an expensive (and hard to get) reversing ring (which has male screw threads on both sides) and screw the lenses together.

Or… you could go my DIY budget way, which is even cooler.

I visited my favorite camera shop in Ampang Park, Leos Com Trading, to ask if he knew about this reverse macro thing which I’d read about.

Oh yeah! You mean this?

He took out a Fujinon EBC 50mm F1.4 lens, which had been stripped of its casing and wrapped with cellotape. Its screw thread diameter was 49mm. He donated it to me, knowing my experimental efforts in cameras.

I could see why it was junked; it had 6 aperture blades, and when the aperture was closed, it made a teardrop shape instead of a circle. This would mean that it had lousy bokeh. Its screw thread was also dented, so you could not put a UV filter on it. Finally, Fujifilm’s digital SLRs use Nikon mounts… so this lens was homeless.

The lens could be further disassembled, but I didn’t dare do it just to count the number of glass elements in it.

He also had some dirty secondhand UV filters, and donated a 52mm Vanguard Skylight filter. 😀

I wrapped the filter in A4 paper, gave it an impactful hit (no glass cutter needed for this one!) It was then superglued to the outside of the Fujinon lens. (I could not screw any filters in because it was dented!)

I could finally screw it on to my Canon Powershot A520! The black tube is the lens adapter, which allowed me to attach 52mm-diameter converter lenses and filters on. (I need to zoom in a bit or shoot through a circular window because the end of the lens is smaller.)

I could also put filters before the lens and keep them that way.

Because the Fujinon lens now had a 52mm-diameter male screw thread, it could fit on any lens with a 52mm diameter screw thread, like the cheap and well found Nikkor 50mm F1.8D lens. (Paul makes the Nikon D80 look tiny!)

smashpOp seen here with a Nikon (gasp!) Okay, so it’s Rames‘ Nikon D50 with the Nikkor 50mm F1.8D lens as well. smashpOp is parodying Rames and every other person who buys an SLR, and the very first picture they take, is of the lens cap.

Pinkfrog need only put a 55mm to 52mm step-down ring to attach the Fujinon lens to his Panasonic DMC FZ-5.

So what about SLR lenses that have bigger sizes?

Pinkfrog has a Tamron AF 70-300mm F4-5.6 lens (from his Nikon F90) which has a 62mm diameter screw thread. He also recently got a Nikon D80 with that Nikkor 50mm F1.8 lens. It was my job to marry them. How? The 70-200mm was fitted with a second-hand 62mm Sakure UV filter (also had its glass broken) and the Nikkor 50mm F1.8 lens was fitted with a 52-58mm step up ring.

We then superglued the rings together!

On top is the silver 52-58mm step up ring, superglued to the female side of the 62mm UV filter. Yeah, you could say that they were lesbian.

The rings must be differently sized, but close in diameter. It might not stick properly otherwise. Common sizes are 49, 52, 55, 58, 62, 67, 72 and 77mm. I suppose that the difference in diameters must not exceed 5mm so that there would be enough contact surface.

If you don’t mind not having a lens cap, you could leave the DIY lens reverser on.

It’s a step up so there’s no vignetting.


How close can you get? Safely under 5cm. Of course, this was on the 300mm (450mm film equivalent) side, so it became a very long magnifying glass. Through this setup, I could see the texture of the keys… and I had to move the lens about to look at the arrow he was pointing at. Yep, half the arrow filled up the frame! (The more observant of you would notice that the camera was off because he ran out of battery power.)

Aperture was controlled by the camera (on the 70-300 lens) or on the reversed lens (which fortunately had an aperture ring.)

One could also swap the lenses’ positions. Of course, this is a dummy shot, because:
1) The camera is off.
2) The lens hood is pointless in macro, as it will block out well-needed light, and perhaps scare off insects.
3) The lens hood only fits when the protective cap on the SLR side is on.

Anyway, on to a teaser shot.

Even at dark apertures like F8, this flower still had a very shallow depth of field.

Do not use auto-focus! The lens that is reversed is heavy, and you might wear out your camera’s auto-focus motor by making it spin that. I’d go for manual focus. Focus on infinity to shoot further from the subject. On cameras without manual focus, half-press the shutter (it probably will not be able to focus anyway) and then move nearer or further from the subject to get it in focus. A darker aperture would help to get more of it in focus.

Oh, right. How much was it? The 52-58mm step ring was RM25. The 62mm UV filter was junk and was free. 😀 The superglue was RM0.60. So yes, you get a reverse macro adapter for RM25.60!

More shots… later.

11 thoughts on “DIY Super Macro!

  1. Albert Ng Post author

    ShaolinTiger: The BR-2A allows for cheap-reverse-macro-trick-#2.

    However, you might have no control over aperture (on those G lenses) as there is no lens interfacing with the camera. If you have one lens mounted properly on the camera, you could at least control the aperture there, and auto-focus in dire times. 😀

    Also, shops don’t carry many step-down rings, so if you want to mount a d70s kit lens in reverse you’d need to find a 67mm to 52mm step-down.

    The other thing about these superglued rings is that you could put it on a 62mm-diameter lens, and screw on a 52mm circular polarizer in reverse! You get a warming/cooling filter instead. Linear polarizers work the same either way though. So it does the job of step-down ring AND filter reverser, which would cost more separately. 😀

    Alex: Yeah I’ve seen the supermacro, but you cannot zoom in! What a reverse macro lens does is allow you to focus nearer than 5cm, even when zoomed all the way to 420mm. You get much bigger magnification, too!

  2. ShaolinTiger Post author

    You can get the Nikon BR-2A 52mm Lens Reversing Ring for about RM95 from Shashinki, this is the size of the common and cheap 50mm f/1.8D and is often used for macro in reverse. It’s not that costly and easy to find.

    Nice experiment tho & some cool DIY, stacking filters/lenses is fun 😉

    You can try reversing a 50mm and one of the normal kit lenses to get close to 1:1 macro.

  3. Pinkfrog Post author

    The 50mm 1.4 would give 1:1 macro, however the 50mm 1.8 would give 1:2 macro.. This method gives an OBSCENE magnification!!! HECK! Even the tiny arrow on your key board would take up the whole frame..I guess the only problem we face now is ultra shallow depth of field…Hahaha….

  4. ShaolinTiger Post author

    Well if you want to be 100% the f/1.4 would give 1:1.1 😉

    There is a Canon lens that gives up to 5:1 thats madness, at f/29 the DoF is about 0.2mm

    That’s the only problem with higher magnification, and you face massive problems with movement and camera/table/tripod shake.

    I do agree step-down are quite hard to find, only in second hand shops…step-up are quite easy.

    It’s cool though, I’ve done some of it to reverse a second lens on a normal one with 2 filters stuck together.

  5. Luke Post author

    Thanks for sharing this useful guide. I finally have a use of the 50mm f1.8 lens which was in my possession for quite a while 🙂



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