The ideal situation for anyone wanting to do macro or close-up photography is a nice expensive macro lens allowing you to shoot really close up. But for the rest this leaves you begging and only dreaming of those wonderful worlds within worlds. There is an answer, macro accessories.
For a long time macros was the domain of those that had lots of money but with digital this has all changed. Even compact digital cameras will give you a fairly decent close-up image. Before we continue let me state that true macro is a 1:1 ratio. That means that if a bee measures 15mm then it will take up 15mm on your digital sensor. Most accessories and lenses with a macro feature will only give you a 1:2 ratio or in other words, half the size of the actual subject.
So what accessories are there for macro photography?
1. Extension tubes
The most effective and versatile alternative to a macro lens are manual extension tubes. These fit between the lens and the body of the camera, increasing the distance between the lens and the digital sensor. This results in an increase in magnification. This is a relatively low cost alternative. For a little more money you can buy extension tubes that have the electronic contacts for autofocus and exposure metering.
2. Close-up filters
These little filters that screw on to the end of your lens increase the magnification of the lens. Not as good as extension tubes but still a lower cost alternative. These were the first macro accessories I ever purchased and they served me well. They come in threes, +1, +2 and +3 and can be used singly or altogether for maximum magnification.
Bellows offer really great magnification but they do have limited features due to the fact that they aren’t electronic. As a manual accessory they give a greater magnification than extension tubes. They aren’t so popular these days but are still a reasonably priced accessory that will give you great service and help produce outstanding images. They can be used with many of your lenses.
4. Reversing rings
A reversing ring is an adapter that allows you to connect the lens to the camera in reverse by screwing the attachment on the filter thread at the front of the lens. The lens is completely reversed. You can use this on any lens. It is a manual accessory as the camera can no longer communicate with the lens.
5. Ring flash
The final accessory is a flash and doesn’t help with the magnification. With the close working distances involved in macro you can’t use a flash mounted on the camera. So what is necessary is a round flash mounted on the front of the actual lens. This gives great lighting from around the lens and not one big flash from above. They are quite expensive but are a great solution to lighting problems connected with close-up photography.
As you learn digital photography and get to grips with macro you will realise that each of these accessories has its limitations and never truly replaces a high quality dedicated macro lens. But, if you want to experience macro photography on a budget before spending a lot of money, then these tips are for you. Happy shooting!