The DIY Macro Lens

Macro shots are amazing. There’s a whole other world that exists in the tiniest of things, just waiting to be photographed. Unfortunately macro photography doesn’t come cheap. If you’re looking for a way to try out macro photography, but without investing much (if any) of your hard earned money, let me show you a DIY macro lens!

Called the reverse lens macro trick, it involves inverting your lens and placing the glass end up against your camera body. I shouldn’t need to tell you, but be VERY careful. Don’t do this with lenses that have glass that stick out further than the threads and keep something soft under you, because you’ll probably drop your lens! If you’re comfortable with this, let’s go!

The basic premise is this: You take your lens off, set your zoom (focus doesn’t really matter here, as you’ll be moving back and forth to focus), place the glass-end it gently against your camera body, then take a shot.

As mentioned above, you lose your ability to auto-focus (plus a lot of image quality), so you need to physically position yourself to get focus. You can rest your lens / camera on a book or something movable and slide that back and forth, but that limits what and where you can shoot. However, once you’re in place, you can easily shoot multiple times, making it great for shooting things like insects or waterdrops, where your subject may not move too much.

On select cameras and lenses, you can also set your aperture for clearer photos. To do this, make sure your camera has a DOF button. On the Canon EOS 5D MK III, the button is just to the right of the lens (when holding your camera normally). Don’t confuse it with the lens release button, or you could make an expensive mistake! Also be careful, as removing the lens with the DOF button held could fry your lens, though I’ve been doing it for about 5 years now with no side effects. Set your aperture on your camera, then while holding the DOF preview button (so you can visually see the change in the viewfinder), pop your lens off using the release button. It can be tricky holding the DOF button and releasing your lens at the same time, so get someone to help, or place your camera on a flat surface. Looking through your lens, you’ll see the aperture is still set. This will unset when you put the lens back on the camera but if it doesn’t, press the DOF preview to “unstick” it.

And that’s all there is to it! You can buy lens reversing rings on eBay (one end clips onto your camera like a regular lens, the other end has filter threads so you can screw your lens on). You can also experiment with extension tubes (which can be either very cheap, or very expensive, depending on whether or not you want aperture control, plus lens information in your EXIF data). Either way, you can do macro without having to pay thousands for a dedicated lens!

Have you taken any shots this way? Post links in the comments!

The TL;DR version of this, is:

  1. Take your lens off your camera
  2. Turn it around
  3. Place the glass end against the body of your camera. Be careful!
  4. To focus, move back and forth
  5. If you want to set your aperture, hold the DOF preview button to set your aperture, then take your lens off

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