Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Poor man's macro really delivers

Closeup of a new Canadian $100 - Razor thin DOF at f5.6
Click the above photo to see all of my macro shots

The other day I spied a Kijiji ad (like Craigslist) for a Canon EOS3000 film SLR with an EF 35-80mm lens & polarizing filter all for $20! It also just so happened that the seller lived across the street from my parent's house, how random is that? I figured I'd snap it up just for the lens if nothing else so I googled the 35-80 to see if it was any good or not. One thread I found said the lens was a mediocre kit lens, even the newer 18-55mm kit lenses were better, however the person went on to say that with a little hacking the lens could be made into a pretty decent macro lens. After seeing some of the photos other people were taking with the modified 35-80 I was totally sold. When I went to pick up the camera and lens the guy said he thought $20 was too much and gave me $5 back! I told him $20 was fine but he insisted so my already sweet deal got even sweeter.

Here is the original forum thread I found on the topic but if you just google "35-80mm lens hack" there are plenty of results and tutorials. There are 3 versions of the EF35-80mm, it sounds like version 1 is the easiest but I found modifying my version 3 model was pretty easy too. Now there are three ways you can go about doing this, the first and simplest way is to just remove the front lens grouping which are all housed together and use the lens that way. The second way is to punch out the 3 lenses that make up the front element so that you can put the plastic back on, this allows you to use a filter to keep dust out of the lens. The 3rd way is to remove only the first and third lenses from the front element, this reduces magnification by a little but allows you the ability to focus using the focusing ring. The 3rd way is the most difficult, especially on the version 3 lens that I have, however for some this might be the best opotion since it increases focal distance a few inches. At this point I'm thinking if I can find another 35-80mm for $15-20 I'll just have one with the front middle element and one without. Having the middle element with the lower magnification will be better for shooting flowers etc.

Once I got home from work yesterday I spent 2 hours shooting anything I could find in my house that I thought might look cool at this magnification :) While I took a break from the shoot and had a smoke out front of my house I even gathered up some small pine branches, pine cones, and a few dead leaves to shoot. I just used a sheet of white paper as a backdrop, my 580EXII with a noname Stoffen on it (triggered wirelessly) provided my lighting. For most shots I was able to keep the power down at 1/128 but it all depended, for a few shots I was up at half power and was bouncing the light off of my ceiling.

A dead leaf proved a worthy subject when dramatic top lighting was applied.

Same leaf but backlit with an LED flashlight

Pine needle tips just poking into focus

The inner portion of an orange slice looks like a flavour explosion at this magnification.

For some reason at times I'd wind up with a light spot in the center of the frame, it seemed to happen most if I was shooting a brighter scene. At first I thought maybe I'd gotten some dust on one of the elements since I was shooting with the front piece off. Cleaning didn't seem to help so I'm starting to think that this is due to the lack of "flocking" due to the missing front piece, the flocking prevents unwanted reflections. The only other explanation is that one of the elements has a small scratch or something on it that I simply wasn't seeing with my naked eye. In the photo below you can sort of see what I'm talking about, I had shots that were way worse but I didn't post them anywhere so this is the best I can do to show you.

In some photos I'd get a lighter spot in the center of the frame, not completely sure of the cause. The subject btw is a weaved cowboy hat my roommate recently bought while in Cuba :)

This proved to be probably the best $15 I've ever spent. Since its winter and there aren't a lot of flowers around to shoot I might actually hit up the flower shop and buy something to shoot, if I do they'll windup in my macro set on flickr so feel free to check back.

No comments: