A macro lens – from spare parts


The surface of the nut shown here is about 3/4″ – that crack is less than a millimeter.

While reading about macro lenses and trying to decide what to buy, I saw a forum comment that you could put two 50mm lenses together (one of them reversed, attached front to front, by gluing old filters together) and get “amazing” resolution.


It happens that I have two old 50mm’s (one f2, the other f1.7) and I scrounged up two old UV filters that fit them. Then I taped the filters together just to see how this contraption would work.

The results were astonishing.

I do love that old Pentax glass. My favorite lenses are 25+ years old.

To focus, I put the lens just an inch or so from the subject. I don’t use a macro rail or tripod – those are far too klunky, when working with such a tiny focal area. I have learned to hold my breath while shooting a series, moving a hair’s distance back for each shot. This means I delete 3/4 of the shots on the first edit, because the hair’s breadth I want is out of focus.

I’ve developed my technique from using a single 50mm lens with a reversing ring for the past several years (a number of examples are on this site, such as this one of a beech tree bud tip). The clarity of the shots with the “new” macro, though, is significantly better.

The depth of field constraint means most photographers wouldn’t give this macro combo a second look. Who wants to work with an area the width of a few hairs? But, to me, that is an ideal format for what I am trying to express – the finest point of attention, the smallest detail, the place where your heart breaks.

So I like that constraint, the way you appreciate the size of the canvas as a limit that releases your creativity.

More posts forthcoming to show the results of this lens.

2 thoughts on “A macro lens – from spare parts

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