Mount a lens backwards to make a Macro Lens?

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If you mount a normal lens backwards on a camera body, it becomes a great closeup Macro lens. If you think how a lens works, it’s no real surprise that this is the case.

A lens captures a large scene and projects it onto a small sensor (or film!) inside the camera. Therefore, by mounting it backwards, it does the opposite by projecting something small magnified onto the sensor.

{Click image for a higher resolution, click Flickr Link in caption to view photo on Flickr}
Moving Home - Garden Snail (Cornu aspersum) - D810, AF-D 50mm f/1.8 reverse mounted with a Nikon BR-2A Reverse Ring @ 50mm, f/22, ISO1000, 1/6sec - {Flickr Link}

The issue is, the lens turns into a fully manual lens. The camera cannot control the lens anymore as it doesn’t even know that there’s a lens mounted. There is other equipment you can use to further control the lens but to be honest most Macro photography is far better to have manual focus anyway.

Another issue, most modern lenses do not have an aperture ring and the lens is stuck wide open unless you manually move the aperture lever. Some people even hold it open with bluetac.

Luckily, my Nikon 50mm Prime is the older AF-D type so has an aperture ring. So with a Nikon BR-2A 52mm Reversing Ring screwed into the filter screw on the lens, the lens can be mounted backwards on the camera. As with all Macro photography, the DoF (Depth of Field, what’s in focus) is tiny, so the lens was stopped down to f/22 to get as much in focus as possible. This means every thing is very dark now that the aperture is closed right down, hence the slow shutter speed and high ISO.

I setup my Light Tent on the dining room table with a shiny black backdrop to try and create a small amount of Bokeh (that’s the blurry out of focus background of photos) and clamped a small branch to a Gorillapod then went searching in the garden for a small model.

The snail is quite small and the branch no more than 6mm thick. To focus a setup like this, it’s the distance that sets the focus which is very close and tiny movements makes a big difference. The camera was fixed in place on a tripod and then I moved the branch forward and backward micro-millimetres until I was happy with the focus.

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