Shooting with a reversed 18-55 mm Canon kit lens

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rjlittlefield
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Shooting with a reversed 18-55 mm Canon kit lens

Post by rjlittlefield »

As introduction to this topic, let me present a setup and an image shot using it:

Image

Full frame, about 4.5 mm wide:
Image

This was a 29 frame stack, shot at 5X on sensor, using just what you see above: a Canon T1i camera and a Canon 18-55 mm kit lens reversed on a short extension. Continuous illumination, no macro rail, not even a cable release.

Here's a crop from the image:

Image

Now, this certainly isn't as sharp as I'm used to getting from a microscope objective or an MP-E 65 on a high precision rail. On the other hand, it's a lot cheaper. Beyond normal kit components, what's used here is equivalent to a reversing adapter (like HERE) plus one ring from a set of no-frills extension tubes. The tubes and reversing adapter combined can be purchased new for less than $15 with free shipping.

There are a few aspects of this setup that are not obvious, so let me step through them.

Aperture. The aperture on this lens is controlled electronically by signals from the camera. There is no ring or lever like is often found on older lenses with mechanical controls.

When mounted normally on the camera, the lens stays wide open except for two conditions:
1) when a picture is being taken, and
2) when the depth-of-field (DOF) preview button is pressed.

However, the lens can be made to stay stopped down for use on non-automatic tubes by the following procedure:
1) Mount the lens on the camera.
2) Set the camera in Av mode, turn it on, and dial in the desired f-number.
3) Press the DOF preview button. Looking into the front of the lens, it's easy to see the aperture close down.
4) Press the lens release button and remove the lens from the camera, while keeping the camera turned on and continuing to press the DOF preview button.

This procedure removes power from the lens while it is stopped down, and as a result it will stay stopped down until it is mounted again on the camera as usual. The procedure is physically awkward and feels dangerous because it involves interrupting a connection with power applied. Nonetheless it is frequently advised. I've never heard of any ill effects, and I've certainly not experienced any. (My legal advisor makes me add: "Your mileage may vary, and the advice comes with no guarantees.")

As usual with high-magnification work, it's important to select an appropriate f-number: wide enough to avoid excessive diffraction blur, but stopped down enough to avoid excessive aberrations. The above stack was shot at a lens setting of f/5.0, which produces an effective f-number around f/30 at 5X. The image is certainly not sharp at actual pixels, but as shown by comparing the crop and the full frame, there's more detail than will fit in a single web-sized image. I determined the f/5.0 by a fairly crude experiment -- it was a lot sharper at f/5.0 than wide open at f/3.5 or closed more at f/8. There may be an even better value that I didn't check.

Focus. Surprisingly simple. It turns out that with this lens used in this way, turning the focus ring shifts focus by a pleasantly small amount. Even at 5X and f/5.0, I had no trouble stepping focus by small enough increments to avoid focus banding. This was a surprise. I had expected from just looking at how the lens moves that the focus shift would be much more. So, coarse focus by moving the subject, and fine focus by turning the ring.

Vibration. I shot here in Live View mode without flash, which means that I was using Electronic First Shutter Curtain (EFSC), no vibration caused by the camera. Then I set the camera's self-timer to give 10 seconds delay between pressing the expose button and actually taking the picture. That gave plenty of time for vibrations from my hand movements to die down.

An alternative would be to shoot with flash, and we'll see an example of that a little later. I just used continuous illumination and Live View in this case because I could and it was convenient.

Magnification. A pleasantly wide range. Here is a mm scale, photographed by just turning the zoom control between 18 mm and 55 mm. The sensor size on this camera is about 22 mm, so magnifications here range from about 5X to 1.5X.

Image

Here's another subject, shot at minimum magnification, about 15 mm field width. I believe the aperture was set at f/8.

Image

Full frame:
Image

Crop:
Image

This was a 22-frame stack. Here's an illustration of why I stacked it:

Image

One last example... This is the Christmas Cactus anthers and stigma that I posted over in the Technical and Studio gallery.

Image

This was a 5-frame stack. Here's how it was shot. The Kleenex is not for show, it's mandatory for decent illumination using on-board flash with this setup. Without the Kleenex serving to block direct illumination and provide lots of indirect, the lens shadows most of the frame and all that comes out is a narrow band of overexposed subject at top of frame. With the Kleenex, I think it's OK.

Image

I hope you find this interesting and possibly useful. I've seen other people using various setups along these lines, but I had never pursued it myself due to lack of need. It actually worked better than I expected it to.

--Rik

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Post by johan »

Very nice, it's many people's first introduction to magnified macro work, as it's cheap and cheerful.

One thing, this is very much a Canon thing though, because as far as I know Canon is the only brand that's able to power the aperture with the lens reversed. All I really know is Pentax and we have to resort to a manual f stop lens which makes this a slightly harder exercise as we have to focus with the lens stopped down and that can make it tricky.

I did contact a specialist company to make me a gadget that would stop down the lens based on an IR coupler and micromotor on a specially adapted set of tubes with cables between camera and mounted reverse tube on the reversed lens, and whilst doable it makes it into a fairly expensive exercise with additional engineering and parts involved so chose not to pursue this path.
My extreme-macro.co.uk site, a learning site. Your comments and input there would be gratefully appreciated.

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Post by ChrisR »

Nice post. Ultra-cheap is always attractive!
A note about Nikon lenses reversed
The NON "G" type aren't a problem, you just get the aperture set on the aperture ring.
"G" type go to smallest aperture when off the camera, but if you move the small lever on the back of the lens you can open the iris. [edited] A trimmed piece of plastic slid in, a few millimetres wide, is actually fine as long as it's not too small to get lost in the lens.
There are adapters available for putting "G" lenses onto, for instance, Canon bodies. They have a tab sticking out which operates the diaphragm lever. They can also be used on a reversed lens. But the economics aren't so attractive for this thread, as they cost around £30 / $50. You can get a lot of plastic for that.

Rik was lucky I think with the focus adjustments on his reversed lens - I'll try a 28 - 80 G Nikkor....
I have used a 28 - 300 reversed - that gives a serious magnification range, with long working distance options.
Last edited by ChrisR on Thu Apr 17, 2014 12:34 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by rjlittlefield »

johan wrote:as far as I know Canon is the only brand that's able to power the aperture with the lens reversed. All I really know is Pentax and we have to resort to a manual f stop lens which makes this a slightly harder exercise as we have to focus with the lens stopped down and that can make it tricky.
I think you've misunderstood some bits. Canon is not able to power the aperture with the lens reversed. The aperture just stays in its stopped position after the lens is removed as described and is no longer powered. Focusing with the lens reversed is done with the lens stopped down.

The nice thing about Canon is that the lens does hold the aperture you set. With my Nikon D5000, the corresponding lens is an "AF-S Nikkor 18-55 mm 1:3.5-5.6 G". It has a physical aperture control lever inside the lens mount. When removed from camera, the lens stops full down no matter what I had it last set to. On the bright side, the spring-loaded lever can be jimmied to set intermediate apertures or to open the aperture full wide, without re-mounting the lens. The catch is only that it's hard to know exactly what aperture has been set, because that's very sensitive to the position of the lever.


--Rik

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Re: Shooting with a reversed 18-55 mm Canon kit lens

Post by rjlittlefield »

rjlittlefield wrote:The procedure is physically awkward and feels dangerous because it involves interrupting a connection with power applied. Nonetheless it is frequently advised. I've never heard of any ill effects, and I've certainly not experienced any.
Perhaps it's also worth noting that I've carefully reviewed the manual that came with my Canon T1i camera, and I find nothing at all that says I'm supposed to power off the camera before detaching a lens. It just says "While pressing the lens release button, turn the lens as shown by the arrow." So unless the manual authors have omitted some critical warning, it seems that Canon lenses are designed to be hot-swapped. If that's correct, then the only issue is whether there's something special about having the lens stopped down at the time. I've never seen anything to indicate that there is, and I can't find any warning in the manual about it.

--Rik

elf
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Post by elf »

I think all cameras (DSLRs) with electronic connections to the lens have hot swapping protection, otherwise, you would see many complaints on camera forums. Dust getting attracted to the sensor is likely the reason turning the camera off is recommended.

It's really easy to swap ends electronically (that is if you can read Japanese):
http://dc.watch.impress.co.jp/docs/revi ... 70176.html :smt017

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Post by Planapo »

The quality of the photos looks very good! I especially like the catus flower parts. I would not have expected it being so good. Thanks for your revealing tests, Rik!

There is a reverse adapter made by Novoflex for using Canon EF lenses with all their functions, but it is very pricey.

Further, I see a well taken portrait of the photographer at work on location, self-timer or assistant?

--Betty

edit typo: look --> looks
Last edited by Planapo on Wed Nov 23, 2011 1:02 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Post by rjlittlefield »

--- edited to add: October 26, 2015 ---
Planapo wrote:There is a reverse adapter made by Novoflex for using Canon EF lenses with all their functions, but it is very pricey.
As of 2015, there is now a similar but much less expensive adapter available from another manufacturer. See Fly stacked by AFM w/ reversed 18-55 using MK-C-UP adapter, and the links therein.
---- end addition ---

elf wrote:It's really easy to swap ends electronically
I think I've seen that one, someplace in my big bin labeled "conceptually straightforward..." :wink:
Planapo wrote:Further, I see a well taken portrait of the photographer at work on location, self-timer or assistant?
"Assistant" -- actually my better half. And of course I couldn't resist touching up the worst of the blemishes caused by bumping into tree limbs and the like. :roll:

--Rik
Last edited by rjlittlefield on Mon Oct 26, 2015 8:43 am, edited 1 time in total.

johan
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Post by johan »

Yeah I was unclear - with the Novoflex unit you can use the lens with all its function because there's a motor inside some of those Canon lenses that is able to stop it down as long as it gets that signal to do so. Which the Novoflex unit provides.

In fact the Novoflex thing was what based my thing off - I could easily make one using a couple of extension tubes with all the electrical contacts and a CAT5 cable to join them. But what stopped me was that to do this with my Pentax I then also needed to add that micromotor on there to pull the aperture lever when I took the shot. Which was a step too much, especially when that involved using a remote to trigger (the motor would be activated by remote).

FWIW, about hotswapping, maybe this is all a bit brand/technology used dependant. In Pentax you can set the focal length because the shake reduction is in-cam rather than in-lens. So I know that in the early days when I hot swapped a lens with SR set my card and cam got very upset when I did so and it lost me a flippin memory card, grrrr. Don't know why, but since then I've just never done it (and never lost another card either). Maybe it was something else although I do vaguely remember reading a warning against that in some manual a long time ago. YMMV =)
My extreme-macro.co.uk site, a learning site. Your comments and input there would be gratefully appreciated.

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Post by eurythyrea »

Once I made a reverse adapter with cable, inspired by that expensive Novoflex thing. I disassembled 2 12mm Kenko extension rings, modified the electrical contacts, and the springs. It worked very well and comfotrtable and I made test shots with the kit lens.

Image

Then I've sold it out, as did not need it.

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Post by ChrisR »

Another post about ordinary lenses reversed onto the camera, from a year ago:
http://photomacrography.net/forum/viewtopic.php?p=71557

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Post by Craig Gerard »

Nikola,

Nicely done.


Craig
To use a classic quote from 'Antz' - "I almost know exactly what I'm doing!"

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Post by pierre »

Rik,

Quite pretty Christmas Cactus anthers and stigma's picture there :shock:

Once again you brought to the light a very nice way to shot the small world
with this so nice kleenex touch.

Going to x5 now easier then ever.

Thanks a tons for sharing this :)
Regards

Pierre

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Re: Shooting with a reversed 18-55 mm Canon kit lens

Post by abpho »

rjlittlefield wrote:Perhaps it's also worth noting that I've carefully reviewed the manual that came with my Canon T1i camera, and I find nothing at all that says I'm supposed to power off the camera before detaching a lens.
The only thing I have ever read is to ensure the IS (image stabilizer) motor is off before disconnecting the lens. Both Sigma and Canon mention this in their lens user manuals for lenses with IS.

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Re: Shooting with a reversed 18-55 mm Canon kit lens

Post by rjlittlefield »

abpho wrote:The only thing I have ever read is to ensure the IS (image stabilizer) motor is off before disconnecting the lens.
Thanks for the reminder. I just now rechecked the manual for my EF100mm f/2.8L MACRO IS USM. That's the only stabilized lens I have for Canon. Back on page 11, it says that:
Canon wrote:The image stabilizer operates for about two seconds even when your finger is off the shutter button. Do not remove the lens while the stabilizer is in operation. This will cause a malfunction.
In its introduction the manual mentions "malfunction or damage", but they never actually say those are different. It certainly seems like a good idea to avoid doing anything in either category.

--Rik

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