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04.05.2016

24mm F1.4 Art lens Reversed for High Magnification Macro Photography

© 2016 Robert OToole

© 2016 Robert OToole

High Magnification Macro Photography reaches into a fascinating world of details that are normally hidden to the naked eye. The simplest and most cost effective way to get reach high magnification is to reverse mount a wide angle lens. When used in reverse the 24mm F1.4 DG HSM | Art lens gives me sharp detailed images at 5X or five times life-size. Check out some of my favorite images below.

© 2016 Robert OToole

© 2016 Robert OToole

© 2016 Robert OToole

© 2016 Robert OToole

Here’s the Important Thing to Understand About Reversing a Lens for Macro

For the best image quality possible in the high magnification range the front of the wide angle lens should point to the sensor and the rear towards the subject. This is called reverse mounting and it can be pretty amazing if you have never tried high magnification macro before.

© 2016 Robert OToole

© 2016 Robert OToole

Getting the Best Experience out Shooting with Reversed Lens

When you reverse mount a lens you will lose automatic aperture control, so the lens will either stay wide open  (like the Canon EF mount) or close all the way down (like Nikon mount) when reverse mounted. Since you will want to shoot at a middle aperture, about f/4 to f/8 for best results, you will need to buy an adapter to control a manual iris like those with Nikon mount, or an electronic adapter to give you control of an electronic iris for lenses in the Canon EF mount. For my details see follow this link to my website.

© 2016 Robert OToole

© 2016 Robert OToole

© 2016 Robert OToole

© 2016 Robert OToole

© 2016 Robert OToole

© 2016 Robert OToole

© 2016 Robert OToole

© 2016 Robert OToole

How to Get the Most Out of High Magnification Macro Photography With a Reversed Lens

  1. Move the camera back and forth to focus. Don’t try to focus with the manual focus ring when using the lens in reverse.
  2. For maximum sharpness always use flash or Electronic First Curtain Shutter mode. This is very important!
  3. Shooting with a lens reversed at 5X can be hard since the viewfinder will be dark so I recommend utilizing view with cameras that offer live view exposure simulation mode.
  4. When shooting at 5X reducing camera vibration is vital so always use a wireless or wired electronic shutter release or self-timer.
  5. I find that setting the focus set to the closest focus distance will give you slightly better image quality in the corners.
  6. For the best image quality try f/4 to f/5.6 since this will help you avoid losing sharpness due to diffraction.
  7. At 5X depth of field is very limited to I recommend using a technique called focus stacking to bring all the details in the subject into sharp focus. For the images in this blog post I used Zerene Stacker software from https://www.zerenesystems.com/ Zerene has a free demo version of the software so you can give it a try.
  8. Handholding at 5X is possible but I recommend using a tripod, focus rail, and focus stacking for best results.

Shooting at 5X can be a challenge for beginners and intermediate photographers so I hope these tips help you to get started. Once you have some experience you can always add an extension tube for more magnification.

© 2016 Robert OToole

© 2016 Robert OToole

© 2016 Robert OToole

© 2016 Robert OToole

© 2016 Robert OToole

© 2016 Robert OToole

© 2016 Robert OToole

© 2016 Robert OToole

Keep in mind that while a reversed lens can work great at high magnifications you should look at purpose built macro lenses for the absolutely best image quality.

Be sure to share any questions or comments below.

2 comments so far

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  1. Really interesting tutorial. Just a question.Where i can find the adaptors to reverse mount the lens? Does they have a specific name?

  2. Hello,
    Thank you for your great article ! I am trying all sorts of magnification process and find it difficult to find any information on how to find out the magnification obtained… Can you explain why a reverse 24mm gives x5 magnification ? On another website the author states that it gives a x3 magnification…
    Thank you !