Reverse lens technique — Poor man’s macro
Reverse lens technique is very easy to set up. It is a cheap solution for macro photography. You normally go for a dedicated macro lens for macro photography, or use the ‘macro’ mode available in your camera. However, a dedicated macro lens may not be affordable for most people, and using the macro mode may not give you a good magnification. So if you want to do macro photography on a budget, you can try various inexpensive techniques for macro photography like close up filters, macro converters, reverse lens technique, etc. When I started photography, I didn’t have money to buy a macro lens; so I came across lens reversal or reverse lens technique for my macro photography. Through a series of articles, I am going to show you what this technique is and how you can implement it to take macro photographs.
What is reverse lens technique?
It is mounting your lens backwards on the camera. A magnification of a reverse mounted lens increases — and that’s what you wanted. This is the idea of reverse lens technique. I am going to show you how to reverse a 50mm prime lens. You can follow the same technique to reverse any type of lens you have. I prefer reversing a prime lens for macro since prime lenses give sharp images and show good color reproduction.
- A DSLR/SLR camera. This technique will not work for point and shoot cameras.
- A lens you want to reverse.
- A reverse ring for your lens: To mount the lens backwards, you need to use a reverse ring. It has two sides: a filter thread side and mount side.
How do you select a reverse ring for your lens?
If the filter diameter of your lens is 52mm, then you should buy a reverse ring which has a filter thread diameter of 52mm (the filter diameter of the lens is written on the front element of the lens). So, buy a reverse ring which has the same diameter as that of your lens.
How to reverse a lens?
NOTE: If you don’t have a reverse ring, you can just reverse your lens, hold it in front of your camera and see how it works.
Step 1: Attach the reverse ring to the front element of your lens via the filter thread.
Step 2: Detach the lens and mount it backwards. Now the back side of the lens is exposed outside.
Here is the comparison of magnification:
What’s the trade-off?
- Since you are reversing the lens, it loses its electronic communication with the camera. So auto focus will not work, and you cannot change the aperture of the lens either.
- Lens could not focus when you reverse mount it. There will be only one fixed focal plane and you have to physically move yourself to focus the subject.
- The lens cannot focus at infinity.
- The depth of field becomes extremely shallow.
- Frequent lens reversal causes accumulation of dust and particles on the sensor.
Read how to overcome the challenges while using this technique: Secrets of Macro Photography using the reverse lens
Reversing a 50mm lens will provide only a 1:1 magnfication. Learn how to take high magnification macro photography using the reverse lens technique:
Below are some of the images I had taken using the reverse lens technique: