Reverse lens technique — Poor man’s macro
Reverse lens technique is very easy to set up. It is a cheap solution for macro photography. One normally goes for a dedicated macro lens for macro photography or they may switch to ‘macro’ mode available in their cameras. While buying a dedicated macro lens is not affordable for most people, and using the macro mode may not give you a good magnification. However, one can go for various inexpensive techniques for macro photography like close up filters, macro converters etc. I follow the lens reversal or reverse lens technique for my macro photography.
What is reverse lens technique?
It is basically mounting your lens backwards on to the camera. Doing so, the magnification a lens can capture increases. 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 has good color rendition.
- 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. A reverse ring is used to reverse mount the lens. A reverse ring has two sides — a filter thread side and a mount side. 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)
Steps 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.
- You lose the ability to focus when reverse mount the lens. 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.
- Reversing lens causes accumulation of dust and particles in the sensor.
Read how to overcome the challenges while using this technique: Secrets of Macro Photography using the reverse lens are
Below are some of the images I had taken using the reverse lens technique: