Recently, while sorting through some boxes of old photo junk (I’ve moved recently), I came across an old Mamiya Sekor macro lens. I bought this lens at a garage sale probably 20 years ago and had forgotten I even had it. Recently, I’ve been using a small mirrorless camera (Nex 5n) in my photography that, with adaptors, allow me to use some old m39 screw mount Leica lenses as well as a collection of Pentax m42 mount lenses. Most of these lenses I inherited from my father years ago but haven’t put to much use until recently. So, I already had the M42 to NEX adaptor I needed to mount this macro lens and soon I was enjoying the power of a 1:1 macro lens.
This is really my first macro lens. I’ve been using my 300mm f/4 lens with an extension tube and a 1.4x teleconverter to get images of insects and flowers. The advantage of this setup is the long camera to subject distance, 3-4 feet, used for these images. This distance helps when photographing targets that are shy or dangerous! However, this 300mm setup doesn’t quite have the sharpness and clarity of an excellent macro lens.
What I enjoy about macro work is that it shows detail that is invisible to the naked eye. I take an image at 1:1 on a small camera sensor with lots of pixels (in this case, 16 Mpixels) and blow the resulting image up on a big computer screen. This is almost like looking through a low power microscope, and it is displayed on a big screen with very high fidelity.
There is a lot of beauty in nature at scales too small for us to see and at scales too large for us to imagine. I find that the small scale beauty has a special quality not generally found in larger structures. Of course, there are similar patterns in all of nature but small scales allow certain things to exist that wouldn’t survive being scaled up to human size.
If you are a photographer, and haven’t yet tried macro photography, I recommend trying your hand. Some of the point-and-shoot cameras have very good macro capabilities, I got some nice shots with my very first digital camera, a Canon Powershot G3. For the DSLR user, there are various macro lenses available as well as extension tubes and close-up lenses. I think there is an approach to macro or close-up photography for almost every budget, give it a try!