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During the Stourhead meet-up yesterday we got into a discussion about macro photography, and Emma Davies asked if we’d ever tried simply reversing a prime lens. I hadn’t, although I knew the theory – but I’d only ever heard of it being done via some kind of converter, whereas Emma was talking about free-lensing with the lens flipped over. Today, having been recommended by someone in Stratford Clicks to a place in Leamington Spa which will clean the sensor of my 70D at reasonable cost, I thought that I might as well try some reverse free-lensing while the sensor was still filthy and it didn’t matter if I got a bit more dirt on it.

If you haven’t tried this, I can tell you that it’s not easy: not only do you lose TTL metering, but it’s quite difficult to hold the reversed lens firmly and steadily in place over the lens mount – and any slight deviation of the lens from a plane parallel to the sensor produces an unpredictable tilt-shift effect. The depth of field is also far shallower than you would get with a macro lens or a set of extension tubes, and the maximum focusing distance is very short indeed.

I set the exposure first, and then removed and reversed my 50mm prime, holding it in place with my left hand while moving the camera with my right to try to achieve focus. After taking half a dozen shots I was just about ready to throw the lens in the nearest bin – I did wonder about trying the technique with an 85mm prime (which has a longer minimum focus distance), but if I’m honest, I’d pretty much lost the will to live by then. I think it’s fair to say that I found it an interesting experiment, but that I won’t be rushing to try it again so long as I have either a macro lens or a set of extension tubes available.

Because I was in experimentation mode I then took some extreme close-ups with my wide-angle zoom – some of which worked quite well – and I ended the session by adding an extension tube to my macro lens to see if that materially altered its handling, which to my surprise, it didn’t seem to do. The main image here was taken with the 90mm macro and a 12mm tube, at a wider aperture than I would normally use for this kind of shot; the extra is the least mushy of the reverse free-lens shots.

160521 2 peony

Tomorrow I’m planning a return to my comfort zone!