My Cheap Macro Date

Lately, I’ve been asked what kind of camera and lens do I use — especially for my macro shots. When I bought my Nikon D90 camera as a kit, it came with a couple of lenses and a few filters. The standard Nikkor 18-55mm and Nikkor 70-300mm. One of the filters was a screw on macro. I thought about Nikon’s 105 mm micro but at $900, it was out of my budget. So, I decided to make the best of my cheap $10 screw on Macro filter. And you know what? While the macro filter might not take the sharpest photos and the focus is a constant challenge, I am very impressed by the images I can capture with this filter. Because of its limitations, it constantly challenges my skills. The focus distance for the filter is about 4 or 5 inches, so I have to shoot really close to my subject; this is when good eyes, quick timing and patience are crucial to getting a focused shot.

These photos were taken yesterday at the community garden in Marymoore Park. It’s the same garden I was at last weekend — when I conquered my nemesis. It was a great date with Macro. I shot these in RAW, using the Nikkor 18-55mm lens. I find that the macro filter works better on this lens than the 50mm prim lens. By shooting in RAW, I didn’t have to do much processing, other than adding some sharpness and contrast, adjusted lighting, and some cropping. Overall, I’m very satisfied with the results. Of course it is still my dream to have the 105mm micro but for now… I’m happy with my cheap Macro dates.

I’m not sure what this green bug was. It looked like a bee but I’ve never seen a green bee before — then I thought maybe this is a green hornet? Does anyone have any idea what it might be? Well, whatever it was, it couldn’t have landed on a better color flower. It’s bright green color was a perfect contrast against the red background.

I don’t know if the hair on this bumble bee is as soft as it looks but I do know the sting hurts like your skin is on fire! I was stung by one last summer.


28 Comments on “My Cheap Macro Date

  1. Nice shots Emily. Like many other commenters, I like the top shot in particular – the green/red/yellow tones are very complimentary. I agree you don’t need anything fancy for macro. I use extension tubes (empty tubes that push the lens elements away from the sensor) which are a bit pricier than a filter, but far cheaper than a dedicated macro with similar results (as far as I can tell).

    • Thanks Mike. I’ve thought about using the extension tubes but from the samples I’ve seen, the results look similar to what I can accomplish using the macro filter. I know eventually I would like to get a dedicated macro especially for my food shots. I think the focus will be easier to control.

  2. You are getting great results with that lens and filter combination – another example of how much of a great image is the photographer’s talent vs. the equipment.

  3. These are great Em! And, speaking as someone who owns the Nikon 105mm macro, I would never have guessed these were from a macro filter. There’s a lot to be said for the 105mm, but, as you’ve very ably demonstrated, there’s many alternative (and less expensive) ways to do lovely macros.

    • Thanks John. Good to hear from you. While I’m happy with the results of the macro filter, I know the 105mm can probably accomplish much more. Hopefully, I will be able to get one sooner rather than later. πŸ™‚

  4. Beautiful photos to be sure, and you have used the capabilities of this setup well. There’s no denying, however, the crispness of detail and depth of field that a true macro lens allows. When you finally manage to get one, you’ll love, love, love it!

    • Thanks for the visit and compliment Ted. I saw your bug photos and I can see what you mean about the capabilities of a true macro lens. You’ve capture some amazing shots. I hope to get one as soon as my budget allows.

  5. Some good macros there. I use a cheap Raynox DCR 250 lens which clips onto the front of my lens. I’ve been experimenting making macro movies with an old Fuji S9600 bridge camera and the DCR 250. Keeping everything in focus is always a problem, as it is with all of these type of lenses, due to the very tight DOF. Slightest bit of wind and it can move enough to be out of focus

    Here’s one of the videos I created…

    • Thanks for the link Mike. That’s a pretty interesting movie. I never thought about using the macro to make video of bugs. I often forget I have video capability on my camera. Thanks for the idea… I’m going to see if I can make videos with this macro filter. I agree, focus is probably the most difficult aspect of these type of filters. As you mention, it’s very easy to be out of focus. But… it does make very nice shallow DOF.

    • After raising two boys, I got over my fear of the creepy crawlies. I love shooting macro photos of bugs. It’s amazing the things I learn about them — getting up close and personal. They are very fascinating. Thank you for the lovely compliment Erin. πŸ˜€

  6. These are beautiful. I don’t think anyone asks a paint artist what brand of paint they use, do they? Your images are awesome because of the artist that took them, that’s you! Nice to see these!

    • Thanks Martina for making my heart do the happy dance with your wonderful compliment. πŸ™‚ Nope, I’ve never had anyone ask me what brand of paint I use when I was into painting. They might ask what type — oil or acrylic. But unlike paintbrushes, I think with photography, the tools are more complicated to use and not to mention more costly. To me, photography is kind of like cooking… when you give 10 chefs a recipe, you most likely will get 10 different looking dish. It all depends on the personal style, execution and technical skills of the individual chef.

  7. Nice shots, especially the colours in the first one and the detail in the yellow one.

  8. Beautiful shots, I agree, you don’t have to have an expensive macro lens to get some great shots, I get really great shots with my Polaroid screw on macro lens πŸ™‚

    • Thanks Lynda. While I do believe there are somethings that you get what you paid for. However, I think in photography — especially with all the digital technology available, you can usually make do with less. It’s a constant learning process on how to get the most out of the tools you have to work with before moving on. Congrats again on your photo being on Freshly Pressed. πŸ™‚

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