Reverse lens technique in macro photography

When used in the wrong way, not many things still work. For example, airplanes, cutlery, and shoes all have a preferred direction of use. Turning them around and using them the other way around is rarely good. Photographic lenses, or at least some of them, are an exception to this rule. For macro photography, turning some lenses will actually improve their performance. This could have a major impact on your photos and wallet.

Macro photography of insects

1. What is reverse lens macro photography and how does it work?

Used in the right way, traditional non-macro lenses aim to project small focused images of large distant objects at close range onto sensors or film in the camera. As the distance from the lens to the subject decreases, the image becomes larger and larger. At one point, the subject is too close to focus properly. For very close subjects, reversing the lens so that the rear element now faces the subject and the front element points towards the camera will project a large magnified image of a small object onto the film or sensor.

This may sound or seem complicated, but it’s not. In any case, understanding how technology works is more important than understanding the optics behind it. For DSLR or mirrorless cameras, the focal length of 50mm or shorter lens can be reversed to macro use. The shorter the focal length, the greater the magnification.

2. What do you need?

To start venturing backward, you need a reverse mounting ring for the camera mounting system. The adapter ring has a male lens mounting port on one side and a male filter thread on the other. The bayonet on the mounting side is inserted into the camera’s body. The reverse lens is threaded through the filter to the other end.

The boost ring or buck ring will correct any mismatches that may exist between the thread diameter of the reverse adapter and the lens being reversed. Please note that any mechanical rear components and electronic contacts of the lens are subject to collision and bruising. A rear lens cover drilled out from the bottom is attached to the mounting base to provide some protection for these fragile components and also act as a lens cover.

Macro photography of butterflies

3. What do you have?

Because you connect it to the adapter using filter threads rather than mounting mounts, you do not need a lens dedicated to your camera system. This means that you can choose from a very wide range of optical devices. You probably already have something in your equipment collection that you can use. Any prime or zoom lens wide enough to be in the normal range is a possible candidate for inversion.

You can try some quick free shots: hold the reverse lens up to the camera’s body opening and look at a convenient target. You will be very close to this goal, so be careful not to touch it. If you have a zoom lens, try different focal lengths to see how it affects magnification and perspective. Check for vignetting and darken the image to the corners of the frame.

4. Control

Some reverse mount adapters retain the electronic connection between the camera and a reverse lens of the same camera brand. Without any control over the camera body, you must be able to control the aperture of the lens itself. This usually means using a lens with an aperture ring.

Manual focus lenses are great for this, but many autofocus lenses, especially older ones, also come with moving aperture rings. While it’s more convenient to keep lenses with the actual aperture ring, lenses that lack this feature can still be adjusted as long as they have the aperture control label. This label is a mechanical connection between the lens aperture and the camera aperture control mechanism.

Moving the label back and forth with your finger should turn on and off the aperture stop. These lugs are usually spring-loaded, so the holes are individually fixed in minimal settings. The hole can be kept open by carefully inserting something to wedge the label into place, such as a length of swab tube used here. While not as accurate or repeatable as the actual aperture ring, this does provide more flexibility in exposure settings than keeping the aperture narrowed.

Reverse lens for the bees

5. Why use a reverse lens for macro photography?

Reverse lens macro does present a number of drawbacks and challenges. But it also has many advantages. First of all, we can achieve higher magnification than we can with traditional close-up filters. A traditional macro lens has a diopter of about 10, while a reverse lens can have a diopter of 20 to 40.

There are also several options when using reverse lens macro technology. Since this technique doesn’t rely on lens bayonets, you can try countless other lenses with different focal lengths, apertures, and specifications. You can even mix it up and experiment with various optical elements that aren’t usually used for photography.

You can even combine the reverse lens macro effect by stacking. Dual lens reverse macro is a powerful tool that helps you pull closer while giving a degree of control back to the user. It allows you to use two lenses, one mounted correctly on the camera and the other mounted in the opposite direction of the filter thread on the first one. This way, with native lenses, you can even control the aperture to a certain extent and use the focus ring.

6. Conclusion

Use the reverse lens of macro photography, which opens up endless possibilities when doing macros. Everything from brushes to flowers to dewdrops became a whole new theme. As we live in uncertain times, macro photography can help us explore new worlds from the comfort of our own homes. When viewed through the lens of a macro photographer, a small drop of water takes on an exciting shape and form. Everyday objects generate new creative perspectives and ideas.

For someone like me who firmly believes photography is an expensive hobby, try this technique. You can open up a whole new world of photography at almost no cost.

Macro photography of insects


What is the reverse method in photography?

Reverse motion is a special effect in cinematography whereby the action that is filmed is shown backward on screen. It can either be an in-camera effect or an effect produced with the use of an optical printer.

What happens if you reverse a macro lens?

With subjects that are very close, reversing the lens so that the rear element is now facing the subject and the front element is pointing into the camera will project a large, magnified image of a small object on the film or sensor.

What lens is best for reverse macro?

There is no best focal length for reverse macro, 28mm-50mm is the most commonly used because they tend to give the magnifications that people like.

How do I reverse my lens?

You turn your lens around so the rear element points outward, then use an adapter to attach the reversed lens to your camera body (or to another lens). In other words: You take your lens. You flip it around. And you’ll be able to shoot at macro magnifications.

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