Extreme macrophotography is one hobby that I hope to master someday. But until that moment comes…I’m learning, and I’m buying equipment 🙂
The micro world requires equipment that must meet some criteria in order to get a good view of the subjects. One of these criteria is the optical quality of the lens used (free of optical aberrations, long working distance, and other).
Until now I’ve used a couple of 10x microscope objectives (Olympus and Nikon) and my old trusty Pentax SMC 28mm lens reversed mounted. They are OK in sharpness or depth of field, but they are far from how a good lens should perform. The problems with all these lenses are the chromatic aberration (which is pretty annoying sometimes) and diffraction softening when pushed out of their normal magnifications.
This is why, in the last few weeks, I’ve been researching some information regarding the rather well known LOMO 3.7x microscope objective. Some photographers use it with excellent results, and some compare its optical performance with the expensive Canon MP-E 65 dedicated macro lens, which is pretty strange when you consider the price gap between the two (about 950 dollars, with the Lomo around 50-60$ on eBay).
Since I was in “desperate” need to get a new “macro” lens for my setup, and at the time of my “need” I had no significant cash in my pocket, I’ve decided that the 50$ Lomo objective could be the way to go (at least for now). After waiting for some weeks for the lens to arrive (from Ukraine), I’ve finally got my hands on the rather dull-looking LOMO:
Not much to look at, but from an optics enthusiast point of view, the objective intrigued me with its large front element. Mounted on my normal setup it offers a very long working distance (about 25…35mm, depending on the distance to the DSLR sensor), which helps a lot with better controlling the light falling on the subject.
First light with this small lens was done on a medium-sized longhorn beetle. For testing purposes alone, I did not clean the subject, both in real-life or in image post-processing.
The equipment used: Canon 550D at ISO 200, mirror lockup and 2s shutter delay, Wemacro stack rail, 20 microns per step for all images, 3 flash units, homemade diffuser.
And again, just for testing the objective, I’ve decided to go for the extremes, varying the distance of the lens to the sensor plane: about 85mm at minimum (I could go perhaps lower here) and about 200mm at maximum (this could also be increased with more macro tubes). Some measurements on the images and the scale showed that the magnification was varied from 1.9x to about 5.5x, which is not very far from the “PRO” lenses like the CANON MP-E or LAOWA 2.5-5X.
Now, the quality of a lens resides partially in its resolution, so here is the first test shot (50% resize, same processing with a bit of mild unsharp mask applied):
The details in both images are pretty good for the corresponding magnifications. The larger images show this well. Again, no intensive processing for the following shots, just a mild unsharp mask and levels adjustments. The 5.5x magnification image is actually a 4-image mosaic (not very well done), each a 120 frame stack. Both images were cropped.
The 1.9x image:
The 5.5x image:
As it can be observed, the details in both shots are good and free of chromatic aberration, despite the rather difficult subject (white hairs and reflective hairs).
The above images are definitely not “pretty” due to a very dirty subject and no post-processing, but they are actually my best in terms of optical quality (contrast and resolution per pixel).
After spending a lot of time preparing to buy a LAOWA macro lens (about 400$), and after researching for some cheaper possibilities, and also after doing the 2x to 5.5x tests, I can only be very happy with my 60$ choice (50$ for the lens, 10 or so for shipping): the LOMO 3.7X microscope objective.
And now lets put this lens to work 😉