Very macro LF photography : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

As I slowly get more and more involved in entomology again, I find myself wanting to do high magnification work of insect specimens. I'm about to pick up a new macro lens for my Nikon, which will help, but I'd love to do some stuff with 4x5 for the big transparencies. What I want to know is if it's really feasible to photograph an insect about 12mm long at a minimum of about 5x life size. If so, what kind of gear is necessary? How would something like the Zeiss Luminars work? There was an article a year or so ago in View Camera about a guy who did high mag stuff with rock specimens who I think was using Luminars. There was also a little half page article in National Geographic a number of years ago about a guy who did this kind of insect photography early 20th century, but he had like 12 feet of bellows. Any ideas, tips, or comments would be greatly appreciated.

-- David Munson (, May 01, 2002


On several occasions I have used a Nikon 55mm Micro Nikkor for the 35mm camera, but mounted on a Sinar board (hotglued believe it or not!) I was able to incredible detail and resolution filling the 8X10 frame completely at large magnifications. Be prepared for needing tons of light = 3000 w/sec. and upwards. You need to have this kind of power in order to get super crip results - exposing at just one pop!

-- Per Volquartz (, May 01, 2002.

I've done some of this in medium format. The Zeiss Luminars and Leitz Photars should cover. Also the Canon FD Macrophoto lenses and comparable Nikkor and Olympus offerings that come in RSM mount. You might try any macro lenses you have for smaller formats. If the magnification is large enough, they can cover. I can use a Tamron SP 90/2.5 Macro on 6x6cm, for instance, beyond 1.5:1 or so.

If bellows draw is a problem, use a shorter lens. If working space is a problem, but you've got lots of bellows, try a longer lens.

With stationary subjects, multiple pops will give you the flash power you need. If these insects are alive, you'll need LOTS of power, as the previous poster suggests.

-- David Goldfarb (, May 01, 2002.

Yes, what you want to do is very feasible, just difficult to do well.

Luminars are supposed to be wonderful, ditto Photars, but my 100/6.3 Luminar isn't that great.

FWIW, I've been facing the same problem, but with dead fish. Recently had a shoot-off between 32/4.5 B&L Micro Tessar, 35/4 Eurygon, and 35/4.5 Tominon. The rankings @ 8:1 were Tominon, Micro Tessar, Eurygon. This holds for wide open to f/8, at f/11 image quality with all of the lenses was terrible. Test was shooting a 100 marks/mm stage micrometer, transilluminated. Flash illumination.

I haven't completed the tests yet, but I'm running a shoot-off between CZ Jena 45/4.5 Mikrotar, Reichert 50/3.5 Neupolar, Kodak 50/4.5 Enlarging Ektar (in the 1969 Kodak Photomacrography pamphlet there are many nice shots taken with this lens, and they recommend it), and Tominon 50/4.5. Preliminary results @ 4:1 and 8:1, subject to operator error are that they're all usable and, again, the Tominon is best.

So perhaps you should consider Tominon lenses made for the Polaroid MP-4 system. They all screw into Copal #1 Press shutters, and if you want a higher sync speed you can use a regular #1. These things are very inexpensive, and seem to be worth the money. I haven't shot seriously with my 75/4.5 or 135/4.5 Tominons. I have shot tests with the 17/4 Tominon and a reversed 25/1.9 Cine Ektar II (as recommended in the Kodak pamphlet). Both usable, the 17/4 is quite good but the working distance is a little short.

You should also consider how much extension you'll need to get the desired magnification given lens' focal length. And if you want only 5x magnification with a 12 mm subject, you should consider using a 2.25 x 3.25 roll back.



-- Dan Fromm (, May 02, 2002.

Somebody does a flea calendar (yes, he actually dresses fleas up for the various months) and uses LF with six feet of bellows.

If I were going to do it, I would take the back off my Speed Graphic and build a light tight frame for the extension. The back would simply need to be held parallel to the front, so that's pretty easy. Delta makes an opaque plastic, so I would first wrap the frame in black cloth to dampen light reflections off the plastic, and then make it light tight with the plastic and two layers of black cloth tape.

If I made the extension out of plywood, then I'd just paint the inside black and use black cloth tape to make a light-tight fit to the camera.

-- Brian C. Miller (, May 02, 2002.

I used to use the Zeiss Luminars with a Linhof Technika (with the extension cone). You certainly get magnification you are looking for, but the depth of field is a bear to work with -- it can literally be just a milimeter or two at the greater magnifications.

-- Donald Brewster (, May 02, 2002.

You can try the trick that I've used...reverse mount a 35mm lens (with a male-male threaded ring sold as a "macro coupler") to a long focal length LF lens. For example, I mount a 50mm Canon lens onto my Fuji 300mm and 450mm LF lenses; this will give 6:1 and 9:1 magnification (more with extension more than infinity), and all have 52mm filter threads. The nice thing about this is that you don't lose light to bellows extension.

On the other hand, I'd love to try a Luminar/Photar, especially since I could use it on several different cameras. I see them for sale now and then, but I've never been able to find much about them. Does anyone know a printed or online reference that covers them and their use in detail?

-- Danny Burk (, May 02, 2002.

There's a mind-numbing discussion of 'micro' lenses at . It discusses lenses known to the contributors, but doesn't have much on technique. The list of lenses isn't quite complete, it appears that nearly every major microscope manufacturer had a line of lenses for photomacrography.

For those who want to learn how to do it, I've found the 1969 Kodak pamphlet on photomacrography useful if, again, a little mind-numbing. The points it makes about the relationship between aperture and maximum magnification attainable (subject to final print) are somewhat terrifying. A. A. Blaker's book Field Photography is also a useful guide to attaining reasonable magnification with simple/inexpensive gear.



-- Dan Fromm (, May 03, 2002.

For making larger-than-lifesize images, reversed enlarging lenses work very well. Unreversed, the light rays go from the smaller object, the exposed negative in the enlarger, to the larger object, the print on the easel. On the camera for larger than lifesize images, you want to reverse the lens so that the larger object, the negative being made, remains on the side intended for the larger object.

There are several ways this can be done. The least expensive is to somehow attach the lens to the lensboard and then use a piece of cardboard or switching the lights on and off to control the exposure. Your exposure times will be long, so this can work well.

Another approach is to buy some adapters. Schneider makes an adapter that converts the front threads of a #1 shutter to the 39 mm threads of most enlarger lenses. Nikon and Rodenstock make adapters that convert the 40.5 mm filter threads of many of their enlarger lenses to 39 mm. Both adapters together make it possible to reverse mount an enlarger lens in front of a #1 shutter.

Depth-of-field will be very small and exposures long. Don't forget the compensating the exposure for the bellows extension. You may need to put tape over the illumination port of the enlarger lens. If you need more magnification, get a shorter focal length lens. There are previous threads about this approach.

-- Michael Briggs (, May 06, 2002.

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