Tip of the Day: Three Ways to Take Macro-Free Close Ups

Want to try macro? If you’re not ready to buy a dedicated macro lens, here are three inexpensive ways to use your DSLR and kit lens to see how the world looks in close-up.1) Reversal ring. This $40 (or so) gadget lets you mount a lens backward, turning a normal lens into a kind of macro. It isn’t always the best solution, though. Autofocus won’t work, so you’ll have to focus manually. Some optically complex zooms are impossible to focus in reverse; others produce poor results. Lenses without an

Want to try macro? If you’re not ready to buy a dedicated macro lens, here are three inexpensive ways to use your DSLR and kit lens to see how the world looks in close-up.

1) Reversal ring. This $40 (or so) gadget lets you mount a lens backward, turning a normal lens into a kind of macro. It isn't always the best solution, though. Autofocus won't work, so you'll have to focus manually. Some optically complex zooms are impossible to focus in reverse; others produce poor results. Lenses without an aperture ring are hard to stop down. And reversing the lens exposes the rear element and coupling mechanisms— shield these from damage with a makeshift lenshood.

2) Extension tube. With a rear lens mount at one end and a camera-body mount at the other, this device is usually used for closer focusing with long telephotos. But place one between your DSLR and a short tele or normal lens, and you can focus into the macro range. For even closer focusing, use one with a reverse-mounted lens. Try Kenko Auto Extension Tube Set DG (12-, 20- and 36mm, from $169, street).

3) Macro filter. Also called a diopter, this filter (about $20 to $30, street) is basically a magnifier that you put in front of the front lens element. These work better with telephotos (85mm or more). As a general rule, the weaker the diopter, the better the result. The edges of the resulting images tend to be soft, so you'll need to stop down quite a bit or plan on cropping.
—Kathleen Davis
Assistant Editor