Carrying a dedicated Maco lens can be heavy and bulky as well as expensive - and while close up dioptre "lenses" screwed into the front filter of a standard prime lens CAN be good - it is a bother to decide just which to use when out for the day or to carry the magnification tables and ruler needed to optimise this equipment. As I have learned from the postings representing the combined wisdom of the MU43 readership, better image quality comes from using a compund lens Apochromat close up - with 2 lenses to correct for Chromatic Aberration. Nikon, Canon and Rayonox, among others, have sold those Apochromat designs. Better quality comes at higher cost - and I have found that these items go for a premium on auction sites.
So I took interest when I saw a lot of "Hoya Zoom Close Up" accessory lenses on auction sites.
They are small, and seem to be available in 49 and 52mm thread. When one came up for £1.00 / $1.25 USD I bid and won.
The design is a variable magnification apochromat, 2 lens element design in an aluminum body with very smooth focus conrol over a 270-degree turn. Hoya build quality is excellent. They come with a neat "leather" carry case and push on lens caps for each end.
I have just tried it attached onto a "no name" Chinese M4/3 native mount 50mm F1.8 lens from Cheecar/Fujian, hand held at about 1/60th of a second with typically dull UK winter window light on an overcast day and set at F8 - despite that dreadful approach to maco-photography this represents the likley "worst case" of how the lens might be used "in the field". Despite all that "bad practice" the performance is surprisingly good!
I don't "pixel peep" - I print to 7x5 or 10x8 or show photos on a laptop or an HD TV Screen. I have no doubt that zoomed to 100% there will be many MU43 readers who will pinpoint many faults. However in the real world - the performace beats my single lens "non-apochromat" close-up filters - and it is far, far more convenient than trying out dioptre accessory lenses one by one or getting out the magnification tables!
Attached to a lens set to infinity focus, this will zoom you to between 10 and 49 cm distance.
Once you bring the base lens to close focus, you can fill the frame with a stamp, suggesting this reaches near 1:2 - or just centimes from the object.
Adverts sugges these came in at least 49 and 52mm thread mounts - suggesting that they should fit most of the 50mm prime lenses that M4/3 photographers might consider adapting.
Here is the 50mm prime lens at maximum close focus showing the Hoya Zoom - next to a casio watch
And now with the Hoya attached and at near maximum zoom close up .
And for the creative amongst you - here is an artistic use - with great bokeh !
Now, I do have a true maco lens (the Wonderful Vivitar 55mm Macro), as well as a box of fixed diopte accessory lenses..... but this this "Hoya Zoom Close-Up" looked to be so potentially useful to throw in a rucksack on days out that I wanted to try it out.
I won the bid at GBP £1.00 / USD $1.25 and with post it cost me a total of GBP £5.00 / About $7 USD. So - if you are stuck for a useful close up system and can't abide messing about with a box of dioptre lenses (+1, +2. +4, +10 seems typical) or justify the cost of an Apochromat close up or a true macro lens - can I suggest this as an affordable alternative?
Key Lessons learned in the first 30 minutes of ownership -
- As with all macro - the prime lens needs to be set at F5.6 to F8 for best image quality.
- If you are serious about Macro Photography - you will have a tripod or dedicated maco lens bench and will use focus stacking to build greater depth of field
- but please don't let this put you off as close-up photography can be enjoyed by us all with a basic camera, just a very little technical skill and a few pouds/dollars in your pocket to spend - as I hope to have shown today !
- the best image quality relies on fast shutter speeds and accurate focus - both things in short supply with my tests done here just after the postman delivered it.
- Given a sunny day and a bit more time and my reflected flash illumination - I am sure in time I will do better !
- Autofocus is often slower and less accurate for macro photography than using the "zoom assist" or focus-peaking assistance (that you likley have built into you camera)
- As with all macro kit - keep all lens surfaces clean.
- These items are probaly 1980s era designs, and are about 40 years old - mine was "hazy" inside with oily residue clearly visible with the "flashlight test"
- Cleaning is easy for this Hoya - just release the each of 3 grub screws on the focus ring about 1-2 turns and unscrew the helicoid right off to reach the inside lens surfaces. Clean the lens surfaces and rebuild. Then reset the grub screws tight with the focus mark back at infinity.
- All this was done in <5 minutes with just 1 jeweller's screwdriver, a micro-fibre cloth and some alcohol based lens cleaning solution.
- Remember that the helicoid has grease on it - so keep this clear of your lens surfaces and your clothes !
If cost or the fear of "expert technique" is keeping you from trying out close-up photography - can I suggest you might try a bid for one of these? And - don't forget to make sure the cute carry case and the lens caps for each end are included in the price.
Now I just want a warm sunny spring day to appear - and I will be out looking to better my first shots with this Hoya Zoom.
Wonder what macro photographers are on about? Can I suggest - check out two YouTube videos. They are nothing to do with me - they are by Micael Widell who has 35.6K subscribers for lots of very good reasons:
- "4 Reasons Macro Photography is More Fun than Landscape Photography" -
- "7 Foolproof Steps for a Perfect Macro Photo" - This is the sort of instruction I like because there is no messing about "just set F8, 1/250 (or fastest flash synch speed), ISO 200 and flash at 1/16th power" - and do you know, for nature macro, he is spot on with the advice!
Very best wishes to you all - Paul C in the UK