The enlarging lens macro rig

Discussion in 'Adapted Lenses' started by naturecloseups, Aug 28, 2011.

  1. naturecloseups

    naturecloseups Mu-43 Regular

    Jun 10, 2010
    Enlarging lenses are one of the best kept secrets of macro photography (and to some extent, large format photography).

    From front to back

    1. Aluminium m42 rear cap used as a lens (hood) cap

    2. Reversed Lentar 20mm m42 extension fitted to the back of a reversed EL-Nikkor 80mm f5.6N via m39-m42 step up ring (not visible). Function is that of a lens hood.

    3. Reversed EL-Nikkor 80mm f5.6N itself

    4. 40.5->49mm step-up ring

    5. M42 reverse adapter (49mm to M42)

    6. Kalt 20mm M42 extension

    7. Fotodiox Pro 16mm-35mm focusing helicoid

    8. M42 lens to Nikon F body adapter

    9. Voigtlander Nikon F to m4/3 adapter

    In spite of the complex composition, this is one of the best handling macro rigs I have, and incredibly lightweight.


    Example shot:

    Being naughty ..


    And here are the 100% crops. Poor sensor has trouble keeping up it seems to me.

    100% crop #1


    100% crop #2

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  2. misctwo

    misctwo New to Mu-43

    Aug 27, 2011
  3. KVG

    KVG Banned User

    May 10, 2011
    yyc(Calgary, AB)
    Real Name:
    Kelly Gibbons
  4. Yotsuba

    Yotsuba Mu-43 Regular

    Feb 28, 2010
    This is very good.

    How do you control the aperture? Via the Lentar lens or the lens nearest to the sensor?
  5. uscrx

    uscrx Mu-43 Veteran

    Aug 26, 2011
    Shasta Cascade
    You have taken Camera-Macro Porn to next level!

  6. krugorg

    krugorg Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jul 18, 2011
    Minnesota USA
    That is incredible - love it! :bravo-009:
  7. avidone

    avidone Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jun 24, 2011
    Rome, Italy
    very impressive, though I have to get over my cold and clear my brain before I can understand all the parts you used to put that together
  8. shnitz

    shnitz Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Aug 25, 2011
    Austin, TX
    Awesome, I've never seen an enlarging lens used for macro without a bellows! 80mm gives you a nice focus distance here, I'm sure. Do you have any idea what magnification you're getting? Does the focusing helicoid give you any range of magnification, or does it pretty much just ensure that you aren't having to put the front element against your subject to get focus? Since you're using a viewfinder, you probably aren't using flash, right? Are you shooting your rig wide open? I have a Schneider enlarging lens in my closet, maybe I've found a new use for it, thank you so much for sharing!
  9. misctwo

    misctwo New to Mu-43

    Aug 27, 2011
    That should be sold as a lens kit
  10. Andrew H

    Andrew H New to Mu-43

    Jun 26, 2011
    You're absolutely correct that enlarging lenses make great macro lenses. For me the beauty of them is that they have a flat plane of focus, which makes them particularly suitable for photographing flat objects, such as paintings, postage stamps, coins, medals, etc.

    Assuming the length of the flies in your picture to be around 10mm or slightly more, I would judge that the image on your camera's sensor was probably a little under life size.

    If that assumption is correct, I'm interested that you have chosen to reverse the lens. I've always understood that this isn't necessary until the magnification is greater than 1:1. Did you try both orientations and find that reversing the lens gave a better result? From your superb picture of your rig it looks as though the focusing helicoid is fully retracted so perhaps you were at the rig's minimum extension for the picture of the flies and it will normally be used at greater than life size magnifications?

    I'm currently putting together a similar set-up using my 63mm f3.5 El-Nikkor (which I've had since my darkroom days), using a combination of m39 to m42 step-up ring, an m42 extension tube, and an integrated M42 focusing helicoid / micro four thirds adaptor. I won't want to go greater than 1:1 magnification though, so I'm planning on having the lens not reversed, i.e. with the front of the lens facing the subject and the back of the lens facing the sensor. I'm waiting for a part at the moment, but when it's finished I'll post a picture or two.

  11. naturecloseups

    naturecloseups Mu-43 Regular

    Jun 10, 2010
    Thanks everyone for finding the setup interesting!

    Hello Yotsuba -- the enlarging lens actually has an aperture control mechanism -- in the picture you can see it set at f8.

    Hello Andrew,

    Your assumption is correct -- the magnification was a little over 0.5x by my calculations (quite sizable flies).

    Good question too about reversing or not. Common wisdom has it that enlarging lenses (when used as taking lenses) perform better for magnifications of 1x and beyond when they are reversed. Jury is still out on how a typical reversed enlarging lens would behave when used for less than 1x magnification.

    However, from my rough tests I found that even for magnifications of around 0.5x, the reversed configuration is identical if not better, and two additional advantages for using it reversed is need for less extension as well as slightly increased working distance. For that reason my standard mounting is reversed, switching to forward only when I need magnifications less than the minimum the reverse configuration can offer. If there are any corner sharpness issues either way -- I don't see it on the m4/3 format, perhaps I'd notice some differences on 35mm FF.

    The 63mm EL-Nikkor is a highly-rated and elusive beast, lucky for you that you have one. Looking forward to seeing pictures of your rig and results from it!
  12. naturecloseups

    naturecloseups Mu-43 Regular

    Jun 10, 2010
    shnitz -- availability of moderately priced Chinese focusing helicoids with reasonable travel (the "biggest" available I think is 35mm-90mm) finally makes it possible to avoid the versatile-yet-cumbersome bellows.

    I have not calculated the range of magnification with a scale but I think I am getting from a little less than 0.5x to a little over 1x.

    Yes the focusing helicoid gives me that range of magnification. The reversed config gives a little more working distance compared to forward mounted.

    This photo was shot at f8, but yes it is perfectly possible to shoot this rig wide-open, no abberations compared to when stopped down, just that DoF is less. Forward mounted on a suitable helicoid, it should give some gorgeous bokeh wide open when used for portraits.

    I'm not using flash, when I need fill flash I need to take off the VF :(

    Do try out the Schneider enlarging lens -- you are likely to be more than pleasantly surprised. The Schneider Componons (esp. the APO Componons) are supposed to be super for macro work -- though you will likely need some unconventional stepping rings/adapters.
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  13. naturecloseups

    naturecloseups Mu-43 Regular

    Jun 10, 2010
    Enlarging lens closeups: Working distance

    Enlarging lenses -- mounted forward or reverse -- typically give quite a bit of working distance relative to their conventional counterparts. My favorite enlarging lens rig for long WD is the EL Nikkor 105/5.6N forward-mounted on PN-11 via a 35mm-90mm focusing helicoid. I have composed the contraption in such a manner that if I need more magnification, I can quickly reverse-mount it.

    EL Nikkor 105/5.6N forward-mounted on PN-11 via a 35mm-90mm focusing helicoid


    Results from this setup is extremely rewarding in terms of contrast and details. Couple example shots are below.

    Skipper: Working distance is enough to not disturb these skittish creatures.


    Moth: In spite of the aperture not being rounded -- the OOF rendition is quite nice, and steller if you shoot wide-open. Shoot EL-Nikkors wide open whenever you can!

    • Like Like x 7
  14. apicius9

    apicius9 Mu-43 Veteran

    Feb 1, 2010
    Honolulu, Hawaii
    Beautiful rigs and even more beautiful results here. I especially find the low weight and small size intriguing. A few questions:

    - In most cases you would probably do macros on a tripod anyway - is there any benefit of the helicoids over using a rail?

    - If getting a helicoid, is there any rule of thumb about which one might be best (longer travel = better?)?

    - The enlarging lenses seem to have different thread sizes. Does the 105mm Nikkor have a 39mm thread or larger?

    - Any experience with the longer ones like the El Nikkor 135 or the Componon S 150? And (assuming they have larger threads - 50mm?) how would I get those connected?

    - "I have composed the contraption in such a manner that if I need more magnification, I can quickly reverse-mount it." - Could you please comment on that? How did you set that up?

    I have a 50/2.8 and really like it because it is so small, but a longer WD would really be great.


  15. shnitz

    shnitz Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Aug 25, 2011
    Austin, TX
    I can answer a few of those:

    -The helicoid lets him choose his level of magnification. With macro photography, many people choose the focus that they want, and then they move the camera closer and further to the subject to frame and choose the point of focus. So, the rail just allows him to move the point of focus from a moth's body to its head, for example. He probably sets the helicoid to the setting that he wants and leaves it there.

    -The 105mm Nikkor, along with the larger 135mm and longer Componon lenses like the 150mm are usually 50mm, but they have a 50mm-->39mm ring included with them. If not, buy one. Sometimes they have different versions. I think the Componon came in multiple versions, with the 42mm-threaded version being cheaper.
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  16. hkpzee

    hkpzee Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 5, 2011
    Hong Kong
    Real Name:
    This is incredible! How did you come up with this setup?
  17. naturecloseups

    naturecloseups Mu-43 Regular

    Jun 10, 2010
    Sorry for noticing this late.

    Sure, please refer to answer above by shnitz. The helicoid acts as variable extension which helps me to change magnification as well as helps me to fine-tune focus. I sometimes also use a geared focusing rail, but the long Arca lnes plate fitted to PN-11 works in a pinch. I just loosen the clamp and adjust by sliding the plate.

    Yes, the longer the travel, the wider the range of available magnifications.

    I can speak to only the 50mm/f2.8, 80mm/f5.6 and 105mm/f5.6 "N" versions -- which I have. They all have 39mm LTM mounts and 40.5mm filter threads (if you reverse mount). I heard the 135mm/f5.6A EL Nikkor has a 50mm thread but comes with a 39mm LTM adapter.

    Sorry no experience with 135mm or longer :(

    Sure! If you notice closely in the forward-mounted 105 EL Nikkor shot, what I am really using for lens hood is actually a M42 extension tube mounted on the front filter thread using a step-up ring and then a M42 reverse adapter. This effetively makes the lens assembly an unit with M42 make threads on both ends that can be mounted either way.
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  18. naturecloseups

    naturecloseups Mu-43 Regular

    Jun 10, 2010
    Enlarging lenses on bellows have been an age-old favorite among macro shooters. However -- bellows are cumbersome and overkill for m4/3rds setups, so I started looking at focusing helicoids. While at it, I came up with some ideas to make it more versatile.

    The helicoid idea is not new -- for example see here

    Focusing helicoid
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  19. apicius9

    apicius9 Mu-43 Veteran

    Feb 1, 2010
    Honolulu, Hawaii
    Excellent info, thanks to both of you! I hope you don't mind if I clarify: this will be the same 40.5-49 step up and the M42 reverse mount that you used in your first rig, I assume? One more question if I may: I never tried to reverse a lens, how large would the difference in magnification be between using it forward vs. reversed?

    Your thread pushed me over the edge, I just picked up a reasonably priced Schneider Componon S 135/5.6 on the bay, I love new toys :) . The filter size on that one is supposedly 49mm, so it should work with the reverse adapter without step up ring. The thread is 39mm and I have a 42-39 step down ring, so that should work unless I totally confused myself ;)

    For now, I will probably just get the lenses connected to an M42-m4/3 adapter and use m4/3 extension tubes to vary the length. I may pick up a helicoid at a later time.

    My other option is a c-mount bellows which is a little smaller than most others I have seen, but this will add a lot of flexibility at very little additional weight.

  20. naturecloseups

    naturecloseups Mu-43 Regular

    Jun 10, 2010
    "this will be the same 40.5-49 step up and the M42 reverse mount that you used in your first rig, I assume?" -- absolutely so!

    "how large would the difference in magnification be between using it forward vs. reversed?" -- I never ran a formal test but there is a considerable difference, so much so that there is a noticeable magnification gap between 1) forward mounted closest focus and 2) reverse-mounted farthest focus -- with the above pictured rig.

    Note: One consideration when forward-mounting as-is would be -- light leakage. Most modern enlarging lenses have a transluscent light-pass through window/ring at the rear for illuminating the aperture scale in the darkroom. When forward mounted, light leaks through the aperture scale into the camera housing, decreasing contrast and increasing flare.

    Picture below shows the light passthrough window in the 80mm f5.6N EL Nikkor. When I forward mount, I seal this using black adhesive tape.