View Full Version : My macro aspirations - your help sought

26-Aug-2013, 03:13
Hello all,

well, after researching my little heart out on LF macro, I am left with a few questions. To put them in context, here are my aims and current gear:

- want to document the natural beauty of our surrounds in detail - features of our native plants: leaves, flowers, fallen bark (stunning at the right time of year), and possibly do some art reproduction etc.,
- would love to shoot 1:1 and greater magnification from time to time but most "close" shots will probably be around 1:2 to 1:3 mag (ie. a 15" wide spread of fallen bark etc.), close-ups of my sleeping children's faces etc.,
- have the following lenses: Schneider 72XL, Nikkor SW 90/4.5, Schneider APO 150/5.6, Schneider 210/5.6 and Nikkor M 300/9,
- my camera is the (absolutely beautiful) Chamonix 045F-1 (4x5 with front focus adjust only)

Firstly - if I am going to attempt some 1:1 'fine art' shooting, just how difficult will it be with my setup (and a macro lens)? I ask this as I understand it can be very difficult to achieve focus with only a front focus adjust. The majority of my subjects will be immoveable.

Secondly, is it likely the Nikkor AM-ED 120 will suit my purposes? I understand that it won't give me 4x5 coverage at infinity, but will only be used for closer work.

As an alternative, would I be *that* much better off to spend more and buy a Schneider 120/5.6 Makro-Symmar with a bigger circle and presumably an overall better macro lens than the Nikkor. As a side note, I would prefer to spend more up-front than buy something that will be regrettably limiting for all time thereafter.

Is my assumption correct that none of my existing glass will give me decent quality at 1:1 or thereabouts? I can of course do my own experiments but with no dedicated macro with which to compare, it's unlikely to be conclusive. (...and I have to confess that I'm always after justification to buy new glass!!).

Any answers or suggestions will be gratefully received!

Cheers and thank-you,
David (Sydney)

Ken Lee
26-Aug-2013, 05:03
"most "close" shots will probably be around 1:2 to 1:3 mag (ie. a 15" wide spread of fallen bark etc.), close-ups of my sleeping children's faces etc."

With limited bellows draw we are obliged to use shorter lenses, but consider the effect of using a wide angle lens at close distance: for some photos it might not matter, but for others you might see considerable foreshortening. Close-up shots of faces with a 120mm lens will be a revealing test: people might look more like pumpkins :) I'd recommend a 180 rather than a 120

Michael E
26-Aug-2013, 05:16
I know you don't want to experiment with your existing equipment, but I would strongly encourage you to do just that. Three reasons: If you have never worked in this range, you should try it before buying anything expensive. Your lenses might perform just fine, give it a try! Most importantly, the right focal length is important for macro work. You'll need a lot of extension. 120mm on a folding camera might limit you when you choose to move in real close. I have an 80mm enlarging lens in a shutter, works fine for 4x5" close-ups. On the other hand, having a 120mm might be nice - it's my favorite focal length for landscape or architecture.


Edit: I just read Ken's comment. More reasons to try your existing lenses to find the right focal length.

26-Aug-2013, 06:18
Your camera can focus using the rear standard, just slide it forward or backward. I do it all the time. Don't buy more lenses til you see how frustrating shooting macro with a field camera can be.
Get the extension bracket for the front standard.

Ralph Barker
26-Aug-2013, 08:10
As others have suggested, try using your 150mm lens to start, if for nothing else, to get a sense of what is involved in doing macro work. Then, examine the negatives and prints from those negatives, asking yourself if they satisfy your requirements, image-wise. In the 1:1 to 1:3 range, your 150 might be just fine for the images you want to create.

It seems to me that "true" macro lenses start paying for themselves at 1:1 and higher magnifications. But, the added "image quality" can be rather subjective. There are also a few exceptions to the rule. For example, I've used my 240mm G-Claron (the version I have is supposed to be optimized for infinity focus) on my 8x10, and it seems to do nicely at about 2.5:1, as shown here:


26-Aug-2013, 12:32
Hello Ken and thank you for your response. I just had a "wow" experience. It is precisely your "Botanicals" series which has been the main seed for this aspirational direction and here you are offering me help! In fact, your gallery was open in the next tab on my browser at the time of posting. It is indeed a small world these days!

It's funny - after shooting for so many years, including professionally - I had not even considered the 'hide the ears' effect of shorter lenses - a touch embarrassing.

With just over 400mm of bellows draw (including with the extension bracket, which I have) I have at least some scope to test my existing lenses in the field, which I will do beginning today! If I do go crazy with macro, I'll buy a monorail with longer draw - they are incredibly inexpensive and after all, I won't be hiking far with it.

Back to the aspiration - we live near a beautiful natural reserve here near my house in the north of Sydney and one of my little projects in mind is to write a book with my children and document its incredible beauty - just for us. I have spent much time poring over your work and dreaming of making such beautiful images of our natural offerings whilst engaging my little ones in the whole process. With them just under the ages of 2 and 4 this could be considered a 'long range' project, but we have many years ahead here and I hope to instil in them a similar passion for nature and photography that my parents did in me.

So a big thank you Ken - very much appreciated,

26-Aug-2013, 12:38
Hello Michael,

you are right. As mentioned in my response to Ken's post, starting today I will get out there with my lenses and have a first 'stab'. As said, my Chamonix gives around 400mm of draw so plenty of scope to experiment. Last week I did have a go with my 150mm at around 1:1 and it was much harder than anticipated, thankfully! I would have been disappointed if it were a simple matter!

Many thanks,
PS. My wife would no doubt be thrilled to hear that I should try my existing lenses instead of just buying the next possible option! :)

26-Aug-2013, 12:47
Hi Vinny,

you are right - I do use the rear slide to set up my 90 and 72mm lenses, so why not for focussing? Perhaps it's easier than I'd assumed.

As for frustrating - bring it on! This only means that one requires a lot of effort and patience, precisely the reason I chose to move to LF in the first place. (Famous last words eh?...)

Cheers and thanks,

26-Aug-2013, 12:58
Hi Ralph,

thank you for your response - perhaps you've inspired me even further with your lovely micrometer shot. As a woodworker I've acquired some lovely gear over the years - especially planes. A few wood shavings, natural side-light, my old bench and I might just have a shot or two...

Can't wait to get some negatives back. I will shoot a few frames today with my 150 and see what comes of it.

As for "true" macro lenses - I've not found any comparisons of equivalent macro and non-macro lens images at high magnification. I guess my short experiment with the 150 last week left me thinking that it was the lens and not the user as the major factor in the difficulty I had focussing. More time and effort required...

Cheers and thanks,

Larry Gebhardt
26-Aug-2013, 13:13
In the 1:2 to 1:3 range you are probably going to be Ok with the front focusing Chamonix as long as you don't need precise control over the exact magnification. As you get closer to 1:1 it gets harder to focus the Chamonix for macro. For that reason I usually use my Canham MQC. Another option is to get a macro focusing rail like the Really Right Stuff B150-B (http://reallyrightstuff.com/ProductDesc.aspx?code=B150-B&type=0&eq=&desc=B150-B%3a-Macro-focusing-rail&key=it). This would let you move the whole camera precisely.

I recently bought the Nikon 120mm AM-ED and I find it's a vast improvement in brightness over the 150mm f/9 G-Claron that I was using. I'm not sure I can say the image quality is noticeably better at the small enlargements i usually make (11x14 to 16x20). But being able to see to focus it is certainly helpful. I'm sure you know this, but as the magnification goes up the illumination goes down. At 1:1 you have lost two stops, so a f5.6 lens is pretty dim and an f/9 lens is very dark even wide open.

I also have the 210mm Rodenstock Macro-Sironar. I really prefer using this lens over the Nikon in the range you are talking about. It is however a big lens, and the Copal 3 shutter seems to have more vibration than the smaller shutters. Still I think this may be a better lens for your stated purposes.

Try out your existing 150 and 210 and see if you can make them work. Honestly I don't think my macro photos have really improved much since getting the macro lenses. Usually subject movement, diffraction or inexact focus seem to undo the higher image quality that's in theory possible.

26-Aug-2013, 13:18
My bracket (made/sold by me) gives me 500mm total extension and it doesn't look too much longer than the oem bracket. http://www.largeformatphotography.info/forum/showthread.php?98018-FS-Extension-bracket-for-Chamonix-cameras&highlight=Chamonix+extension+bracket
I've made a few 1:1 images with my 250mm fujinon and it's a great setup.

26-Aug-2013, 13:48
I've not found any comparisons of equivalent macro and non-macro lens images at high magnification.

Sorry no comparison images to post either, but I've tested quite a bit of lenses for sharpness at different distances. In theory, the difference of ray angles in a lens is more between 1:1 and 1:2 then between 1:2 and infinity, and practical tests confirm this, too. So I'd never forget to replace my 5.6/300 Apo-Rodagon with my 5.6/300 El-Nikkor when I switch from 1:1 to 1:2 reproduction ratio while copying flat subjects (like vintage photos) with my 8x10". Both the above are excellent lenses, and each is great at its optimal magnification. But the Apo-Rodagon is much inferior to the El-Nikkor at 1:2, and the opposite is very true for 1:1. The difference is real and can be seen in practice.

But for 3-dimentional subjects, I don't actually care for that difference. The reason is the very small f-stops necessary for DoF, at which sharpness is so degraded by diffraction that all that difference is just no more there. So for the 3-dimentional world, I'd better choose a lens that suites my aesthetic needs with its out of focus rendition and just not give a damn for anything else.