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Thread: Enlarger lenses for Large Format Macrophotography

  1. #1

    Enlarger lenses for Large Format Macrophotography

    Hello, everyone.

    I work with multiple-exposure macrophotography for some of my series, and usually use smaller format cameras and bellows rails. I would prefer to have the larger negative, and the ability to make a polaroid, so I've turned to my 4x5. I understand that my 35mm copy stand will never work for this purpose, and that I will have to figure out a new rig, but right now I need to figure out my lens options for (very) close-up work!

    My current arsenal of LF lenses are a Rodenstock Sironar-N 210mm f5.6, a Sironar-N 150mm f5.6, and a Super-Angulon 90mm f8.

    I also have a turret of lenses from my huge Omega enlarger, including Rodenstock Rodagon 150mm f5.6, 80mm f4, and 50mm f2.8 lenses.

    I've heard that I can reverse at least some of these lenses to have a decent macro rig, but I'm not sure what to do or how to do it.

    Any help would be appreciated!

  2. #2
    Peter De Smidt's Avatar
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    Re: Enlarger lenses for Large Format Macrophotography

    Figure out the magnification that you want to work at. At 1x that's be a subject area of just under 4x5 inches. Are you going to go higher than that? Note that as you go up in magnification, depth of field becomes vanishingly small. Longer lenses will give you more working distance, but you'll need more bellows extension. For instance, you'll need 300mm of bellows extension to get to 1x with the 150mm.
    “You often feel tired, not because you've done too much, but because you've done too little of what sparks a light in you.”
    ― Alexander Den Heijer, Nothing you don't already know

  3. #3

    Re: Enlarger lenses for Large Format Macrophotography

    The depth of field is not a huge issue for me as for most of my macro work I am actually photographing fairly flat/level objects.
    My view camera is out on loan right now, so I don't quite have 300mm of bellows-- working with a Toyo field camera here.
    I was just wondering if I could get closer by using my enlarger lenses instead of my view lenses? Would a 150mm enlarger lens (reversed) have a different close focus than a standard 150mm view lens? I admit that I'm fairly ignorant of the physics/mechanics at work here.

  4. #4

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    Re: Enlarger lenses for Large Format Macrophotography

    The magic formula you need is: lens' rear node-to-film distance = lens' focal length * (magnification + 1) This formula is true for all lenses. All means all, with no exceptions.

    So, for example, a 150 mm lens' rear node-to-film distance is 150 mm * 2 = 300 mm. For most enlarging lenses the rear node is a hair behind the diaphragm.

    Taking lenses and enlarging lenses are optimized for large subject (print) in front of the lens and small negative behind the lens. When shooting closeup at magnifications > 1:1 there's a small subject in front of the lens and a large negative behind it. So, to get best use of the lens' optimization most lenses should be reversed when shooting at magnifications > 1:1. There are two major exceptions: dedicated macro lenses designed for use above 1:1; symmetrical lenses such as Apo Artars, dialyte type Apo Nikkors, Apo Ronars, Apo Saphirs, G-Clarons, ...

    OP, you'd benefit from close study of Lester Lefkowitz' book The Manual of Closeup Photography. It is available used at reasonable prices through abebooks.com, alibris.com, amazon.com, ...

  5. #5
    Peter De Smidt's Avatar
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    Re: Enlarger lenses for Large Format Macrophotography

    I agree with Dan. The Manual of Closeup Photography is useful. As I said earlier, we need to know what subject size you're planing one photographing. That will determine the magnification needed, which will in turn lead you to the right lens. A Toyo AX has 321mm of maximum extension. You can always add a top hat lens board, a 4" back extension, or both, if needed.
    “You often feel tired, not because you've done too much, but because you've done too little of what sparks a light in you.”
    ― Alexander Den Heijer, Nothing you don't already know

  6. #6

    Re: Enlarger lenses for Large Format Macrophotography

    Quote Originally Posted by Peter J. De Smidt View Post
    we need to know what subject size you're planing one photographing. That will determine the magnification needed, which will in turn lead you to the right lens.
    I'd like to be able to photograph an object that is 1cmx1cm and have it take up the majority of the image.

  7. #7

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    Re: Enlarger lenses for Large Format Macrophotography

    You could use an enlarger lens in reverse... DOF is going to be almost 0 and diffraction is going to limit your resolution considerably. Focus stacking and combining images would help. For such a small subject you might get a better result using a small framed (cropped format) digital camera. Another option would be to scan the object on a creo scanner with the scientific software. The software includes automated focus stacking options.

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    Re: Enlarger lenses for Large Format Macrophotography

    Quote Originally Posted by lickmylenscap View Post
    I'd like to be able to photograph an object that is 1cmx1cm and have it take up the majority of the image.
    Well, 4x5's aspect ratio is 4:5, not 1:1, so you won't be able to use all of the 4x5 frame. Using as much of the film as possible requires expanding 1 cm to fit the 4x5 frame's short side, i.e., a bit over 9:1. To do this with your Toyo you'll need a lens with focal length no longer than 30 mm. None of your lenses will come close to giving the magnification you want.

    Macro lenses are usually optimized for a range of magnifications. None of the 25 - 35 mm macro lenses I've tested is quite as good around 9:1 and its best aperture as a reversed 25/1.9 Cine Ektar II shot at f/2.8. Next best affordable lens was a reversed 55/2.8 MicroNikkor shot at f/4. If you can get the extension needed, a manual focus 55 MicroNikkor (I've never tried an f/3.5er but people I trust say they're at least as good as the f/2.8) is probably a better bet than the CE II. This because the CE II won't cover 4x5 at magnifications much below 10:1 and the 55 MicroNikkor will.

    Now stop being a pest, get the book and read it.

  9. #9
    Peter De Smidt's Avatar
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    Re: Enlarger lenses for Large Format Macrophotography

    I've got the 55 MicroNikkor f/3.5, it's a very good lens and a terrific bargain. I've never gone up that high in magnification with it, though. Focusing and alignment won't be trivial, and your subject will have to be flat... really, really flat. You'll be well into diffraction territory, as well.
    “You often feel tired, not because you've done too much, but because you've done too little of what sparks a light in you.”
    ― Alexander Den Heijer, Nothing you don't already know

  10. #10
    Tin Can's Avatar
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    Re: Enlarger lenses for Large Format Macrophotography

    I recently bought and read the recommended book.

    It helped me and it will help you.

    I use Abe books with good results, fair prices and quick shipping. But Amazon does beat them once in a while.

    I might add, I used used Nikon high end P&S's for macro for 15 years. Amazing what some can do. My current Nikon P7000 is a whiz at macro, no skill involved. I often used them in industrial laboratories.
    Last edited by Tin Can; 9-Oct-2014 at 17:09. Reason: add P7000
    sin eater

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