"Reverse rings are used to reverse mount lenses by their filter threads directly to the camera bayonet or to connect two lenses by their filter threads face to face, called reverse pairing. Lens reversal is one of the oldest solutions for shortening the focusing distance and increasing the aspect ratio. Reverse rings are mainly used in macro photography."
Reverse lens mount, what is it useful for?
If you want to take beautiful macro photos but don't want to spend thousands on macro lenses, then reverse mount rings are what you're looking for.
Here I will explain everything about macro photography with reverse lens and reverse lens pairing. Reverse is a very simple technique that allows you to turn a standard lens into a macro lens so you can take photos like this:
If you own a 50mm basic most common 18-55mm kit lens and don't want to spend too much but get great results, then the reverse ring macro photography technique is the best way to take great macro images.
Another interesting solution is offered by interrings with the advantage of fully electronic communication. While not as cheap, using even the cheapest fixed lens is a way to get perfect image quality for little money. This solution is also used by countless professional macro photographers.
What is macro photography with a reversed (inverted) lens?
Reverse lens macro photography is a method of taking enlarged images at a ratio greater than 1:1 using an SLR or mirrorless camera with an interchangeable lens. Use an inexpensive reverse adapter to attach the lens behind the camera's filter thread. The lens eventually points the bayonet towards the subject. (Reversals can also be done by attaching to another lens)
Sound complicated? It doesn't. You take the lens and reverse it. And you can immediately shoot with extreme macro magnification. If you've never encountered this solution before, it may seem strange, but it works perfectly.
Wondering why it works this way? In the usual use of a lens, the lens is used to display a large cutout of the subject on a small image sensor. When the lens is reversed, a small portion of the scene located very close to the image sensor is displayed in front of the lens. Because the lens is mounted inverted, the focal length also behaves inversely, the smaller the focal length, the greater the magnification will be.
How to shoot with an inverted lens
There are two ways to shoot macro with a reverse lens.
1. Reverse lens on the camera body
This method uses a filter thread to attach the lens directly to the camera body bayonet
You can buy these adapters cheaply at oehling. You screw one side onto the end of the lens like a filter, while the other side attaches to the lens bayonet. Here's the reverse ring in action:
What is a suitable lens for reverse construction?
The reverse macro lens technique works best if you use a lens with a manual aperture ring. This way you can lower the aperture and increase the depth of field, which is very useful for macro shots.
With a lens without a manual aperture ring, you won't be able to make any aperture adjustments and will be forced to work with the lens' maximum aperture. The same goes for focusing, if the lens does not allow focusing with the focus ring, you have to focus by moving back and forth.
But as annoying as it may be, don't let that stop you - you can use a reverse lens with its most open aperture and take beautiful photos. You just have to get creative!
Automatic reverse ring
It is the design of the reversal rings that connect the electrical contacts of the camera body and the lens. This tells you how to control the aperture of the lens, don't count on it for proper focusing functionality.
Pros and cons of a reverse lens
- Left-handed solution
- Good magnification
- Small image distortion
- Use of any bayonet
- Absence of electronic communication (not valid for automatic rings)
- Small depth of field
- Necessity of good lighting
- Higher probability of shadowing
2. Reverse macro with two lenses
This reverse lens macro technique is less popular, but it gets the job done and has its advantages. Instead of reversing one lens on the camera, you put one lens on the camera normally and then put the second lens on the front of the first lens, like this:
The principle is almost identical to the single lens technique described above, you just need to buy reverse rings and then use it to connect the second lens to the first. When using the two lens reverse macro technique, the reversed lens now acts as a very strong front-facing macro lens
The two lens technique offers two main advantages over the single lens technique:
- It provides extreme magnification. Depending on the focal lengths used, you can achieve up to three times life-size reproduction. (That's three times the magnification of most professional macro lenses!).
- Increases flexibility when working with depth of field. You can leave the inverted lens set with the aperture fully open, while with the prime lens you can adjust the aperture continuously to work with depth of field.
Pros and cons of a reverse macro with two lenses
- Left solution
- Large magnification option
- Iris control from the lens
- Small image distortion
- Small depth of field
- High demands on camera stabilization
- Requires sufficient light
What to look out for when shooting with a reverse lens
The principle of reverse lens photography leaves the rear member of the reverse lens fully accessible from the outside. Work carefully to avoid scratching the rear lens member or damaging the lens bayonet when handling the lens.
How to improve image sharpness
Thanks to the inverted lens technique, you can get so close to your subject that it's virtually impossible to keep the camera out of your hand. To get the sharpest photos, use a tripod and use a cable or wireless shutter release.
When working outdoors, expect a little breeze to ruin your sharp photos. The solution is to shorten the exposure time along with increasing the ISO sensitivity. Then working indoors is a sure bet for stable conditions.
Macro photography with a reverse lens is great fun, so order a reverse ring and get shooting!
Now it's your turn:
Do you prefer the reverse macro photography technique with one lens or two lenses? Do you have any tips for better macro photography? Share your thoughts in the comments below!