Macro-roni say “cheese”

One of the disappointments I encountered with adapting the old lenses is that the Soligor zoom with macro did not have an auto/manual switch so the aperture was stuck wide open (unless I were to push the stop-down pin in and glue it there, which I don’t want to do). As such the nice macro function of the lens was lost.

Except that some of the other Pentax M42 equipment I still have is a set of extension tubes. These change the focusing range of the lenses without adding any optical factor (although you lose some light so exposure has to be adjusted). I first tried the 135mm Vivitar, but on a the Canon this is like a 216mm and is rather extreme for macro use. So I went to the next size down, the 50mm f1.4 Takumar. Here’s the set up:


The #1 extension tube is barely noticeable in the mix, but it shifts the focus range down from 18″- ∞ to 10.5″ – 15″. This is just the range you want for shooting flowers, for example. And the 50mm is about an 80mm equivalent on the Canon. Also, the #1 ring only requires about a half stop exposure increase so you still have good range of control under good light. It’s barely noticeable.

I should mention here that the reason for using something like the Soligor 80mm macro zoom is so that you can shoot close while not being right on top of the subject. This way the photographer doesn’t “get in the way” of the shot, such as casting a shadow on the object or otherwise blocking the light source.

After a few false starts (such as forgetting to set the camera right) I began to get a feel for using this combination. I started with some desktop shooting, where I could control light and the subject wouldn’t move, et cetera. The first example is this collection of Saab accessories; a ‘turbo’ money clip, ‘classic’ (i.e. 96) key blank, and ‘turbo’ pocket knife. These are over 25 years old, as they belonged to my eldest brother who died 25 years ago.


Outside shooting was not so easy: weather was a problem, as it was overcast and windy. I found that if I cranked the ISO up to 800 it got too “noisy” even if it did allow for motion-stopping shutter speed and enough depth of field to keep the whole flower head sharp. Under the circumstances this was the best result:


The bee is blurry though. So I went back into my “studio” and shot this piece of peridot:


One thing I noticed is that the viewfinder, despite being a very good one, is difficult to get a good look through when doing these close-up shots. This is partly my bad eyesight, and partly because the image is just so small. Also there are no focusing ‘tools’ to work with as would be the case when using a dedicated lens or a standard film camera (they had some nice focusing screens in some of them). This could be mitigated by using the LCD display, but seeing even a good one of those in daylight is a bit of a challenge so it might simply trade one viewing problem for another.

Another problem I encountered was that automatic exposure doesn’t work. I don’t mean just because the camera can’t set the aperture, but also that it can’t read the aperture. When I try Aperture Preferred setting it does not reliably detect the amount of light coming through the stopped-down lens and picks a wrong shutter speed. The result is consistently over-exposed pictures. My work-around for this is Manual setting, wherein I start by using the camera with its normal lens as a ‘light meter’ getting initial settings for the ambient light. I then ‘transfer’ this to the Manual setting with the old lens and a small adjustment for the extension tube. It works if you know what you’re doing. 50 years experience helps there. In fact I can usually guess what settings to use just by looking at the scene because I’ve done that so much. I do find I wish I had brought back one of the dozens of light meters from Dad’s; any good ol’ Weston would have worked. Or even one of the tiny, cheap selenium cell meters I wound up with and now have none of. Oh well. If regrets were hard currency we could all be rich, eh?

Anyhow, with a sunny day we can get better results:


Morning sun at a fairly low angle, ISO 200, 1/200 shutter speed, and f11 aperture.

Of course the main purpose of macro photography is to see things close up. As they say, the devil is in the details so here is a close-up of a 1937 Canadian dollar. This is as far back as the lens will allow me to get, so we don’t see the whole bill. Also, since it is shrunk down to 640 x 427 for the Internet which necessarily costs some detail. What do you think?


For further historic interest, here is a first aid badge of my grandfather’s which dates from WW II. It is 5/8″ long, and I could have blown it up more by cropping but I wanted you to see it “full frame” as it were:


A larger piece of jewelry is this mandolin tie tack that belong to my brother:


And finally (for now) a nice little toy Citroen 2CV. It too is now old and valuable. I wish I was, but I’m just old.


In future I will try the extension tube on the 35mm Takumar and the 28mm Takumar.

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