I recently replied to an email enquiry concerning availability of Olympus OM macro lenses, and in my answer I commented on a couple of useful things to consider. This gave me the idea to post up what I have learned about macro photography and about Olympus OM Macro photography. Having started writing the post I found that there was a lot to talk about, so I decided to write it in parts. Part 1 is intended for those who are thinking of starting out in close up photography.
Do you need a dedicated macro lens to start macro photography?
No. I would recommend that you start off with either extension tubes or close up magnification filters, as these are not too expensive and will give you a decent level of magnification to decide if this field of photography is really for you. Extension tubes will normally be available in different lengths, Olympus OM are 7mm, 14mm and 25mm lengths and will fit to your standard lenses, either singularly or in combination’s to allow you to set different levels of magnification. I used mine with the Olympus OM 50mm lens. Extension tubes are also made by other third party manufactures, mine are made by Vivitar.
Another slightly more expensive option is to buy a zoom/macro lens. This is a good alternative as you can use the lens for standard photography over a range of focal distances and also use in a macro mode offering typically magnification at about 1:2 life size. An example is the Hoya 35-105mm zoom/macro 3:5.
What macro lens should I buy?
The answer to this depends on your subject and how close you want to get. You may be surprised to know you can use several different types of lenses, ranging from the above mentioned zoom/macro, through wide angle, to specialist / dedicated macro lenses.
A fixed focal length wide angle lens will normally have a close focus facility allowing you to use them up to 1:4 scale, and when used at a low perspective will offer you an interesting landscape picture perspective good for flowers and mushrooms. Typical wide angle lenses are 28mm and 35mm, and there are also what are known as ultra-wide 18/21/and 24mm.
Olympus OM have several dedicated macro lenses, ranging from 20mm to 135mm in focal length. Many of these lenses can only be used with the auto bellows, auto extension tubes 14 & 25, or the Telescopic Auto Extension Tube 65~116. The lenses and use of extension combination’s will take you from 0.3x all the way to 10x magnification. Please note that as you increase the magnification factor you increase the possibility of blurred images due to camera shake.
Certain lenses will also come with helical focusing allowing you to use them for both macro and normal photography, my 90mm F2 is one of these. The greater the focal length, the greater the working distance you will have from your subject e.g 135mm instead of 50mm. This is very useful if you are interested taking insects and bugs, as you do not need to get so close and reducing the chance of disturbing them. It also minimises the exaggerated perspective effects you can get with shorter focal length lenses.
Part 2 to follow shortly.