macro lens

Going back for more with Easy-Macro's latest Kickstarter campaign

If at the beginning of last year you'd asked me if one of the best $15 that I'd spend in 2013 might've been on a macro lens attached to an elastic band to use in conjunction with your smartphone, I probably would have looked at you askance. It's not so much that it's a ridiculous idea; actually it's pretty sensible – portable, flexible, affordable. But would it be effective? It wouldn't slip, would it? And it would actually magnify the subject, wouldn't it? And would I really make use of it? It might only be $15, but if I never use it, then it's $15 wasted. In 2014, the answers to those questions—would it work, would I use it, and would it be $15 well-spent—are very definitely yes. I pledged $15 for an Easy-Macro band on Kickstarter and it works a treat. It lives in my wallet, I use it regularly, and I love the results. If I choose to upgrade my iPhone or switch to a different manufacturer, my Easy-Macro will remain compatible. Fabulous!

I don't have a caterpillar farm, but I did take it with my smartphone, because it's what I had to hand

There isn't just the review here on Photocritic, but I have lots of pretty close-up photos taken with my iPhone to show for it.

Portable, and compatible with smartphones up to 10 inches wide

And now due to popular demand, Easy-Macro is expanding its product line. Woohoo!

Photo 04-10-2014 15 41 24

In addition to the original 4× magnification band, a 2× and a 10× band are being put into production. Pledge $30 to the Easy-Macro Kickstarter campaign and you'll receive a triple pack of magnification bands if it successfully reaches its funding goal. You can then use them individually or stack them one on top of each other for some serious close-ups.

Smartphones galore!

All of the details are available on the Easy-Macro Kickstarter page.

Depth-of-field in greater detail

We're probably all familiar with the notion of aperture controlling the depth-of-field in our photos. By using a faster aperture, you create a shallower depth-of-field. To keep more of your image in focus, you need to use a smaller aperture. But there's a whole lot more to depth-of-field than adjusting your aperture to get more or less of the scene in focus.

'Acceptably sharp'

Let's start with setting out what we mean by depth-of-field. It's the range of distance in a photo that is considered to be 'acceptably sharp', or what we would regard as 'in focus'. Only the actual point of focus in a photograph is definitively sharp and 'in focus'; depth-of-field describes the zone of acceptable sharpness either side of it. A wider band of 'acceptable sharpness' running through an image equates to a greater depth-of-field. To introduce more blur into your photos you would want a shallower depth-of-field with a narrower band that's 'acceptably sharp'.

A shallow depth-of-field with a gradual fall-off

It's worth remembering that there's no sudden transtition from 'sharp' to 'unsharp': focus falls off gently on either side of the plane of focus, regardless of the aperture you use. It is fair to say, though, that larger apertures have a more rapid transition from in- to out-of-focus than larger apertures.

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Controlling the depth-of-field in an image is achieved primarily by adjusting your aperture—a smaller aperture for a greater depth-of-field; a larger aperture for a shallower depth-of-field—however, there are other factors that affect it, too.

Focal length

You'll often hear people say that telephoto lenses have a shallower depth-of-field than wider angled lenses. This isn’t strictly true. It’s more accurate to say that because telephoto lenses are mostly used to magnify subjects, and the subject will then fill more of the frame relative to the background, the depth-of-field appears to be shallower.

200mm; ƒ/3.2

All the same, it's worth capitalising on the magnifying effect from telephoto lenses to pick out your subjects and surround them with blurred foregounds and backgrounds.

Subject-to-lens proximity

If you've ever practised macro photography, you'll appreciate how getting closer to your subject makes it harder to get it all sharp. The closer that you position your subject to your lens, the shallower your depth-of-field will be. Choose a subject further into the background and you'll find that the depth-of-field surrounding it is larger.

Crazy-shallow depth-of-field with a macro lens

Distribution of acceptable sharpness

Depending on the focal length you use, you will find that the depth-of-field isn't divided equally in front of and behind the plane of focus. Instead, the area of acceptable sharpness behind the point of focus is generally larger than that extending in front of the focal plane. As focal length increases, so too does the distribution of the depth-of-field in front of the subject.

When you shoot with a focal length of 15mm about two thirds of the depth-of-field will be behind the subject and one third in front of it. When you get to 400mm it's closer to a fifty-fifty divide.

Depth-of-field: not just about aperture.

Easy macro smartphone photography with Easy-Macro

Sometime in September last year I pledged a modest sum of money to Easy-Macro's Kickstarter project. I'd heard about Easy-Macro before then—a magnifying lens set into a rubber band that wraps around your smartphone and sits over its lens—but the new and improved 4× magnication factor in the Kickstarter-funded project made it seem like a great bet. Some 4,106 other people agreed with me and Easy-Macro surpassed its goal with plenty in hand. For me, the appeal of the Easy-Macro wasn't just that it was a fun addition to my smartphone, or that it was cheap, but that it meshed with the ideals of smartphone photography: discreet and easy. It sits my wallet and can be placed around any phone. I don't have to worry about it getting crushed or dropped in a bag and it won't become obsolete if I upgrade my device.

Easy Macro

All I needed was for it to be any good. Well, just before Christmas my bright blue band arrived and I'm happy to say that I've been having fun with it ever since.

Macro knitware

You use the Easy Macro just as would manually focus a lens set to infinity: by getting as close as you feasibly can to your subject and then moving your smartphone steadily backwards until your subject comes into sharp focus. It does require patience and a steady hand—remember, keep your elbows pushed into your sides to help stabilise yourself—but I've been pleased with the results so far.

Dried berries up close

Of course it is never going to compete with my 100mm macro on my Canon 6D, but it's not meant to. For a $15 gadget that I can keep in my wallet, what's not to like?


If you missed out on the Kickstarter campaign but are tempted by one, fear not, because you can pick up an Easy-Macro from the Easy-Macro website.

Getting up close with your iPhone and Olloclip's 3-in-1 macro lens

Last week Olloclip unveiled its 4-in-1 lens in Holidays-special gold and space grey options to match iPhone 5s models. This week it has announced a brand new 3-in-1 macro lens attachment for iPhone 5 and 5s phones. One reversible attachment and one adapter brings 7×, 14×, and 21× magnification to your iPhone photos. Two magnification factors one side, and one on the other

Just like other Olloclip attachments, it works by slotting over your iPhone camera. The 7× and 14× factor magnification options are on one side of the attachment—you switch from 14× to 7× by removing the adapter—the 21× lens on the other. You get two diffuser heads to help soften the light, too.

Light-diffusing hoods included

The 3-in-1 macro lens is available from Olloclip for $70. This one doesn't come in spangly colours, just black. But it does look rather smart.

(Headsup to Engadget)

Canon 100mm f/2.8 Macro: A love story

Some times you find a lens that is so relentlessly delicious that you simply have to write it a love poem. Since I'm not a poet, I fear it may merely have to be these words. Think of it as short prose, perhaps, masquerading as free-form poetry.

This photo:


was taken with a Canon 100mm f/2.8 Macro lens. The Non-image-stabilised version. It costs $570 / £420, and is a truly magnificent piece of kit. For one thing, it is supremely sharp. It's a 100mm lens that's perfect for portraiture, and it's bright as well - at f/2.8, it's great for photographing in relatively low light.

Of course, its crowning feature is the 'macro' bit, and that is where it truly shines. The photo above was taken free-hand: No tripod, no flashes, no lighting; just my Canon EOS 550D, and the Canon 100mm lens. It's a little bit grainy, mostly due to having to shoot at ISO 800 to get the shutter speed high enough to be able to get the shot without much motion blur.

I know I keep raving about my 50mm f/1.4, but I've gotta say; this 100mm f/2.8 is storming up there as one of my all-time favourite lenses.

Borrow it if you can, hire it if you must, buy it if you love it.

Happy Valentine's Day! :)

Learning from the pros on YouTube

Earlier today, I was catching up on my RSS reading and dipped into Search Engine Watch (Yeah, I have a dark past working in SEO, and I like to keep an eye on recent developments), when I found a post about the recent Google Doodle - and how it caught the eyes of the world, where all sorts of talented people decided to play the ridiculously low-tech instrument (I mean... Who plays a search engine? Rage against the Machine's Tom Morello - that's who). It rekindled my passion for Youtube, and I decided to have a look around and see if I could find any good photography video tutorials. Turns out that was easy to say and even easier to do...

Ladies and gents, without further mincing of words:

Rick Sammon's top 10 photography tips

Night photography

Full photography school

Episode 1:

Also, see the full 13-episode series here.

Light painting tutorial

Make your own macro lens

Make Magazine made a great little video tutorial of my Macro Photography for £10 article:

Wedding photography

Photoelasticity Birefringence Photography

Using a softbox

High key lighting setups

A great stop motion inspirational movie

So there we have it - a metric load of fabulous learning, inspiration, and general fun on YouTube. So the next time you're stuck for inspiration, why not just search for 'photography' on YouTube, and see what it spits out? You never know what you might learn by accident...