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I want to take some "macro-like" photographs using a wide angle.

I don't need to reach 1:1 reproduction ratio, but something close to 1:2, less than 1:4 is preferred.

Most of the wide angle lens has rather long (i.e. 30cm / 12 inches) minimum focusing distance. I can't get the shot I wanted.

Because I am aiming for macro-like feature, maximum aperture is not something I care about. In fact, I would rather to have a small maximum aperture, so I can keep the weight of my camera bag down.

Are there any existing lenses that has this kind of features, AF or not? I know Laowa has a true macro 15mm. I don't need to go all the way like that. I am hoping some OEM, Nikon/Sigma/Tamron/Tokina/Vivitar made one of those wide-angle prime in the past that I am not aware of.

In case such lens doesn't really exist, can I achieve the effect I want with an extension tube (especially consider that I don't care about focal plane is not flat)? I have used an extension tube in the past, but they tend to over-magnify than what I am trying to achieve.

Thanks in advance.

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    Why do you want to do macro with a wide angle lens? That means having the subject very close to the lens, which makes it very hard to light because the lens and photographer get in the way. Extension tubes have more effect on short focal lengths because they are a larger fraction of the focal length. You could look for very short extension tubes. Jan 3 at 4:42
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    I want a wide angle that can focus down to around 3 inches or 10cm, thus give a dramatic contrast between the subject AND background because of the expanded perspective. again, I am not looking for 1:1 reproduction ratio here, hence, the question. Jan 3 at 9:47
  • There was a Enna München Macro Ennalyt 28mm f3.5 that had 20cm minimum focus distance. Tried it, it wasn't good - and that is a statement from someone who enjoys vintage wideangles a lot. Best bet is a decent wideangle and an extension tube... Jan 3 at 19:07
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    @HarveyKing The front element of most wide angle lenses are more than three inches away from the image plane (sensor), so there's no way to have an MFD that short. Do you mean 3 inches/10cm working distance instead? Working distance is the distance from the front of the lens to the subject.
    – Michael C
    Jan 7 at 8:35

3 Answers 3

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With a nifty 50 & a standard 68mm set of extension tubes you can get the focal point to actually inside the lens. The shorter the lens, the easier that is to do, eg a 35mm you can leave one of the tube segments off & still focus at 0".

As already mentioned, you do get in your own way a lot at these distances, so you could drop yet another segment off to be able to move back an inch or two, or see if a ring-light can fill enough [I use big video light panels at these kinds of distances, never tried ringlight]. Also at these kind of distances your DoF is going to be well under a millimetre, so you may end up needing a tripod & rail, or fast multiple captures, to get anything useful, as it's pretty hard to hold the camera that still.

BTW, the difference in DoF at such short ranges from wide to narrow aperture is minimal, so you'd do better to keep the aperture open so you can actually see properly. You really do lose a lot of light through this sort of setup [hence my video panels, so I can see what I'm supposed to be photographing through the lens.] Auto-focus also becomes useless, so switch it off. You can change focus by merely breathing, let alone consciously moving.

Some examples - starring the "Incredibly Interesting Pencil Eraser™️"

All shots are manually focussed to infinity so this is the maximum distance I can get back from the object, [very approximate] focusing by putting my hand between lens & object to try keep still. All shot at f/2. high ISO, 6400 so I can get below 1/500s exposure with my back to the window to get some light.
These are all very, very rough - 'scuse the 'fine art'.
I would normally do anything like this with controlled lighting & a tripod & rail.

Click for full size
50mm 1.4 with 32mm extension, distance approx 3"

enter image description here

50mm 1.4 with 68mm extension, distance approx 2"

enter image description here

35mm 1.8 with 32mm extension, distance approx 1"

enter image description here

35mm 1.8 with 68mm extension, distance 0" pencil touching lens frame

enter image description here

As you can see, from anything less than about 3" I'm completely in my own light.

For all set-ups, the out of focus distance at which there is nothing but blur is about 6 - 8". I didn't try to capture this. The background you can actually see is about 8 feet away, mirrored reflection of a square window.


I had a bit of spare time, so I thought I'd extrapolate this to really emphasise why I don't think wide angle is good for macro.
I don't do much wide angle so this is just using the kit lens at 18mm, f/3.5 with the ISO ramped up again.

18mm 3.5 with 12mm extension - the shortest I have - about 0.5" [any more extension & I can't focus outside the lens at all]

enter image description here

18mm 3.5 with no extension about 3"

enter image description here

Frankly, I think both make lousy pictures. Even allowing for the narrow aperture on the kit lens, the out of focus areas [still min 8 ft, & now out to 20ft or so, behind the subject] are far too clear. With the extension reducing the focus distance, I'm again right in my own light too.

My personal conclusion - use longer lenses & extensions to take macro pictures without a dedicated macro lens.


By way of contrast, these are shots taken using the same setup but in far more controlled conditions… the first is a single exposure of a lily, 3 or 4" across [single anther maybe 10mm], the second a 10-layer focus stack, allium bud, 2mm tall.
The backgrounds are done with ordinary coloured bath towels, 6-8 feet behind the subject & lit separately. The fades between colours are simply the blur at that distance, ie 2 different coloured towels becomes a vignette between two different colours.

enter image description here enter image description here

At the other end of the scale, if you're trying to photograph anything that might spook & fly off, you should be looking at a 150mm or longer macro instead. They're just as tricky to hand-hold, even if stabilised, but at least your subject is less likely to vanish just as you're ready.

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  • thanks. I just want to be able to take photo at let say 3" using a 20mm (thus background can be in it as well... if it is properly lite). There are many existing wide angle lens have "macro feature" that give you 1:4 reproduction ratio. I am hoping either there is a lens that has a 1:2 reproduction ratio, or I can use extension tube to create that effect. My past experience with extension tube wasn't pleasant. I have a 90mm and a 55mm macro lens for my "regular" stuff. thanks. Jan 5 at 5:25
  • The last pencil picture is from 3" with an 18mm, no adapter. I have no idea what repro ratio it's supposed to have, but the wider the angle, the lower that's going to be. As soon as you put the smallest extension on it, your focus distance becomes approx 0". I really cannot see any use case for a lens this short being used as a macro.
    – Tetsujin
    Jan 5 at 8:16
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    You probably should make clear that the distances you are using are working distances, not focus distances.
    – Michael C
    Jan 7 at 8:38
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You could use the lens feature search at dpreview to find suitable lenses. I am not sure how complete their database is, but I find at least 1 lens (Venus Loawa 25mm) that matches the following criteria:

  • wide angle
  • macro

enter image description here

However, you can also filter on the minimum focus distance directly and on the magnification ratio:

  • wide angle
  • minimum focus distance: 0.2 m
  • magnification ratio: 0.4 - 5

Which yields another lens with an Nikon F amount (Carl Zeiss Distagon 25mm):

enter image description here

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  • The Venus Laowa is only ultra macro, it's smallest magnification is 2,5x. The Carl Zeiss would be good, but I think it is more expensive than wanted? Jan 9 at 17:57
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    Tetsujin answer is superior, I just wanted to bring to attention the search functionality of dpreview and showed two example results. I'm not familiar with this kind of photography, so I don't know if my examples were any good. Jan 9 at 18:54
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The old legendary AI-S 28mm/2.8 focuses to 20 cm, but it's magnification is still only 1:3.9.

By stopping well down it can do an almost-macro + almost-sharp-background type of shot.

https://www.kenrockwell.com/nikon/28f28ais.htm

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