Reverse-Lens Macro Photography [tutorial]

There is no better way to capture the intricate detail of flowers, bugs, or other small objects than by delving into macro photography. Typically this is done with a special lens that allows you to focus on subjects very closely. However, with a little ingenuity (and some less-than-orthodox techniques) you can produce some amazing close-ups without a macro lens. This tutorial will show you how.

UPDATE: This tutorial originally included some tips for capturing macro water drops and refractions. That section has now been expanded and moved here. This post now focuses exclusively on the reverse lens technique.

Background Info: I am quite new to the world of macro photography. In fact, it was exactly one month ago today that I first experimented with this new technique, but I feel like I’ve learned so much already.

Macro photography can be one of the most creative and fun ways to take pictures. Photography, perhaps more than any other art form, naturally lends itself to a keen observation –the more you look, the more you see. However, when you slow down and look beyond the surface level, you discover a whole new world (cue the Aladdin theme song) through the lens. A flower garden is no longer just a pretty splash of color, but an endless playground of possibilities.

…That’s quite enough buttering it up. Here’s how to do it.

How To: There are numerous ways to get great results, but for this tutorial I want to focus on one particular technique. First, I must give due props to Alan Walker for telling me about it. I’m calling it the Reverse Lens technique. Basically, you take a second lens and set it up backwards against the lens on your camera (see image below). If you’re really hard core, like Alan, you can tape the two lenses together like this.

If you’re anything like me, then your curiosity has already gotten the better of you =) You will probably save yourself some frustration if you read the rest of this before trying it yourself, so allow me to explain how this works. The lens on your camera is designed to take a wide angle of view and focus it onto a much smaller plane (traditionally, a strip of film). This allows you to capture huge landscapes on a frame of film only 35mm wide. Zoom lenses work by altering the angle of view (see diagram 1). To simplify it a bit more, just remember that a single lens takes the subject from “big to small.”

diagram 1

Now, imagine if you flipped the lens around. (see diagram 2) The subject would go from “small to big.” This is essentially how the lens on a projector is set up; it takes the small image and enlarges it. As I understand, you can get great macro results with a single reversed lens like this, but you need a special “reversing ring” accessory.

diagram 2

Now lets take a look at what happens when you put the two lenses together. The reversed lens takes a really small subject, and magnifies it. The attached lens then takes that magnified image and shrinks it back to fit on the “film.” The result is that the small object now fills the frame of film -exactly what we want!

diagram 3

Still with me? I hope so. It gets a little more complicated, but it makes perfect sense once you think about it. If your second lens is a zoom lens, then you can actually zoom in closer or farther from your subject. In other words, not only can you do shots that are pretty typical for macro, but you can also do shots that are the verge of being classified as microscopic. It’s important to remember that the lens is backwards, so your zoom will be backwards too. If you “zoom in” the reversed lens, it will appear that you are zooming out in the viewfinder. The more the lens is zoomed out (“wide angle” or “short focal length” for you technical buffs) the more extreme the change in scale, but when you zoom in, the scale shrinks. I feel like this is a very difficult concept to describe, so instead let me just show you the diagram below.

diagram 4

If the diagram doesn’t help, then don’t worry about it. Just remember that the lens is backwards so the zoom will be backwards too.

The above diagrams were designed to help describe the techniques outlined here. They were not designed for technical accuracy.

Based on my experience and what I’ve read elsewhere, it’s best to use a fixed 50mm lens as the one attached to the camera. These lenses typically have a very large aperture and the image quality is superb because there is comparatively very little glass for the light to pass through before reaching the film. For my reversed lens I used a 28-80 zoom lens. I also tried the setup with an 18-200 lens attached to the camera, and the same 28-80 lens reversed, and I experienced no problems. That all goes to say that you should be able to pull off this technique with nearly any two standard-range zoom lenses.

When you first put the two lenses together and look through the viewfinder it will probably just look black. This is mainly because the aperture of a lens will shrink to it’s smallest setting when it’s not attached to a camera. In other words, most of the light is being blocked. While it is indeed possible to take pictures like this, it’s not very easy. If you look on the back of your reversed lens, you will see a small lever.


That lever controls the opening of the aperture. If you slide it to the other side it will open it as wide as it can go. Doing that will allow you to have considerably faster shutter speeds even at low ISO values (of course, make sure the aperture of the attached lens is open as wide as it will go too). Since the lever is spring-loaded, you will need something to hold it in place. I cut and folded a piece of card stock (i.e. “thick paper”) and wedged it in place. Be careful not to damage the lens while doing this, and make sure you don’t accidentally drop something down that slit. (Note: this paragraph was written based on my experience with Minolta equipment. It may or may not be applicable for Nikon or Canon.)

Before you get started, there are a few things to keep in mind.

1.) The two lenses have to be literally butting up against each other. Unless you tape the two lenses together you will need to be careful that they are held tightly together so that light doesn’t leak in from the side and wash out the image. On more than a few occasions this caused me to think the Exposure Compensation was all whacked out because the images weren’t consistent.

2.) Set the focus to manual. Autofocus simply won’t be able to help you. You won’t be able to adjust the focus by turning the ring but by moving the entire camera closer to your subject. Note that very small objects probably won’t be in focus until they are less than 1 inch from the end of the lens.

3.) If your second lens is set to a wide angle (remember that this is will appear to be zoomed in, in the viewfinder) you will most likely get a vignette. With the lenses I used, I wasn’t able to avoid it when the focal range of the reversed lens was inside the 28-50 range. You can crop it later if you really don’t like it, but it’s just something to be aware of.

4.) Keep an eye on the exposure; chances are, the camera’s metering system won’t give extremely accurate results since you are shooting through a second lens. I found that I often needed to turn down the Exposure Compensation. Setting the drive mode to Manual (M) is a better alternative if you’re comfortable with that.

5.) Turn off the flash. Unless you have a wireless or external flash your subject will be too close to the lens that the flash will cause a shadow to fall on it. This is called “self-shadowing.”

6.) Make certain that you have a UV filter or lens protector on both lenses. If you scratch the lens itself, there’s virtually nothing you can do to fix it, but if you scratch the $20 UV filter, you can always pick up another one. I always keep a UV filter on all of my lenses, for what it’s worth.

7.) Using a tripod is completely impractical.

8.) A cable release or remote would be ideal since the slightest change in position can throw the whole image out of focus. Pressing the button on the camera often “bumped” the position and caused the focus to shift. Using a remote allows you to trip the shutter without bumping the camera. Likewise, you could use the self-timer, but that requires an extraordinary amount of patience.

Examples: The three pictures below emphasize how powerful this setup can be. The first image was taken with only the 50mm lens; it’s as close to the subject as I could get while keeping it in focus. The second was taken with the reverse lens set to 80mm, and the third was set to 28mm.


Or consider the following example: In the image below you see a very small speck right in the middle of the image. That speck is actually a bug.


I wasn’t able to focus any closer with my 50mm lens, but when I added my reversed lens set to 28mm I was able to get close enough to see the bug’s eyes.


Advanced Techniques: You can purchase accessories like extension tubes, reverse rings, macro flashes and others specifically designed for macro photography, but I’ve never played with any of them. As far as I can tell, none of them really enable you to do anything that you can’t already do with a reversed lens, but rather they are designed to make things easier.

I don’t think these really count as “advanced” techniques, but you can also consider cropping your photos to give the impression that you used a more powerful lens. You could also hold a magnifying glass in front of the lens for a little extra reach. Or you could throw down some cash and invest in a real macro lens. Experiment and see which one suits the needs of the photos you want to capture. Better yet, make up your own!

Lessons Learned: Using a reversed lens is mad fun, but it can also be frustrating. Initially it seems like the magic bullet for extreme close-ups, but, like everything else, it is not without drawbacks. It requires a lot of patience, which isn’t always the case with photography. Trial and Error will become your closest companions, and Curiosity your mentor.

The reversed lens is a great “tool” to have in your toolbox, but don’t let it define you or your style. Make the technique fit into your workflow and become yet another thing that makes people think, “Yep, that looks like so-and-so’s work.” It’s not the paintbrush that makes an artist great, neither does the lens make the photographer.

Have fun with it. Learn from it. And for cryin’ out loud, go do something with it! =)

178 thoughts on “Reverse-Lens Macro Photography [tutorial]

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  3. Bless you for your tutorial!!!!!!!!!!

    I have been shooting macro for a long time first on film then with digital. I have a 65mm micro lens but until recently in the last 2 months I have been disappointed in trying to get that “microscopic” shot. Bugs eyes for instance. I bought a book last month that described the reverse lens technique and then set about to find a reversing ring for 62mm. It wasn’t until I joined Flickr that someone gave me a source. I tried it and just didn’t get it until NOW. I will once again go out in my garden and try it.

    You are right….a tripod in this case just doesn’t work. When I took the picture of the web, however I did use a tripot, my new 105mm micro plus a 1.75 teleconverter….worked like a charm, but I would have loved to get one of the drops full frame, I think that the reversing technique is the ticket. I can hardly wait until Sunday.

    Thanks so very much for you generous spirt….


  4. I’ve found much better results simply reversing the main lens rather than going through the trouble of using two lenses taped together. I am in the process of making a 52mm lens EF mount converter so that I can switch between them.

    Canon EOS 30D
    35-80mm canon lens
    35-70+macro Ricoh lens (better reverse macro results)

  5. Thanks for the tips, Adam! It seems like one would have a harder time dealing with light leaks, but I guess that depends on the diameter of the lens.

    For anybody who wants to try reversing a single lens you should note that, by default, most cameras won’t release the shutter if there is no lens attached. There should be a setting to change that however.

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  7. alright so im still not really sure how to do this. I have an 18 to 55mm lens and a 55-200mm lens. I want to have the 55-200mm lens set at 200mm attached to the body and have the 18-55mm lens reversed set at 18? that setting will be easiest to use right? and don’t use a tripod? i thought youneeded one for macro?

  8. Michael, I would try the opposite first. Mount your 18-55 lens on your camera, and reverse your 55-200 lens. Set them both to 55mm and then give that a shot. Then try zooming the reversed lens, or mounting it and reversing the other. There’s no science to it, so enjoy the freedom to experiment.

    Don’t worry about the tripod just yet –I don’t use it at all anyway. For now, just try to understand the relationship between the two lenses and determine what settings are best for getting the shots you want. Have fun with it!

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  10. Isaac, the diagrams found here have been simplified for the purpose of illustrating the concept. I was not aiming for technical accuracy. However, I’d be happy to update my diagrams if you will direct me to some accurate ones.

  11. i tried this with a 70-300 attached first and then a 50 reversed , with no luck. then tried a 50 against a 50 and had to get almost on the subject to get it to show up. also i had a larrge amount of vignette.I experimented with different’t apertures with not much difference , and i couldn’t manage to focus the lenses so just moved in and out while holding the two lenses against each other. Should I be doign something different? I kinda thought you would be able to be quite a distance away still if you had a zoom lens attached?Please help!

  12. Alex, thanks for stopping by, however, based on your questions it sounds like you didn’t take the time to read the tutorial here. Scroll up and review points 2.) and 3.) Your best bet is to stick with a 50mm lens attached. Try reversing the 70-300 lens, but make sure it is set to 70. I doubt you will have any luck with it set to 300. Hope that helps!

  13. As a newbie to photography and not being very technically minded I think I was getting confused with what lens is what and probably re reading too much and getting more confused!! Thanks for your reply to my problem in laymans terms, your tutorials are a great help!

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  21. When I turn my lens around (handheld) it’s all black, I suppose I can’t cover the light. Is it working with an 18-105mm lens for Nikon D90? If so, what should I do? :)

    To answer, press “.. kommenterer” at my blog (it’s swedish) and fill in name (namn) and website (bloggadress) and if you want your mail too.

    • Emma, I have not tried it with that lens on a D90, so I can only answer in general terms. My first question is: are you using two lenses, or just one? I have not tried reversing a single lens; only the double lens setup pictured above. Secondly, if you don’t open the aperture (see photo above) on the reversed lens, then it will probably look almost completely black. Lastly, keep in mind that you have to get VERY close to your subject, if you’re not bumping into it, you might not be close enough yet. Hope that helps!

      • yes, I can confirm this. it’s work with D90+18-105 (single lens), but you need manually open the apperature :) I have a try just now.. it’s work on 18 and 105mm too.

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  23. I picked up a cannon lens today, it doesnt have the lever to open the aperture manually. Im wondering if I can take it out completely. I dont even own a cannon camera, ha !

  24. Pingback: Typedminds » Blog Archive » Reverse Lens: Ants

  25. Hey, nice tutorial, sounds fun. I have been using extension tubes for my macro. I was wondering if these would do fo the first lense, Im thinking probably not because it doesnt focus the image onto the desired area.

  26. Pingback: Dominate Macro Photography With These 7 Short Tutorials | Light Stalking

  27. For small things that are movable, I like to use a tripod on just two of its legs, and put the object on the edge of a table. This makes it much easier to be flexible enough, while still steadying the camera. Also, a tripod with a arm that can go vertical, like a boom, and legs that can contort to strange angles can be helpful for outdoor stuff that is low to ground.

    • Great suggestions, Brian! I hadn’t thought of tilting the tripod so as to use only two of the three legs, but it sounds like a great idea.
      For newbies, I would still recommend trying it without a tripod until you get the hang of it. Then take Brian’s suggestions to steady your camera.

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  29. Hi Stephen,
    I am a newcomer in macro. About this issue of reversing a lens over another lens on the camera. I want to understand if to optimize the depth of field, do we need to set both lens aperture to the minimum ? Or we just set the aperture of the lens on the camera ?

    • The DOF is pretty limited with the reverse-lens setup. Closing the aperture of the reversed lens will make it nearly impossible to see anything through it. Try closing down the aperture of the mounted lens, but keep in mind that this will require a lot of light to get a fast shutter. Consider using off-camera lighting/strobes as well. Let me know how it goes!

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  32. So glad to see that this thread isn’t dead! I’ve been using the single-lens reverse technique for quite a while, with satisfying in-the-field results, before I came to this site. After reading, I tried the double-lens style with my 18-55 on the body and a 100-300 backwards and got terrible vignetting at any zoom setting on either lenses. When I mounted the 100-300 on the body and the other backwards, I got stupendously magnified results at the 300mm range (was able to get a frame of my computer screen 10 pixels wide, yes I could count the pixels!). Plese explain why I was only able to make this work using a method contrary to your description, I’m a little confused.

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  34. I am facing same Vignetting Problem as Brad mentioned. I am using a D60 with 18-55 kit and a Nikkor 35-70mm MF in reverse role. Please help me to resolve this.

  35. Brad and Kaustabh, you have to train yourself to think backwards with this technique. When you reverse a second lens the zoom range works in reverse (see and read the example photos of the coin above). A 200mm lens reversed is actually not a powerful as an 18mm lens reversed. You get a stronger zoom from WIDE lenses when you reverse them; therefore you should mount your telephoto to the camera, and then flip the wider angle lens as the reversed one.

  36. I have used the reversed lens techniqie for a couple of years. It is an excellent substitute for an expensive macro lens. I have used a film camera 80-210 zoom with the reversed lens to photograph micro spiders of less than 1mm diameter quite successfully.

    You have given a great tutorial, explaining the process in an easy to understand method. Thanks.

    Have you also combined extension tubes with the reversed lens?

    • Glad to hear you’ve had some good results with this too! …and thanks for the encouragement. =)

      I’ve never tried it with extension tubes, but my guess is that you would be better off reversing a wider angle lens. Sure extension tubes will get you more zoom on the mounted lens, but the real power comes from the reversed one. Let me know if you try it though.

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  40. I have a 50mm 1.4. I was about to purchase a 180mm 2.8 for table top and some other needs. You mentioned the 70mm in the 70-300 range would be a good starting point for that person. Does that mean my 50+180 would not be recommended? You say to use a mid range zoom but I don’t use mid range zooms (but that’s a whole other discussion!).

    Cheers in advance for any quick insights and thank you so much for this generous post.

    • David, if you reverse a telephoto lens you will not get as powerful a zoom/macro as you would if you reversed a wide angle lens. If the 50 and 180 lens combo is all you’ve got, then use that. If you have other lenses, try those as well. Experimentation is the real key here.

      Just remember that zoom lenses work backwards when using them as a reversed lens. In other words, wide lenses will actually let you get closer macro shots; telephoto lenses will not let you get as close. See the above examples with the quarter, and note the focal length for each picture.

      • Thanks so much mate. The reversal point you make hit me later that night but I’m glad to have it confirmed here. I appreciate your response. The other lens I’ve been wanting to get is the Nikon 20mm 2.8 and on full frame, I’m thinking that’s going to create some massive zoom power! At least I presume so because it’s ‘wider’ or uncropped. I want to get as close as possible and the insanely shallow depth of field is what I want. I love abstract photography/ART and have little intention of giving away what it is that I am shooting. Maybe just a hint. I’m looking for form, colour, texture, lighting etc.

        Thanks again! I’ll post my results/ART if I get that far!

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  45. i’ve been trying this technique for about a week and i find it amazing; i like the ideas mentioned, but the schemes are the best i’ve seen – really useful to understand it!

  46. Interesting… I haven’t tried it yet, so I can’t comment on it working or not for me :) I would think that the two lens would cancel eachother out, and the moving the camera to focus… What??? Noway am I going to try this… Wait… This is a joke right? :) I get it. Everybody learn, it’s just how easy they learn! Everyone, get a macro setup or macro lens and forget about this mess.

  47. Hi Stephen,

    Thanks so much for all of this information. I’m excited to buy some adapter rings and try things. I read through most of the comments and I didn’t find the answer to a question I had.
    I just bought a second hand 28-105mm Nikkor macro lens. Do you think that this could be effectively coupled with another lens to create some of the near-microscopic results you talked about?
    Just for your information my other lenses are an 18-105 and a 105 prime lens.

    Thank you!

    • The 28-105mm should be a decent lens for reversing, though if I were you I would try mounting your 105 and reversing your 18-105. Prime lenses are typically ideal for mounting as they have less glass to absorb light. Definitely experiment with what you have and let us know how it works!

  48. I have to agree with Isaac Eastgate. Your optical path diagrams are… not. Also, you have no understanding of how lenses work. There are no “magnifying” or “size-reducing” lenses, only focal points. They can be virtual, as in divergent lenses. How an object is imaged depends on the locations of the object and the viewer. In case of photography, this is the image plane where the detector is. In cameras, the rear focal length is shortened by the virtual images of inbuilt divergent lenses to make the camera more compact. Therefore, one can use them in reverse for macrophotography, not actually requiring a second lens.

    • Thanks for the feedback, Daniel. I never claimed my diagrams to be technically accurate, merely a tool for helping simple-minded people like myself understand the concept at hand. If you can explain it better, please do so! I’d love to hear how it actually works.

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  50. Hey there! Great tutorial. Basically I can’t do single lens reversing since Sony doesn’t allow the camera to fire if it can’t pick up a lens. Therefore I am attempting the two lens technique.
    I have the nifyy fifty and a kit 18-70mm, as well as a telephoto. I understand that the prime should be on the camera and the kit on wide angle.
    question: what should the focus be set on each lens? I.e., should one be set one infinity and one on minimium? Or do you just mess around until it works?
    Also, how do you connect the lenses? I’m going to get a cheap thread adapter, but want to try it first.
    Finally, how do you set up the shot? Do you prop your cam on a table or something?
    Btw i did read the whole thing a few times, so tell me if I missed something.

    • Thanks for reading, Peter! I was out of the country, so I apologize for the delayed response here. There might be a menu setting for your Sony camera to allow it to trip the shutter even when there is no lens attached. My old Minolta has a setting for that, so you might be in luck.
      The focus is pretty irrelevant. You will establish focus by physically moving the camera rather than turning a focusing ring. Personally I always rotated the ring to make the lens as compact as possible (this doesn’t apply to lenses with internal focusing).
      I’ve never connected the lenses together; I always just hold them next to each other. It’s bulky and awkward that way, and I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it, but it will get the job done.
      I tried messing with a tripod for the camera but found it entirely impractical. Right hand holds the camera, left hand holds the lens(es). I’m sure there are better ways, but that’s what worked for me.

  51. Hey, I just tried the reversed lens technique for the first time yesterday, then I was wondering about other peoples experience and I found this tutorial. I just wanted to share some of the things I found when I did this. Number 1 difference in your technique is that I think the fast prime should be the second lens. This makes perfect sense if you think about it, you don’t want your images to vignette, so you want to be shooting through the widest possible opening in the second lens to avoid vignetting (seeing the walls on the inside of the second lens). Also, the more you zoom in with the first lens, the smaller the picture angle will be which also correlates to less vignetting. Doing it in this manner also allows you to use the zoom just like you would with a regular zoom lens (just keep the second lens about an inch away from the subject while zooming).

    Another thing to note (helpful tip for people just learning this), the ratio of the focal lengths of the two lenses used will give you the magnification ratio (a 50mm attached to a 50mm will give you 1:1, a 50mm attached to a 200mm will give you a 4:1).

    I hope some of this was helpful.

  52. Thanks for the great advice..i’ve just bought one and am using it on my Nikon D7000 with the 50mm 1.8…so far not having bad results…can’t wait to take it outdoors! Check out one of my first attempts..

    The Queen's Head

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  55. Thanks mate, I enjoy reading this. I find myself macro photography very interesting. just last night I tried holding my 50mm lens in reverse to my 18-200mm and shoot an object, the result was just brilliant. I haven’t got the chance to buy a reverse ring yet but I intend to, but I’m having problem looking since there’s no available here in Surabaya, Indonesia. I haven’t tried buying online, too scared I might be fooled.
    I’m thought of making myself one since I’m a DIY kinda guy. I’m thinking buying 2 pcs 3rd party lens cap put a big hole on it and glue them together and snap my 2 lenses, and maybe some tape to secure the lens and won’t fall. I’m attaching it to my 2 UV filter. What do you think?

  56. Hi, I have a Canon 50mm f1.4 FD lens. I could not set the aperture when it is reversed on my EOS. Any way to set it without modification?

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  59. I have a Canon 50mm f/1.8 and the kit lens that came along 18-55mm f/ 3.5-5.6. Do you need a lens reversing ring?

  60. Hi…I found this fascinating tutorial. Kudos to you. I’m waiting to try it out. I have a Nikon D90 with 18-105 VR and I’m going to buy a 50mm/1.8.
    Can I use this setup for the reverse macro technique even though both of them don’t have the same filter diameter, (meaning that they won’t appose perfectly)?

    • Thanks for reading! You should be able to use the two lenses you mentioned. In all of these examples, the two lenses I was using didn’t have the same diameter. I suggest using the smaller one (which I’m guessing is the 50mm) mounted on the camera and then reversing the larger one. Otherwise you’ll have a hard time controlling light leaks.

  61. Thanks for the info Stephen. I tried some variations. Finally i tried the 55-200mm fully zoomed attached to the camera normally, and the 50mm prime f1.8 prime lens reversed. It seemed like it magnified really good and the DOF seems ok to operate. I haven’t taken any pics yet. I need to figure out how to handle them together. :)
    I will also try putting extension tubes. They r not supposed to lose quality, but increase the working distance. Lets see !
    I will reply if i get good pics.
    Thanks again.

  62. this is super cool. just tried it.
    i have tried reverse-lens macro in the past with my film camera by just holding a lens in reverse on the mounting ring. but i was scared to try it on digital, and afraid that i wont fire without a lens actually mounted on it.
    but your idea of lens-on-lens solves it all, and works superbly.
    i’ll upload some results on flickr and share with you if you are interested.
    thanks for the tutorial.

      • not sure how to share on flickr itself.
        here’s the link to the macro experiment:

        one dirham macro experiment

        all 5 of these have been shot with 50mm 1.4 attached to the camera, and 28mm or 70-200mm reversed in front, hand-held, no taping. all three lenses have 52mm dia, so it was easy with just their filter rings touching. still scared with a 52mm dia kissing 72mm dia lens :)

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  64. What I did was take my Nikon Nikkor 50-200 vr lens and my main lens then put a reversing adadpter to it then added an extension tube then another reversing adapter and put on an old 50mm 1.4 prime on the end….. I CAN SEE INTO THE SOUL!!! this is great. all bought on ebay for about 25 bucks( not including lenses).

    what you need.

    extension tube
    2 reverse lense adapters ( check diamater of your lense)
    and have tons of fun!!!!

  65. You saved me hundreds of dollars thank you. My wife thanks you too. I will order a reversing lens after I send this message. And Again I thank yu

  66. Hey there! Great tutorial. I just tried this technique holding the two lenses together and the results were good enough that I’m now going to invest in a reversing ring. So as others have said, thanks for saving us a lot of money on macro lenses, etc!

    Just two quick questions. Firstly, when using a “male to male thread adapter” to connect the two lenses (in my case a Nikkor 25-85 AF-S IF ED and a Nikkor 70-300mm AF-S IF EF VR), is there are risk of damage to the thread with the weight of a whole lens pulling on it?

    Secondly, you recommend UV filters for protection. Given that the rear of one lens will be exposed, can you recommend any form of protection for that surface, or does no such accessory exist?


    • Glad you found it helpful! Sounds like you’ve got enough (un)common sense to make sure you don’t damage your lenses. I’ve never had a problem with the threads being damaged, so as long as you handle it carefully you should be fine.

      I don’t think they make any rear lens protector since that side is normally covered by the camera body. Let me know if you do find one though!

  67. I’m not sure if it’s already been said, but I know that with my camera (Canon Rebel XSi) there is a ‘preview’ button. If you attach the lens you’re going to be reversing, press it and hold it down, and remove the lens, the aperture will be stuck where you had it.
    I do that and reverse the main lens. I’m really excited about using two because I have been getting small spots on my sensor. I’ll have to have it cleaned. :/

    • I have sensor spots too, and unfortunately my air blower won’t shift them so I either ignore them, pay Nikon/Jessops £50-100 or use ethanol wipes myself and risk irrevocably damaging the sensor unit :(

      My camera also has a depth of field preview button which stops down the aperture to the value on the camera, but your technique doesn’t work on my Nikkor lens. When I remove the lens, the aperture lever is freed and the aperture reverts to its smallest size. Perhaps you have a manual lens (with an aperture ring) and that’s why it works. I’m meaning to get my hands on such a lens.

      • I’ve got a faulty camera so I’m sending it in for repairs anyway. I guess Canon will do it for me then. ;-;

        Good luck finding some. I’m using some basic kit lenses at the moment, but they were cheap and they really do the job for reverse. I’ve got the Canon 50mm 1.8 and the Canon 35-80mm 4.5 (not sure about that 4.5, but it sounds right).

  68. I’ve got my eye on a Nikkor AF-D f/1.8 50mm. It’s got no internal focus motor, but my very old but pro camera has an inbuilt one anyway.

    On the other hand, I’m told that it isn’t the sharpest at 50mm. But then almost all Amazon reviews so it’s really sharp, so maybe I won’t notice the difference. it’s only £110 so I might just go for it. It’s only 150g so I can probably use it safely for lens reversed stuff as well.

  69. I have a Canon digital rebel EOS XTI, and was hoping somebody could tell me the best (best zoom) lens to put on backwards for macro shots? or what kind of attribute should I look for in a reverse lens (large aperture opening, large zoom/focal length, what?). Thanks a lot!

    • If you’re looking to invest in a lens to use for reversing then honestly you might be better off just buying a real macro lens. On the other hand I would suggest trying whatever lens(es) you already have. Try every combination you can come up with and see what works. Experimentation is the fun part!

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  81. Great article. I be trying the reverse lens technique this weekend with a reversing ring and with only one lens first.

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  85. A bit confused on your post – you’ve stated that using a tripod is completely impractical, then go on to say that using a cable release is ideal; I’d be interested in knowing how you do this.

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  87. Impressively written!
    And nice to see its active even after so many years!
    Will try the method now, what would you suggest…
    I have an 18-55mm and a 55-250mm both canon..
    and a spare nikon 28-80mm (which i cannot mount on my canon camera)….

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  91. Incredible! This blog looks just like my old one!
    It’s on a totally different subject but it has pretty much the same page layout and design. Superb choice of colors!

  92. IM satisfied with the results and the quality by reversing my lens…

    I have 18-105 lens Nikon …. Idk how it’s front part is having ill scratches …those scratches aren’t visible in my taken images but it sometimes frustrating me because its just scratched…

    Please help me by giving some suitable advise …

  93. Hi,
    I have a 18-105mm kit lens (67mm size) and a 50 mm prime lens (52mm size). What size of ring adapters I have to use if I want to reverse.

    1. The 18-105 mm
    2. The 50 mm
    3. 50 mm attached and 18-105 reversed
    4. 18-105 attached and 50mm reversed.

    P.S. — I have a ring adapter which is 52mm to 67 mm converter.

    plz help.

  94. Very great post. I just stumbled upon your weblog and wished
    to say tyat I’ve really enjoyed surffing arlund your weblog posts.
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  95. Hi. I am able to look through my viewfinder, I opened up aperture, macro shot looks great, but then when I take it and I look back at the picture I’ve taken, they’re all black. Could you help? Complete newbie, with Nikon D5200 with 18-55 kit lens reversed, with aperture control attached in Manual.

  96. Hi I got a Canon 700D and Tamron 18-200 DiII lens. I do not have an 18-55 kit lens. Can I use the Tamron 18-200 lens to do reverse macro photography?

  97. Dear Stephen Elliot,
    THat was a very informative article. Its going to help a lot of people like me who are crazy about macro. i would like to clarify on one point. Is it possible to use a prime lens attached to the camera (i use canon 700D) and a reversed Tamron 18-200 lens to do reverse macro. What are the differences of this method from using an autofocus lens of 18-55 attached to the camera with a reverse tamron 18-200. At present i have a tamron 18-200 and am crazy of macro. I am pondering if I should take add prime lens because of its specific advantages and also try to use it for macro too…
    Thank you for your help,

  98. Hi,

    Thanks for the detailed post! I have 18-55 and 55-200mm lenses. I tried replicating the above with 18-55 attached to camera body and 55-200 mm reversed. But getting lot of vignetting. Can you please tell me a way out and share some pictures if possible.


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  102. A motivating discussion is definitely worth comment.

    I do think that you should publish more on this topic, it
    may not be a taboo matter but generally people don’t speak about such issues.
    To the next! Many thanks!!

  103. Excellent article… I also got a 52mm Reverse Macro Ring kit from amazon for my 18-55mm kit lens for Nikon D5100. Firstly it was very hard to capture images, as nothing works automatically, as your camera will become full manual. Switch to manual M mode, check the aperture level, open it to the amount you want to focus, by sticking a small paper, use manual focus and go as much close to your subject. Make sure you have a good external light source. Check few of the pics I took:

  104. I have D90, 18-200VR. I want to buy 18-55, 55, or 70mm lens. Which combination will work best from these lens? 18-200 on camera? or not?

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