I had some fun lately shooting some macro, and I was curious if I could somehow use my father’s old microscope lenses on my photo and video cameras. The idea is not new. A quick google search showed that it was indeed possible, but you need a special adapter for microscope lenses. The adapter is called “M42 to RMS,” and it is available from Aliexpress.
I didn’t want to wait 4 weeks for the metal adapter to arrive, so I thought, let’s design one in Fusion360 – but before I start, let’s check Thingiverse first, and voila! Someone designed it already – LOL.
Here is the link to the STL file: https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:4687298
So I printed the adapter from PLA with a layer height of 0.10mm on my original Prusa MK3. I was surprised that the threads worked perfectly. I screwed the 3d printed adapter into my M42 to CanonEF metal adapter and started to play with different microscope lenses.
I soon realized that without extension tubes, I got less than 8x magnification and some vignetting. After reading several online documents, I knew that I would have to increase the distance from camera to microscope lens to about 160mm to get that 8x magnification from the Lomo 8x and eliminate the vignetting.
I started with the thin extension tubes from the accessories that came with the microscope and got a good magnification to work with. After that, I added my Kenko/Canon EF extension tubes, and the whole length was about 160mm. You can play with that length depending on the magnification you need. And don’t forget you need a lot of light! This was just a quick test setup on my desk to see if it works, and it did!
I got to a maximum of X8 magnification from the Lomo microscope lens with all the extension tubes that I had. I also tested the 16x and 40x microscope lenses, and the magnification is mind-blowing, but my setup is way too flimsy for that. I need a dedicated macro rail, like the “Wemacro”, with a threaded rod instead of a belt-driven system.
The camera itself is mounted on an old Edelkrone slider with a motion module. I record short 4K ProRes422HQ clips and use them for focus stacking directly in helicon focus. For this fly, I used an average of 160 frames. The slider was not meant for these extreme macro shots, so I had to increase the shutter speed to 1/300 to avoid the motion blur from the shakiness. This way, I get crystal clear frames that work perfectly in helicon focus.
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About the Author
Daniel Schweinert is a Director of Photography, VFX artist & Tech geek based in Germaringen, Germany. You can see more of his work on his website, Instagram, Vimeo, and Youtube. This article was also published here and shared with permission.