Thursday, October 28, 2010

You know what would be fun? Smashing something! (Sorry Canon)

A several months back while searching Kijiji I found an inexpensive EF lens- the Canon EF 35-80mm 1:4-5.6. This lens had previously been the kit lens for older Canon EOS film SLRs. The person I ended up buying this lens from had sold his old film SLR body and just wanted to get rid of the lens.

While researching about about the 35-80mm I came across an interesting thread about a macro hack. Apparently by removing the front focusing element the lens performed well as a macro lens. I saw some amazing pictures and decided to try it.

First of all. This is the version of the lens that I bought. I believe there were three versions of it- the importance I will explain later.

Canon EF 35-80mm 1:4-5.6

Read more after the jump!

Like I said, there were three versions of this lens that I am aware of. This particular lens was (I believe) the middle version and has three screws around the front focusing element. The version before it had a plastic front around the lens that needs to be popped off before you can remove three screws that can be seen from the front. The version after this one has a sticker around the front focusing element that needs to be removed, and below it is the three screws. As shown, remove these screws to remove the front focusing element.

Removing screws that secure the front focusing element

After removing the screws the front focusing element can be removed from the body. At this point be sure to put the lens away face down or covered to prevent dust from settling inside the lens body. The following picture shows after the front focusing element has been removed.

From here you can start shooting, however- I wanted to have this lens as a dedicated macro lens and be protected from the elements. So I carried on what can only be described as "The Great Lens Massacre"

The front focusing element is comprised of three separate lenses. All of these lenses had to be removed. At first I thought I could just pry them out with a utility knife, but they were pretty firmly secured by the plastic housing. While cutting away at the plastic the innermost lens cracked and I decided that this was the only way I could remove them. and since the innermost lens had already cracked I would just break it out.

Now that the one lens had been removed I decided to go all out and just smash the last two out- Donkey Kong style. I grabbed a screwdriver and a hammer, placed the tip of the screwdriver against the middle lens and while holding the whole thing inside a garbage bag gave one mighty swing at the screwdriver butt. IMPACT! But wait.... no smash. No sound of cracking glass. No rattling. What the H-E-double hockey sticks? I opened the bag- assuming that I just didn't hit it hard enough, only to find that the impact had forced the last two lenses out of the focusing element. And here's the kicker. NOT EVEN A SCRATCH on the lens that was just impaled by a screwdriver! Nice job Canon!

Then I just took the focusing element (sans lenses)- I guess it's not so much a focusing element anymore as a hunk of plastic with a hole in it. Anyways- I took my hunk of plastic and put it back into the lens body and screwed it back into place with the three screws I had removed earlier. Then I installed a Tiffen UV filter (From Henrys Outlet Plus in Mississauga, Ontario- $4.99!) and presto bango! I have a completely enclosed Macro Lens!

Shooting with a 35-80mm Macro Hack

I had tried it before making a mess of the front focusing element. Heres the thing with shooting with this lens- The DoF is razer thin (Even at minimum aperture) and since the focusing element is gone you have to focus by moving closer to and away from your subject. Due to the DoF issue you pretty much have to shoot at f22 or higher to get any usable depth. And because of the aperture required to achieve a usable DoF light becomes an issue. Since I am a night hawk and I could not possibly do anything during the day I resorted to trying to supplement the available light with one of those D.O.T. LED push lights from the dollar store. Not the best, but adequate. The following are some test shots to give you an idea.

Most of these shots were taken with a Shutter Speed of around 1/20, some 1/10 and lower. ISO 1600. f22, f25, f32.

Sphagnum Moss

Water Droplets

Spot of rust on a razor blade

And finally, so you can get a feel of the working frame of these shots. 

At 35mm it is about 1.4cm, at 80mm it is about 2cm. Much greater magnification than 1:1. And a lot cheaper than a "real" macro lens and a set of extension tubes.

All of these photos are originals, no post-production editing whatsoever! Also, no flash.

The Canon 35-80mm lens can be found at Henry's Outlet Plus for 50 bucks if anyone is interested. Or you can look on Kijiji- the come up every now and then for less. Some people post them an a macro lens however and overcharge- so be aware.

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