How to Turn Vintage Lenses Into Macro Photography Powerhouses

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In Carla Step’s studio, there are always fresh flowers. Between shoots, she stares at their delicate shapes and admires their many textures. But when she tries to capture their essence with her digital lenses, she would lose these magical details. Until she discovered the power of using a lens adapter to harness the macro potential of her vintage lenses.

Words and Photography by Carla Step

I have a lot of lenses from my father’s old cameras.  All of them are prime lenses with a very beautiful blur at their maximum aperture and exceptional sharpness. I also have a special affection for them because one day they belonged to my father and he took many of his photographs with them. When I discovered the Urth lens adapters I thought it was a good opportunity to put them back to use.

I usually work with a Sony A7III mirrorless camera with prime lenses. Thanks to the Urth M42 lens mount to Sony E camera mount adapter I can also use the M42 mount lenses from my father’s Pentax camera and take advantage of its build quality. But what I find most interesting is that this adapter has a wheel with which you can change the focal length between the lens and the sensor. That means you can make your lens focus much closer than it could normally do. In other words, it simulates a “macro” lens.

Macro photo shot with a vintage lens and a lens adapter.Shot with a Sony A7III camera, a vintage 55m Pentax lens and an Urth M42 extendable lens adapter.

Why did you decide to use a lens adapter?

I had wanted to shoot flowers up close for a long time, but I didn’t have a macro lens for my camera. Then I discovered that with this Urth adapter I could use my analogue camera lenses on the digital camera, and even though they weren’t macro lenses, the adapter helped me change the focal length so that I could shoot much closer to the object.

Macro photo shot with a vintage lens and a lens adapter.Shot with a Sony A7III camera, a vintage 55m Pentax lens and an Urth M42 extendable lens adapter. Macro photo shot with a vintage lens and a lens adapter.Shot with a Sony A7III camera, a vintage 55m Pentax lens and an Urth M42 extendable lens adapter.

Old lenses have a great quality in their construction and it is wonderful to be able to continue using them.”

Can you describe your approach to using this adapter? How did you get the effect you wanted?

To get the “macro” effect I wanted with this adapter, I mounted a 55mm lens from my father’s old Pentax with an M42 mount adapter to my Sony camera. I set the diaphragm to shoot at the maximum aperture (f1.8) and began to play with the wheel that comes with the adapter to focus. This wheel allowed me to change the distance between the lens and the camera body and thus be able to focus on the flowers up close.

Being able to fit my analog lenses on my digital camera was amazing. Old lenses have a great quality in their construction and it is wonderful to be able to continue using them and mix them with the resolution that today’s mirrorless cameras offer us.

Macro photo shot with a vintage lens and a lens adapter.Macro photo shot with a vintage lens and a lens adapter.

“The adapter helped me change the focal length so that I could shoot much closer to the object.”

Macro photo shot with a vintage lens and a lens adapter.Shot with a Sony A7III camera, a vintage 55m Pentax lens and an Urth M42 extendable lens adapter.
Macro photo shot with a vintage lens and a lens adapter.Shot with a Sony A7III camera, a vintage 55m Pentax lens and an Urth M42 extendable lens adapter.
Macro photo shot with a vintage lens and a lens adapter.Shot with a Sony A7III camera, a vintage 55m Pentax lens and an Urth M42 extendable lens adapter.

Any challenges you experienced using this adapter? How did you overcome those challenges?

I have to confess that when I imagined taking macro photos I didn’t think it would be that complicated. To make the photo interesting, I had to keep the diaphragm very open to be able to play with focus and blur, but that also made it difficult to decide which area of ​​the flower I wanted to focus on and which not.

My main goal was for the photos to have a very pictorial essence, and that you pay attention, above all, to the textures captured.

With a little patience I achieved the kind of photography that I had originally envisioned.

Macro photo shot with a vintage lens and a lens adapter.Shot with a Sony A7III camera, a vintage 55m Pentax lens and an Urth M42 extendable lens adapter. Macro photo shot with a vintage lens and a lens adapter.Shot with a Sony A7III camera, a vintage 55m Pentax lens and an Urth M42 extendable lens adapter.

Where did you find creative inspiration for taking these photos?

For these photographs I was inspired by the botanical photography series of Karl Blossfeldt and Robert Mapplethorpe. It is also very likely that these photos are indirectly influenced by the work of Edward Weston, who inspired me a lot in my early years as a photographer and from whom I have inherited a certain way of treating black and white photos. 

The photos in this article are made possible by Urth lens adapters. Each lens adapter purchased plants 5 trees in areas affected by severe deforestation. 

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Carla Step

Carla Step is a visual artist whose photography focuses on the genres of fashion, travel and portraiture. Her training in graphic design and plastic arts, as well as her constant experimentation with photography have defined her style as an artist. As an Urth ambassador, Carla shoots with Urth lens filters.

2021-07-12T18:44:49+00:00Categories: Photography|Tags: , |