Help support TMP

"Lens for Photographing Miniatures" Topic

14 Posts

All members in good standing are free to post here. Opinions expressed here are solely those of the posters, and have not been cleared with nor are they endorsed by The Miniatures Page.

For more information, see the TMP FAQ.

Back to the Photography of Miniatures Message Board

Areas of Interest


803 hits since 15 Jul 2016
©1994-2019 Bill Armintrout
Comments or corrections?

Personal logo Grelber Supporting Member of TMP15 Jul 2016 10:04 p.m. PST

Last year, I bought a Nikon D3300 to use instead of my old 35mm film camera. Now, I'm looking for a lens for close up photos. Looking around, I seem to have a choice between short range lenses and macro lenses. I may want to take photos of individual figures, but not the larger than life size pictures that Tango frequently posts. The close up lens seems to be about $250 USD, while macro lenses are two or three times that.
What do others use with their digital cameras?


Mako1115 Jul 2016 11:11 p.m. PST

Buy a digital camera with a macro mode setting.

I have an old Olympus 750, with 10X optical zoom, that also does nice macro close up work.

Check to see what the minimal focal distance is. Many don't mention that, so you need to do your homework, or look for models that do specify that in writing.

bsrlee16 Jul 2016 1:38 a.m. PST

I'm not up on the current digital cameras, but if Nikon uses a lens mount that is compatible with their old film cameras there is immediately a wide variety of accessories that will permit you to do close up work.

The easiest ones are accessory lenses that screw into the filter threads of your lens usually a set of 3 in the same system as 'reader' eye glasses with +1, +2 and +3 dioptre values which can be combined to give much higher values. You will need a set for each filter size. Or an adaptor.

The reversing adaptor is another 'old fashioned' solution. Just a machined metal mount that goes into the camera body on one side and the other is threaded, again, for the filter thread of your lens. Basically you just screw the lens in backwards which gives you a very close focussing lens but all exposure (f stop) and focussing has to be done manually.

Lastly, there are (were?) bellows mounts. These are even more specialised with a set of fabric bellows that stretch between a camera mount and a lens mount which are in turn mounted on a rail system with fine adjustment knobs and an adjustable tripod mount. Lots of knob twiddling to get the depth of field and focus adjustments right.

Then there are 'pin hole' lenses beloved of Model Railroad photographers, basically you want an old wrecker lens which you tear apart and replace the iris with a thin piece of tin with a near microscopic hole in it. Focus depth is extreme but you will have problems with exposure times, and a digital camera may just not cope with something so 'old tech'.

Chris Wimbrow16 Jul 2016 3:44 a.m. PST

You used 35mm film last year?

jowady16 Jul 2016 5:41 a.m. PST

Close up sets (CUS) are your cheapest method. You screw them onto the front of your lens like filters, set your camera on "manual focus", focus it to it's closest point and then move the camera backwards and forwards until you see the subject come into focus. They come in sets of three magnifications and can be "stacked" to together. Another choice of course is a macro lens, which Nikon, unlike everyone else in the business calls a "Micro" lens. Nikon's is a 60mm which allows for 1-1 macro photography. 1-1 means that images on the camera sensor are the same size as they are in real life. Your Nikon still uses the standard Nikon "F" mount first created for the old Nikon F back in the late 1950s, however you would have a very hard time using any of the "old stuff" because the aperture ring in the older (non-digital) lenses was moved mechanically, now it's moved electronically. This may cause (I say may because I don't know for sure) a problem with the aperture control when using either older lenses or bellows (unless specifically made for the current lenses) and things like reversing rings. The current lenses, i.e. those that are designed to work with your camera will all be labelled either "G" or "DX". I'm pretty sure that this applies to all "new manufacture" lenses, the older "AI" and "AI-S" lenses having gone by the board.

The real trick to great macro-photography however isn't a question of magnification, rather it's one of lighting. Lighting small objects is different from lighting a model (human) for example. For small objects like say a 28mm mini there are a few ways to go. One is to buy a ring flash. These flashes (which come at various price points) attach to the front of your lens and give a very even illumination to small objects. You see them used quite often for small product photography like jewelry. Another option is a "Light Tent" which is pretty much what it sounds like. It's a "tent" or "box" made (generally) of a translucent fabric. You use external light, say from multiple flashes or LED panels or the like. The fabric allows the light to diffuse and you get even illumination of your subject. Light tents start at around $40 USD and go up from there. Multiple flash units can be triggered by "slave" which attach to the hot shoe and fire the flash when another fire, but I think that I would go with a continuous light source because it's easier to meter.

I hope that this info helps.

whitphoto16 Jul 2016 5:50 a.m. PST

Tamaron makes a 60mm 1:1macro that will fit your DX format. They also make a 90mm for full frame cameras.

Atomic Floozy16 Jul 2016 5:57 a.m. PST

I use the macro setting on my old Nikon Coolpix or I just use my iPad.

Mako1116 Jul 2016 4:09 p.m. PST

Digital is the only way to go for taking pics of minis.

Toss the ones that don't turn out, and retake them, endlessly until you get them just right.

That'd cost a fortune with a regular camera that uses film.

Personal logo Grelber Supporting Member of TMP16 Jul 2016 6:10 p.m. PST

Thanks very much for all the advice and information. I visited the local camera store today, and bought a set of accessory lenses and a UV filter, which were far less than the macro lenses and even close up lenses I'd been looking at. I'll try these out over the next few weeks, and see how I like them.

I also discovered the local store does a business in used lenses, which they sell for much less than the new ones--this may be the way I go if I decide I really need a close up lens.

Thanks again!


jowady17 Jul 2016 8:59 a.m. PST

Digital is the only way to go for taking pics of minis.

Toss the ones that don't turn out, and retake them, endlessly until you get them just right.

That'd cost a fortune with a regular camera that uses film.

This last November I took a little trip from Austin TX up to Connecticut to visit my elderly Mom. Driving of course I managed to hit a few Civil War Battlefields as well as shooting some New England Seascapes. I figured that between film and processing it would have cost me about 900.00 for the shots that, on digital, cost me 5.99 (sunk cost) for a reuseable SD card. Plus no one could scratch my negatives. Back in the day I managed a small chain of photo stores in El Paso, TX. Back then of course I got my film at cost, processing at cost, and I was able to fire anyone who messed up my negatives. That was a big advantage. When I left to work for the DoD suddenly I had to argue with people over how badly they were messing up the color balance and exposure of my prints. I don't know how many of these bozos came out with the old "it's your camera" which is a lie.

Anyway, nowadays you can shoot on digital, look at the photos immediately, edit the photos and share them around the world, all at a cost so low it can realistically be said (after initial equipment purchase) to be free. And yet I still miss buying a brick of VPS120 and loading it into my Mamiya 645 and having at it.

Personal logo Grelber Supporting Member of TMP17 Jul 2016 6:24 p.m. PST

Actually, for the past couple years, I've used inexpensive digital cameras (which died) and my cell phone for taking pictures. I wanted to get something a little better, and more versatile, along with the proper lenses before I retired and became poor, hence the new camera.


uglyfatbloke27 Jul 2016 2:31 p.m. PST

Get a Nikon 35mm 1.8 lens. Cheap and superb on your D3300.

jwebster01 Aug 2016 7:34 p.m. PST

I recommend extension tubes for your camera

Honestly though, a recent smartphone might work better for you

There are two limitations on lenses for macro photography

1) The lens cannot focus close enough to get the magnification you want. Extension tubes (or bellows) solve that problem

2) The lens is not optimised for that distance. This is where the "Micro" lenses come in. The difference in sharpness is not going to be that great, these are more for pros or rich/serious amateur photographers

There are two other issues to address lighting and depth of field. Jowady talked good things about lighting

Depth of field is how much of the subject will be in focus. The closer you get, the smaller that distance becomes, which becomes a problem. Depth of field however gets bigger the smaller the sensor is, that is why I recommend trying a phone. The tiny sensor will give you better depth of field and it is so much easier to use

(google photos for some reason isn't linking to photos inline)


Above photo taken with Samsung S4 using the lights (3) I use for painting and a small sheet of grey paper as the background not even a light box. I probably tweaked it a bit in Gimp (free version of photoshop). Lights are intentionally not providing even illumination

Good luck


Personal logo Nashville Supporting Member of TMP07 Aug 2016 6:19 a.m. PST

Team. It is not the camera or the lens. It is the amount of light you can bring to bear on the subject. More light: better picture. The photos I took at Nashcon
TMP link
are a function of a vertical bounce beam flash which removes the shadows and allow the camera not to need to compensate by degrading picture quality not to mention the all important depth of field. These were taken with a Nikon full frame DSLR but I have gotten some great results with a camera phone camera. Just get as much light as you can.

Sorry - only verified members can post on the forums.