How To Get Up Close And Intimate (Part I) – Close Focusing Lenses

It’s a long held belief of mine (and not just as a photographer) that the beauty of life is in the tiny details.

So for as long as I’ve been photographing with intention (since around 2006 with Sony camera phones), I’ve been drawn to photographing up close and intimate.

This is a short series on ways I’ve used cameras to get within breathing distance of that beauty. 

Part I – Close Focusing Lenses

In the other parts of this series I’ll be looking at additional kit I’ve used to enable me to get closer than a lens’s standard minimum focus.

But the easiest way to be able to focus up close it to invest in a lens (or camera with a built in lens) that does this without that need for any extra equipment.

This is a significant reason I haven’t enjoyed rangefinder film cameras much. They generally only focus to perhaps 0.8 – 1m, way too far for my usual preferred subject matter.

Many SLRs lenses around 50mm go down to 0.45 – 0.55m, which is much better, and allows for some lovely shots, especially when combining the close focus with a large aperture so you gain a shallow depth of field.

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Samsung GX-1S, Super Takumar 55/1.8

Even better are those lenses that go even closer.

On the 50mm front one of the best is the M42 Pentacon 50/1.8 which I reviewed in more depth here. It goes down to 0.33m, which allows for some very intimate shooting.

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Sony NEX 3N, Pentacon 50/1.8

Another favourite of mine is the Carl Zeiss Flektogon 35/2.4, which gets even closer, a fraction under 0.2m.

Using this lens on my Sony NEX APS-C or my Lumix GF1 Micro Four Thirds bodies, both with an adapter, meant that with the extra crop factor of the sensors (1.5x and 2x respectively), the subjects seemed even closer.

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Panasonic Lumix GF1, Carl Zeiss Flektogon 35/2.4

On the digital compact front, many cameras comfortably go down to around 0.05 – 0.07m. The otherwise relatively large depth of field these small sensor cameras usually display can be forced into being far more shallow at the widest aperture and focusing so close.

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Canon Digital IXUS 870 IS

The kings of the close focus though are my two Ricohs, which both go down to a mere 0.01m (yep, 1cm) with their macro modes and I’ve never with either of these cameras wished they would go even closer!

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Ricoh GX100. Could I bee any closer?
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Ricoh GRD III

In the other parts of this short series I’ll walk through some of the other ways I’ve got closer, for when the lens’s standard close focus just wasn’t intimate enough.

How about you? Do you like to get up close and intimate with your photography? 

Please let us know in the comments below (and don’t forget to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).

Thanks for looking.

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9 thoughts on “How To Get Up Close And Intimate (Part I) – Close Focusing Lenses”

  1. Love that bee image! Can’t believe how close you can get with the Ricohs. I think I’m going to have to get my hands on a Pentacon 50mm lens now, had no idea it focused so close.

    1. Thanks Mel. Yes 1cm is pretty amazing.

      You could get a Pentacon or you could wait until I publish the other parts to this series to see there are cheaper options… ; )

        1. If you come across a working Pentacon less than say £20, go for it, they are great lenses. But more than not either have stuck aperture blades or stiff focus, or both, in my experience. I had I think two perfectly functioning ones out of nine or 10 I’ve owned altogether.

          I won’t make you wait too long for the next instalment!

  2. Reminds me that I do have my old Tamron 90 Macro to use for close-up somewhere. On the APS-C camera it’s 135mm so great for stalking butterflies and other insects because you don’t have to be as close as that for a large image magnification. I must find it and have a go with it again.

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