Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Reversing a Lens

The Why

Although I am extremely happy with the Sigma 18-200mm lens which I have been using since the day I got my camera, I do at times feel a little guilty for never, ever, using the 18-55mm kit lens the camera came with. After contemplating the various uses it could be put to such as a visually appealing paperweight, a chew toy for my almost-one-year-old cousin and even as a replacement for the Frisbee on the beach, due to various reasons such as me not having papers to weigh down, my almost-one-year-old cousin's undiluted hatred for the black, lumpy thing with markings and its aerodynamic inefficiency, I finally decided to use it as lens.

But this was completely against what little common sense I still have left. Why use an 18-35 when I have an 18-200 which does everything the former does and even manages to do it better?! And then in a moment of geniosity, reminiscent of Archimedes' overused "Eureka" episode, I realized I could reverse the lens and use it for macros! After searching around Madras for about 3 days and spending an unwise amount of fuel in the pursuit of the above mentioned adapter, I finally steeled my heart and decided to make one myself. I knew I had a Better Photography magazine somewhere which told me how I could make one of those for the price of a few packs of peanuts. Then there were those golden words by the cult philosopher Clarksonius to spur me on – "How hard can it be?"

The How

To reverse a lens and use it, all you have to do is remove it, turn it around and hold it with your hand. Although the simplest method, this would require the use of three hands, which not many of us have managed to evolve as yet, to operate comfortably.

To reverse a lens, you need something that would fit the front element of the lens and something which would fit the hole in the center of the camera body and some glue to stick them both together. I got a conversion ring for about 45 rupees and spent over 2 days looking for a body cap only to be told at the Canon outlet that I cannot get one of those unless I bought a new DSLR. Realizing that this would exceed my modest budget of 50 rupees by over 30,000 rupees, I decided to use the body cap which came with my camera.

Since Canon did not have the foresight to provide me with a perfectly transparent body cap, I had to make a hole in the body cap big enough to not obstruct the sensor. I should have listened to my mum and used the services of a professional cutter of hard things to get a proper hole cut out of the body cap. But instead, I decided to use a soldering iron to melt out a hole in the plastic in the true spirit of DIY. Bad, bad idea. To better control the iron, I kept trying to hold it resulting in multiple burns on multiple fingers, some of which looked uncannily like miniature crop circles.

About an hour and 8 burns later, I had the hole melted out of the body cap. A few minutes of filing to smoothen the edges, and I was almost done. Some Fevi Quick (anything is ok as long as it can stick plastic and metal together) on the conversion ring to stick it to the body cap and you are done. Do keep in mind that in case you manage to adhere the side which threads onto the lens to the holed out body cap, soak it in warm water to unbind them and do it correctly the next time.

The Result

Shot with the 18-35mm kit lens mounted normally

Shot with the same lens reverse mounted

More pictures here.