How to achieve High Magnification in Macro Photography


The world of macro photography has always fascinated me like any other person. In this article I’ll explain how do I achieved high magnification. For most of my close-up work I use AF Micro-Nikkor 60mm f/2.8D lens. The benefits of using a 60mm instead of 105mm macro lens are –

  1. A 60mm lens can be used as a Normal lens
  2. It’s a very good lens for copying object without distortion
  3. An excellent macro lens for small insect and static object. (So long I don’t have to bother about working distance)

For shooting skittish butterfly or dragon fly I use AFS Nikkor 70-200/2.8 VRII with 12mm extension tube.

Flying Bee

With a regular macro lens we can take picture of a 36mm long object directly and this is known as 1X magnification or 1:1 or Life size. For higher magnification beyond 1:1 Canon has a unique macro lens MP-E 65mm f/2.8 that can give 5X magnification of life size (5:1) at a cost of 1000 USD. This is not an affordable and meaningful purchase for most of us. And Nikon doesn’t have anything equivalent. As a long time Nikon user I often try to find out my way pass these hurdles with small expense.

Gears that I’ll be using are as follows –

  1. AF Micro-Nikkor 60mm f/2.8D
  2. AF extension tube (12mm + 20mm + 36mm + 26mm = 94mm)
  3. Nikon TC-14E II (1.4x) Tele-converter

With all extension tubes attached with Nikon 60 mm/2.8 macro lens I can take picture of a 12mm long object. That is 3X magnification. To get higher magnification I decided to use a 1.4X Tele-converter Nikon TC-14E II. However there are two obstacles that prevent user from stacking a Tele-converter on a macro lens.

First –

Nikon TC-14E II Tele-converter has a tab in its front side of F-mount. This prevents it from being attached to most lenses except the compatible ones where a groove in rear flange allows this tab to pass through.

Nikon TC 14E II Tele-converter

Compatible Lens

Second –

The front element of a Tele-converter bulges out, so it can’t be attached with the AF Micro-Nikkor 60mm f/2.8D lens as it will damage the rear element of the macro lens.

Solution to First Problem

The only solution to this Tab problem is to remove it. Tools needed –

  • Good star Screwdriver
  • Compact electric grinder


*This procedure voids the warranty of the product & should be done at your own risk*

1. Remove the 4 screws that hold the front ring of the F-mount.

Tele-converter screw removed

2. Carefully lift the ring without disturbing the components below it. (There are 4 thin metal plates below this ring – if they are disturbed you will have problem engaging the AI aperture coupling)

3. Now use the fine tip of the electric grinder to grind away the tab. Don’t try to remove at one go. Take it off bit by bit. It will give a nice finish. Be very careful not to damage the surrounding parts.

Tab removed 01

4. Clean the ring properly so it doesn’t have any dirt and screw it back in right place.

Tele-converter 01

Solution to the Second problem

Attaching an extension tube in between the lens and Tele-converter creates space so the front element of Tele-converter will no longer hit the rear element of the lens. I found that regular Kenko or Vello extension tubes have narrow inner tube which doesn’t allow the front of Tele-converter to fit in. The inner tube diameter required to Tele-converter to fit in is around 32mm. Kenko or Vello has a diameter 30mm. So I used a Modified Vivitar Tele-converter as an Extension Tube (How to convert a Tele converter to an Extension Tube) which has a inner tube diameter of 33mm.

With tele-converter attached

Vivitar Tele-converter as Extension Tube_900pix

After fitting the parts together I get 4X magnification. This means you can take a picture of 9mm object in a full frame camera and 6mm object in APS or crop camera. Here are some pictures with this setup taken at various magnification.

Leaf 1X

 Magnification – 1X (36mm) = Camera – Nikon D700; Lens – 60 mm/2.8

Leaf 3X

 Magnification – 3X (12mm) = Camera – Nikon D700; Lens – 60 mm/2.8; AF Extension tube

Leaf 4X - 9mm

Magnification – 4X (9mm) = Camera – Nikon D700; Lens – 60 mm/2.8; AF Extension tube; Tele-converter – TC 14E II

Leaf 4X - 6mm

 Magnification – 4X (6mm) = Camera – Nikon D200; Lens – 60 mm/2.8; Extension tube; Tele-converter – TC 14E II

Vine 1X

Magnification – 1X (36mm) = Camera – Nikon D700; Lens – 60 mm/2.8

Vine 4X - 6mm

 Magnification – 4X (6mm) = Camera – Nikon D200; Lens – 60 mm/2.8; Extension tube; Tele-converter – TC 14E II

Macro calculation

  Magnification Chat

This chart clearly shows which combination will give you how much magnification. This technique gives excellent result at high magnification. To me its like a Nikon MP-65E against the expensive Canon MP-65E macro lens which doesn’t have a focusing ring.

Minimum working distance
This setup = at 4X magnification minimum working distance is 4 cm.
Canon MP-65E = at 5X magnification minimum working distance is 4.1 cm.

About Author

Junaed is a Doctor by profession who started photography back in 1992. From film days to digital he is regarded as a talented Photographer. He regularly appears as a guest lecturer at various Photographic clubs & institutes.

Macro Photography Related Article :

Macro Photography Beginners Guide
How to convert Normal 18-55 Zoom Lens to Macro lens
How to convert a Tele converter to an Extension Tube
Macro AF Extension Tube Error Fix

Macro Extension Tube Review – Kenko vs Vello
AF Micro-Nikkor 200mm f/4D IF-ED Review

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