High magnification macro photography

This article on high magnification macro photography is written by Junaed Rahman (websiteflickr):

Quite sometime ago I wrote an article on macro photography, which explained how to modify a regular short zoom lens for macro photography. This time I’ll explain how do I achieve high magnification. For most of my close-up work I use AF Micro-Nikkor 60mm f/2.8D lens. To me 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 dragonfly I use AFS Nikkor 70-200/2.8 VRII with 12mm extension tube.

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 try to find my way pass these hurdles.

Gear 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 (normally I use it for bird photography with AFS Nikkor 300/4 lens)

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.


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.


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.

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.

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


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 out that Kenko extension tubes are better choice for this purpose since Vello extension tubes have narrow inner hole, which doesn’t allow the Tele-converter to fit in.

After fitting the parts together I get 4X magnification with a FX or full frame camera and 6X magnification with a DX or APS camera. At high magnification its easy to use a focusing rail for precise focusing. Here are some pictures with this setup taken at various magnifications.


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


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


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


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


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


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

Magnification Chat

Magnification Chat

This chart clearly shows which combination will give you how much magnification. This technique gives excellent result at high magnification. An alternate for Nikon users to expensive Canon MP-65E macro lens, which doesn’t have a focusing ring.

If you have an interesting idea for a guest postyou can contact me here.

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