Some Thoughts on Close-up Photography

Leitz FULDY focoslide c1950

Toronto. One of my favourite pastimes is close-up photography. Close-up is generally thought of as 1:4 down to a magnification of 1:1 or life size. Greater magnification is usually the domain of microscopes. Most cameras can handle 1m to infinity. Some can handle  20 inches or even 12 inches to infinity.

Close-ups need the lens adjusted for moving closer to the object. This is basically handled in two ways – firstly by extension rings (or a bellows) between the lens and camera body or secondly by adding close up elements (+1 to +3 diopters) to the front of the lens. The big issue then becomes how one frames a close-up shot. If you use an SLR or view camera, framing is trivial since what you see is what you get. However, using a rangefinder camera takes greater effort. In the days of 35mm before SLR cameras became commonplace, a variety of gizmos and gadgets were offered – spider legs, prisms to correct the viewfinder/rangefinder, special focussing mounts or mirror boxes, etc. All these items were demonstrated by Leica accessories or those offered by other makers who imitated the Leica’s small negatives and lack of a view through the taking lens.

Leitz had accessory lenses elements, extension rings, focusing rings, and bellows to allow its popular lenses to focus closer. Framing was solved by adjustable spider leg affairs with built in extension rings, or auxiliary mirror boxes. And even special close-up stands. In 1930 Willard Morgan of Morgan & Lester who printed the Leica Manual series (15 editions 1935-1973) designed the first focoslide. Shown above is the c1950 version later further refined and made by Leitz Wetzlar. The earliest version made in 1930-32 (I have one of those  too) uses a ring to hold the camera body to the sliding affair.

In use, the ground glass was slid above the lens and the lens focussed on the object. The camera body was then slid over in place of the ground glass to take the photograph. The film to slider distance was exactly the same as the ground glass to slider. The FULDY had to be mounted on a tripod or a copy stand. Various extension tubes or lenses allowed the object to be suitably magnified.

Lens were usually stopped down to improve resolution and eliminate some inherent distortion caused by the change in optimal object to camera distance.

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