There are many ways to obtain close-up pictures. The method to use depends on your submini and how close you want to get. With some subminis close-up work is very difficult, but with others it is very simple.
The definition of closeup photogrpahy varies depending on who you ask. It's not simply how many feet or inches you (or your camera) are from the subject. With a powerful telephoto lens, for example, you might be quite a distance away and still be doing close-up work. It's more how magnified the image is, which is a combination of the distance to the subject and the focal length of the lens. But to keep things simple, let's just say that for our purposes, closeup photography is taking pictures at a closer distance than the lens normally focuses -- regardless of the focal length of the lens. Many subminis lack focusing lenses at all, but this does not mean that they cannot be used for close-up work.
Supplementary lenses -- this approach is the easiest and cheapest, so no wonder it's so popular! Sometimes called closeup filters, these are basically magnifying glasses that are placed in front of the lens. They oftentimes come in sets of two or three lenses of differing power, called diopters. The higher the number the more powerful the lens and the closer you can get. The details of how close you can get are shown in the instructions that came with the lens. It's very important to precisely set the distance since the depth-of-field decreases dramatically the closer you get to the subject.
Many supplementary lenses screw onto the front of the taking lens while others slip on. Either way they work the same. The biggest problem is with focusing. If you are using an SLR, such as a Olympus Pen F, setting the distance is easy since "what you see is what you get". But with many subminis distance setting is more difficult. Actually there are two roadblocks to correct distance setting -- parallax and distance estimation. Since most subminis use a viewfinder without any means of determining the distance to the subject, getting the distance exact can be quite a challenge. Let's face it. Most subminis lack distance determination devices since they have fixed-focus lenses and have no need for distance setting -- except for close-up work. The way around this is to attach close-up chains that tell you how far away the subject is. Many closeup lenses come with a chain. One end is attached to the camera and the other end tells you how far away from the subject you must be. If you are missing the closeup chain, or your brand never made one, it's easy to make one with a piece of string.
Parallax is a problem as well. When you look through a viewfinder camera that's setup for close-up work, there will be a big difference between what you see and what the lens sees -- parallax. Some close-up lenses are designed to correct for this problem, but many are not. In the latter case, you'll have to adjust the camera slightly to compensate.
Whenever using supplementary lenses it's best to stop-down the lens as much as possible. This not only increases the razor-thin depth-of-field, it also increases the quality of the picture since lens abberations occur at maximum aperture settings and are magnified by the close-up work.
Macro lenses -- Macro lenses are a very convenient method of getting close-up pictures. However, very few submini cameras use them, and they tend to be very expensive. If you do a lot of close-up work, this may be the best way to go.
Extension tubes -- extension tubes are an alternative to supplementary lenses. They are inexpensive but not as easy to use as supplementary lenses. Like supplementary lenses they normally come in sets so that you can tailor how close you want to get to the subject. They fit behind the lens instead of in front of it. However, very few submini cameras use them.
Bellows -- bellows are like flexible extension tubes. They are expensive and difficult to use but offer the most flexibility in close-up work. They can be used with any lens. However, very few submini cameras use them.
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