Macro Photography on the D16

Macro photography is awesome because it allows you to see everyday objects in a fresh way. Our team feels similarly about the D16–that when you review footage from our camera, you see footage differently than you would view video; there is a quality to the image that makes you see the images in a new light.

So it made perfect sense to throw some macro lenses on the D16 and capture some fresh perspectives in a new way. But always with a bit of vintage flair, of course!

The following piece was shot with a series of different macro lenses and regular lenses on extension tubes. All of the lenses were set on F5.6 or F4 / 5.6 split to try and regulate the light / depth of field a little bit. The intention was to find macro lenses that would lend a narrative feel to 3 inch tall characters.

After shooting many tests across a few days, here’s our finished piece! We’re really proud of this one and we hope you enjoy it and share it with anyone you know who loves macro photography!

Macro Droids – shot on the Digital Bolex from Digital Bolex on Vimeo.

For those of you interested in a more detailed breakdown of how this piece was shot, here’s a step by step walkthrough of what we did for each image:

Our first setup was a vintage Canon 50mm with a stage one extension tube.

_MG_1785This resulted in a very clean image that had a nice depth of field, but we didn’t feel we could get as close as we wanted to get. And no matter what we tried, the background went completely soft. Still a very nice feel to the image though.

Canon 50mm + extension tube

The next setup was a 25mm Fujinon lens with the same stage one extension tube. This lens had a much closer focusing ability that resulted in a much closer shot.


This was the least favorite setup. The lens lighting was difficult and it presented a lot of lens distortion because of the proximity of the subject to the camera. And of course the background was completely lost.

Fujinon 25mm + extension tube

We did try wider than 25mm lenses too, but those were even worse. It seems with those extension tubes 50mm and longer are the lenses to use.

Then we tried a Canon 100mm Macro EF lens with an EF to C-mount adapter.


This gave nice detail on the subject but the fall off was crazy fast and the background just went to a complete blur, worse than the other lenses.

Canon 100mm Macro EF

The next lens was a fixed focus lens called the Melles Griot Macro.


In this set up, you have to move the camera back and forth in very small increments, which can be a pain. Luckily we had a sliding balance plate that allowed us to do this without moving the tripod. This lens also didn’t have iris markings so we had to guess at the aperture. This lens finally gave us the image we were looking for: a tight shot with great detail and still some recognizable background.

Melles Griot Macro

This image felt more like story to me than any of the other lenses.

The final setup was our favorite. It’s a vintage bellows lens called Novoflex Macro.


This lens had beautiful detail a fun focusing mechanism, and allowed us to really get the extreme close up we were hoping for.

Novoflex Macro

This was the favorite lens of the bunch. The depth of field was a little shallow, but considering how close the shot was it’s pretty understandable. The detail was excellent and we didn’t have to be right on top of the subject. It also allowed for less close shots too, because this lens focuses at infinity! This was definitely the most versatile macro lens of the bunch.

We hope this was fun and helpful. We’re going to be compiling a list of recommended lenses for the D16 so that people who are curious can check out what everyone thinks of the different lenses that are compatible with our camera. If you would like to try these lenses and a few others we will have this setup at our SXSW trade show booth. Come play with us!

Elle, Joe, and the Digital Bolex Team

10 thoughts on “Macro Photography on the D16

  1. One of the best close macro set ups Ive ever come up with is using a Nikkor Enlarging lens. They can be picked up very cheap right now on ebay and come with a 39mm thread. You can use a bellows and adapt it. I have a 50mm 2.8 that is amazing. These lens’s are designed for close up.

  2. “This gave nice detail on the subject but the fall off was crazy fast and the background just went to a complete blur, worse than the other lenses.”

    One my favorite shots.

    What did you guys use for grading?
    Which NLE?

  3. You got some gorgeous results there… and it is SUPER valuable to see what you got side by side with the various lenses – to say nothing of the warm/eerie feeling I get from seeing Star Wars figures from that close. 🙂

    Here are some other handy tools that might help. This set of macro focusing rails mounts on a tripod and lets you do very incremental moves side to side and forward and back. This can be crucial when you’re finding that sweet spot shooting macro. Here’s a set so you can get an idea of what to look for:

    Another thing that can help is a little ring light around the end of the lens itself. Since the lens can sometimes be so close, it occludes the light hitting on your subject. There are great big LED ring lights, and there’s a tiny pocket one like this that just adds a little kick. Used full blast, it’s not a very good narrative kind of light, but dialing it up just a bit can help you out of a tough spot.

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