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Super Macro with the SMC Multiplier

Is the super magnification and razor thin depth of field afforded by the Nauticam SMC not challenging enough for you? Do you love trying to come up with ways of saying something is really really really small without comparing it to a grain of rice? Do you enjoy giving your new camera's autofocus a good workout? Well, then, the SMC Multiplier might be just what you need.

These photos, by Todd Winner and Chris Parsons (me), show the Multiplier in action.

The SMC Multiplier is an add-on lens for the Nauticam SMC. Not familiar with the SMC? This is Nauticam's Super Macro Converter 1, and it has certainly taken the underwater super macro shooting world by storm. It was designed from the ground up for use underwater, and optically engineered for maximum image quality, reducing distortion, aberrations and other lens defects common with simpler wet macro lenses.

The SMC achieves a maximum of 2.3:1 reproduction when using a lens like the Canon 100mm or Nikon 105mm. It is ideal for either full frame (i.e. Canon 5DSR, Nikon D810, Sony A7RII) or APS-C (i.e. Nikon D7200 or Canon 7D Mark II) cameras. And while this sort of magnification clearly falls into the realm of super macro, we've already established that you want to go beyond that. You want "Super Duper Macro"; fear not, the SMC Multiplier is ready to fill that need.

Comparison of the effect of adding the SMC and then the SMC Multiplier. This is not a measured shot, and might not be at closest point of focus for each, but gives an idea of the relative magnification. Note the shading on the bottom photo - it is difficult to light when that close.

Shooting with the SMC Multiplier is, in a word, challenging. First, it is difficult to even find subjects that are this small, let alone be able to see them. Since the working distance (the distance from the lens to the subject) is so small, once you find your creature, the don't tend to like having the lens so close to them. Some creatures don't mind; the bumblebee shrimp shown here seems to like looking at his reflection in the lens. The big challenge is focus; since the depth of field at this sort of magnification is so small, even the slightest focus error means the shot isn't a keeper. Lighting - since the lens is so close, it can be especially difficult to get lighting on the subject. And lighting is especially important here, since we tend to need small apertures (i.e. f/18 to f/22) to get any depth of field at all.

Here are some quick tips for using the SMC Multiplier: -

remember than these close-up lenses allow the camera lens to focus more closely, but they remove the ability to focus farther away. So a good rule of thumb is to shoot without the SMC until you get so close that the camera won't focus. Then add the SMC. Again, don't add the SMC Multiplier until you get so close that the camera can't focus even with the SMC. Then add the multiplier.

- use the flip adapters for both lenses. This is a no-brainer - you don't want to be screwing lenses on and off underwater.

- you need lots of light, part 1. A good focus light is critical. I like the FIX NEO focus lights. Since the SMC + Multiplier rig is so long, you need to be able to extend the focus light out much farther than without it. Nauticam's new long clamps help here.

- you need lots of light, part 2. Two good strobes are pretty crucial. It is helpful if the strobes are small, like the Inon S-2000. I use the Inon Z-240 but I'd like an S-2000 for this purpose. A ring flash would be useful here if someone can come up with one that would work well for the multiplier. - since you need to be so close to the subject, it is helpful to shoot things that are on a small rise, rather than in a depression.


- I use a combination of manual and autofocus. To be able to see focus, I think it is critical to have the Nauticam 45º viewfinder. A camera/lens combination like the Canon 7D Mark II and the 100mm IS 2.8L macro lens really helps with autofocus, but even then it can be quite challenging. I like to use "thumb focus" - where the camera does not focus on the shutter half-press, but rather, only focuses when the AF-ON button is pressed. Chris Parsons