Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Nokia Lumia 1020 Macro Photography + Digital Concepts 52mm Macro Lens Kit Review

Daffodil Close Up - Stallion Springs, California
This post is a bit unusual because it contains two different (but closely related) subjects: macro photography using the Nokia Lumia 1020 and a review of Digital Concepts' 52mm macro lens kit. The common factor between the two subjects is that I used the latter to create the former.

Macro photographs are those where the subject is larger than actual life size. The minimum focus distance on the Lumia 1020 is about six inches, which is not quite close enough to do macro photography with its wide angle lens. But it isn't really that far off, either. So I set out to force the camera to do something that it wasn't really designed to do: macro images.
Digital Concepts 10x Macro Lens
The easy solution was to buy a macro lens adapter. These are designed to screw onto the end of your SLR lens. What they do is reduce the minimum focus distance, which makes macro photography possible with a lens not designed for macro photography. The price of these vary quite a bit depending on brand and quality, but since I spent only $100 on the camera, I could not stomach spending a bunch of money on accessories. 

The macro lens adapter that I settled on was Digital Concepts' 52mm four lens kit. This has an MSRP of $20, but was on sale at Amazon for $6. That's exactly the price point that I was looking for. It comes with a +1, +2, +4 and +10 macro lens adapters.
Shoe - Stallion Springs, California
While these adapters allow you to reduce the minimum focus distance, it does so at a cost to image quality. Anytime you place a piece of glass (and especially cheap glass) between your camera and your subject, there is going to be a loss in sharpness, if not other negative side effects. You have to know that going in.

These Digital Concepts macro lens adapters are most certainly on the cheap end. I could have spent much, much more and had much higher quality glass, which wouldn't have had nearly as large of a negative impact on image quality. But I did not want to spend a bunch of money on this.
Skateboarding - Stallion Springs, California
Because the Lumia 1020 does not have threads for filters, the millimeters of the adapters makes no difference. I could have used any size that I wanted. The one advantage to the 52mm size is that it is large enough to fit over the lens bulge on the camera.

The adapters can be attached with scotch tape, carefully placed rubber bands, or simply hand-held in place. I tried all three techniques, and preferred the tape and hand-held methods over the rubber band method, but that's simply my preference.
Dial - Palmdale, California
I found that the +1 adapter doesn't do a whole lot, reducing the minimum focus distance by about a quarter of an inch, which isn't enough to make it worth using. The +2 adapter reduces the minimum focus distance by about a half of an inch, which is also not enough to make it worth using.

The +4 adapter brings the minimum focus distance on the Lumia 1020 from about six inches to about four-and-a-half inches. This is close enough that you can do macro photography. There is very little loss in image quality when using the +4 adapter, mostly just some softness in the corners.
Supervising - Stallion Springs, California
These macro lens adapters can be "stacked" by screwing them together. I found that the only time this really makes sense is using the +2 and the +4 at the same time. This will let you focus as close as four inches, while not sacrificing much in image quality. There is a bit more softness than just using the +4, but not a significant amount.

The +10 adapter brings the minimum focus distance to about three inches. The downside to using this adapter is that there is quite a bit of softness in corners and edges, and also some chromatic aberrations in the highlights. This will get you the closest to your subject, but it must be used carefully.
Flower Cluster - Bakersfield, California
The Lumia 1020 has a fixed aperture of f2.2. When you use these macro lens adapters, you are able to focus on objects that are closer to the camera, but as you focus closer to the camera, the depth-of-field narrows. You go from a somewhat narrow depth-of-field without the adapters, to a tiny depth of field with the +4, to a very slim sliver of depth-of-field with the +10.

Now you may be wondering, since the Lumia 1020 has a whole bunch of resolution, can't you just do a massive crop and achieve the same thing? Not quite. For example, an image captured using the +4 macro lens adapter is sharper, has more fine detail, and has noticeably finer "grain" than an image captured without an adapter but cropped to make it look the same. A large crop will reduce image quality more than the macro adapters will. Besides, when you use the adapters, you can still crop, allowing you to get even closer (zooming by cropping).
Street Scene - Stallion Springs, California
In conclusion, macro photography using the Nokia Lumia 1020 is not difficult to achieve using macro lens adapters. As the saying goes, you get what you pay for. It is certainly better to get good quality glass than cheap glass. But does it make sense to spend $60 on quality macro lens adapters when I paid only $100 for the camera? Not for me. As it turns out, the $6 macro lens adapters are "good enough" for my use and, for me, get the job done.

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