My new Leica M10 macro/product photography setup

The last time I had to do some product shots, I realized my setup sucks - this is what I had - an old light shed with some DIY external lights:


You can tell from the picture above that the tent was falling apart. I was just using whatever lighting I could find in the house. I did not have a macro adapter for my Leica M camera and my cheap $80 tripod was almost 8 years old. I wanted to keep the entire new setup at around $1,000.

Leica M Macro adapter


Before we go into the details of my new setups, let's talk about Leica's close-up/macro photography options.

The first option is to get a set of the Novoflex macro adapters for M mount - at $379.99 they are cheaper than the Leica macro adapter ($695) but I did not like the fact that you have to manually add or remove the close-up rings in order to achieve the desired close focusing.

The Leica Macro Adapter-M is almost twice the price ($695), but it has a zoom-like feature (variable helicoid extension) where you can rotate the ring in order to increase or decrease the lens-to-sensor distance. With the adapter, you can achieve maximum reproduction ratio up to 1:2 for close-up shooting with lenses longer than 50mm (you can achieve even larger ratios with wide angle lenses). When using wide angle lenses, the lens-to-subject distance decreases. Leica does not recommend using the adapter with lenses wider than 28mm because the lens-to-subject distance is very short and focusing/lighting could be tricky.

Here is a good description of the Leica M adapter from one of the online reviews/user's feedback:

"This is a helicoid that adjusts between 18mm and 30mm. Coincidently the 90mm folding lens also extends 18mm from the folded state. So when it's folded the combination will focus from infinity to .13X. Unfolding the lens takes you to .33X and using the lens focus takes you to .5X. If you happen to have the original goggle attachment, that's another 14mm of extension for a total of .65X. It's beautifully made and comes in a lens type case, but it's very expensive."

Since the Leica Macro Adapter-M doesn't have any optics, I purchased it used without any worries or concerns about the condition of the glass. The only problem is that they are not widely available and you have to shop around.

In this post, I used the Leica Macro Adapter-M with my Leica APO-Summicron-M 90mm f/2 ASPH lens mounted on a Leica M10 camera and I could focus as close as 19in/50cm from the object (all focusing was done in live view).

 

Light Tent


This 27" Angler light tent is big enough for most situations and has a built-in LED lighting on the top plate (5400K daylight balanced) with front and top shooting windows:


It also comes with four different background colors (black, white, green, gray) and a diffuser and you can easily fold it flat for easy storage:


Before shooting, you have to make sure the background sheets are clean and free of dust - they are made out of plastic and can easily be wiped.

Tripod


I have an old cheap Oben tripod that has been performing fine for the past few years, but I wanted something more sturdy and I decided to get this Oben CC-2381 carbon fiber model:


A similar Gitzo tripod would have cost me 2-3 times more and since I generally don't like to use or travel with a tripod, the Oben was good enough for me, especially for a home macro/product photography setup.

Tripod head (macro focusing rail)

   
Instead of a regular tripod head, I opted for the Oben MFR4-5 macro focusing rail because I found it much more useful for a macro setup where you have to move the camera back and forth in order to get the correct focusing and framing. Under the macro focusing rail I placed this Oben LH-2510 leveling base head that gave me some extra range of motion (10° adjustment range in any direction):

 
 
 

Extra LED light


If you have done product photography before, you know that there is never enough lighting in your setup. So I got this wand and ring LED light kit that comes useful when you need some extra lighting in the tent in order to avoid shadows or if you want to shoot without a light tent:


The kit includes a rechargeable battery piece that can be connected to a LED wand or a LED ring (one at a time):


The ring light can easily be attached to the Leica APO-Summicron-M 90mm f/2 ASPH lens with the included adapter rings (7 different sizes provided):


The kit also comes with rails for attaching the battery unit to the camera, the battery unit also has a dimmable switch:

Sample photos

Here are a few sample photos taken with the above setup:

Sterling silver soft release buttons for Leica cameras

Leica MP

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  • Nathan Wright

    A normal flash and of sync behind a single sheet of styrene will yield similar results. Remove the light tent and add mirrors or other reflectors and you can get world class photos.

    The macro rail and extension tube are necessary though.

  • FountainHead

    Not trying to be funny, but why aren’t you using your Nikon gear for this?

    I’m not saying it can’t be done with Leica; your output clearly shows it can, and most importantly, you’re skilled — but wouldn’t a Nikon setup with the 105 or 200 be easier than messing with an adaptor?

    • Nathan Wright

      Using macro lenses on dSLRs or SL’s is easier, but Peter is right to use macro rails, which are more stable, and are set up better for repeatable stacking results.

      He’s showing that you can do macro with an M, which I think is cool.

      The light tent ultimately limits what you can do though.

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