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Hi Pinchers of Peril.
I have the reverse mount adaptor that fits a lens straight to the body, cost a couple of quid from HK for a trial, there are adaptors with power to the lens via a cord and body simulator ring, thes are very expensive! My basic reverser did highlight the shallow DOF with a 17-85 wide open, I tried a picture of the carpet fibres, DOF so thin that the cats whisker on the carpet was in focus, the tips of the carpet fibres weren't. I can see the merit of getting a manual lens of fixed focal length to be able to do this better.
I also have some fairly cheap extension tubes, came as a set, wih metal mounts and plastic barrels with electrical contacts. I have had better success with these as there is a bit more DOF available, but as they were a Christmas present I was forbidden from getting out all my gear for the test run Christmas day. So I ended up hand holding the test shots and haven't had the time to find a subject and set up properly for a decent test yet.
Conclusion, if I had a manual lens I probably would not have bought the extension tubes, I think the tubes make for easier macro work so far. My limited experience would suggest that the two methods have very different results regarding magnification, seemed much greater on the reversed lens, though this may be a function of the lens I tried?
You can always get an old cheap 35-80 kit lens and pop off the front element.
Then you have a crazy macro zoom! You can find these lenses for next to nothing.
If you have an 18-55 that you want to use, all you need to buy is a 52mm-58mm reversing ring. Do the stop-down trick (mount the 18-55, set your desired aperture, press and hold the DOF button, then remove the lens I believe), then do the reverse mount on your 40mm.
If you are just looking for cheap macro fun, I know some folks use extension tubes with the 40mm (and possibly the 50mm 1.4) that you already have. If you buy the good Canon tubes (possibly also Kenko) you can also use them on your L zooms as well for closer focusing. The cheaper ones work theoretically but I believe some folks have had problems with the weight causing them to flex. I have the 100mm macro but I am planning on adding the extension tubes to my 40mm for that purpose.
Okay, I crumbled. I LOVED my 50 f/1.2 and missed it terribly so I just bought another one. The good news is that with the rebate, it becomes a net/net purchase vs. my eBay sale
In other news, I strongly predict that the 50 f/1.2 II will be announced tomorrow