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photo:microfourthirdsmacro

macrophotography for Micro Four Thirds cameras

introduction

  • mirrorless camera systems cameras such as Micro Four Thirds system have the potential to be the best camera options for micro or macro photography because:
    • no mirror to cause camera shake which can be a real problem at high magnification photography such as 1:1 and higher
    • no mirror to continuously have to move out of the way to allow accurate magnified live view manual focus (autofocus is rarely suitable to macrophotography and never to microphotography)
    • flip out LCD screen so you don't have to bend down and look through a viewfinder
    • almost any macro lens ever made can be adapted to work
    • Olympus m.ZD 60mm f/2.8 macro lens is one of the best macro lenses ever made and has fast AF and nice focus limiters as well as being affordable and weatherproof
    • a nice compromise on image quality, noise at higher ISO levels, camera and lens size (easier to use in the field without a tripod)
    • image stabilisation potentially available with any lens (if you use an Olympus body), although IS is not usually as effective at macro magnifications although the new 5-axis 5EV IS of the Olympus OM-D E-M5 camera and later models should be handy!
    • off-camera TTL flash options available (eg. Olympus Ring flash or Twin flash, or Metz Ring flash, etc)
      • unfortunately, to date there is no Olympus macro ring flash which can act as a master to a slave background flash in TTL mode, although the Metz system may allow this
    • the cropped sensor gives even greater magnification such that a 1:2 macro lens (eg. Olympus ZD 50mm f/2.0) covers the same subject area at closest focus as a 1:1 macro lens would do on a full frame dSLR.
    • the smaller the sensor, the less magnification factor of the lens is needed for a given subject size
      • there are a couple of downsides to the smaller sensor:
        • more image noise at high ISO and slightly less dynamic range
        • potentially less pixels
        • cannot use f/ratio smaller than f/8 without starting to lose sharpness due to the physical laws of diffraction.

macro flash

macro extension tubes

  • Kenko AF Extension Tube Set for Micro 4/3rds:
    • 10mm and 16mm tubes with all the contacts and circuitry to maintain communication between the camera body and the lens.
    • AF (within the limited macro range) and auto exposure are maintained, although with some lenses AF may not function.
    • focal length of the lens should be longer than the focal length of the tube for proper operation.
    • stacking of the tubes is not possible with the Panasonic 45MM Macro and PZ 45-175MM lenses, and potentially with other lenses.

AF macro lens options

  • for outdoor work, my preference would be the Olympus 60mm macro
  • if on a budget or you want higher magnification (mainly for indoor work), or, for underwater use, and don't mind losing a few features, then the Olympus 30mm macro is worth a look
  • if you have Panasonic camera, then the Panasonic versions with OIS may be more attractive

Panasonic 30mm f/2.8 OIS 1:1 macro

Panasonic Leica-D 45mm f/2.8 OIS 1:1 macro

Olympus mZD 30mm f/3.5 macro

  • close focus at 9.5cm giving macro to 1.25x (2.5x in full frame terms) and working distance of 14mm from end of lens, gives a field of view down to 13.9 x 10.9mm able to reveal subjects the unaided eye cannot see
  • AF is 20-30% faster than Olympus m.ZD 60mm f/2.8 macro lens, and smaller, lighter, less expensive and with closer macro, but also shorter working distance and wider field of view and not weathersealed and no focus limiter
  • compatible with auto focus stacking with certain cameras such as the E-M1
  • $US299

Olympus M.ZD 60mm f/2.8 1:1 macro lens

  • a very nice, compact, light, high image quality weatherproof lens
  • fast, silent AF
  • internal focus
  • focal distance limiters improve AF performance
  • adapter available for the Olympus macro flash system
  • $US599

slow AF macro lens options

  • ie. Four Thirds lenses adapted to Micro Four Thirds using the FT-MFT adapter
  • AF may not be possible with older Panasonic cameras such as the GH-1

Olympus ZD 50mm f/2.0 macro lens

  • professional level 1:2 macro
  • slow AF but one of the sharpest lenses ever made
  • 52mm filter thread
  • adapter available for the Olympus macro flash system
  • can use the superb Olympus EC-20 2x converter to double the magnification without shortening working distance
    • ie. your subject area will be reduced to the sensor size (18x12mm) and thus 1:1 in technical terms but actually twice the magnification of a 1:1 macro lens on a full frame camera. It thus becomes equivalent to a 200mm f/4 2:1 macro lens on a full frame at less than half the weight and bulk of a Canon EF 180mm f/3.5L 1:1 macro lens.

Olympus ZD 35mm f/3.5 macro lens

  • consumer level 1:1 macro
  • Olympus macro flash system fits without an adapter

manual focus macro lenses

How to shoot a 36x24mm subject

  • the Olympus ZD 50mm f/2.0 macro at it's closest focus will achieve this magnification
  • set your camera to manual focus
  • turn the camera on
  • rotate lens manual focus ring until it is at closest focus
  • set exposure mode to manual or aperture priority
  • set aperture to f/11 (perhaps f/16) for optimum compromise between depth of field and sharpness
    • DOF = 3mm at f/8, 6mm at f/11 and 10mm at f/16 (DOF determined in practice viewing image at 8x on live view playback, thus DOF of 3mm means +/- 1.5mm either side of focus plane)
  • move camera in and out until image looks almost in focus (this will be ~10cm from the front of lens to the subject - the “working distance”)
  • repeat above in magnified live view until you have precise manual focus

if using available light

  • set ISO to give an adequate shutter speed for correct exposure
  • if using manual exposure you will need to manually set the shutter speed
  • if hand held, at such high magnification, you will need a fast shutter - perhaps 1/250th sec or faster

if using ring flash attached to lens

  • set ISO to 100-200 otherwise the ring flash even at its lowest output setting may be too bright at f/8
  • as the ring flash to subject distance will always be constant for closest focus with this lens, you can use manual exposure on the flash so it decreases variability - typically with the above settings you will need to use 1/32nd or 1/64th flash output.
    • flash output on Canon Ring flash at ISO 200: f/8 = 1/64th, f/11 = 1/32nd, f/16 = 1/16th
  • once your exposure is close, you can then make fine adjustments to flash exposure by minor changes to ISO or aperture
  • alternatively, you can use TTL flash but be aware if your subject fills only a small part of the frame, you are likely to get erroneous results which is why I prefer manual exposure flash.
set shutter speed for ambient background exposure
  • having the shutter at flash sync of 1/160th or 1/180th sec (depending on model) will generally cause background to be very dark, even black unless it is in bright sunlight and a light color.
  • to brighten the background you have several options including:
    • increase shutter duration - this will not effect flash exposure but you may need a tripod to avoid blurring your subject!
    • use another flash to expose the background
    • ensure background is a light color and in bright sunlight (or use a reflector)

optionally, add a EC-20 2x teleconverter

  • this gives you 2 main possibilities:
    • allows double the magnification at closest focus so subject size to fill the frame will be only 18mm x 12mm
    • allows same subject size but at approx. double the working distance of ~18cm instead of ~10cm.
  • remember this doubles your effective f/stop.
  • alternatively, one could add a Four Thirds 25mm extension tube to the Olympus ZD 50mm macro lens to double the magnification but your working distance will halve, while your effective f/stop still increases, and thus I find a 2x teleconverter much more versatile, and more expensive.
photo/microfourthirdsmacro.txt · Last modified: 2017/11/08 07:52 by gary1