ZD 50mm macro

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Refractive droplet macrophotography with the Olympus E-M5 – a clock inside a drop

Tuesday, August 14th, 2012

One of the local hospitals asked me if I could create an image that relates intravenous cannulae with time so they could use in a campaign to reduce complication rates.

Here are a couple of my first cut ideas without any Photoshopping other than some cropping and resize for web.

In other words, they are essentially straight out of the camera – no tricks.

The idea shown on this post is to create an image of a clock visible within a tiny droplet coming from an iv cannula.

You will need to click on these images to get the larger view.

antique clock in a drop

Droplets refract light and will thus “contain” an image of a lit object some 30cm behind the drop (albeit an upside down one).

In the image above, I chose an antique clock as I wanted the gold and orange tones to complement the blue of the cannula, but as the clock was so detailed, I ended up having to crop it more than I would like to make it obvious it was indeed a clock inside the drop.

Realising this difficulty, I decided to try again with a simpler designed, rather plain clock that anyone would recognise even in a small image, hence the following photo:

plain clock in a drop

Equipment used:

Olympus E-M5 Micro Four Thirds camera with Olympus ZD 50mm f/2.0 macro on a tripod:

  • allows 9fps manual focus burst rates to catch the split second of the drop about to fall
  • allowed live view magnified image to constantly allow me to adjust the manual focus to deal with the changing droplet size and placement of the clock image
  • the Olympus macro lens is recognised to be one of the sharpest lenses ever made
  • ISO 200 for maximum image quality
  • shutter speed at flash sync 1/200th sec to reduce effects of ambient light
  • aperture f/8-11 to give reasonable depth of field but still allow the background image of the clock to be adequately blurred
  • manual focus – I would rarely if ever use autofocus for such close up photography!
  • manual exposure of course
  • IS = off as camera on tripod
  • no need to constantly set mirror up unlike with dSLRs as there is no mirror


  • off-camera flash set to 1/32nd – 1/64th output to allow rapid sequential shooting
  • any flash could have been used for this purpose as long as it can be set to manual and a small output
  • I actually used a Canon 580EXII flash mounted on a Pocket Wizard FlexTT5 radio controller which was controlled by a PocketWizard MiniTT1 mounted on the camera hot shoe with both being programmed to basic non-TTL mode.
  • you could use any cheap Chinese flash controller for this, or use a off-camera cable (Canon or Olympus) attached to your flash, or you could potentially use an on-camera flash such as the Olympus FL-50(R) and bounce it off a nearby white object.

Then it is trial and error:

  • adjusting exposure – ISO vs flash output setting (one does not wish to change aperture as this is dictating how the image will look)
  • getting the distance from droplet to background image right (to get the correct size image in the droplet)
  • getting the camera to droplet distance set for the composition and ensuring that when you use DOF preview, your background view of the actual clock will not look too distracting.
  • timing your shots for the droplet

More information of photographing droplets can be seen on my photo wiki.

A quick close up portrait of a beautiful iridescent green-blue stag beetle using the Panasonic GH-1

Monday, January 16th, 2012

I found this lovely beetle whilst going for a jog in a Eucalypt woodland near Melbourne and he obligingly sat on my hand for the long walk back to my car.

He wouldn’t let go of my camera bag and as I only had a couple of minutes to get a photo, here is what I had to come up with – apologies it wasn’t in its native environment. My wife let him go while I was out so I didn’t get another chance for a shot.

Nevertheless, all my trawling on the net and I haven’t been able to find one with the same blue on green colors.

I believe it belongs to the Lamprima spp. of the Lucanidae family and I guess it is a close relative of the Golden Green Stag Beetle.

Note the large mandibles.
stag beetle

Panasonic GH-1 Micro Four Thirds camera with Olympus ZD 50mm f/2.0 macro lens and Canon ring flash at f/16.

The ring flash was hand held away from the lens.

Some vignette added in Lightroom.

A rose on the first day of Spring – Panasonic GH-1 + Olympus ZD 50mm macro lens + Canon ring flash

Saturday, September 3rd, 2011

On the first day of spring here in Melbourne, Australia, one of my David Austin roses was just starting to bloom, so what a good excuse to get my gear out.

As you can see, I am not really a fan boy – I use whatever equipment I have that will do the job, in this case, a Panasonic GH-1 Micro Four Thirds camera with Olympus ZD 50mm f/2.0 macro lens and a Canon Ring Flash in manual exposure mode at ISO 100, f/14, flash output at its lowest (1/64th).

Although the rose was a gorgeous apricot color with pink tinges, I decided I would prefer to concentrate on the delicious tonings, curves and edges, and only conversion to black and white would achieve this.

Minimal post-processing otherwise.


Suspended water droplets using the Olympus ZD 50mm macro on a Panasonic GH-1

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011


The versatile Olympus ZD 50mm f/2.0 macro lens

Monday, March 21st, 2011

One of my favorite lenses of all time is the incredibly sharp Olympus ZD 50mm f/2.0 macro lens.

This lens gives a field of view and depth of field as for a 100mm f/4 lens in the 35mm full frame world.

Let’s see what you can do with this lens on a now old technology Olympus E510 dSLR which of course adds image stabilisation.

A typical use for a macro lens is to shoot close up subjects and it will do so to give a 1:2 macro.

Here for example is a tiny juvenile potentially lethal Red Back Spider crawling on the edge of a bench, not an easy target in office lighting, and thus not the sharpest image of a continuously moving subject!

My preferred technique with such close up shots is to set the lens to manual focus and set the focus to the magnification you need, in this case, to the closest focus, then move the camera in and out from the subject until it is in focus. For still life macros, this is best achieved on a tripod with macro focusing rails. For an impromptu shot of a moving subject such as this one, hand held had to suffice.

juvenile Red Back spider

The next most useful use for this lens is as a portrait lens such as this candid portrait of nuns at the Spanish Steps in Rome where it isolates the subject very nicely indeed and giving a nice out of focus bokeh effect to the rest of the scene whilst still giving enough details in the background to provide adequate contextual information:


Into the morning light, it gives a delightful candid image of these two children playing in a park in Florence:


It can handle contrasty street photography images such as this one:


or used to document still life subjects such as this kangaroo skull after the bush fires in Victoria’s Grampians region:


The f/2.0 aperture with image stabilisation of the E510 allows low light shots hand held such as this one of the crescent moon and Venus taken from an aeroplane at 30,000 feet through the window after sunset:


and it is great for indoor shots such as museums, art galleries, etc as in this image taken in a quite dark room in Monte Cassino:

Monte Cassino

and this candid night time snap of two Italian strangers passing in the night in Sorrento (note – if shooting into street lights at night, I would strongly advise you remove all filters as most filters add flare such as in this image):


For this image of Venice at dusk I used a miniature tripod to allow smaller aperture for depth of field and a longer exposure to give some motion:


More photos with this combination can be seen here.

If you need to get more magnification but be further away, you can mate it with the superb Olympus EC-20 2x teleconverter and use the Olympus Ring Flash to give shots such as this one of a bee “hanging on tight to his dreams”:


or this butterfly:


My daughter is just getting interested in photography and has decided the type of images she wants to capture on her overseas trip is mainly portraits with blurred backgrounds.

Unfortunately for me, out of all my cameras and lenses, she has selected to take my Olympus E510 with my lovely ZD 50mm macro lens as her only lens (maybe I will convince her to take a kit lens). The f/2.0 aperture has also allowed her to develop a much better understanding of the relationship of aperture and image characteristics than a f/5.6 kit lens would ever allow and so she will learn much from this lens.

I fear I may never see it again!

I am looking forward to Olympus producing a Micro Four Thirds version of this lens as the current Four Thirds version does not AF on my Panasonic GH-1 which is a real pity. Apparently the Panasonic GH-2 allows AF with this lens, so that maybe something for potential buyers to consider.

Europe holiday Rome II – my trusty backup camera – the Olympus E510 with 50mm macro lens

Thursday, November 4th, 2010

Although the far majority of my travel photos on this trip were taken with a Panasonic GH-1 Micro Four Thirds camera, I did take my trusty Olympus E510 dSLR which was my main camera I used on my Italy trip in 2007.

The combination of the E-510 with the superb Olympus ZD 50mm f/2.0 macro lens is one I have always loved for travel, and I had to get it out for a few shots such as these gems from the crowded Spanish Steps in Rome all within a minute, as my wife was lacking patience in this very crowded area:

A fashionable mum coming up the rear?

It’s shallow depth of field allows one to isolate your subject very well whilst still retaining the context, here I have selected the first tourist to focus upon rather than the fashionable mother at the rear:

Blonde tourist

And, finally, the smoking Roman Centurion:

Roman centurion

As much as I have loved my Olympus E-510, it is now almost 4 years old, and technology has marched on. Although image quality is still excellent at low ISO, and it does have built-in image stabilisation, the optical viewfinder is no match for the EVF on my Panasonic GH-1, and it lacks the native 16:9 aspect ratio which I find is perfect for travel photography.

If I had the money, I would replace the E-510 with the new Olympus E-5 (much better viewfinder and weather-proofed), and replace my GH-1 with the new GH-2 (much better video and AF), but alas, no such luck there.

Zombies vs Olympus E510+ZD 50mm macro + ZD 2x teleconverter

Saturday, May 9th, 2009

I was catching a tram in the city today when a horde (is that the right word?) of Zombies doing a Shuffle descended on the good folk of Melbourne and luckily for me, having left my Canon 1DMIII at home because it was too heavy, but had my Olympus E510 with ZD 50mm f/2.0 macro and ZD EC-20 2x teleconverter with me.

So I thought I would make the most of the photo opportunity and joined the dozens of other photographers and decided to shoot these amateur Zombies.

Here’s a taste:

Zombie with syringe

Check out the rest here:

Melbourne Zombie Shuffle May 9th 2009

Although I love the 50mm plus EC-20 combination, shooting these constantly moving targets (they were far too fast-moving for Zombies!), was a challenge for this combination’s autofocus and the extremely narrow depth of field I was shooting at meant only a few were caught at their sharpest. As I did not have time to loiter and be a bit more persistent, I decided to accept those that I got and move on.

I am sure the E-620 with its additional AF points would make C-AF mode much more useful, but I am still waiting for Olympus to update their 50mm macro lens to include SWD, contrast-detect capability compatible with Micro Four Thirds, and focus range limiters. Please Mr Olympus, get your act in gear, I love this lens so much but I need it to AF better.

Olympus macro system – time for a re-vamp?

Friday, January 9th, 2009

I love the Olympus dSLR macro system introduced in Dec 2003 because:

  • it’s relatively light for hand held use
  • availability of swivel live preview LCD screens so you don’t have to get down on the ground – eg. Olympus E330, E30, E3 dSLRs
  • a high optical quality macro lens – the ZD 50mm f/2.0 macro with circular aperture for nice bokeh, and edge to edge sharpness that is usually not found on full frame lenses
  • availability of superb teleconverters to allow higher magnification whilst maintaining working distance
  • availability of excellent complete ring flash and twin flash which share the same flash controller, and as is standard, provide full TTL auto exposure metering or full manual control as well as modeling lights, and for the twin lights you can control light ratio and importantly there are diffusers to improve the quality of the light
    • the Canon ring flash is actually segmented tubes giving a poor catchlight
    • Nikon don’t currently make a ring flash for their system
    • whilst the small size of macro ring flashes are not adequate to create the beauty ring catchlight of large pro ring flashes, they make great shadowless fill-in flash for portraits as well as their use for almost shadowless macro shots
  • it’s easy to use, particularly the flash module settings
  • image stabilisation is available for all lenses when using an IS-capable body such as E510/520/E30/E3
    • whilst Nikon make a VR macro lens, there are no image stabilised macro lenses available for Canon dSLRs
  • ability to use almost any macro lens ever made (Nikon, Leica R/M, Carl Zeiss, Olympus OM,etc) with notable exceptions such as Canon EOS
  • you can combine it with non-Olympus flashes in manual flash output mode by setting the Olympus macro flash to Manual mode (to switch off pre-flashes which prematurely trigger your other flashes), and use an optical trigger device on your other flashes

ring flash

The system is capable of taking some great shots such as this one I took of a bee:

Hold on to your dreams:


BUT I believe its time to make it even better, so here are some of my suggestions:

First, the ZD 50mm macro lens:

  • the AF can be a bit frustrating – time for SWD and compatibility with contrast-detect AF
  • focus range switch to allow switchable settings such as 1:1 macro to 1m and 1m to infinity
  • 1:1 macro instead of only 1:2 – could we dream of 1:0.5 even?

Next, make adapters to allow the existing macro flashes to attach to almost any lens.

  • unfortunately Olympus designers seem to have been on hallucinogens making the current macro flash – the bayonet mount will only mount on certain lenses and even for the 50mm macro lens, one needs to buy a separate adapter.
  • the bayonet fitting used to fit the original ZD 50-200mm lens but the new SWD version of this lens amazingly has an incompatible bayonet mount
  • it’s time to make some adapters as is available in the Canon system so that these flashes can be mounted to various filter threads such as 58mm, 67mm, etc.

Now the macro flash system:

  • the obvious need is to add capability for it to be a master controller for remote TTL flash so that one could control FL-36R or FL-50R flashes used to light the background
  • it would be nice to be able to control light ratio of two halves of the ring flash – perhaps make the ring flash with 2 tubes as with Canon, but make them seamless so that you still get a full circle catchlight instead of the segmented ugly Canon ring light catch light

Lastly, perhaps some new macro lenses:

  • a 1-5x macro lens similar to the Canon lens although these are unlikely to sell in large quantities given the difficulty in using such high magnifications, the absence of AF or ability to focus to infinity, but such macro capability is essential in a complete macro system
  • a 100mm f/2.0 macro lens to provide a longer working distance and at the same time be a relatively compact, high quality f/2.0 lens for portraits, indoor action, astrophotography and whatever other applications one can think of
    • currently, the ZD 50-200mm f2.8-3.5 SWD provides good macro performance at 1.2m close focus and 200mm focal length (400mm equivalent reach in 35mm terms), but I think a 100mm f/2.0 SWD macro would be a brilliant, even sharper lens in the pro line (rather than super-pro) and also compliment the current ZD 150mm f/2.0 lens which is probably due for a SWD upgrade
    • Stan has reminded me of the Sigma 105mm f/2.8 macro lens but this does not appear to have the resolution wide open that I would like – see 105mm lens review.

More information on macrophotography here.

Olympus ZD 50mm macro – flowers with Olympus Ring Flash

Thursday, October 16th, 2008

What else to do on a lovely sunny Spring morning with not much wind (wind is BAD for macro shots!), than to take a wander and see what you can find….


and, attaching the Olympus EC-20 2x teleconverter allows 1:1 macro, such as these Mt Fuji cherry tree blossom with tiny Argentinian ant which have now created one of the biggest ant super-colonies in the world, here in Melbourne.

cherry blossom

Click on the images for larger views.

Digital infrared – Olympus E510 + ZD 50mm macro

Wednesday, October 8th, 2008

Just to prove you don’t need an expensive camera like the Canon 1DMIII in my last post, or a IR-modified camera to do digital infrared photography, this post is to show you that the Olympus dSLRs have some advantages over other un-modified dSLRs.

IR beach

As with the Canon 1DMIII and other current un-modified dSLRs, the strong IR blocking filter means you will need to use a tripod and long exposure times which can be an advantage as mentioned in the previous post.

I chose the Olympus ZD 50mm f/2.0 macro lens for this IR beach shot as it has a 52mm filter thread and thus I can use an inexpensive 52mm Hoya R72 filter on this lens and via a 49-52mm step up ring, on the Olympus OM wide angle lenses (On the Canon and the Olympus, I can use the 21mm, 24mm and 28mm lenses all with 49mm threads).

Another reason I used this lens is that its wide aperture combined with Olympus’ unique Live Boost live preview means I can compose and autofocus in bright sunlight, and indeed, you can actually see enough in the optical viewfinder to compose in bright sunlight.

It also has the advantage I don’t have to manually close down the aperture as with the OM lenses.

Otherwise, the technique is similar to that I posted for the Canon 1DMIII.

Here is another shot with sepia toning:

sepia IR

To get this shot, I used a very compact cheap tripod in the water so it is not as steady as the previous one, and to top it off just after the shot was completed, a wave splashed over my E510, but incredibly, after a bit of a rushed shake and clean down, it kept working and has done so ever since (fingers crossed).