Several macro questions

Ironlegs

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Hey everyone

First of all i hope its ok to post it in this category, if not , i am sorry.

I would like to ask few questions. I am going to order some extension tubes ( 65 mm ) and gonna reverse my 50mm f/1.8 canon lens on it. I am not sure if i can handle the DoF, i really dont know what to expect so my question is if its possible to focus stack handheld when my hands are not really steady, i dont want to use tripod cause its sometimes not possible, i want to find jumping spiders :). Also, is the 50mm f/1.8 reversed with extension tubes a good combination ? Will the pictures be sharp ? I calculated that i will have 2.3:1 magnification with that, is it close enough for jumping spiders or should i get more extension tubes ? I also thought about buying a 28mm lens and reversing that with extension tubes, wouldnt that be a better combination ?
 

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You will have extremely limited working distance, so you risk scaring off your spiders.
 

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I've not reversed a 50mm onto tubes before but the problems you'll face will be:

1) Reduced working distance - yep you'll be close to the subject. This not only increase the chance of subject disturbance but
a) Makes lighting more tricky as you're shadowing the subject more so with lens and camera. So you'll want flash and also you might find need of a little LED on a flexi-arm - taped or secured to the lens (elastic bands) so that you can use its light to help you focus.
b) Makes focusing easier. Yes I said easier. This is because you can rest your left hand on the surface the subject is upon (or take hold of it if its a leaf or such). Then you can brace yourself more firmly and slide the camera forward on your arm.

2) No aperture control:
a) If you are shooting Nikon their lenses default to closed when not mounted so you'll have an exceptionally dark viewfinder. I think some of the older ones which still have an aperture ring can; however, set the aperture manually. Note fully closed down will give you the most depth of field; but alsoa lot of diffraction so you'll get a soft shot (so ideally you want to control the aperture somehow)
b) If Canon the lens will default to wide open. Now what you can do is mount the lens on the camera directly - set the aperture - press and hold the depth of field preview button (that little one on the front of hte camera around the lens mount that you've probably forgotten even exists) - then with the button held down and the camera still on, remove the lens.
The aperture blades will now remain at the set value until such time as you re-attach it to a camera and turn the camera on/focus/meter.

You can focus stack when handholding; you will need a totally static subject, surface and steady hands. Note you can use the left-hand-brace technique (google it) to get some additional support (its mostly how I described earlier for focusing aids at closer distances). You will want to use burst mode to get a series of shots; you'll also want to see how well your flash keeps up if you're using it for shots.
Myself on the 7D I set it to half its max fps mode and use a battery pack (PIXEL brand) to give the flash a faster recharge time (note one has to remember that you don't burst for too long too often without letting the flash cool inbetween).

Note remember the lower the flash power the faster it will be able to pulse its light, so two flashes might work faster than one alone - but of course that increase weight of the setup so you have to consider that as well.

You will have extremely limited working distance, so you risk scaring off your spiders.

With jumping spiders its more likely they'll spot their reflection - wave their legs then leap AT YOU!
 
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Ironlegs

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You will have extremely limited working distance, so you risk scaring off your spiders.
Thats right but seems like i have no other choice

I've not reversed a 50mm onto tubes before but the problems you'll face will be:

1) Reduced working distance - yep you'll be close to the subject. This not only increase the chance of subject disturbance but
a) Makes lighting more tricky as you're shadowing the subject more so with lens and camera. So you'll want flash and also you might find need of a little LED on a flexi-arm - taped or secured to the lens (elastic bands) so that you can use its light to help you focus.
b) Makes focusing easier. Yes I said easier. This is because you can rest your left hand on the surface the subject is upon (or take hold of it if its a leaf or such). Then you can brace yourself more firmly and slide the camera forward on your arm.

2) No aperture control:
a) If you are shooting Nikon their lenses default to closed when not mounted so you'll have an exceptionally dark viewfinder. I think some of the older ones which still have an aperture ring can; however, set the aperture manually. Note fully closed down will give you the most depth of field; but alsoa lot of diffraction so you'll get a soft shot (so ideally you want to control the aperture somehow)
b) If Canon the lens will default to wide open. Now what you can do is mount the lens on the camera directly - set the aperture - press and hold the depth of field preview button (that little one on the front of hte camera around the lens mount that you've probably forgotten even exists) - then with the button held down and the camera still on, remove the lens.
The aperture blades will now remain at the set value until such time as you re-attach it to a camera and turn the camera on/focus/meter.

You can focus stack when handholding; you will need a totally static subject, surface and steady hands. Note you can use the left-hand-brace technique (google it) to get some additional support (its mostly how I described earlier for focusing aids at closer distances). You will want to use burst mode to get a series of shots; you'll also want to see how well your flash keeps up if you're using it for shots.
Myself on the 7D I set it to half its max fps mode and use a battery pack (PIXEL brand) to give the flash a faster recharge time (note one has to remember that you don't burst for too long too often without letting the flash cool inbetween).

Note remember the lower the flash power the faster it will be able to pulse its light, so two flashes might work faster than one alone - but of course that increase weight of the setup so you have to consider that as well.

You will have extremely limited working distance, so you risk scaring off your spiders.

With jumping spiders its more likely they'll spot their reflection - wave their legs then leap AT YOU!

Thanks for your input Overread, you always have the answers i need :). I have canon 50mm lens and i already read about the DoF button and stuff. For flash, i will use a flexible arm flash holder with Metz 58-AF-1 mounted on it and huge diffusor right infront of the lens and i wont use a wireless trigger but cable one. Still not sure if i will be able to handle it though... i really dont want to use tripod, i am wondering how does Thomas Shahan do it all hand held... he did one shot with single hand and focus stacked it i dont understand it ! And how about the magnification 2.3:1 ? Is it enough for jumping spiders ?

This is the picture : Eyes of a Female Phidippus workmani - Florida Flickr - Photo Sharing He is holding the leaf in one hand and doing the picture with other one... there is a video on the internet showing that he really did the shot with one hand... how did he focus stack it then ?
 

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A burst of shots - your body will naturally sway somewhat; indeed with macro you often time your shot so that you fire as you move into focus (this is why its often done with manual focusing). With focus stacking you just keep your finger depressed and make sure you sway slowly. Sometimes it will work and sometimes it won't - I got a handful of frames of a moth once doing that on a leaf.

As for the magnification I'm going to say you won't get a shot that close - not with 2.3:1. You'll get close, but if memory serves (been a while since I found a jumper) you'd be at 3:1 for jumping spiders of most sizes - then an eye shot like that might be 5:1 or greater.

Give it a try and practice - high magnification photography is one of the most challenging types of photography from a camera and technical perspective of actually doing the shot itself with the gear.
 
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A burst of shots - your body will naturally sway somewhat; indeed with macro you often time your shot so that you fire as you move into focus (this is why its often done with manual focusing). With focus stacking you just keep your finger depressed and make sure you sway slowly. Sometimes it will work and sometimes it won't - I got a handful of frames of a moth once doing that on a leaf.

As for the magnification I'm going to say you won't get a shot that close - not with 2.3:1. You'll get close, but if memory serves (been a while since I found a jumper) you'd be at 3:1 for jumping spiders of most sizes - then an eye shot like that might be 5:1 or greater.

Give it a try and practice - high magnification photography is one of the most challenging types of photography from a camera and technical perspective of actually doing the shot itself with the gear.

By sometimes it will work and sometimes it wont, you mean the pictures must be nearly the same ? How about somehow aligning them ?
Also, he does a lot of his pictures with 50mm reversed... do you think he uses like 100mm reversed tubes ? ( That would be 3x magnification )
Like this shot here Female Jumping Spider - Phidippus regius - Florida Flickr - Photo Sharing ( PS: i dont want to achieve his style of photography, i just want to get a similar magnification on those spiders and insects :) )
 

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I would guess that that is around 3:1 yes maybe a bit more - but then cropping can mistake the magnification some if he crops after the shot.

And yes you are right; handheld stacking - heck even tied to a tripod stacking always runs a risk of failing. You can get little problems like wind (or breathing) moving hairs; you can get subject motion - your own motions etc... It's tricky which is why often if you get the chance I tend to
1) Take a single "keeper" still. A shot of the subject good enough in one single frame
2) Take more than one series of stacks. That way you increase the chance that one stack will work (you can also combine frames from different stacks; but this can be tricky as they might not have the exact same framing if done handheld.

Alignment and stacking itself is normally done with software. Combine ZP is a freeware option - there is also Helicon Focus and Zerene stacker which are both paid options; Photoshop also has a stacking mode. Each one works differently and even within itself has various options and methods. Sometimes a series of shots will fail with one, but another will get it to work. The criteria for fail/success is not simple and is of a nature that you can't "shoot" with it in mind; its one of the few instances where owning more than one software option will produce a viable and significant difference in results (as opposed to most other situations like sharpening or noise reduction where the differences are much more marginal overall).
 
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Ironlegs

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I would guess that that is around 3:1 yes maybe a bit more - but then cropping can mistake the magnification some if he crops after the shot.

And yes you are right; handheld stacking - heck even tied to a tripod stacking always runs a risk of failing. You can get little problems like wind (or breathing) moving hairs; you can get subject motion - your own motions etc... It's tricky which is why often if you get the chance I tend to
1) Take a single "keeper" still. A shot of the subject good enough in one single frame
2) Take more than one series of stacks. That way you increase the chance that one stack will work (you can also combine frames from different stacks; but this can be tricky as they might not have the exact same framing if done handheld.

Alignment and stacking itself is normally done with software. Combine ZP is a freeware option - there is also Helicon Focus and Zerene stacker which are both paid options; Photoshop also has a stacking mode. Each one works differently and even within itself has various options and methods. Sometimes a series of shots will fail with one, but another will get it to work. The criteria for fail/success is not simple and is of a nature that you can't "shoot" with it in mind; its one of the few instances where owning more than one software option will produce a viable and significant difference in results (as opposed to most other situations like sharpening or noise reduction where the differences are much more marginal overall).

On his video where he reviewed the Venus 60mm f/2.8 lens ( 2:1 magnification ) he also had one picture of the spider ... so i am confused... is 2x enough or he cropped it and there was no detail loss ? Anyway... i am still not quite sure if i can handle it, i will surely practice but i am kinda afraid of the focus stacking thing... no idea how will i handle that. Seems like i will buy more extension tubes so i can go over 100mm, i really want high magnification :D
 

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Well I'm only guessing at the 3:1 - 2:1 might be enough and in youtube videos you've a LOT of room to crop (actually at most websizes you've a LOT of cropping room).

Start getting good single shots and practice lots. Focus stacking is basically lots of solid shots one after the other. So practice at getting one good shot and then expand from there.

As for going high on magnification I wouldn't do it with extension tubes. The more you add the more light you lose internally and also the more unbalanced your setup becomes. You can use a few other options instead;

1) Reverse a short lens onto a long one. Eg a 70-300mm on a camera with a 50mm reversed on the front goes from over 1:1 at the 70mm end to 6:1 at the 300mm end!

2) Save for a Canon MPE 65mm f2.8 macro ;)

3) Close up lens attachments (macro filters/diopters). These work like extension tubes; but give more magnification on longer focal length lenses (whilst tubes are the opposite). Raynox makes a good series and if you're after higher magnifcations then their more powerful MSN series might be what would suit you best. Avoid the cheap ones as they are oft single sheets of glass with few corrections (they work but poorly); Raynox options are high quality multi-element corrected optics and are very high grade.

4) Build a custom setup and attach a microscope optic to the front of the camera like a lens. Bit more fiddly as you have no aperture at all.
 
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Well I'm only guessing at the 3:1 - 2:1 might be enough and in youtube videos you've a LOT of room to crop (actually at most websizes you've a LOT of cropping room).

Start getting good single shots and practice lots. Focus stacking is basically lots of solid shots one after the other. So practice at getting one good shot and then expand from there.

As for going high on magnification I wouldn't do it with extension tubes. The more you add the more light you lose internally and also the more unbalanced your setup becomes. You can use a few other options instead;

1) Reverse a short lens onto a long one. Eg a 70-300mm on a camera with a 50mm reversed on the front goes from over 1:1 at the 70mm end to 6:1 at the 300mm end!

2) Save for a Canon MPE 65mm f2.8 macro ;)

3) Close up lens attachments (macro filters/diopters). These work like extension tubes; but give more magnification on longer focal length lenses (whilst tubes are the opposite). Raynox makes a good series and if you're after higher magnifcations then their more powerful MSN series might be what would suit you best. Avoid the cheap ones as they are oft single sheets of glass with few corrections (they work but poorly); Raynox options are high quality multi-element corrected optics and are very high grade.

4) Build a custom setup and attach a microscope optic to the front of the camera like a lens. Bit more fiddly as you have no aperture at all.

But options 1 and 3 result in overall loss of image quality and sharpness :O 2 is unreal as i know myself lol, i am just a student :D. Regarding option 1, I have 100mm f/2.8 canon macro lens but i am not sure if i want to try that. I am leaning towards the extension tubes mostly cause Thomas uses them and he does perfect job with them so i think it is possible with them... i saw his setup on videos, he has single flash with big diffusor. So maybe the loss of light isnt that big problem ?
 

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100mm is kind of a cut off point between extension tubes and close up lens attachments. Note that ANY method you use will result in image quality "loss". Even the MPE appears to have this element as you increase the magnification.

Now what's actually happening (far as I can tell) is that each method increases magnification, but at the same time also increases the effective aperture of the whole setup. So whilst your lens might be f2.8 to start with, with the extension tubes; or the close up lens attachments; or the MPE - with those it ends up getting smaller. As a result diffraction kicks in a lot sooner. As a result whilst your depth of field is getting smaller as you increase magnification; you also have to use wider and wider apertures. f16 is very usable at 1:1 whilst at 5:1 you might get at f4 as reported on the lens (the actual effective aperture being much smaller).


As for image quality loss with things like close up lens attachments; remember that even extension tubes reduce the overall quality by a tiny amount. Indeed many times these image quality reductions are tiny; and made even more tiny because chances are you'll be closing down to a sharp aperture anyway.
 

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I have shot jumping spiders a few times with a reversed 28mm lens, without extension tubes. With the tubes the magnification is even greater. If memory serves you wind up with something like 9:1 ratio. Normal macro lenses just don't have the pulling power. I have the Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8 VR and it doesn't render jumping spiders big enough in the frame.

With a reversed 28mm, working distances are very short but jumping spiders are quite inquisitive creatures and do get used to you after a while. The main difficulty is focusing due to the very shallow depth of field. However, exposures are pretty consistent with a flash on a bracket, due to the working distance being constant. Once you have correct exposure dialled in, you can forget about it and concentrate on focusing.

It does take patience and a lot of practice but the results can be spectacular. If you've not heard of Thomas Shahan, I highly recommend you check out his work and his basic setup. Macro photography doesn't have to be all that expensive to get amazing results.

 

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100mm is kind of a cut off point between extension tubes and close up lens attachments. Note that ANY method you use will result in image quality "loss". Even the MPE appears to have this element as you increase the magnification.

Now what's actually happening (far as I can tell) is that each method increases magnification, but at the same time also increases the effective aperture of the whole setup. So whilst your lens might be f2.8 to start with, with the extension tubes; or the close up lens attachments; or the MPE - with those it ends up getting smaller. As a result diffraction kicks in a lot sooner. As a result whilst your depth of field is getting smaller as you increase magnification; you also have to use wider and wider apertures. f16 is very usable at 1:1 whilst at 5:1 you might get at f4 as reported on the lens (the actual effective aperture being much smaller).


As for image quality loss with things like close up lens attachments; remember that even extension tubes reduce the overall quality by a tiny amount. Indeed many times these image quality reductions are tiny; and made even more tiny because chances are you'll be closing down to a sharp aperture anyway.

But extension tubes have no glass in it so it cant really reduce the image quality right ?
 
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I have shot jumping spiders a few times with a reversed 28mm lens, without extension tubes. With the tubes the magnification is even greater. If memory serves you wind up with something like 9:1 ratio. Normal macro lenses just don't have the pulling power. I have the Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8 VR and it doesn't render jumping spiders big enough in the frame.

With a reversed 28mm, working distances are very short but jumping spiders are quite inquisitive creatures and do get used to you after a while. The main difficulty is focusing due to the very shallow depth of field. However, exposures are pretty consistent with a flash on a bracket, due to the working distance being constant. Once you have correct exposure dialled in, you can forget about it and concentrate on focusing.

It does take patience and a lot of practice but the results can be spectacular. If you've not heard of Thomas Shahan, I highly recommend you check out his work and his basic setup. Macro photography doesn't have to be all that expensive to get amazing results.


Haha, i linked pictures from Thomas Shahan and i am talking about him for like last hour here, you didnt read through :D He is a big inspiration to me.
Thats why i am not sure what to do, if i should get around 65-100mm of extension tubes and reversed 50mm or go for 28mm reversed and extension tubes... cant decide whats a better solution for me... If i did that with the 50mm lens it would be cheaper for me. So my problem is, that i cant decide and i am also worried about the focusing.
By the way those pictures are nice !

( sorry for double post )
 

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But extension tubes have no glass in it so it cant really reduce the image quality right ?

Aye, but you are still moving the lens away from its optimum position mounted to the camera. This thus affects the angle of the light hitting the sensor and does cause a minor loss in image quality. Now in most of these cases (high end close up adaptors - extension tubes) this loss is, in most typical non-extreme cases, minimal. In fact its so small that most of the time you won't notice it at all unless you're comparing test shots side by side before editing.
This is even more the case if you're shooting closed down at a naturally sharper aperture.

Heck you can put a 1.4Teleconverter (which has quite a bit of glass in it) infront of many high-end lenses and they will show very tiny degradation; and if closed down hardly any at all. Again the gains are vastly more than the tiny loss; especially once you've editing and outputted to your chosen display medium (print - web display).
 

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