Several people have expressed an interest in seeing how I get on with a dSLR and primes for closeups/macros after using achromats on bridge and micro four thirds cameras for about seven years, so I thought I would start a thread to chronicle this part of my photographic journey. (btw if this leads to "off-topic" discussions of alternative approaches people use, or want to know about, and any manner of related closeup/macro issues that's fine by me.) So, I've spent a lot of money (by my standards) on some top line lenses and flash (Canon 100L macro, MPE65 and MT24EX), and a fairly decent camera (70D). I have bought some other lenses for less common (for me) applications (Canon 55-250 EF-S STM, for some butterflies and other larger invertebrates in positions where I need a bit more reach; Sigma 10-20, for sunsets and cloudscapes; Canon 18-55 EF-S STM, the kit lens that came with the 70D). Until now I have used achromats, in increasing order of power these are: Canon 500D, +2 diopters; Raynox 150, +4.8 diopters; Raynox 250m +8 diopters; Raynox 150 and 250 stacked, ? +12.8 diopters; Raynox MSN-202, +25 diopters. I have used these for about two years each on a Canon S3 bridge camera, a Canon SX10 bridge camera and a Panasonic G3 micro four thirds camera, and then for about a year on a Panasonic FZ200 bridge camera. I also have a Canon SX240 point and shoot, which is surprisingly good for non-tiny flowers (just the camera - you can't attach achromats to it). I am primarily interested in photographing invertebrates, flowers and skyscapes. For invertebrates I tend towards whole-subject shots and subject-in-its-environment shots and series rather than ultra closups of parts of an animal. Some of the subjects such as springtails are sufficiently small that they need magnification far beyond 1:1 even for whole-body shots. Flowers for me includes , buds, berries, foliage, moss etc, including subjects and scenes ("micro-landscapes") that need magnification beyond 1:1. I don't do any invertebrate or flower photography indoors. The skyscapes are typically sunsets/sunset cloudscapes over over the Severn Estuary, which we live on the side of. I shot JPEG only for years, but now shoot RAW whenever using a camera that does RAW. I always post process my images. I use Lightroom and CS2 mainly, with Zerene Stacker for closeup/macro stacks (not something I have done a lot of to date, although I intend to do more), Autopano Pro for panoramas and Photomatix Pro for HDR (again, not something I have done a lot of to date, but may do more, with an emphasis probably on "realistic, you wouldn't know it was HDR" type HDR, although I wouldn't exclude more "artistic" excursions occasionally). My journey is an exploration, and it might lead me back once more to bridge and achromats. I gave micro four thirds a good go, albeit with achromats rather than prime macro lenses, but then reverted to bridge because, for my purposes, there didn't seem to be any appreciable difference in the quality of the outputs, whilst the FZ200 ergonomics were far superior, for my hand, eyes and brain. My early experience with the new kit suggests that it is entirely possible that something similar might happen with the dSLR. The thread For the Flower Power Folk - my first dSLR images provides some initial impressions of my new kit. My concerns will probably change over time, but at the moment these are the issues that seem to demand most urgent attention: How much of an improvement in image quality am I going to get out of this kit compared to the FZ200 and achromats? Are there types of images that I want to capture, and can with the FZ200, but can't with the new kit? Are there types of images that I want to capture, and can with the new kit, but can't with the FZ200? Is the new kit going to be manageable/usable from a practical perspective for what I want to do, mainly in our garden, and for 4-6 hour sessions at several local nature reserves? Now I have all this kit (APS-C, MFT, bridge and P&S), should I be thinking in terms of "mixing and matching" the kit I use to the types of photography I am (and become) interested in, rather than thinking in terms of using a single set of kit for everything? And if so, how practical is that going to be out in the field? At the moment I can find hardly any invertebrates, and most of the handful I have found have disappeared from view before I could get my act together to photograph them. There is enough plant material to work with, but it has been pretty breezy ever since I got the first of the new kit. I keep going out into the garden but keep getting rained off. I went down to the local bay at sunset yesterday but the sky was very bland indeed. So, while I have had the opportunity to start familiarising myself with the kit in real world situations (cold, breeze/wind, threatening and actual rain), I haven't been able to do any real world IQ comparisons yet. I have done one "set up" comparison. I picked several (wet) little flowers from the garden and arranged them in an aluminium food tray which I put under a roof light window and propped up at an angle to make the camera setup easier. I captured several shots with the 70D using the 100L, and several using the FZ200 with an achromat (I don't recall, and didn't write down, if it was the Canon 500D or Raynox 150). All used RAW. I wanted to emulate a relevant real world situation, where I am striving for maximum depth of field but the ambient light is not bright and I don't want to use flash. I used the smallest aperture with the FZ200, which is f/8, and I used the FZ200 base ISO of 100. My understanding was that to get the same depth of field with APS-C you need to use about three stops smaller aperture, which would be f/22. So, using a remote release, I took several shots with the 70D at f/22, increasing the ISO to 1600 to compensate for the smaller aperture. This was a mistake - it should have been ISO 800, a 3 stop difference, to compensate for the 3 stop difference in aperture. I also took some shots at f/16, making the same mistake, using ISO 800 rather than the ISO 400 which would have compensated for the 2 stop difference in aperture. A bit of a senior moment I think. I picked the shots that looked best to me, one each of: 70D, f/22, ISO 1600; 70D, f/16, ISO 800; FZ200, f/8, ISO 100. These sorts of comparisons always need to be handled carefully, and the interpretations can be contentious even when rigorously conducted, which this one wasn't - apart from the error noted above, the images aren't framed exactly the same, and from the look of the exposure times I think the light level must have changed too. And I can't be certain there were no vibrations in the (wooden, upstairs) floor during the long exposures. All that said ... ... when imported into Lightroom (with the same default sharpening and colour noise reduction) the images from the two cameras looked very different indeed. This was because of different white balances. I set them all to the same white balance, the one which looked most realistic to me. I then exported them all from Lightroom to full size JPEGs, with no other processing, and compression 90%. You can see them here. The RAW images are here in case you are interested. I then processed the images using my normal processing workflow, creating JPEGs 1100 pixels high. The processing was the same for the two 70D images. This included pulling up the shadows as much as Lightroom allows to get some (more) colour into the dark areas of the background, and of course this creates noise. I did not apply any noise reduction. I then processed the FZ200 image to make it look as good as I could trying to match the 70D images as far as practical in terms of colours, brightness, contrast etc, and this included pulling up the shadows almost as much as for the 70D. Apart from this only slightly milder action on the shadows, I had to push the FZ200 image noticeably harder (in terms of contrast, highlights, whites, blacks, clarity and vibrance) than the 70D images to move it towards where I wanted it to be. After the camera-specific Lightroom processing I passed the images over to CS2 and gave them my standard "finishing off", using the same amount of output sharpening for each of them. Here is what I got. (For the 1100 pixel high versions, click on image then right click and choose "Original") 70D, ISO 1600, f/22 - IMG_0448-Edit PS1 PSS3.43 by gardenersassistant, on Flickr 70D, ISO 800, f/16 - IMG_0451-Edit PS1 PSS3.43 by gardenersassistant, on Flickr FZ200, ISO 100, f/8 - P1190878-Edit PS1 PSS3.43 by gardenersassistant, on Flickr On a cursory examination I think the images may look rather similar (framing apart, and depending on how one's screen is set up - I'm using a hardware calibrated screen which claims to render 100% of the RGB gamut). But after flicking back and forth between them many times it looks to me as though the 70D images have significantly better micro contrast, detail and subtlety of colour rendition. To my surprise, both of the 70D images appear to have greater depth of field than the FZ200 image. (We need to be careful here, because perhaps the centre of dof was further forward for the FZ200 and some dof was unused and hence lost at the front of the image.) This jogged my memory about something I noticed a few days ago but had ignored - Cambridge in Colour have a Macro Depth of Field Calculator (about two thirds of the way down this page), and this suggested that there are only two stops of difference in dof between (Canon) APS-C and 1/2.3" as used by many bridge cameras, including the FZ200. This evening I checked my calculations for the values I put into this calculatr and tried again. I got the same result. If true, this means that in terms of dof f/16 on APS-C equates to f/8 on the FZ200. This in turn would mean that by using f/22 on the 70D I could get 1.4 times the maximum dof achievable on the FZ200. And the 100L actually goes to f/32, and this would give twice the dof achievable on the FZ200. There would be a lot of detail loss from diffraction, but I've learnt that increases in dof (which are very visible) can (for me) outweigh loss of detail which may difficult to see or in fact may be beneath the level of perceptibility depending on the size of the image produced for viewing. This is rather promising. As well as the possibility of being able to get greater dof, the 100L makes it easy to position the dof where you want it. With the camera at the appropriate distance for framing/magnification, the dof can be moved with the very smooth focus ring and on the LCD you can see exactly where the dof is falling. It is a delight to use. I have never been successful with manual focusing with any of my previous cameras so I have found this a real eye-opener. More generally, using live view on the LCD on the 70D works very well, when using the on-sensor phase-detect focusing or manual focusing. (I haven't played with it yet, but I suspect the normal, 19 point phase-detect focusing may only be practical using the viewfinder because the LCD blacks out for a surprisingly long time while normal phase-detect focusing is going on. But for something where it is needed, like bees in flight, even I would probably prefer to use the viewfinder anyway. I suspect the 70D and 100L will be much better for bees in flight than anything I have used before, with which I have rarely had much success using achromats.) Another positive is the MT24EX. It is easy to use and seems to be very effective. I may need to add some DIY diffusion, but I won't know that until I find some invertebrates to photograph. So far so good. However, much less promising are some issues around working distance. Here are some some measurements that you might want to refer to as you read on. FZ200 and 70D – some scene widths and working distances by gardenersassistant, on Flickr The first issue has to do with magnifications of greater than 1:1. Up to 1:1 is ok - the minimum working distance with the 100L on the 70D is about 115mm to the front of the MT24EX, or slightly more without the flash. The scene width at 1:1 is of course 22.5 mm. I often deal with smaller scenes. At 1:1 the working distance of the MPE-65 (with the MT24EX attached) is about 85mm. This reduces to about 50mm for scene widths of 12.5mm and 25mm when at maximum magnification, with a scene width of 4.5mm. In contrast, with the Raynox 250 on the FZ200 the working distance is a constant 100mm or so, down to scene widths of about 8.5mm. The Raynox 150 and Canon 500D have even larger working distances, about 160mm for the 150 and about 300mm for the 500D. So, down to scenes of 8.5mm in width (and I don't often need to deal with smaller scenes), the working distance of the new kit is rather poor compared to the FZ200 and achromats. Indeed, the shorter working distances of the MPE-65 as magnification increases, coupled with the increasing awkwardness of handling the MPE65 as it extends greatly as magnification increases, means that I may well end up scaring off some of the subjects which I can handle fine with the FZ200. Another issue with working distance is the need to move the camera far more with the 100L and MPE65 than with the FZ200. With an achromat on the FZ200 you get a range of magnifications that you can use without moving the camera, and so you can set up to use one of the achromats and then change the framing/magnification of the shot with no risk of disturbing the subject. It turns out that with the 100L in order to change the magnification/framing in the way I want I have to move the camera far further than the reach of the focus rail, which means moving the tripod (and for a lot of my natural light, slow shutter speed captures the tripod is essential). With the feet of the tripod wrapped around with long grass, brambles etc, as is often the case out on the nature reserves, this is going to make things much more difficult. There are similar, although less severe, issues with the MPE65 because it extends so much and you have to move the camera to compensate for the lens extension. A related issue with the MPE65 is that it is so awkward to handle, especially when magnifications increase, at which point you are dealing with a very large instrument (about 10 inches long at maximum magnification), the far end of which has to be very close to the subject. The physical difficulty of controlling the movement (back and forth in relation to the subject, and side to side as well) adds to the difficult of finding the subject, which can only be done once the lens is at the required magnification (and length). This compares to the FZ200 where you can position the camera with the lens at minimum magnification, which makes it far easier to find the subject, and then simply zoom in to the required framing/magnification. It is easy and quick, and the process of finding the subject and framing the shot do not involve any movement that may disturb the subject. Yet another related issue is that I often photograph scenes smaller than (APS-C) 1:1. I use the Raynox 150 a lot on the FZ200, from its minimum to its maximum magnification. Indeed, I quite often use it towards or at its maximum magnification for shots concentrating on the subject, and then pull back (without moving the camera or changing to another achromat) to get contextual shots. I often alternate between subject and environmental shots, quite often with shots at one or more intermediate magnifications. The 150 gets me down to scenes about 13mm wide, which is much less than the 22.5 at 1:1 with the 100L on the 70D. So to get the same sets of images with the 70D would require changing between the 100L and the MPE65. Especially when the MT24EX is attached (which it pretty much has to be for the MPE65), this is a non-trivial operation. The camera has to come off the focus rail, the flash removed and put to one side (no where to put it down btw in amongst the wet grass and brambles etc), the lens taken off the camera and put away, the other lens put on, the camera remounted on the focus rail and the flash reattached. I have been practising and will be able to get this operation pretty slick, but it is never going to be quick. The equivalent with the FZ200 (when it is needed at all, which is not very often) is to unscrew the achromat on the camera, put it in its box, take out another from its box and screw it on to the camera. One thing that might help is to use the Raynox 250 on the 100L. This will give me a quicker and easier way to go to smaller scenes, from 21.5 to 12.5m in width, about the same as I can get to (seamlessly much of the time) with the Raynox 150. There are two downsides, one being that although it is much easier and quicker than changing to the MPE65 it isn't seamless like the back and forth zooming I do with the 150. The other issue is that it reduces the working distance significantly, ranging from a maximum of 75mm for scenes of 21.5mm in width down to 45mm for scenes of 12.5mm in width. This compares to a constant working distance of about 160mm with the Raynox 150. So, there are some positives and some negatives thus far. I can't get my head around how all this is likely to pan out in practical terms. It's going to be a case of suck it and see I think. Any comments, suggestions, corrections, additional info, examples, related matters etc very welcome. This story is going to run on for a while I think. More in due course, possibly quite soon.