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  1. GardenersHelper

    GardenersHelper

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    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")

    [​IMG]
    70D, ISO 1600, f/22 - IMG_0448-Edit PS1 PSS3.43
    by gardenersassistant, on Flickr

    [​IMG]
    70D, ISO 800, f/16 - IMG_0451-Edit PS1 PSS3.43
    by gardenersassistant, on Flickr

    [​IMG]
    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.

    [​IMG]
    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.
     
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2014
  2. TimmyG

    TimmyG

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    Nick, your findings re: the MP-E made me smile. You won't believe the amount of frustration I have had trying to find subjects through the view finder (especially at full magnification), and by the time I get anywhere close, they have moved on. I've never really known any different though, so I just take this to be part of the fun!

    I'll be particularly interested in your further experiments with the MT24EX, as I am undecided whether or not to add this to my wishlist. I've read of people switching from this unit to a single flash setup and vice versa. For my own work I am now finding I am getting too much shadow beneath the subjects, so I want to start experimenting with some kind of reflector, but suspect this could have serious impact on the compositions I can achieve with the bugs I find among the leaf litter. The MT24 could be the answer, but obviously this is a hefty investment.

    I'm also interested to understand what your preference will be with shooting diptera or similar sized insects. Many of the larger flies I shoot at around 1:1, so another wishlist item is something like the Canon 100mm F2.8 . This is another sizeable investment, but may help me when I require that little bit more in frame, or shooting larger insects such as dragonflies. One cheaper alternative I would like to try is by adding a reversed teleconverter to the MP-E as discussed here.

    Anyway, interesting stuff, but I'm really waiting to see those bug shots ;)
     
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2014
  3. Nod

    Nod Kronus

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    The joys of SLR photography! There's always a new toy/tool to buy... As I've said before, I'm a Nikon user so the MP isn't an (easy) option for me but I understand that it can be frustrating sometimes in it's dedication to the macro cause, sometimes leaving the user wishing they had a bit more control and DoF. Looks like you're doing well with it though, Nick.
     
  4. LCPete

    LCPete

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    Really interesting Nick it does look like you are having a bit of a learning curve with the new kit but will definitely be worth it
    I can't comment on the MPE as I very rarely go past 1:1
    With the framing of shots on the tripod I use a manfrotto 190 the centre column can be set horizontal this allows you to move the camera back and forward without moving the tripod base
    Have a go without the tripod tho that's the great thing with the 100L the IS works at macro distances really well I can handhold the camera and my hands are not that steady
    It's also much easier to play around with composition and change the angle when you handhold the camera
    Only thing is that you may not have enough light to use F16 I'm usually on 6.3 or 7.1:)
     
  5. GardenersHelper

    GardenersHelper

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    More to come in a few days on the MPE, MT24 and 100L, and also some thoughts on diptera and larger subjects like dragonflies. Over the past 24 hours I've been spending a lot of (indoors) time experimenting mainly with the MPE and MT24. As a result I've ordered some more bits and pieces which may not arrive for several days. I'll do another major write-up when I see whether my current ideas will work or not. I suspect (and I certainly hope) there will be some stuff you find interesting. As for bug shots, the timing is out of my hands, but as soon as possible, subject to other commitments and priorities - because I'm as interested as you are to see how that goes. :)
     
  6. GardenersHelper

    GardenersHelper

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    Thanks. Based on today's experiments with the MPE I suspect I may be getting into at least one new area - planty things on the rather small scale. Do you have any desire to do anything in the world beyond 1:1? If so, do I read between the lines correctly that you might be able to use the MPE, bit with some limited functionality? Do you know at this stage what the limitations would be?
     
  7. Nod

    Nod Kronus

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    I have a feeling that any adaptor to mount Canon lenses on Nikon bodies would involve an extra element of glass which is unlikely to help IQ. Of course, that might not be the case when using the MPE since infinity focus isn't on the menu anyway! As you may have guessed, I'm not too bothered in >1:1 anyway and if I really wanted to play the MPE game, I would go down the cheap Canon body route with it as a dedicated Macro rig. For the time being though, I'm more than happy with the Nikkor 105mm VR.

    Just thinking what planty things need >1:1 - pollen grains?! Fern spores?
     
  8. GardenersHelper

    GardenersHelper

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    I find small planty things/scenes from time to time. It's difficult for me to pin any particular examples to illustrate the sort of thing I'm talking about because up until now I have used achromats on a small sensor camera and there isn't an easy way to tell whether any particular shot was 1:1 or more. (I'm using "1:1" in its meaning in relation to APS-C or, differently of course, FF. 1:1 on a small sensor camera is equivalent to about 3.5:1 on APS-C, or 6:1 on FF.)

    I do now have one definite example of a small planty thing at > (APS-C) 1:1, from one of my brief outings in the garden between rain showers several days ago. It was captured with the MPE-65, so it must be greater than 1:1. (What the exact magnification was I don't know. I see MPE users stating what magnification they used for particular shots, but I don't keep notes while shooting and I don't know of a way of finding out, e.g. through Exif data, after the event - not even with Canon's own Zoombrowser application.)

    [​IMG]
    0526 2 2014_02_20 IMG_0649-Edit-4a PS1 PSS3.31
    by gardenersassistant, on Flickr

    I noticed it out of the corner of my eye when chasing this thing around with the MPE.

    [​IMG]
    0526 1 2014_02_20 IMG_0618-Edit-2 PS1 PSS3
    by gardenersassistant, on Flickr

    It quite often happens like that with the smallest plant scenes - I'm concentrating on a small area around a subject when I catch sight of something promising that otherwise I quite probably would not have noticed.
     
  9. GardenersHelper

    GardenersHelper

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    I spent some time in the garden today with the 70D and 100L, working hand-held almost all the time. This was deliberate, along with freely using a variety of ISOs and shutter speeds, including some rather slow ones; I was testing what the limits are for acceptable (to my eye) results. I also used a variety of apertures to see what worked and where the limits were (again, for my tastes).

    The first session was in the morning for an hour. It was still raining just a little - great not to have to rush in at the first sign of precipitation. The second session was mid afternoon. For once, it was not breezy. Just gentle intermittent wafts.

    These sessions today clarified one thing for me. My go to camera for flowers and other planty things is going to be the 70D, mainly with the 100L. I like the ergonomics of the 70D more and more. The 100L let me work hand-held at some fairly slow shutter speeds even around 1:1. Admittedly, the camera was on the ground, or my wellington boot, for a few of the shots, but most were unsupported, including some done one-handed stretching in awkward positions to get shots, for example stretching out over our tiny pond to get the camera close enough to a camellia flower on the other side to get the framing I wanted.

    I have posted five examples in the Flower Power Thread. Unusually for me, and because this is an exploration where other people might be interested in having a close look at the results, they have had almost no post processing. They all had default capture sharpening and colour noise reduction on import to Lightroom. Three had a mild crop and one had highlights reduced. They were then exported full size with no sharpening as JPEG 90. You can click through to see full size versions at Flickr if you are interested.

    I chose these five because I liked the look of them. It was only after I had put them up at Flickr that I looked at the Exif data.
    Two are ISO 400, two ISO 800 and one ISO 1600. Shutter speeds were 1/400, 1/100, 1/60, 1/40 and 1/10 sec. Apertures ranged from f/4 to f/18.

    It looks like 1/40 sec or thereabouts will yield a decent proportion of "sharp enough" shots (for my purposes) around 1:1, and slower further out.

    It looks like ISO 1600 is entirely usable, and so presumably with some PP ISO 3200 will be usable, and perhaps even ISO 6400. I'll be doing some experiments to find out.

    It is wonderful having such a large range of apertures available. Even the best of my bridge cameras only had a three stop range, the FZ200, from f/2.8 to f/8. Having seven stops available with the 100L is great. I think f/32 may be too soft even for my taste, but I need to experiment some more to be sure, because I only took a handful of shots (out of the 500 I captured today) with f/32.
     
  10. GardenersHelper

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    A possibly surprising turn of events – the MPE65 and the MT24EX are packed up and waiting for a courier to pick them up for return to Amazon and a refund.

    Two days ago I discovered that the 100L on the 70D is a wonderful instrument for photographing flora, with plenty of scope for creativity. Yesterday I discovered that the 100L, MPE65 and MT24EX are not a good team for the type of invertebrate photography that I want to do.

    I am confident that the 100L will deliver some excellent invertebrate images up to 1:1. However, you have to get closer to the subject than when using achromats and this is made more difficult by the way the MT24EX sticks out sideways at the front of the lens. The flash units all too easily brush against foliage, disturbing the subject and/or the composition, and can come up against more solid twigs, branches etc which can stop the camera moving where you want to move it to. It isn't all sweetness and light with a top-mounted flash of course, but the way I have mine set up it gives me less hassle and more room for manoeuvre.

    Beyond 1:1, the situation is even worse with the MT24EX on the MPE65, for which working distances are shorter. While I believe a top-mounted flash could work moderately well on the 100L, the fact that the MPE65 is of such variable length as it extends a long way would I suspect make a top-mounted flash difficult to get working conveniently.

    But the major problem (for me) with the MPE65 was that it is so unwieldy. It is big and heavy, and the barrel takes a lot of turning to move from one magnification/framing to another. It can be difficult to find the subject and then difficult to keep it lined up on the subject while doing all the barrel turning. There is no way to quickly zoom out to orient oneself and then quickly zoom back in to arrange the framing of the image. There is no autofocus.

    I encountered four flies, which isn't many, but it was enough. It made it obvious to me that the MPE65 is not suitable for my type of photography beyond 1:1 out in the field. I need something which is more nimble, less ponderous. And the same is true of the MT24EX mounted on the 100L.

    My current thinking is to go back to using achromats beyond 1:1 (and a bit before it in some cases when I want to do a set with whole-body and environmental shots where the whole-body shots are close to or beyond 1:1). I'll start with the G3, leaving open the option of using the FZ200. Both will get me to scene widths of about 13mm with the Raynox 250 and about 8.5mm with the Raynox 150 and 250 stacked. Like now, I probably won't bother going smaller than that very often with the MSN-202, which on the G3 gets down to about 4.5mm, the same as the MPE65. However, this is territory where the MPE65 really is the better option. I think I now understand one reason for this; it has to do with effective aperture.

    For the MPE65 (and any other macro lens) the effective aperture is approximately the nominal aperture * (1 + magnification). So for example if you are using f/8 with the MPE65 at 5:1 the effective aperture is f/(8 * (1+5)), or around f/48. Nominal f/16 at 5:1 would be effective f/96.

    This means that the MPE65 can provide a relatively large amount of dof, at the cost of sharpness and detail. While experimenting capturing the same scene with the MPE65 at 5:1 on the 70D and the MSN-202 on the FZ200 I got roughly the same amount of dof with the FZ200+MSN-202 at f/8 (the FZ200's minimum aperture) as with the MPE65 at f/2.8. This only makes sense if the effective aperture calculation does not apply to achromats. The arithmetic here is that f/8 on the FZ200 gives dof equivalent to about f/16 on APS-C. At 5:1, nominal f/2.8 on the MPE65 is effective f/(2.8 * (1+5)), or around f/16. This means that at apertures smaller than f/2.8 the MPE65 can achieve dof which is unobtainable with the MSN202. According to the Cambridge in Colour dof calculater, dof doubles/halves for each change of 2 stops in aperture. That means that at f/11 the MPE-65 can achieve four times the dof that the MSN202 can achieve. Now I understand that without the MPE65 I won't be able to get anything like the dof achieved by those who do use it, I'm going to leave the high magnification work to Tim and others, and concentrate on lower magnifications where I feel more at home.

    I have a Metz flash that (with my home made diffusion arrangement) allows me to direct light onto the subject from straight ahead and from the side or top when using the G3 or FZ200. I am buying a Canon fit version and will rig that up in the same way for use on the 70D.

    Another issue I have is how to deal with butterflies and other largish invertebrates that may not let me get very close to them. I had thought that the FZ200 with its 600mm equivalent zoom might be the thing to use here, but it turns out that it has a minimum scene width of about 80mm from around 1 metre, while on the 70D the 55-250 with its 400mm equivalent max focal length gives a scene width of about 70mm from about 88cm. So for now I'll use the 55-250 on the 70D, which as well as having the better minimum scene width than the FZ200 will allow deeper cropping.

    I currently envisage my equipment for use at the nature reserves as:

    Canon 70D + Canon 100L, Canon 55-250 for longer range captures, Sigma 10-20 for wide environmental shots and possibly occasional sunrises, and a Metz 58-AF2 flash with home made diffusion.

    Panasonic G3 + 45-175 lens, Metz 58-AF2 flash with home made diffusion and achromats: Raynox 150 , Raynox 250, and I'll take a pre-stacked pair of 150+250 and an MSN-202 just in case I want to go in closer.

    Tripod – essential for early morning low light long exposures, and useful at other times for slow exposures e.g. in the shade, to help frame shots at higher magnifications, and to keep framing fixed while taking multiple shots in a sequence, including when zooming in and out to change the framing without losing the composition. Pole (to provide support that allows flexible movement of the 70D + 100L).

    Lots of batteries. Spare memory cards. Remote release cables. Scissors, tweezers, pen, paper. White balance card.
     
    RedRobin likes this.
  11. LCPete

    LCPete

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    Glad you had a go handholding the 100L its perfect for handheld macro
    If I remember correctly I can get down to a 1/40 on shutter speed im not that steady holding the camera that IS on that lens really helps

    A real shame you didn't get on with the MP E but I didn't either I think that there's a real art to it
    My friend can get multi shot stacks handheld!

    Think that you will find the 100L will do pretty much all that you need even butterflies but that takes a lot of patience
    I do struggle to get near enough to dragonflies tho
    Could always take the zoom lens in your bag too if the insects are a bit flighty
    I have used extention tubes with my 70-200F4 did work well for butterflies
     
  12. GardenersHelper

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    Yes, 1/40 seemed about it when I had a quick look through the images. I've been really busy experimenting with all the lenses and my other cameras trying to work out what to do about the MPE and the MT24, and also rather busy with other commitments, so I haven't had a close look at them yet.

    Yes, Tim does amazing things with it too, including stacks of globular springtails at full magnification. Astonishing. Not for me though. It pretty quickly became obvious that it isn't a suitable tool for the sort of photography I most want to do.

    I don't think 1:1 is enough for quite a lot of what I do, and I don't want to depend on cropping. I'll use the G3 and achromats for the stuff I do beyond 1:1. (I've done some tests today and I'm now confident that I can get better results with the G3 than with the FZ200, so it's the G3 I'll be using.)

    I find it ok when they are sitting around. I;ve never captured one in flight - I have never tried because I knew how unlikely it was to work with my cameras. Now I have the 70D this is something it will be worth trying, and incidentally one of the few things for which I'm likely to use the viewfinder and normal phase detect autofocusing. (I'm finding the on-sensor phase detect to be really good - working in live view is fine. The only thing I'd prefer is to be able to have a smaller focus box.)

    Yes, I'll be taking the 55-250.

    I was thinking of a 1.4x extender, but the 55-250 is EF-S, so no extender.
     
  13. LCPete

    LCPete

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    I was thinking of a 1.4x extender, but the 55-250 is EF-S, so no extender.[/quote]


    I use extension tube's just a hollow tube with the electronic contacts on it
    Like a teleconverter without the glass in
    Allows closer focus
    I would have thought that you could use them on the 55 250 so that you can photograph small butterflies and also on the 100L to get more magnification than 1:1
    I would check tho that you can use tubes on a EFS lens but I can't see why not
     
    Last edited: Feb 28, 2014
  14. GardenersHelper

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    Thanks Pete. It turns out you can use extension tubes with EFS lenses, but unfortunately it looks like the working distance would be too small for my purposes (see from the 4th review down here for example).

    For small butterflies I may use a 58mm Canon 500D achromat (which I already have) on the front of the 55-250. This gives me a minimum scene width of about 26mm (ie approaching 1:1) from a distance of about 31cm, and a maximum scene width of about 47mm at about 49.5 cm. This compares to a minimum scene width of about 70mm from a distance of about 88cm with the 55-250 by itself. So using the 500D I can get a good scene width for small butterflies, but with a half to a third of the nice ~1 metre working distance with the 55-250 by itself. I've used a working distance in that range using the 500D on the G3 for larger butterflies - it's a bit tight but often doable if you approach carefully. I'll see how it goes with the 500D before thinking about spending more money on alternatives, especially as I don't encounter many butterflies.
     
  15. TimmyG

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    Sorry to read that the MP-E didn't work out for you, but I can completely understand the reasoning. As you know I'm missing a viable option for something greater than 1:1 (although I have used my 55-250 for dragonflies). Fully agree that if you are not doing much in the 3-5X range then it's difficult to justify holding onto the MP-E - particularly when you consider what a pain the a** it is to use!
     
  16. GardenersHelper

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    It turns out that I may not be quite finished with the 3-5X range. Yesterday I swapped out my 55-250 EF-S II for an STM version. I did this because I discovered that the STM version focuses much faster (I had not done my research thoroughly enough - well, my attention was elsewhere I suppose, 100L, MPE, MT24 - and I had not clocked that there are different versions of the 55-250).

    The 55-250 II didn't play well with my achromats. Autofocus was ok with the Canon 500D, but iffy with the Raynox 150. And it wouldn't autofocus at all with the Raynox 250. I didn't even bother trying it with the Raynox MSN-202. I wasn't particularly bothered about this because I was going to be using the 100L and MPE. There was also some odd vignetting - I'm used to vignetting at the wide end of a zoom, but this was in the middle of the zoom range. Here too, I wasn't concerned about it.

    After I decided not to use the MPE I did some image quality and dof tests on the G3 versus the FZ200 using achromats (should have done this at least a year ago when I got the the FZ200!) Based on the tests I have decided to use the G3 with its 45-175 and my achromats to go beyond 1:1 (and the 100L up to 1:1). The 45-175 is really useful in this role because, very unusually for that type of lens (other than the really expensive, and heavy ones) it doesn't extend, either when focusing or zooming. This makes it particularly valuable for use with achromats, for which the distance to the subject is important, and absolutely critical for the more powerful achromats. With an achromat mounted on the 45-175 I can change magnification/framing at a constant distance from the subject. (The FZ200 has the same advantage, arrived at in a different way. Its lens does extend as you zoom to change magnification/framing, but I attach the achromats to a fixed tube rather than on the camera lens, which keeps them at a fixed distance from the subject as you change magnification/framing.)

    Then yesterday morning I got the 55-250 STM. It turns out that it can autofocus with all my achromats, and it focuses fast, with hardly any of the hunting I got with the 55-250 II both with and without achromats attached. Unlike the 55-250 II, the STM does not extend when focusing. It also has full time manual focus, so you can use manual focus at any time without having to flick a switch. The focus ring doesn't turn while it autofocuses either. All very nice for closeups.

    However, like the 55-250 II, the STM version does extend when zooming. But when using achromats on the STM version it turns out to be very easy and quick to compensate for that: the amount of movement in the direction to/from the subject is relatively small (max 2") and will usually be achievable with the focus rail (available travel 6" - I use the quick release and push the rail to slide it rather than using the screw mechanism, which is very slow indeed); the amount of turning needed to change zoom/magnification/framing is trivial compared to the MPE65, one turn takes you all the way from one end of the zoom range to the other; and the lens decides very fast whether it's going to focus or not, so if it doesn't focus straight away you know you aren't at the correct distance yet, which lets me use the same working method for getting the working distance right, and doing that quickly, as with my bridge cameras and the G3.

    When my Canon fit flash arrives I am going to do some more experiments, using my achromats on the 55-250 STM, including the MSN-202, which my tests last night showed to have a minimum scene width of about 4mm (i.e. 5:1-ish) when used on the 55-250. The lens goes to f/32. According to my calculations/hypotheses, at 5:1 this should give similar dof to the MPE used at f/5.6. That might be just enough. As far as I can see from the dof calculator at Cambridge in Colour each two stops doubles the dof. That would mean that if you use f/11 on the MPE you would get twice as much dof as I could achieve with the MSN. But of course, you would be even more heavily into the diffraction zone than I would be, so that would cut down the differences between the two approaches a little (I have no idea whether this would be significant or not in relation to the very large dof tradeoff - I don't know how diffraction losses scale with aperture, although I did get the impression that using the MPE at its minimum aperture of f/16 produced very soft images at 5:1.)

    Yesterday late afternoon I went out to catch the light of the setting sun on some flowers. I used the 100L. I used f/2.8 a lot, and too much in fact - when I looked at the pictures I wished I had used somewhat smaller apertures. This morning I took out the 55-250 to catch the morning light on the same flowers. The 55-250 is f/4-5.6, but this turned out not to be a problem for what I wanted to do (possibly even an advantage, stopping me falling into the trap of lovely narrow dof that looks great on the LCD but turns out to be too narrow for my preferences when viewed on the PC). Focusing was pretty fast. And it very quickly became obvious that having zoom available was a huge benefit. I'll need to look at the results (we've been gardening all afternoon), but it seems entirely possible (because it is said to be very sharp, and Canon claim 4 stops of IS for it, just like the 100L) that I might use it in preference to the 100L for flowers. Of course, if achromats work well on the 55-250 and I end up using achromats on both sides of 1:1 I'm left wondering what the role of the 100L would then be for me. With or without the 100L, I might end up only having to take one camera and one flash out with me if I was using the 70D rather than the G3 with achromats and if the 55-250 turns out to have enough reach for butterflies etc.
     
  17. GardenersHelper

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    After a fair amount of experimenting and measurements I have decided which pieces of kit to use initially for my main areas of interest: flowers, invertebrates, and skyscapes.

    Flowers: 70D, Canon 55-250 EF-S STM, sometimes with achromats, and of those mainly the least powerful (the 500D), but mainly without achromats. 100L macro if it is raining. Canon 18-55 EF-S STM for contextual shots of the location, including garden reference series for my wife. Tripod sometimes (hands off with remote release), but will work hand held a lot. Probably built-in flash if fill flash is needed.

    Invertebrates: 70D, 55-250 STM, mainly with achromats, but sometimes without (for example butterflies). 100L if it is raining and for rapidly moving subjects (e.g. bees in flight). 18-55 STM for contextual shots. Tripod, using hands on or hands off technique depending on the circumstances. Will work hand held occasionally (for example butterflies, bees in flight). Main light source either natural light or Metz 58-AF2 flash. Fill flash occasionally with built in flash if Metz not on camera.

    Skyscapes: 70D, Sigma 10-20, Canon EF-S STM 18-55 and 55-250 (especially when ships are involved). May take a tripod but likely to work hand held much or all of the time. Will make less use of panoramas than before.

    Some observations

    I'm not going to use a pole after all, that would mainly have been for the MPE-65. Hand held, tripod with hands on and tripod with hands off should be sufficient.

    I won't be using the Panasonic G3 or FZ200, so I will only be carrying one camera and one flash unit.

    The big surprise (for me) is that the 100L will have a very minor role. This is explored in more detail below.

    As previously, I don't expect to be going beyond what I can reach with the Raynox 250 very often (with the 55-250 this is a minimum scene width of about 13mm, approaching 2:1 in APS-C terms). I will be able to go further, either with the 150+250 stacked (minimum scene width 9mm) or the MSN-202 (minimum scene width 4.5mm). However, the effective aperture of the MPE-65 is much larger than the nominal aperture at high magnifications (6 times larger at 5:1), and thus can give (relatively speaking) a lot of dof (at the cost of significant loss of sharpness). With achromats (see below) the effective aperture appears to be the same as the nominal aperture irrespective of magnification and so the maximum achievable dof is narrower than is possible with the MPE-65, and this disparity increases as magnification increases. I believe this is one reason (it may not be the only one of course) why the MPE is a more effective instrument for high magnification photography, at least in terms of the images it can deliver. In terms of usability it is, IMO, a beast, compared to which achromats are joyfully simple to use, although of course that isn't too relevant if they can't produce the images you want! I might occasionally try stacking like Tim is doing with great success these days with extremely small subjects, or I might just content myself with enjoying what Tim and others achieve with very small subjects and concentrate on my own areas of greatest interest, which are typically at a larger (and much easier to photograph) scale.

    The decision process

    Having sent back the MPE-65 the obvious choice for me, because of my experience, was to use achromats beyond 1:1. I first looked at which camera to use with achromats: FZ200, G3 or 70D.

    The FZ200 has ergonomics that I really like, and with achromats mounted on a tube it has the advantage of not needing to move the camera when zooming to alter the framing/magnification. However it has a very noisy sensor and this seriously limits the range of ISOs that is practical to use. Many images need time-consuming selective noise reduction, sometimes even images at base ISO.

    I find the G3 ergonomics really poor, making the camera relatively difficult to use and prone to operator error. With achromats on the 45-175 it shares with the FZ200 the advantage of not having to move the camera to change framing/magnification. At the minimum aperture of f/22 on the 45-175, the G3 can achieve around one stop (about 1.4 times) more dof than the FZ200 at its minimum aperture of f/8. The G3 is less noisy than the FZ200, but the backgrounds are prone to luminance noise/graininess that is significantly more troublesome than 70D images captured in the same conditions.

    I very much like the 70D ergonomics, with one exception – I find the second wheel very difficult to use, often being unresponsive to repeated attempts to turn it, and prone to actioning the inner direction arrows rather than the intended wheel function. The camera does often need to be repositioned when changing framing/magnification, although the 70D's live view functionality makes this much less problematic than I thought it would be (and I did use a Canon SX10 for two years which had the same issue). At the minimum aperture of f/32 on the 55-250, the 70D can achieve around two stops more dof than the FZ200 (which means twice as much dof), and around one stop (1.4 times) more dof than the G3. The 70D's luminance noise is fine grained and is easier to deal with than the G3's coarser noise.

    Achievable dof and the noise characteristics of backgrounds are primary issues for me: achievable dof for reasons of personal taste as to the type of images I like to produce; noise characteristics of backgrounds because I often use natural light in relatively low ambient light levels. These were not the only reasons, but they heavily influenced my decision to go with the 70D and 55-250 with achromats for my work beyond 1:1.

    I then looked at the role of the 100L macro for my work up to 1:1.

    The big surprise for me, shocking even, was that I could not detect any systematic image quality improvements using the 100L compared to the 55-250 with achromats. I looked with great care at two sets of images of (stationary) natural subjects. I'll be happy to discuss this in more detail and provide RAW images from the two tests if any one is interested.

    The 55-250 is slightly less heavy than the 100L (375g vs 625g), which would help a bit with long hand held sessions, but this didn't strike me as hugely significant.

    Both the 100L and the 55-250 both claim up to four stops of image stabilisation and this tallied with my experience. Both were very nice to use for hand held flower capture sessions.

    The positives (for me) of the 100L are:

    The 100L has a larger aperture, f/2.8 compared to f/4-f/5.6 for the 55-250. However, this is a rather marginal benefit for me as I rarely want to use apertures that small and I usually regret it when I do.
    The 100L can be used in light rain on the 70D for natural light shooting, which does matter to me. My other cameras (and also the Metz flash for the 70D) have to be put away at the first hint of rain.
    As long as it is beyond its minimum working distance the 100L does not depend (as achromats do) on being a certain distance from the subject in order to gain focus and so should be more suitable than using achromats for moving subjects such as bees, hoverflies or dragonflies in flight, where there is insufficient time to arrange the appropriate working distance.

    The positives (for me) of the 55-250 are:

    I find it much easier, more flexible and creative to use a zoom when photographing flowers and invertebrates. I can use the zoom to quickly explore composition/framing without having to move what can be quite large distances to explore the same framing options with the 100L. The zoom also makes possible some shots that would be impossible with the 100L, for example because I would need to stand on the water in a pond or stand inside or behind a tree. A zoom also permits more control over background blur.

    Using achromats on the 55-250 on both sides of 1:1 also makes it easier to deal with the “hard” transition that would arise if I used the 100L up to 1:1 and something else beyond 1:1 – every time I crossed the 1:1 boundary I would need to change a lens or camera. For some subjects and scenes this could mean crossing the boundary and changing equipment for an individual subject in order to get both “close up on the subject” and “environmental” shots. When using achromats I know which achromat to choose for subjects of a particular size so that I can get subject and environmental shots without having to change to another achromat.

    My flash arrangements work ok with achromats on the 55-250, despite the fact that the lens extends. As the lens extends between minimum and maximum length the maximum change in camera/flash to subject distance when using an achromat is around 6cm. With the 100L the differences in camera/flash to subject distance are much larger for a given effect on framing, and this seemed likely to me to cause problems in arranging flash.

    With the 100L, lens changes would be needed out in the field, and sometimes quite a lot of them, with potential problems of dust, pollen etc entering the camera. This feels particularly germane as my recent activities have resulted in the sensor getting dirty (which is particularly an issue as I shall be using very small apertures much of the time), and having failed to cure the problem with an air blower (Giottos Rocket) I had to use 7 of the 10 Digipads in my sensor cleaning kit to get it fully clean (Hopefully I'll get better at this with practice!). With the 55-250 lens changes would only be needed if it starts raining and I want to continue taking photos (with the 100L), or if I wanted to capture some contextual shots and needed to use the 18-55 for that. Come to think of it, it might be better to take a point and shoot rather than the 18-55 to cover that eventuality.

    More on flash arrangements

    Initial testing with the Canon fit Metz 58-AF2 suggests that it works as well when using achromats on the 55-250 on the 70D as the Panasonic fit version does on the G3 and FZ200 in terms of ETTL accuracy and controlling the placement and balance of lighting from its two light sources.

    I have done some more experiments with diffusers on the 58-AF2 and concluded that (whichever camera I use) I can't stop the front-facing window from causing very visible highlights on curved surfaces that are somewhat reflective. I think it is because the light is coming from a small area relatively far from the subject. That said, that will be no worse than it has been for the past two or three years using a 58-AF2 on the G3 and FZ200.

    I was concerned that it would be difficult delivering flash with achromats on the 70D because of the extension of the 55-250 when zooming and focusing. It turns out that the same arrangement will deliver the light across the entire zoom range for all my achromats (Canon 500D, Raynox 150, 250, 150+250 stacked, MSN-202), so I won't have to adjust the flash configuration no matter what achromat or what magnification I am using.

    The length of the tube and the kink in it dilute the power of the main flash, as does the diffusing layer on the bowl at the end of the tube. Even though the 58-AF2 is quite powerful, the setup sometimes doesn't deliver enough light when using ISO 100 and small apertures with the 70D and 55-250 and I may have to up the ISO sometimes or bring up the brightness in post processing. (I'll probably raise the ISO – ISO 800 looks like worst case, which may be needed when using f/32.) This is different from using the Metz with the FZ200, in which case the flash can (just) deliver enough light through the diffuser for ISO 100 at minimum aperture. The difference is that the FZ200 has a minimum aperture of f/8 while the 70D at f/32 needs four stops more light. I can live with ISO 800 on the 70D given that for much of the time when using the G3, ISO 800 was more or less my base ISO, and the 70D has better noise characteristics than the G3. Also, at f/32 I will be getting twice the dof as with the FZ200 at f/8. For like for like dof as between the 70D and FZ200 I will only have to raise the ISO to 200 on the 70D, so I regard the additional increase in ISO to 800 as a good trade-off for the extra dof.

    Incidentally, I now have evidence that convinces me that the effective aperture formula of effective aperture = nominal aperture * (1 + magnification) does not apply to achromats, for which the effective aperture appears to be the same as the nominal aperture, irrespective of magnification. I drew this conclusion from a sequence of captures of a scene using the 70D with the 100L at 1:1 with various apertures and a set of captures of the same scene using the 55-250 and an achromat. I'll be happy to discuss this further and make the RAW images available if anyone is interested.

    Well, that's how it all looks to me just now. We'll see how it pans out in practice. I expect there will be some adjustments further down the line. :)
     
  18. TimmyG

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    Well that's a turn up for the books! I was really shocked reading through your results and expected the dedicated 100 L to be the clear winner. I'm familiar with the original 55-250mm and all it's short comings, so it really must have come on in leaps and bounds in the latest version (it's rarely on my camera nowadays, and only when I need the reach. This is still the longest lens I own). I can see how you would need the F2.8 for man lighting conditions (and suspect it will come into it's own if you ever go for the pre-dawn sleepy bug stacks).

    So you have decided on the zoom with additional glass of the archromats as your work horse. I must say, this kind of goes against everything we are told, so I would be interested to compare those raw files. Not that I don't believe you, you understand, it's just something I would like to see myself (have no experience with either lens, and as the 100L is on my wishlist). For ease of handling and flexibility, then your conclusion makes perfect sense. Very interesting results. Thanks for sharing, and provided yet more food for thought ;)

    With regard to sensor, I have only ever cleaned mine once (and then with the rocket blower) to remove a particularly large speck. Subsequently I ended up with many more less visible spots, but I do have to spend the time tidying these up in post. At some point I will clean it properly, but would try to avoid doing it too often.
     
  19. LCPete

    LCPete

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    Really interesting your findings on the new 55-250 STM as Tim says I would have expected the 100L to be sharper
    I guess for real life use as apposed to test charts once you get to a certain level of sharpness it becomes difficult to tell the difference
    And other factors such as light and the conditions make more of a difference in the field
    You got me tempted with the 50-250 STM lens a small light zoom with IS would be handy to have in my macro bag in case I needed more reach
    The missus didn't agree tho and she's right to be honest I don't really need another lens:):)
     
    Last edited: Mar 7, 2014
  20. GardenersHelper

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    I was shocked too, and I have to say rather disappointed given all the good things I have read about the 100L and how much it cost. I was expecting to be presented with a difficult decision of stellar IQ versus more convenience/usability for my particular needs.

    Here are some links that suggest that that is indeed the case. (I can't make a comparison myself as I have no experience of earlier versions).

    http://www.kenrockwell.com/canon/lenses/55-250mm-stm.htm (Yes, I know, "Rockwell !?*, Bah, Humbug" etc. But what he says seems to be in line with the other links here.)
    http://www.ephotozine.com/article/canon-ef-s-55-250mm-f-4-5-6-is-stm-lens-review-23765
    http://www.the-digital-picture.com/Reviews/Canon-EF-S-55-250mm-f-4-5.6-IS-STM-Lens.aspx
    http://www.fredmiranda.com/forum/topic/1244109/0

    I don't think F2.8 is usable for most of my stuff, irrespective of the lighting conditions. More generally, dof (and hence aperture - after taking account of cropping options) takes precedence for me. I would go for maximum ISO and do what I could with post processing, or use flash and put up with the consequences, rather than increasing the aperture enough to dip below my dof requirements for a shot.

    Possibly. But is the maximum sharpness at 2.8? If not, and I'm capturing for stacks in still air (which is one reason for me at least to get out on site by dawn), I may as well use whatever the sharpest aperture is. Actually, I'm not such a purist for sharpness as I think you are, so I'd probably stack with a much smaller aperture than you would use anyway, going for "sharp enough" and fewer shots needed.

    :D. Nothing new there! Very small apertures despite the diffraction losses, high ISOs despite the noise of small and especially noisy sensors, long exposures including in breezy conditions and with (albeit slowly) moving subjects, small sensors, autofocus, relatively inexpensive add-on lenses on the front of (necessarily low optical quality) general purpose ultra-zoom bridge camera lenses, using a tripod, working hand held (you can't win!), using available light at relatively high (well, not by your standards!) magnification .... I've given up arguing about most of it - people know what they know, and they know for a fact from their own experience what works and what doesn't. They know as facts different things than I know and they don't need ignorant know-alls trying to convince them of beliefs that are self-evidently wrong and that everyone knows are wrong. :)

    I was/am expecting to take some flack over this! I can only report what I have decided based on how I interpreted what I thought I saw. I will be more than happy to be proved wrong!

    The RAW files are here. Two sets. The file names describe the contents, which you can work out from the Exif anyway of course.

    There are some things to bear in mind when comparing pairs of images.

    I captured two or three images for each combination of lens/aperture. I have only posted one RAW file for each (size and time for uploading!). I have not cherry picked the ones I posted; I picked at random which ones to upload. I may have used different ones for my comparisons.

    These were taken out in the wild (in the next door neighbour's garden actually), in conditions that were not completely constant in terms of light or breeze, although I tried to select subjects/scenes which would not be much affected by the breeze. There will have been variability from shot to shot, even for the same lens/aperture combination, and even though I was using a remote release. You will need to look at multiple pairs of images before firming up on your conclusions.

    After changing lenses I could not manage to align the scene to exactly match the previous scene. The fact that the edges are in different places is not too important, but the plane of focus is differently placed too. This means you have to look around the whole image and work out where the plane of focus falls in each when doing a comparison.

    There are effective aperture issues. For example, for the lichen scene the 100L was a near to 1:1 as I could get it. This means that the effective aperture is double the nominal aperture (the nominal aperture being what is shown in the image name). [Edit: See my next post but one - the following statement "You will see if you compare the f/32 versions of the lichen scene that the dof is much larger for the 100L version" is incorrect, but on reconsidering the evidence my overall impressions/conclusions stand.] You will see if you compare the f/32 versions of the lichen scene that the dof is much larger for the 100L version, but apart from the background the image is everywhere softer than the 55-250 version. This is not surprising, as the effective aperture for the 100L is f/64. I think you need to compare the 100L f/16 version with the 55-250 f/32 version (and then take into account the plane of focus issues and the variability between pairs - for example the f/16 to f/32 comparison of the litchen scene seems to favour the 100L to me, but the f/11 to f/22 comparison doesn't.

    Now it may be that if you look at these more carefully than I have you can work out that the 100L is sharper (I rather hope so). but then we get to the "good enough" issue. If it is rather hard to tell which is sharper (for my type of images at least), then the difference isn't enough to override (my) other considerations.

    Anyway, there they are. I am, obviously, happy to pursue this further, possibly with other examples if that would help. My conclusions are, as always, provisional and subject to change in the face of better evidence and/or better interpretations.

    Yes, that's why I thought you would be interested in this. :)

    That's the nub of it for me. Even if the 100L did (or indeed does) deliver better IQ, if the IQ of an alternative is good enough for my purposes then flexibility/usability etc counts for more than improvements in IQ.

    I was astonished at how many attempts it needed. I had understood it to be a "one swipe and you're done" process. I am now quite highly motivated to do as little lens changing out in the field as is practical. I expect I'll also do quite frequent tests for dust on the sensor.
     
    Last edited: Mar 7, 2014
  21. GardenersHelper

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    You, Tim, me, and everyone else I imagine. And maybe it is - perhaps I've got it wrong (it wouldn't be the first time!). That is why I'm offering the evidence I'm working on for criticism, correction, confirmation, discussion or whatever.

    I think that is very true. At least a couple of the links I gave talk about the 55-250 STM being as sharp as some L lenses (L zoom lenses, not primes though). There are other issues too which are even more difficult to pin down such as colour rendition, microcontrast, rendition of OOF areas, distortion (e.g. barrel and pincushion, not really an issue for me as it happens), CA, edge vs centre sharpness, variations in any/all of these with aperture.

    One thing I didn't mention before is the thought that diffraction losses caused by the use of very small apertures may have an equalising effect as between lenses. For invertebrates (although not for flowers) I usually use very small apertures. And the more careful comparisons I did with those two examples were at the smaller end of the aperture spectrum. Perhaps that is part of what is going on? Perhaps you lose the benefit of using a stellar lens if you use it with very small apertures?

    Hmmm..... Not sure about that. I mean, I know light, breeze etc make a big difference, but if a lens is much better than another one, shouldn't it give better results pretty much whatever the conditions?

    Today I've been processing more images captured with the 55-250 (I already have a growing backlog). These were flowers and a set of skyscape images. I don't know how much it is the 70D and how much the 55-250, but they seem to be working well together to produce results that I really like. The rendering of out of focus areas is much to my liking in some of the images, and the focusing seems fine - quick and accurate.

    While down on the edge of the estuary capturing the skyscape images I saw some gulls wheeling around. Not close enough to make an interesting photo out of, but out of curiosity I pointed the camera at them and took loads of shots. The birds were in focus in almost all of them. That's something I couldn't do with a bridge camera.

    Ah, a thought. When using the viewfinder the 70D has normal phase detect focusing with 19 cross-type sensors. It also uses phase detect in live view with Canon's Dual Pixel technology which uses 80% of the main sensor's pixels for phase detect focusing. I used the viewfinder and normal phase detect focusing for the gulls, but other than that I have used live view almost exclusively. Is it possible that the 55-250 works particularly well with this setup, and might not work as well with some other Canon cameras? I have no idea, but I wouldn't want to lead anyone in the wrong direction.

    Odd you should say that. My wife has been great about all this expenditure but a couple of days ago she made the comment that it seemed to her that now was the time for me to concentrate on getting to grips with all the new stuff I have rather than thinking about getting any more at this stage. She was right of course. (I did buy a new flash unit, but then again we've got the money back for the MPE-65 and MT24EX, so we're still quite a long way ahead moneywise compared to where I was a few days ago.)
     
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  22. GardenersHelper

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    See the Edit in bold in my previous but one post. There is another complication when doing the comparisons - focal length.

    After posting the comparison shots and my impressions of them I looked again at the backgrounds when comparing the f/32 55-250 lichen shot with the f/16 and then the f/11 100L shot. I noticed that the background with the 55-250 appeared to be more than two stops blurrier. Then I felt rather stupid as the obvious thought occurred to me - the 55-250 was not using the same focal length as the 100L. In fact I see it was using a focal length of 189mm. This would explain some of the additional blurriness, and possibly all of it.

    Changing focal length doesn't change the dof (assuming you move the camera so you end up framing the same shot with both focal lengths). However, longer focal lengths show less of the background and this makes it appear more OOF.

    So, the blurriness of the background is not an indicator of differences in dof. Mea culpa. :(

    OK, let's start again. Let's compare the 100L and 55-250 f/32 shots, and disregard the background. Comparing individual in focus areas as between the two versions, those areas are in every case sharper in the 55-250 image. So, the in focus areas are softer in the 100L version. This is consistent with my "effective aperture = nominal aperture for achromats" hypothesis (or more correctly I suppose, with the hypothesis that the effective aperture formula does not apply in the same way to achromats, including possibly not at all).

    Again, disregarding the background, comparing the f/32 55-250 lichen shot with the f/16 100L shot (because my hypothesis is that effective aperture is doubled for the 100L at 1:1 but unchanged when using an achromat) there are areas in each which are sharper than the same area in the other version. The 100L version appears to have significantly more of the sharper areas. This might be because the lens is sharper, but because the plane of best focus is different in the two cases it could be because more of the image parts happen to sit within the plane of best focus for the 100L shot.

    For the f/22 to f/11 comparison it just looks to me like the two versions have different parts in best focus (with the degree of detail definition in the best focus areas looking pretty similar in the two cases, just in different places). I don't get the impression I did with the f/32 version that the 100L is generally better and the 55-250 just besting it at the margins. The situation looks similar to me with the f/16 to f/8 comparison and the f/11 to f/5.6 comparison.

    Overall therefore I think I'm back where I was. From this comparison I don't see evidence that the 100L produces so much better images than the 55-250 that I would want to use it despite the other advantages (for me) of the 55-250.

    (I recall doing my comparisons of the other example by concentrating on the areas of best focus so I have not bothered to revisit those comparisons.)
     
  23. TimmyG

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    Thanks Nick, I haven't downloaded the RAWs but will do so tonight and check them out. One thing I don't think has been mentioned (apologies if I've missed it) is around build quality. Now to me (and I assume most other enthusiastic amateurs), this is rarely an issue. In fact, it's usually a better option for me to go for a cheaper (usually plastic) construction as that can significantly reduce weight. If, however, I was out in the rain forests of Brazil for example (and we all know the rain forests get their name for a reason), I doubt the cheaper option would hold out. Maybe it could if you were careful, but for reliability you would likely need a more "professional" quality lens. I think ultimately that might be what you are paying for and Canon are continually improving their optics and are able to put them in the lower-priced lens range. Just comparing IQ the 55-250 wins out because it is newer technology (similar to comparing a high-end, but older body, to a modern cheaper body)!

    BTW, there is a rumour canon are releasing a new macro lens this year - in the 1:1 range (along with possibly a new ring flash)....
     
  24. mattd85

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    Awesome read, awesome thread!
     
  25. GardenersHelper

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    That all makes perfect sense to me. But I'm not writing off an IQ difference yet - I'm intrigued to see what you make of the quality issue.

    We shall see. But if it only goes to 1:1 I won't be interested. Besides which, if shorter than 100mm the working distance will presumably be too short (for me). If significantly longer than 100mm it will presumably be heavy. Unless of course they are going to produce an EF-S macro, but I wouldn't have thought that is very likely.

    I'm rather wary of the practical issues of a lens-mounted flash after my experience with the MT24. :)
     
  26. GardenersHelper

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    Please feel free to join in the discussion Matt. :)
     
  27. GardenersHelper

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    Looks like my choice of kit won't lock me out completely from some of the smallish stuff. I looked for invertebrates in the garden today but there was only one subject of the size I normally deal with, and that only stuck around long enough for me to get one shot off.

    [​IMG]
    IMG_5375-Edit-3 PS1 PSS3.86
    by gardenersassistant, on Flickr

    There were some rather smaller things around so I used them for target practice/kit testing/technique development etc. Not really my sort of thing, and not great IQ, but useful from my perspective; familiarisation with the kit and the development of practical working methods is more important than results at this stage.

    The first one is a three frame stack. The other two are single shots. These little things are such hard work compared to flowers! (which is what I've been doing mainly thus far). The failure rate was very high.

    [​IMG]
    IMG_5498-5500 ZS retouched-Edit-2 PS1 PSS3.63
    by gardenersassistant, on Flickr

    [​IMG]
    IMG_5459-Edit-4 PS1 PSS3.63
    by gardenersassistant, on Flickr

    [​IMG]
    IMG_5427-Edit-3 PS1a PSS3
    by gardenersassistant, on Flickr
     
  28. TimmyG

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    Well I've had a look at the RAW files and I have to say... I really love all the springtails popping up :)

    But back to the main point. I have to agree with your conclusions; I'm struggling to find a significant difference in IQ that would justify the 100 L. In fact, when viewed fully, I prefer the final images delivered by the 55-250. The 100 does seem to offer greater DoF but I believe you covered that in your notes.
    I'm going to keep the 100 on my wishlist for the time being, as it accompanies the full frame body also there, but it looks like I'll have a bit more research to do when I do finally take the plunge! Brilliant investigation and right up Nick! I must say the results you are getting (now we get to see it in real action with the bugs) are fantastic. TBH these could just as easily have been taken with the MP-E, and you even included a stack ;) Are these with the Metz?

    P.S. Ignore the failure rate. I have a TB drive full of failures!
     
  29. GardenersHelper

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    Thanks Tim, you are really encouraging. I appreciate that.

    Those were with the Metz, but I changed my flash arrangements this morning. I have brought a 430exii back into service. The Metz is acting as the master and the 430exii as a wireless slave. (The Metz window doesn't work as a source of illumination in this setup - it handles the communications with the slave. Both flashes are working with ETTL, and I can alter the power of each of them - this is done for both of them on the Metz). The Metz points out to the right and the tube with the bend in it brings the light back round so it illuminates the subject from above and right. The 430exii is mounted on a little bracket to the left of the lens; the bracket is mounted on the focus rail. This arrangement means that I can unclip the focus rail from the tripod and work hand-held with both flashes still attached.

    With the extra power I can now use ISO 100 right up to f/32 (although I used ISO 400 and 800 mainly today to try to avoid black backgrounds).

    The images in this post used apertures from f/28 to f/32 (you need to be at almost full zoom to get f/32). I got more dof than I am used to, even compared to the G3 at f/22. I'm interested to see how much detail remains despite the diffraction losses.

    I found some more invertebrates today. First off were some shield bugs.

    (1100 pixel high versions available by clicking through to Flickr. In case you are interested the set containing the 49 images I processed and uploaded from today's activities is here.)

    [​IMG]
    0532 01 2014_03_08 IMG_5798-Edit PS1 PSS3.86
    by gardenersassistant, on Flickr

    [​IMG]
    0532 03 2014_03_08 IMG_5819-Edit PS1 PSS3.86
    by gardenersassistant, on Flickr

    I managed to do separate "environmental" and "subject" shots ok. Adjusting the camera position to offset lens extension/contraction and then reacquiring focus turns out to be easy for subjects this size. (These shots were taken with the Raynox 150 btw).

    [​IMG]
    0532 04 2014_03_08 IMG_5848-Edit PS1 PSS3.86
    by gardenersassistant, on Flickr

    [​IMG]
    0532 07 2014_03_08 IMG_5834-Edit PS1 PSS3.86
    by gardenersassistant, on Flickr

    Then I watched a wasp crawl out into the open ...

    [​IMG]
    0532 39 2014_03_08 IMG_6024-Edit PS1 PSS3
    by gardenersassistant, on Flickr

    and it sat around for a bit.

    [​IMG]
    0532 46 2014_03_08 IMG_6032-Edit PS1 PSS3
    by gardenersassistant, on Flickr

    I included seven rather similar images in the set, of which this was one, because I was interested to see that they were consecutive shots captured in just under a minute, and they all worked. It was an easy target of course, but all the same I was interested to see that it worked. Incidentally, these and the shield bug captures used autofocus.

    Autofocus was impractical for the last two shown here. The first one was on foliage that was blowing around a lot in the breeze, too fast and too much for the autofocus to lock on, despite which if it had have locked on the focus would have been way out by the time the shutter was activated. They were also both quite small. You know about the springtail - not as small as the globular ones you photograph, but quite small. The other one is perhaps a non-biting midge. This specimen was rather small. This image was captured with the 150 and 250 stacked, at full zoom, so the scene width, of which this is a modest crop, would have been 9mm wide, about 2.5:1. Timing the shot with the subject moving around a lot (out of the frame much of the time) was a bit interesting.

    The leaf the springtail was on wasn't moving much, but the springtail was scuttling around most of the time. The springtail capture used the MSN-202 with the 55-250 at 135mm, so the scene width was about 8mm, and the image here uses somewhat more than half of the captured image width.

    [​IMG]
    0532 48 2014_03_08 IMG_6060-Edit PS1 PSS3
    by gardenersassistant, on Flickr

    [​IMG]
    0532 49 2014_03_08 IMG_6090-Edit PS1 PSS3
    by gardenersassistant, on Flickr
     
  30. GardenersHelper

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    Autofocus in live view is very good on the 70D, using a movable focus box like those used on P&S, bridge and MFT cameras. Those types of cameras use contrast detect focusing but on the 70D live view focusing uses phase detect focusing which can use 80% of the pixels (all except those around the edge), each pixel being split in two for this purpose. So, as with the P&S, bridge and MFT cameras you can move a focus box around on the screen. I find this very useful and very often work with the focus box offset from the centre. (Moving the box around on the 70D is easier than on my other cameras because the four-way buttons on the back are dedicated to that function during live view on the 70D, compared to my other cameras where you have to press two other buttons first to tell the camera that you want to move the focus box before you can use the four-way).

    However, there is a shortcoming in the 70D implementation. The focus box is of a single size, which is not really small enough for me to be sure of placing the centre of focus/dof exactly where I want it. (On my other cameras I can alter the size of the focus box and make it small enough to work well for dof placement.)

    You can magnify the view on the 70D to 5x. The focus box turns from a rectangle to a square and gets a bit larger, but less so than the image enlarges, and at 10x the focus box remains the same size as at 5x, so is much smaller in comparison to the overall image size. 5x and obviously even more so 10x do permit more accurate focus placement, however you lose the overall composition, and for me this is a distinct disadvantage as I tend to frame my shots quite close o the intended composition. Keeping the composition right means keeping watch on the edges to continually correct drift - this is not possible when in a magnified view and, as I have discovered, it is very easy to end up with a ruined composition.

    You can use the normal 19 point phase detect focusing in live view, but it is a modified implementation that doesn't work the way it does when used in the viewfinder. Used in the viewfinder you can press the shutter button and take a shot, more or less instantly. When using 19 point focusing in live view the mirror comes down, the screen goes blank while focusing is done, then the mirror goes back up and live view comes back. You then have to press the shutter button again, or complete a full press on it, to get the photo taken, and while it is being captured the screen goes blank again (which is normal during live view capture). Personally, I don't find this a useful implementation; it is too slow in operation. (And in any case, the 19 points are in a diamond shape and this excludes the areas where I am most likely to want to centre the focus, which is in one of the "empty" areas towards the corner of a rectangle framing the diamond. This obviously applies as much using the viewfinder as in live view. And btw focus and recompose is not practical when tracking a moving subject that you want to keep off-centre in the image, which I very often do.)
     
    Last edited: Mar 9, 2014
  31. GardenersHelper

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    Preferred kit sets

    With the new kit I've now captured and processed images of lots of flowers, a small number of invertebrates of various sizes (a butterfly, several shield bugs, a wasp, a large, medium and small sized fly, several ladybirds, a small spider, an aphid, several springtails), a small bird, a daytime skyscape and a sunset.

    I will now be using the 70D as my main camera.

    I am currently going with the following sets of kit:

    At the nature reserves, Tilley hat, kneepads and wellingtons, tripod and two bags. One bag with 70D + 55-250 STM; possibly (for when it rains) 100L, although I might just not bother taking it; and Panasonic FZ200 (for contextual shots, and possibly also for butterflies and other larger invertebrates and mammals when I need a quick response and the 70D is set up for other things). In the other bag 5 achromats (Canon 500D, Raynox 150, Raynox 250, Raynox 150+250, Raynox MSN-202), Metz 58 AF-2 and Canon 430exii flashes, remote release for 70D, multiple spare batteries for both cameras and the flashes, Rocket blower, cleaning cloths, carrier bags (to cover exposed kit if it suddenly starts raining, scissors and tweezers (for scene adjustment), spanner (for a particularly sticky tripod adjustment), spare memory cards. Diffusers hung on second bag with bulldog clips.

    In the garden, as for nature reserves but definitely including 100L for hoverflies, bees etc in flight. (I probably won't bother attempting any in-flight stuff at the nature reserves.)

    For skyscapes and sunsets, Tilley hat, wellingtons, tripod and one bag, with 70D + Sigma 10-20 and Canon 18-55 STM and 55-250 STM, rocket blower, cleaning cloths, carrier bags.

    Current issues

    Flash arrangements.
    I'd rather be able to use ISO 100 when using flash. I'm going to experiment with the Metz using a shorter tube with no kink in it, firing forward/down.
    I'm getting ugly hotspots on some subjects, especially rounded shiny subjects (this is very evident with ladybirds, to the point of making flash images all but unacceptable to my eye (or needing extensive work in PP that I don't want to spend the time on and may not have the skill for anyway). I'll need to have photographed a wider range of subjects to be sure, but I'm concerned that this may be a much wider issue than just ladybirds.

    Focusing.
    I'm still experimenting with focusing techniques. I sorely miss the small movable focus box I have on my other cameras. I'm finding it difficult to reliably place the centre of focus/dof exactly where I want it.
     
  32. GardenersHelper

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    Another surprise or two.

    The 100L is going back. My two reasons for keeping it were that I could use it in the rain, and it would be better for bees etc in flight than using achromats. However, I have realised that if it is raining the light level will (given the very small apertures I'm using) probably be low enough for me to need to use flash for invertebrates, and my flash units are not water resistant. That leaves flowers (for which I often but not always use larger apertures) in the rain. But I do most of my flower photography in our garden, and I can nip out directly the rain stops, to catch nice drops on petals etc, so being able to work in the rain isn't much of a benefit. And bees etc in flight? Not enough of a reason to keep the 100L, especially as it seems to be relatively slow to focus compared to the 55-250. Invertebrates in flight aren't a primary interest for me, and I've got other options for tackling them.

    Also, I've had to clean the sensor, again. So soon. This very much disinclines me to change lenses out in the field (or at all actually), which again argues against the 100L. I think my images may be particularly susceptible to showing up dust spots because of the small apertures I'm using. For invertebrates I've taken to using f/32 most of the time, just as I used minimum apertures of f/8 with small sensors and f/22 with micro four thirds.

    In fact because of the dust issue I'm considering getting rid of the Sigma 10-20 as well and keeping the 70D with the 55-250 permanently attached, for use with achromats mainly, and without achromats for most of my flower work, and possibly also for larger invertebrates like butterflies and dragonflies (although I might use the 500D close up lens for those - I need to experiment when the opportunity arises). If I do use the 70D as a single lens camera then I'll use my G3 for sunsets and skyscapes. I won't have a wide angle lens (I'm certainly not paying Panasonic prices for the equivalent of the Sigma 10-20), but that's ok - I'll go back to using panoramas.

    Flash arrangements

    I have been doing some comparisons between the FZ200 and the 70D when used with achromats. I am getting better image quality with the 70D but getting enough light onto the subject and scene is proving problematic. With the FZ200 I used f/8 at most. With the 70D I am using f/32 a lot. That four stop difference means I need 16 times as much light on the subject with the 70D (for a given ISO and shutter speed). That proved too much for a single flash. I've now got my 430exii acting as a wireless slave to the Metz 58-AF2 and that seems to be giving me enough power; just - I'm having to use ISO 200 some of the time. (Incidentally, flash was another problem with the 100L; lower magnifications have a greater working distance than with achromats and because of the rapid decrease in light intensity with distance, this added to the problem of getting enough light on the subject.)

    Focusing

    I have been experimenting with using the viewfinder and normal, 19 point phase detect focusing. Results have been mixed. It is useless for slow exposures - mirror slap is a huge, image-wrecking problem for slow exposures. For faster exposures using the viewfinder lets you place the focus more precisely than with the large focus box in live view, except that sometimes it goes horribly wrong and I get a whole sequence of images where the focus is centred in entirely the wrong place. And unlike in live view you get no instant (don't have to move your eyes or anything else) indication of whether the capture worked or not, and continually checking by chimping doesn't seem practical, for me at least, switching back and forth between viewfinder and LCD.

    Also, when using achromats it is more difficult to gain focus using viewfinder focusing than when using live view. Viewfinder focusing will only work in a relatively narrow band of working distance compared to live view focusing; I found that live view would give perfectly good results at distances at which the viewfinder focusing would not engage. And it was not a trivial difference. I expect I shall use viewfinder focusing sometimes in very bright light and if I try to capture invertebrates in flight, but for my purposes live view focusing is much, much better for most purposes.

    I'm starting to use manual focusing more. For higher magnification work in the 3:1 to 5:1 range I found autofocus too frustrating to use, so I started using manual focusing. I now find I'm using it more for lesser magnifications. That is quite a turn up for the books, as I've never had much joy with manual focusing before.
     
  33. LCPete

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    Hi Nick sorry ive been busy not been keeping up with things
    Really surprised that you sent the 100L back until I saw the quality that you're getting with the 55-250 and raynox lenses
    Really impressed looks like a very good setup you can vary the reach easily
    You will find that 250mm or so of zoom really helpful for butterflies and dragonflies
     
  34. GardenersHelper

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    Thanks Pete. I'm as surprised as anyone about sending the 100L back. The reason I waited so long for a suitable dSLR from Canon in particular was the MPE-65 and the 100L, and now I won't be using either of them! The 100L is perhaps the bigger surprise for me because I lean more towards larger subjects/scenes and less "close-in" shots than many others. And the 100L is a super lens, there's no doubt about it. It just didn't turn out to be the best alternative for my particular purposes and my particular preferences/habits/prior experience/acquired competencies regarding working methods and various bits of kit (the achromats, the strange tripod etc) that I have accumulated along the way. I think it probably all hinges on the fact that the 55-250 STM is a rather good lens in its own right and turns out to work particularly well with achromats (unlike the 55-250 II which I had before I upgraded to the STM version, for which autofocus was a bit iffy with the least powerful of my achromats and pretty much a non runner for the others).

    Your comment about butterflies and dragonflies sent me back to do some more measuring, after which I'm not sure what I'll use for butterflies, dragonflies etc.

    Here is a table with the measurements I just made.

    [​IMG]
    Camera scene widths for butterflies etc
    by gardenersassistant, on Flickr

    The problem I've had with butterflies etc is finding a setup which lets me fill enough of the frame without having to get so close as to frighten off the subject (which I find particularly an issue with butterflies). With the FZ200 for example, I could operate at a working distance of a metre, which is fine, but only down to scene widths of 80mm or so, which is generally too large. I then had two options with the FZ200. Do a significant crop, which is not so good with a small sensor, or use my least powerful achromat, the Canon 500D, which has the longest working distance. With the 500D on the FZ200 I would get scene widths down to 30mm, which was fine, but the largest working distance for this was about a half metre, which I found rather small for some subjects, where I would have to take some time approaching the subject very carefully, and not always succeeding.

    It turns out that the 55-250 is worse, distance-wise. Instead of operating at a metre to get a scene width of around 80mm, you have to operate at 60cm. You do get a slightly smaller scene width of 75mm rather than 80mm, but the working distance is very close to the half a metre I have previously found to be too close for comfort. In any case, 75mm, like 80mm with the FZ200, will often be too large. Cropping is a better option with the 70D than the FZ200 because the 70D's sensor has 10 times the area of the FZ200's. That looks like it would be the most practical option with the 70D much of the time because adding the 500D to the 55-250 only gets you down to a scene width of 46mm at half a metre, and you have to get down to a quarter of a metre (much too close) to get near to the 30mm scene width that the FZ200 provides from half a metre.

    The measurements show that neither of my zooms on the G3 nor my SX240 P&S is in the running for this role.

    My most recent bag arrangement includes the FZ200 as well as the 70D, so I'll be able to experiment when the larger sunny day creatures offer themselves up to be photographed. I won't be carrying a flash for the FZ200, but that shouldn't matter; the light should be quite good anyway so I shouldn't need flash as my primary light source, and if I need fill flash I can use the FZ200's on board flash. In the early mornings I might need to use flash if the air is not still, but that will be with creatures that haven't warmed up yet and are ok to get close enough to for the 70D+55-250+500D combination to work.
     
  35. Tintin124

    Tintin124

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    Thanks for sharing your journey, dont know if you have shared a pic of your setup couldn't find it on the "show us your setup" thread but doesn't mean its not there. How often do you use your tripod is it all the time or just when a bug is static long enough. I have yet to use my tripod i bought specifically for Macro because i'm getting used to my lens and its capabilities handheld and find what my limitations are.
     
  36. LCPete

    LCPete

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    Interesting the way the ranox achomats work they seem to reduce the working distance more than I would have expected
    See what you mean 60cm isn't much room when you are after butterflies
    I know that I've mentioned it before but an extension tube may be a better bet just for butterflies
    You would get a good working distance
    It would be a change in the way you work but even if you used it just for skittish subjects and used the ranox for most other things
    As I mentioned before it's amazing the quality you're getting with your current setup looks to me to be as good as with a dedicated macro lens:)
     
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2014
    Tintin124 likes this.
  37. TimmyG

    TimmyG

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    To be honest, I'm not that surprised you've sent back the 100. I was struggling to understand where it would fit in your setup (as you seemed to be getting such great results with the achromats). I know you mentioned about using it on rainy days, but I was thinking it would hardly get a look-in (I imagine it would be a fair bit heavier than the 250, and I bet your favoured components would be able to withstand the odd shower).

    Your findings are very interesting to me. I thought I had my wishlist all figured out, but now that's pretty much all up in the air. I think I would like to be able to get some bugs in flight shots (BIFs), specifically Dragons, and I'm pretty sure the 100L is no longer the right solution for that. I have been reading up about the 180mm F2.8 macro which, although it is an older lens, still has a great reputation. Then again I might be able to go for the latest 55-250 and get the same, if not better results. It sounds like I might need to rent some lenses and give them a go before making any purchasing decisions, or relying on reviews I read on the internet!
     
  38. Tintin124

    Tintin124

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    @TimmyG would 100l with 2x convertor work assuming you have the 100l
     
  39. nass

    nass

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    Fwiw, what I do to test specularity and reflection is to shoot a sewing pin - it shows the reflection so you can adjust and see what's going on.
     
  40. GardenersHelper

    GardenersHelper

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    My current entries in the "show us your setup" thread (here and here) are out of date now, although the general principles are much the same. I have been holding off posting a new entry because my setup keeps changing every few days at the moment as I experiment and adjust things. There are some pictures here of how it looked 12 days ago; this too is now out of date. The first ten pictures here show how it looked yesterday. The 11th, captured today, illustrates that the focus rail can be unhitched from the tripod and the camera and flashes used hand held. The 12th illustrates a minor modification I made today to the polystyrene plates, making them less likely to catch on the lens as it goes in and out.

    Tripod use

    My use of a tripod is a bit varied. As you can see from the above links, the tripod is a bit unusual, with a lateral arm articulating on the reversible central column.

    I sometimes use the tripod in the "normal" way, lining up a shot then taking my hands away and using a (wired) remote release. I do this for example when I am using very slow exposures, but the air needs to be still for this and that is rarely the case during the day. I tend to use this technique most in the hours after dawn on calm days out on the nature reserves. This sort of thing, which was captured on one of the nature reserves shortly after 6am, using a shutter speed of 1/5 second. (Actually this isn't one of the really slow ones with an exposure of sometimes a second or more - I couldn't readily put my hands on one of those.)

    [​IMG]
    0448 011 2012_05_13 P1310252 PS1 CrPSS1.128
    by gardenersassistant, on Flickr

    I sometimes work hand held, for example with flowers in natural light, where I like the compositional flexibility/fluidity of working hand held, or with invertebrates using flash as the dominant light source, where I need to react quickly, as long as the subjects are not too small. But as the magnification approaches and passes 1:1 I find hand holding becomes increasingly iffy even when using flash, because of the increasing difficulty of framing shots as I want them. And by 2 or 3:1 I'm almost always using a tripod. However, this is not "normal" tripod use. My hands stay on the camera. When using flash as the dominant light source I'm using the tripod like some others use a pole or stick or other means of support to provide some combination of flexibility of movement and stability to help control focusing. It also helps to hold the framing of the scene steady so I can take multiple shots in an effort to get at least one that works out ok.

    I also use a hands-on technique for slowish exposure natural light shots where I can't set up the shot and work hands off because of subject movement. Here is an example of this where I was tracking a slug and recomposing from shot to shot, but using exposures of 1/3 second.

    [​IMG]
    0368 04 2011_07_01 2011_07_01 IMG_8406 PS1 CrShadD7x30CrLebSaCuEx900hSS61x0.3
    by gardenersassistant, on Flickr

    [​IMG]
    0368 05 2011_07_01 2011_07_01 IMG_8417 PS1 CrLeShadDf7x30LebSaCuEx900hSS63x0.3
    by gardenersassistant, on Flickr

    [​IMG]
    0368 06 2011_07_01 2011_07_01 IMG_8420 PS1 CrShadDf7x30LebSaCuEx900hSS72x0.3
    by gardenersassistant, on Flickr

    When using a tripod in hands-on mode I may only have two of the legs on the ground. I quite often align those two legs on an imaginary line running at right angles to a line between the subject and the camera. This means I can rock backwards and forwards without inducing a sideways deflection. I may also have one or more of the joints in the rig loose so as to allow me more flexibility of movement. However, this cuts down the stabilising effect so more often, with all the joints tightened, I push/pull/twist the camera and exploit the "give" in the rig to give me some movement. Sometimes I set the tripod up so the position it settles to is either too near or too far for me to get good focus, and I then push or pull to get the distance right and keep pushing/pulling to keep the distance right, and this tension helps to stabilise the camera.
     

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