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  1. GardenersHelper

    GardenersHelper

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    I got great service from ukdigital. They dispatched a replacement KX800 the same day they received the faulty unit. They sent me an email telling me that it had been dispatched, and the tracking ID, and asking me to phone them when it arrived and before I started using it.

    When I phoned the chap I talked to was extremely polite, and gently asked if I had seen the note put in with the KX800 reminding users not to rotate the heads through 360 degrees on the end of the arms as this could break the cables. In fact I had, and had worked out that there was no way I was going to try any rotation at all of the heads on the arms. The heads do need to be turned up to 180 degrees, because they start out pointing backwards, towards the camera, but I had decided to avoid any rotation at either end of the arm, either where the arm is attached to the flash gun or the other end where the arm is attached to the main unit that sits in the hot shoe. It seemed to me that this was where the connections would be most vulnerable. Instead I had turned the heads by manipulating the central portion of the arms.

    Later in the conversation it turned out that when he had opened the returned KX800 the heads were the opposite way round from how they ship, and from this he quite reasonably wondered if I had rotated the heads directly. He also told me that the heads are in fact glued to the arms, so I was relieved that I hadn't even tried to rotate them. In fact, I think the written advice could beneficially be rather clearer about what is and isn't a good way to handle the arms and the direction of the heads. And following the discussion I am a lot more aware how exactly I am manipulating the arms and the likely stresses on the cabling (not least because it is in the back of my mind that I may have broken the first one anyway. I don't think so, but I certainly wasn't being as careful as I am now with this replacement.)

    But well done ukdigital. I suspect they thought (and just perhaps they were right) that I had broken the unit but they replaced it anyway. And like I said, they were extremely courteous and helpful when discussing this with me, which was potentially a quite difficult conversation.
     
    Last edited: Aug 28, 2015
  2. GardenersHelper

    GardenersHelper

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    I haven't looked at the images from that (afternoon) session yet, but the following night I went out with the G5 looking for small subjects. I had to use the pie tin diffuser as the KX800 was away for replacement. I posted some of the smaller subject shots in this thread, and I'm content that the image quality is ok with the G5. So I'll be sticking with my FZ200, G5 and 70D setup for now.

    However, I went out again last night with the G5, this time with the replacement KX800. As with the previous night I was using ISO 400 most of the time. Some of last night's shots came out noisy - not really surprising as I had underexposed them and in Lightroom raised both the Exposure and the Shadows. I put these through the same workflow as I use with the super noisy FZ200 images using DXO Prime noise processing, and they looked ok to me then. I then did the same for the other images from last night that I had processed, and it seemed to me that all were improved. So it looks like the I may be defaulting to the more involved workflow for G5 images as well as FZ200 images.

    I learnt something else from last night's session. I have been trying to get nice images of some very small, black things that are very highly reflective. Here are some from the night session linked above (these have been reprocessed with the DXO workflow). I haven't posted any of these in the main forum because I dislike the flash reflections so much.

    [​IMG]
    0775 15a P1070965_DxO LR
    by gardenersassistant, on Flickr

    [​IMG]
    0775 20a P1080001_DxO LR
    by gardenersassistant, on Flickr

    [​IMG]
    0775 21a P1080016_DxO LR
    by gardenersassistant, on Flickr

    [​IMG]
    0775 22a P1080022_DxO LR
    by gardenersassistant, on Flickr

    These were captured using the pie tin diffuser, which is the main bright area you can see reflected on the subjects. You can also see little "strings" of dots. These are the line of LED lights in two LED torches that I had hanging from the side of the pie tin diffuser so I could see the scene and so I and/or - don't remember which - the autofocus could focus on them. This was two of the torches shown in this post.

    The pie tin diffuser is on the flash unit in the hot shoe and somewhat distant from very small subjects. Now I had the KX800 back I tried some shots of the same subjects using a single KX800 diffuser above the subjects and as near to them as I could get it. This follows the advice of making the light source as large as possible from the perspective of the subject. With the light source now huge in relation to the tiny subject I was hopeful of getting nice smooth illumination.

    I didn't. It was immediately obvious that it was just as bad. I captured four shots but didn't have the heart to carry on as I knew I wasn't going to like them. Even ignoring the flash reflection, none of them was any good, and I didn't bother processing any of them. For the purposes of this post I have just processed the least bad of them and here it is to illustrate what I was seeing. In this case the main bright area is the single diffuser above the subject, and the greenish line to the right of that area is from the LED focusing light on the KX800. I imagine the lighter band on the underside of the subject is a reflection of the ground.

    [​IMG]
    0776 38 P1080105_DxO LR
    by gardenersassistant, on Flickr

    Unless and until I can work out (or steal from someone else) a way around this problem, I think I might as well use the pie tin diffuser for very small subjects as the KX800. It produces fairly similar results and is much easier to use. And it avoids bending the KX800 arms into cable-stressing extreme positions (as needed for the pointing downwards and close to the ground positioning I used for this shot). I need to test this, somehow, slowly over a period I suppose, but I suspect the usefulness of the KX800 increases as the size of the subjects increase. With very small subjects the background tends to be quite close, with no gaping black voids, and a widely dispersed single source like the pie tin diffuser, especially if place at a slight angle, seems to produce a pleasant enough light for not very reflective subjects. This contrasts with larger subjects where balancing the light coming from two angles can have a distinct advantage in terms of the quality of illumination, and also the use of the second light to illuminate a dark background is more often needed.
     
  3. TimmyG

    TimmyG

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    Interesting about your findings with the KX800. I thought it might be worthwhile investing in as an alternative to the MT-24ex but if you are having difficulties with it for the really small stuff it may not be for me. Still be a worthwhile addition to your kit for larger setups though I imagine.

    Those are soil mites (Euzetes) and if you can find an example of one with better lighting, please point me to it. I find these subjects ridiculously difficult, even though they are fairly slow moving they tend to move constantly, and it's really difficult to get a good angle with the right area in focus to bring out any features. My own efforts have had similar highlights, but then I was using a similar setup; a large, single diffuser. Some quick searches on Google and Flickr haven't brought out anything that I would say improves on this style of lighting. I think it's largely a case of getting a good angle on the subject, adjusting the angle of your diffuser a bit and reducing the flash power as much as possible to try reducing the "brightness" and contrast of the highlight with the rest of the body. The only other suggestions I have are that you could construct a small light tent to place over the subject if possible, and fire the flash from all around, or change your approach entirely and try for early morning, tripod mounted natural light shots (now there's a challenge!).

    I think your just have to consider, these are very small very shiny subjects, with a lack of features or texture over their bodies, and the highlights you see are a direct result of that. The clarity and definition you've achieved are remarkable, and you can see the lighting is good from the surrounding background. Here are the ones I captured a while ago for comparison:

    https://www.flickr.com/photos/timmygspics/10867622755/in/photostream/
    https://www.flickr.com/photos/timmygspics/10780250876/
     
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  4. GardenersHelper

    GardenersHelper

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    Given your front-mounted, downward pointing flash, I doubt you would see any benefit from the KX800 for the very small things you tend to concentrate on. In fact, your front-mounted arrangement gets the light source closer to the subject than is possible with the KX800, at least with the large diffusers I am using, so the KX800 might even be worse for your purposes.

    I did try taking the diffuser off one of the guns and getting it really near to a quite small but not quite so tiny subject but the light was horribly harsh. I haven't tried putting a smaller diffuser on to a KX800 head. I might try that, because with a smaller diffuser I could get it closer to the subject, as with your front-mounted arrangement. Some sort of foam arrangement I suppose.

    Given what you say about not having found better examples on line, I'm not hopeful of getting significantly better results with shiny subjects though. I wonder, would firing light in from say above left and above right 90 degrees or so separated calm down the highlights? The thing is of course, you'd then get the (unsettling to my eye) double highlight effect. Don't know. More experiments called for I think. :D

    Ah, thanks for the ID Tim.

    I certainly pulled the highlights down as far as I Lightroom would let me with these.

    At capture time, once you have got the light down to the point where the highlights aren't cliipping, is there any benefit in reducing the light level any more? Would that reduce the contrast? I fear it may just mean you have to raise the overall level back up in PP, thus bringing in extra noise.

    That thought crossed my mind - and immediately flew out again. Maybe worth an experiment. Perhaps one you'd like to try too? Or perhaps you have already?

    Ha ha. Very drole. Early morning, low light level, small aperture, subject that moves around - argggh. Shutter speed and ISO. Doesn't bear thinking about. (And then again... :D ...might try it all the same though.)

    Hmm... Have to say that does make for a quite encouraging comparison. Perhaps I won't give up on these yet. Would that have been MPE and tubes, your 7X-ish setup? (I can only get to 5X APS-C equivalent with the G5).
     
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  5. TimmyG

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    No just the bare MP-E - Fortunately I made a note on magnification in the image, and I state it was 5X. These are probably around the time I first got the MP-E and beginning to get to grips with it, so probably wasn't attempting to push it any further. They will be quite heavy crops. I may actually revisit these at some point as I was going through a phase of square cropping at that time.. not sure why now..
     
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  6. GardenersHelper

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    I just checked the last example. Unsurprisingly it was at the maximum magnification I can get with the G5 and MSN-202, around 4.5mm scene width, about 5:1 in APS-C terms. Here is the crop.

    [​IMG]
    Crop for 0776 38
    by gardenersassistant, on Flickr

    By my calculations it is a bit larger than I would have guessed, body and head a bit over 1mm long I think.
     
  7. GardenersHelper

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    I am reposting the following from this thread so as to make it easier to find if I want to refer to it in the future.


    If anyone is seriously considering an MSN-202 there are several things to bear in mind.

    Working distance

    With the MPE-65 the working distance is I believe about 40mm at maximum magnification of 5:1. This is worst case for working distance, which increases as magnification decreases, reaching about 100mm at minimum magnification of 1:1.

    The magnification you get with the MSN-202 depends on what lens you mount it on. On my 45-175 on my G5 it varies from about 1.5:1 to 5:1 in APS-C terms (i.e. a minimum scene width of about 4.5mm). However, whatever lens you mount it on, the working distance is small, around 30mm, and it doesn't increase as magnification decreases, so at 1.5:1 I'm still working at a distance of about 30mm from the subject.

    Also, you have very little latitude with the working distance with the MSN-202. It is roughly a 3mm range (as in +/- 1.5mm around a central distance). However, if you are using rocking focus that doesn't really matter, but it does if you are using autofocus (which I do quite a lot).

    I use the MSN-202 on tele-zoom lenses, and you zoom to change the magnification. I use it on the FZ200 with its fixed zoom lens and the 45-175 on the G5. The 45-175 does not extend when you zoom. The FZ200 does, but I have the MSN-202 attached to an adaptor tube which keeps the achromat in a fixed position, with the lens zooming in and out behind it. If you don't use a setup like this then as you change magnification the lens barrel extends or contracts and you have to move the camera to get back into the appropriate working distance range. Compare the tens of millimetres that a lens can extend with the range of +/- 1.5mm of the fixed working distance with the MSN-202 and you can see how much of a problem this can be.

    I have found it a huge advantage to use the MSN-202 on a zoom lens that doesn't extend, transforming it from pretty much unusable (for me at least) to entirely usable (with practice). If the MSN-202 doesn't move you can zoom to full wide angle (minimum magnification) and find the subject. You will at that point have the working distance about right. You can then zoom to the magnification you need to frame the image as you want (without moving the camera), and you will still be at about the right working distance. This makes acquiring a very small target, or reacquiring a target I have lost, relatively straightforward. In contrast, I found this very (as in VERY) difficult, slow and frustrating with the MPE-65, and with the MSN-202 on a lens that extends.

    Illuminating the subject

    With the MSN-202 attached to the camera lens you won't be able to use anything like the MT24EX or a ring flash that needs to use the filter thread on the camera lens. With a working distance of even less than the MPE-65 at maximum magnification, illuminating the subject is challenging, and it is just as challenging at all the magnifications you get with the MSN-202 as the working distance doesn't change with magnification.

    One advantage of the MSN-202 is that, being an achromat, it doesn't lose light as the magnification increases. This can help in keeping the required flash power down and hence the recycle time shorter.

    EDIT 1 - Autofocus

    I use autofocus a lot, often beyond 1:1 and occasionally as far as 5:1. I find this a huge advantage when working hand-held. The camera reacts faster than I can, and is often more accurate than I am, and can gain focus in some circumstances when I can't see what is going on well enough to get good focus manually. But .... it depends on the camera, lens and focusing mode you are using.

    I use live view on all my cameras, with contrast detect focusing (using a small, single focus point). In ordinary use Contrast detect focusing is not as fast as phase detect focusing, However, compared to using my Sigma 105 Macro with phase detect focusing for example, I find autofocus for close-ups faster with my achromats and contrast detect focusing. And I don't get hunting with my achromats, which I do with the Sigma 105,

    Contrast detect focusing is also more reliably accurate than (off-sensor) phase detect focusing. There are no issues of front or back focusing with contrast detect focusing. It may also work in lower light levels than phase detect autofocusing.

    However, the speed of contrast detect focusing and the level of low light at which it still works varies between cameras and lenses. And with some camera/lens combinations it works very poorly, or not at all. For example, on my 70D I use my achromats on a 55-250 STM lens and they all focus fine. Initially I had one of the earlier Canon 55-250 lenses. The quite weak Canon 500D worked fine on it, the Raynox 150 was fairly poor and the Raynox 250 was terrible. As far as I recall it either didn't work most of the time, or not at all. I don't remember testing the Raynox 150 and 250 stacked or the MSN-202, but I'm certain that they wouldn't have worked.

    In terms of cameras, I think the G5 may focus faster with my achromats than the G3, and I'm fairly sure that it focuses in lower light levels than the G3. My FZ200 focuses faster than the G3 or G5, and the G3, G5 and FZ200 all focus faster than the 70D, and can all focus on a much smaller area than the 70D, which means I can place the centre of focus exactly where I want it with the Panasonic cameras but it is a bit hit and miss with the 70D with its rather large focus box.


    Effective aperture


    As with any achromat (and the reason for it not losing light), when using the MSN-202 the effective aperture does not decrease as magnification increases. This is a mixed blessing. It limits you to the minimum nominal aperture of the lens you are using, so if you mount the MSN-202 on a lens with f/22 minimum aperture you won't be able to get as much DOF as with for example the MPE-65, which at its minimum aperture of f/16 gives an effective aperture of f/32 at 1:1 and f/96 at 5:1. You might not want to use f/96 because of the massive loss of sharpness/detail from diffraction, but if you like lots of DOF like I do you might well want to use effective f/32, which gives 40% deeper DOF than f/22, or effective f/45, which gives twice as much DOF as f/22.

    Are such apertures really usable? Well, the minimum aperture I am able to achieve is f/32 using the 55-250 on the 70D, and I have had what I regard as acceptable results with that. Here is an example that used f/32 (as originally edited, so not using my latest PP techniques). It probably used the Raynox 150.

    [​IMG]
    0505 4b Myopa 2014_04_09 IMG_3551-Edit PS1 PSS3
    by gardenersassistant, on Flickr

    EDIT 2 - smallest available aperture

    f/32 is the small aperture I can use with achromats. I forgot that with my Sigma 105 Macro I can get smaller effective apertures. The Sigma 105 goes to f/22, so at 1:1 it is effective f/44. By adding extension tubes the effective aperture can be further reduced. But I don't use the Sigma 105. I don't get on well with prime lenses.

    Distortion

    On my 45-175, at maximum magnification, the MSN-202 has quite severe pincushion distortion. In practice, for the sort of images I'm capturing, I don't think this matters - you don't notice it as there aren't any straight lines to give the game away. And of course it is correctable in post processing anyway.

    You may get much more chromatic aberration than with the MPE-65. I certainly get lots of CA with the MSN-202 at high magnifications on the FZ200 (which takes the magnification to about 7:1 in APS-C terms). That said, I haven't really noticed it on the G5. (I do have Lightroom set up to remove CA by default.)

    Cost

    At around £70 new, the MSN-202 is one of the more expensive achromats. It is of course much less expensive than an MPE-65, but there are I think extension tubes that are much cheaper than an MSN-202.

    Edit 3 - And a reversing ring is even cheaper of course.
     
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2015
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  8. GardenersHelper

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    I have been experimenting again with diffusers.

    I have read that for good diffusion you need to make the light source large when seen from the perspective of the subject. This means that the diffuser should be large, or close to the subject, or both. That is why my pie tin diffuser (illustrated here) has a large (8 inch) diameter. The pair of ("Mark 1") diffusers I have been using for the KX800 (illustrated here) each have a similar area to that of the pie tin diffuser.

    These diffusers use 160 gram frosted plastic sheet (labelled as "Simulator Transparency" sheet in the shop). These diffusers have two sheets covering the whole area of the diffuser and several smaller areas of sheet of decreasing size to even out the light from the very bright area right in front of the flash guns. Mirror tests show that the light is not completely even across the whole diffuser, but I have recently been getting good comments about the quality of light in images using both the pie tin diffuser and the KX800.

    However, there are some issues with both setups.

    The pie tin diffuser is inflexible. It provides a single source of light from a fixed position. The only adjustment I can make is to turn it slightly sideways to the left or right. The KX800 is obviously a lot more flexible, allowing me to direct light in from various directions, with the diffusers at varying distance from the subject. One very good thing it lets me do is illuminate the subject with one diffuser while illuminating the background with the other. In a lot of cases this can get rid of dark backgrounds, which I am not keen on for (my) invertabrate images.

    Both setups present problems with very small subjects. The Ranynox MSN-202 that I use to get to about 5:1 magnification in APS-C terms has a working distance of only 30mm. That means that I can't manage some shots with either the pie tin diffuser or the KX800 because the diffusers get in the way. With the pie tin diffuser I often can't get the camera where I need it to be, while with the KX800 I can move the diffusers around so I can get the camera where I need it to be, but then often can't get either of the diffusers into a suitable position to illuminate the subject. Here is a mock-up of a recent example with the pie tin diffuser, where I was photographing insects on the front face of a low wall. In this case it just worked because of the wonky way I made the diffuser bowl means that it lets some light escape downwards. There were some potential subjects at the bottom of the wall that I couldn't photograph because the diffuser bowl being stuck up against the wall meant I couldn't point the camera downwards at all. It also meant that I could only photograph the subjects head on (which was from "above", given that they were on a vertical surface).

    [​IMG]


    These problems made me wonder about using smaller diffusers for high magnification work. The small size would be a disadvantage, but perhaps I would be able to get them really close to the subjects to make up for that. Here is my first attempt at small diffusers for the KX800, which I'm calling my "Mini2" diffusers.

    [​IMG]


    Each diffuser has two small areas of the same 160 gram frosted plastic sheet used in the other diffusers. The outer sheet is a bit larger than the inner sheet. (The outer sheet is slightly larger than the one shown here, which was my first attempt and not quite large enough).

    [​IMG]

    Using velcro, the inner sheet is attached to the flash gun and the outer sheet is attached to the inner sheet. There is an air gap between the gun and the first sheet, and between the two sheets.

    [​IMG]


    As with the larger Mark 1 diffusers, there is flexibility for a variety of arrangements, such as those shown here.

    For example, here is a Mini2 configuration where one gun is used to illuminate the background.

    [​IMG]


    In addition, because of the small size of the diffusers they can be arranged to tackle awkward scenes such as the front of a wall scene that was so difficult (or impossible for some subjects) for the pie tin and Mark 1 KX800 diffusers. I have tested this configuration on the same low wall and it seems to work ok.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    There are a couple of disadvantages to this setup. First, the area the light is coming from is obviously very much smaller than with the Mark 1 diffusers. And second, there are no smaller diffusion elements to calm down the very bright area right in front of the flash. The quality of light these little diffusers deliver may therefore be rather poor compared to the larger diffusers.

    To test the image quality I have had three test sessions in the garden, two daytime and one nightime, with subjects ranging from a fairly large beetle down to a globular springtail. I won't have an answer on image quality until I have gone through the images, but I have used the Mini2 diffuser arrangement on the G5 and the FZ200 and it is easier to work with than the Mark 1 diffusers. It is not as easy as the pie tin diffuser because there is no fiddling with the arms with the pie tin diffuser and I can use TTL flash with the pie tin diffuser and with manual flash I can use 1/3 stop steps rather than the cruder whole stop steps with the KX800. On the other hand of course, the KX800, especially with the Mini2 diffusers, is much more flexible than the pie tin diffuser.

    My impression from what I saw on the LCD is that the Mini2 arrangement may be fine for some subjects, but may be a bit more prone to nasty flash highlights than the larger Mark I diffusers. If true, this would be disappointing, but not surprising.

    I will post some examples as soon as I can.
     
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2015
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  9. GardenersHelper

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    I've worked my way through the test sessions and unfortunately my initial impressions seem to have been right.

    For easy subjects I was able to get results that seemed ok to me with the Mini2 diffusers, although I got the impression (difficult to pin down and be sure about) that I was having to apply stronger adjustments than usual, and that the raw files were more difficult to work with.

    For very difficult (very shiny) subjects the results were unappealing no matter what processing I did. But that is true with the larger Mark 1 diffusers as well. I just got a different sort of not very nice. For example, here is a couple of shots of soil mites. (As with the other comparisons shown here, these are only somewhat similar, not closely like for like. There are issues such as differences between the subjects' size, colour and reflectivity, the angle of the camera on the subject, the angles and distances of the diffusers and what directions they were pointing in, and very importantly the post processing.)

    [​IMG]
    0786 Comparison 4
    by gardenersassistant, on Flickr

    In this case I only used one of the large diffusers and had it as low down as I could get it, horizontal, above the scene. The Mini2 diffusers would have been further away. The Mini2 highlights look much brighter relative to the mite's body. Their one possible merit is that being smaller they might be amenable to being processed out.

    It is in the area between these extremes of easy and difficult that the difference between the large and small diffusers may be most important. Here are three comparisons. As mentioned above, these are by no means exact comparisons, but I think they give a reasonable idea of the sort of differences I was encountering. I think these differences impact significantly on the image quality that I can achieve.

    [​IMG]
    0786 Comparison 1
    by gardenersassistant, on Flickr

    [​IMG]
    0786 Comparison 2
    by gardenersassistant, on Flickr

    [​IMG]
    0786 Comparison 3
    by gardenersassistant, on Flickr

    The Mini2 diffusers are certainly much more convenient to use. For example the large diffusers get in the way much more and depending on how they are arranged can make it impossible to see the scene directly. There are also some awkwardly arranged scenes that the Mini2 diffusers could illuminate but the larger diffusers could not because they can't be moved into an appropriate position. However, the price of these advantages in terms of image quality is more than I am prepared to pay. I will continue using the large diffusers.

    I haven't made my mind up yet about the role (or not) of the pie tin diffuser. It does give nice light and it is very easy to use. It can't illuminate backgrounds, which is a big disadvantage, but it is nice to use for very small subjects, where black backgrounds aren't nearly as much of an issue. However, I tend to switch frequently between sizes of subjects during a session, so I think the KX800 is probably best. I don't think I want to carry both.
     
  10. GardenersHelper

    GardenersHelper

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    In responding to a question over at dpreview about how depth of field (DOF) is affected by sensor size I created a table that clarified the relationships in my mind, so I thought I would share it here.

    [​IMG]
    0787 01 Apertures needed to give the same depth of field for cameras with different sensor sizes
    by gardenersassistant, on Flickr

    This led me on to thinking about how magnification affects this, which led on to another couple of tables, which again clarified things in my mind. (In this table the numbers are rounded to the nearest stop to make the patterns stand out more clearly.)

    [​IMG]
    0787 02 Effective aperture changing with magnification
    by gardenersassistant, on Flickr

    And this table in turn led me on to some other thoughts. (Happy to be corrected if I have got any of this wrong.)

    As the effective aperture decreases, the depth of field increases. The DOF doubles for every two stop decrease in aperture. This means for example that when using extension tubes or a teleconverter with the MPE-65 to take the magnification to 7x (which @TimmyG does for example), the DOF increases by a factor of 8 (2x2x2 because of the 6 stop decrease in effective aperture).

    As the effective aperture decreases and the DOF increases, the loss of sharpness/detail from diffraction increases. So, while you could get lots of DOF by using the MPE's minimum aperture of f/16 at 7x, you would lose a massive amount of sharpness/detail from diffraction because you would be working with an effective aperture of f/128.

    Also, as the effective aperture decreases, the view in an optical viewfinder gets darker, and the amount of flash power needed to illuminate a scene increases (or the ISO must be increased).

    In contrast, with achromats the effective aperture is unaffected by magnification, and so therefore are the amount of diffraction, the view in an optical viewfinder and the amount of flash power needed.

    A downside with achromats is that you can't get down beyond the minimum aperture of the lens you are using, and so (whatever camera you are using) you are restricted to getting no more DOF than you can get at about f/22 to f/32 with an APS-C camera.

    At the price of more diffraction losses, macro lenses, especially with extension tubes or teleconverters, can get more DOF than is possible with achromats.
     
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2015
  11. GardenersHelper

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    I have built yet another pair of diffusers for my KX800. :)

    The basic materials were some expanded polystyrene plates and bowls, and a couple of aluminium pudding basins. Like the tins used for the Mark 1 diffusers (which are described in the Diffusers section of this post), they are made of very thin (and hence light) aluminium sheet.

    [​IMG]
    0788 01 The basic materials
    by gardenersassistant, on Flickr

    This time I could simply measure the Mark 1 diffusers to get the sizes to mark out the opening for the flash guns to fire into.

    [​IMG]
    0788 02 Marking the cutout for the attachment tabs
    by gardenersassistant, on Flickr

    Here we see the opening, and the attachment tabs with Velcro on them to match the Velcro on the flash guns. Here we see the Velcro attached directly to the aluminium, but it turned out not to stick very well, so I later took off the Velcro and put gaffer tape on the attachment tabs and stuck velcro tabs on to the gaffer tape. The gaffer tape you can see here was another borrowing from the Mark 1 diffusers. Because the aluminium is so thin it is easy to tear it when pulling apart the velcro to get the diffusers off the flash guns. The gaffer tape protects against this tearing. I later put gaffer tape on the other two sides of the opening as well.
    [​IMG]
    0788 05 Gaffer tape to stop the thin aluminium splitting
    by gardenersassistant, on Flickr

    I made an inner diffuser by cutting out the bottom of an expanded polystyrene bowl (shown in the first image). Here we see velcro pads on the outer edge of the base of the pudding basin.

    [​IMG]
    0788 06 Four Velcro pads to hold the inner diffuser in place
    by gardenersassistant, on Flickr

    These match up with velcro pads wrapped around the lip of the inner diffuser.

    [​IMG]
    0788 07 Velcro wrapped around the lip of the inner diffuser
    by gardenersassistant, on Flickr

    Here is the inner diffuser in place.

    [​IMG]
    0788 08 The inner diffuser in place
    by gardenersassistant, on Flickr

    The inner diffuser is quite a long way down in the pudding basin. This will leave a quite large air gap between it and the outer diffuser. Because the inner diffuser is fitted upside down there will be an air gap between the flash head and the inner diffuser.

    [​IMG]
    0788 09 A large air gap above the inner diffuser
    by gardenersassistant, on Flickr


    Continued in next post
     
  12. GardenersHelper

    GardenersHelper

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    Next I put velcro tabs on the outer rim of the pudding basin. Here too I used gaffer tape to give the velcro tabs better adhesion. The velcro tabs are quite small, and it can be difficult to get them all to align properly. Where possible I did what I did here, which is to put the pair of tabs together and stick them to one of the surfaces. Then, with all of the pairs of tabs in place, you push the other surface down to stick it onto the exposed sticky tab surfaces.

    [​IMG]
    0788 11 Ready for the outer diffuser
    by gardenersassistant, on Flickr

    Here we see the out diffuser put in place, an expanded polystyrene plate.

    [​IMG]
    0788 12 The outer diffuser pushed down onto the Velcro pads
    by gardenersassistant, on Flickr

    I then did a mirror test to see what the hot area from the flash gun looked like.

    [​IMG]
    0788 13 A mirror test to identify the flash highlight area
    by gardenersassistant, on Flickr

    I started with the lowest flash power and turned it up until I got overexposure blinkies. This showed a nice, somewhat oval, almost circular area. That was promising and showed that there was some diffusion going on. I then cut out a similar area from an expanded polystyrene plate and positioned it in a similar position to what I had seen on the LCD, using another pair of velcro pads.

    [​IMG]
    0788 14 A cutout from a polystyrene plate placed over the flash highlight area
    by gardenersassistant, on Flickr

    I then did another mirror test. As I turned the flash power up I got to the stage of having overexposure blinkies - just one, tiny area (more of a dot really). When I turned the flash power up one notch a got a single area of overexposure blinking across the whole surface of the diffuser. Magic! This meant that the light was really even across the diffuser. (In fact, when I turned the power down one notch and tried again, I didn't even see the tiny overexposed area that I had first time round.) This was remarkably good news. I had spent ages with the Mark 1 diffusers adding extra layers (in that case of frosted plastic sheet) of decreasing size, trying to get an even output. But I couldn't manage it and gave up trying. (I added three more layers a couple of days ago to try to improve the evenness, but that still gave "jagged" results in the mirror test.)

    I took a handful of indoor shots to check that the flash power usage seemed ok. Two layers (and three in the middle) of expanded polystyrene were likely to soak up a lot of light. But the test shots suggested it would be usable. So I decided to go ahead and make a second diffuser.

    The only change I made to the second diffuser was to add some gaffer tape to the base of the pudding basin to give better adhesion for the velcro pads holding the inner diffuser.

    [​IMG]
    0788 15 Gaffer tape on the 2nd bowl to hold the inner diffuser Velcro better
    by gardenersassistant, on Flickr

    Here are the completed diffusers. (If they work ok I may put gaffer tape all around the outside to help hold in place the gaffer tape that is already on the outside. The wrinkly surface of the pudding basin is not good for adhesion and exposed edges may lift. Having complete coverage of gaffer tape would prevent this.)

    [​IMG]
    0788 18 The finished Midi 2.5 diffusers on the KX800
    by gardenersassistant, on Flickr

    I'm calling these my Midi 2.5 diffusers, because they are intermediate in size between the Mark 1 diffusers and the (not very successful) Mini 2 diffusers. And "2.5" because they have two complete diffusion layers and one part layer.

    As with any other diffusers on the KX800 they can of course be aranged in many different configurations. For example, here is a fairly symmetric arrangement that I use (variations of) quite a lot.

    [​IMG]
    0788 19 A fairly symmetric arrangement
    by gardenersassistant, on Flickr

    And here is a very different arrangement that I also use a fair amount when I want to illuminate the background and/or illuminate the subject from above.

    [​IMG]
    0788 20 Arrangement for illuminating the background
    by gardenersassistant, on Flickr


    Continued in next post
     
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2015
  13. GardenersHelper

    GardenersHelper

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    I did an initial indoor test, with a difficult subject, a battery. This is the first result I got. I was really pleased with it.

    [​IMG]
    0788 23 Midi 2.5, straight on (processed)
    by gardenersassistant, on Flickr

    Then I turned the battery through about 45 degrees. Oh dear. Horrible.

    [​IMG]
    0788 22 Midi 2.5, 45 degrees (OOC)
    by gardenersassistant, on Flickr

    I then took the diffusers off, leaving the arms in the same position, and put the Mark 1 diffusers on and tried the same shots. The results looked very similar on a quick look on the LCD. Here is the straight on shot, which looked ok to me. (These two straight on shots have subsequently been processed to try to get them as comparable as I can in terms of overall brightness and contrast.)

    [​IMG]
    0788 21 Mark 1 straight on (processed)
    by gardenersassistant, on Flickr

    The Mark 1 45 degree shot was just as horrible as with the new Midi 2.5 diffusers

    So, although the Midi 2.5 diffusers can produce horrible results, they aren't necessarily any worse than the Mark 1 diffusers. In fact, they might actually be better. The only way to find that out of course is real world testing. I had a session in the garden this afternoon. I haven't looked at the results yet on the PC, but looking at the LCD it appeared that some of the shots were ok, and some were not. In fact, a couple were really nasty. The things is though that these weren't subjects that I have been photographing recently with the Mark 1 diffusers so I don't know if the Mark 1 diffusers would have been just as bad, or even perhaps worse. I'm hoping to have a nighttime session tonight and hopefully there will be some more nearly like for like, non-easy, examples, most likely earwigs (a great and generally somewhat depressing test case), woodlice and snails, and perhaps if I'm lucky some smaller things.

    I did notice a few things this afternoon about the handling characteristics of these new diffusers.

    Being circular rather than rather wide, and also a bit smaller in area, the Midi 2.5 diffusers seem to obstruct my view less than the Mark 1 diffusers.

    These Midi 2.5 diffusers are even lighter than the Mark 1 diffusers, which weighed about 35 grams each. The Midi 2.5's weigh about 27 grams each. They seem to sit a bit more securely on the flash guns than the Mark 1 diffusers, and they may get in the way slightly less, both in terms of tangling less with the foliage etc and, more noticeably, tangling less with each other and the camera, and me.

    To begin with I thought the new diffusers used less flash power than the Mark 1 diffusers, but after a while I found myself using levels just as high, or perhaps a notch higher than with the Mark 1 diffusers. If they do soak up more power, it isn't so much as to be much of an issue. But I'm wondering (well, hoping would be a more honest word for it) whether they are letting me use higher levels of scene illumination without running into hotspot problems. So I might be using more flash power, but producing images that are better exposed.

    On the other hand, as with the Mini2 diffusers, it may be that when I examine the results on the PC and see how they respond to post processing I find that it was a nice idea, but not something I'd want to use again.

    To be continued. :)
     
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2015
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  14. GardenersHelper

    GardenersHelper

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    I haven't looked at those results yet. I got sidetracked. Having done a daytime and a nighttime session in the garden with the new Midi 2.5 diffusers, and thinking that what I had seen on the LCD looked promising, I went off the next morning to one of the local nature reserves. I had a short, but not very good time. I didn't find much to photograph, and it was obvious from what I could see on the LCD that nothing was working right. Loads of dark backgrounds that my clever background illumination did nothing whatever for, while the subject illumination looked horrible. I cut the session short, went home, looked at the images on the PC and confirmed that they were indeed dire.

    That knocked me back a bit. I had been really positive about the new diffusers, but did this session mean I had misled myself about their usefulness? I didn't have the heart to look at them. I didn't want to know. I sulked for a while instead.

    And then I fell to thinking about concave diffusers, yet again. I keep coming back to the fact that some of the best macros I have seen have been produced by people using concave diffusers. But this has tended to be relatively high magnification work, with short working distances. I use lower magnifications quite a lot, and these have longer working distances. I have never been able to work out how I could build a concave diffuser large enough to deal with working distances of up to half a metre, which is the working distance of my least powerful achromat, the Canon 500D.

    After doing some measurements and cutting up pieces of paper I realised that I might be able to use the 160 gram frosted plastic sheet as a concave diffuser. Not for the 500D, but for the others. The Raynox 150 is the one I use most and that has a working distance of around 16 to 20 cm. A piece of A4 paper is about 30 cm long, and the frosted plastic sheet comes in A4 sheets. So it might be long enough. The thing is though, how could you fix it to the lens in a way that would be practical to use?

    With an ordinary lens, I couldn't imagine this would be possible. But the FZ200 doesn't have an ordinary lens. The way I have it configured the lens sits inside a fixed adapter tube. So perhaps I could mount a concave diffuser on the adapter tube.

    It turned out that I could, with velcro. (The two yellow velcro pads on the long straight edge and the little white pad in the middle are explained later. At the moment we're just looking at the velcro pads on the left.)

    [​IMG]
    0789 01 Single layer, background illumination arrangement
    by gardenersassistant, on Flickr

    The configuration shown here is an "illuminate the background" setup, which gives a clear view of the diffuser. To my delight I found that it was fairly easy to take the diffuser on and off, and the angle could be adjusted too. It was possible to use the camera pointing somewhat downwards, with the diffuser acting like a light tent. (And by adjusting the diffuser so it is at a more extreme angle to the horizontal, you can increase the downward pointing angle at which you work.)

    Here is what it looked like from the front. The flashgun diffusers are shown here very close to the concave diffuser, but they don't have to be, and in fact are probably better further away.

    [​IMG]
    0789 02 Single layer, subject illuminated from both sides
    by gardenersassistant, on Flickr

    Does it work? I did a nighttime session.

    The diffuser stayed in place all through the session, despite coming into contact with foliage etc.

    I probably had to use a bit more flash power, but it seemed to work ok, although at times I was getting close to using maximum flash power. (I have become much more aware of how much flash power is needed because the KX800 is manual control only - no TTL flash. And I continue to be surprised at what variation there is in how much power scenes need. Quite often I have been working at 1/8 power or so, but sometimes less for one or occasionally both of the flash guns, and sometimes full power for one or very occasionally both of the flash guns. It isn't surprising that full power is needed when trying to illuminate a distant background, but I did find it surprising to need so much power sometimes when both guns were pointing directly at the subject. I think though that this was when the subject was significantly shielded by surrounding foliage. In general though, the power level needed was ok, and I didn't have to wait around for the flash to recycle.)

    The focus light shines through the concave diffuser and still provides enough light for focusing even on the lowest setting almost all the time.

    Quality-wise, on the LCD things looked promising, but of course that can be misleading. You need to work on them on the PC.

    I haven't. Yet. Because in the morning I had another idea.

    If one layer of concave diffusion is good, then why not two, or more?

    I tried putting another layer of 160 gram frosted plastic on top of the first one. It was too heavy. It made the underneath one sag. No good. However, I have some thinner, 90 gram frosted plastic, and I could use that as a second layer and it stayed in place.

    [​IMG]
    0789 03 Dual layer, subject illuminated from top and side
    by gardenersassistant, on Flickr

    Here from the front you can see the air gap between the two layers. The gap at the top is created by the position of the fixings at the side. At the bottom, in the middle, there is a pile of three pairs of little velcro squares stuck to one another, on the little white velcro pad we saw earlier.

    [​IMG]
    0789 04 Dual layer, showing air gap between the layers
    by gardenersassistant, on Flickr

    Here it is from the front.

    [​IMG]
    0789 05 Dual layer, illuminated by pair of Midi 2.5+ diffusers
    by gardenersassistant, on Flickr

    And from the top, which shows the curvature of the diffusion layers.

    [​IMG]
    0789 06 Dual layer, showing curvature
    by gardenersassistant, on Flickr

    I spent an hour and a half testing it in the garden this afternoon.

    And the results? Don't know. I got sidetracked.

    I was a bit concerned about the amount of flash power needed. I think I actually needed maximum power once or twice. So I decided to take off the second layer and spend some time using just one layer. I spent about 50 minutes using the single layer, and I have looked at the 170 or so images that I captured. I did my normal selection and processing workflow, and ended up keeping 30. At 17%, that is a rather higher hit rate than normal, but because I was testing the illumination I kept some which I normally would have rejected because of their having insufficient DOF for my taste. Even so, especially given the fact subjects are a bit thin on the ground, that keeper rate was quite promising. The 30 images that I processed and kept are in this album at Flickr.

    One thing that was very noticeable with the images I worked on was that they were much easier to handle than I'm used to. The FZ200, with its small sensor, can deliver results that can be quite taxing to bend into shape. The images from this session seemed very straightforward to handle, which I take to be a good sign.

    In terms of usability, I was pleasantly surprised. I was expecting the concave diffuser to get in the way a lot. It didn't. It was obviously in the way sometimes, but not much, and I didn't take it off in either the double or single layer session in order to let me get at a subject. I did squash it against foliage etc and bend it a bit once or twice in order to get the position I wanted, but for such a flimsy looking thing it proved surprisingly robust (or flexible, which in practical terms amounts to much the same thing). I'm sure it will get damaged, but fortunately it will be very easy to make replacements as needed.

    The concave diffuser also didn't get in the way of my handling the camera, both in terms of handling the camera to take shots, including some at very awkward angles, and also in terms of changing achromats. The one way in which it did get in the way was making it difficult to get a direct view of the subject. But I worked around that without too much difficulty.

    I have only tested the concave diffuser with the Raynox 150 mainly, and briefly with the Raynox 250. And the shots of a cranefly in the single layer session used the Canon 500D, which rather to my surprise worked fine. (It needed pretty much full power, but given the working distance of the 500D I didn't find that surprising.) I'll try some higher magnification stuff at some point. I might make a separate, much shorter concave diffuser for that.

    And the image quality? I'm not displeased.:)

    I'll post some images from this session in the main forum, but here are a couple that I find quite informative, and promising. In the absence of there being much else to photograph by way of invertebrates at the moment, especially during the day, I have been photographing this particular species of spider quite a lot recently. They always tend to have rather bright flash reflection lines along some of the legs, and troublesomely bright areas on the body. These examples have the lines and the bright areas, but in comparison with previous shots they are I think relatively mild.

    [​IMG]
    0790 01 P1150848_DxO LR
    by gardenersassistant, on Flickr

    [​IMG]
    0790 03 P1150854_DxO LR
    by gardenersassistant, on Flickr

    As I get round to processing them, I'll post examples (assuming there are any that are good enough) from the other sessions, for example using the dual layer concave diffuser, and using the Midi 2.5 diffusers without the concave diffuser.
     
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  15. Tintin124

    Tintin124

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    Nick you are truely amazeballs.... :D

    Does the diffuser sticking out so much at the front not cause issues??

    I'm in process to work out how far mine needs to stick forward as if the subject is say 2 inches away does the diffuser need to be much longer??
     
  16. GardenersHelper

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    :D

    Not nearly as much as I thought it would. I think that is partly because it is angled up so much, which takes it to around the position where the dual diffusers might be if the concave diffuser wasn't there. So I suppose it gets in the way about as much as the dual diffusers do. Of course, with the dual diffusers I can pull them back if one or other of them tangles with branches etc, and I can't do that with the concave diffuser. The only option is to take it off (or, depending on the magnification/working distance, I could take it off and put on a smaller one).

    The 160 gram plastic sheet I'm using is much stronger than tracing paper. It doesn't tear easily. Push it against a branch and it bends, and comes back to where it was afterwards. Push it against foliage and, depending on the exact directions involved, it may push the foliage aside, and/or it may bend a bit.

    The upper layer of 90 gram sheet is more flimsy, but in the one session I've had using both layers even that was ok.

    With either one or two layers there can be a sail/wing effect in the breeze. I've been using it in fairly still air so far, but I did see it flop once in a bit of breeze. The dual diffusers are I think fine in a breeze, so it might be dual diffusers but no concave diffuser when the breeze gets up.

    The plastic sheet bubbles a bit when it gets wet, but that doesn't seem to matter, In fact, it made me wonder whether to drip water drops on it all over so as to dimple the surface and increase the randomisation of the light direction.

    It depends on where the flash guns are. One of the surprises I had with this arrangement is that the concave diffuser only reaches as far as the working distance for the Raynox 150, about 6 to 8 inches, but the crane fly images in my recent post were captured with the Canon 500D, which has a working distance of around 20 inches. It probably depends on the exact angles involved, between the flash heads and the subject (as well obviously as the size and shape of the diffuser), In my setup the flash heads are (or can be placed) back from the concave diffuser. But with a filter thread mounted dual flash unit the heads are always going to be in front of the lens, and so the diffuser might need to be longer.

    In my case it presumably helps that the light is diffused before it even gets to the concave diffuser, so the light that goes outside the edge of the concave diffuser is diffused anyway. But perhaps you are using bare flash guns?

    You might want to try battery tests like I've shown in previous posts. This can give some insight into how a particular setup is working. Do bear in mind though that the angles between the light sources and the battery can make a huge difference to the intensity of the highlights. For example, if you keep the camera and the flash guns and diffusers in the same position, and rotate the battery, you may see a huge difference between looking at it sideways on and looking at it at 45 degrees. Similarly, if you have movable flash guns then leaving the battery and camera in the same position, and moving the flash guns, can make a big difference. So when trying to see how a new setup compares to others you do have to be really careful that you are in fact comparing like for like. In fact, these attempted like for like comparisons (not just with flash arrangements, but sharpness etc) that I have been doing have been so difficult to interpret that I think they can only be used as quick, rough guides. It is real world use that sorts these things out. For example, it doesn't matter how good the diffusion is if the diffuser sags/bends/rips too much in real world use!
     
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  17. Tintin124

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    I use stofens at the moment... but I don't think its giving me a large enough light source to then get further diffused by concaved sheet. I have 90gsm trace and foam to wrap around flash but I do like your mini softboxes may try something similar stop wasted light going side ways :D
     
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  18. GardenersHelper

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    Some more thoughts on the KX800, copied for ease of future reference from this thread.

    Yes indeed. On the face of it, the adjustments are a bit crude. Each flash head can be adjusted from full to 1/128 power, with 8 levels in total (ie. 1/1, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/16, 1/32, 1/64, 1/128). This compares to full power to 1/256 in 1/3 stop increments with my (single gun) Metz 58-AF2. (1/1, 1/1 - 1/3, 1/1 - 2/3, 1/2 etc).

    However, because the two guns are controlled separately on the KX800 I think this means that the amount of power can be adjusted in half stop increments by adjusting just one of the guns by a single level.

    It is manual control only of the flash levels, so no TTL, but I'm not too bothered about that because I've always found TTL flash to be a bit of a lottery anyway, needing constant adjustment of the flash exposure compensation. So I don't see any real difference between that and manually setting the flash levels. And one advantage of the KX800 is that it is really easy and quick to change the flash levels. There are separate buttons for - and + power for each gun. These are really quick to use, and it can be done by touch, without needing to take your eye away from the scene, risking losing the subject from camera movement while making the flash adjustment. In contrast I have to do multi-button/wheel fiddling to change the flash exposure compensation or the manual flash level with the Metz, and you can't do it by touch - you have to look.

    Oh yes. That is one of the major attractions for me, as I don't like black backgrounds for my invertebrate images. (I do occasionally have black backgrounds for flower images, but that is a different matter, and they are natural light anyway.)

    Here is the nearest I have from that session to a like for like comparison with and without background illumination.

    With background illumination

    [​IMG]
    0790 31b Background illuminated P1150953 LR
    by gardenersassistant, on Flickr

    Without background illumination

    [​IMG]
    0790 31a Background not illuminated P1150958 LR
    by gardenersassistant, on Flickr

    (This one actually has Shadows turned up to the maximum in Lightroom, but it makes virtually no difference.)

    It doesn't always work, but when it does it can make a big difference.

    Here is an example from another session, where one of the guns is used for both background illumination and differential lighting of the foreground and subject. There are some obvious differences in the background, but see how much difference the differential lighting has made to the foreground, both the subject and the foliage, and what you can (and can't) see by way of water droplets to the right of the shield bug.

    With background illumination

    [​IMG]
    0782 05 2015_09_01 P1120022_DxO LR
    by gardenersassistant, on Flickr

    Without background illumination

    [​IMG]
    0782 05a P1120023 LR
    by gardenersassistant, on Flickr


    The flexibility of the arms also lets me illuminate scenes where subjects are in otherwise impossible to illuminate positions. For example, here is one where the spider was in deep shadow underneath the leaf. I used one flash head above, which illuminated the background and also threw light down onto, and I suspect through, the leaf, and the other gun on a level with the camera, maybe even a bit lower, illuminating the subject. This would have looked very different if I only had a single, top mounted flash gun, or with a pair of macro flashes or a ring flash mounted on the front of the lens.

    [​IMG]
    0772 08 P1090525_DxO LR
    by gardenersassistant, on Flickr
     
  19. GardenersHelper

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    For ease of reference here are links to various diffusion arrangements I have tried

    Pie Tin diffuser on Metz 58-AF2 - Deep, large area diffuser bowl with multiple diffusion layers of plastic paper on single flash gun mounted on hot shoe

    Various other arrangements on Metz 58-AF2 - using a variety of diffusion materials

    Mark 1 diffusers on KX800 - Shallow, large area diffuser bowls with multiple diffusion layers of plastic paper on dual flash guns on long bendy arms

    Mini 2 diffusers on KX800 - Small diffusers with 2 diffusion layers of plastic paper on dual flash guns on long bendy arms

    Midi 2.5 diffusers on KX800 - Deep, medium area diffuser bowls with 3 diffusion layers of expanded polystyrene on dual flash guns on long bendy arms

    Midi Hybrid diffusers on KX800 - Deep, medium area diffuser bowls with two layers of plastic paper and two layers of expanded polystyrene on dual flash guns on long bendy arms.

    Concave diffusers - A4 (ish) diffuser attached to FZ200 adaptor tube, with 1 or 2 diffusion layers of plastic paper. Used in combination with the Midi 2.5 diffusers on KX800.

    Basic information about the KX800
     
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2015
  20. GardenersHelper

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    I built a new pair of diffusers for the KX800. They are very similar to the Midi 2.5 diffusers, using the same sort of aluminium foil pudding basins, but using a bottom diffusion layer of plastic paper, with two smaller layers of expanded polystyrene mounted on it to calm down the central highlight, and an outer layer of plastic paper.

    [​IMG]
    0791 05 Two expanded polystyrene diffusers on a plastic paper diffuser 600h
    by gardenersassistant, on Flickr

    [​IMG]
    0791 08 Diffuser with outer plastic paper layer fitted 600h
    by gardenersassistant, on Flickr

    I thought they might absorb less light than the three expanded polystyrene layers in the Midi 2.5 diffusers. They do, but only 1/2 stop or so less by the look of it from a couple of comparisons I did.

    I took them out into the garden to test them. I started off with a pair of parallel concave diffusers.

    [​IMG]
    0789 07 Parallel 160 gram diffusers
    by gardenersassistant, on Flickr

    The previous double-layer diffuser had a piece of 90 gram plastic paper mounted sideways on a piece of 160 gram plastic paper that was attached to the lens adapter tube. This one uses two pieces of 160 gram plastic paper mounted in parallel, each mounted separately to the adapter tube.

    My first subject was a wasp on lily pads on our tiny pond. It is a quite dark environment that always needs more light thrown at it than for most of my shots in the garden - perhaps the lily pads soak up a lot of light. I found I needed pretty much maximum power, and in addition it was a bit breezy and the concave diffusers tended to collapse. I very quickly took both of them off and just used the two Midi Hybrid diffusers.

    I found the images a bit difficult to process. To calm down the flash highlights I turned the Highlights as far down as Lightroom would let me for the whole lot. This tends to flatten the rest of the image, and I found it difficult (impossible actually) to make compensating adjustments to get the images as I would have liked them. Maybe shortcomings in my post processing technique, but in any case rather different from some other recent processing that I remarked on finding rather easy. I don't know if this was all down to the diffusers. Quite possibly not - there are a lot of variables. It was a quite short session after the wasp I only found two or three spiders and a little fly. FWIW there are some images from the session in this set at Flickr. I'll probably post some out in the forum.

    That night I did a garden session using the Midi Hybrid diffusers again, but this time with a single concave diffuser. There was no breeze to cause problems. What I did discover though was that the concave diffuser changes shape over the course of an hour or so, or less perhaps. It starts off with a mild curvature at the top end, like in the above image. The sides slowly sag down and end up almost vertical and parallel to one another, shaping the the diffuser into a narrow "tunnel" shape. I have now added velcro fixings on the reverse side of the concave diffusers so I can turn them over when they have sagged. I haven't tried this out yet.

    The amount of power I needed to use varied a lot from shot to shot (something I'm becoming more and more aware of as I'm setting the flash levels manually). I don't remember what the maximum was that I used, perhaps half power, but I wasn't aware of there being a problem with the power levels I had to use (i.e. I wasn't waiting around for the flash to recycle).

    I haven't looked at the images from that session yet.

    I don't remember what my thinking behind it was, but I went out briefly today with the Midi 2.5 diffusers (the all polysyrene ones), and no concave diffuser. It started out ok with a fly and a spider, but then - disaster, or so it felt. A hoverfly. The flash reflections were absolutely horrible.

    [​IMG]
    0793 08 2015_09_13 P1160862_DxO LR FLASH
    by gardenersassistant, on Flickr

    [​IMG]
    0793 09 2015_09_13 P1160865_DxO LR FLASH
    by gardenersassistant, on Flickr

    I tried radical underexposure and bringing it back up in post processing. At least the flash highlight area wasn't completely burnt out, but it was still pretty ugly. And at the time I didn't know how it would respond to post processing - at the time on the LCD it looked similar to the two images above.

    I was .... ahem ...not a happy bunny. My thoughts went again along the lines of "*!!??*%%%&^? I'm fed up with flash, I just can't get it to work nicely. Why don't I just use natural light. I love natural light". etc etc.

    So I tried natural light. I had to turn the FZ200 up to ISO 800 to get decent shutter speeds (1/250 and 1/320, I initially tried a lower ISO and slower shutter speeds but they weren't fast enough for hand-held). ISO 800 is not a pretty sight on the FZ200, but I was shooting raw as usual and was curious to see whether DXO Prime noise reduction could actually make ISO 800 usable on the FZ200. It was another very short session.

    Did it work? Well, sort of. No flash highlights of course, but a very high proportion of unusable images and I found I couldn't get even the most usable ones to give me the microcontrast/detail/sharpness that I've become used to using flash. Perhaps they look ok by virtue of being a bit more natural looking, I don't know. But they don't bear close scrutiny - even at my normal output size some are rather rough looking despite my best post processing efforts. In stronger light, with a lower ISO, I imagine it would have been better, but the light wasn't terrible and was the sort of light that I need to be able to work in. FWIW there are some shots from this short session in this set at Flickr, the first 10 being flash and the other 10 natural light.

    So why not use a camera with a bigger, better sensor? After all, my 70D is my "natural light" camera. However, equivalence means that to get the same DOF and shutter speeds I would have been using f/22-32 with ISO 6400 and above. So I don't think I would have been much better off in terms of image quality. Some time ago I did use ISO 3200 for some tripod-based early morning, still air shots with the 70D, but I found them marginal in terms of usability. Perhaps with DXO Prime it might be a bit better, but I doubt ISO 6400 and above on the 70D with DXO Prime would yield much better than ISO 800 on the FZ200 with DXO Prime.

    There is obviously a place for natural light shooting. it's all I use for flowers after all. But for invertebrates I think it is very much a "when the conditions are right" type of thing rather than a general purpose solution.
     
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2015
  21. TimmyG

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    Can I ask a question... why are you shooting at 1/1600th with the flash shots? It seems unnecessarily quick to me.
     
  22. GardenersHelper

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    Why not?

    I use a slower exposure if I want to balance natural light. But otherwise, it ensures that I freeze even quite fast motion such as a fly's leg and head movement when it is grooming.
     
  23. TimmyG

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    I would imagine it's going way beyond the synch speed for flash on that camera (correct me if I am wrong) and using high-speed synch is generally a bad idea for macro, as the flash duration is extended to cover the full amount of time the shutter is open. Using slower speeds (not sure what it is for you camera but either 1/200th or 1/250th) should mean the flash only "pulses" once and should freeze the action better as it is significantly quicker than the shutter can manage. I imagine it will use less power too.

    Have a look here for a more complete explanation.
     
  24. GardenersHelper

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    My FZ200 has a leaf shutter. It syncs with normal flash at up to 1/2000 or so.
     
  25. TimmyG

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    Aha! I'll let you off then ;)
     
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  26. TimmyG

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    And thinking more about this... you are comparing full flash lit scenes with full daylight lit scenes. Why not use a combination of both?
     
  27. GardenersHelper

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    Not sure I follow. Fast shutter is my default, which guarantees an effective shutter speed of at least as fast as the actual shutter speed, which is good for freezing things like a fly's leg or head movement when it is grooming, or spiders' movements when they are active. But I use a slower shutter speed if I want to balance natural light, for example to bring up backgrounds.
     
  28. TimmyG

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    Maybe it's because it's late (I should have been in bed hours ago) or maybe I'm not understanding things correctly, I guess I picked up on this line..

    ..and thought, why not use both? I'm sure you do use both, and frequently, but it seems to me you are looking for a pleasing yet consistent result. Maybe your starting point shouldn't be full flash or full daylight, but something inbetween.

    And, for what it's worth, I think you are being overly critical on your highlights. That hoverfly is made of gold and gold is supposed to be shiny! Everything else in that image looks very nicely lit.
     
  29. GardenersHelper

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    Actually, I think that's a good point. I haven't been mixing natural light in much recently when using flash. I've been pretty locked in to of trying this, that and always another way of getting flash results more to my liking. I haven't been doing much botanical (natural light only) shooting either. Time to rebalance in both respects I think.

    Thanks Tim. I suppose I'm comparing my stuff to what I see other people delivering. I know there are limits as to what is achievable, but if I can't match what I see others doing then it makes me want to try harder/differently.
     
  30. TimmyG

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    Ah good, that's what I was getting at I think ;)

    Can share some examples? There might be more to it than diffusion..
     
  31. GardenersHelper

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    @Neil Burnell's recent posts. For example, #8 in this post. Even at the best of angles (and it does vary a lot with angle) and drawing the highlights right down I can't get flash highlights as subdued as that on earwigs.

    I think that one of the issues may be that I'm comparing my stuff with setups that are used for relatively high magnifications (and hence short working distances) which can have high diffusion concave diffusers very close to the subject. My rig is more general purpose as far as magnification goes (and therefore including some quite large working distances of up to half a metre), and I don't think that type of concave diffuser is a practical proposition at the size that would be required. However, my concave diffusers are fairly easy to change in the field, so I might try using some small ones that are designed specifically for shorter working distances.
     
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  32. Neil Burnell

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    Many thanks for the kind comments regarding my lighting Nick. I think its a case that my shots come within 15cm of the front of my lens, most within 10cm. I do however now use 3 velcro fastened diffusers which can be easily ripped on and off within seconds, each are different sizes and velcro and wrap around the 60mm, 250 raynox and 202. It's such a simple system and seems to be working very well at the moment. I even applied the same system when shooting single flash on my new Laowa wide angle 15mm and it worked quite well.
     
  33. GardenersHelper

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    That is very interesting, and very helpful Neil. Thanks.
     
  34. Testudo Man

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    Hi Nick...WOW, this thread of yours is an epic adventure(its gonna take me an age to catch up) Its been months since ive read through this properly!

    As you know, Im in the "same boat as you" in regards to the "power struggle" for macro, between my Nikon DSLR and my Panasonic Bridge cameras.

    Things have "moved on" from me too this year. My DX body (Nikon D7100) is sold, Ive gone FX (Nikon D700). As for Panasonics, i used the FZ150 all this Spring/Summer...but then sourced the "legend" a couple of weeks back...The FZ50!...as you know, its capable of f/11, its sensor size is slightly larger than the norm of 1/2.33", being a massive 1/1.8" !!! ;). The lens is a fixed length(zooms internally, by hand) so with a Raynox attached, when zooming the lens stays the same length, which will not scare off the critters.
    The only pain in the rear, is the tiny 2" screen! and it does not focus as quick as a modern Panny Bridge camera.

    Heres a couple of FZ50 images i shot recently, all at f/11, with on board flash/Pringles Diffuser, and Raynox 250 attached. All images uncropped.

    Cheers Paul.

    Ivy Bee (diffuser used)
    [​IMG]Ivy Bee (Colletes hederae) garden photo (uncropped). 15th-September-2015. by Testudo Man, on Flickr


    Ivy Bee (no diffuser, just flash).
    [​IMG]Ivy Bee (Colletes hederae) garden photo (uncropped). 15th-September-2015. by Testudo Man, on Flickr


    Adult and Juvenile Common Lizard (diffuser used)
    [​IMG]Adult and Juvenile Common Lizards (uncropped). 20th-September-2015. by Testudo Man, on Flickr


    A Common Darter Dragonfly (no diffuser, just flash)
    [​IMG]Common Darter Dragonfly, on my hand (uncropped). 19th-September-2015. by Testudo Man, on Flickr
     
  35. GardenersHelper

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    Very interesting input Paul. Thanks.

    I keep thinking, "OK, that's all settled then." And then ... it isn't any more. :D

    Interesting. Are you using the D700 for any close-up/macro work?

    I thought about trying full frame as it's one of the options I haven't tried yet. I considered the Sony A7rII. But I couldn't convince myself it would be a good idea.

    I've always found the FZ50 a very appealing proposition, but from my point of view it had an important flaw. Until quite recently I used a tripod most of the time and so the bottom hinging of the LCD screen put me off. Now I'm working hand-held that wouldn't matter of course. And I suppose with the Raynox on the lens there is less vignetting than I get with an adapter tube on the FZ200. (Mind you, I assume that would be offset somewhat by the fact that the FZ50 has a smaller zoom range than the FZ200.) And f/11 and the non-extending lens are very appealing.

    Still, I don't think the FZ50 is for me as I use autofocus a lot, and would really want faster rather than slower AF. And I much prefer zooming with the zoom lever around the shutter button rather than turning a zoom ring.

    Perhaps the FZ330. It goes to f/11 for video, so I'm wondering if it also goes to f/11 for 4K photo, which uses almost the full sensor size on the FZ330. But would 4k photo work with flash I wonder, at least for the first shot? Hmmm. I would like to have f/11. (Of course, with its slightly larger sensor f/11 on the FZ50 gives a little less DOF than f/11 would on the FZ330 - but more I imagine than f/8 on the FZ200/330.) Very fast focusing with the FZ330, and apparently DFD focusing works with an achromat attached. But given that it is the same sensor and lens as the FZ200, I'm doubtful about the FZ330.

    Good results. How do you think the image quality compares to the FZ150? (And of course some people think the FZ150 produces better image quality than the FZ200 of course. I wouldn't know as I've never used an FZ150. (Are you shooting JPEG or raw btw?)

    How do you find the FZ50 and FZ150 image quality compares to other rigs you have used for close-ups/macros?
     
  36. Testudo Man

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    Its never going to be settled Nick, you know that!

    Yes, i am using the D700 for macro/close up work. With my DX body, i had 24 MP's "on tap" so i was using a Nikon macro 105mm VR lens, and cropping into the image some. I also sometimes used the Raynox 150 with this set up.
    Now my FX D700 is a much older camera, it only has 12 MP's to play with! I had lost out on both the 1.5 crop factor of the DX body, and dropped down to just 12 MP's. So although the Nikon macro 105mm VR is a superb lens, ive needed more reach/focal length, hence i have just bought a Sigma 150mm macro lens (the older version, no OS/IS). Ive only used the Sigma a couple of times, so its early days yet.
    With my current DSLR/lens set up, its forcing me to capture better composition shots, without relying on the luxury of 24 MP's, which i would later crop for end results. Maybe this is a good thing?
    Of course, if money were no object, then i would have an FX D750 (24 mp's) or better still a D800/800e/810 (36 mp's) then whilst im at it, a nikon 200mm macro lens or the Sigma 180mm, then crop to my hearts content.
    I dont think the FX D700 is a good choice for macro work(not with my current lenses) i think it is a good camera for close up work though, and i cant wait to get close to some larger subjects, like Adders (snakes).

    Some examples using the FX D700.

    Common Darter Dragonfly, Sigma 150mm Macro, uncropped.
    [​IMG]Common Darter Dragonfly (uncropped). 20th-September-2015. by Testudo Man, on Flickr

    Small Copper Butterfly (the size of your thumb nail!) Sigma 150mm macro, approx 50% crop to image.
    [​IMG]Small Copper Butterfly. 20th-September-2015. by Testudo Man, on Flickr

    Pair of Common Blue Butterflies mating, Nikon macro 105mm VR lens, small crop to image.
    [​IMG]Pair of mating Common Blue Butterflies. 25th-July-2015. by Testudo Man, on Flickr


    Whilst the FZ50 has a smaller zoom/focal range(than FZ200/150) i just use the Raynox 250 with it, rather than the Raynox 150, which works much better on my FZ150.
    I also rely on auto focus 99.9% of the time myself, and although the FZ50 is just that little bit slower than the FZ150, theres not much in it. Ive used the burst mode on the FZ150 all year, specifically for my Butterfly images, thats where the FZ150/Raynox 150 combo really shines.
    Nick, the FZ50 is so cheap to buy these days, it wouldnt matter if you bought one, and ended up using it as a door stop! They usually sell from between £50 to £100 on Fleabay, but i was really lucky, i bought my hardly used mint example for a "bargain of the year" price of just £20!!! and the guy/owner delivered it to my door too.

    The FZ330/300 looks to be a brilliant Bridge camera, but Panasonic really should have perhaps improved on the sensor/focal/zoom length. There are many upgrades on the FZ330, but not enough to warrant owing both FZ200 and FZ330 cameras. I guess if Panasonic had put a larger sensor in the FZ330, then it might have harmed their FZ1000 sales! If there is no difference/improvement in IQ from the FZ330, then why spend £500 quid for the same sensor/lens package as the FZ200??

    Yes, the "Panasonic bridge camera people" do say, that the IQ of the FZ150 is better than that of the FZ200, but until i own/use/test an FZ200, i cant tell for myself!


    I like images produced from the older FZ models, i still have an FZ28, and i can squeeze really nice images from that camera...I think the FZ50 will beat the FZ28 for IQ. The FZ150 is a joy to use, it can produce great images with ease, but i stress, these cameras work really well with Raynox 150/250 macro lenses, they are just so easy for macro use. Hand held, they weigh approx 500 grams, cost effective, fast, no dust bunnies, no lens changing.

    My D700 is a beast, it weighs quite a bit, add a chunky macro lens like the nikon 105mm, or the Sigma 150mm lens, carry it around in the hand for 6 hours out in the field!! Whats this package worth in money? £750 to £1000?.
    Both my FZ50 and FZ150 plus both Raynox macro lenses cost less than £200!...For my style/type of close up/macro photography, with my chosen subjects, the gap/difference in IQ between FX DSLR and Panny FZ Bridge cameras is, minimal


    Edit- Forgot to say, i shoot mainly Jpeg, but ive just tried a few Raw images with the D700
     
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2015
  37. Testudo Man

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    A few Butterfly images from the FZ150 with Raynox 150, which i have shot this year.
    As anyone knows, it is not easy capturing the whole of the butterfly in focus, more often than not, either a wing, legs, eye, antenna is not in focus.
    I personally find it much easier getting as much of the butterfly in focus, using a Bridge camera with Raynox lens, than using my DSLR with a dedicated macro lens.

    Some 2015 butterfly images, all of them shot in the wild.

    Cheers Paul.

    [​IMG]Dark Green Fritillary Butterfly (male). 21st-June-2015. by Testudo Man, on Flickr

    [​IMG]Common Blue Butterfly (female). 14th-June-2015. by Testudo Man, on Flickr

    [​IMG]Adonis Blue Butterfly (male). 30th-May-2015. by Testudo Man, on Flickr

    [​IMG]Chalk-Hill Blue Butterfly (male). 4th-July-2015. by Testudo Man, on Flickr

    [​IMG]Mating pair of Chalk-hill Blue Butterflies. 31st-July-2015. by Testudo Man, on Flickr
     
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  38. GardenersHelper

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    Lovely images Paul. (Apologies for the slightly ! delayed response. I've had a four month or so timeout from photography. Got a bit burnt out I think. )

    Given your comment about the bridge+achromat versus dSLR+prime macro lens (a subject dear to my heart of course:D) you may find the next post interesting.
     
  39. GardenersHelper

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    In responding to a thread at dpreview I re-read and quoted from the part of the (huge and I believe much acclaimed) Joseph James Photography Equivalence article which deals with DOF. Having found it again (not so easy in such a huge article), and not being sure whether I have posted it here before, I thought it might be worthwhile to just repeat here part of what I wrote on the other site.

    I spent 18 months or so comparing the FZ200, G3/G5 and Canon 70D for closeups/macros. (It's written up in horribly lengthy detail here.) I used achromats with the FZ200 and G3/G5, and achromats and also prime macro lenses with the 70D (Canon 100L Macro, Sigma 105 Macro and for higher magnifications the Canon MPE65).

    The FZ200 setup was the easiest to use in terms of handling and reliably and quickly getting decent focus and exposure, but the weird thing is that for the output sizes I deal with (currently 1300 pixel high on-screen) the FZ200 was as good as anything else I tried in terms of image quality (by my judgement and that of others who routinely use, rather well in some cases, APS-C cameras with prime macro lenses). That sounds ridiculous/impossible of course, but I eventually came to the conclusion that it is because I go for as much DOF as I can get (with single images, not stacks) and so I use minimum aperture almost all the time, whatever kit I'm using. This apparently has the effect of degrading the higher quality optics sufficient to radically reduce the difference between them and the inferior hardware.

    "the more we stop down (the deeper the DOF), diffraction increasingly becomes the dominant source of blur. By the time we reach the equivalent of f/32 on FF (f/22 on APS-C, f/16 on mFT and 4/3), the differences in resolution between systems, regardless of the lens or pixel count, is trivial. [I'm actually operating a stop beyond this, with f/22-f/32 on APS-C, f/22 on MFT and f/8 on the FZ200.]

    For example, consider the Canon 100 / 2.8L IS macro on a 5D2 (21 MP FF) vs the Olympus 14-42 / 3.5-5.6 kit lens on an L10 (10 MP 4/3). Note that the macro lens on FF resolves significantly more (to put it mildly) at the lenses' respective optimal apertures, due to the macro lens being sharper, the FF DSLR having significantly more pixels, and the enlargement factor being half as much for FF vs 4/3. However, as we stop down past the peak aperture, all those advantages are asymptotically eaten away by diffraction, and by the time we get to f/32 on FF and f/16 on 4/3, the systems resolve almost the same."

    Taken from http://www.josephjamesphotography.com/equivalence/#dof


    As a result I now routinely use the FZ200 for (mainly flash-based) invertebrate imaging. I use the 70D for (natural light) botanical work, for which I use a wide range of apertures and with which I get better image quality than with the FZ200 or the G3/G5 and much more control over DOF than with the FZ200.
     
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  40. dibbly dobbler

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    Interesting post Nick. I'm changing systems at the moment (Canon to Fuji) - I've changed all the 'normal' stuff but haven't touched my macro setup yet (100mm prime + Raynox) so if I'm going to try something different now would be a good time! Not sure if I could live with reduced sharpness to get increased dof though - hmm. Been idly pondering a Sony RX10 (top end bridge with 1 inch sensor and 24-200 lens f2.8 lens) - it could make a good macro camera with a Raynox on I reckon.

    Will give me something to think about until the weather gets better :)
     
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2016

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