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  1. LCPete

    LCPete

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    Just a little bit to add to your thread Nick I finally got some shots with the marumi 200 Achromat last week (the damselfly I posted in this section)
    The results looked really good nice and sharp
    last year I took some test shots comparing the marumi achromat with extension tubes on my 100mm macro lens
    the results with extension tubes were better than with the marumi achromat on test shots of coins
    in practice with a proper subject the marumi achromat though was very good nice sharp images
     
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  2. GardenersHelper

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    That's interesting, and good news Pete. As you may recall I tested two Marumi 200s some time ago and found both of them less sharp and more prone to chromatic aberration than the very similar powered Raynox 150. It's good to hear that in practice you are getting good results from it.
     
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  3. LCPete

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    Thanks Nick yes I'm very pleased with the marumi
    I do remember you doing comparison tests between the ranox 150 and the marumi
    I did as mentioned find that using tubes gave slightly sharper images but in practice I couldn't get any shots of insects in the field using tubes as the loss of light caused my shutter speed to drop too low (this was natural light shooting without flash)
    The good thing with the achromat is that it doesn't seem to loose much light when mounted on the front of the macro lens
     
    Last edited: Jun 6, 2017
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  4. GardenersHelper

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    A slight reduction in IQ seems a pretty good trade-off when the alternative is not getting any photos at all. :)

    As far as I can tell close-up lenses don't seem to lose any light. They certainly don't lose light increasingly (and very noticeably) in the way that a macro lens does as the magnification increases. (Which is one of the reasons I like close-up lenses so much.)
     
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  5. GardenersHelper

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    This was originally posted in the Show us your macro rig thread. I have copied it here as I think it fits with the ongoing journey story.

    I've made some changes since my last post here in September last year.

    The cameras

    I am still using the Panasonic FZ330 and achromats for flash-based work with invertebrates. For natural light botanical work, and natural light images of larger insects such as dragonflies, butterflies and damselflies (on the rare occasions I see any of these) I have dropped the Canon 70D with 55-250 lens (with and without an achromat) and now use a Panasonic G80 with 45-175 lens (with and without an achromat). I would also use this setup for long exposure still air tripod shots, but I haven't done any of those yet this year - the only time I did them previously was around dawn when the air was completely still, and I haven't done any sessions at that time of day this year.

    [​IMG]
    1205 01 FZ330 and G80
    by gardenersassistant, on Flickr

    The G80 with 45-175 (90 to 350 full frame equivalent) covers roughly the same scenes as the 70D with 55-250 (around 90 to 400 equivalent). The G80 has a 4:3 aspect ratio as against the 3:2 for the 70D, but the difference favours one or the other depending on the shot so that pretty much evens out. On the other hand the G80 is significantly smaller than than the 70D, and much lighter (720 grams with 45-175 and battery compared to 1150 grams for the 70D, 55-250 and battery).

    [​IMG]
    1205 02 Comparing the size of 70D with 55-250 with G80 with 45-175
    by gardenersassistant, on Flickr

    I find I get a greater proportion of sharp images with the G80. This may be some combination of better (more reliable, faster) autofocusing using the LCD screen (which I almost always use) and better image stabilisation (the G80 has in-body image stabilisation, IBIS, which works together with the lens image stabilisation, IS, whereas the 70D only has IS).

    I used the G3 (and later the G5) for botanical work in preference to my bridge cameras because I preferred the rendition of light, colours and textures. When I got the 70D I felt it did a bit better again, although the improvement was less clear cut. With the G80 I have the impression that I'm getting at least as good as with the 70D in terms of image quality for my botanical subjects.

    Unlike the 70D, the G80 doesn't have an anti-aliasing filter, and this may help with capturing fine detail, but for botanical work I find that much less of an issue than with invertebrates, so I don't think that is a key factor.


    The close-up lenses uses for flash work


    In the previous post I showed my achromats, each with its own diffuser.

    [​IMG]
    0975 21 The close-up lenses and their concave diffusers
    by gardenersassistant, on Flickr

    As before with the 70D, I generally only use the low power Canon 500D achromat with the G80 (or no achromat at all).

    With the FZ330 I have simplified the way I use achromats. The issue I found was that changing achromats was quite fiddly, because I had to detach the diffuser from the close-up lens, put away the diffuser, unscrew the lens, put away the lens, get out and screw on the different achromat and get out and fit the different diffuser to the close-up lens.

    I now leave a Raynox 150 attached to the FZ330 the whole time, and leave the Raynox 150 diffuser attached to it (and also attached to the focusing lamp so as to keep the diffuser from flopping down). When I want more magnification I get out a second Raynox 150 or a Raynox 250 and screw it on to the Raynox 150 which is already on the camera. I don't have to fiddle with the diffuser. It turns out that this gives me enough magnification for what I currently want to do (and this includes globular springtails and mites), and rather surprisingly the large Raynox 150 diffuser doesn't, for the most part, get in the way despite the shorter working distances that come with the extra magnification. This approach has made changing achromats much easier and faster.


    Flash head diffusers


    I'm still using the Venus Optics KX800 twin flash and there has been no change in the diffusion arrangements since the previous post.

    [​IMG]
    0975 22 Flash head diffuser
    by gardenersassistant, on Flickr

    Each diffuser has three layers, two of "plastic paper" and one of expanded polystyrene. They attach to the flash heads with velcro.


    FZ330 setup

    Here is the FZ330 with the baseline setup with the Raynox 150 and the largest of the concave diffusers.

    [​IMG]
    1205 03 FZ330 with Raynox 150
    by gardenersassistant, on Flickr

    The diffuser is attached to the Raynox 150 using velcro. To stop the diffuser waving around in the breeze and/or flopping down in front of the lens the diffuser is supported by the KX800 focusing lamp using a strip of velcro. The slack in the support lets the concave diffuser move as the camera lens moves in and out.

    The focusing light lets me use these setups at night, and can also help the autofocusing work in poor daytime light/in shade.


    KX800 flexible arm arrangement


    [​IMG]
    0975 24 Concave diffuser and flexible arm arrangements
    by gardenersassistant, on Flickr

    On the left one of the flash heads has been moved out of the way for this shot, and it is in the sort of position that can be used to illuminate dark backgrounds while the other head is used to illuminate the subject. I am doing this a lot more now.

    As shown on the right, the arms are crossed over as it turns out this is the best configuration to get the heads into a suitable position and adjust them without stressing the wiring that runs through the flexible arms.


    LCD hoods

    I have made LCD hoods of the same design as before for my other cameras, these made out of black paper, which is very light. I now keep an LCD hood permanently attached to the G80 and FZ330 so I don't have to fiddle around taking LCD hoods on and off. It turns out that I can carry around the G80 in my backpack with the LCD hood still attached. (The FZ330 never goes in the bag because of the KX800 flash being permanently attached to it.)

    [​IMG]
    1205 04 LCD hoods
    by gardenersassistant, on Flickr


    Batteries

    I previously used two boxes for batteries, one for camera batteries and one for flash batteries. The G80 and the FZ330 use the same batteries so I can now use just one box for both camera and flash batteries.


    The rest of the kit

    [​IMG]
    1205 05 The rest of the kit
    by gardenersassistant, on Flickr

    Differences here include the lack of steadying sticks. I did use them a few times around the time of my previous post, but I haven't used them since then. I really think I should try again, especially with the smaller subjects that I'm shooting more of now.

    The wellington boots have been replaced by safety boots. They have very deep treads which give great grip on the (sometimes muddy) slopes that I've been working on recently. The other major change is the trousers. They have (replaceable) knee pads. This is a huge improvement over the separate knee pads that I wore previously and would continuously fall down/off. The trousers also have a remarkable number of pockets. I use these to carry around a spare camera battery and a set of flash batteries so I can change them without having to put the camera down, delve around in the bag, open boxes etc. This makes battery changes much faster which has proved very useful. The "pouch" pockets hanging just under the belt are big enough for the boxes I keep my achromats in, so I typically carry around a second Raynox 150 in one of them so I can quickly add and remove a second 150 to get more magnification for small subjects.
     
  6. GardenersHelper

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    One possible kit change that I'm considering......

    The Canon 6D Mark II has been announced. I have been wondering for a while about trying a full frame camera, especially for botanical work. Unusually for a full frame camera, it has a fully articulated LCD. This is one of the things I have been waiting for. Like the 70D and other more recent Canon dSLRs it has dual pixel (on-sensor phase detect) focusing, which makes live view more practical than it might otherwise be with a dSLR (and I do generally use live view and autofocus).

    I already have a Sigma 105 macro, extension tubes and teleconverters (1.4X and 2X) that I could use with it. And if that worked out ok I could even try the MPE-65 again. The KX800 should work fine with it. It can use the same batteries as the 70D (I have 8!).

    There are some positive comments about the 6D Mark II, but I'm seeing many more negative comments (rants even in some cases) about its shortcomings. These seem mainly to relate to videography (including no 4K video capture, and no headphone socket). So it looks like it is more stills-oriented rather than an all-round camera. As it happens, that is fine from my perspective. But all the negativity is a bit offputting. I don't mind about it only having one card slot, but comments about noise in shadows when raised by a couple of stops is a bit of a concern (I raise shadows a lot) - although I've seen elsewhere that its maximum (non-extended) ISO of 40,000 is ok.

    And I've just stopped using the 70D in favour of the G80. Would I really be happy using big, heavy full frame kit? (Although, much to my surprise, the 6DII body is only 10g heavier than the 70D body, and I find the weight of that manageable with the Sigma 105 etc - it's the operating characteristics of prime setups that I'm not so keen on. But for enhanced image quality I could, maybe, put up with that).

    And changing lenses/tubes etc, after all the trouble I've had with dust on sensors?

    And while autofocus (which I'm very keen on) might be practical for botanical work, approaching and beyond 1:1 it probably wouldn't be practical for invertebrates (and obviously impossible if I did use the MPE-65). And it doesn't have focus peaking to help with rocking focus.

    Plus, minus, plus, minus, maybe, whatif, personal preferences, prejudices, agendas .....

    Hmmm.........

    The journey continues. :D
     
  7. GardenersHelper

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    Reading more about the Canon 6DII I realised that it is rather similar to my 70D - size, weight, articulated LCD, dual pixel focusing, button placement. So I did an experiment, using the 70D as I might use the 6DII, just to see how I got on. I had been out the day before with my G80 photographing flowers in the garden. So I went round the garden again, this time with the 70D and Sigma 105 macro.

    The 105 macro might seem like an odd choice of lens because I much prefer using a zoom lens to a prime. However, as the whole point of going full frame would be to go for maximum image quality it would seem a bit of a waste to use a zoom lens rather than a prime. And I'd need to put an achromat on a zoom lens some of the time to get down to some of the scene sizes I like with flowers and could get directly with a macro prime. Also, a full frame zoom lens would be big and heavy - with the 70D my preferred lens is a (relatively) light EF-S 55-250, but this couldn't be used on a 6DII. So using a prime might just be the price I have to pay to get maximum image quality.

    I also took a 1.4X teleconverter and a 2X teleconverter with me, because one of the problems I have had before with the Sigma for flowers is that it lacks the reach of the 55-250 that I use to the full sometimes to get at subjects which are awkwardly placed and don't permit a close approach. They would also give me some more magnification if I needed it.

    As with the G80 I had a quite long session, working slowly and contemplatively to try to get the best results I could.

    It quickly became apparent that autofocus was not going to be effective with the 70D and Sigma 105. It was breezy, the sort of conditions that I am used to working in because this is a breezy location, and I'm used to using autofocus with my zoom and achromat setups. But with the 70D and Sigma 105 it was hopeless. The hunting was unbearable. As plants swayed around the lens was continually grinding in and out and would not catch focus, even with the focus limiter set appropriately for the required distance. And everything was so wildly out of focus that I couldn't compose shots anyway, never mind not being able to gain focus once the shot was composed.

    I had no choice but to use manual focus. That turned out to be ok. I was back to being able to compose easily, and easily get the focus placed right so I could just wait for the plant to swing into the right position to grab the shot.

    It turned out that I didn't use either of the teleconverters. There was only one occasion when I wanted more reach than the Sigma would give me. The thought went through my mine "do I really want to risk dust on the sensor, again?" I decided that I would rather crop (which of course with full frame and more megapixels like the 6DII has compared to my 70D, would be a very practical proposition). I also didn't need more magnification than the Sigma provided. Reach, working distances and achievable magnification would of course be different with the 6DII, but it looked like for my type of shooting that none of these would give me frequent problems.

    I came back in from the garden session feeling more comfortable about the idea of using a 6DII. But then I worked on what I had captured in the two sessions.....

    With the G80 I had captured 570 shots and ended up keeping 50 (about 8.5%). With the 70D I had captured 439 shots and ended up keeping 15 (about 3.5%). A lot of the problem with the 70D shots was that so many of them were not quite sharp enough. They had looked ok on the LCD but on the PC they were not good enough for my purposes. There was a marked difference in the general level of sharpness between the autofocused G80 shots and the manually focused 70D shots. Both sessions had well focused and poorly focused shots, but the proportions were very much in favour of the G80.

    Then, when I chose 8 shots to put into this post on the forum I ended up with all 8 coming from the G80 set. (The 50 G80 images are in this album at Flickr, the 15 70D images are in this album. For some reason Flickr says there are 47 images in the G80 album, but there are in fact 50.)

    This was not a strictly like for like comparison, but I felt the results seemed pretty telling all the same. It made me feel that investing in a 6DII for botanical work looked like a rather risky proposition.

    This feeling about the 6DII was coloured by what I was reading and viewing on line. As well as the quite widespread criticism the 6DII was getting (on grounds of price as well as functionality) including from some people who had handled it, I learnt that Sony may release an A7riii before too long. And when I dug into the Sony stuff a bit I was reminded that Sony have a 24-240 lens which, it turns out, is not much heavier than the Sigma 105. In fact, the A7rii and 24-240 are about the same weight as a 70D or 6DII - which are virtually the same weight - and the Sigma 105.

    Yes, the 24-240 is a zoom lens not a prime (although it is assessed to be fairly sharp in the centre), and might need an achromat for smaller botanical subjects (although with 42mpix to play with - on the A7rii and presumably at least that on an A7riii the potential for cropping should be considerable). And not being a macro lens, perhaps it wouldn't hunt as much.

    I wonder if Sony will finally put an articulated screen on the A7riii. From what I'm reading a lot of people would like that. I wonder if Sony has picked up on that.

    Hmm.......

    I'm spending some time reading reviews and lurking on the dpreview Sony full frame forum at the moment. :D
     
  8. Orangecroc

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    I've had a look at both albums, and despite your stated trouble with the 70D over the G80, the images from the 70D are a great deal better than the G80 shots.
     
  9. GardenersHelper

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    Thank you Ben, that is extremely interesting feedback. I wonder if you would do a couple of things to help me with this please.

    • Would you let me know what aspects of the images you are looking at that are a great deal better in the 70D shots, for example sharpness, textures, colours, details, composition or whatever.
    • As you know, I picked the eight images which I preferred from the two albums, all of which came from the G80 set. Would you please pick 8 images from the 70D set so we can do a comparison of the two sets of 8. Since the 70D images are a good deal better than the G80 shots presumably all 8 of your choices will be better than all 8 of my choices.
    I will need to reconsider my thinking on this when I have digested your input on this.

    Thanks. It's great to be able to progress with help from others.
     
  10. Orangecroc

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    Singling out any would be almost entirely down to composition, but all the images are noticeably sharper even without zooming in with no hint of noise or CA.
    I singled out 3 because of the amazing resolution of the spider webs.
    4 because of the great detail and colour renditions.
    7 as above but with fantastic DoF and BG. (Although it appears to show a mark at about 10'oclock just off the flower petals that may be in the lens or camera)
     
  11. Orangecroc

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    Plus there was my brains immediate reaction being wow with the 70D shots, but not the G80 shots (which I happened to view first).
     
  12. GardenersHelper

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    Thanks for the detailed observations.

    On the general points, can I take it that you see noise and CA in the G80 images? Could you point me to some examples please.

    This is #3. I'm a bit puzzled about this. I can see a few strands of silk, but very little of it is in focus. I think we are seeing/weighting/interpreting this differently.

    [​IMG]
    1208 03 2017_07_05 IMG_2516_DxO 0100RAW01cP SP7 LR6 1300h
    by gardenersassistant, on Flickr

    This is #4. I almost rejected this one because the dark blue and yellow/orange stuff in the middle of the flower didn't look very clear/sharp at the intended viewing size (1300 pixels high, as posted at Flickr), and in fact I think the further away part of that area is very soft/out of focus.

    [​IMG]
    1208 04 2017_07_05 IMG_2524_DxO 0100RAW01cP SP7 LR6 1300h
    by gardenersassistant, on Flickr

    This is #7. Perhaps we have a different view of DoF. Am I right in thinking you like narrow DoF? I was very doubtful about including this one because the DoF was so narrow and what is somewhat in focus in the centre actually looked very soft and poorly defined to me. (Again, I'm looking at this at 1300 pixels high.) I did like the background, and that is why I decided to include it, but I felt it was rather let down by the flower.

    Looks like you are right about the mark; I have had lots of problems with dust. I've just tested the sensor. There are loads of marks on it, including one around where the one is you pointed out. Time for yet another sensor cleaning session. :( Thanks for pointing it out.

    [​IMG]
    1208 07 2017_07_05 IMG_2547_DxO 0100RAW01cP SP7 LR6 1300h-2
    by gardenersassistant, on Flickr

    As I've said before here, I'm fascinated by how differently we variously see things, both in the sense of what aspects of an image we put most weight on, and also in the more literal sense that sometimes one person sees things that someone else doesn't notice, or in some cases can't see even when it is pointed out, or can see when pointed to it but thinks is unimportant.

    I've looked through both sets again with your observations in mind. I think there are a number of soft ones in the G80 set, although to my eye none of the 8 that I selected seems to fall into that category. Looking at both sets again I think I would now choose a more balance mix from the two sets. Now (today, it might be different tomorrow) I would select these, three from the 70D and five from the G80.

    [​IMG]
    New selection
    by gardenersassistant, on Flickr

    Thanks again for your input. Your comments are shading my thoughts about the possibility of trying full frame for botanical work. Specific feedback is very helpful and is difficult to come by, so I do appreciate it. If you have more thoughts on this please do share them.
     
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2017
  13. Orangecroc

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    I was looking at all of the pictures at the full size on Flickr, but likely on a smaller monitor.

    With regard to the spider silk, there are some very wispy bits that are still resolved very well around the spiky collar of the pod.

    Shallow DoF is something I like on daisies because of how flat they are, gives a depth to a flower that is pretty flat.

    #4 looks incredibly sharp in the centre to me.
     
  14. GardenersHelper

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    My monitor is 1440 high, which is why I produce 1300 high images, so I can see them at that height with a bit of a border around them, and no resizing having been done to them.

    True. I suppose I just don't see that as being anything particularly special.

    My preference is to have the flower, including the petals, in focus, if I can do that while keeping the background muted in terms of detail. Not necessarily a completely featureless background - in fact, I prefer something going on (in an out of focus sort of way) in the background.

    We are definitely seeing that one differently. :)

    BTW the sensor is clean now. The cleaning was less eventful and frustrating than has sometimes been the case for me.
     
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  15. GardenersHelper

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    But I've now checked my G80 and that has a (fairly centrally placed) spot on it that I can't get rid of no matter what I do. I'm going off now to pay Jessops £50 for them to do a 1 hour turnaround on it (£30 for a 48 hour turnaround, but following our discussion about sharpness etc I have some more tests/comparisons I want to get on with, using the Olympus 60mm macro on the G80).

    Hopefully they will be able to deal with it. (If they can I'll be interested to find out, if they will tell me, what technique/products they used.) And if they can't, I bought the camera from them and it is under warranty, which I would hope would come into play if they can't get rid of the spot.

    And I checked my G5, which I remembered as having a sensor spot that I couldn't get rid of but I decided to live with because it was out at the side and I don't really use it much or at all anyway. I was going to have another go at cleaning it as I'm in sensor cleaning mode. But I can't see any spot on the G5 sensor now! Oh well, that is good news anyway (I'll be bringing the G5 out of retirement for a while if the G80 has to go away to be fixed.)
     

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