My kit for 2020

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gardenersassistant Veteran Member • Posts: 6,660
My kit for 2020
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During 2019 I spent a lot of time comparing various setups for use with my typical subject matter of flowers, buds, seed pods etc using natural light and invertebrates mainly using flash. I looked at:

  • Full frame, Sony A7ii with Canon EF adapter and Canon MPE-65 1X-5X, Laowa 25mm 2.5X-5X, Meike 85mm macro max 1.5X and Sigma 105 macro max 1X, including various combinations of these with extension tubes and 1.4X and 2X teleconverters.
  • Micro four thirds, Panasonic G80 and G9 with Olympus 60mm macro and micro four thirds extension tubes, and using a Canon EF adapter the same EF mount lenses etc as with the A7ii, and a Panasonic 45-175 lens with various close-up lenses including Raynox 150, 250, 202 and 505, Canon 250D and 500D, and Marumi 200 and 330.
  • 1 / 2.3” small sensor bridge cameras, Panasonic 150, 200 and 330 with the above close-up lenses.
  • For flash I compared several diffuser setups for my KX800 twin flashes, and for some of the full frame and micro four thirds setups I compared the KX800 with a Yongnuo YN24EX twin flash with several diffuser setups.

I eventually came to the conclusion that I would use the following setups, at least at the start of 2020:

  • For flowers etc, Panasonic G9 with Olympus 60mm macro.
  • For small invertebrates such as springtails, Panasonic G9 with 45-175 and Raynox 202, possibly using the Raynox 505 for particularly small subjects. KX800 twin flash.
  • For medium sized invertebrates (which is most of the invertebrates I photograph) such as bees, flies and wasps, Panasonic FZ200 with Raynox 150 and 250. KX800 twin flash with different diffuser setup.
  • For larger invertebrates such as dragonflies and butterflies, using natural light, depending of what camera(s) I have with me either FZ200 or G9 with 45-175, in either case with or without a Canon 500D close-up lens depending on the circumstances.

Here are some notes on these areas.

Flowers etc

G9 with Panasonic 60mm macro, with X-Rite ColorChecker Passport

The G9 with 60mm macro gets me to scene sizes down to 18mm wide. This is almost always sufficient for my subject matter.

I tackle most scenes by first using several aperture bracket sequences, which provide a sequence of images from f/2.8 to f/22 with a single shutter press. These are captured raw. I then typically capture several 6K post focus videos. The camera racks the focus from the nearest to the furthest thing it can focus on during these video captures. During post processing I can then decide which version of the scene I like best, either one of the single-image captures (or occasionally more than one of them), or an image stacked from JPEGs extracted from a video.

I have the G9 set up to make it easy to set the camera white balance for each scene using the grey panel on a ColorChecker Passport, and easy to switch between aperture bracketing and post focus video.

I have the ISO set to auto such that base ISO is used as long as the shutter speed is 1/80 sec or faster. If the light is too low for this then the ISO is raised. If the ISO reaches 3200 then the shutter speed is slowed down. This works for each individual capture in an aperture bracket set, and for the post focus videos. Coupled with the fact that there is no setup needed for post focus videos, this ISO/shutter speed arrangement means that the capture process is very much point and shoot, and quick to execute.

For the video captures I use the G9's flat Cinelike D profile, which helps with the fact I am working with JPEGs rather raw files.

Invertebrates using flash

I will be using a Panasonic FZ200 rather than the FZ330 I have been using for a couple of years because the FZ300 has developed a fault. The FZ200 has (as far as anyone can tell) the same lens and sensor as the FZ330 and I have never been able to make out any significant difference between the images from the two cameras. For my purposes there is no significant difference in usability between the FZ200 and FZ330. My FZ200 is functioning well and so I will be using that for now (and I have picked up a spare on eBay for less than £100, and that too seems to be working very well).

Here are the maximum and minimum scene sizes for the small and medium size invertebrate setups.

For all the scene sizes covered by a particular close-up lens, the working distance is up to around 200mm with the Raynox 150, up to around 120mm with the Raynox 250, around 32mm with the Raynox 202 and around 18mm with the Raynox 505 (although I will rarely, and possibly never, be using the Raynox 505).

Both setups are relatively small and light compared to some of the alternatives. Here is the FZ200 with a Raynox 150 on its partially extended lens.

Here it is with a KX800 attached.

The flash (and its focusing light) can handle all of the Raynox 150 and 250 scene sizes without needing to be adjusted. The KX800 is a manual flash, but the flash power does not need to be adjusted as the scene size changes. When the flash power does need to be changed this can be done very quickly using buttons on the back of the flash unit; there are separate up and down buttons for each flash head. These operating characteristics make the flash quite easy and uncomplicated to use.

Here is the G9 with 45-175 and a Raynox 202.

Here is is with a KX800 attached.

This is a different KX800 with a different diffuser setup. Similar to the Raynox 150/250 setup, the flash (and its focusing light) can handle all of the Raynox 202 and 505 scene sizes without needing to be adjusted, and the flash power does not need to be adjusted as the scene size changes.

The 45-175 lens is particularly useful in this context, because it does not extend. Every close-up lens only works within a particular range of working distance, and with the Raynox 202 and 505 this range is very small indeed. With this setup I can zoom (using a conveniently placed lever on the side of the lens which can be operated with one finger) to wide angle/low magnification to find the subject and then zoom to the framing I want for the shot, all without moving the camera. I find this very much easier than finding and framing a small subject with a macro lens such as the MPE-65 which extends a lot as the magnification changes (or alternatively using it with the magnification fixed first before locating the subject, which can be frustratingly difficult at higher magnifications).

I have usable autofocus with all of these invertebrate setups and magnifications.

In a response post: Why these particular choices of kit?

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