My kit for 2020

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gardenersassistant Veteran Member • Posts: 6,781
My kit for 2020
5

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?

OP gardenersassistant Veteran Member • Posts: 6,781
Why these particular choices of kit?
2

An obvious question is why I would want to use close-up lenses on an old camera with a small and noisy sensor when I have modern cameras with better sensors and high quality lenses. That is for invertebrates. For flowers etc I will be using Panasonic’s top of the range stills camera with a very good Olympus macro lens, but the question still arises of why not use a full frame camera, for which I also have high quality macro lenses.

The short answer is that, for what I photograph and the way I go about it, the better equipment rarely produces noticeably better image quality even in the circumstances where the better kit does have an advantage. And very often because of the shooting conditions the better kit does not have an advantage and there is no difference at all in image quality. On the other hand the not so good equipment has better handling characteristics for my purposes which let me work faster and with higher success rates.

Flowers etc

The key factor here is the ability to use aperture bracketing and post focus video. The A7ii and the FZ200 don’t do either of these. The FZ330 does post focus video but not aperture bracketing. The G80 and the G9 do both, but the G9 has several advantages over the G80:

  • The G80 can only do post focus video in 4K. This produces 8 mpix JPEGs to work with. The G9 can do 6K post focus, and this produces 18 mpix JPEGs.
  • Unlike the G80, the G9 has the flat Cinelike D profile. This helps with dynamic range and with normal post processing produces a subdued tonality that I very much like for my flowers etc.
  • The G9 has a better auto ISO/shutter speed implementation.
  • The G9 has a better arrangement of buttons and dials, and unlike the G80 it also has a joystick. The G9 buttons have a better profile (they are easier to find by touch) and there are two buttons that are very conveniently placed on the front of the camera. The setup of the buttons and joystick is highly customisable.

The G9's auto ISO/shutter speed and button/joystick arrangements have let me create a working setup which minimises the adjustments I have to make, speeds up those that do need my input, and lets me work fast and fluidly right through sometimes long sessions.

I did think that the A7ii might produce better image quality for single-capture images compared to any of my other kit and so might make it worth foregoing aperture bracketing and post focus video. However it turned out that the main advantage of the A7ii was that it could produce slightly less noisy images in good light, but I don’t have a problem with image noise in good light. In less than good light, and especially when it was breezy, which it often is here, equivalence kicked in and in order to get the depth of field and shutter speed I needed I had to raise the ISO with the A7ii, which negated the noise benefits.

There were some other disadvantages of the A7ii such as weight (of lenses – the A7ii is light enough) and the tilting but not fully articulated screen, which made it more difficult and sometimes impossible to work in portrait mode, which I do a great deal for flowers etc. These problems were moot though given the lack of significant image quality benefit and the absence of aperture bracketing and post focus video.

Image quality for invertebrates

For invertebrates I use single-image captures out in the field working hand-held. The reason that I don’t get better image quality for invertebrates when using better equipment is because I use very small apertures to maximise depth of field. Diffraction then becomes the dominant factor and pretty much equalises lens arrangements in terms of detail capture, which is a primary consideration for invertebrate images. I have seen theoretical explanations of this equalising effect (not that I understand the details), but my conclusions are based on numerous practical tests of capturing a bank note at various magnifications, both using a tripod so as to look at the intrinsic capabilities of a camera/lens setup, and working hand-held to see how those capabilities pan out in practice for my working methods. Basically the image quality I got with close-up lenses on small sensor bridge cameras were overall as good as I got with any other setup.

Kit for medium sized invertebrates

Since image quality is much the same whatever the equipment, the decision as to what kit to use is down to usability.

Because of the weight of the lenses, most of the A7ii setups are heavier and less well balanced than I am comfortable with for long sessions. (The Laowa 25mm macro is not so heavy.) In contrast the G80/G9 setups and the FZ200 setups are light and balanced enough to be comfortable for long sessions.

I much prefer to use autofocus. However, although I can have autofocus up to 1:1 with the A7ii using a Sigma 105 macro, as the magnification gets towards 1:1 the autofocus gets slower and can hunt a lot, sometimes being unable to gain focus at all. And with higher magnification lenses such as the MPE-65 autofocus is not available. The situation is similar with the G80/G9 when using these same macro lenses. In contrast I get usable autofocus at all the magnifications I use with close-up lenses on G80/G9 and FZ200. I can use very small focus areas, which lets me place the centre of focus/DOF exactly where I want it to be. (The focus area is movable, but I generally use focus and recompose.) The autofocusing does not hunt at all for medium sized invertebrates and not excessively with smaller subjects given the size of the hand movement effects it has to cope with.

I need to cover a range of scene sizes. This turns out to be awkward with the A7ii. The Sigma 105 only goes to 1:1, the MPE-65 only goes from 1:1 and the Laowa 25mm macro only goes from 2.5:1. For my purposes 1:1 on full frame is a rather inconvenient break point which means that with the A7ii I would need to switch back and forth frequently either between lenses and/or with additions such as extension tubes, teleconverters and/or close-up lenses.

I can do a significantly greater proportion of my invertebrate photography with a Raynox 150 on a 45-175 on the G80/G9. However, the break point between Raynox 150 and 250 is still somewhat inconvenient meaning that I have to switch back and forth quite a lot between the 150 and 250. This is especially troublesome if I want to zoom in and out between full body shots of the subject and “environmental” shots showing the subject in its natural surroundings, often using intermediate framings. It is even more troublesome when I am framing in and out on a subject that I am tracking as it moves around. With a Raynox 150 on the FZ200 I can do a very large proportion of my invertebrate photography without having to make any change to the setup. In some sessions I don't change from the Raynox 150 throughout the whole session. This is the main reason I have chosen to use the FZ200 for medium sized invertebrates.

Another, lesser factor is that the Raynox 250 has a shorter working distance than the 150, and that means that with frequent switching between the 150 and 250 with the G80/G9 I am more often using the shorter working distance of the 250, which increases the likelihood of scaring off some subjects.

Kit for small invertebrates

I don’t often photograph small invertebrates such as springtails, although I do intend to try to do more of it this year.

Similar considerations apply as with medium sized invertebrates. However, as the subjects get smaller the extension of the lens on the FZ200 becomes increasingly problematic. Being able to change the magnification/framing without moving the camera with the G80/G9 close-up lens setup is distinctly advantageous for small subjects. Also, there is rarely any magnification/framing break point issue for these small subjects. That is the reason I favour a setup using the non-extending 45-175 with a close-up lens on G80/G9 for small subjects.

I favour the G9 over the G80 in this role because of the convenience and speed of moving the focus point with the G9 joystick (focus and recompose does not work well for small subjects) and because of the slightly better cropability of the G9’s 20 mpix sensor compared to the G80’s 16 mpix sensor.

Kit to cover small and medium sized invertebrates in the same session

Taking out the G9 and FZ200 at the same time would be awkward, with each having their differently configured KX800 attached. I have been gathering the stuff needed to make a carrier that would let me take both out at the same time, but even if I do succeed in making something suitable I think I am much more likely to go out for sessions with a single camera and concentrate on either medium sized or small sized subjects in a particular session. However, both cameras can cover both roles, just not as well as one another, so by taking all four close-up lenses with me I would be able to cover both medium and small subjects with whichever camera I am using.

That said, I have different KX800 setups for (a) the G9 for small subjects and (b) the FZ200 for medium sized subjects. Whichever camera I was using, even if I took all my close-up lenses, unless I took both flash setups I wouldn't have the right setup for the alternative use. I could bend the arms around on either setup to cover the alternative use, but I really wouldn't want to do that as getting the setups just right is quite tricky, so putting it properly back in place after an alternative use could be difficult, especially out in the field. I suppose it might be easier to carry around just the alternative flash unit rather than carrying around both cameras with flash units attached. I need to look closer at the practicalities here.

Larger invertebrates

I rarely come across larger invertebrates such as butterflies, dragonflies and damselflies. When I do it tends to be quite bright and I tend to use natural light rather than flash. Given how rare this is it would not be worth carrying additional equipment to cover this eventuality. Either the FZ200 or G80/G9 with 45-175 can cover this, especially if I take one more close-up lens, the low power Canon 500D.

Choice of close-up lenses

I have looked at various options for close-up lenses.

For small invertebrates the Raynox 202 and 505 seem to be the best options, although both sometimes suffer from significant and occasionally difficult to remove chromatic aberration at higher magnifications. Even so, they have produced better results in my tests than stacking less powerful close-up lenses.

For large invertebrates, where close-up lenses are used at all the choice from my available close-up lenses would be between the Canon 500D and the Marumi 330. The 500D has a larger working distance, which is better in this context with sometimes jumpy subjects, and my tests have not shown the Marumi 330 to produce better results than the 500D. My choice is therefore the Canon 500D.

For medium sized invertebrates I have options including, singly and in combination, Raynox 150 and 250, Canon 250D and 500D, Marumi 200 and 330.

I am attracted to the larger diameter Canon and Marumi close-up lenses as they produce less vignetting on the FZ200, giving me a larger range of magnifications to work with compared to the Raynoxes. However, my tests on two copies each of the Canon 250D and Marumi 200 have shown them to perform poorly in terms of image quality. The Canon 500D is good but not really powerful enough in this role. The Marumi 330 tested well, singly and as a stacked pair which was between the Raynox 150 and 250 in terms of maximum magnification. However, and here too I don’t recall the details, the Raynoxes did better overall in my testing, and they are therefore my choice in this role.

MJMcEvoy New Member • Posts: 24
Re: Why these particular choices of kit?

Thanks Nick. Awesome information as usual.

Mike

OP gardenersassistant Veteran Member • Posts: 6,781
Re: Why these particular choices of kit?

MJMcEvoy wrote:

Thanks Nick. Awesome information as usual.

Mike

Thanks Mike. Doing this sort of post helps me clear my mind about where I have got to and why (as far as a recall - the details tend to blur and/or disappear from my mind).

LeanderOne
LeanderOne Regular Member • Posts: 224
Re: My kit for 2020
1

Hi Nick,

Thanks for sharing your set-ups and for explaining the reasons for your choices in detail. I know this has been a decade long journey and that you have only arrived at these setups after an awful lot of experimentation and careful consideration. Even for someone who has spent quite a bit of time in the past reading your lengthy posts and threads, it has been educative as always.

I find little to question in your choices, but I did wonder about a few things.

In regard to your flash setups, do you ever find that the size of the rig hinders your photography or even prevents you actually taking the shot your want? For example, given that your illumination is coming pretty directly above that would seem to rule out photographing a subject that had vegetation directly above it. How do you handle that – if you do?

I ask because last year – in order to deal with the potential problem I pose - I began to experiment with a handheld speed-light on a short (40cm) ttl lead. This allowed to me direct the light wherever I wanted it – from above, below, side, or whatever. When not hand-holding it I attached the flash to an L bracket, which also helped with holding the rig - one hand on the camera grip, one on the L bracket grip. So I wondered – in all your many experiments – if you'd ever had thought or cause to try something similar, and if yes, in what ways you found it wanting.

In regard to lens choices, I also recall that at one point you were testing the 14-140, and I believe you found it be a good performer (as many do). I see it does not appear in your set-up for this year. Is this because of the unique advantages of the 45-175 (internal zooming + zoom switch) or did you find other reasons to eschew its use?

I also note your use of the 60mm macro. Based on its excellent reviews I picked up a copy myself, but to be frank have been a little underwhelmed by it, although perhaps I was expecting too much. Build quality and handling are top-notch, but I have failed to detect any significant IQ improvement over the 45-175 with achromats attached, which also give a greater working distance. However as I have yet to use the lens in the field I do wonder if I have yet to experience its full utility. Thus could I ask what the 60mm is giving you over the aforementioned combination 45-175 combination?

As for achromats, my big achromat test is finally complete and my own conclusions concur with your own. The Raynoxes and the 500D are the best achromats out there. The only ones I found that matched them were the Sigma 1.6 diopter, of which I have a fair few (12 to be exact). Either singly or stacked/revere stacked the latter performed as well, or very nearly as well as the Raynoxes and Canon. I also managed to track down a couple of the old Raynox CM-3500 explorer sets (in France) which include a 6, 12, and 25 diopters. The older models were as good if not better than than the newer 150 and 250, which, like yourself, I found lost a little quality when stacked. So having the 12 and 25 solves that problem.

Further too my own little journey, other lenses and cameras have been purchased and rejected in the past few months, including the Olympus EM5 Mk II. It is a wonderfully built little camera, but, like another previous reject (the Sony RX10 MK III) it was let down by its menu and ergonomics.

So what I am currently deciding between is my trusty FZ2500, a FZ300, and a G9 – two will stay and one will probably have to go. I purchased the FZ300 after being inspired by your own work with it, but it did take me three copies to get a good one – and it is a good one, with a very sharp lens with which I am very pleased indeed.

The G9 had been on my radar for a while, largely due to the 6K post focus which I know you use a lot. I don't know if you have tested it yourself, but I have been very impressed with the HiResolution mode also, which also works well (despite some reports to the contrary) with consumer zooms like the 45-175, and not just with pro lenses. It is limited to f11 or wider, but that is still better than with the Olympus version of HiRes, which is limited to F8. Also there is no limitation with manual aperture legacy lenses, though diffraction of course negates most of the IQ gain of HiRes.

Currently I am looking at the lighting issue, which I have not paid enough attention to so far, and am starting to make some diffusers. I know this is another area where I know you've looked at pretty thoroughly and like yourself I have the KX800. However in my initial 'encounters' with it I do find it a little cumbersome/unwieldy, as I implied above, and certainly in comparison with what I am accustomed to using.

So thanks again for sharing where you are, and above is where I am for what it's worth. And if I you happen to reply, and I don't get back to you for a while it's only because my health is a bit up and down.

Leander

 LeanderOne's gear list:LeanderOne's gear list
Panasonic FZ2500 Olympus TG-5 Panasonic Lumix DC-G9 Panasonic Lumix G X Vario PZ 45-175mm F4.0-5.6 ASPH OIS Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 60mm F2.8 Macro +1 more
OP gardenersassistant Veteran Member • Posts: 6,781
Re: My kit for 2020
1

LeanderOne wrote:

Hi Nick,

Hi Leander. Thanks for the very thoughtful response.

Thanks for sharing your set-ups and for explaining the reasons for your choices in detail. I know this has been a decade long journey and that you have only arrived at these setups after an awful lot of experimentation and careful consideration. Even for someone who has spent quite a bit of time in the past reading your lengthy posts and threads, it has been educative as always.

That's good to hear. Thanks.

I find little to question in your choices, but I did wonder about a few things.

In regard to your flash setups, do you ever find that the size of the rig hinders your photography or even prevents you actually taking the shot your want?

It does occasionally get in the way. That is one of the many trade-offs, but it has not been serious enough to make me think about alternatives. The main thing (although it isn't something I have explicitly tested, which would be difficult anyway, so it is more a feeling than a known fact) is that it seems to give a smoother (and to me more pleasing) distribution of light than any of the other setups I have tried. And the fact that I don't need to adjust it (but see next point) and it is so quick and convenient finger-wise to change the light intensity helps too. Perhaps I have simply become lazy on this front after using it for several years, not really thinking about it and not experimenting with alternatives for a while now (apart from very recently with the Yongnuo).

For example, given that your illumination is coming pretty directly above that would seem to rule out photographing a subject that had vegetation directly above it. How do you handle that – if you do?

That has turned out to be less of a problem than it might have been. For example, the shield bug in this post was tucked up in under overhanging foliage. Quite often the light manages to fine a way through. Not always of course, and it is obviously more of an issue when a subject is on the underside of a leaf.

The single large front diffusion layer that stretches across in front of both flash heads reduces my flexibility - or at least makes it much more difficult to exercise that flexibility. I can move things around, but it is awkward and takes time - which is not always available - and can take some time to get the arrangement back into a good position for normal use (the fact a single position has to cover two different working distances makes the positioning more tricky than would otherwise be the case).

Prior to adopting the large front layer I had a lot more flexibility and would move the arms around more, so i could deal with all sorts of subject positions, including on the underside of leaves. A few times I also used one of the heads to illuminate backgrounds. Over time though I became less inclined to make those sorts of adjustments. Partly that is because of the fragility of the arms. On one of my KX800s I have broken a link on one of the arms on two separate occasions (different links) and have superglued the links back together, thus reducing the arm's flexibility a bit. I think perhaps the plastic becomes more brittle as it ages.

I ask because last year – in order to deal with the potential problem I pose - I began to experiment with a handheld speed-light on a short (40cm) ttl lead. This allowed to me direct the light wherever I wanted it – from above, below, side, or whatever. When not hand-holding it I attached the flash to an L bracket, which also helped with holding the rig - one hand on the camera grip, one on the L bracket grip. So I wondered – in all your many experiments – if you'd ever had thought or cause to try something similar, and if yes, in what ways you found it wanting.

I did try using a separate flash very briefly. I think I tried it hand-held and on an arm of some sort, perhaps (also) an arm attached to a separate tripod. I don't recall what it was about the experiment that made it so brief.

What I might try is keeping the KX800 in place and using a hand-held flash that can be triggered by the light from the KX800. (I just tried a quick experiment but didn't so far manage to get the hand-held flash to activate. Needs some more research.)

EDIT. What didn't work was when I tried it with a Canon version Metz 58 AF-2 in Servo mode. However, I also have a Panasonic version of that flash. I couldn't see any reason why that would work because Servo mode, I assumed, had no communications between the camera and flash anyway, so whether it was using Canon or Panasonic communications protocol wouldn't make any difference. But I just tried it anyway. It worked with the Panasonic version!

I use my cameras two-handed for flash work, but it turns out that the FZ200 with KX800 and an achromat is light enough to use one-handed, at least for shortish periods, and that is not just for the shutter press but also for zooming in and out, leaving the left hand free for the secondary flash. This is looking promising. Thanks for the nudge.

Now I need to work on a diffuser for the secondary flash.

In regard to lens choices, I also recall that at one point you were testing the 14-140, and I believe you found it be a good performer (as many do). I see it does not appear in your set-up for this year. Is this because of the unique advantages of the 45-175 (internal zooming + zoom switch) or did you find other reasons to eschew its use?

With a Raynox 150 or 250 the 14-140 vignettes up to 45mm or so, while the 45-175 does not vignette. The 14-140 therefore offers a narrower range of magnification/framing than the 45-175. Since I use minimum aperture, even if the 14-140 were optically better than the 45-175 (and I have no idea whether it is) there would be no advantage in image quality. And as you mention the 14-140 extends and doesn't have a zoom lever. Overall the 45-175 is a better fit to my requirements/working methods.

I also note your use of the 60mm macro. Based on its excellent reviews I picked up a copy myself, but to be frank have been a little underwhelmed by it, although perhaps I was expecting too much. Build quality and handling are top-notch, but I have failed to detect any significant IQ improvement over the 45-175 with achromats attached, which also give a greater working distance. However as I have yet to use the lens in the field I do wonder if I have yet to experience its full utility. Thus could I ask what the 60mm is giving you over the aforementioned combination 45-175 combination?

The 60mm macro gives me f/2.8 versus f/4 to f/5.6. This means I can use faster shutter speeds/lower ISO (I routinely use f/2.8 for post focus stacking captures), which is good as I work hand-held, often in marginal light. It also means that backgrounds get more defocused than I can achieve with the 45-175.

The 60mm macro gives me a set of seven exposures in every aperture bracket set compared to six or five with the 45-175, and I do occasionally use the widest ones from the 60mm macro. I certainly like always having the option of doing so.

The 60mm macro gives me infinity focus. That means that when capturing for stacking with the camera in a (relatively!") fixed position, there is never an issue of being caught out by the (far) focus range limit of an achromat.

As for achromats, my big achromat test is finally complete and my own conclusions concur with your own. The Raynoxes and the 500D are the best achromats out there.

Good to have confirmation. Thanks.

The only ones I found that matched them were the Sigma 1.6 diopter, of which I have a fair few (12 to be exact). Either singly or stacked/revere stacked the latter performed as well, or very nearly as well as the Raynoxes and Canon. I also managed to track down a couple of the old Raynox CM-3500 explorer sets (in France) which include a 6, 12, and 25 diopters. The older models were as good if not better than than the newer 150 and 250, which, like yourself, I found lost a little quality when stacked. So having the 12 and 25 solves that problem.

Interesting. I shall look out for that. (None on eBay UK at the moment - just looked.)

Further too my own little journey, other lenses and cameras have been purchased and rejected in the past few months, including the Olympus EM5 Mk II. It is a wonderfully built little camera, but, like another previous reject (the Sony RX10 MK III) it was let down by its menu and ergonomics.

So what I am currently deciding between is my trusty FZ2500, a FZ300, and a G9 – two will stay and one will probably have to go. I purchased the FZ300 after being inspired by your own work with it, but it did take me three copies to get a good one – and it is a good one, with a very sharp lens with which I am very pleased indeed.

Yes, I had to return the first one I got. The second was good. Now I've decided to go back to the FZ200 I've just bought a second backup (three in total). Hopefully it turns out to be good, but the two I have already have both tested well, so it won't be the end of the world if the recent acquisition isn't so good.

The G9 had been on my radar for a while, largely due to the 6K post focus which I know you use a lot. I don't know if you have tested it yourself, but I have been very impressed with the HiResolution mode also,

Tested, once or perhaps twice out of curiosity, but I have no substantive use for it.

which also works well (despite some reports to the contrary) with consumer zooms like the 45-175, and not just with pro lenses. It is limited to f11 or wider, but that is still better than with the Olympus version of HiRes, which is limited to F8. Also there is no limitation with manual aperture legacy lenses, though diffraction of course negates most of the IQ gain of HiRes.

Interesting. I didn't know (or had forgotten) about aperture restrictions.

Currently I am looking at the lighting issue, which I have not paid enough attention to so far, and am starting to make some diffusers. I know this is another area where I know you've looked at pretty thoroughly and like yourself I have the KX800. However in my initial 'encounters' with it I do find it a little cumbersome/unwieldy, as I implied above, and certainly in comparison with what I am accustomed to using.

It is cumbersome. There again, I think most flash setups are, and some I've tried have been worse. I imagine the least cumbersome would be a snoot on an on-camera flash like Mark Berkery uses. In all cases though there are of course multiple trade-offs.

So thanks again for sharing where you are, and above is where I am for what it's worth.

Worth a lot to me. Thank you for taking the time on it.

And if I you happen to reply, and I don't get back to you for a while it's only because my health is a bit up and down.

I wish you well, and resilience when it isn't so good.

Leander

Macromeds
Macromeds Veteran Member • Posts: 3,795
Re: My kit for 2020

G'day Nick. Another good thread by you, well done, and thanks for doing the work. When I am asked 'what gear' to use I will be referring to this thread, until the next.

All the best. M

Edit : This was meant to be a reply to Nick.

OP gardenersassistant Veteran Member • Posts: 6,781
Re: My kit for 2020
1

Thanks Mark. When it comes to discussions of kit I often refer people to your Macro Illustrated page. which I think is both highly informative and, perhaps more importantly, inspirational. Along I think with many others, I have much to be grateful to you for.

Donald B
Donald B Forum Pro • Posts: 14,553
Re: My kit for 2020

I could have told you the oly 60 was ordinary. thats why i havnt bought one. the results are no better than my oly 14 150mk1  with my stacked canon filters. I borrowed a friends a couple of years ago for some testing.

Don

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"When the debate is lost, slander becomes the tool of the losers." - Socrates
Olympus EM5mk2 ,EM1mk2
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past toys. k100d, k10d,k7,fz5,fz150,500uz,canon G9, Olympus xz1 em5mk1

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