Best gear for closeup photography?
I can’t believe I made this shot, HANDHELD at 300mm effective focal length! @ 1/15 second! I love macro photography. I thought it ought to be a good opportunity to break out of Utah’s winter grey photography mode and accepted an opportunity to go with Salt Lake City’s excellent Wasatch Camera Club to photograph butterflies in Thanksgiving Point’s Butterfly Biosphere.
I had to make a gear decision. Do I take my Nikon or Olympus gear? I love my Nikon gear for my motorsports passion. My D500 is fast with great autofocus but no effective live view. It’s really good in low light. Bolting on my razor sharp Tamron 150-600 G2 lens ought to provide good close-ups. D500’s 1.5 crop factor providing 900mm effective at G2’s 5-foot minimum focus distance might be something special. I could also use my D750. It sees in near total darkness so I figured I’d switch the lens between both cameras, maybe including my Nikkor 105 Micro for fun. But, all that stuff is heavy.
What about my Olympus gear? E-M1 Mark II cameras are small, blazingly fast with great autofocus. I have 2 bodies so I could equip one with Oly’s great and ultra sharp, small 60mm f2.8 macro. To that, I could add Olympus’ fabulous STF-8 macro twin flash. For longer shots, I’d have Oly’s Premium Pro 40-150 f2.8. Considering Olympus’ 2X crop factor, I could shoot 300mm equivalent focal length in a lens nearly the same size as my Micro Nikkor 105. 2 cameras, 2 lenses and macro flash weighed in at nearly the same poundage as the D500 and 150-600 alone. I went with Olympus.
I led off with my 40-150. I even tried it out with my Kenko DG Micro Four Thirds extension tubes. Totaling 26mm of lens extension they shortened my close focus distance to about 14 inches from the lens’ native 24 or so inches. In fact, they put me too close. Due to low light issues and difficult lines of sight through branches & leaves, I eventually shot sans tubes (see header photo). 300mm of effective focal length was pretty good for butterflies out in the open, not so great for subjects behind leaves or branches. It looked to me as though anyone relying on DSLR’s with long lenses focused close would run into the same issue.
Light quickly faded following our 6:00 PM start time. After about 30 minutes I switched over to the 60 Macro equipped E-M1 Mark II body with twin flash. I shot straight manual mode with apertures from f4 to f8, shutter speeds between 1/15 and 1/125, at ISO 800 occasionally bumping to 1600. Olympus’ fantastic live view, stellar autofocus, and fully articulating monitor screen allowed shots between branches as close as I wanted, simply holding my camera in at arm’s length. Even between leaves, I saw everything my camera saw. Relying on Olympus’ industry-leading in-body stabilization in conjunction with my flash, I had little motion blur. Olympus was the correct choice!