Raynox 250 questions

Hi guys, I only have 2 lenses in my system - 18-200VR and a 50mm. The Raynox 250 doesn't fit on the 18-200, and even if I use a step down filter there is severe vignetting. So I'm left with the 50mm prime. Do I lose anything by not fitting the Raynox onto a zoom lens? I've read posts where people said it performs best on a telephoto lens. I have some spare change and want to buy something to improve my macro shots. These are my options - 1. Get a Tamron 90mm macro lens and ditch the Raynox 2. Upgrade my cheap aluminum tripod (pan and tilt) to one that is more suitable for macros. Ballhead or pan/tilt? 3. Get a zoom lens with the right screw thread that can fit the Raynox. Another question - do I need to get a focusing rail? Does it help when using the Raynox?

Hi guys, I only have 2 lenses in my system - 18-200VR and a 50mm. The Raynox 250 doesn't fit on the 18-200, and even if I use a step down filter there is severe vignetting. So I'm left with the 50mm prime. Do I lose anything by not fitting the Raynox onto a zoom lens? I've read posts where people said it performs best on a telephoto lens. I have some spare change and want to buy something to improve my macro shots. These are my options - 1. Get a Tamron 90mm macro lens and ditch the Raynox 2. Upgrade my cheap aluminum tripod (pan and tilt) to one that is more suitable for macros. Ballhead or pan/tilt? 3. Get a zoom lens with the right screw thread that can fit the Raynox. Another question - do I need to get a focusing rail? Does it help when using the Raynox?

redryder wrote: Hi guys, I only have 2 lenses in my system - 18-200VR and a 50mm. The Raynox 250 doesn't fit on the 18-200, and even if I use a step down filter there is severe vignetting. So I'm left with the 50mm prime. Do I lose anything by not fitting the Raynox onto a zoom lens? I've read posts where people said it performs best on a telephoto lens. I have some spare change and want to buy something to improve my macro shots. These are my options - 1. Get a Tamron 90mm macro lens and ditch the Raynox 2. Upgrade my cheap aluminum tripod (pan and tilt) to one that is more suitable for macros. Ballhead or pan/tilt? 3. Get a zoom lens with the right screw thread that can fit the Raynox. Another question - do I need to get a focusing rail? Does it help when using the Raynox?
1. Get the Tamron 90 or 60, and keep the raynox. DCR250 on the 90mm will let you get to 1.7X. DCR250 on the 50mm 1.8 will only give you 0.4X magnification. Vignetting is to be expected esp if you zoom in to 200mm end of the 18-200. Just stick to maybe the 100mm to 150mm range..and do a bit of cropping. 2. Rail won't be of much good unless you are shooting with just the available light/natural light. For me I either shoot with full flash, handheld, or fully natural light, mostly on tripod. Mine is a cheap US$65 tripod (inclusive of ballhead:D) http://orionmystery.blogspot.com/2011/02/tripod-for-macro.html macro rail i have is this one: http://orionmystery.blogspot.com/2012/05/macro-rail.html not good...one turn of the knob is a horizontal movement of like 15cm...can't remember...

redryder wrote: Hi guys, I only have 2 lenses in my system - 18-200VR and a 50mm. The Raynox 250 doesn't fit on the 18-200, and even if I use a step down filter there is severe vignetting. So I'm left with the 50mm prime. Do I lose anything by not fitting the Raynox onto a zoom lens? I've read posts where people said it performs best on a telephoto lens. I have some spare change and want to buy something to improve my macro shots. These are my options - 1. Get a Tamron 90mm macro lens and ditch the Raynox 2. Upgrade my cheap aluminum tripod (pan and tilt) to one that is more suitable for macros. Ballhead or pan/tilt? 3. Get a zoom lens with the right screw thread that can fit the Raynox. Another question - do I need to get a focusing rail? Does it help when using the Raynox?
1. Get the Tamron 90 or 60, and keep the raynox. DCR250 on the 90mm will let you get to 1.7X. DCR250 on the 50mm 1.8 will only give you 0.4X magnification. Vignetting is to be expected esp if you zoom in to 200mm end of the 18-200. Just stick to maybe the 100mm to 150mm range..and do a bit of cropping. 2. Rail won't be of much good unless you are shooting with just the available light/natural light. For me I either shoot with full flash, handheld, or fully natural light, mostly on tripod. Mine is a cheap US$65 tripod (inclusive of ballhead:D) http://orionmystery.blogspot.com/2011/02/tripod-for-macro.html macro rail i have is this one: http://orionmystery.blogspot.com/2012/05/macro-rail.html not good...one turn of the knob is a horizontal movement of like 15cm...can't remember...

orionmystery wrote:
redryder wrote: Hi guys, I only have 2 lenses in my system - 18-200VR and a 50mm. The Raynox 250 doesn't fit on the 18-200, and even if I use a step down filter there is severe vignetting. So I'm left with the 50mm prime. Do I lose anything by not fitting the Raynox onto a zoom lens? I've read posts where people said it performs best on a telephoto lens. I have some spare change and want to buy something to improve my macro shots. These are my options - 1. Get a Tamron 90mm macro lens and ditch the Raynox 2. Upgrade my cheap aluminum tripod (pan and tilt) to one that is more suitable for macros. Ballhead or pan/tilt? 3. Get a zoom lens with the right screw thread that can fit the Raynox. Another question - do I need to get a focusing rail? Does it help when using the Raynox?
1. Get the Tamron 90 or 60, and keep the raynox.
Sounds good.
Vignetting is to be expected esp if you zoom in to 200mm end of the 18-200.
I'm puzzled by this. Using the Raynox 250, 150 and 202 on Canon S3, Canon SX10 and now Panasonic G3 with 45-200 and 45-175, in all cases long focal lengths are fine, with vignetting cutting in towards the wide end. For example, on the Panasonic vignetting cuts in at about 30mm, which is (if my calculations are right) about 40mm focal length in Nikon APS-C terms. Longer than that, no vignetting, right out to maximum focal length. Because of the vignetting I don't use achromats on my 14-42 lens, only on the 45-200 and 45-175, which have no vignetting at any focal length with any of my achromats. (btw my calculations make my 200mm maximum focal length equivalent to about 266mm focal length in Nikon APS-C terms.)
2. Rail won't be of much good unless you are shooting with just the available light/natural light.
When using achromats on a zoom lens (which is almost all I ever do btw) I find both a tripod and a focus rail useful, for available light, flash and mixed light shots. I don't use them in the usual way though. I find the usefulness increases with the amount of magnification in use. Unless the air is still enough and/or the light strong enough to use "hands-off" available light tripod shots (and this is rare around here), I keep my hands on the camera the whole time. The tripod (a weird affair with a jointed arm) provides me with the type of support some people get from a pole or a stick - this damps down hand-shake, which can make framing shots easier and holding the framing for long periods less taxing. I hold the framing quite often, for example when waiting for a subject to adopt a nice position or when capturing a series of images of a subject/scene, for example with an invertebrate and prey, or invertebrates facing off/interacting, or flowers in rapidly changing dappled light coming through moving foliage. And I often need to keep the camera in position as I vary the focal length to change the magnification/framing to get a different perspective on the scene/action. The advantage I find with the focus rail is that getting the distance to the subject right is important with achromats, especially with the more powerful ones. For example, with the MSN-202 there is only 3mm (total, not +/- 3mm) latitude in the working distance. I find a focus rail helps me get to a usable working distance quickly. I don't use the fine adjustment screw - that is much too slow. I use the cruder and far faster quick adjustment knob, which provides adequate control (except sometimes with the 202, when I may apply a bit of directional pressure to the camera to make a fine adjustment to the distance). Incidentally, the reason I bought a 45-175 when I had a perfectly good 45-200 was that the 45-175 does not extend which, because of the working distance issue, makes using the more powerful achromats much easier and faster when reframing shots at different magnifications. Indeed, the MSN-202 was extremely frustrating, difficult and slow to use on the 45-200, which extends as you change focal length. It is much more usable on the 45-175. I wouldn't recommend trying to use a powerful achromat like the MSN-202 on a lens that extends other than in studio conditions.
redryder wrote: 3. Get a zoom lens with the right screw thread that can fit the Raynox.
I would experiment some more with step rings before trying a new lens, as I'm not convinced that a different zoom lens would cure the problem. I use step rings rather than the plastic Raynox adaptors (I've broken two of them, which is why I started using step rings.) Another thought. There are achromats that have larger diameters, such as the Canon 500D and 250D and the Marumi 200 and 330, and if of the right size these may not suffer from much if any vignetting. (That is the case for the 500D on my cameras.) Mind you, although these are much less expensive than a prime macro lens, the larger versions you might need can cost twice as much as Raynox lenses (25% or so of the cost of a Tamron macro), which again perhaps points towards the suggestion of keeping the Raynox and getting a Tamron.

orionmystery wrote:
redryder wrote: Hi guys, I only have 2 lenses in my system - 18-200VR and a 50mm. The Raynox 250 doesn't fit on the 18-200, and even if I use a step down filter there is severe vignetting. So I'm left with the 50mm prime. Do I lose anything by not fitting the Raynox onto a zoom lens? I've read posts where people said it performs best on a telephoto lens. I have some spare change and want to buy something to improve my macro shots. These are my options - 1. Get a Tamron 90mm macro lens and ditch the Raynox 2. Upgrade my cheap aluminum tripod (pan and tilt) to one that is more suitable for macros. Ballhead or pan/tilt? 3. Get a zoom lens with the right screw thread that can fit the Raynox. Another question - do I need to get a focusing rail? Does it help when using the Raynox?
1. Get the Tamron 90 or 60, and keep the raynox.
Sounds good.
Vignetting is to be expected esp if you zoom in to 200mm end of the 18-200.
I'm puzzled by this. Using the Raynox 250, 150 and 202 on Canon S3, Canon SX10 and now Panasonic G3 with 45-200 and 45-175, in all cases long focal lengths are fine, with vignetting cutting in towards the wide end. For example, on the Panasonic vignetting cuts in at about 30mm, which is (if my calculations are right) about 40mm focal length in Nikon APS-C terms. Longer than that, no vignetting, right out to maximum focal length. Because of the vignetting I don't use achromats on my 14-42 lens, only on the 45-200 and 45-175, which have no vignetting at any focal length with any of my achromats. (btw my calculations make my 200mm maximum focal length equivalent to about 266mm focal length in Nikon APS-C terms.)
2. Rail won't be of much good unless you are shooting with just the available light/natural light.
When using achromats on a zoom lens (which is almost all I ever do btw) I find both a tripod and a focus rail useful, for available light, flash and mixed light shots. I don't use them in the usual way though. I find the usefulness increases with the amount of magnification in use. Unless the air is still enough and/or the light strong enough to use "hands-off" available light tripod shots (and this is rare around here), I keep my hands on the camera the whole time. The tripod (a weird affair with a jointed arm) provides me with the type of support some people get from a pole or a stick - this damps down hand-shake, which can make framing shots easier and holding the framing for long periods less taxing. I hold the framing quite often, for example when waiting for a subject to adopt a nice position or when capturing a series of images of a subject/scene, for example with an invertebrate and prey, or invertebrates facing off/interacting, or flowers in rapidly changing dappled light coming through moving foliage. And I often need to keep the camera in position as I vary the focal length to change the magnification/framing to get a different perspective on the scene/action. The advantage I find with the focus rail is that getting the distance to the subject right is important with achromats, especially with the more powerful ones. For example, with the MSN-202 there is only 3mm (total, not +/- 3mm) latitude in the working distance. I find a focus rail helps me get to a usable working distance quickly. I don't use the fine adjustment screw - that is much too slow. I use the cruder and far faster quick adjustment knob, which provides adequate control (except sometimes with the 202, when I may apply a bit of directional pressure to the camera to make a fine adjustment to the distance). Incidentally, the reason I bought a 45-175 when I had a perfectly good 45-200 was that the 45-175 does not extend which, because of the working distance issue, makes using the more powerful achromats much easier and faster when reframing shots at different magnifications. Indeed, the MSN-202 was extremely frustrating, difficult and slow to use on the 45-200, which extends as you change focal length. It is much more usable on the 45-175. I wouldn't recommend trying to use a powerful achromat like the MSN-202 on a lens that extends other than in studio conditions.
redryder wrote: 3. Get a zoom lens with the right screw thread that can fit the Raynox.
I would experiment some more with step rings before trying a new lens, as I'm not convinced that a different zoom lens would cure the problem. I use step rings rather than the plastic Raynox adaptors (I've broken two of them, which is why I started using step rings.) Another thought. There are achromats that have larger diameters, such as the Canon 500D and 250D and the Marumi 200 and 330, and if of the right size these may not suffer from much if any vignetting. (That is the case for the 500D on my cameras.) Mind you, although these are much less expensive than a prime macro lens, the larger versions you might need can cost twice as much as Raynox lenses (25% or so of the cost of a Tamron macro), which again perhaps points towards the suggestion of keeping the Raynox and getting a Tamron.

gardenersassistant wrote:
orionmystery wrote: Vignetting is to be expected esp if you zoom in to 200mm end of the 18-200.
I'm puzzled by this. Using the Raynox 250, 150 and 202 on Canon S3, Canon SX10 and now Panasonic G3 with 45-200 and 45-175, in all cases long focal lengths are fine, with vignetting cutting in towards the wide end. For example, on the Panasonic vignetting cuts in at about 30mm, which is (if my calculations are right) about 40mm focal length in Nikon APS-C terms. Longer than that, no vignetting, right out to maximum focal length. Because of the vignetting I don't use achromats on my 14-42 lens, only on the 45-200 and 45-175, which have no vignetting at any focal length with any of my achromats. (btw my calculations make my 200mm maximum focal length equivalent to about 266mm focal length in Nikon APS-C terms.)
The DCR-250 may be attached to the 18-200VR using a 72-to-43mm step-down ring, but it always vignettes; least @200mm inf-focus. However, most "normal" telezooms seem to work without vignetting with a bit smaller-diameter close-up diopter attached with a step-down ring; a smaller diameter may then even help cut veiling flare caused by side-light. I agree the Tamron 60 or 90 may be a good idea. If Tamron 60 had a focus limiter, ditching the 50mm would be an option too. If macro isn't a high priority, Kenko extension tubes may be useful with the 50mm. Or perhaps a Marumi +5 achromat in 72mm on the 18-200VR (but mind this lens isn't exactly stellar at the long end where the diopter is most effective).

gardenersassistant wrote:
orionmystery wrote: Vignetting is to be expected esp if you zoom in to 200mm end of the 18-200.
I'm puzzled by this. Using the Raynox 250, 150 and 202 on Canon S3, Canon SX10 and now Panasonic G3 with 45-200 and 45-175, in all cases long focal lengths are fine, with vignetting cutting in towards the wide end. For example, on the Panasonic vignetting cuts in at about 30mm, which is (if my calculations are right) about 40mm focal length in Nikon APS-C terms. Longer than that, no vignetting, right out to maximum focal length. Because of the vignetting I don't use achromats on my 14-42 lens, only on the 45-200 and 45-175, which have no vignetting at any focal length with any of my achromats. (btw my calculations make my 200mm maximum focal length equivalent to about 266mm focal length in Nikon APS-C terms.)
The DCR-250 may be attached to the 18-200VR using a 72-to-43mm step-down ring, but it always vignettes; least @200mm inf-focus. However, most "normal" telezooms seem to work without vignetting with a bit smaller-diameter close-up diopter attached with a step-down ring; a smaller diameter may then even help cut veiling flare caused by side-light. I agree the Tamron 60 or 90 may be a good idea. If Tamron 60 had a focus limiter, ditching the 50mm would be an option too. If macro isn't a high priority, Kenko extension tubes may be useful with the 50mm. Or perhaps a Marumi +5 achromat in 72mm on the 18-200VR (but mind this lens isn't exactly stellar at the long end where the diopter is most effective).

_sem_ wrote: ... 72-to-43mm...
Ah, I see, big difference. That makes sense now. Thanks for clarifying that.

_sem_ wrote: ... 72-to-43mm...
Ah, I see, big difference. That makes sense now. Thanks for clarifying that.

gardenersassistant wrote:
_sem_ wrote: ... 72-to-43mm...
Ah, I see, big difference. That makes sense now. Thanks for clarifying that.
Not just that. This lens practically doesn't allow any smaller diopter without vignetting.

gardenersassistant wrote:
_sem_ wrote: ... 72-to-43mm...
Ah, I see, big difference. That makes sense now. Thanks for clarifying that.
Not just that. This lens practically doesn't allow any smaller diopter without vignetting.

My bad...the vignetting should be on the wide end not the tele end!

My bad...the vignetting should be on the wide end not the tele end!

You've received some very good and detailed replies. I would also suggest (as someone else did earlier) that you get the Canon 500D. They are superb, multi-element, diopter filters. Even though I have the Tamron 90 2.8 macro and the Sigma 150 2.8 macro lenses, I still like to use the 500D on my 70-300 VR for the extra magnification. The 70-300 VR also has faster AF than my macro lenses (even with the 500D when not hunting). The faster AF really helps with fast-moving, nectaring insects. At times I'll even use the 500D on the Sigma 150 for the extra magnification. However, with all that said, you will get the best IQ with a dedicated macro lens. The 500D will not improve the IQ of any lens, but I have not noticed any IQ degradation when used on a dedicated 2.8 macro lens - at least not on a D300 sensor. On a 36mp FF D800 camera, if there were any IQ differences, they could surely be seen at that resolution. Hope this helps and good luck with your decision. Wayne

You've received some very good and detailed replies. I would also suggest (as someone else did earlier) that you get the Canon 500D. They are superb, multi-element, diopter filters. Even though I have the Tamron 90 2.8 macro and the Sigma 150 2.8 macro lenses, I still like to use the 500D on my 70-300 VR for the extra magnification. The 70-300 VR also has faster AF than my macro lenses (even with the 500D when not hunting). The faster AF really helps with fast-moving, nectaring insects. At times I'll even use the 500D on the Sigma 150 for the extra magnification. However, with all that said, you will get the best IQ with a dedicated macro lens. The 500D will not improve the IQ of any lens, but I have not noticed any IQ degradation when used on a dedicated 2.8 macro lens - at least not on a D300 sensor. On a 36mp FF D800 camera, if there were any IQ differences, they could surely be seen at that resolution. Hope this helps and good luck with your decision. Wayne

dwa1 wrote: I would also suggest (as someone else did earlier) that you get the Canon 500D.
The 500D (+2) goes well with longer lenses. On the 18-200VR it doesn't produce so much magnification, plus the long end is not the strong point of this lens. I think a +5 is more useful; and the choice of high-diopter close-up achromats in large diameters is limited. Notice the 18-200VR vignettes with almost anything less than the full 72mm diameter (unlike most ordinary telezooms).

dwa1 wrote: I would also suggest (as someone else did earlier) that you get the Canon 500D.
The 500D (+2) goes well with longer lenses. On the 18-200VR it doesn't produce so much magnification, plus the long end is not the strong point of this lens. I think a +5 is more useful; and the choice of high-diopter close-up achromats in large diameters is limited. Notice the 18-200VR vignettes with almost anything less than the full 72mm diameter (unlike most ordinary telezooms).

_sem_ wrote:
Notice the 18-200VR vignettes with almost anything less than the full 72mm diameter (unlike most ordinary telezooms).
If I had to re do my reply to the op, I would add this... For best results with the 500D and 18-200 VR combo, use it at focal lengths 100 to 190. 500D - Get the largest size available. Then use step up rings with your various lenses. For a lens hood, you can use the metal screw on type. I use the B+W hoods. Then you just need a standard lens cap that will fit the hood. Shooting in Harsh Light Tips - I prefer to shoot nectaring insects in the bright, harsh sunlight. I always shoot RAW (NEF in Nikon). I use the B+W KSM CP (circular polarizer). To help prevent BOH (blown out highlights), in addition to the CP, for most situations I use matrix metering and underexpose by at least 0.7 ev. Example exception: for a white butterfly with a dark background I use spot metering on the b/f. With the CP (and under exposing), many images will be dark, but that is easily resolved in post processing. It's much better than having blobs of BOH on the florals. The CP allows you to remove reflections on leaves and wings. It also brings out more detail in your subjects and their surroundings as well as giving you rich, beautiful, saturated colors. Hope this helps a bit more. Wayne

_sem_ wrote:
Notice the 18-200VR vignettes with almost anything less than the full 72mm diameter (unlike most ordinary telezooms).
If I had to re do my reply to the op, I would add this... For best results with the 500D and 18-200 VR combo, use it at focal lengths 100 to 190. 500D - Get the largest size available. Then use step up rings with your various lenses. For a lens hood, you can use the metal screw on type. I use the B+W hoods. Then you just need a standard lens cap that will fit the hood. Shooting in Harsh Light Tips - I prefer to shoot nectaring insects in the bright, harsh sunlight. I always shoot RAW (NEF in Nikon). I use the B+W KSM CP (circular polarizer). To help prevent BOH (blown out highlights), in addition to the CP, for most situations I use matrix metering and underexpose by at least 0.7 ev. Example exception: for a white butterfly with a dark background I use spot metering on the b/f. With the CP (and under exposing), many images will be dark, but that is easily resolved in post processing. It's much better than having blobs of BOH on the florals. The CP allows you to remove reflections on leaves and wings. It also brings out more detail in your subjects and their surroundings as well as giving you rich, beautiful, saturated colors. Hope this helps a bit more. Wayne

dwa1 wrote: You've received some very good and detailed replies. I would also suggest (as someone else did earlier) that you get the Canon 500D. They are superb, multi-element, diopter filters. Even though I have the Tamron 90 2.8 macro and the Sigma 150 2.8 macro lenses, I still like to use the 500D on my 70-300 VR for the extra magnification. The 70-300 VR also has faster AF than my macro lenses (even with the 500D when not hunting). The faster AF really helps with fast-moving, nectaring insects. At times I'll even use the 500D on the Sigma 150 for the extra magnification. However, with all that said, you will get the best IQ with a dedicated macro lens. The 500D will not improve the IQ of any lens, but I have not noticed any IQ degradation when used on a dedicated 2.8 macro lens - at least not on a D300 sensor. On a 36mp FF D800 camera, if there were any IQ differences, they could surely be seen at that resolution. Hope this helps and good luck with your decision. Wayne
Interesting about the AF speed. I have often wondered why it is that most people feel that AF doesn't work (at all, or well enough) for macros. I use AF all the time with all of my achromats, including well beyond 1:1, and it is very quick (and accurate) on the G3 and was fast enough (and accurate) on my bridge cameras. I wondered if the usability of AF was something to do with CDAF versus PDAF, although the speed aspect of that would be bizarre as PDAF is apparently faster than CDAF by and large. Better accuracy for CDAF than PDAF for macros could possibly make a bit more sense I suppose. But from what you say I'm now wondering if it is more to do with the operating characteristics of dedicated macro lenses versus achromats. As someone who keeps wondering about moving to prime macro lenses to get better IQ (and quite possibly changing to larger sensors and a different camera manufacturer), I can't help asking if I ought to reckon on giving up AF, which would be quite a disincentive to make the move. Apart from the MPE-65, which of course is manual focus anyway, are prime macro lenses all a bit slow to autofocus (even when they have a focus limiter in use)? And does using extension tubes have any impact on autofocus?

dwa1 wrote: You've received some very good and detailed replies. I would also suggest (as someone else did earlier) that you get the Canon 500D. They are superb, multi-element, diopter filters. Even though I have the Tamron 90 2.8 macro and the Sigma 150 2.8 macro lenses, I still like to use the 500D on my 70-300 VR for the extra magnification. The 70-300 VR also has faster AF than my macro lenses (even with the 500D when not hunting). The faster AF really helps with fast-moving, nectaring insects. At times I'll even use the 500D on the Sigma 150 for the extra magnification. However, with all that said, you will get the best IQ with a dedicated macro lens. The 500D will not improve the IQ of any lens, but I have not noticed any IQ degradation when used on a dedicated 2.8 macro lens - at least not on a D300 sensor. On a 36mp FF D800 camera, if there were any IQ differences, they could surely be seen at that resolution. Hope this helps and good luck with your decision. Wayne
Interesting about the AF speed. I have often wondered why it is that most people feel that AF doesn't work (at all, or well enough) for macros. I use AF all the time with all of my achromats, including well beyond 1:1, and it is very quick (and accurate) on the G3 and was fast enough (and accurate) on my bridge cameras. I wondered if the usability of AF was something to do with CDAF versus PDAF, although the speed aspect of that would be bizarre as PDAF is apparently faster than CDAF by and large. Better accuracy for CDAF than PDAF for macros could possibly make a bit more sense I suppose. But from what you say I'm now wondering if it is more to do with the operating characteristics of dedicated macro lenses versus achromats. As someone who keeps wondering about moving to prime macro lenses to get better IQ (and quite possibly changing to larger sensors and a different camera manufacturer), I can't help asking if I ought to reckon on giving up AF, which would be quite a disincentive to make the move. Apart from the MPE-65, which of course is manual focus anyway, are prime macro lenses all a bit slow to autofocus (even when they have a focus limiter in use)? And does using extension tubes have any impact on autofocus?

gardenersassistant wrote: Interesting about the AF speed. I have often wondered why it is that most people feel that AF doesn't work (at all, or well enough) for macros. I use AF all the time with all of my achromats, including well beyond 1:1, and it is very quick (and accurate) on the G3 and was fast enough (and accurate) on my bridge cameras. I wondered if the usability of AF was something to do with CDAF versus PDAF, although the speed aspect of that would be bizarre as PDAF is apparently faster than CDAF by and large. Better accuracy for CDAF than PDAF for macros could possibly make a bit more sense I suppose. But from what you say I'm now wondering if it is more to do with the operating characteristics of dedicated macro lenses versus achromats. As someone who keeps wondering about moving to prime macro lenses to get better IQ (and quite possibly changing to larger sensors and a different camera manufacturer), I can't help asking if I ought to reckon on giving up AF, which would be quite a disincentive to make the move. Apart from the MPE-65, which of course is manual focus anyway, are prime macro lenses all a bit slow to autofocus (even when they have a focus limiter in use)? And does using extension tubes have any impact on autofocus?
With a telezoom+achromat, the distance range in which AF operates is very limited, much more than with a macro lens even when the latter is limited the the closer half of the whole AF range. Macro lenses need a long focus throw because they must allow precise focusing over the whole AF range; you need a whole set of different-diopter achromats to cover the same range with a fixed focal lenth. It'd be great if one could temporarily narrow the distance range in the camera with macro lenses; such a control on a lens is unlikely. If you're doing a still subject, MF is fine because you're mostly take your time for zone-focusing to get the interesting parts within the mostly too thin DoF (unless you stack). For things that move and for quick casual shooting, working and fast AF is a big benefit, improves the keepers statistics. Some people have reported odd facts regarding the usability of AF with different macro setups, so it is quite difficult to predict what will work better before one tries. High magnifications tend to "deconcentrate" light thus reduce contrast; this affects both PDAF and CDAF, also the same with extension tubes, close-up lenses, front or rear teleconverters, and macro lenses; the worakround is to boost ambient light. A specific thing regarding PDAF is that it uses rays at certain angles, typically at F/5.6 (now also F/8 with certain expensive Nikon DSLRs) with normal lenses. I'm not sure how the various macro trickery affect this, but there might a difference.

gardenersassistant wrote: Interesting about the AF speed. I have often wondered why it is that most people feel that AF doesn't work (at all, or well enough) for macros. I use AF all the time with all of my achromats, including well beyond 1:1, and it is very quick (and accurate) on the G3 and was fast enough (and accurate) on my bridge cameras. I wondered if the usability of AF was something to do with CDAF versus PDAF, although the speed aspect of that would be bizarre as PDAF is apparently faster than CDAF by and large. Better accuracy for CDAF than PDAF for macros could possibly make a bit more sense I suppose. But from what you say I'm now wondering if it is more to do with the operating characteristics of dedicated macro lenses versus achromats. As someone who keeps wondering about moving to prime macro lenses to get better IQ (and quite possibly changing to larger sensors and a different camera manufacturer), I can't help asking if I ought to reckon on giving up AF, which would be quite a disincentive to make the move. Apart from the MPE-65, which of course is manual focus anyway, are prime macro lenses all a bit slow to autofocus (even when they have a focus limiter in use)? And does using extension tubes have any impact on autofocus?
With a telezoom+achromat, the distance range in which AF operates is very limited, much more than with a macro lens even when the latter is limited the the closer half of the whole AF range. Macro lenses need a long focus throw because they must allow precise focusing over the whole AF range; you need a whole set of different-diopter achromats to cover the same range with a fixed focal lenth. It'd be great if one could temporarily narrow the distance range in the camera with macro lenses; such a control on a lens is unlikely. If you're doing a still subject, MF is fine because you're mostly take your time for zone-focusing to get the interesting parts within the mostly too thin DoF (unless you stack). For things that move and for quick casual shooting, working and fast AF is a big benefit, improves the keepers statistics. Some people have reported odd facts regarding the usability of AF with different macro setups, so it is quite difficult to predict what will work better before one tries. High magnifications tend to "deconcentrate" light thus reduce contrast; this affects both PDAF and CDAF, also the same with extension tubes, close-up lenses, front or rear teleconverters, and macro lenses; the worakround is to boost ambient light. A specific thing regarding PDAF is that it uses rays at certain angles, typically at F/5.6 (now also F/8 with certain expensive Nikon DSLRs) with normal lenses. I'm not sure how the various macro trickery affect this, but there might a difference.

_sem_ wrote: With a telezoom+achromat, the distance range in which AF operates is very limited, much more than with a macro lens even when the latter is limited the the closer half of the whole AF range. Macro lenses need a long focus throw because they must allow precise focusing over the whole AF range; you need a whole set of different-diopter achromats to cover the same range with a fixed focal lenth. It'd be great if one could temporarily narrow the distance range in the camera with macro lenses; such a control on a lens is unlikely. If you're doing a still subject, MF is fine because you're mostly take your time for zone-focusing to get the interesting parts within the mostly too thin DoF (unless you stack). For things that move and for quick casual shooting, working and fast AF is a big benefit, improves the keepers statistics. Some people have reported odd facts regarding the usability of AF with different macro setups, so it is quite difficult to predict what will work better before one tries. High magnifications tend to "deconcentrate" light thus reduce contrast; this affects both PDAF and CDAF, also the same with extension tubes, close-up lenses, front or rear teleconverters, and macro lenses; the worakround is to boost ambient light. A specific thing regarding PDAF is that it uses rays at certain angles, typically at F/5.6 (now also F/8 with certain expensive Nikon DSLRs) with normal lenses. I'm not sure how the various macro trickery affect this, but there might a difference.
Very interesting. Thanks. Seems like it is a bit of a "suck it and see" type of thing. Not sure I want to get into a ? £3-5,000 "maybe it will, maybe it won't work well for me" type of experiment. (And entirely sure that my wife wouldn't be keen on such an experiment!) ..... but the quality I see people getting from FF, MPE-65, MT-24EX and similar high quality gear is so very, very appealing ....

_sem_ wrote: With a telezoom+achromat, the distance range in which AF operates is very limited, much more than with a macro lens even when the latter is limited the the closer half of the whole AF range. Macro lenses need a long focus throw because they must allow precise focusing over the whole AF range; you need a whole set of different-diopter achromats to cover the same range with a fixed focal lenth. It'd be great if one could temporarily narrow the distance range in the camera with macro lenses; such a control on a lens is unlikely. If you're doing a still subject, MF is fine because you're mostly take your time for zone-focusing to get the interesting parts within the mostly too thin DoF (unless you stack). For things that move and for quick casual shooting, working and fast AF is a big benefit, improves the keepers statistics. Some people have reported odd facts regarding the usability of AF with different macro setups, so it is quite difficult to predict what will work better before one tries. High magnifications tend to "deconcentrate" light thus reduce contrast; this affects both PDAF and CDAF, also the same with extension tubes, close-up lenses, front or rear teleconverters, and macro lenses; the worakround is to boost ambient light. A specific thing regarding PDAF is that it uses rays at certain angles, typically at F/5.6 (now also F/8 with certain expensive Nikon DSLRs) with normal lenses. I'm not sure how the various macro trickery affect this, but there might a difference.
Very interesting. Thanks. Seems like it is a bit of a "suck it and see" type of thing. Not sure I want to get into a ? £3-5,000 "maybe it will, maybe it won't work well for me" type of experiment. (And entirely sure that my wife wouldn't be keen on such an experiment!) ..... but the quality I see people getting from FF, MPE-65, MT-24EX and similar high quality gear is so very, very appealing ....

gardenersassistant wrote: ..... but the quality I see people getting from FF, MPE-65, MT-24EX and similar high quality gear is so very, very appealing ....
But there are lots of good macro images made with relatively inexpensive gear. For example see http://blog.mdsign.nl/

gardenersassistant wrote: ..... but the quality I see people getting from FF, MPE-65, MT-24EX and similar high quality gear is so very, very appealing ....
But there are lots of good macro images made with relatively inexpensive gear. For example see http://blog.mdsign.nl/

_sem_ wrote:
gardenersassistant wrote: ..... but the quality I see people getting from FF, MPE-65, MT-24EX and similar high quality gear is so very, very appealing ....
But there are lots of good macro images made with relatively inexpensive gear. For example see http://blog.mdsign.nl/
Indeed so, and of course not just relatively inexpensive dSLRs, but bridge cameras too, such as much of Mark Berkery's work done with a Panasonic FZ50. http://beingmark.com/

_sem_ wrote:
gardenersassistant wrote: ..... but the quality I see people getting from FF, MPE-65, MT-24EX and similar high quality gear is so very, very appealing ....
But there are lots of good macro images made with relatively inexpensive gear. For example see http://blog.mdsign.nl/
Indeed so, and of course not just relatively inexpensive dSLRs, but bridge cameras too, such as much of Mark Berkery's work done with a Panasonic FZ50. http://beingmark.com/

gardenersassistant, I think that it's good that you are concerned with the AF speed when you are considering new gear. Many insects are fast-moving and just can't stay in one place long enough for manual focus. Other factors are the "smallish type" viewfinders on most DLSRs and the sidelight that occurs for eyeglass wearers (like me). AF speed with macro lenses.. Most dedicated macro lenses have slow AF speed. However, many of the newer versions have gotten much better. The newest Sigma 150 2.8 OS macro lens is reported to be faster than the previous (non-OS) version (which I have). I also have the Tamron 90 2.8 with the BIM. The newer version of this lens is supposed to have faster AF - good thing because my version is really slow and it hunts way too much. Nikon 105 2.8 VR... The fastest AF in a macro lens that I have ever used is the Nikon 105 2.8 VR - and this lens is my AF reference point for all others. I don't own this lens, but I have used it a few occasions. I love the way that the focus limiter switch works. It's different than other macro lenses - can't explain it, but it's just better. I hope to replace the Tamron 90 with the 105 VR someday. Sigma 180 2.8 OS Macro... Reports from those using this new lens are very good. Superb IQ and bokeh (like the 150), great focal length, very good AF speed. However, it is big, heavy, expensive and has an 86mm filter. High IQ / low cost close up combo... Some of the most awesome close up images that I've ever seen were produced with the Nikon 180 f2.8 and the Canon 500D. Even new, the 180 is a bargain and has superb IQ and bokeh along with great AF speed. TCs and extension tubes... These will definitely slow down the AF speed - some worse than others. I hear that the AF speed of the Nikon 105 2.8 VR with the TC 2.0-III is good for a combo like this. I hope that you get a chance to use a DSLR and a good close up lens. Hope this helps in some way. Good shooting. Wayne

gardenersassistant, I think that it's good that you are concerned with the AF speed when you are considering new gear. Many insects are fast-moving and just can't stay in one place long enough for manual focus. Other factors are the "smallish type" viewfinders on most DLSRs and the sidelight that occurs for eyeglass wearers (like me). AF speed with macro lenses.. Most dedicated macro lenses have slow AF speed. However, many of the newer versions have gotten much better. The newest Sigma 150 2.8 OS macro lens is reported to be faster than the previous (non-OS) version (which I have). I also have the Tamron 90 2.8 with the BIM. The newer version of this lens is supposed to have faster AF - good thing because my version is really slow and it hunts way too much. Nikon 105 2.8 VR... The fastest AF in a macro lens that I have ever used is the Nikon 105 2.8 VR - and this lens is my AF reference point for all others. I don't own this lens, but I have used it a few occasions. I love the way that the focus limiter switch works. It's different than other macro lenses - can't explain it, but it's just better. I hope to replace the Tamron 90 with the 105 VR someday. Sigma 180 2.8 OS Macro... Reports from those using this new lens are very good. Superb IQ and bokeh (like the 150), great focal length, very good AF speed. However, it is big, heavy, expensive and has an 86mm filter. High IQ / low cost close up combo... Some of the most awesome close up images that I've ever seen were produced with the Nikon 180 f2.8 and the Canon 500D. Even new, the 180 is a bargain and has superb IQ and bokeh along with great AF speed. TCs and extension tubes... These will definitely slow down the AF speed - some worse than others. I hear that the AF speed of the Nikon 105 2.8 VR with the TC 2.0-III is good for a combo like this. I hope that you get a chance to use a DSLR and a good close up lens. Hope this helps in some way. Good shooting. Wayne

dwa1 wrote: gardenersassistant, I think that it's good that you are concerned with the AF speed when you are considering new gear. Many insects are fast-moving and just can't stay in one place long enough for manual focus. Other factors are the "smallish type" viewfinders on most DLSRs and the sidelight that occurs for eyeglass wearers (like me). AF speed with macro lenses.. Most dedicated macro lenses have slow AF speed. However, many of the newer versions have gotten much better. The newest Sigma 150 2.8 OS macro lens is reported to be faster than the previous (non-OS) version (which I have). I also have the Tamron 90 2.8 with the BIM. The newer version of this lens is supposed to have faster AF - good thing because my version is really slow and it hunts way too much. Nikon 105 2.8 VR... The fastest AF in a macro lens that I have ever used is the Nikon 105 2.8 VR - and this lens is my AF reference point for all others. I don't own this lens, but I have used it a few occasions. I love the way that the focus limiter switch works. It's different than other macro lenses - can't explain it, but it's just better. I hope to replace the Tamron 90 with the 105 VR someday. Sigma 180 2.8 OS Macro... Reports from those using this new lens are very good. Superb IQ and bokeh (like the 150), great focal length, very good AF speed. However, it is big, heavy, expensive and has an 86mm filter. High IQ / low cost close up combo... Some of the most awesome close up images that I've ever seen were produced with the Nikon 180 f2.8 and the Canon 500D. Even new, the 180 is a bargain and has superb IQ and bokeh along with great AF speed. TCs and extension tubes... These will definitely slow down the AF speed - some worse than others. I hear that the AF speed of the Nikon 105 2.8 VR with the TC 2.0-III is good for a combo like this. I hope that you get a chance to use a DSLR and a good close up lens. Hope this helps in some way. Good shooting. Wayne
Thanks so much for taking the time to provide all this information. I'm sure I'm not the only person who will find it very useful. My apologies to the OP if this is becoming a tedious threadjack. I do hope not. But I think there is information coming out here which may be useful to lots of us so I'll take the risk and carry on. I have to say that I haven't yet seriously considered Nikon gear. I'm sure I will get into deep water when I explain why not, and it could well be that if I am going to move upmarket then I am going to have to change one or two things about the way I work on closeups. So please don't take this as a "thanks but no thanks". I'm genuinely interested in all the options, including changing my working methods if necessary. One issue I have with Nikon is that, as far as I am aware, Nikon have not produced a side-mounted articulated screen on any of their dSLRs. (Oh dear, I might get into trouble for the next bit as well, but...) In fact, if I want to go for best quality, I am inclined to skip APS-C and move directly to FF. And in that case, I don't think Canon nor Nikon have a side-mounted articulated screen on a FF body. Why on earth would I care about a side-mounted articulated screen on a FF dSLR? Because I almost never use a viewfinder. I wear glasses, and perhaps that has something to do with it, and I do take a lot of shots at ground level, including ground level upwards, and I don't think I am agile enough to manage that with a viewfinder. So I much prefer to use live view, and use it on a side-mounted screen that lets me use a tripod in the (peculiar) way that I want to. I don't know what Nikon's live view implementation is like, but my understanding is that Canon haven't got theirs sorted out yet. This in turn suggests a Sony Alpha if I insist on using live view on an articulated screen on a FF body (not side mounted, but quite probably flexible enough for my purposes.) But, but, but.... Only Canon have the MPE-65. Do Nikon or Sony have an equivalent? I need that magnification (I use it now with the MSN-202, with obviously much inferior image quality), but would I really want to use extension tubes and/or achromats to get me there with a Nikon or Sony? Would they even get me that far in any case? And if I'm being honest, I'm sure I would love to have the optical quality of the MPE-65, but I am very unsure about having to give up auto-focus to get it. I have never really got on at all well with manual focus, except for the obviously easy static-subject take-as-long-as-you-like shots. And another possibly unreasonable worry, the apparent front focus/back focus issues of PDAF - that makes me very nervous. Pay all that money and risk getting something that doesn't focus quite where it should? Nonsense, loads of people use PDAF, microadjustments will cure it if it does happen to arise. Etc etc. It is all so complicated, so inter-related. Give up live view? Give up using the LCD? Stop using a tripod? Give up some magnification? Give up some of the more difficult angle shots? Give up autofocus? Perhaps one or more or all of these. Or perhaps, getting somewhat back on-topic , stay with the achromats, the familiar, light, cheap, fast focusing, somewhat awkward to use, lower optical quality achromats and zoom lenses, and stay with a small, light, relatively inexpensive camera with a less capable sensor than the FF alternatives. Give up on the highest quality images? Be happy with the many wonders of nature that I can capture with the kit I already have, and learn to use it better, more creatively? Perhaps I am in a somewhat similar position to the OP. Along with a lot of other people quite possibly. I think that's half the fun of it - exploring the many, many options. And it is great to get feedback from experienced folk about the myriad details, options, tradeoffs and gotchas.

dwa1 wrote: gardenersassistant, I think that it's good that you are concerned with the AF speed when you are considering new gear. Many insects are fast-moving and just can't stay in one place long enough for manual focus. Other factors are the "smallish type" viewfinders on most DLSRs and the sidelight that occurs for eyeglass wearers (like me). AF speed with macro lenses.. Most dedicated macro lenses have slow AF speed. However, many of the newer versions have gotten much better. The newest Sigma 150 2.8 OS macro lens is reported to be faster than the previous (non-OS) version (which I have). I also have the Tamron 90 2.8 with the BIM. The newer version of this lens is supposed to have faster AF - good thing because my version is really slow and it hunts way too much. Nikon 105 2.8 VR... The fastest AF in a macro lens that I have ever used is the Nikon 105 2.8 VR - and this lens is my AF reference point for all others. I don't own this lens, but I have used it a few occasions. I love the way that the focus limiter switch works. It's different than other macro lenses - can't explain it, but it's just better. I hope to replace the Tamron 90 with the 105 VR someday. Sigma 180 2.8 OS Macro... Reports from those using this new lens are very good. Superb IQ and bokeh (like the 150), great focal length, very good AF speed. However, it is big, heavy, expensive and has an 86mm filter. High IQ / low cost close up combo... Some of the most awesome close up images that I've ever seen were produced with the Nikon 180 f2.8 and the Canon 500D. Even new, the 180 is a bargain and has superb IQ and bokeh along with great AF speed. TCs and extension tubes... These will definitely slow down the AF speed - some worse than others. I hear that the AF speed of the Nikon 105 2.8 VR with the TC 2.0-III is good for a combo like this. I hope that you get a chance to use a DSLR and a good close up lens. Hope this helps in some way. Good shooting. Wayne
Thanks so much for taking the time to provide all this information. I'm sure I'm not the only person who will find it very useful. My apologies to the OP if this is becoming a tedious threadjack. I do hope not. But I think there is information coming out here which may be useful to lots of us so I'll take the risk and carry on. I have to say that I haven't yet seriously considered Nikon gear. I'm sure I will get into deep water when I explain why not, and it could well be that if I am going to move upmarket then I am going to have to change one or two things about the way I work on closeups. So please don't take this as a "thanks but no thanks". I'm genuinely interested in all the options, including changing my working methods if necessary. One issue I have with Nikon is that, as far as I am aware, Nikon have not produced a side-mounted articulated screen on any of their dSLRs. (Oh dear, I might get into trouble for the next bit as well, but...) In fact, if I want to go for best quality, I am inclined to skip APS-C and move directly to FF. And in that case, I don't think Canon nor Nikon have a side-mounted articulated screen on a FF body. Why on earth would I care about a side-mounted articulated screen on a FF dSLR? Because I almost never use a viewfinder. I wear glasses, and perhaps that has something to do with it, and I do take a lot of shots at ground level, including ground level upwards, and I don't think I am agile enough to manage that with a viewfinder. So I much prefer to use live view, and use it on a side-mounted screen that lets me use a tripod in the (peculiar) way that I want to. I don't know what Nikon's live view implementation is like, but my understanding is that Canon haven't got theirs sorted out yet. This in turn suggests a Sony Alpha if I insist on using live view on an articulated screen on a FF body (not side mounted, but quite probably flexible enough for my purposes.) But, but, but.... Only Canon have the MPE-65. Do Nikon or Sony have an equivalent? I need that magnification (I use it now with the MSN-202, with obviously much inferior image quality), but would I really want to use extension tubes and/or achromats to get me there with a Nikon or Sony? Would they even get me that far in any case? And if I'm being honest, I'm sure I would love to have the optical quality of the MPE-65, but I am very unsure about having to give up auto-focus to get it. I have never really got on at all well with manual focus, except for the obviously easy static-subject take-as-long-as-you-like shots. And another possibly unreasonable worry, the apparent front focus/back focus issues of PDAF - that makes me very nervous. Pay all that money and risk getting something that doesn't focus quite where it should? Nonsense, loads of people use PDAF, microadjustments will cure it if it does happen to arise. Etc etc. It is all so complicated, so inter-related. Give up live view? Give up using the LCD? Stop using a tripod? Give up some magnification? Give up some of the more difficult angle shots? Give up autofocus? Perhaps one or more or all of these. Or perhaps, getting somewhat back on-topic , stay with the achromats, the familiar, light, cheap, fast focusing, somewhat awkward to use, lower optical quality achromats and zoom lenses, and stay with a small, light, relatively inexpensive camera with a less capable sensor than the FF alternatives. Give up on the highest quality images? Be happy with the many wonders of nature that I can capture with the kit I already have, and learn to use it better, more creatively? Perhaps I am in a somewhat similar position to the OP. Along with a lot of other people quite possibly. I think that's half the fun of it - exploring the many, many options. And it is great to get feedback from experienced folk about the myriad details, options, tradeoffs and gotchas.

gardenersassistant wrote: Why on earth would I care about a side-mounted articulated screen on a FF dSLR? Because I almost never use a viewfinder. I wear glasses, and perhaps that has something to do with it, and I do take a lot of shots at ground level, including ground level upwards, and I don't think I am agile enough to manage that with a viewfinder. So I much prefer to use live view, and use it on a side-mounted screen that lets me use a tripod in the (peculiar) way that I want to. I don't know what Nikon's live view implementation is like, but my understanding is that Canon haven't got theirs sorted out yet. This in turn suggests a Sony Alpha if I insist on using live view on an articulated screen on a FF body (not side mounted, but quite probably flexible enough for my purposes.) But, but, but.... Only Canon have the MPE-65. Do Nikon or Sony have an equivalent? I need that magnification (I use it now with the MSN-202, with obviously much inferior image quality), but would I really want to use extension tubes and/or achromats to get me there with a Nikon or Sony? Would they even get me that far in any case? And if I'm being honest, I'm sure I would love to have the optical quality of the MPE-65, but I am very unsure about having to give up auto-focus to get it. I have never really got on at all well with manual focus, except for the obviously easy static-subject take-as-long-as-you-like shots. And another possibly unreasonable worry, the apparent front focus/back focus issues of PDAF - that makes me very nervous. Pay all that money and risk getting something that doesn't focus quite where it should? Nonsense, loads of people use PDAF, microadjustments will cure it if it does happen to arise. Etc etc. It is all so complicated, so inter-related. Give up live view? Give up using the LCD? Stop using a tripod? Give up some magnification? Give up some of the more difficult angle shots? Give up autofocus? Perhaps one or more or all of these. Or perhaps, getting somewhat back on-topic , stay with the achromats, the familiar, light, cheap, fast focusing, somewhat awkward to use, lower optical quality achromats and zoom lenses, and stay with a small, light, relatively inexpensive camera with a less capable sensor than the FF alternatives. Give up on the highest quality images? Be happy with the many wonders of nature that I can capture with the kit I already have, and learn to use it better, more creatively?
AFAIK Nikon's LV is even a little bit worse worse than Canon's. Electronic shutter may matter too. Perhaps you shouldn't over-obsess with FF if macro is your main concern. In most macro cases, sensor size is not really relevant (however, good lenses are). It may not sound intuitive, but for handheld closeups in available light, small sensors actually fare better, because you need to stop aperture down a lot to gain DoF. A larger sensor comes handy if you want more DR, bees in sunshine for example, but you get reasonable DR in APS/C these days, and even the OM-D sensor is not useless; mind you need to shoot raw and process in sth like LR4 to get the wide-DR-sensor advantage. There is a lot of light loss at high magnifications. EVFs tend to amplify light up to a certain level, but below that they get useless, while you may still see something through the OVF. There are quality alternatives to the MPE65, but most of them are a comparably clumsy when out in the field; depends on the magnifications you're interested in. The lack of automatic aperture is one particular problem with many of them (bellows, reversed lenses) - preview visibility problem. If you want both quality and reasonable DoF at high magnifications, you will rather have to consider focus stacking than AF - have you done any frames 5mm wide so far? For lower magnifications up to 1:1 (and a bit more with workarounds) you can have another "ordinary" AF macro lens.

gardenersassistant wrote: Why on earth would I care about a side-mounted articulated screen on a FF dSLR? Because I almost never use a viewfinder. I wear glasses, and perhaps that has something to do with it, and I do take a lot of shots at ground level, including ground level upwards, and I don't think I am agile enough to manage that with a viewfinder. So I much prefer to use live view, and use it on a side-mounted screen that lets me use a tripod in the (peculiar) way that I want to. I don't know what Nikon's live view implementation is like, but my understanding is that Canon haven't got theirs sorted out yet. This in turn suggests a Sony Alpha if I insist on using live view on an articulated screen on a FF body (not side mounted, but quite probably flexible enough for my purposes.) But, but, but.... Only Canon have the MPE-65. Do Nikon or Sony have an equivalent? I need that magnification (I use it now with the MSN-202, with obviously much inferior image quality), but would I really want to use extension tubes and/or achromats to get me there with a Nikon or Sony? Would they even get me that far in any case? And if I'm being honest, I'm sure I would love to have the optical quality of the MPE-65, but I am very unsure about having to give up auto-focus to get it. I have never really got on at all well with manual focus, except for the obviously easy static-subject take-as-long-as-you-like shots. And another possibly unreasonable worry, the apparent front focus/back focus issues of PDAF - that makes me very nervous. Pay all that money and risk getting something that doesn't focus quite where it should? Nonsense, loads of people use PDAF, microadjustments will cure it if it does happen to arise. Etc etc. It is all so complicated, so inter-related. Give up live view? Give up using the LCD? Stop using a tripod? Give up some magnification? Give up some of the more difficult angle shots? Give up autofocus? Perhaps one or more or all of these. Or perhaps, getting somewhat back on-topic , stay with the achromats, the familiar, light, cheap, fast focusing, somewhat awkward to use, lower optical quality achromats and zoom lenses, and stay with a small, light, relatively inexpensive camera with a less capable sensor than the FF alternatives. Give up on the highest quality images? Be happy with the many wonders of nature that I can capture with the kit I already have, and learn to use it better, more creatively?
AFAIK Nikon's LV is even a little bit worse worse than Canon's. Electronic shutter may matter too. Perhaps you shouldn't over-obsess with FF if macro is your main concern. In most macro cases, sensor size is not really relevant (however, good lenses are). It may not sound intuitive, but for handheld closeups in available light, small sensors actually fare better, because you need to stop aperture down a lot to gain DoF. A larger sensor comes handy if you want more DR, bees in sunshine for example, but you get reasonable DR in APS/C these days, and even the OM-D sensor is not useless; mind you need to shoot raw and process in sth like LR4 to get the wide-DR-sensor advantage. There is a lot of light loss at high magnifications. EVFs tend to amplify light up to a certain level, but below that they get useless, while you may still see something through the OVF. There are quality alternatives to the MPE65, but most of them are a comparably clumsy when out in the field; depends on the magnifications you're interested in. The lack of automatic aperture is one particular problem with many of them (bellows, reversed lenses) - preview visibility problem. If you want both quality and reasonable DoF at high magnifications, you will rather have to consider focus stacking than AF - have you done any frames 5mm wide so far? For lower magnifications up to 1:1 (and a bit more with workarounds) you can have another "ordinary" AF macro lens.

_sem_ wrote: AFAIK Nikon's LV is even a little bit worse worse than Canon's.
Electronic shutter may matter too.
It certainly wouldn't harm, although on the G5 for example you can't use the electronic shutter with flash. Roll on the global shutter.
Perhaps you shouldn't over-obsess with FF if macro is your main concern. In most macro cases, sensor size is not really relevant (however, good lenses are). It may not sound intuitive, but for handheld closeups in available light, small sensors actually fare better, because you need to stop aperture down a lot to gain DoF.
Not sure I follow that. I get (pretty much) the same DOF at f/22 with my G3 as I do with f/8 with my bridge cameras, with f/22 being the smallest available aperture on the G3 zooms and f/8 being the smallest available aperture on the SX10 and S3. For a given shutter speed I have to raise the ISO by three stops with the G3, so where I would have used f/8 with ISO 100 with the SX10 I now use f/22 with ISO 800 with the G3. ISO 800 on the G3 looks similar to ISO 100 on the SX10, so when using available light in conditions where shutter speed is the main constraint there isn't much in it. In available light the G3 pulls away in IQ terms once the light level reaches a level where turning down the ISO has more benefit than using a faster shutter speed. It is also better where flash is the primary light source and I can turn down the ISO. That isn't as much of an advantage as it might be because of another preference I have, for not having dark/black areas in the background. Depending on the distances to the furthest visible background, that can, and quite often does, mean leaving the ISO on 800 (as far up as I go except in exceptional circumstances) even when using flash so as to help give some content to the darker areas of the background.
A larger sensor comes handy if you want more DR, bees in sunshine for example,
That would be good. At the moment I tend to use flash to reduce the DR, like in this case where the ambient light was bright but the subject was in shadow. IMAGE(http://dpzen.com/dpzattaches/dpzattachesu//2014092523351268878.jpg)
but you get reasonable DR in APS/C these days, and even the OM-D sensor is not useless; mind you need to shoot raw and process in sth like LR4 to get the wide-DR-sensor advantage. There is a lot of light loss at high magnifications. EVFs tend to amplify light up to a certain level, but below that they get useless, while you may still see something through the OVF.
That is one problem I haven't experienced yet with the LCD, even with subjects within plant foliage under tree foliage in the late afternoon.
There are quality alternatives to the MPE65, but most of them are a comparably clumsy when out in the field; depends on the magnifications you're interested in.
My rig is pretty clumsy already. I would very much prefer not to add to its clumsiness.
The lack of automatic aperture is one particular problem with many of them (bellows, reversed lenses) - preview visibility problem.
I really don't like the sound of that.
If you want both quality and reasonable DoF at high magnifications, you will rather have to consider focus stacking than AF - have you done any frames 5mm wide so far?
I've captured a very small number, but I wouldn't regard any of them as usable. Here is one of my failures from today as it happens. The image covers just over 4mm width.So I'm trying! IMAGE(http://dpzen.com/dpzattaches/dpzattachesu//2014092523351468879.jpg) Obviously the subject was not at a good angle in terms of the dof coverage. I need to get more practical experience at that scale before drawing any conclusions. It may well turn out to be stacking or forget it, in which case I may well leave it be - not sure I'd want to get into stacking at that scale out in the wild, especially as breeze-free conditions are extremely rare here, and I'm not really interested in relocating subjects into artificial environments to take pictures of them.
For lower magnifications up to 1:1 (and a bit more with workarounds) you can have another "ordinary" AF macro lens.
Yes, up to 1:1 there really isn't a problem. Well, except for working distance with some solutions, like the Panasonic 45mm macro and possibly the Olympus 60mm macro as well. I wish someone would make a longer focal length, AE and AF MFT 1:1 macro prime (with IS that is of some use at macro distances being on my wish list too, and almost certain to stay there I would have thought). Thanks for the continuing contributions. I'm certainly finding it useful and I hope the OP and others are too.

_sem_ wrote: AFAIK Nikon's LV is even a little bit worse worse than Canon's.
Electronic shutter may matter too.
It certainly wouldn't harm, although on the G5 for example you can't use the electronic shutter with flash. Roll on the global shutter.
Perhaps you shouldn't over-obsess with FF if macro is your main concern. In most macro cases, sensor size is not really relevant (however, good lenses are). It may not sound intuitive, but for handheld closeups in available light, small sensors actually fare better, because you need to stop aperture down a lot to gain DoF.
Not sure I follow that. I get (pretty much) the same DOF at f/22 with my G3 as I do with f/8 with my bridge cameras, with f/22 being the smallest available aperture on the G3 zooms and f/8 being the smallest available aperture on the SX10 and S3. For a given shutter speed I have to raise the ISO by three stops with the G3, so where I would have used f/8 with ISO 100 with the SX10 I now use f/22 with ISO 800 with the G3. ISO 800 on the G3 looks similar to ISO 100 on the SX10, so when using available light in conditions where shutter speed is the main constraint there isn't much in it. In available light the G3 pulls away in IQ terms once the light level reaches a level where turning down the ISO has more benefit than using a faster shutter speed. It is also better where flash is the primary light source and I can turn down the ISO. That isn't as much of an advantage as it might be because of another preference I have, for not having dark/black areas in the background. Depending on the distances to the furthest visible background, that can, and quite often does, mean leaving the ISO on 800 (as far up as I go except in exceptional circumstances) even when using flash so as to help give some content to the darker areas of the background.
A larger sensor comes handy if you want more DR, bees in sunshine for example,
That would be good. At the moment I tend to use flash to reduce the DR, like in this case where the ambient light was bright but the subject was in shadow. IMAGE(http://dpzen.com/dpzattaches/dpzattachesu//2014092523351268878.jpg)
but you get reasonable DR in APS/C these days, and even the OM-D sensor is not useless; mind you need to shoot raw and process in sth like LR4 to get the wide-DR-sensor advantage. There is a lot of light loss at high magnifications. EVFs tend to amplify light up to a certain level, but below that they get useless, while you may still see something through the OVF.
That is one problem I haven't experienced yet with the LCD, even with subjects within plant foliage under tree foliage in the late afternoon.
There are quality alternatives to the MPE65, but most of them are a comparably clumsy when out in the field; depends on the magnifications you're interested in.
My rig is pretty clumsy already. I would very much prefer not to add to its clumsiness.
The lack of automatic aperture is one particular problem with many of them (bellows, reversed lenses) - preview visibility problem.
I really don't like the sound of that.
If you want both quality and reasonable DoF at high magnifications, you will rather have to consider focus stacking than AF - have you done any frames 5mm wide so far?
I've captured a very small number, but I wouldn't regard any of them as usable. Here is one of my failures from today as it happens. The image covers just over 4mm width.So I'm trying! IMAGE(http://dpzen.com/dpzattaches/dpzattachesu//2014092523351468879.jpg) Obviously the subject was not at a good angle in terms of the dof coverage. I need to get more practical experience at that scale before drawing any conclusions. It may well turn out to be stacking or forget it, in which case I may well leave it be - not sure I'd want to get into stacking at that scale out in the wild, especially as breeze-free conditions are extremely rare here, and I'm not really interested in relocating subjects into artificial environments to take pictures of them.
For lower magnifications up to 1:1 (and a bit more with workarounds) you can have another "ordinary" AF macro lens.
Yes, up to 1:1 there really isn't a problem. Well, except for working distance with some solutions, like the Panasonic 45mm macro and possibly the Olympus 60mm macro as well. I wish someone would make a longer focal length, AE and AF MFT 1:1 macro prime (with IS that is of some use at macro distances being on my wish list too, and almost certain to stay there I would have thought). Thanks for the continuing contributions. I'm certainly finding it useful and I hope the OP and others are too.

gardenersassistant wrote: Not sure I follow that. I get (pretty much) the same DOF at f/22 with my G3 as I do with f/8 with my bridge cameras, with f/22 being the smallest available aperture on the G3 zooms and f/8 being the smallest available aperture on the SX10 and S3. For a given shutter speed I have to raise the ISO by three stops with the G3, so where I would have used f/8 with ISO 100 with the SX10 I now use f/22 with ISO 800 with the G3. ISO 800 on the G3 looks similar to ISO 100 on the SX10, so when using available light in conditions where shutter speed is the main constraint there isn't much in it. In available light the G3 pulls away in IQ terms once the light level reaches a level where turning down the ISO has more benefit than using a faster shutter speed. It is also better where flash is the primary light source and I can turn down the ISO. That isn't as much of an advantage as it might be because of another preference I have, for not having dark/black areas in the background. Depending on the distances to the furthest visible background, that can, and quite often does, mean leaving the ISO on 800 (as far up as I go except in exceptional circumstances) even when using flash so as to help give some content to the darker areas of the background.
Well, in my "equivalence" (FL and DoF, for similar diffraction) experiments in limited ambient light I was able to produce similar images with the S60 P&S and the D90, both for wide-angle and medium-FL closeups. I also had to bump ISO on the D90 to the point where noise became similar to the P&S sensor, but the exposure time was still shorter on the S60. Of course with flash the advantages of the larger sensor show up (but the dark backgrounds are surely an issue). But in order to make some use of a better sensor such as D800, one would have to work at wider apertures, which conflicts with reasonable DoF. And the traditional wisdom of larger sensors for low light often doesn't hold. I guess you have much more mileage than I do I think you'd need to avoid smallest apertures if you want to reach advantages of better glass and sensors, which'd probably make you stack focus for DoF, a royal complication of course. Automation of focus stacking is possible (stackshot, or certain hacked camera firmwares may support this). You may be interested in Photomacrography forums.
There is a lot of light loss at high magnifications. EVFs tend to amplify light up to a certain level, but below that they get useless, while you may still see something through the OVF.
That is one problem I haven't experienced yet with the LCD, even with subjects within plant foliage under tree foliage in the late afternoon.
Comes at higher magnifications, and with setups that lack auto aperture. But you must have noticed the noise increase, and some cameras drop preview frame rate to counter.
If you want both quality and reasonable DoF at high magnifications, you will rather have to consider focus stacking than AF - have you done any frames 5mm wide so far?
I've captured a very small number, but I wouldn't regard any of them as usable. Here is one of my failures from today as it happens. The image covers just over 4mm width.So I'm trying! Obviously the subject was not at a good angle in terms of the dof coverage. I need to get more practical experience at that scale before drawing any conclusions. It may well turn out to be stacking or forget it, in which case I may well leave it be - not sure I'd want to get into stacking at that scale out in the wild, especially as breeze-free conditions are extremely rare here, and I'm not really interested in relocating subjects into artificial environments to take pictures of them.
I think this is a very good illustration of what I meant to say. And there'd be even less DoF if you wanted sharper detail. At high magnifications even shooting stamps without stacking becomes a challenge Very-short-FL reversed lenses (preferably on bellows) may be a stack-less workaround, due to blurring the OOF parts of the subject less. On Oly/Canon there is an interesting workaround for the lack of auto-aperture, namely a hacked wire connection between two extension tubes, one attached to the boy and the other to the lens. Or, you may find you can avoid a lot of complications by avoiding the high-magnification stuff
For lower magnifications up to 1:1 (and a bit more with workarounds) you can have another "ordinary" AF macro lens.
Yes, up to 1:1 there really isn't a problem. Well, except for working distance with some solutions, like the Panasonic 45mm macro and possibly the Olympus 60mm macro as well. I wish someone would make a longer focal length, AE and AF MFT 1:1 macro prime (with IS that is of some use at macro distances being on my wish list too, and almost certain to stay there I would have thought).
How about the FT Sigma 150 on mFT (hopefully auto-aperture and AF works over adapter?)? Though I'm not sure if you like that much background blur - impacts the OOF part of the subject too... makes you want to stack focus... and don't count on IS except for viewfinder stabilisation at such FL, becomes an extreme sport regarding technique.

gardenersassistant wrote: Not sure I follow that. I get (pretty much) the same DOF at f/22 with my G3 as I do with f/8 with my bridge cameras, with f/22 being the smallest available aperture on the G3 zooms and f/8 being the smallest available aperture on the SX10 and S3. For a given shutter speed I have to raise the ISO by three stops with the G3, so where I would have used f/8 with ISO 100 with the SX10 I now use f/22 with ISO 800 with the G3. ISO 800 on the G3 looks similar to ISO 100 on the SX10, so when using available light in conditions where shutter speed is the main constraint there isn't much in it. In available light the G3 pulls away in IQ terms once the light level reaches a level where turning down the ISO has more benefit than using a faster shutter speed. It is also better where flash is the primary light source and I can turn down the ISO. That isn't as much of an advantage as it might be because of another preference I have, for not having dark/black areas in the background. Depending on the distances to the furthest visible background, that can, and quite often does, mean leaving the ISO on 800 (as far up as I go except in exceptional circumstances) even when using flash so as to help give some content to the darker areas of the background.
Well, in my "equivalence" (FL and DoF, for similar diffraction) experiments in limited ambient light I was able to produce similar images with the S60 P&S and the D90, both for wide-angle and medium-FL closeups. I also had to bump ISO on the D90 to the point where noise became similar to the P&S sensor, but the exposure time was still shorter on the S60. Of course with flash the advantages of the larger sensor show up (but the dark backgrounds are surely an issue). But in order to make some use of a better sensor such as D800, one would have to work at wider apertures, which conflicts with reasonable DoF. And the traditional wisdom of larger sensors for low light often doesn't hold. I guess you have much more mileage than I do I think you'd need to avoid smallest apertures if you want to reach advantages of better glass and sensors, which'd probably make you stack focus for DoF, a royal complication of course. Automation of focus stacking is possible (stackshot, or certain hacked camera firmwares may support this). You may be interested in Photomacrography forums.
There is a lot of light loss at high magnifications. EVFs tend to amplify light up to a certain level, but below that they get useless, while you may still see something through the OVF.
That is one problem I haven't experienced yet with the LCD, even with subjects within plant foliage under tree foliage in the late afternoon.
Comes at higher magnifications, and with setups that lack auto aperture. But you must have noticed the noise increase, and some cameras drop preview frame rate to counter.
If you want both quality and reasonable DoF at high magnifications, you will rather have to consider focus stacking than AF - have you done any frames 5mm wide so far?
I've captured a very small number, but I wouldn't regard any of them as usable. Here is one of my failures from today as it happens. The image covers just over 4mm width.So I'm trying! Obviously the subject was not at a good angle in terms of the dof coverage. I need to get more practical experience at that scale before drawing any conclusions. It may well turn out to be stacking or forget it, in which case I may well leave it be - not sure I'd want to get into stacking at that scale out in the wild, especially as breeze-free conditions are extremely rare here, and I'm not really interested in relocating subjects into artificial environments to take pictures of them.
I think this is a very good illustration of what I meant to say. And there'd be even less DoF if you wanted sharper detail. At high magnifications even shooting stamps without stacking becomes a challenge Very-short-FL reversed lenses (preferably on bellows) may be a stack-less workaround, due to blurring the OOF parts of the subject less. On Oly/Canon there is an interesting workaround for the lack of auto-aperture, namely a hacked wire connection between two extension tubes, one attached to the boy and the other to the lens. Or, you may find you can avoid a lot of complications by avoiding the high-magnification stuff
For lower magnifications up to 1:1 (and a bit more with workarounds) you can have another "ordinary" AF macro lens.
Yes, up to 1:1 there really isn't a problem. Well, except for working distance with some solutions, like the Panasonic 45mm macro and possibly the Olympus 60mm macro as well. I wish someone would make a longer focal length, AE and AF MFT 1:1 macro prime (with IS that is of some use at macro distances being on my wish list too, and almost certain to stay there I would have thought).
How about the FT Sigma 150 on mFT (hopefully auto-aperture and AF works over adapter?)? Though I'm not sure if you like that much background blur - impacts the OOF part of the subject too... makes you want to stack focus... and don't count on IS except for viewfinder stabilisation at such FL, becomes an extreme sport regarding technique.

_sem_ wrote: Well, in my "equivalence" (FL and DoF, for similar diffraction) experiments in limited ambient light I was able to produce similar images with the S60 P&S and the D90, both for wide-angle and medium-FL closeups. I also had to bump ISO on the D90 to the point where noise became similar to the P&S sensor, but the exposure time was still shorter on the S60. Of course with flash the advantages of the larger sensor show up (but the dark backgrounds are surely an issue). But in order to make some use of a better sensor such as D800, one would have to work at wider apertures, which conflicts with reasonable DoF. And the traditional wisdom of larger sensors for low light often doesn't hold.
Very informative, thanks. A lot of that chimes with my experience. The trade-offs do seem to level the playing field to a very great extent, in both directions, up towards FF and down towards P&S/bridge (don't laugh, but as well as sometimes wondering about FF, I also wonder about the likes of the FZ200). It is not a simple equation - technicalities, (changing) preferences and objectives, (in)compatibilities, shooting circumstances and opportunities, subjects, available time, available money, legacy equipment, how handy and creative at building stuff oneself etc etc, all interacting.
I guess you have much more mileage than I do
I think not. Many captures, and a lot of practice with PP, but no experience of solutions other than bridge and MFT with achromats. Very limited.
I think you'd need to avoid smallest apertures if you want to reach advantages of better glass and sensors, which'd probably make you stack focus for DoF, a royal complication of course. Automation of focus stacking is possible (stackshot, or certain hacked camera firmwares may support this). You may be interested in Photomacrography forums.
Yes, I pop into places like http://www.photomacrography.net from time to time. And I marvel at some of what I see.
There is a lot of light loss at high magnifications. EVFs tend to amplify light up to a certain level, but below that they get useless, while you may still see something through the OVF.
That is one problem I haven't experienced yet with the LCD, even with subjects within plant foliage under tree foliage in the late afternoon.
Comes at higher magnifications, and with setups that lack auto aperture. But you must have noticed the noise increase, and some cameras drop preview frame rate to counter.
I'm not really conscious of it. Perhaps that is because I use the LCD to frame shots, but not to establish focus, so the quality of what I see isn't a big issue. Dunno. Perhaps I'm just extraordinarily unobservant about some things. Yes, that would be my best guess.
I think this is a very good illustration of what I meant to say. And there'd be even less DoF if you wanted sharper detail. At high magnifications even shooting stamps without stacking becomes a challenge Very-short-FL reversed lenses (preferably on bellows) may be a stack-less workaround, due to blurring the OOF parts of the subject less. On Oly/Canon there is an interesting workaround for the lack of auto-aperture, namely a hacked wire connection between two extension tubes, one attached to the boy and the other to the lens. Or, you may find you can avoid a lot of complications by avoiding the high-magnification stuff
By and large I suspect that is how it will turn out. Occasional forays into high-magnification just to convince myself that it really isn't my thing, and just enjoy the wonders that other people are producing.
How about the FT Sigma 150 on mFT (hopefully auto-aperture and AF works over adapter?)?
Can't find it on Panasonic's compatibility list. I've found hints elsewhere that it will AF (don't know about auto-aperture), but slowly. But nothing really convincing one way or the other.
Though I'm not sure if you like that much background blur - impacts the OOF part of the subject too...
Hmmm. No, I don't think I would like that.
makes you want to stack focus... and don't count on IS except for viewfinder stabilisation at such FL, becomes an extreme sport regarding technique.
Yes. I suspect I'm more suited to less demanding stuff, with a more easy-going, less controlled approach, a bit slapdash.

_sem_ wrote: Well, in my "equivalence" (FL and DoF, for similar diffraction) experiments in limited ambient light I was able to produce similar images with the S60 P&S and the D90, both for wide-angle and medium-FL closeups. I also had to bump ISO on the D90 to the point where noise became similar to the P&S sensor, but the exposure time was still shorter on the S60. Of course with flash the advantages of the larger sensor show up (but the dark backgrounds are surely an issue). But in order to make some use of a better sensor such as D800, one would have to work at wider apertures, which conflicts with reasonable DoF. And the traditional wisdom of larger sensors for low light often doesn't hold.
Very informative, thanks. A lot of that chimes with my experience. The trade-offs do seem to level the playing field to a very great extent, in both directions, up towards FF and down towards P&S/bridge (don't laugh, but as well as sometimes wondering about FF, I also wonder about the likes of the FZ200). It is not a simple equation - technicalities, (changing) preferences and objectives, (in)compatibilities, shooting circumstances and opportunities, subjects, available time, available money, legacy equipment, how handy and creative at building stuff oneself etc etc, all interacting.
I guess you have much more mileage than I do
I think not. Many captures, and a lot of practice with PP, but no experience of solutions other than bridge and MFT with achromats. Very limited.
I think you'd need to avoid smallest apertures if you want to reach advantages of better glass and sensors, which'd probably make you stack focus for DoF, a royal complication of course. Automation of focus stacking is possible (stackshot, or certain hacked camera firmwares may support this). You may be interested in Photomacrography forums.
Yes, I pop into places like http://www.photomacrography.net from time to time. And I marvel at some of what I see.
There is a lot of light loss at high magnifications. EVFs tend to amplify light up to a certain level, but below that they get useless, while you may still see something through the OVF.
That is one problem I haven't experienced yet with the LCD, even with subjects within plant foliage under tree foliage in the late afternoon.
Comes at higher magnifications, and with setups that lack auto aperture. But you must have noticed the noise increase, and some cameras drop preview frame rate to counter.
I'm not really conscious of it. Perhaps that is because I use the LCD to frame shots, but not to establish focus, so the quality of what I see isn't a big issue. Dunno. Perhaps I'm just extraordinarily unobservant about some things. Yes, that would be my best guess.
I think this is a very good illustration of what I meant to say. And there'd be even less DoF if you wanted sharper detail. At high magnifications even shooting stamps without stacking becomes a challenge Very-short-FL reversed lenses (preferably on bellows) may be a stack-less workaround, due to blurring the OOF parts of the subject less. On Oly/Canon there is an interesting workaround for the lack of auto-aperture, namely a hacked wire connection between two extension tubes, one attached to the boy and the other to the lens. Or, you may find you can avoid a lot of complications by avoiding the high-magnification stuff
By and large I suspect that is how it will turn out. Occasional forays into high-magnification just to convince myself that it really isn't my thing, and just enjoy the wonders that other people are producing.
How about the FT Sigma 150 on mFT (hopefully auto-aperture and AF works over adapter?)?
Can't find it on Panasonic's compatibility list. I've found hints elsewhere that it will AF (don't know about auto-aperture), but slowly. But nothing really convincing one way or the other.
Though I'm not sure if you like that much background blur - impacts the OOF part of the subject too...
Hmmm. No, I don't think I would like that.
makes you want to stack focus... and don't count on IS except for viewfinder stabilisation at such FL, becomes an extreme sport regarding technique.
Yes. I suspect I'm more suited to less demanding stuff, with a more easy-going, less controlled approach, a bit slapdash.

Drop the Raynox, buy extension tube set and gear head with a macro rail. Then invest in an off-camera flash cable and make or buy a diffuser. Only better alternative is to go with the MP-E65 which you can only use for macro. I'd also highly recomend an dslr like 600 650 or 60D for the articulating screen. For me this is an essential pre-requisite, I have the 60D and definately use mirror lock up and a remote shutter. Next step is focus stacking.

Drop the Raynox, buy extension tube set and gear head with a macro rail. Then invest in an off-camera flash cable and make or buy a diffuser. Only better alternative is to go with the MP-E65 which you can only use for macro. I'd also highly recomend an dslr like 600 650 or 60D for the articulating screen. For me this is an essential pre-requisite, I have the 60D and definately use mirror lock up and a remote shutter. Next step is focus stacking.

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