Macro set up #2: Olympus E-M1 + Panasonic 35-100 + Canon 250D close up lens

This set-up is similar to the one used for the flower photos in the previous post and which is shown two posts-ago here.  But instead of using the 500D closeup lens designed to focus a zoom lens at 50cm (about 20"), the 250D is designed to focus a zoom lens at 25cm (about 10").

The 250D is slightly thicker, perhaps because of its
greater magnification. More magnification = more glass.

Olympus E-M1 plus Panasonic 35-100mm plus Canon 250D close-up lens

This is what I found out on the Panasonic 35-100:

The advantage of the 250D is increased magnification. Assuming the lens is all the way zoomed in at 100mm (FF=200mm), by cutting the focusing distance to 10", the 250D gives close to a 1:1 macro (FF equivalent). The 500D  can only give you about a 1:2 macro (FF equivalent).

But with greater magnification comes decreased depth of field.  The depth of field with the 250D is so thin that I found it necessary to use F5.6 or F8, whereas with the 500D I used F2.8 or F4.

Depth of field at F2.8 and 100mm (FF 200mm) = Perhaps 1/2".

Depth of field at F8 and 100mm (FF 200mm) = Perhaps 3/4".
But with more gradual fall off giving the appearance of much more DOF.

Regardless of the one you use, or with any other acromatic lens for that matter, it takes some getting used to.  Your lens will not focus at infinity!  The 10" and 20" focusing distances are not minimum focusing distances, they are essentially the focusing distance.  That is why they work best on a zoom.  To widen your composition you can't move further back more than a few inches from the subject. Instead, you need keep the same focusing distance and zoom out.

Zoomed in at 100mm (FF 200mm)

Zoomed out at 35mm (FF 70mm)

The photos below were all taken with the 250D.  However, for flower photography I prefer the greater working distance of the 500D.  With less magnification, the depth of field is greater, and I can consequently use a bigger aperture thereby allowing more light to enter the lens.  The more light entering the lens, the lower the ISO required and/or the faster the shutter speed, both of which are good things.  Also, the 500D seems to be more forgiving when it comes to focusing distance.  The sweet spot is 20", but it seems I can go a couple of inches more or less than 20" and still lock focus.

Zoomed back to 65mm.  F8

At 100mm.  F8

At 100mm. F8

At 100mm. F8

80mm. F4

35mm. F2.8


Macros from Olympus E-M1 + Panasonic 35-100 + Canon 500D close-up lens

Though I have several dedicated macro lenses, I chose to take this makeshift arrangement (refer to my blog title) to the botanic gardens on Saturday.  I have had the Canon close-up lenses for many years and have used them on a number of cameras, well before I purchased my first macro lens.  From time to time it is fun to take these acromatic close-up lens out of their cases and give them a "go".

For more details and explanation see my prior post.

In all of these cases, aperture was F2.8.  I'm not sure that gave enough depth of field. You may like or not like the result.  But my desire was to get a blurry, creamy background if possible, and for that a large aperture is needed.

Except where indicated, these were shot at full zoom of 100mm (FF=200mm). With this combination of camera and lenses, when zoomed into 100mm, depth of field is about 1/4".

Here's what I got:

75mm (FF=150mm)


Macro Set up #1: Olympus E-M1 + Pany 35-100mm + Canon 500D closeup lens

For years I have been enjoying the use of add-on "filters" to add close up capabilities to zoom lenses.  These look like thick filters but are actually acromatic lenses.

I have two made by Canon: the 500D and the 250D.  They are about $100 each. Both of mine have 58mm threads. This makes them a perfect fit for the Panasonic 35-100 F2.8, which I used yesterday at the nearby botanic garden, and the Olympus kit 40-150mm F4-F5.6. The Panasonic lens is a zoom with a big aperture so it had an advantage yesterday because I wanted to shoot with a narrow depth of field to get a blurry background.  But both lenses provide very sharp images.

The 500D is designed to focus your zoom lens at 50cm (about 20") and the 250D is designed to focus your zoom lens at 25cm (about 10")

When the Panasonic is zoomed to 100mm (FF=200mm) you can get a 1:2 macro (FF equivalent) with the 500D and a 1:1 macro (FF equivalent) with the 250D.  Of course, a longer zoom will get more magnification, and is one reason I have used the Olympus kit 40-150 from time to time.

Here's the set up I used yesterday at the botanic gardens.  (I'm still reviewing the images, hoping for a few "good" ones to post later this week.)

In the foreground are the two Canon Close-up lenses: 250D and 500D

58mm threads fit perfectly on the Panasonic 35-100 mm zoom.
I used the 500D yesterday shooting flowers, and will post some
images soon.

A 500D or 250D in a larger size would work, too, but a step up ring would be required.
The advantage of the 58mm size is that it doesn't interfere with the lens hood.


Just returned from a 12-day sightseeing trip to Prince Edward Island, Canada

Yesterday I finished up a 12 day blog of my trip to PEI with my wife, Laurie.  You might enjoy looking at the photos and reading the text if you have been there before.  You'll probably recognize some of our photo locations.  After all, it's not a big island.  As I understand it, it takes about three hours to drive from end to end.

Here's a link to my bog, Peter's PEI Blog.



Why I like my sleek Sony A6000 more than my awesome Olympus E-M1 (Part 2: exposure settings)

This is Part 2.  Part 1 is here.

Exposure settings for this post relate to:

  • ISO,
  • aperture,
  • shutter speed,
  • white balance, and
  • EV compensation.

The Olympus EM-1 exposure settings are very nice.  There are two dials on the top plate with which to make adjustments and with the nifty use of an A/B lever you can get four functions from these two dials.  Unless I am out in the field for an extended time using this camera, I have to admit that I get a bit confused by all the functions.  As a result I find I do not use the A/B lever.

The Sony is rather compromised in the dial department but I've learned to like it.  I have things set up so the single top dial makes the important adjustment (changing aperture in aperture priority, changing shutter in shutter priority) and the dial around the four-way controller changes EV compensation by either rotating or (as I do) clicking the down button to get a ruler scale for EV and then I  use the right and left button to move things along the scale. In manual mode, the top dial adjusts shutter speed, the four way controller when rotated with your finger adjusts aperture, and you will need to use the down button to adjust EV compensation.

Since there is no room for a second control dial
on the top panel where it would be more convenient,
the dial around the four way controller

[Note to live view histogram fans:  When adjusting EV, as long as you do it by rotating the dial around the four way controller, you will see live adjustments to the histogram. If you use the down button instead, it will take you to a new screen for making EV adjustment using a ruler scale.  There is no histogram visible here... you will need to enter your EV choice and go back to the original view before you can see the changed histogram.... But, hey, that's a lot better than dSLR folks.  They can't see a histogram until after the picture is taken.]

I like the fact that the features accessed by the four way controller are labeled in white on a black background, so I don't have to remember them. The right button adjusts ISO, though 95% of the time I keep this at Auto ISO, for which I have set min. and max. at 100 and 6400.  (I personally am less concerned about high ISO "noise" than I am in getting a good exposure.) In comparison, the four way controller on the EM-1 is unlabeled.

Below are my four favorite exposure-making features:

1) Auto ISO works in M mode.  The EM-1 does this too, so this is not a reason for me to love the a6000 more than the EM-1, but I do need to mention this feature so as to explain feature #2) below the butterfly.

Let me give an example of why this feature is important to me. We have a local butterfly house.  I like to shoot at 1/250 sec and F8.  (For flowers out of doors I might use 1/250 sec and F2.8.) By using Auto ISO I am able to get a good RAW exposure without thinking more about it.  The Auto ISO takes charge of providing the right exposure as light changes.  This only works well if you need higher ISO than 100.  Obviously if you are outside in bright sunlight, you will get overexposed pictures because Auto ISO can only reduce ISO to 100.  You'll need to switch to aperture priority and let the speed increase above 1/25to 0 accommodate ISO 100 and F8.

M mode.  1/250sec and F8.  Auto ISO chose 1600.

2) EV compensation in M mode.  This is something the Olympus cannot do.  If you are shooting as described above and find that your images are too dark (or too light) in spite of the Auto ISO giving you a "correct exposure", you can use the down button to adjust EV.  Because you have set the shutter speed and aperture manually, the EV compensation will adjust the Auto ISO.  For example, if Auto ISO would give you 1600 for a given situation, if you set EV to -1 (i.e. underexpose by 1 stop), then Auto ISO will now give you 800.

3) Custom white balance.  I like the fact that when setting the custom white balance, you need only aim a small circle in the middle of the screen, at a white of grey card.  Try this:  wear grey or white socks and you can white balance off of them.  I just did it with a 30mm lens at my waist, aimed at one sock.  How cool is that.  With the Olympus you have to fill the entire screen with the white or grey card.  Just like the Olympus, after you create a custom white balance, you will need to confirm it with a press of the center button; but a bonus with the Sony is that on the confirmation view the white balance reading is given in degrees Kelvin. (Not so on my Olympus.) I find this to be a great learning tool.

I performed a custom white balance off my sock from this distance.
2500 degrees Kelvin was the result.
The room was lit with incandescent lights.

Yes, there will be a Part 3  !


A new toy: iPro Lenses for iPhone

This kit of three add-on lenses for my iPhone 5S was a rather spontaneous purchase.  Right now, they are kind of fun.  But long term, I'm not so sure.

One of the nice things about the iPhone camera is that it is so simple and easy. Whatever image quality compromises exist, they are worth it for the ease of using the camera.  Plus easy editing.  Plus sending to friends by text or email. Plus there's dropbox.  Plus automatically copying to my iPad via whatever (iCloud?).

But when you start adding complexity, then the "image quality/fun to use" balance starts to change.  Anyway,  right now I am having fun.

The kit includes (1) case for the iPhone, (2) three lenses designed by Schnieder Optics according to the Web site but branded "Century" on the lenses, (3) a three part handle that houses the three lens... very convenient, and (4) a lens cover.  The handle is in use in the image below.  It also has a screw mount in the bottom for using a tripod.

The lenses are (1) a macro that focuses between 1"-2" from the object but will not focus when you are further away, (2) a 12mm-equivalent "super wide" angle, and (3) a 60mm-equivalent which is much better distortion-wise for people images compared with the native 30mm-equivalent lens on the iPhone.

Also available, but not part of this kit, are two other lenses:  a wide angle lens somewhere in the 20mm-equivalent range and a fish-eye lens.

I own a iPhone 5S, but I see on their Web site that there are cases available for the two new versions of the iPhone 6.  The reason you will need the case is that it provides just the right fitting for the lens.  I've seen similar lenses for sale, but they all but fit on an uncased phone, something that is not acceptable (for protection reasons) to me.

Here is a link to the iPro site

Below is the macro at work:

Note: iPro lens case has screw holes for the handle.
Macro lens attached allows 1-2" focus only.
Two sections of the three section hand are used here to support iPhone
Each of the three sections provides storage for one of the three lenses.


Why I like my sleek Sony A6000 more than my awesome Olympus E-M1 (Part 1: Look and Feel)

Well, I first have to admit my title is a bit sensational.  The fact of the matter is that I could also write a blog post (and am planning to!) in which I state just the opposite:  why I like my Oly more than my Sony.

Let me also disclose up front that if I could have only one system, it would be the Olympus.  With a few notable exceptions the Olympus is a more seriously featured camera.  And, oh, the lenses! But that's a story for another blog post.

But since I have both systems, I find that my preference is to pick up the smaller, lighter and bigger-sensored Sony. I think the preference is due to the "look" and "feel" more than the features. In exchange for the pleasing look and feel (ergonomics?  haptics?), I make do with a smaller selection of lenses, knowing that the Olympus is close at hand.  (Physically these are small enough cameras that I find it easy to carry both in a small day pack while traveling.)

The look:

I absolutely love the rangefinder look of the camera.  And it is so small for an APS-C sensored camera with interchangeable lens.  Growing up I had a love affair with my dad's German-made Kodak Retina IIIc, a rangefinder style camera with a collapsible 50mm F2.8 Schneider lens. As a kid I could only shoot black and white on my little brownie camera because color slide film was too expensive to buy and develop.  I loved the Kodachromes my dad took and likely I assumed the beautiful slides with the beautiful blue skies were because of the camera. I think the most influential part of this old psychology is the use of small cameras to make (hopefully) great images.

Sony A6000 with Sigma 30mm F2.8 and c.1955 Kodak Retina IIIC
with fixed Schneider 50mm F2.8. 
The similarities: size, flat top plate, and
viewfinder in the upper left corner.

The feel:

Sony has come up with a really compelling form factor, at least in my opinion. The A6000 simply feels great in my hand.  It feels even better with the cheap Chinese (via eBay for about $20) Arca-Swiss compatible base plate I have attached.  It adds approximately 10mm to the height of the camera, translating into 10mm of additional grip.  This easily allows me to grip the camera with all four fingers, rather than with three fingers with the pinky curled up under the camera.

The $20 Arca-Swiss compatible bottom plate/grip via eBay

Access to battery and memory card

I'm a big fan of the extra 10mm of height/grip.

I wish I'd taken my can of compressed air to blow off the pollen (it's everywhere!)
before taking this picture.

Part of the nice "feel" IMO is the viewfinder in the upper left corner, rangefinder style.  I love this.  I am right eye dominant, so this means my big greasy nose is not pressed against the display.

The lesson learned:

What this tells me is how important the look and feel can be.  These are things that are very subjective... and, perhaps, more important than features.

There will be a Part 2  !


Our granddaughter. I'm really pleased with this photo

First, let me say I am not a professional photographer, and people photography is something I need a ton of work on.  That being said....

What a great weekend we had.  It was our granddaughter's first "sleep over" and it couldn't have been more fun. When the kids are around, out comes my camera(s).  In this case it was an Olympus E-M1 with the Panasonic 35-100mm zoom at 35mm (FF=70mm).

Nearly all the family images I have are what would be called "candid's". But this one is an exception, and I am very pleased.  For some reason I smiled and called her name, and she looked at me, hugged the kangaroo tighter and posed.  What a delightful result!

Some technical comments.

First, as far as light goes, it was awful.  The family room was lit by three incandescent table and floor lamps. But at least it was consistent light.  I was using AWB, and upon review I needed to make an adjustment in Lightroom to reduce the yellow tint.  I was shooting raw, and this helps when adjusting WB in post processing.

I like the composition, though I felt it would only work as a square crop.  Also, with a little time it would improve things if I cloned out the window frame in the background... though some might not find it distracting.

I like the exposure.  But it was a challenge because of the natural light coming through the windows in the background.  As I recall, I accepted the center weighted metering and then added +1 EV.  The result was the following exposure details:

No Flash
ISO 2000 (I almost always use autoISO when not using a flash)
1/25sec (I love image stabilization!)
F2.8 (I'd shoot at F2 if I could have it in a mFT zoom)

If I had a willing subject (who could sit still for more than a few seconds haha) I would have loved to have tried the same shot with a flash, bouncing behind and to the left of me.  At the very least I could have mixed it (50%) with the ambient light (50%) thereby bringing the ISO down to 1000.

But I am not complaining. Not too many years ago I'd have been shocked if I'd been told that one day I would be satisfied with images shot at ISO 2000.


This season's last day of skiing

My brother and friends "out west" were pretty jeoleous of the ski conditions "back east" this winter.  It was a combination of a low snow fall in the west and a bountiful snow fall in the east.

Yesterday was the last day for many New England ski areas.  I skied Cannon Mountain, a New Hampshire owned and run ski area with a storied history.  It's a rugged mountain in winter, known for its wind and ice.  But when the snow is good, there's nothing better than a day at Cannon.

As an avid skier it seemed crazy that Cannon was closing.  There is just so much snow.  Sure, there were bare spots.  But they were few and far between.  The icing on the cake yesterday morning was a touch of overnight snow on the upper mountain.  As cold as some of these pictures look, the temperature pretty quickly moved into the 50s and near 60 about 2 p.m.  The April lift ticket pricing of 2-for-1 was a nice bonus.

These were taken with a Panasonic TS-3 weather resistant point and shoot camera.


Red Maple: Which do you like better?

This is one of my favorite pictures from a vacation Laurie and I took last fall.  Interestingly, though we were staying on the coast of Maine, this image shows a Red Maple next to fresh water.

I recently entered this image in a photo club competition.  The judge had nice things to say about it, but nevertheless scored it with a 25.  The comments are more important to me; however, 25 is a pretty mediocre score.  (Scores almost always range from 20-30.)

Here are the judge's comments:
Love the composition, it is pleasing and balanced.  It has a calmness to it -- the tree and its reflection are the clear subjects.  Beautiful colors without being in your face.
Because of the disconnect between the critique and the score, I talked a bit with friends at the club to see what they thought would improve the image.

One friend (thank you, Paul) mentioned the layer of white sky at the top... and that perhaps some might find that distracting.

So, below I am showing the original image followed by one in which the white layer of clouds has been cropped out.  I tried first to crop the original 3:2 aspect ratio image to 4:3, but that cut off too much.  The resulting crop is somewhere in-between.

Which do you like better? If you would prefer not to comment publicly below, shoot me an email (my "contact me" address is in the left side bar).