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Subject: "Is this really right?" Previous topic | Next topic
gbowen Gold Member Nikonian since 31st Mar 2011Mon 22-Oct-12 10:56 AM
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"Is this really right?"


Canton, US
          

I was perusing Really Right Stuff's site yesterday, when I came across this. Tell me what you think of it, particularly the section dealing with 105s.

"The most generally popular “macro lens” is about 50 to 60mm in focal length. That’s good for stamps & coins, but lousy for nature and wildlife work. That focal length is too short to provide adequate working distance, and the angle of coverage is too wide to isolate the subject.

The next step is a “macro lens” in a 100mm to 105mm focal length. These are better, but still entail a lot of compromise in actual usage. Here’s why:

Working distance: It’s simply not adequate for live subjects. The modern 105mm focal length “macro” lens turns out to be 80mm when it’s close-focused.

Angle of coverage: It’s too wide to provide good control of background selectivity. It’s very difficult to truly isolate the subject—make it “pop.”

No tripod collar: Most 105mm “macros” don’t have a rotating collar. Given the difficulties implicit in careful closeup focusing and framing, it’s truly agonizing to begin all over again when you want to swing from horizontal to vertical aspect (although much less so if your camera is equipped with an RRS L-plate). Beware of the poorly executed collar on the original Canon 100mm/f2.8 lens (non-IS version): it’s much too close to the lens mount, and the lens plate on the foot will hit certain camera body grips when rotating from horizontal to vertical.

These shortcomings are all neatly solved by the 180-200mm “macros”. They offer double the working distance, tight acceptance angles for easy background control, superior balance & stability, and the convenience of a tripod collar. Love those 200mm macros!

Another advantage gained when using any 200mm focal length lens for closeups is the more evenly distributed lighting that the subject receives when using flash. The lens’ longer working distance mitigates inverse square law light fall-off. A strobe can be applied with more natural results and there’s less background light fall-off."

George

  

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blw Moderator
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blw Moderator Awarded for his high level of expertise in various areas Nikonian since 18th Jun 2004Mon 22-Oct-12 02:04 PM
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#1. "RE: Is this really right?"
In response to Reply # 0


Richmond, US
          

I don't think most of this reflects current Nikonian practice, and some of it definitely is just factually wrong.

At one time, it may have been that the 55mm outsold the longer macro lenses by a wide margin, but if you look at the totals of the 55/60mm AF Micros and compare with the 105mm AF Micros, the sales are pretty comparable (roughly 700k vs 600k). If we just look at the more recent AFS versions, the 105 outsells the 60 by about 30%. I'm surprised it's even that close, as very nearly everyone I know has a 90-105mm macro lens, and only a couple of us have the shorter 55/60mm ones.

I certainly agree that the 200/f4 Micro is much more used out of my bag than the others, but then again it's a $1700 lens these days and it's pretty demanding of a tripod. With the 105/f2.8 AFS Micro being half the price, it outsells the 200 by a very wide margin. In fact, for all of its legendary status, it has barely sold over 20,000 units - in 19 years of production. By comparison the 105/f2.8 AFS VR has shipped almost 300,000, in about six years.

> 105 ... working distance ... It’s simply not adequate for live subjects.

Well, it's certainly preferable to have more, but tell all those folks who are shooting live subjects with them - it seems to work OK.

> Angle of coverage: It’s too wide to provide good control of background selectivity.

Really? Especially on DX? I'm shocked. Seriously, I do prefer the 200 for this reason, but it's not as if this is impossible with the shorter lenses. It may be a little more work, but it's definitely not impossible.

> No tripod collar... Given the difficulties implicit in careful closeup focusing and framing, it’s truly agonizing to begin all over again when you want to swing from horizontal to vertical aspect

Trivially solved with an L-bracket, from either RRS or Kirk. They don't provide as much rotational flexibility as a rotating tripod collar, but they're pretty good. I haven't really noticed much of a problem using mine. I do think that I probably do exploit the rotational freedom with the 200, but I don't miss it with the 60 and 105.

> Another advantage gained when using any 200mm focal length lens for closeups is the more evenly distributed lighting that the subject receives when using flash. The lens’ longer working distance mitigates inverse square law light fall-off. A strobe can be applied with more natural results and there’s less background light fall-off."

This is just plain false. There is absolutely nothing about focal length (short or long) that changes the inverse square law. It is just as easy to get a totally black background using macro flash with a 200mm as it is with a 60mm, because light behaves the same way regardless of focal length. Actually I'm wrong, in practice. It's slightly less of a problem with the shorter lenses. That's not because they're shorter, it's because they're f/2.8 rather than f/4, so there's a one stop better chance that your light falloff in the background is not as bad.

The basic issue in play here is that if you're lighting a macro subject with flash, it's probably from a very short distance. This means that there's relatively little light being fired from the flash - no need, it's probably within two feet and may be as close as a couple of inches. The background, however, may be many multiples of that distance. Consider a butterfly at 12 inches distance, with green leaves three feet behind it. The background is 3x as far or 9x less light, more or less three stops down. That's pretty close to black, unless there's ambient light to help. (Or a second flash dedicated to the background.) I suppose they're arguing that because a shorter focal length would have you at 6 inches, the distance is relatively twice as far away, so it's another stop down on the background? I dunno, it doesn't seem like that much of a difference in practice. I guess I can see the argument, but in practice I find that I have to use background flash a lot even with a 200mm.

Most folks who have the longer macro lenses really like them. They are more selective, they offer more working distance, and generally their performance is uniformly superb. They're also expensive, bulky, and tend to be a lot more comfortable on a tripod. The latter works for me and some other folks, not for others. Most users seem to get along fine with the 90-105mm, though. I think the commentary suffers from considerable exaggeration.

_____
Brian... a bicoastal Nikonian and Team Member

My gallery is online. Comments and critique welcomed any time!

  

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gbowen Gold Member Nikonian since 31st Mar 2011Mon 22-Oct-12 02:34 PM
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#2. "RE: Is this really right?"
In response to Reply # 1


Canton, US
          

Thanks, Brian, great informative reply!

Yeah, that had me scratching my head and saying "Huh?" Most macro shooters I have read about seem quite satisfied with their 105s. I was rather surprised at how the 105 was dissed in this article. Made me wonder if they had some agenda to help sell 200mm macros lol. Ahh, a conspiracy afoot!

I plan to use my 105, arriving tomorrow, for mineral and gem photography for sales and a sort of virtual rock collection. I have a coworker who is an avid rock hound and wants to sell, offering to split profits with me. I will handle photographing, selling, and shipping minerals and gems. Should be interesting. It certainly has whetted my appetite to shoot macro.

If the 105 proves inadequate for what I want to capture, then I may consider putting my profits toward a 200 f4. I think at first I will see how the 105 does, purchase any lighting or brackets, plates, etc. that will make my job easier and more productive. (I am open to any or all suggestions in that regard). Bottom line is to get the job done.

The 200 f4 is a great lens and I would love to have one, regardless if the 105 proves adequate or not. Not only is the 200 a great macro lens, but everything I read about it praises it for every day use. Just not for portraits as its bokeh is rated badly. It is one sharp lens however and built to professional standards.

George

  

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blw Moderator Awarded for his high level of expertise in various areas Nikonian since 18th Jun 2004Mon 22-Oct-12 03:58 PM
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#3. "RE: Is this really right?"
In response to Reply # 2


Richmond, US
          

Well, minerals and gems aren't what I would call "live" subjects Rocks don't tend to get scared and run away when a giant camera descends from the sky ready to eat them... Still, I've certainly done a fair amount of insect photography with a shorter lens - in my case mostly the Tamron 90/f2.8, but just a browse of this forum shows lots of folks using mid-range macros for all sorts of photography, including insects.

I don't think you'll have any trouble with the 105 for that gems and minerals. I don't have much trouble doing similar stuff with my 60, although I am using a ring light, which might be making lighting easier. I'd say that you're going to have less trouble with lenses than with lighting. Here's a test shot from the 60, with a ring light:


D3, 60/f2.8 AFS, f/16, 1/60th, ISO 400, flash. It's at about 1:2 or half life sized. And here's another shot:


This one's a little crunchy since it came from the D2x, which doesn't tolerate quite as aggressive touch on the sharpening controls. D2x, 105/f2.8 AFD Micro, 1/60th, f/8, ISO 100. I think this one was shot with an SB-600 bounced off a ceiling.

> the 200 a great macro lens, but everything I read about it praises it for every day use. Just not for portraits as its bokeh is rated badly

I don't think I'd worry too awfully much about bokeh with the 200. It's certainly pretty long for a portrait lens, especially on DX, but the bokeh itself doesn't seem too problematic to me:


D3, 200/f4 Micro, 1/60th, f/5.6, ISO 400, tripod/remote/Mup.

_____
Brian... a bicoastal Nikonian and Team Member

My gallery is online. Comments and critique welcomed any time!

Attachment #1, (jpg file)
Attachment #2, (jpg file)
Attachment #3, (jpg file)

  

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gbowen Gold Member Nikonian since 31st Mar 2011Mon 22-Oct-12 04:50 PM
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#6. "RE: Is this really right?"
In response to Reply # 3


Canton, US
          

>Well, minerals and gems aren't what I would call
>"live" subjects Rocks don't tend to get scared
>and run away when a giant camera descends from the sky ready
>to eat them... Still, I've certainly done a fair amount of
>insect photography with a shorter lens - in my case mostly the
>Tamron 90/f2.8, but just a browse of this forum shows lots of
>folks using mid-range macros for all sorts of photography,
>including insects.

If the rocks were to run away, I'd be going just as fast in the opposite direction!

>
>I don't think you'll have any trouble with the 105 for that
>gems and minerals. I don't have much trouble doing similar
>stuff with my 60, although I am using a ring light, which
>might be making lighting easier. I'd say that you're going to
>have less trouble with lenses than with lighting.

Lighting is always problematic, but then, that's why we don't use point and shoots here in the macro forums. If it was easy, everyone would have perfect photos every time. Now wouldn't that be boring?

George

  

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TerryMc Silver Member Nikonian since 25th Oct 2008Wed 24-Oct-12 09:53 PM
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#16. "RE: Is this really right?"
In response to Reply # 6


Sagamore Hills, US
          


>Lighting is always problematic, but then, that's why we don't
>use point and shoots here in the macro forums. If it was easy,
>everyone would have perfect photos every time. Now wouldn't
>that be boring?

Mark Smith, a fellow Nikonian, suggested getting the book entitled "Light, Science and Magic" by Fil Hunter, et al, to me when I asked him about his lighting technique.

I'm reading it now and recommend it as well (btw, thanks Mark!)

Terry

  

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buddyro48 Silver Member Nikonian since 12th Feb 2009Thu 01-Nov-12 11:05 PM
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#17. "RE: Is this really right?"
In response to Reply # 3


Santa Maria, US
          

Hi Brian,

Care to share what "light ring" you are using?
I have been in the market for one.

Thanks,
Michael

Visit my Nikonians gallery.

  

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blw Moderator Awarded for his high level of expertise in various areas Nikonian since 18th Jun 2004Fri 02-Nov-12 08:25 AM
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#18. "RE: Is this really right?"
In response to Reply # 17


Richmond, US
          

I'm using a Sigma EM-140. It works nicely for macro work. Sigma's page on it is here.

I didn't know about its existence at the time, but Metz offers the Mecablitz 15 MS-1, which is similar. The main difference is that it's wireless, so there's no connection between the power/thyristor unit and the ring. The Sigma has a wire. They are both about half the price of a Nikon R1C1 kit, which is also wireless.

The Nikon R1 kit is probably more flexible, but not only is it more expensive, it's a LOT bigger.

I've never actually used the Metz, but if I were buying new today, I'd probably get the Metz, simply because it's wireless. (If you've never heard of Metz, they've been making top-quality flash units for about 40 years.) In my case I got a used Sigma for a steal ($160) and it has been worth every penny of that.

_____
Brian... a bicoastal Nikonian and Team Member

My gallery is online. Comments and critique welcomed any time!

  

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gbowen Gold Member Nikonian since 31st Mar 2011Fri 02-Nov-12 09:06 AM
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#19. "RE: Is this really right?"
In response to Reply # 18


Canton, US
          

I had the R1C1 kit last year, but sadly I had to sell it (Like a lot of other equipment I wish I could get my hands on again) It is a load on your lens for sure.

Would I get much benefit from the Sigma doing mineral photography? Or am I better off just to use my SB600, 700 and 900 setup?

George

  

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blw Moderator Awarded for his high level of expertise in various areas Nikonian since 18th Jun 2004Fri 02-Nov-12 12:53 PM
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#20. "RE: Is this really right?"
In response to Reply # 19


Richmond, US
          

I would try what you have first. Either it suits the purpose or it does not. If it does, you save yourself a bunch of money. If it does not, you'll know why it doesn't, and then you'll be better able to evaluate something new.

Frankly I think that two flashes would be enough for what you're doing.

_____
Brian... a bicoastal Nikonian and Team Member

My gallery is online. Comments and critique welcomed any time!

  

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gbowen Gold Member Nikonian since 31st Mar 2011Fri 02-Nov-12 01:13 PM
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#21. "RE: Is this really right?"
In response to Reply # 20


Canton, US
          

The photo I put up here was done with 2 flashes to left and right, my SB-700 and 900. I just used the little bounce cards that are built into the heads. When I get serious (like this weekend! A challenge to myself to get off my butt!), I will have a light tent. Going to make one up like the Strobist box shown here:

http://strobist.blogspot.com/2006/07/how-to-diy-10-macro-photo-studio.html

I have a bigger tent, but for what I am doing I think it's too big. I don't recall the dimensions, but to me, too much area for small subjects.

Oh, and yes, saving money is important!

George

  

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Floridian Silver Member Nikonian since 11th Feb 2007Mon 22-Oct-12 04:05 PM
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#4. "RE: Is this really right?"
In response to Reply # 0


Tallahassee, Florida, US
          

Also, with regard to a 105mm, it says

>... It’s too wide to provide good control of background selectivity...

Is this really a problem? My only macro lens is the 85mm DX micro Nikkor, but when actually using it as a macro my problem seems to be the opposite: not enough depth of field. There's no problem blurring the background with this lens. It is always blurred.

I could understand this comment better if you weren't close enough to the subject to use the macro lens's close-focusing capability, but then you don't actually need a macro lens and the question is what focal length is best for the subject.

Randy

  

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gbowen Gold Member Nikonian since 31st Mar 2011Mon 22-Oct-12 04:41 PM
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#5. "RE: Is this really right?"
In response to Reply # 4


Canton, US
          

It does make you wonder who they have there at RRS writing this and if he or she really knows what they are saying. I knew I'd get a good answer here.

The main reason I am going with the 105 is my 55mm Micro is MF, and I want to use Live View. It's awfully clumsy having to open up the aperture just to see to compose and focus, then stop down to take the shot, and sometimes I plain forget to stop down. I also need a better support system. I want something that does not take up a lot of space. I have a decent tripod, but I always manage to kick or trip over one of the legs and mess up my composition. I'd like something in a table top support. I was at RRS trying to find a solution when I ran across this article. Any suggestions?

George

  

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blw Moderator Awarded for his high level of expertise in various areas Nikonian since 18th Jun 2004Mon 22-Oct-12 07:10 PM
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#8. "RE: Is this really right?"
In response to Reply # 5


Richmond, US
          

How's the Kirk table top tripod? here. Personally I'd just use my regular Gitzo, but I do understand the desire to use a tabletop. You'll still need a ball head, and probably an L-bracket.

_____
Brian... a bicoastal Nikonian and Team Member

My gallery is online. Comments and critique welcomed any time!

  

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gbowen Gold Member Nikonian since 31st Mar 2011Tue 23-Oct-12 12:07 AM
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#9. "RE: Is this really right?"
In response to Reply # 8
Tue 23-Oct-12 12:09 AM by gbowen

Canton, US
          

>How's the Kirk table top tripod?
>here.
>Personally I'd just use my regular Gitzo, but I do understand
>the desire to use a tabletop. You'll still need a ball head,
>and probably an L-bracket.

Check this out. Just what I have in mind.
http://www.kirkphoto.com/Low-Pod.html

With these
http://www.kirkphoto.com/Focusing_Rail_FR-1.html
http://www.kirkphoto.com/L-Bracket_for_Nikon_D7000.html
http://www.kirkphoto.com/BH-3_Ball_Head.html

Would be a great setup. Expensive though.

George

  

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blw Moderator Awarded for his high level of expertise in various areas Nikonian since 18th Jun 2004Tue 23-Oct-12 12:49 AM
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#10. "RE: Is this really right?"
In response to Reply # 9


Richmond, US
          

I've never used the Low Pod, but I've used all of the rest. Kirk's stuff is really good. Kinda 'spensive, but they work well. I have a Markins M20 ball head, but the Kirk BH- models are good too. (So are the RRS ones, despite their somewhat over the top macro comments.) I have Kirk L-brackets for all of my cameras, and I mean a serious compliment when I say that I just don't ever think about them, or the Markins head.

_____
Brian... a bicoastal Nikonian and Team Member

My gallery is online. Comments and critique welcomed any time!

  

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gbowen Gold Member Nikonian since 31st Mar 2011Tue 23-Oct-12 03:54 PM
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#11. "RE: Is this really right?"
In response to Reply # 10


Canton, US
          

>I've never used the Low Pod, but I've used all of the rest.
>Kirk's stuff is really good. Kinda 'spensive, but they work
>well. I have a Markins M20 ball head, but the Kirk BH- models
>are good too. (So are the RRS ones, despite their somewhat
>over the top macro comments.) I have Kirk L-brackets for all
>of my cameras, and I mean a serious compliment when I say that
>I just don't ever think about them, or the Markins head.


Markins is too expensive, and it doesn't even come with the clamp. At least the Kirk does, but that is high as well. What are these things made of? Gold?

I made a wish list up at B&H with everything I listed in my last post, and it comes out over $800. Ridiculous! Obviously I have to come up with something that doesn't cost as much as a lens. I know, I know, if you want quality, you have to pay.

So, looks like it's compromise and get by with what I can get time. I'll have to learn how to build stuff I guess.

George

  

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blw Moderator Awarded for his high level of expertise in various areas Nikonian since 18th Jun 2004Wed 24-Oct-12 07:32 AM
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#12. "RE: Is this really right?"
In response to Reply # 11


Richmond, US
          

This is one reason I just use my regular (Gitzo, expensive) tripod for this type of thing.

> What are these things made of? Gold?

No, aircraft grade aluminum. Check out the screws that hold the HK-27 hood onto the Nikkor 400/f2.8 AFS-II. Three of them cost me something on the order of $120. I believe they are made of Unobtainium. But unfortunately the 400/f2.8 is not one lens that you can shoot without a shade.

> looks like it's compromise and get by with what I can get time.

Since this is really a lighting problem you can probably even hand-hold things as long as you use enough flash. If you have sufficient flash, you could get away with spending no more money.

_____
Brian... a bicoastal Nikonian and Team Member

My gallery is online. Comments and critique welcomed any time!

  

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gbowen Gold Member Nikonian since 31st Mar 2011Wed 24-Oct-12 10:07 AM
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#13. "RE: Is this really right?"
In response to Reply # 12
Wed 24-Oct-12 10:10 AM by gbowen

Canton, US
          

>This is one reason I just use my regular (Gitzo, expensive)
>tripod for this type of thing.

One reason I was thinking a tabletop setup is I plan to use a closet to shoot minerals in. It's rather large and I can leave my setup in there, plus better controlled lighting. I may be able to use my tripod in there though, but I was thinking a compact tripod might work better. Here is a link for the tripod and head I am using. It's quite sturdy and the head is excellent.

https://www.garrettoptical.com/product-p/series5000.htm
>
>No, aircraft grade aluminum. Check out the screws that hold
>the HK-27 hood onto the Nikkor 400/f2.8 AFS-II. Three of them
>cost me something on the order of $120. I believe they are
>made of Unobtainium. But unfortunately the 400/f2.8 is not
>one lens that you can shoot without a shade.

Crazy hobby, huh?
>
>Since this is really a lighting problem you can probably even
>hand-hold things as long as you use enough flash. If you have
>sufficient flash, you could get away with spending no more
>money.

I plan to focus stack, so I need solid support and a means of keeping track, hence a rail. I think I will start with that Kirk rail and L bracket, and just go from there. If it works for me, fine. Mission accomplished.

Oh, and I think the 105 will fill the bill very well for me. So there RRS! Here's my first official photo with the lens and my first stack. I see mistakes, but then I was just fooling around. Just wait until I get serious!



George

Attachment #1, (jpg file)

  

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blw Moderator Awarded for his high level of expertise in various areas Nikonian since 18th Jun 2004Wed 24-Oct-12 12:43 PM
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#14. "RE: Is this really right?"
In response to Reply # 13


Richmond, US
          

Stacking... I would have thought no without a tripod too, but a couple of folks repeatedly have been showing hand-held stacks from the 60/f2.8 AFS here, so apparently it's possible.

You might be able to use tethering with ControlMyNikon to replace the focusing rail.

When you're stacking, especially with CMN, you could reduce the aperture to f/11 or f/8 and get sharper individual slices by avoiding the diffraction zone. Quite annoying when you're computing and shooting them manually, but when it's all automated, it's quite easy.

_____
Brian... a bicoastal Nikonian and Team Member

My gallery is online. Comments and critique welcomed any time!

  

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gbowen Gold Member Nikonian since 31st Mar 2011Wed 24-Oct-12 02:09 PM
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#15. "RE: Is this really right?"
In response to Reply # 14


Canton, US
          

>Stacking... I would have thought no without a tripod too, but
>a couple of folks repeatedly have been showing hand-held
>stacks from the 60/f2.8 AFS here, so apparently it's
>possible.

How on earth do they keep every frame lined up? I suppose that would be good out in the field so you don't have to mess with a tripod. For me it is easier with a tripod shooting indoors. Saves the arms from getting tired if for no other reason.
>
>You might be able to use tethering with ControlMyNikon to
>replace the focusing rail.
>
>When you're stacking, especially with CMN, you could reduce
>the aperture to f/11 or f/8 and get sharper individual slices
>by avoiding the diffraction zone. Quite annoying when you're
>computing and shooting them manually, but when it's all
>automated, it's quite easy.

Good idea with the aperture. Stacking eliminates the need for smaller apertures. You just have more frames to stack with wider apertures. What about Helicon Remote? I have yet to play with that. Is that capable of the same control as CMN? I like the idea of minimizing equipment. Saves money and having to deal with a rail. Simpler is better.

George

  

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blw Moderator Awarded for his high level of expertise in various areas Nikonian since 18th Jun 2004Mon 22-Oct-12 06:40 PM
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#7. "RE: Is this really right?"
In response to Reply # 4


Richmond, US
          

>... It’s too wide to provide good control of background selectivity...

> Is this really a problem?

Well, on an absolute basis, sure. The 105 is half the focal length of the 200, and yes, you get less background with the longer lens. So selecting your background can be easier. It is in fact one reason I like the 200. But that's far from the only consideration. For example, with flowers, you usually have to pick the orientation based on the flower, then you get to choose the background around that. You don't get that much choice, so the longer lens does help, but it doesn't help that much. This is about choosing what's in the background, not the bokeh. If I were a professional making my living with macro work, I would use the 200 even more than I do. But for most of us, a mid-range is easily selective enough.

_____
Brian... a bicoastal Nikonian and Team Member

My gallery is online. Comments and critique welcomed any time!

  

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Peterdan Silver Member Nikonian since 07th Jan 2012Fri 02-Nov-12 10:15 PM
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#22. "RE: Is this really right?"
In response to Reply # 7


Lebanon, US
          

Brine,
Now for the inportant stuff. N or HO.

I am not a number. I am a free man!

Visit my Nikonians gallery.

  

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