"I'm a newbie..." Mon 17-Jun-13 02:13 AM by LuisGonzalezLT
I have shot a lot over the years but never really did much in the realm of macro. Having decided recently to try it out more I had to first start to figure out the gear.
I already had a Nikon 85mm F/2.8 PC-E lens that did half life size. I also had a Nikon TC-20E III 2X teleconverter so I put that on the lens to create a 170mm F/5.6 that would go life size and played around with that.
Of course, I had to check out the legendary Nikon 200mm F/4 Micro so I picked up one of those to compare against my rigged "170mm".
I did some quick comparison shots against some Energizer batteries. Below are my results.
The apertures don’t initially make sense for the comparisons. These are the apertures the camera was indicating, which did not take into account the 2X on the 85mm. I adjusted the aperture on the 85mm to give the same shutter speed (ambient light for these tests) as the 200mm figuring that should get the two close. The resulting comparison images look about right DOF-wise between the two lenses.
So basically I am comparing a “170mm” against the 200mm.
So, first row is really:
170mm F/9 200mm F/8 170mm F/9 Tilted
Second row is really:
170mm F/28 200mm F/22 170mm F/28 Tilted
Apertures smaller than these really started to suffer from diffraction issues so I didn't go there.
First thing I noticed is how much more longitudinal chromatic aberration (sorry - got my aberrations mixed up) the "170mm" has over the 200mm at the wider apertures - top, left shot versus top, middle shot. You can see the greener background Energizer versus the redder foreground Energizer in that top, left shot. Of course, we’re shooting the 85mm almost wide open while the 200mm is two stops closed down. Pixel-peeping sharpness-wise, however, I really could not see much difference on the full resolution originals so I didn’t bother including a sharpness comparison. The 200mm would have a slight edge there as expected.
An advantage I thought the 85mm would have is the ability to tilt, so in the top, right shot I have more "depth of field", for this type of subject anyhow. This was at max tilt - could have used a bit more... In nature, though, would this come in handy? Comments from anyone on this?
Row two is stopping down to more reasonably apertures for macro to get more depth of field. The spherical aberration issue on the 85mm is mostly gone now. I see just a touch of it in the bottom, left shot.
The bottom, right shot shows that tilting at this aperture doesn’t give you much more DOF. Not like it did at the wider aperture and not enough to want to finagle around with the feature.
Of note is that the 85 PC-E + 2X has a “slight” bit less magnification ( 170mm versus 200mm ) but not very noticeable.
So, my final thoughts, are that at wider apertures the 200mm wins hands down with reduced spherical aberration and "slightly" more resolution but at smaller apertures the PC-E + 2X performs about as well as the 200mm.
Of course, I can stick the 2X on the 200mm and get twice life size… or increased working distance, etc. I will test that separately.
I think I’ll favor the 200mm for macro work unless the still life really could benefit from the tilt feature, like in-studio shots.
I also rigged up a flash system using existing Really Right Stuff pieces parts, light stand parts, and a couple of old little Bogen ball heads I had laying around . That's the second show below. Excuse the crappy shot - old camera phone ( family of four, will cost another $850 a year to upgrade to new phones - would rather spend on camera gear ). I'm just using the on-camera flash in commander mode so I can trigger the two SB-800s and set their ratios. I have older pocket wizard Is and IIs but then I'm in manual mode. At this range Nikon CLS works great. The ball heads on the light stand right-angle clamps let me move the flashes around pretty easily. If I stick with this I'll get some of that nice RRS macro gear, including a focusing rail.
I use that rail for panos to get the right nodal point. I was trying to cobble this rig together out of existing parts and that rail turned out to be a good foundation to put the camera in the middle of and attach those clamps on the end of. Then stick the bogens and angle brackets on the back side of the clamps. It all goes together and comes apart with hand-tightening so no tools which is a plus. I can transport it in a small space and field build it pretty quickly.
Realized that "flash max shutter" sticker on the flash might be confusing due to the shutter speeds listed but that is my guide for using pocketwizard remotes on the old D50. to fire the flashes at higher shutter speeds than my newer cameras can do. The D50 was the last electronic shutter DSLR Nikon made and I can shoot the SB800s at 1/1000th of a second and still get full flash power, which I can't do with the D700s/D800s. "Auto FP" mode gets you higher shutter speeds but you lose flash power in the process. I seldom use the D50 anymore, though...