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Old 02-08-2010, 09:18 PM
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Suggestions on close-up lens?

Hi all,
This past Christmas, DH surprised me with a DSLR to use taking pictures of my orchids. Initially, he bought the Sony Alpha 230, but we upgraded to the 330 to get the "live view" feature. In the wheelchair, it's sometimes difficult to get my eye to the viewfinder while trying to get the right composition for the shot. Seeing the image through the LCD helps me with that.

Anyway, I want to buy a close up lens, so I've been selling all kinds of stuff on eBay and Amazon to raise the money. Initially, I was just going to buy the Sony 30mm macro (currently $175 on sale), but I've been selling so much stuff, I started thinking about upgrading.

However, I really don't know anything about these lenses. I don't know why a 50mm macro would be better than the 30mm, and why a 100mm would be worth so much. Plus, there are other brands that would work, so how on earth do I decide? I could probably go a couple hundred more, and since I'm probably only going to buy one of these, why not get the best I can afford?

On the other hand, if I spend less on a good one, I'd have more money left for orchids. What a dilemma!

Recommendations and explanations of what I should look for would be much appreciated. And please...use small words. I don't really understand much about all this stuff!
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Old 02-08-2010, 09:34 PM
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When you get into macro photography in a big way it REALLY helps often times to get some distance from your subject - because you are so close with a smaller lens even your camera can block out some of the light and otherwise get it/you in the way and be a problem. I highly recommend you consider 100mm macro lenses if there is any way you can get there. #1 issue is of course THEY ARE EXPENSIVE. Oftentimes they cost as much or more than your camera. I have a Canon and my best friend has a Sigma that does an exceptional job as well. If you are patient and stick with a search for one you should be able to find one for near half price retail. Not sure what Sony offers but possibly something similar? Good luck! An absolute must with these is a GOOD TRIPOD as well, as most shots will be be able to be hand held.
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Old 02-08-2010, 09:36 PM
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So does the great mm mean you can be farther away from the subject to get the shot? I don't quite follow why that is. Remember, I'm a newbie with this stuff.
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Old 02-09-2010, 12:09 AM
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YES - Not only farther away, but less potential for other issues as well - such as lighting issues that I noted and also if you are taking pictures of something very small you will have less visual distortion - it will appear more "natural". I'm trying to imagine in simplified terms how to illustrate this - try me on this one......
Look at your computer monitor as close at the eye can get and still see the entire perimeter. Note how the "middle" of the field of view is accentuated. The outside is visible but somewhat distorted/unnatural. Now back up and look at the entire monitor again and imagine you can only see the monitor from further back. If you need to, take your hands and form a square or circle and look through them at your monitor to help block out the perimeter. This is a little bit like the idea of what you will be noting in the difference between taking a picture close up with say the difference between a 50mm and a 100mm lens. I would suggest you visit a camera shop and have them put each lens on a camera body for you and then try them and see how close you have to get to take a picture of something the size of an orchid flower for example.
There does come a time when the larger mm doesn't work real well for other types of shots. For example taking a picture of an entire large plant would force you to be a LONG way away with a 100mm macro, whereas a 50mm might work nicely. What I've found is that the inexpensive zoom lens that came with the camera does an acceptable job (though not great) with the entire plant pics and larger and the macro lens has its place with the closeups in unsurpassed quality. Keep up the questions and keep learning - YOU WILL get it........
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Old 02-09-2010, 09:05 AM
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Several issues happen when using macro lenses.

The longer the mm length the further you will be from the flower. The perspective also changes making the flower smaller in relation to the background. Long lenses have less depth of field so the background will blur more with eh long lenses. This can be a problem since when used at the faster f-stop openings you may not be able to get the entire flower in focus.

The 30mm wide angle will give you the most depth of field and keep more in focus. All the varying factors go into deciding which to buy.

I do not think you will like the 100mm which on your camera is the equivalent of 200mm on a 35mm film camera. You will not get the entire flower in focus without supplemental studio lighting.

Try both the 30 and 50mm before buying. A full line camera shop will let you try them. With the 30 mm you will shooting about 1 foot from the flower and with the 50mm between 1 1/2 to 2 feet. This may be very important to you. The 100mm will get you about 4 feet away but you may not like the results of the limited focus.
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Old 02-09-2010, 12:09 PM
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Jerry makes some great points - try them out before you buy. What is not really noted in his post is much about the word "MACRO". In my mind by definition that implies you will want to be taking pics of things close up. You begin to get an appreciation for small flowers and other small objects that you never "see" without. What you see behind your viewfinder will fill you with wonder. For me taking pics of individual flowers and small objects a 100mm works perfectly. For taking pictues of entire plants or photo displays like Jerry does a lot - NO. So part of the question would be what is your main intent that you plan to use such a lens for? Also, as he notes, the majority of the common consumer digital DSLR cameras will utilize the lenses as they would appear 1.6X what they would have appeared with a 35mm camera - so a 100 is like a 160. A 50mm will shoot like a 35mm camera's 80mm lens.
Depth of field, as noted by Jerry, is another important consideration. For most of what I take with a macro lens I don't want much depth of field. If I take a picture of a single flower I don't want to see all the leaves behind, other flowers behind that, the garbage can in the background, the electrical outlet on the wall, etc. With good technique you can learn to fuzz out/create "bokeh" that will actually create artistic expression to enhance the detail of your point of interest that IS in focus.
Yes Yes Yes - as Jerry noted - try some out and see what fulfills your needs! Enjoy the journey.........
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Old 02-09-2010, 12:37 PM
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I normally use a 105mm
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Old 02-09-2010, 02:15 PM
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Wow, guys thanks, this is helpful. I should mention that I upgraded from a digital point & shoot...my 35mm film days are long behind me, and I never shot with anything but the lens my camera came with. However, I did take photography classes in high school and college, so I understand f/stops, ISO and depth of field, generally. I'm having to dredge this stuff up from deep memory storage!

I've also got two lenses: DT18-55mm F3.505.6 SAM and DT55-200mm F4-5.6 SAM zoom lens.

I want to use this to take close-ups of the orchids. Distance from the subject is an issue for me in the chair. Two feet away is probably the best...four feet is really quite a ways away (I just took out a tape measure to check), but perhaps with a tripod and a remote shutter release this could work.

Mike, you brought up the word "Macro". I don't really think I understand what that means. How does it compare to the lenses I already have?

Also, I've seen some "close up" filter kits. They're inexpensive, but do they work, and if so, how?
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Old 02-09-2010, 02:50 PM
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Macro = close up photography. Historically this has come to mean being able to focus on an image and produce an image on 35mm film approaching or equal to the size of the image itself - 1:1. Sometimes vendors even use 1:2 conversion factors to refer to macro capability (image on the film half the actual size). With modern digital cameras that do not use film this reference is getting to be less significant. Now days most camera vendors just tell you how close you can get to an image. Keep in mind that a macro lens is optimized to focus sharply on a small area approaching the size of the image near its closest focus point. Close up lens kits will get you closer to your subject, but the sharpness and lack of other visual distortion issues of the resulting image will not be as good as using a quality macro lens. It gets you "there", but with compromise. I have similar lenses that you have and if I can I will try and take a few pictures of an orchid with each and show you the difference later this week compared to my 100! Good questions.....
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Old 02-09-2010, 05:12 PM
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Is it ok to talk brands here? If not, I hope one of the moderators will let me know.

I understand that my camera will fit any Sony or Minolta DSLR lens, but I've also seen Sigmas advertised as fitting my camera as well. The Sigmas seem to be less expensive (or maybe I'm just not comparing apples). Any thoughts on the relative qualities of different brands?

And what about buying used?
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Old 02-10-2010, 12:23 AM
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Regarding camera lenses - the brands that match your camera or generally more expensive - some would argue to a point you get what you pay for - quality glass, quality METAL pieces in lenses (vs plastic), etc. My friend and I have compared the 100mm Canon macro to the 105mm Sigma macro - and they do have some interesting differences, as they probably will with the brands you note as well. My friend actually preferred the Sigma and sold me his Canon! Whether they will be signicant for your use is for you to decide. For one thing the Sigma is not "fixed" in physical length as it focuses it lengthens/shortens - unlike more expensive lenses. It is lighter - which some people like. Any of the brand lenses you have noted will last you a lifetime and make great photos.
I took some pictures to compare lenses - using my Dtps Pucherina X Dtps Budda's Treasure as the subject. :-) All pictures are resized to about 800 X 533 and no post processng has been done. WHAT DO YOU THINK?????
First a pic taken with my standard inexpensive 18-55 kit zoom lens.
First pic taken at 18mm - as close as I can get - about 12 inches.

Next picture taken at 55mm - as close as I can get - about 12 inches.

Next picture taken with my 55-250mm kit zoom lens -at about 250mm - about 3-4 feet away - as close as I can get!

Next picture taken with my 100mm Macro lens - as close as I can get - about 10 inches

Last picture is taken with 100mm Macro lens - about 2 feet away - to show nice two bloom pic with this lens.
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Old 02-10-2010, 12:35 AM
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If you get a 100mm macro, which I use exclusively when using the Canon 40D, you will need a ring light to give soft, even illumination of your subject. It fits onto the end of the lens, and you shoot through it. A normal flash is much too harsh for flower photography, especially when you have a flower with waxy petals.

The majority of my macro work is done on my Olympus FE120 point n shoot using available light, with the camera on a tripod and set to Self Timer to eliminate camera shake.

Before Xmas I offered to help someone with this technique, but have forgotten who it was as I was laid up with sciatica again for 4 weeks and was zonked out with meds and the memory suffered a little during this time. Whoever it was please PM me and we'll get on with the lessons...... sorry.

Koshki, if you want to see examples of what I have done on the Olympus let me know. A camera is only as good as it's operator.

BTW, good pikkies Mike.
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Old 02-10-2010, 02:05 AM
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Quote] Is it ok to talk brands here?
yes it is ok to talk about brands

I think you have got some great advice so far
thanks for all the replies geeks excellent

good photos Mike
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Old 02-10-2010, 06:22 AM
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Mayes is right in his description of 'Macro' which makes me think that most people do not need a macro lens for orchid photography and in fact although I own one I do not use it for orchids. I use the basic Nikon lenses that came with the camera of 55mm and can focus to about 18 inches.

If you want art photos of parts of orchids (which has been popular lately) then a macro is necessary. If you are photographing the whole flower then a lens that has a close focus range is sufficient.

One reason for the high cost of Marco lenses and especially the longer lenses is that a normal camera lens being curved in the front does not focus flat on the sensor. With a normal shot the slight difference is not noticeable. When shotting macro 1:1 ratio the edges will be out of focus. Hence it is a difficult manufacturing process to make a macro lens that focuses flat on the sensor. The longer the lens the more difficult the manufacturing and more expense. When you shot anything bigger than one inch the need for a macro diminishes. Shotting a 3-4 inch flower does not require a macro.

People on this forum mistakenly consider a 'macro' lens necessary for good photos. It is not. What is necessary is sharp focus and a steady hand. Learn to use the spot focus feature on your camera and focus on the most important element, usually the lip.

Many of the photos I see on the forum with an apology for a 'bad' camera is really the use of the general full sensor focus which focused on the background leaving the orchid out of focus.

You may well like a ring light as Anton recommended.
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Old 02-10-2010, 02:11 PM
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Wow, Mike, what a great illustration of the different lenses! This really helps me a lot, especially your notes about the distance. I also wouldn't have thought to try my zoom lens for shots. This also helped me better understand the lens I have. And, I must say, what a beautiful orchid!

About the Sigma lens, are you saying that it's a zoom like what I've got now with a range of sizes? If so, this might actually be more practical for me.

Anton, you read my mind. My next question was going to be about the light ring. I was wondering about the quality of the light, as I was thinking it might wash out the shot or make it look too flat.

Jerry, I can see from Mike's photos that a macro is not absolutely necessary for taking nice photos. In fact, I like the way his shot looks using the zoom lens with the short depth of field. But I'm interested in getting into the "mini minis"...the ones that are small AND have small flowers. I think you really need a close up lens to appreciate them! Your explanation of the manufacturing issues is really helpful, too.

So, what do you guys think about buying a used lens?
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Old 02-10-2010, 02:28 PM
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There are zoom lenses that have macro capability, but not usually the quality of a lens made specifically for this purpose. No, the sigma macro lens changes length with the distance to the subject in order to focus. As I recall, the closer you want to be the longer the lens becomes - but it will stay at a fixed focal length - like 105mm.
Used lenses that are properly taken care of are just as good as new. Some are even rarely used to the point that they look new. Many people try them and put them away and hardly (if ever) use them again!
About the light ring - I can see where it would be useful, but if the subject is not moving and you get a good tripod you can usually do with natural light for most subjects. Another concept that would be good for lighting would be a light "box". Check out this site - I'm considering this as a good photo tool(s) - Flower photography tips - how to photograph flowers
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Old 02-10-2010, 05:05 PM
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That light box is interesting. It reminds me of a pop-up tent my girls had when they were little...although it was pink and yellow! Are you planning on getting one?
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Old 02-10-2010, 05:23 PM
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With ring lights, you control your exposure manually to get the lighting correct. If your image is too bright, just drop the exposure back a bit until you get it right.

I'll take Jerry to task here, I will guarantee I'll get a far better image of a whole flower using a macro lens that your 50mm standard lens. You would have to crop a fair bit of the image to just get a single flower filling the frame.

By using a tripod, I can also get sufficient depth of field to render all of the flower in focus. By playing with the aperture, I totally control how much of the image I want in focus. Mind you, that is by using an SLR or other camera that has aperture settings such as the Canon Power Shot G series.
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Old 02-11-2010, 02:38 PM
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Couple more questions. I've been reading over the Sony lens spec sheet, comparing the 50mm with the 100mm, and noticed a difference in the angle of view: 32 degrees vs. 16 degrees. What does this mean?

And since I can ask about brands, anyone have any feedback on either Tamron or Tokina? I can find a 90mm Tamron macro lens for about $400, while the Sony 100mm is going for nearly $600. (Money left over for more orchids!!)
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Old 02-11-2010, 03:13 PM
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Here is a visual for your first question - angles are not actually calculated but the general idea is demonstrated.
As far as the brands go - all those brands will produce good images - I suggest again that you go to a good camera shop with your camera and take some macro pictures with each and see what you think! It will only cost you some time at this point. In general though the lenses that cost more do so for a reason.....whether or not each is signicant to YOU is up to you to decide.......
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Old 02-11-2010, 03:18 PM
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Ok, so the smaller the angle, the greater the distance you need to be from the object to take the "same" photo?

I know I need to get out to see these lenses in person...but we've had a lot of snow, and, well, excuses, excuses.
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Old 02-11-2010, 04:28 PM
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This thread is really useful to me too, as I'm trying to decide on what to spend my hard earnt cash, so thanks to everyone.

As Jerry has pointed out, the equipment will only be as good as the operator. I think that I would also add that no matter what we buy, success will not come instantly. We (or maybe I) need to become familiar with our equipment.

To see what can be done with relatively inexpensive (in the grand scheme of photographic) equipment, take a look through this site.......
.::Thomas Orchids::.

I bought a point & shoot camera (120), but I find that by careful tweaking of the camera functions on my phone I get better results, so I want to be sure that I make the right choice this time. So thanks for the tips once again to all.
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Old 03-02-2010, 11:02 AM
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Ok, time for an update. I had a really good couple weeks of sales on eBay and especially books on Amazon.com, and raised enough money to buy a "used once" 100mm Sony lens! I've had a chance to use it a bit, and I'm glad I went with it. Most of the photos I submitted for the Feb photo contest were taken with it. I think I'm going to get a lot of use out of this, for a long time!

Thanks everyone for your help!
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Old 03-02-2010, 11:18 AM
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on the new lense, just was chekcing out your photo's for february contest! And they are lookin Gooood

Look forward to all those new pics you'll be taking!
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Old 03-03-2010, 05:01 PM
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koshki

Not to confuse you anymore....but you have to remember the longer the mm the shorter the depth of field, so consequently you will have to have a smaller lens opening to get it all or most in focus....

ei small opening = shaper image
larger opening = softer and more out of focus

joe
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Old 03-03-2010, 06:29 PM
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Joe, thanks, and yep, I understand that concept. Here are a couple I took with the 100mm:

Dtps. Ho's Little Caroline Dtps. Ho's Little Caroline.jpg

NOID Phal NOID Phal.jpg

I like the fuzzy effect of things in the background. But your point is well taken...I do need to better learn how to adjust things manually with my camera, as most of my shots are using the auto-focus, so I get what it thinks I want, instead of me deciding more about the image. I've got a pretty good book (not the manual!) on using my camera, but the 'how to' of making these adjustments is a little obscure. I just need some time to dig into it and figure it out.

In the meantime, I'm really enjoying both this camera and this new lens!
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Old 03-04-2010, 12:27 AM
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Good Job Katherine! You are WELL on your way to becoming a PRO!
You and I BOTH like the fuzzy background effect - figuring out when and how to use it to best complement the object in focus is what makes part of the process a challenge. Looking forward to seeing more pics in the future!
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