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Old Jan 20, 2013, 6:12 PM   #1
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Default choosing the right lens for macro shooting

Hi everyone,

I'm a modeller and I really would like to improve quality of pictures I take. A small description of the situation:

Today I use for this purpose a Nikon D50 with the standard 18-55mm lens. The models I take pictures of are military vehicles in 1/35th scale (15-20 cm long most often). The distance between the camera and the model is around 12-15 cm. I always shoot at night and use 5 spot lights with bulbs of 1500 lumens each. I shoot on jpeg with F22-25-29 as the raw treatment is not my strong point (I don't get any better with raw files after all). With some editing in most often google picassa (yes I know it's not the best software available ) I get to such results :

a Sherman (a quite short tank so image is quite sharp)



a T-90 (a longer model and the image is less sharp)



I was looking here and there and found that a macro lens could THE solution for me. The choice is not so vast but... I'm let's say very novice in the DSLR and lens business.

The lens I look most at is the AF-S DX Micro-Nikkor 40mm f/2.8G

http://www.nikonusa.com/en/Nikon-Pro...%252F2.8G.html

The budget question is also quite important and I'm not sure if I can go for a brand new one or I would take a second hand one.

I know there are other lenses like 60 or 105 mm but... I really don't know which one would be the best for my very specific needs.

If anyone can give me a hint I would be very grateful.

thx for your help
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Old Jan 22, 2013, 6:03 AM   #2
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Hi,

I feel there's a problem with the question I asked... I hope I was clear. I still hope you can give me an advice.

thank you
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Old Jan 22, 2013, 7:23 AM   #3
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The two sample shots you provided were both captured with a relatively short focal length (24mm and 26mm respectively.) A longer focal length, like what you'll get with the AF-S DX Micro-NIKKOR 40mm f/2.8G, will give you a different perspective, and I very much like the perspective you're getting now. Since you're currently using the 18-55 kit lens, you can try the 40mm focal length to see how it will work for you.

You're using very small apertures to get the Depth of Field you need to get so close with the 18-55, yet still capture the detail of both the near side as well as the far side of the subject, and that's working well for you, but you're getting very close to the diffraction limit of the D50 where the smaller aperture results in a softer image. If you ever decide to replace your D50 with a camera with greater resolution, such small apertures will results in images that are quite soft.

A 40mm focal length lens will change the angle of view and the persective, and increase the subject distance, but you will be able to use larger apertures in order to get the same depth of field, and the AF-S DX Micro-NIKKOR 40mm f/2.8G is sharper than the older 18-55 you're using now.

A longer lens wouldn't be a bad idea, but it would further alter the perspective such that the images you capture wouldn't have the intimate feel you're getting now, but I don't see a way to preserve that.
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Old Jan 22, 2013, 7:32 AM   #4
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Rather than think of a new lens, you might want to consider using a software designed for such a project. I use Helicon Focus.

With the camera mounted on a tripod, I take a series of images of the subject. The difference in each image is that the focus point is different.
Usually, I take 7 to 9 images. These are then importedinto Helicon Focus and the software blends the 9images into one.

You can get some stunning results.

I believe you get download a trial version at n/c

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Old Jan 22, 2013, 8:05 AM   #5
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Thank you for such great answers.


Quote:
If you ever decide to replace your D50 with a camera with greater resolution, such small apertures will results in images that are quite soft.
So if I ever decide to change the D50 for let's say D3100 with the same lens the images will be softer if I stay at F22-29? Wow, that's something I thought it would work the other way. I'm wondering if I shoot pics with D3100 (with 18-55 lens) at let's say F18 the result would be the same / Better / worse? On the very beginning I was wondering of it's better (in my very case) to change the lens or the body. Finally I thought changing lens would work better.

Quote:
A 40mm focal length lens will change the angle of view and the persective,
Is there any place I can find a picture of the same subject taken with an 18-55 and a 40mm? I wonder what the difference is.

Quote:
Rather than think of a new lens, you might want to consider using a software designed for such a project. I use Helicon Focus.
thanks for the information. I've never heard about this software. I'll check it. However if I had a choice to get the picture right straight ahead from the camera rather than combining X pictures I would rather go for the hardware upgrade.
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Old Jan 22, 2013, 8:08 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zig-123 View Post
Rather than think of a new lens, you might want to consider using a software designed for such a project. I use Helicon Focus.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems to me that the only advantage that would give him is that he could shoot with larger apertures. I believe the only reason he can get his subjects in focus now is because he's using such small apertures. The older 18-55mm kit lens he's using has a minimum focus distance of 28cm but he's able to get sharp images with a subject distance of 24cm (subject to focal plane, 12cm subject to lens) because of the (relatively) large DoF from the very small apertures he uses.

I don't think focus stacking will improve things much.

He clearly doesn't need 1:1 magnification, but he's at the very limit of what he can do with the gear he's got. If he changes any one thing, it will cease to work as well for him. Because of the larger DoFs he needs in order to get both the near side and the far side of the subject in focus, he needs to use a very small aperture. A macro lens will certainly give him some breathing room, and from there he can take advantage of focus stacking, but I don't think it will help his current situation.
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Last edited by TCav; Jan 22, 2013 at 8:11 AM.
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Old Jan 22, 2013, 8:25 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by spitfire-303 View Post
Is there any place I can find a picture of the same subject taken with an 18-55 and a 40mm? I wonder what the difference is.
You can try it yourself. Your 18-55 can go to 40mm, so you'll be able to see the effect on your own gear. The focal length your using now makes the near side of the subject appear very much larger than the far side, much like you would see if you were standing close to a full size tank. A longer focal length will provide a narrower angle of view, which will make the near side and far side appear closer to the same size, a perspective you would get if you were standing farther away from the full size tank.

You can try it yourself, by setting the lens to a focal length of ~40cm, and set up a similar shot by moving the camera farther back (increasing the camera to subject distance.) I believe you started using your current configuration because you liked the perspective it gave you. Changing to a longer focal length will require you to rethink your composition.
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Old Jan 22, 2013, 8:33 AM   #8
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Since you don't really need a "Macro" lens, but a conventional lens is a limiting factor, perhaps a quasi-macro lens would work best. Sigma's 17-70mm F2.8-4 DC Macro OS HSM can focus as close as 22cm (subject to focal plane) and can stop down to f/22 which will still get you the DoF you need to get the focus you need, while giving you some breathing room and allowing you to fine tune the perspective you want.
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Last edited by TCav; Jan 22, 2013 at 8:35 AM.
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Old Jan 22, 2013, 8:36 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TCav View Post
Correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems to me that the only advantage that would give him is that he could shoot with larger apertures. I believe the only reason he can get his subjects in focus now is because he's using such small apertures. The older 18-55mm kit lens he's using has a minimum focus distance of 28cm but he's able to get sharp images with a subject distance of 24cm (subject to focal plane, 12cm subject to lens) because of the (relatively) large DoF from the very small apertures he uses.

I don't think focus stacking will improve things much.

He clearly doesn't need 1:1 magnification, but he's at the very limit of what he can do with the gear he's got. If he changes any one thing, it will cease to work as well for him. Because of the larger DoFs he needs in order to get both the near side and the far side of the subject in focus, he needs to use a very small aperture. A macro lens will certainly give him some breathing room, and from there he can take advantage of focus stacking, but I don't think it will help his current situation.

Hi TCav,

The reasons for my suggesting the focus stacking approach vs lens is:

1- the 18-55mm is actually a good & SHARP lens when used between f8 and f11. but, like all budget lenses, the sweet spot is in the center with the corners a little softer.
2- By using a focus stacking software, you can use aperture settings that give best results rather than using extreme apeture settings that while increasing depth of field also have a tendency to show artifacts, dust spots ,oil spots etc. that are found on the lens and sensor on the finished image. some of which you can see on the sample images.
3- you also made a great point that using a different lens will change the angle of view & perspective. That is something that the OP needs to be aware of.

And last point, this may be an option that doesn't cost anything to try. I say maybe because, I do believe that a trial download verson is available.
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Old Jan 22, 2013, 9:52 AM   #10
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Maybe he could try extension tubes on his 18 to 55mm kit lens. What do you guys think about this idea ?
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