Photographers often use lenses for subjects they are not primarily designed for. Macro lenses, for example, often double as portraiture lenses – especially the ones with medium-long focal lengths. But how about doing it the other way around and using a dedicated portrait lens – such as the Olympus 45mm f/1.8 for micro 4/3 – for macro photography? Not a good idea? Well, no, not if you are only going to use the portrait lens. But if you attach one or two close-up lenses, you will be surprised what can be done with that kind of set-up. Take a look at the following photos I’ve shot with the Olympus OM-D E-M10, 45mm f/1.8, Marumi DHG200 (read my review here) and Raynox DCR-250. It’s important to note that none of these images were cropped.
Let’s take a look at the set-up:
I’m guessing what you are most interested to find out, is how close you can get to your macro subjects with a set-up like this one.
As you can see in the first photo, the Olympus 45mm f/1.8 is not one of those non-macro lenses that can focus very close. Without one of the aforementioned close-up lenses attached, you can expect to fill the frame with a subject not smaller than 14cm or 5.51”.
When you attach the Marumi DHG200, which is a 5-diopter, minimum focusing distance reduces considerably and instead of a 14cm wide/long subject, you can fill the frame with a subject that measures less than 5cm or 2”.
After adding the Raynox DCR-250 (8-diopter) on top of the Marumi, minimum focusing distance gets reduced even further. Magnification ratio doubles to approximately 1:1.4, as now a subject less than 2.5cm or 1” in size can fill the frame. This is very close to a dedicated macro lens with a 1:1 magnification ratio.
Olympus’ 45mm f/1.8 lens is known for its excellent image quality. Fortunately its IQ stays great after you attach the two achromatic close-up lenses. The two images I’ve included down below are 100% crops of the photos at the beginning of the article. Click on the images to view them full size in a new browser tab!
Flash and Diffuser
I’ve been very stubborn in the past regarding flash usage. I’ve considered myself an ambient light only photographer and as such haven’t considered the “secret art” of flash photography to be something worth getting an understanding of. After shooting macro with the Ricoh GRD3 and experimenting with its built-in flash and a DIY diffuser, I’ve seen the light (no pun intended!). Now I only shoot macro without flash with the Nikon 1 V1, because it doesn’t have a built-in flash and I don’t own one of the Nikon 1 flashguns. All of the macros in this article were illuminated with the OM-D E-M10’s built-in flash through a do-it-yourself diffuser made of paper. You can see what it looks like down below.
I would urge everyone who hasn’t done it already to try using flash when shooting macro. It makes life so much easier. Shooting handheld is a breeze. But even if you prefer to use a tripod, images turn out so much crisper and you are much more flexible in every way, since you can overpower bright backgrounds and use base ISO for best image quality.
Handheld or Tripod?
I’m a sloth bear myself, which is why I mostly shoot handheld even though I have a nice tripod and a macro focusing rail. I find the two a lot more useful when shooting product type photos indoors than when shooting macro in the field. Even so I plan to use the two accessories more often in the future. That being said, there really is no right or wrong way of shooting macro, especially if you use flash.
Camera settings are dependent on the specific circumstances you are shooting in and the gear you are using. With my gear I usually set aperture to f/8 and shutter speed to the shortest flash sync speed, which is 1/250th of a second. I mostly use single point AF and move the AF box to where I need it. I only switch to MF and turn on focus peaking if the AF repeatedly fails to lock focus, which happens almost never. Since the OM-D E-M10’s built-in flash is rather weak, I set it to full power and set the sensitivity to ISO200. Lowering flash output or ISO is not an option, because photos tend to turn out underexposed.
I guess the bottom line is that if you are a micro four thirds shooter primarily interested in portraiture, but would also like to get a taste of macro photography, getting one of the affordable portrait lenses (Olympus 45mm f/1.8, Panasonic 42.5mm f/1.7 OIS or Sigma 60mm f/2.8) and a couple of achromatic close-up lenses is one of the cheapest ways you can do that. The two achromatic close-up lenses will set you back around 100 to 120 bucks, which is quite affordable compared to a dedicated macro lens like the Olympus 60mm f/2.8. If you prioritize macro over portraiture, however, then why are you even reading this article? Get yourself an Olympus 60mm f/2.8. 😉
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