I have been trying to keep a photo record of a model I am making using
my happy-snappy pocket digital Olympus. Its got a macro setting on the
camera but I think its playing up. Almost all the shots are blurred.
Is this (at last) my excuse for buying a whazzo digital SLR ? Anyone
any advice to share ?
In article ,
Cheshire Steve writes
You will probably get a lot more advice on one of the rec.photo groups
(rec.photo.digital, rec.photo.dslr, or rec.photo.35mm).
Several thoughts. First, the macro facility on compact cameras (digital
or film) is not very good - it's a bit of a kludge - but it should give
results adequate for web use at least. It could be faulty, but (if you
forgive me for suggesting it) user inexperience is a more likely cause,
and would certainly be cheaper to try to cure.
Second, camera shake ruins more macro shots than anything else. Use a
tripod or some other means of holding the camera steady (a bean bag is a
cheap home-made alternative capable of good results). Alternatively, use
flash - though the built-in flash in a compact camera will almost
certainly give horrible illumination, with the close part of the subject
washed out, and deep shadows. A separate flash gun would be much better
used with a diffuser or reflector.
Third, the depth of field in macro photography is vanishingly small. If
the subject is not pretty flat (such as a coin, or paper) you will have
to use a small aperture. The slightest movement of the camera closer to,
or further from, the subject after focusing will throw the picture way
out of focus.
BTW, the best method of focusing in macro shots is to set the focus
manually, and move the camera back and forth to give sharp focus. This
is because a small change in the lens focus will change the image size
significantly, making accurate framing difficult.
The great advantage of using an SLR camera is that you see exactly what
you are taking - no parallax error - and have a vast range of
interchangeable lenses. The sensors of digital SLRs are much larger than
those of digital compacts, giving higher quality results. The
disadvantages include much higher weight and cost, and the fact that in
most cases* you get no live preview on the LCD screen. For photos of
magnification more than about 0.2, you will need either a dedicated
macro lens, or extension tubes, or at least a front-mounted
supplementary close-up lens. The latter two accessories work better with
fixed focal length lenses rather than zooms.
*The latest Olympus E-series DSLRs do have live preview, and this sounds
very useful for macro work.
In macro, move camera about 12-14 inches away ...and zoom in.
You also need plenty of light ...or exposure time will be up and it
will open the shutter longer........meaning one slight move and you
blur the picture.
The last paragraph is how it works on conventional cam ...I dont know
if a digital automatically lengthens exposure ...just presume so.
Mines an olympus and takes great close ups
here's one of, part of a bridgeport.
Get one of the Sony Mavica or Cyber-Shot cameras, the Macro mode is excellent
and the Mavicas have large 2.5" viewing screens, something I always liked about
The older Mavicas are quite cheapo now, and if you choose something like the
FD-100 or FD-200 they run on Memory Sticks as well as the 3-1/2" floppies.
We have a selection at home and an FD-100 that we use here in the workshop. The
FD-100 focuses down to 1.25" in Macro mode - pretty close and the only problem
then is lighting the subject.
Latest acquisition is a Cyber-Shot DSC-F717, an extraordinary machine that
focuses down to 0.8".
Peter A Forbes
Prepair Ltd, Luton, UK
David, having had my Olympus (C720-UZ) digital knocked off the table
by my daughter I have been looking at the new E-series (400) to
replace it and also allow me to use all of my OM mount Zuiko lenses.
Being stupid I hadn't worked out what "live preview" was, thank you at
least now I realise it could be very useful.
Thanks Mark (and others)
Looks like my excuse for a new SLR is getting a little thin. The main
problem was that I was getting too close instead of zooming in (I
always thought of zoom as for far off stuff). The digital camera back
is OK for framing, but not to tell if you have sharp focus. So what I
needed was to back off a bit further (as you say keep at least 12 to
14" away) and then zoom in.
I have rattled off a few test shots and they seem a lot better. At
least with digital it costs nothing to get some practice in.
I'll have to think up another excuse for the SLR !
You need decent light and a tripod. If the camera has it, use a timer delay
to trip the shutter. True manual focus helps if the autofocus gets confused.
Decent light, for me, is sunlight but slightly difused, not direct and
Now, should you get a digital SLR ? Questionable. The problem will be
depth of field.
At a basic optics level, a smaller sensor (or film) has bigger depth of
field. This is why a lot of digital cameras are better at macro than
previous 35mm film cameras; the sensor is tiny compared to the 35mm
negative. (The aperture on the lens is also critical on depth of field, the
smaller the aperture the better the depth of field).
Now a digital SLR has a fairly large sensor (typically about the size of APS
film) compared to a compact or "bridge" digital camera. In many cases this
larger sensor has advantages, but for macro work its questionable whether
the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.
The professional model photographers I know (working for model railway
press) use "bridge" cameras rather than SLRs. They could afford either for
their work. I know a couple of photographers who still use Nikon 4500's
(4mpx, quite ancient in digital camera terms) because they are compact, can
be wiggled into tight spaces, and have a lot of manual control.
Thanks David, all good stuff in your reply (and - yes - inexperience
on my part is the main problem).
Regards the snip above, this is why I was thinking of SLR. You can't
move a compact back and forth to check the focus, as the LCD doesn't
have the resolution, and the view finder is no use. The LCD is great
for framing though - I got lots of well-framed blurry photos !
Aha ! So the compact camera is better for depth of field for macros
(which is maybe why I can get away with using the zoom). Great
explanation. In the end my choice of little camera was dictated by the
metal weatherproof construction. The last compact I had got crushed in
In article ,
Keith, one of my hobbies is photomicrography, and find that the focus
screens on most current SLRs is hopelessly inadequate for critical
focusing. (A few professional level bodies allow the screen to be
changed, and allow one to use a clear screen with cross-hairs, the only
sort which is up to the job, but the digital ones of these are *very*
expensive - think the price of a good lathe.) The image quality of DSLRs
is so much better than from compacts, but utterly useless if you can't
focus correctly. A DSLR body with live preview would be extremely useful
for this, provided that it has adequate zooming facility to let you get
really close in (the resolution of the LCD screens is not adequate to
get critical sharpness full-screen). The Olympus range has introduced
it, and (as a Canon user) I am very pleased to see that their latest
release also has it. I foresee some further expenditure.....
I have to say that I would find it little use for normal photography
though; I am so used to the optical viewfinder that squinting at the LCD
screen does not appeal in the slightest. Apart from anything else, the
optical viewfinder can be adjusted to suit your own eyesight, something
those of us old enough to start needing reading glasses will appreciate!
First, read the fine manual on macro for your camera. My Sony V3
works best at about 2.4x zoom.
Light, extra light from sides will help a lot.
Tripod. Does not have to be fancy. Eliminates shake, allows longer
exposures with smaller aperatures for depth of field.
Self timer. When mounted on tripod, use self timer to eliminate
shake from pushing shutter release. After all, that model isn't going
Polarizing filter (circular) can help in photographing shiny objects.
is a source of a decent free photo manipulation program
to help tweek the image.
On or around 4 Apr 2007 02:18:08 -0700, "Cheshire Steve"
enlightened us thusly:
latest FPB here is a Konica/Minolta Dimage Z3 and it's a very nice little
thing, and since they're now out of production the prices are good. later
ones in the series (Z5, Z6 for e.g.) have more pixels, but similar function.
The Z3 has 12x optical zoom, and 2 macro modes - one for "ordinary" macro
such as taking pictures of things about the size of a small book and a
super-macro which will take pictures of things about an inch in front of the
It replaced an Olympus C700UZ which is a lovely little camera but lacks
image stabilisation (which the Z3 has) and credible video capture: the Z3
will do 640x480 at 30 fps and low compression; the downside of that is that
it's about 100MB per minute, so a half-gig card is good for about 5 minutes.
However, there's a patch available to let it take 2GB cards (as shipped it
only accepted 1GB max.)
Only real objection to it is that in very low light the autofocus hunts and
won't always lock on, but in extremis you can always switch it to manual
focus mode. I don't know if the later models improved on that.
 Fingery[1a] Picture Box
[1a] think about it...
Yeah - most digital compacts of recent (last 2 years)
100 quid+ will do this in their sleep!
If you tell me the model of your camera, I'll see if
I can help.
You definitely do NOT NEED a digi-SLR
(although if you WANT one, that's fine by me)
BugBear (some interest in photography)
I think the others have shown where I was going wrong - should have
backed off and used the zoom. Its an Olympus Mu 300. Apart from the
zoom switch (plastic) breaking in two, its doing a good job. Not much
good for car racing at Oulton Park or great panoramas, but OK. My film
SLR is retired, I will eventually want a digital SLR to replace it -
such a shame the Canon AV lenses don't swap, or maybe they make a
digital replacement for the film canister that slots in the back ??
Anyway it seems that I have just about the best for these sort of
closeups on a budget, the only problem was my incompetence !
I've found Canon compacts (powershot A60 and S2IS) do quite a fair job of
macro for recording mechanical failures in industrial plant. Generally the
highest mag where autofocus works OK are given by zooming out, but moving in
close. Obviously, lighting and camera shake are issues. In film days when I
used to photograph rolling element bearings (notoriously difficult to light)
I would put a cylinder of paper around the component and use a flashgun
off-shoe to light the cylinder from outside and get diffused light. The
really nice thing about digital is that it is easy to experiment and
preview. Unless you have money to burn I would think about compacts, either
those with large screens for preview, or (better) in conjunction with a
The digital view finder in many mid-end digital cameras now (not the optical
one or view screen, the LCD display built into a viewfinder) appears to give
an image focused at infinity and big enough to see. Since I have -5 dioptre
glasses and am now old enough to need reading glasses to use the lathe, I find
this facility invaluable. I never could get used to taking my glasses off and
then using a correction lens on the Nikon viewfinder or taking my glasses off
and holding an LCD display 5" in front of my face.
Of course, you may well find a 640x480x27fps viewfinder image to be not good
enough for fine work, but it's usually good enough for landscape, portrait and
If one picks the "right" model of fairly cheap compact camera, they allow
remote control of the shutter and viewfinder from a computer (eg. laptop).
Some of the Canon A series do this (check carefully before buying, not all).
For studio work this can be a breeze to use - use computer screen to compose
picture and control camera, take picture, mangle instantly in Photoshop,
decide not happy, so take again, etc without touching the camera.