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Raindrops...until I get a proper lens
Posted By: EllenJ, 05-15-2014, 07:41 AM

I'm just learning how to use my first DSLR, the K-50. I plan to get a lens for close-up photography, although not necessarily true macro. For now, I have the kit lenses (and a Sigma zoom that is probably better). These are the types of shots I'd like to get, although closer -- I had to settle for cropping here. All with the SMC Pentax-DA 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 AL WR.

I also want to shoot insects, and from what I've read, I should get something in the 90-100mm neighborhood if I'm getting only one macro lens because I won't be able to get close enough otherwise. I'd appreciate any thoughts.

In the meantime, a few of my attempts from this morning. These were handheld since the tripod shots were worse.








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05-15-2014, 08:23 AM - 2 Likes   #2
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Good Job!

Hi Ellen, welcome to the forum!
Overall, I'd say you got pretty good results from the kit zoom, about as much as you can expect from a non-macro lens. The B+W and last shot are especially nice, fine work!
# 1 and 2 are composed and photographed well, but the distracting background elements don't help. On the first one, if you crouched down and put a completely green b/g behind the plant, no clash of shapes and colors.
Same for # 2, move a bit right or left and eliminate the gray vertical shape (wood?) and slanting diagonals, it could be better overall.
Hope you don't mind my mini-critique! I started a thread here on creative backgrounds, it may provide some examples.
I have the 18-55mm W/R, and have used it for 'close-ups' in a pinch. By stopping down to (at least) f/8.0 and not extending to a full 55mm (about 50mm seems OK) you eliminate 2 of the weaker areas of this lens; shooting wide-open and softness at full zoom.
But, you're still better off with a dedicated macro lens, no doubt.
One low-cost way to try 'semi' macro is to find an a Pentax F 35-70mm f/3.5-4.5 on the used market, about $50 USD. This has a macro function at the 70mm end that works as well, if not better, than any 'Zoom with macro' function I've seen. It's also a dandy short zoom, there's a thread for that lens, too.
Also, the FA 100mm f/3.5 Macro (Pentax, Cosina and a couple other versions, all the same lens) sell for about $100-150 USD, used. Just make sure it's a K-mount! https://www.pentaxforums.com/lensreviews/SMC-Pentax-FA-100mm-F3.5-Macro-Lens.html
Hopefully, as this Macro Forum gets rolling, we'll see more recommendations for other lenses.
Thanks for posting!
Ron
05-15-2014, 08:26 AM - 2 Likes   #3
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Those are really nice shots. For a start you could try extension tubes to get closer. You could even take an old 2x converter, remove the glass and you would have a 25mm tube that would work just fine. With close ups and macro a flash will really help also. This photo was taken with a 50mm lens in front of a 36mm tube.

Last edited by bluestringer; 05-20-2014 at 11:02 AM.
05-15-2014, 09:06 AM   #4
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Thanks, both of you. I appreciate the critique and all the technical suggestions.

Today’s exercise was getting something in acceptable focus, which meant about 15% of the shots. I tried to get a decent background too, but that was my third concern. The second was the subject and general composition. If I let the camera do the focusing, I get extremely varied results. It was actually worse with the tripod, which seemed odd. I know macro photography often involves manual focusing. My earlier attempts with that weren’t good.

I can't afford to buy a lot of lenses, so I'll definitely want ideas. I plan to put my lens money into macro, but it's still not a lot.

One more thing - while not obvious here, many of my shots seem to have better focus to the lower left of where the AF red dot is. I know there's a section in the manual about the AF point... maybe something going on there?

By the way, the purple flowers are very close to a parked car that can't move, so many positions have an undesirable background. When more flowers open, I'll be able to shoot from the other side. The edge of the pot they're in is the other problem - different interior and exterior color adds even more distraction.


Thanks again.


Last edited by EllenJ; 05-15-2014 at 09:58 AM.
05-15-2014, 09:48 AM - 1 Like   #5
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I thought you did very well with your kit lens. For me, macro work requires manual focusing. I get much better results that way, even with AF lenses. If you do need AF, the F35-70 is a good choice for near-macro work, as someone mentioned. I often use the A35-70/4 for closeups of insects & flowers. It's very sharp, and has a nicely damped focusing ring. Another popular choice is the M100/4, which will give you 1:2 macro and is very nice handling. Sometimes a tripod may be needed, just be sure to use a remote or the self-timer, and make sure your SR is turned off. Good luck.
05-15-2014, 12:10 PM   #6
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All my macro is manual. I have the Pentax-M 100 f4 and the M-50 f4. Both are manual lenses, both are excellent and can be found fairly cheap. My most used procedure for insects (works for flowers also) is to roll out the focus to the min. and use catch in focus. All I have to do is move my body and camera together slowly while holding the shutter button down, I try to put my focus point where I want it, when the camera gets focus it will fire on it's own. This works 95% of the time. I use a manual ring flash with the camera shutter set on X. The aperture is determined by the distance.
05-16-2014, 03:41 AM   #7
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I turn off autofocus as well. My FA 100/2.8 really hunts around with autofocus and just frustrates me.

One of the ladies who does a lot of macro photography at my camera club says she takes 100s of pictures per session, moving the plane of focus back and forth and changing depth of field and other settings. Then she weeds through her shots in post processing. I'm getting better at taking more pictures per session, but it's still only a few shots of each item at a time.
05-16-2014, 04:32 AM   #8
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Yes. As for AF in macro, I believe it's not needed at all
The way you work with dedicated macro lens is to choose magnification ratio by rotating focusing ring (1:1, 1:2 etc) an move your camera with your body closer/further from object to make it sharp. If you working handheld. Or use tripod with rails.

05-16-2014, 04:56 AM   #9
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Great results from the kit lens Ellen.

Another cheapish macro option is a Raynox 150 or Opteka +10 achromat.
https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/6-pentax-dslr-discussion/180774-macro-sho...ynox-lens.html

I've not tried either (went the whole way and got DFA 100 macro) but they are said to partner well with a lens like the 55-300, which itself would be an ideal affordable companion to your 18-55.
05-16-2014, 05:26 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by EllenJ Quote
Today’s exercise was getting something in acceptable focus, which meant about 15% of the shots. I tried to get a decent background too, but that was my third concern. The second was the subject and general composition. If I let the camera do the focusing, I get extremely varied results. It was actually worse with the tripod, which seemed odd. I know macro photography often involves manual focusing. My earlier attempts with that weren’t good.
Manual focus+moving slightly forward and back is also how I focus through the viewfinder. It takes practice, but you do eventually get the feel for it.

Try tripod+live view. For static things, it works pretty great and I find I like it far more than I thought i would. Outside with flowers, you'll also want a day with little to no wind. If you can set up something just out of the frame to support the flower, that can help too (a stick stuck in the ground + a gentle clamp can do wonders).

QuoteOriginally posted by EllenJ Quote
By the way, the purple flowers are very close to a parked car that can't move, so many positions have an undesirable background. When more flowers open, I'll be able to shoot from the other side. The edge of the pot they're in is the other problem - different interior and exterior color adds even more distraction.
The great thing about photographing small things is you can often quite easily insert your own background. A selection of coloured card stock (including black and white) can easily get you clean backgrounds. Just an option to have on hand!
05-17-2014, 04:01 PM   #11
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Thanks, all, for so many tips and kind words. Looks like I should start practicing with MF. The idea to insert my own backgrounds will be very useful in our cluttered yard -- I can deploy my extra tripod to help.
05-20-2014, 06:17 AM   #12
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I've been doing macro on the cheap for a few years now. Have gone through numerous lenses trying to find a setup I like. I've settled on the following:

Promaster 100mm 1:3.5 MC Macro (including the matched diopter which came with it)
SMC Pentax M F/1.7
A cheap set of extension tubes

I like having both the 100mm Promaster and the 50mm Pentax at my disposal. They are both really good lenses and both inexpensive. The Pentax is outstanding, as a matter of fact. They also both take 49mm filters, which means that the diopter which came with the Promaster will also work with the Pentax. The Pentax is probably a little sharper and so I use it for stationary objects, whereas the Promaster gives you a little better working distance, so it's better for insects. Note that the overall magnification of the 100mm is not really any greater than that of the 50mm - the size of the subject in the picture will be about the same. This is because the minimum focus distance of the 100mm Promaster is greater. In other words, sure, 100mm provides greater magnification than 50mm, but you have to back up further away from the subject. So they are about the same.
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