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Macro focusing
Posted By: csa, 02-03-2015, 10:50 AM

I've seen such fantastic macros here, with most of the subject in focus. I'm having a problem with getting focus properly. I tried a few manual focus that didn't turn out at all, very blury. This was with auto focus, but again some of the moss is blury.

Yep, I know, practice makes perfect; but thought I might pickup some pointers from the macro pros here!

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02-03-2015, 11:01 AM - 1 Like   #2
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this is not a focus problem, but most likely DoF problem. Try again with much higher aperture number (f2.8 is way too wide open). But if the light conditions are not very good (bright light), you'll most probably need a tripod and/or flash.
02-03-2015, 11:08 AM   #3
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Ahhh, thanks so much; I'll give your suggestion a try!
02-03-2015, 11:23 AM   #4
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Try switching the camera to manual focus, then using a combination of turning the focus ring and moving the camera back and forth to get the subject in focus. Look for compositions that allow you to place as much of the subject as possible into the focus plane. This tuft of moss, for example, is not at all flat; the only ways to get it mostly or entirely in focus are stopping down to a very small aperture or focus stacking (using software to combine different exposures).

02-03-2015, 11:24 AM - 1 Like   #5
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DOF in macro is very narrow to begin with. Stopping down will help, as well as keeping as much of the subject in the same plane as the sensor as possible. For hand held macro shooting flash will help. The flash will allow you to use smaller apertures, the strobe will help "freeze" the image. You can use Catch-In-Focus to good effect when using flash.

An effective and cheap method for macro flash is to construct a tube to direct the light from the on-board flash. Many people use a Pringle's Potato Chip tube for this. It is cardboard and easy to work with and is silvered inside to help transmit the light. Just cut an appropriate sized and shaped hole for the flash on the closed end, angle cut the open end and attach some diffuser material (tracing paper, white tissue paper, paper napkins can work well). Rubber bands can hold everything in place.

A plus with using the on-board flash is you can get P-TTL flash metering depending on the lens.

Another option is focus stacking but that requires a tripod and focus stacking software (can be done in Photoshop). Focus rails are a plus.
02-03-2015, 11:33 AM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by csa Quote
I've seen such fantastic macros here, with most of the subject in focus. I'm having a problem with getting focus properly. I tried a few manual focus that didn't turn out at all, very blury. This was with auto focus, but again some of the moss is blury. Yep, I know, practice makes perfect; but thought I might pickup some pointers from the macro pros here!

Well, I'm definitely not a "macro pro" or anything close to it, but here are some macro basics that might serve as a starting point:
  1. DOF in the macro realm is thin, often razor-thin, even at medium apertures.
  2. Different from general photography, the sharp area will extend about one half before the focal plane and the other half behind it.
  3. Many macro photographers use the technique of focus stacking for "deep" subjects. But sometimes you may not even want everything clinically sharp. Or try a different viewpoint which gets more of your subject within that DOF.
  4. Shooting from a tripod with a remote and mirror lock-up can improve sharpness significantly.
  5. For critical focus, contrast detection AF will likely give you better results than phase-matching AF, in particular when magnifying the critical area in Live View to check.
  6. Shoot in the aperture range that will give you best MTF; for your Sigma macro lens I would expect this to be the F4 to F8 range. Wide open your lens is not as sharp as it can be; beyond F8 or F11 you will likely lose sharpness through diffraction.
  7. Focus peaking is a great help for controlling manual focus.
  8. Be sure that your lens doesn't have any front or back focus issues (if it does, try fine-adjusting).
Hope that helps a little ...

Last edited by Madaboutpix; 02-03-2015 at 12:14 PM.
02-03-2015, 12:10 PM   #8
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I really appreciate the very thoughtful responses here. I definitely am learning more about Macro with all of you sharing your wisdom with me! I'll try a few more shots when the weather cooperates a little more!

02-03-2015, 01:00 PM   #9
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Yep, not sure what your actual focal point was, but f/2.8 gives you very little DOF. I use it at f/4 and less all of the time for artistic purposes, but use f/11 or greater for more in focus. You can by an $8 softbox to mount on your onboard flash, and that will most likely give you enough light for hand held stuff. I was pleasantly surprised with the results I was getting in darker nooks and corners, and only stopped using it because my wife bought be a 540 for Christmas. You'll loose the artsy 3D pop with smaller apertures, but you'll have a lot more in focus, so just depends on what you want. If you look on my Flickr/500px flower pages, you'll see a mix of both, so just depends on what floats your boat that day
02-03-2015, 01:33 PM   #10
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Another way to get more DOF is to use lens tilt. As far as I know Pentax never made a Screw or K-Mount bellows with a tilt function. Minolta Auto Bellows III and one or two of the Nikon bellows and Spiratone are the only models that I know of with lens tilt. The Spiratone (rather rare) is almost like a mini-view camera as both the lens and camera ends can tilt. The tilt on the Minolta is somewhat limitied as it only tilts on the lef-right axis in landscape mode so you have to turn the entire bellows 90 degrees if you want top and bottom tilt.

Here's a couple shots using my K10D with the Minolta Auto Bellows III. 100mm Rokkor-X f/4 bellows lens and a glassless Minolta to K-mount adapter. The top photo is without tilt, the bottom with. The same F-stop and point of focus (growth point of plant) was used in both photos. Notice the change in composition and the leaves in the front and back are more in focus in the tilt shot (bottom).


02-04-2015, 01:14 PM   #11
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Here's one @F/11, 1/125, ISO 800. Handheld, no flash.

Definitely much more in focus!
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02-04-2015, 01:28 PM   #12
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More magnification, too. Well done.
02-04-2015, 01:29 PM   #13
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For macro, to get best results and higher IQ, you need to start looking into stacking photos to achieve that everything in focus look.
On the go with no time to setup, is all about the angles... and light if you use smaller f stops (a remote flash next to the front of the lens, usually works magic).

Another thing to consider is one (or two) of those LED video lights with the light control knob (some usually come with some type of "diffuser" in front of them).
I have one of them in my camera bag with a flash stand and I usually have it sit next to my subject staying on its own while I snap pictures.
02-04-2015, 01:32 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by baro-nite Quote
More magnification, too. Well done.
Thanks baro-nite!!
02-04-2015, 01:35 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by mrNewt Quote
For macro, to get best results and higher IQ, you need to start looking into stacking photos to achieve that everything in focus look.
On the go with no time to setup, is all about the angles... and light if you use smaller f stops (a remote flash next to the front of the lens, usually works magic).

Another thing to consider is one (or two) of those LED video lights with the light control knob (some usually come with some type of "diffuser" in front of them).
I have one of them in my camera bag with a flash stand and I usually have it sit next to my subject staying on its own while I snap pictures.
I'm just starting out, and have never stacked photos; don't know if I can even do it in Elements. I'm not very savy working with these programs.

I do have a light ring coming. This will do me until I better understand macro.
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