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03-31-2014, 06:25 AM   #1
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Capturing insect detail in studio

Hello all. I'm attempting to photograph an insect collection and I am in need of advice. The insects are are all spread and being photographed on white, as in the attached photo. What I need to do is capture as much detail as possible, but I'm unsure of the best approach. My current setup is just a DIY light box with a Pentax 10D and a Sigma 17-70, which is falling short of what I was hoping for. I have considered upgrading to the K-5, but I'm not sure how much improvement I will see going from 10MP to 16MP. I've also considered using something like the Sigma DP2 Merrill, which is supposedly comparable to 40MP, and within my price range (hoping to do this with less than $1000 in equipment upgrades).

Amazon.com: Sigma C78900 DP2 Merrill Compact Digital Camera - Black: Camera & Photo

I would also love any advice on techniques for maximizing detail in studio, as far as lighting, aperture, focal length, etc. My Sigma lens seemed to give me the most detail around f/16, but I could be doing a great many things incorrectly!

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03-31-2014, 06:45 AM   #2
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You will need a macro lens, like the DFA 100mm WR, though the Pentax 50mm Macro proably will do as well, since I assume these things are not alive That should make much more of an imapct that changing the camera, though a K-5 might help. You also have a dept of field of issue. A complicated solution would be focus slicing (ouch... I have never tried...). You may have to play around with f/16 vs f/22 vs f/32 (if available) vs pulling back and cropping. The latter would be another reason to upgrade to a K-5 or even a K-3. However, lens first...

---------- Post added 03-31-14 at 06:52 AM ----------

I should add that the more you stop down (i.e. f16 -> F22 -> F32) the more you will see lens diffraction, which reduces the image quality, but it does increase the dept of field. Best results are usually between f5.6 or f11, but for MACRO photography you will need the extra dept of field.

I can't image the Simgas camera will do anything for you, though I am not familar with the camera.
03-31-2014, 06:53 AM   #3
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Check out Ernie Cooper's blog on macrophotography. He gives good tips on DIY lighting, rigs, light boxes etc.

A dedicated macro lens, extension tubes or bellows will improve your results greatly. Upgrading to one of the K5s or K3 or even a K30 or K50 wouldn't hurt either.

From you example it doesn't look like you need to do much improvement on your lighting. The first step I would take would be to look into macro lenses.

Last edited by Not a Number; 03-31-2014 at 06:54 AM. Reason: add link
03-31-2014, 07:03 AM   #4
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Your camera is good enough - though a K5IIs will capture more detail.
A true macro lens would be ideal, a manual one is sufficient if not preferred.

Look for macro rails for your tripod, this can be simpler than adjusting focus, and then look for photo stacking software.
I follow a guy on Flickr who is a master stacker. Insect~O~Saurus is his moniker, have a look.

I think your lighting is more than sufficient, it looks ideal.

03-31-2014, 08:14 AM   #5
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What is your light source? Are you using flash or continuous light?
03-31-2014, 09:44 AM   #6
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What about combing your sigma with the Q (adapter needed) this should give some additional magnification (times ca. 5)...
03-31-2014, 10:23 AM   #7
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Not sure if it has been suggested yet, but focus stacking will maximize the visible detail on these types of macro shots.
An Introduction to Focus Stacking - Digital Photography School

Look at the work of John Hallmen on Flickr, the amount of detail captured is quite amazing.
https://www.flickr.com/photos/johnhallmen/11887937064/

03-31-2014, 12:47 PM   #8
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It's the lens that will make the most difference--consumer zooms are just not up to this particular task. A prime lens plus extension tubes will do the trick in the most cost effective manner if that's an issue.

And remember, google is your friend => "macro photography techniques"
03-31-2014, 04:55 PM   #9
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Thanks for all the replies. Excellent macro advice, however I'm not entirely sure that what I want to be doing is macro, at least not for the larger insects. I think maybe I wasn't very clear when I first stated my question, or this might just be a stupid question... but I'm not looking to get close-ups or details of just parts of the insects, if that was how my question was interpreted. I want just a single shot of each insect with the entire insect in the frame. Very two dimensional. And I just want each photo to be as clear and detailed as possible. I think maybe what I want is just a very high resolution photo. Would that just translate to lots of megapixels? What else might there be to it? One other point is that this is a fairly extensive insect collection, numbering in the thousands, so I'd like to minimize post processing as much as possible.
03-31-2014, 05:04 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by partynoparty Quote
Thanks for all the replies. Excellent macro advice, however I'm not entirely sure that what I want to be doing is macro, at least not for the larger insects. I think maybe I wasn't very clear when I first stated my question, or this might just be a stupid question... but I'm not looking to get close-ups or details of just parts of the insects, if that was how my question was interpreted. I want just a single shot of each insect with the entire insect in the frame. Very two dimensional. And I just want each photo to be as clear and detailed as possible. I think maybe what I want is just a very high resolution photo. Would that just translate to lots of megapixels? What else might there be to it? One other point is that this is a fairly extensive insect collection, numbering in the thousands, so I'd like to minimize post processing as much as possible.
You will probably best be served by a Macro prime lens, as those lenses are designed to be sharp and provide as much detail as possible.

For your purposes a less expensive manual focus lens will suffice as your subjects will not be running away.

This lens should allow you to do what you need with minimal post processing once you figure out your lighting setup.

For the smaller insects you will need to focus fairly close, so 1:1 macro lenses allow you to get in real close if you want the entire insect in the frame, as you say.

More megapixels will allow you to make bigger enlargements or crop the picture more, but I still think you need to start with a sharp macro lens.

When searchng for a macro lens it is best to go with a prime lens, as lots of old zoom lenses say they are macro but will not have the sharpness that a dedicated prime macro lens will have.
03-31-2014, 05:23 PM   #11
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I was considering the Sigma 50mm.

http://www.amazon.com/Sigma-Macro-Pentax-Samsung-Cameras/dp/B0002P19QW/ref=s...tax+macro+lens
03-31-2014, 05:54 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by partynoparty Quote
That one should work fine. For not much more $, this one gets great reviews also, but you may need to be a little further away.
http://www.amazon.com/Tamron-AF-90mm-2-8-Di/dp/B0007YZLIK/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8...m+macro+pentax

Check out the lens reviews on this site. I definitely hear praises for the Tamron 90, but don't hear too much about the Sigma 50

Last edited by crewl1; 03-31-2014 at 06:03 PM.
03-31-2014, 06:45 PM   #13
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Thanks. I had been looking at the Tamron lens as well. I am also trying to figure out my tripod setup. The test photos I shot I had the insect pinned to a board, but ideally I'd like the insect to lay flat and have the camera placed above and pointing straight down. Can anyone recommend a good tripod / rail setup for this kind of situation?
03-31-2014, 06:50 PM   #14
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A tripod such as the Manfrotto 190 or 055 xpro that has the ability to extend the column horizontally may be useful.
Manfrotto 190XPROB Pro Aluminum Tripod 190XPROB B&H Photo Video
Manfrotto 055XPROB Pro Aluminum Tripod 055XPROB B&H Photo Video
03-31-2014, 07:38 PM   #15
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As several have mentioned a manual focus lens would be more than sufficient for your purpose. Actually you would probably end up switching you expensive AF lens to manual focus anyway . With the money you save you probably could get a used K-5 and still stay within your budget. Btw I would second the Manfrotto 055...

---------- Post added 03-31-14 at 07:48 PM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by partynoparty Quote
Excellent macro advice, however I'm not entirely sure that what I want to be doing is macro, at least not for the larger insects. I
Macro doesn't have to be 1:1 life size. It just means the lens is optimized to do close up photography. Also the lenses tends to be optimized for sharpness while sacrificing other traits. A dedicated macro lens will give you MUCH sharper pictures than your zoom, and the impact will be far greater than going to, say, a 24MP K-3 camera.

Last edited by HenrikDK; 03-31-2014 at 07:51 PM.
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