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10-06-2014, 07:10 PM   #1
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optimizing macro focus

I'm attempting to shoot some dead insects. My current setup is a K-5 with a Sigma 50mm 2.8 EX DG. I'm fairly new to macro photography and wondering if anyone has any tips for optimizing the focus. I've tried shooting through most of the aperture, getting the best results around f/8. I've tried spot focusing, 5-point, 11-point, and manual focus. I've also taken some shots with a Sigma DP3 Merrill that I rented. The focus on the Merrill under the same shooting conditions seems much more precise and I'm wondering if there is anything I might be able to do to bring the performance of the K-5 closer to the Merrill. I've attached an cropped RAW sample from each of the cameras.

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PENTAX K-5  Photo 
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10-06-2014, 07:18 PM   #2
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You can adjust the focus in the K5 ( internal focus adjustment )
Im sure there is a guide somewhere ..


I have found digital can be soft , especially compared to 35mm , finding the right combination that is SHARP ( Camera + Lens ) , priceless .
A lot of lenses that made their reputations with 35mm , are maybe a little on the soft side with digital .


For the K5 , try a split screen ( Just like with the pre autofocus 35mm cameras ) , these were usually spot on ..
I still need to install a split screen in my K10D ( Im so lazy )
10-06-2014, 07:27 PM   #3
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Manual focus + live view magnification is the best way to focus macros IMO. Also, at high magnifications make sure your setup is stable so that camera shake doesn't introduce blur. At very high magnifications you will also need to stack focus to get DOF.

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10-06-2014, 07:58 PM   #4
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Concur. Manual focus + live view.

10-06-2014, 08:02 PM   #5
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The shot with the Sigma DP3 Merrill is at f/11, the shot with the Sigma lens is f/8.

Also, Sigma Merrill RAW is very "cooked". If you processed the Sigma lens image similarly to how the Merrill's shot was processed (boost contrast and sharpen), you'd get fairly similar results.

Last edited by luftfluss; 06-08-2016 at 08:23 AM.
10-07-2014, 04:03 AM   #6
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Thanks for the input guys. I'll give the manual + live view a try. And I was a little suspicious about the Merrill raw shots simply being more 'cooked' than the Pentax raw shots. So maybe there really isn't much room for improvement if that is the case. Just out of curiosity, does anyone have a macro lens recommendation that won't break the bank?
10-07-2014, 05:06 AM   #7
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What about the K5 itself? The AA filter was removed in subsequent version (K5IIs) and K3 to increase sharpness. Perhaps the 'blur' is partially linked to the effects of the AA filter. I certainly notice the difference between my K5 and K30/K01 (the latter have a weaker AA filter)

10-07-2014, 05:45 AM   #8
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Nah, I think the K5's resolution is good. When you get down to pixel peeping level though - you'll have to figure out where the focal plane is. Don't be afraid to go up to f11 or so, and try a flash. It does make a difference. When I'm out in the field I don't always have that option (GPS unit eliminates flash use).

Removing the AA filter can't hurt macro though. If I were buying a new camera today I'd have to think between the K5II and K3.
10-07-2014, 01:55 PM - 1 Like   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by TER-OR Quote
GPS unit eliminates flash use
That little knob thing to the left and a bit below the on-camera flash is a cap covering a PC (flash cable) socket. You can use a cord and an off-camera shoe adapter (or a flash with a PC socket) to use the GPS and the flash at the same time and still get TTL
Pentax F5P 3' Extension Cord for Off-Camera TTL Flash 37347 B&H
Pentax Off Camera Shoe Adapter F 31046 B&H Photo Video

10-07-2014, 05:14 PM   #10
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Plastic Fantastic

QuoteOriginally posted by partynoparty Quote
Thanks for the input guys. I'll give the manual + live view a try. And I was a little suspicious about the Merrill raw shots simply being more 'cooked' than the Pentax raw shots. So maybe there really isn't much room for improvement if that is the case. Just out of curiosity, does anyone have a macro lens recommendation that won't break the bank?

You could try plastic fantastic , mine is Promaster 100mm F3.5 Macro Promaster (Cosina) AF 100mm f3.5 Macro Lens Reviews - Miscellaneous Lenses - Pentax Lens Review Database


Another option , Ricoh 2x Tele Macro Adapter + a 50mm Lens of your choice , I love the Ricoh 2x Tele Macro adapter ( I have 2 off them ) ..
But this way you can run almost any standard lens from 28mm to 100mm , and be able to macro at a budget price .


There are a lot of Tele Macro adapters out there , just check ebay . All you need is a half decent 50mm to put out front ..
10-08-2014, 05:46 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by narual Quote
That little knob thing to the left and a bit below the on-camera flash is a cap covering a PC (flash cable) socket. You can use a cord and an off-camera shoe adapter (or a flash with a PC socket) to use the GPS and the flash at the same time and still get TTL
Pentax F5P 3' Extension Cord for Off-Camera TTL Flash 37347 B&H
Pentax Off Camera Shoe Adapter F 31046 B&H Photo Video

I forgot about that feature. Now I may need to look for a ring flash...or at least consider the flash bracket solution.
10-11-2014, 09:59 PM   #12
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nice picture
10-14-2014, 05:24 AM   #13
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The Merrill shot looks sharper because you have reproduced it at a smaller size, because it has higher overall contrast, and (I suspect) because it is more heavily sharpened. Each of these things increased perceived sharpness, without actually increasing detail. The Merrill shot might well have more detail too, thanks to the Foveon sensor, but it's hard to say at this scale.

Dead insects are very cooperative subjects, and if you plan to do much of this you should look into focus stacking. Doesn't necessarily require any new gear (and doesn't require expensive lenses even if you do opt for new gear). Might require new software, depending on what you already have.

For example, here's a single shot with a 70mm Sigma macro lens:



and here's a focus stack at a similar magnification (35 shots, Bellows Takumar 100mm):



Undoubtedly I could have got more of the first shot in focus with careful camera positioning, but it wouldn't have had the same level of detail as the stack. And at any rate, the first shot was simply an ID shot for this high-magnification (around 4:1) stack:

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