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06-14-2013, 10:36 AM   #1
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Handheld macro, suggestions/advice needed for image sharpness

Good afternoon!

I recently bought a used Tamron 70-300 from the forum and was eager to try out the macro capability of the lens.
This is my first time doing handheld macro shots, I'm very satisfied with the lens performance but am looking for ways to improve the sharpness of my macro shots.
Camera is K-r.

Below are 2 shots out of ~150 i took during a lunch break, no flash.
1st image: 1/60, f5.6, ISO200, FL200
bee image: 1/320, f/5.6, ISO200, FL 240mm,

I'm not very satisfied with the sharpness when viewing the pictures 1:1.
What could be causing this?
subject movement? Do i need faster shutter speed?
misfocus? I forgot whether i used manual or auto focus on these 2 images.
steadier hands?

any advice or suggestions are very appreciated!

p.s. sorry for the giant insect on your screen

Edit: also I don't think i've gone all the way to 1:2 macro (max. magnification) on the lens, probably doing that will also help?

Update 6/17:
I am happy to share that with the addition of flash and pringles diffuser i have noticed a significant improvement on the image sharpness
It has worked pretty well, beyond my expectations!
This time i tried a spider instead (much smaller than a bee!) and it is not during the day (less ambient light available).
f/11, ISO200, 180mm, 1/180
I think there's still some camera shake - bad idea to go shooting after a workout
Again thanks everyone for your input and feedback! I have much to learn


Attached Images
           

Last edited by czhao1009; 06-17-2013 at 06:55 PM. Reason: more info
06-14-2013, 11:04 AM   #2
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QuoteOriginally posted by czhao1009 Quote
subject movement? Do i need faster shutter speed?
This.

Bees constantly vibrate. All insects do.

Also, more DOF. Manual focus. Patience.
06-14-2013, 11:11 AM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by Aristophanes Quote
This.

Bees constantly vibrate. All insects do.

Also, more DOF. Manual focus. Patience.
Thanks for the reply!
How fast is enough?

I'm afraid if I use smaller aperture then i won't have enough shutter speed.. the bee picture is shot with f/5.6 already. bump up the ISO?
06-14-2013, 11:31 AM   #4
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When I had one of these lenses, image quality started to deteriorate after 200mm. It's not the sharpest of lenses anyway, but it is great value for what you do get

Try F8 or F11 to get more depth of field and bump up the ISO. You should certainly be able to go up to ISO 800/1600 without too much problem. If that's what you need to do to get the shot, then do it!

Also, as has already been mentioned, use manual focus for macro work because DOF will be more critical.

06-14-2013, 11:37 AM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by percy Quote
When I had one of these lenses, image quality started to deteriorate after 200mm. It's not the sharpest of lenses anyway, but it is great value for what you do get

Try F8 or F11 to get more depth of field and bump up the ISO. You should certainly be able to go up to ISO 800/1600 without too much problem. If that's what you need to do to get the shot, then do it!

Also, as has already been mentioned, use manual focus for macro work because DOF will be more critical.
Thanks!
I will try smaller aperture and bump up the ISO.
The bee keeps moving, constantly... definitely i need to practice shooting them with MF.
06-14-2013, 11:45 AM   #6
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I have used the Sigma and Tamron version of this lens extensively and one of them is always on one of my cameras. Unlike portraits where you want a shallow DOF to blur the background, I get the best results by expanding the DOF as much as possible to get as much in focus as possible. I would recommend ISO 400 or even ISO 800, as noise does not seem to be as much of an issue with close focus subjects. I use F8.0 if I can, and set the mode on "MACRO". My k100d will automatically pop up the flash when he thinks it is necessary, and the results are sometimes better with flash, sometimes not. A tissue or other diffuser softens the flash. Auto focus works well under most conditions. I have a Raynox 150, and when I feel I really need to abuse myself I clip this on the front and try to get closer yet. Works well, but not outdoors where the slightest breeze moves the subject in and out of focus. A tripod is always great to have, but out hiking I found a bean bag to be handy. I can plop the beanbag on any handy surface, give it a krate chop, and it holds the camera still. Sometimes I plop the beanbag on the tripod head and use it there. If my subject starts to move/fly away I can just lift the camera off the beanbag and look like fool chasing butterflys.
06-14-2013, 11:47 AM   #7
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It does take a lot of patience and practice.

QuoteOriginally posted by czhao1009 Quote
The bee keeps moving, constantly... definitely i need to practice shooting them with MF.
Another method is to wait for them to go where you want to photograph them, rather than chasing them around. It can be a bit hit and miss, but you have better opportunity to prepare for the shot.
It helps if you can find a way to encourage your subject to go to a particular spot - but I have no idea how you would encourage a bee to go there
06-14-2013, 12:03 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by wsteffey Quote
I have used the Sigma and Tamron version of this lens extensively and one of them is always on one of my cameras. Unlike portraits where you want a shallow DOF to blur the background, I get the best results by expanding the DOF as much as possible to get as much in focus as possible. I would recommend ISO 400 or even ISO 800, as noise does not seem to be as much of an issue with close focus subjects. I use F8.0 if I can, and set the mode on "MACRO". My k100d will automatically pop up the flash when he thinks it is necessary, and the results are sometimes better with flash, sometimes not. A tissue or other diffuser softens the flash. Auto focus works well under most conditions. I have a Raynox 150, and when I feel I really need to abuse myself I clip this on the front and try to get closer yet. Works well, but not outdoors where the slightest breeze moves the subject in and out of focus. A tripod is always great to have, but out hiking I found a bean bag to be handy. I can plop the beanbag on any handy surface, give it a krate chop, and it holds the camera still. Sometimes I plop the beanbag on the tripod head and use it there. If my subject starts to move/fly away I can just lift the camera off the beanbag and look like fool chasing butterflys.
Ah.. i forgot i had the "macro" mode on my camera i've been playing too much with old manual focus lenses...(using M all the time).
i will have to try the flash w/ some kind of diffuser, but what I am worried is with flash it limits my shutter speed to max. 1/180.

beanbag! karate chop!

06-14-2013, 12:24 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by percy Quote
It does take a lot of patience and practice.


Another method is to wait for them to go where you want to photograph them, rather than chasing them around. It can be a bit hit and miss, but you have better opportunity to prepare for the shot.
It helps if you can find a way to encourage your subject to go to a particular spot - but I have no idea how you would encourage a bee to go there
very good point. i will have to try that technique!

i tried to shot some ants... oh well..i never realized they can move so fast
06-14-2013, 12:55 PM   #10
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Besides all the good advice here, I think, the lens itself is the least important factor. Your exposure times are simply too long, especially in the first image: 1/60 s at 200mm fl is way too long a time to hold steady, especially when doing macros.
Secondly you shot these images at fully open aperture, if I am not mistaken. All lenses perform worst at full open aperture, but a consumer lens and then at a very short distance, "needs" to perform mediocre. Honestly said, I am more astonished, that the resulting images still look as good as they do. Try to get at f/11 for macro work and you will be fine. Use a off-camera flash for better light and slightly increased contrast, would be the next step up. And if you finally decide, that macro photography is something you really love to do, then buy a dedicated macro lens.

Keep on the good work - I bet, a year from now on, your images will have much improved.

Ben
06-14-2013, 01:06 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by Ben_Edict Quote
Besides all the good advice here, I think, the lens itself is the least important factor. Your exposure times are simply too long, especially in the first image: 1/60 s at 200mm fl is way too long a time to hold steady, especially when doing macros.
Secondly you shot these images at fully open aperture, if I am not mistaken. All lenses perform worst at full open aperture, but a consumer lens and then at a very short distance, "needs" to perform mediocre. Honestly said, I am more astonished, that the resulting images still look as good as they do. Try to get at f/11 for macro work and you will be fine. Use a off-camera flash for better light and slightly increased contrast, would be the next step up. And if you finally decide, that macro photography is something you really love to do, then buy a dedicated macro lens.

Keep on the good work - I bet, a year from now on, your images will have much improved.

Ben
Thanks Ben
I was a little shocked as well about the shutter speed on the 1st image...
you are correct, f/5.6 is the fully open aperture of the lens at that FL
06-14-2013, 01:19 PM   #12
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When I started using flash for all my macro shots, it made a world of difference. As stated, insects move around a lot, and even the slightest breeze will cause movement of flowers, etc. Just a soft diffused flash of some sort, even the onboard flash will make all the difference for handheld shots.
06-14-2013, 01:22 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by bluestringer Quote
When I started using flash for all my macro shots, it made a world of difference. As stated, insects move around a lot, and even the slightest breeze will cause movement of flowers, etc. Just a soft diffused flash of some sort, even the onboard flash will make all the difference for handheld shots.
Agreed many times over. Flash helps unless you have really bright sunlight. Bump up the iso as needed. For depth of field you need a much smaller aperture and even then you will be limited - check out a depth of field calculator. Patience - bugs move a lot unless they are busy feeding or mating or whatnot, and sometimes you just have to focus on a spot and hope that is where they next move.
06-14-2013, 01:23 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by bluestringer Quote
When I started using flash for all my macro shots, it made a world of difference. As stated, insects move around a lot, and even the slightest breeze will cause movement of flowers, etc. Just a soft diffused flash of some sort, even the onboard flash will make all the difference for handheld shots.
Good to hear! I did see some where on the forum about a DIY flash diffuser.
Question: when you use the flash, what shutter speed and aperture do you use?
06-14-2013, 01:27 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by czhao1009 Quote
Good to hear! I did see some where on the forum about a DIY flash diffuser. Question: when you use the flash, what shutter speed and aperture do you use?
Lots of DIY tricks - I've used a handkerchief at times.

As to aperture, it depends on the lens. For a 50/55/58mm (the last being a Helios), I'll either shoot at f16 or f11 (the Helios gets very dark when fully stopped down). For a 135mm lens on lots of extension tubes I'm limited to f8 or f11 depending on how close I am to the object. When I use my dedicated 1:1 macro lens (Vivitar 90/2.8), I may try a sequence of apertures for each shot and check the histogram as I go along. In all cases this refers to the onboard flash without a diffuser. A lot of it is trial and error. I've also used more powerful flashes which then require more stopping down. In most cases you are limited to 1/180 shutter speed.
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