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Best native macro lens with auto focus for getting close to small subject

Discussion in 'Native Lenses' started by digital_grrl79, Apr 14, 2019.

  1. digital_grrl79

    digital_grrl79 Mu-43 Regular

    Jun 27, 2011
    Chicago, IL
    I breed geckos and I have the Foldio3 lightbox to shoot them in nice lighting. However, my old Nikon 55mm F/3.5 macro and a Tamron 90mm F/2.8 macro are both manual focus and require me to stand quite a ways away from my geckos (and my gecko room doesn't have a ton of room for me to backup). If I don't stand back far enough, then I have to settle for only getting 1 eye in focus and the rest of the geckos is behind the focal plane.

    Any recommendations on the best micro 4/3 native (that has autofocus) lens for shooting macro subjects close to them?

    If there is a lens that's amazing for shooting macro close to the subject but it is manual focus I'm open to those suggestions as well.
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2019
  2. Ken C

    Ken C Mu-43 Veteran Subscribing Member

    Aug 15, 2018
    Get ya self a oly 60mm macro-----its the cat's
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  3. ralf-11

    ralf-11 Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jan 16, 2017
    Oly 30 will allow you to get closer than the Oly 60 but still ... you'll be as far away as a 60mm FF lens, so farther than the top quality Nikon (I have 2 of those...)

    The ancient OM film cameras used to have some wide angle macro lens - dunno if anything like that exists today
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  4. digital_grrl79

    digital_grrl79 Mu-43 Regular

    Jun 27, 2011
    Chicago, IL
    Those photos are amazing! When you show those photos were you close to the subject or far away? One of the issues I'm dealing with for my photography is I have a small room that my geckos are set up with a lightbox and right now I have to stand too far away from them to get their whole body in focus.
  5. ac12

    ac12 Mu-43 All-Pro

    Apr 24, 2018
    How BIG are they?
    If you shoot perpendicular to the body, you should get most in focus.
    If you shoot along the body, or at an angle, you will NOT get the entire body in focus. It is impossible, as you don't have enough depth of field (DoF), unless it is very short. The closer the distance to the subject, the smaller your DoF is. At MY macro shooting distance, DoF is significantly less than 1 inch.

    BTW, I use the Nikon 55mm micro Nikkor also.
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  6. digital_grrl79

    digital_grrl79 Mu-43 Regular

    Jun 27, 2011
    Chicago, IL
    Thanks for your response and question :] The geckos are anywhere from 1" long (babies) to 6" long.
  7. archaeopteryx

    archaeopteryx Gambian sidling bush Subscribing Member

    Feb 25, 2017
    Hi @digital_grrl79@digital_grrl79, to state @ac12@ac12's question somewhat differently, what range of magnification do you want for the geckos? Are you wanting full body shots, details, or both?

    For the native mount macros the close focus limits limits are
    • Olympus 30mm: 95mm @ 1.25x
    • Panasonic 30mm: 105mm @ 1x
    • Panasonic-Leica 45mm: 150mm @ 1x
    • Olympus 60mm: 190mm @ 1x
    These correspond to a 17 x 13.1 mm subject area or, in the case of the Olympus 30mm, 13.6 x 10.5mm. The associated minimum working distances are
    • Olympus 30mm: 19mm
    • Panasonic 30mm: 22mm
    • Panasonic-Leica 45mm: 68mm
    • Olympus 60mm: 89mm
    exclusive of any filters. The geckos I've known would object to the 30mm distances and sometmes also those of the 45mm and 60mm.

    For full body length (a 25-150mm subject size) the frame-filling magnification range would be 0.69-0.11x. Below 0.25-0.1x non-macro native mount, autofocus lenses could be used directly. If you have one it may be helpful to try it with the adults if you haven't already. In particular, it may be worth a look with a close up lens/diopter calculator to see if an autofocus macro is necessary. Close up lenses (and other reversed lenses) partially decouple magnification and working distance and may be of interest for that reason as well.

    If you're thinking about details at greater than 1x that tends to want different tools than a conventional macro. I'd have to do some math to see keeping working distance above the 70-90mm minimum of the longer native macros is feasible. Offhand, I suspect some difficulty.
    Depth of field is (most of the time, including macro cases) inversely proportional to focal length. None of the native mount macros seem likely to make enough of a difference to provide the depth you're looking for directly. However if you run the maths in a depth of field calculator that will answer the question better than I can, particularly around the available light-aperture-diffraction tradeoff.

    If you can provide an EV or aperture + shutter speed + ISO (+ magnification, if significant to the effective aperture) that's likely to improve the suggestions given. If there's budget it's good to know that too. Example images may also be helpful, albeit probably more as a way of illustrating specifics.

    If the geckos are somewhat cooperative about holding still I'm guessing the lightbox provides enough light autofocus brackets could complete quickly enough for focus stacking to be an option. I suspect this may provide results closer to what you're looking for, particularly as it may be possible to complete a short stack more rapidly than a stopped down, single exposure. Is this something you've looked into? (Given a solid enough mounting, focus bracketing can be done with manual lens by turning the focus ring during a burst or whilst shooting video. However, the image quality isn't as good as an autofocus bracket due to the continuous motion and sorting out mounting can be a bigger project than buying a lens. None of my attempts have been worth keeping, but they did have some educational value.)
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2019 at 8:58 AM
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  8. Underwater

    Underwater Mu-43 Veteran Subscribing Member

    Jun 1, 2014
    Eugene, Oregon
    While it won't give you true 1:1 macro, the Olympus 12-40 might be a good option for you. It can focus pretty close; in fact, it's probably as good as we can get natively for autofocus wide angle macro. It's also sharp enough to withstand heavy cropping. I believe you can also focus stack on certain Olympus bodies with it.
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  9. LukasP

    LukasP Mu-43 Rookie

    Jan 31, 2019
    I actually had some great success close-focusing with Sigma 16mm 1.4 which I got for cheap. It's autofocus is almost immediate. I wouldn't call it macro lens but it's definitely a great close-up lens. It also has an advantage to Oly 60mm(again in close-ups, not in 1:1 range) by giving some wide view behind the subject while oly 60mm isolates the subject. I heared the same about 12-40pro, however it's like 2x the price and in second hand department it's like 3x the price of Sigma
  10. DoF is always going to be troublesome at high magnifications... How big are the geckos?
  11. archaeopteryx

    archaeopteryx Gambian sidling bush Subscribing Member

    Feb 25, 2017
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  12. retiredfromlife

    retiredfromlife Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 15, 2016
    Sydney, Australia
    I think the Oly 12-40 2.8 pro would do fine. Unless you want to just take a photo of an eye etc 1:1 will be too much magnification.
    I have used the 12-40 with a good close up lens and this enables more magnification as well. If they are around 100mm long a good close focusing lens will be fine. The angle of the lizard you are photographing will have a big impact on the final image and DoF of the part you wish to be in focus.
  13. Mike Wingate

    Mike Wingate Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Feb 21, 2017
    Mike Wingate
    For macro, go for the O60mm.
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  14. Bushboy

    Bushboy Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Apr 22, 2018
    Any close focusing, auto focus lens will suffice.
    Telephoto is not required.
    A focus bracketing body and stacking software, as archaeopteryx has suggested will help more than any special lens.
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  15. phigmov

    phigmov Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Apr 4, 2010
  16. ac12

    ac12 Mu-43 All-Pro

    Apr 24, 2018
    If you stay with Olympus, I would get the 60.
    The reason is working distance. The shorter the lens the closer you have to get to the subject. And for me, if I am only a few inches away from my subject, lighting becomes difficult as I have to use specialized small lights, not inexpensive desk lamps which I normally use with the 55 Micro Nikkor.

    6 inches is about as long as a pen. Now that taxes are done, I might play with my lenses and see what they can do.
  17. Holoholo55

    Holoholo55 Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Aug 13, 2014
    Honolulu, HI
    @digital_grrl79@digital_grrl79, it kinda sounds to me that shallow DOF is more of a problem than distance from your subject. You're backing up to try to get more DOF. Focus bracketing or stacking might be the solution to your DOF problem, if the geckos cooperate. :) 
    Utilising the OM-D E-M1 Ver. 4.0's Focus Stacking and Focus Bracketing Modes in Insect Photography, with Professional Photographer Kazuo Unno
    Focus Stacking and Bracketing
    You can do focus stacking in-camera in a fast burst, which may be feasible if the geckos stay still for a reasonable time. Note: you'll need to use one of the compatible lenses for focus stacking. I'm afraid the lenses you have won't work for this.

    I assume you're using continuous lighting? I tried focus stacking with flash, and it is only good on completely stationary objects because you have to wait for the flash to recycle. Continuous or ambient lighting works better for focus stacking. I've also used a flash with a diffuser to take close-ups and to use a smaller aperture to get more DOF in a single exposure.

    Re: lenses. If you're not shooting 1:1, quite a few lenses will focus closely enough to get good close-ups, including the 12-40 Pro. I even use my 12-100 Pro for close-ups. The macros are of course, even more suitable and there are a number of choices. The shorter ones, like the 30's, are OK if your subjects don't spook when you get close. I have the Oly 60 f2.8 and like it. I even use a Sigma 105 f2.8 macro occasionally (a 4/3rds lens). The Leica 45 f2.8 macro might suit you if you need to be closer than with a 60.
  18. ralf-11

    ralf-11 Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jan 16, 2017
    Her problem is lack of room to back away from the geckos, so a 60mm (120 eq. in FF) is not a solution.

    If the Oly 30 doesn't allow good framing then try a wide angle with good close-up performance. Do you have a zoom you can try to find out the best focal length to get? Even a cheap kit lens will let you determine the focal length.
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  19. algold

    algold Mu-43 Veteran Subscribing Member

    Apr 8, 2016
    What native AF micro 4/3 lenses do you have. For geckos 1-6” in size you don’t really need a true macro lens, unless you want to capture small details in baby geckos, like eyes and cute tiny fingers. As said above, 12-40/2.8 or even a cheap and cheerful 12-50 can do the job. 30mm macro either Oly or Pana will do it nicely. 25mm (any one of them) with auto extension tubes wil work as well.
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  20. @digital_grrl79@digital_grrl79 You don't mention what camera you are using but if it's a Panasonic with IBIS, look at Panasonic lenses first to possibly get the advantage of Dual IS.
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