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newbie looking at micro 4/3 cameras - advice please

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by rj64, Dec 13, 2010.

  1. rj64

    rj64 New to Mu-43

    Dec 13, 2010
    West Yorkshire UK
    Hi all,

    Just signed up when I found this forum, and I'm hoping some of you might be able to advise me or give me your experience to allow me to decide what to do.

    I make jewellery which I sell on line, this requires my photos to be really really good. I just use a canon 85i basic camera, working with the limits of the machine to produce the best pictures I can, and using photoshop to sort out the rest.

    I'm looking to upgrade to a proper camera! I have a keen interest in all other kinds of photography, and would be looking to use my new camera for all kinds of photographic work, but it HAS to handle detailed close ups, as that's it's main role. Budget is a massive problem, I really want to keep it down as far as possible, so need to bear this in mind.

    As I see it my options are:
    * a prosumer all in one camera, I gather some of these are really well spec'ed now, and some are better than your basic DSLR's, but I don't know how good the built in macro function would be.

    * a classic DSLR, probably the canon 1000 which is entry level, but then I would need to get a macro lens extra. Or I have been reading about adapting a normal range lens using bellows and such like instead - is this a non-starter or a real option?

    * I've just found these wonderful micro 4/3's camera's which sound amazing, and my favourite choice, but wondering what my options for buying the relevant lens are for cost. Or I could buy a probably cheaper normal macro and an adapter - but would this be more money and not a good option?

    I also need a bit of basic help with lenses. I have never used a camera with separate lenses before, so forgive my gaping ignorance, but they are called things like this which seem to overlap name wise, and I cannot work out if other lenses other than actual 'macro' will give me the functions I need.

    When I went into a local camera shop a few months ago, the guy totally confused me by saying that I would not need to do close up photography, I could zoom in from further away, but couldn't explain why this was an advantage! Would that then mean I could get the effect I want with a more general lens?

    Sorry, probably too many questions, would love any advice you can give, thanks!

  2. blue

    blue Mu-43 Veteran

    Jun 1, 2010
    When you say "close up" how close do you mean - do you want it magnified ?

    Small sensor point and shoots have an advantage of a good depth of field at the macro setting.

    For micro four thirds you don't have to get an expensive macro. An option is to get the Raynox 150 or 250 magnifying lens,you can very get good results with this. Search these boards for some examples.
  3. jcurious

    jcurious Mu-43 Regular

    Oct 14, 2010
    Northern Virginia
    For macro work, I'm a big fan of the Raynox DCR-150 and DCR-250 lens attachments.

    *Includes a simple adapter that fits on a wide range of lenses
    *You will probably want the 250 as it provides more magnification
    *While looking for jewelry photos taken with the Raynox, I found a nifty jewelry guide
    Basic Macro Photography - Simple Jewelry Photography - Raynox DCR-250 and Canon S3
    *Costs about $50
    *You can get more magnification by zooming in.
    *Make sure you use it with a camera with aperture controls so you can control the depth of field (this pretty much includes any "pro-sumer" or DSLR camera)

    As far as what type of camera to get?
    * :43: and DSLR have MUCH larger camera sensors, this typically translates into sharper pictures from my understanding
    *Traditional DSLR offers optical view though lens at the expense of size and weight
    *The electronic liveview on a :43: is typically better then a budget DSLRs
    *If a flip screen is desired Panasonic G1,G2,GH2 have one; Nikon's D5000 flips up/down
  4. akulya

    akulya Mu-43 Veteran

    Jun 21, 2010
    Hello Rachel and welcome!

    I understand you want to keep costs low, but also get the best multi-purpose camera you can - to shoot your products as well as general photography, but a better idea of your budget would help us out.

    The cheapest Micro4/3 camera at the moment is probably the Panasonic G1, they go for £250ish on ebay.

    My wife (who also makes jewllery) still uses our Sony T-20 point and shoot to photograph her stock, because the quality is good enough for website sized images and the depth of field in Macro mode is incredible; even though we have an E-P1 and a Pana/Leica 45mm Macro lens, she finds the point and shoot "more handy". If this were our camera's sole use, from an economic perspective it would be hard to justify it.

    The great thing about micro4/3 is the versatility. The image quality at full size blows point and shoots away, and some cheap old lenses can still give beautiful images (using them can be lots of fun too!) you can pick and choose the lens thats right for you.

    Good luck in your search, and have a good look through the galleries here, there's a good bunch of helpful sorts on this forum, so just make yourself at home :smile:
  5. akulya

    akulya Mu-43 Veteran

    Jun 21, 2010
    Just a quick guide on lenses,

    A lens is identified by it's focal length (measured in millimeters) and f number (dimensionless)

    If a lens has only one focal length, it is called a prime lens. It does not zoom.
    If a lens has a specified focal length range, it is a zoom lens.

    The Focal Length is directly related to the angle of view.
    A Telephoto lens (a long lens) has a small angle of view; and a focal length that is higher than normal.
    A Wide angle lens (a wide lens) has a large angle of view; and a focal length that is lower than normal.
    A Normal lens has an angle of view that is "Normal" and a focal length that is about equal to the physical diagonal measurement of the camera sensor.

    On Micro 4/3 "Normal" is ~22mm.

    A Zoom lens is not necessarily a telephoto lens. The Lumix 7-14mm F4 is one of the widest lenses available (on any camera system ever), because it covers a range of focal lengths, is also zoom lens.
    The "Kit Zooms" cover the 14-42mm range, which extends from moderate wide angle through normal, to moderate telephoto.

    The F Number of a lens tells you how much light it lets through, basically how "Bright" it is. The lower the f number, the brighter the lens (and the more £ it will cost).

    Prime lenses (ones that do not zoom) usually have lower f numbers than zoom lenses; and most zoom lenses cannot use their maximum brightness throughout their zoom range, in which case an f number range is given alongside the zoom range (i.e m.Zuiko 14-42mm 3.5-5.6).
    Some Zoom lenses are "constant apeture" and have a constant max f number; these are very expensive.

    As far as Macro goes, the "Macro" designation basically means that the lens can render an image on the sensor at about the same size as the object is in real life 1:1 (or x1) mean that this ideal is reached (these really are extreme close ups). 1:2 (or x0.5) is a respectable figure (and still very "close up"), but you cannot really go any lower and still call the lens a "macro".

    The Olympus kit zoom has a maximum magnification of about x0.3, this is very decent.

    The maximum magnification of a lens depends on it's focal length AND it's minimum close focus distance, so a telephoto lens might make things look bigger, but you might have to get further away from your subject to actually focus on it.

    I wrote a bit for beginners here which you might find useful too.
    • Like Like x 1
  6. rj64

    rj64 New to Mu-43

    Dec 13, 2010
    West Yorkshire UK
    wow, guys, thanks for your extensive and informative replies! I appreciate you taking the time, thanks.

    Kal, it's interesting that your wife makes jewellery / uses a point and shot for the pictures, too. I do find great results at a certain type of picture, one where the short depth of field works for me to create an intriguing picture. However, taking a moderate length shot that looks good of say a whole necklace is pretty impossible.

    I'm going to mull over that you've all suggested (and any more that I get!).

    I really want to get my hands on a micro 4/3, if I am honest. If I get something like the Raynox DCR-250 magnifyer, this means I don't need to get a dedicated macro lens, I think you are saying? If that is the case, which type (not necessarily manufacturer) of lens spec would be a good all rounder and which I could add the magnifyer to?

    A lot to take in!

  7. ~tc~

    ~tc~ Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Oct 22, 2010
    Houston, TX
    x3 on using a small-sensor advanced compact for the macro. Something like the Canon S95 would be great - the most current crop of these cameras has great image quality.

    I do quite a bit of macro shots, and have the PL45/2.8 for my GF1. This type of photography is MUCH more challenging on m43 than it was on compact. Because the small sensor contributes to such a large DOF, you can run it at wide apertures and have nice short, hand holdable exposures. With m43, you have to stop down the lens quite a bit, which results in long, tripod required exposures.

    The irony of all this, is the reason I went to m43 from a compact (besides the fact my wife destroyed the compact) was to get control over depth of field and be able to blur backgrounds and isolate the subject!
  8. akulya

    akulya Mu-43 Veteran

    Jun 21, 2010
    If you want a new camera, are probably going to buy one anyway, and to help justify the extravagance need it to be useful for your work as well as fun;

    I think I would recommend the E-PL1 with 14-42mm kit zoom.

    The E-PL1 is a more user friendly camera, it is newer and does cost a little more than the Lumix G1, but was more designed for upgrading "point and shooters" than downsizing "DSLRers" (which the G1 is aimed at)

    The 14-42mm lens is small and collapsable, making for a very portable camera/lens combo, it has a useful focal length range, and is decent for "product shoot" photography (our member Rudi uses it a lot) and is also because it is bundled with the E-PL1, it will not be an additional expense.

    Srsmicrosystems in the UK are often quite competetive, they sell a new E-PL1 (with 14-42) for £375, but you can get them cheaper if you ebay or second hand.
  9. Danny_Two

    Danny_Two Mu-43 Regular

    Oct 30, 2010
    G1 body. then trawl ebay for a decent old cheap macro or prime lens, an old M42 or a Minolta for instance, £20 lens adaptor, and away you go.
  10. Spuff

    Spuff Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Dec 5, 2010
    Berkshire, UK.
    Bear in mind there's £30 cashback on a new one until the end of January (you have to search for the form, there's not one in the box).
    I got my cheque within a week of sending the form off.
  11. deirdre

    deirdre Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Aug 9, 2010
    I haven't done a lot of work that's truly macro, but Micro-4/3 is a good choice unless you're printing really large. Because of the crop factor, you'll get more bang for the buck in long legacy lenses, but wide angle becomes an issue: if you want really wide angle, it's expensive.
  12. m3mike

    m3mike New to Mu-43

    Dec 28, 2010
  13. ~tc~

    ~tc~ Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Oct 22, 2010
    Houston, TX
    The raynox screws into the filter threads on lens you already have
  14. JohnF

    JohnF Mu-43 Regular

    Apr 1, 2010
    Oberursel, Germany
    Hi -

    In this case, buy the lens, rather than the body.

    Taking jewelry pictures isn't that hard with the right equipment, but is challenging, especially if you don't want to invest a lot.

    First and foremost: use a tripod. Handheld will always get you some movement that won't give you the best results. You don't need a super expensive heavy-duty tripod, a used one with a simple three-way head would do the job as well. Check eBay for used Manfrotto tripods.

    Second: the Olympus 50 f2 macro lens is about the finest you will find out there, but costs quite a bit. I'd like to recommend the Olympus 35mm f3.5 lens for 4/3, which is almost as sharp (you'd be hard-pressed to see the difference, but it is there).

    You can put this lens on a micro4/3 camera with an adapter. The Panasonic adapter works fine and is less expensive than the Olympus, same difference. As others have pointed out, there are quite a few of the micro 4/3 cameras out there, but given the nature of what you want to do, I think that a 4/3 camera could do the job just as well. Since you'll be working on a tripod, you don't necessarily need the smaller size, hence you might want to look at getting a basic 4/3 camera, possibly used: there are plenty of these around.

    I'd recommend a light tent for good illumination of the jewelry and to keep highlights and reflections under control. I do a fair amount of watch photography and this makes life vastly simpler. There are plenty of kits out there, this might be something:

    Cloud Dome Infinity Board Digital Lighting Kit - CDIB18GKT B&H


    Impact Small Digital Lighthouse Kit (120-240VAC) DLH-KS B&H

    That, coupled with, say, an E400 or EP-1, with that 35mm lens, should give you results that are pretty outstanding. Get the right tools for the job, and everything is simpler...

    Hope this helps!


    PS: If you are dealing with precious stones, might want to add something like this:


    to add some strong natural sparkle to the stones.
  15. kevinparis

    kevinparis Cantankerous Scotsman Subscribing Member

    Feb 12, 2010
    Gent, Belgium
    I would just add that lighting is going to be a good friend to you... so look at light tents and ways of setting up consistent, even lighting. You are taking these pictures to sell a product... so they should look as professional as possible.

    a simple light tent and a couple of angle poise lamps will probably get you started

  16. Narnian

    Narnian Nobody in particular ...

    Aug 6, 2010
    Richmond, VA
    Richard Elliott
    Kevin and DonF make and excellent points - lighting is critical to composing good product shots. Two or three small lamps and a light tent (also called a soft box, etc.) should work well and can be gotten off of eBay reasonably priced (under $50).

    A tripod will not only allow sharper pictures but it will allow consistent pictures - you can make small adjustments in the composition while not having to constantly adjust your field of view.

    Heck, here is an eBay "Buy Now" with everything for $35:

    Photo Light Soft Box Studio Lighting Tent in a Box LS31 - eBay (item 260681770989 end time Jan-20-11 14:05:06 PST)

    I am not endorsing this particular one, just showing you can try them cheap. There are lots on eBay. I have a home-made setup that is bigger but, at a glance, not any better. And if you like it then upgrade to higher quality stuff later - though as a pro friend of mine reminds me more expensive does not always mean better. But in this case a good quality tripod would be a good up front investment as cheap tripods often slip and are frequently harder to adjust..

    If you are primarily putting the pictures online and not enlarging them for greater than 8x10 prints you can probably use any macro tool (Raynox, high quality close-up lenses, macro lens, etc.) and not notice much of a difference.

    I have purchased two 50mm macros, Pentax and Olympus, for around $60 each plus another $20 each for m4/3 adapters so those are can be had relatively cheap as well.
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