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The best camera for both macro of plants/lichens & scope
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lichenophile



Joined: 22 Dec 2011
Posts: 5
Location: Oak Harbor WA

PostPosted: Tue Jan 10, 2012 6:18 am    Post subject: The best camera for both macro of plants/lichens & scope Reply with quote

I'm deciding on a camera to purchase in the $400-$450 range or so that would satisfy both my desire to take excellent clear, crisp, detailed outdoor macro pics of lichens and plants, (often in lower forest light and Pacific NW cloudy/grey/damp conditions!)
I'd like it to have a tilting or articulating camera screen for viewing. As a teacher I want to use photos mainly for educational purposes, whether in presentations, to create a guidebook, for displays etc...perhaps even a poster though I haven't done this yet!

Also, having GPS coordinates for lichen specimens is needed for herbarium level inventories, so having a camera with this feature is something I'd like, unless getting a separate GPS seems wiser.

Indoors, I'd like for this camera to take images of specimens via my
dissecting microscope: Olympus SZ 3060 that has dual eyepieces at 25 cm across. I also might grow into using it for my Aus Jena Zeiss Laboval Compound scope with dual eyepiece viewing areas of 22 cm.

I'd really appreciate if you could share your experience with me about what might be the best decision to make regarding which camera to purchase: go for a 'high end' point and shoot , a micro 4/5ths or used DSLR and purchase certain lenses as I save up for this?

Regarding the Point and Shoot models I've been considering the Canon S100 (the macro range goes only to 3 inches though and no articulating screen) or Canon G-12 (has a 1 " macro and articulating screen but no GPS and possibly not as good for low light), or micro 4/3rds options including: Oly EP1, Nikon D3100 or Sony Nex 3, Panasonic Lumix etc


If you have suggestions I am quite interested to know what you would recommend. Also, if you are aware of existing adapters for any of these cameras to use with at least my dissecting scope that would be helpful to know as well.
Thanks for any feedback on the best choice of camera. Melissa
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dickb



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PostPosted: Tue Jan 10, 2012 7:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The major differences between point and shoot cameras and micro4/3, NEX and DSLR cameras are sensor size and fixed/exchangeable lenses.

Point and shoots have a small sensor and a fixed lens.

Due to the small sensor, image quality at high ISO is worse than with larger sensor cameras. In dark conditions, this can be circumvented by using flash or a tripod and long exposures. Luckily your subject matter is quite stationary and this approach may work well.
The extreme macro mode on digital compacts is almost always limited to the wide angle setting of the zoom lens. 1 inch macro may seem great, but combined with the wide angle lens the resulting magnification may be less than you would expect. Needing to get very close is annoying because you may scare away your subject (not applicable to you) and you tend to block the light. What you get this way are macro photos with limited magnification but with a large depth of field. Also this way it is easy to show a subject within its environment, moss at a medium magnification with the forest recognisable in the background. But it will be harder to show the moss in focus against an even, out of focus background.

Cameras with larger sensors will have better high ISO quality, more options for (expensive) extra lenses, more working distance (distance between the front of the lens and the subject) and will be likely heavier and more expensive. With these cameras it is easier to get a nice out of focus background but it will be harder to get a macro shot with a distant background in focus.

If you get a point and shoot, get one with a filter thread that allows you to use close-up lenses. This way, you'll get more magnification at all the zoom positions, not just the wide angle.
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lauriek
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 10, 2012 12:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

If the GPS thing is important, I doubt you'll get a DSLR which features this plus one decent lens for your budget - so you should be looking at P&S. However if you can do without that, or use a separate GPS logger (Do you have a smartphone?) then I'd definitely suggest a used DSLR as a starting point.

The newish micro4/3/NEX etc mirrorless cameras are quite cool, but they don't really do anything for you that a DSLR would not do, except take up a little less space, plus as they have not been around for that long you're not going to be able to pick up as much of a bargain!

My favourite camera for shooting fungi, slime-molds, moss and the like is an Olympus E330 DSLR (Plus typically the Olympus ZD35/3.5 macro lens, plus I use the Oly STF-22 twinflash, but the last item would seriously blow your budget).
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naturephoto1



Joined: 13 Nov 2011
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 10, 2012 12:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

lauriek wrote:
If the GPS thing is important, I doubt you'll get a DSLR which features this plus one decent lens for your budget - so you should be looking at P&S. However if you can do without that, or use a separate GPS logger (Do you have a smartphone?) then I'd definitely suggest a used DSLR as a starting point.

The newish micro4/3/NEX etc mirrorless cameras are quite cool, but they don't really do anything for you that a DSLR would not do, except take up a little less space, plus as they have not been around for that long you're not going to be able to pick up as much of a bargain!

My favourite camera for shooting fungi, slime-molds, moss and the like is an Olympus E330 DSLR (Plus typically the Olympus ZD35/3.5 macro lens, plus I use the Oly STF-22 twinflash, but the last item would seriously blow your budget).


Of course, if you do decide to purchase a Micro 4/3 camera they do offer the opportunity through the usage of adapters to use many legacy manual focus lenses by many makers. For macro work in particular, manual focusing is frequently/usually your best option. The larger manual focus lenses from these many makers will also offer the opportunity of using these lenses on the Micro 4/3 cameras with such application as shift and tilt.

Rich
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lauriek
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 10, 2012 5:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

At macro magnifications you can do this with any DSLR - the micro 4/3 bodies allow infinite focus with most lenses with appropriate adapters due to the very small space between the lens mount and the sensor allowing space for the adapter.
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naturephoto1



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PostPosted: Tue Jan 10, 2012 5:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

lauriek wrote:
At macro magnifications you can do this with any DSLR - the micro 4/3 bodies allow infinite focus with most lenses with appropriate adapters due to the very small space between the lens mount and the sensor allowing space for the adapter.


Laurie,

That is true, but I was also referring to the usage of these lenses for Micro 4/3 cameras at more "normal" distances such as infinity for other purposes such as in landscape. I know that this site discusses primarily macro photography and microscopy, but many of us including myself also do much work taking landscapes. I should have been more specific in indicating that this was in reference to more general photography.

Rich
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lichenophile



Joined: 22 Dec 2011
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Location: Oak Harbor WA

PostPosted: Tue Jan 10, 2012 7:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the feedback everyone. Dick, are you a teacher or writer? Your explanation of the differences between cameras was excellent. I could easily understand what you were saying and you were sharing info that was new to me!

Now, Dick, you mentioned a point and shoot with a filter thread. I hadn't heard of these. I will google point and shoot with filter thread but if you have any more specific recommendations I'd be interested.

Rich, yes I do want to both do macro as well as do some 'habitat' and landscape pics....since after all organisms exist within inter-related areas...I want both the 'forest and the individual tree' options...

I didn't understand the 'infinite focus' and what is a 'legacy' manual focus?

It sounds like the P&S cameras give the best 'depth of field' but not the best close up focus, and the Micro-4/3rds and DSLR's provide better detail on the macro level but less depth of field. It is possible through any lenses for a micro-4/3rds or DSLR to get a lens that would improve depth of field AND give clear, crisp macros?
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lichenophile



Joined: 22 Dec 2011
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 10, 2012 7:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

PS: Laurie: Thanks for your feedback...I am checking into Used Olympus E 330 (any suggestions on best place to get used cameras that are reliable? Re. my phone: No GPS...I have a very dumb phone, but more often than not I can talk to people on it!
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naturephoto1



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PostPosted: Tue Jan 10, 2012 7:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

lichenophile wrote:
Thanks for the feedback everyone. Dick, are you a teacher or writer? Your explanation of the differences between cameras was excellent. I could easily understand what you were saying and you were sharing info that was new to me!

Now, Dick, you mentioned a point and shoot with a filter thread. I hadn't heard of these. I will google point and shoot with filter thread but if you have any more specific recommendations I'd be interested.

Rich, yes I do want to both do macro as well as do some 'habitat' and landscape pics....since after all organisms exist within inter-related areas...I want both the 'forest and the individual tree' options...

I didn't understand the 'infinite focus' and what is a 'legacy' manual focus?

It sounds like the P&S cameras give the best 'depth of field' but not the best close up focus, and the Micro-4/3rds and DSLR's provide better detail on the macro level but less depth of field. It is possible through any lenses for a micro-4/3rds or DSLR to get a lens that would improve depth of field AND give clear, crisp macros?


Hi Melissa,

You may want to look at these links, the first regarding Micro 4/3 cameras which also mentions legacy lenses:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Micro_Four_Thirds_system

as well as this which talks about using legacy lenses on digital cameras:

http://www.ehow.com/how_7856998_use-legacy-lenses-digital-cameras.html

Rich
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rjlittlefield
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 11, 2012 12:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Melissa, welcome aboard! Very Happy

Perhaps it will help if I expand and illustrate some of the points made already by other people. What I'm going to do here is to show you head-to-head setups and illustrations comparing a Canon A710 IS point-and-shoot against a Nikon D5000 DSLR equipped with various lenses. The real subject is a medium-sized moth, sitting on a plastic box in front of the cameras.

First, here's the overall setup:



Here's the first configuration, both cameras with normal lenses, positioned at the same place:



Here's what the cameras see with that setup, both cameras zoomed to their widest angle view. DSLR on the left, P&S on the right. Notice that the DSLR actually shows a wider view of the environment than the P&S does. (The 18 mm lens on the larger sensor DSLR is wider angle than the 5.8 mm lens on the sensor of the P&S.)



Now, here is what each camera sees when set at maximum magnification with these lenses. DSLR on the left zoomed to 55 mm at closest focus, P&S on the right repositioned to closest focus. Notice that the P&S can give higher magnification with its normal lens, while at the same time preserving almost as much view of the environment as it did the first time.



However, to get the preceding P&S shot at maximum magnification, the P&S camera had to be repositioned very close to the subject:



There's no problem getting higher magnifications with the DSLR, by swapping in different optics. To make the point gently at first, here's a view at roughly 2X higher mag than the P&S can go, shot through the combination of a legacy (and off-brand) 200 mm telephoto plus a Raynox closeup lens:



And now to make the point a bit more forcefully, here's the view by swapping out the Raynox and substituting instead an appropriate microscope objective. On the left are two views of the setup; on the right is full-frame and a small crop. This is the eye of the moth, roughly speaking what you'd see through a 100X microscope.



Other issues that come to mind are that:
  • At high magnification you'll be needing to focus stack to get enough depth of field for most applications
  • For Nikon cameras on Windows computers, there is a very effective yet cheap program (ControlMyNikon, $10) that can drive the focus motor of many lenses to shoot a stack automatically.
  • I see advertisements for GPS plugins for Nikon DSLRs, for example HERE. But I have no experience with those devices.
  • B&H is currently selling factory reconditioned Nikon D5000 kits for $440 each (HERE), same body and lens shown above.
  • The issue about DOF is really a red herring. A small sensor P&S will give no more DOF than a large sensor DSLR set to the proper aperture. The P&S also does not necessarily provide a wider view of the environment. What the P&S can do, given commonly available lenses, is to provide a wide view of the environment while simultaneously providing a close view of the subject.

I suppose it's pretty clear which direction I would go, if I were in Melissa's shoes: buy a DSLR. The only big issue I see is difficulty fitting inside that $450 starting budget.

Since many of the participants in this thread are fairly new to the forum, let me mention as background that my viewpoint on equipment is highly agnostic. In many circumstances, that Canon A710 is all that I carry, and I like it a lot. Around the house, I mostly use a DSLR, but usually it's a Canon. I have a very nice cell phone camera; the geotagging is great but the macro is only so-so. I have no experience with any Micro 4/3 camera. I specifically mention the Nikon D5000 in this thread because a) I happen to have one available for illustration, b) it seems like a good match to Melissa's needs, and c) the market seems favorable at the moment.

Hope this helps! Counterpoints welcome.

--Rik
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rjlittlefield
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 11, 2012 1:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Melissa, answering your question asked elsewhere about bellows...

Bellows look something like this:



They're basically a black tunnel, adjustable length, with mechanical fittings at each end to mount camera and lens. Often used in connection with a reversed enlarger lens to get magnification greater than 1:1 (that is, subject width < 2 cm on a DSLR).

The example here happens to be an Olympus bellows with Olympus macro lens and a custom adapter to mount any camera with an old-style thread, in this case a Nikon with a thread adapter. There are a lot of other options, many available routinely on eBay.

--Rik
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enricosavazzi



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PostPosted: Wed Jan 11, 2012 1:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Apologies if the following is a duplicate of other people's posts. The following is a summary of my personal experience.

Personally, I used exclusively DSLRs with APS-C sensors until very recently (as well as film SLRs and a four-year stint with digital PS cameras when DSLRs were still too expensive). Compared with PS cameras, the possibility of changing lenses, or or removing the lens altogether and project the image produced by a microscope objective directly onto the sensor instead of using an eyepiece or "relay lens" is unbeatable.

I believe that a relatively low-end DSLR like current Nikon offerings, plus a second-hand but still very good macro lens like one of the Micro-Nikkor 55 mm f/3.5 or f/2.8, would be within your budget. Some of these DSLRs cannot meter with old lenses, so your have to choose carefully if you want automatic exposure (but manual exposure is not that difficult to get).

I recently got a micro 4/3 body (Panasonic G3) for a special project and have been quite impressed by its general capabilities. It gives practically all the advantages of a DSLR except the optical viewfinder (which anyway can get very dark and difficult to use on a microscope or in photomacrography). Image quality is very close to a DSLR's if you change the default settings appropriately.

Pricewise, a medium- to top-of-the-line micro 4/3 is not cheaper than an entry-level DSLR. Two significant advantages of the micro 4/3 format are that (1) it requires a smaller image circle, so many objectives or optical systems (e.g., industrial objectives designed for use with small-sensor videocameras) that vignette on an APS-C sensor work fine with a 4/3 or micro 4/3. This makes direct projection with many microscopes feasible, as long as their objectives do not require additional corrections of aberrations in the eyepiece. It is also (2) far easier to couple a m4/3+lens to a microscope eyepiece than to do the same with a DSLR+lens, because of the lower weight of the former. Using e.g. a pancake lens or some of the C-mount video objectives as "relay lens" with a microscope eyepiece may also be easier than using a large DSLR lens.

Basically, from your point of view, a micro 4/3 camera would provide all the advantages of a PS, plus a probably better image quality and lower noise, and the DSLR's advantage of interchangeable/removable optics. A further bonus is that almost all DLSR lenses can be mounted on a micro 4/3 camera (including the Micro Nikkor mentioned above) via an adapter and used with manual focus and manual diaphragm. The different sensor size means that an old macro lens like the above one, which allows you to reach 0.5x without extension tubes, gives you a smallest field of view of approximately 48 x 36 mm on an APS-C DSLR, but 32.6 x 26 mm on a micro 4/3. I.e. magnification in an absolute sense is the same, but the smaller sensor gives you a smaller field of view at the same magnification, which is what really counts. At least some m4/3 bodies (including the Panasonic G3) allow automatic exposure with third party lenses or no lens, but perhaps not all - I am not sufficiently familiar with this format to say for sure.

Until recently I would have flatly recommended a DSLR as a future-proof choice that allows additional uses not yet planned, but now I can see a mirrorless as a valid alternative, unless the utmost maximum image quality and lowest noise are absolute requirements.
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Charles Krebs



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PostPosted: Wed Jan 11, 2012 2:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Melissa,

While an interchangeable lens camera offers nearly unlimited possibilities, it may quickly exceed your budget to get set up as you would like. It may also prove to be a bigger hassle getting it working with your microscope than would be the case with a compact, fixed lens camera.

I think the Canon G12 would work well for you (except no GPS).

The G12 is of very high quality, it simply feels good to handle, and is much smaller and portable than an interchangeable lens camera with similar lens capabilities. It has an articulated screen. It will take remote cords for when you are on a tripod or microscope It has a built in flash but also a regular Canon hot-shoe, so all manner of more "sophisticated" flash is possible if desired. It can save a raw format file as well. It has an "optical finder" as well... not the greatest, but very helpful for non-macro situations where the ambient light makes it hard to see the LCD screen.

If the camera close up range is not adequate (or at higher magnifications you find yourself too close to the subject) you can outfit it with something like the Raynox DCR-250. Check out this page to see what I am referring to:
http://www.lensmateonline.com/G12macroSamples.php

For taking pictures through a stereo microscope (with no trinocular head or separate camera port) the G12 is small and light enough to use an adapter that will clamp onto an eyepiece. See an example here:
http://www.cncsupplyinc.com/index.htm?homepage.htm
(In the left-hand column click on microscope adapters, and see the simple inexpensive adapters). They are a variety of this type of adapter out there to choose from, especially since "digi-scoping" has become popular.

This is called the "afocal" method of taking pictures through a microscope. One caveat is that you really don't know how well the camera lens will match up to your microscope eyepieces until you try it. You may experience some vignetting.

If you really want to take pictures through a microscope like your Olympus SZ 3060, the best results will be with a camera that produces no vibration when a picture is initiated. That is the case with the G12 (and other point-and-shoot cameras). But with DSLRs (and even non-SLRs that have removable lenses) there are only a few to choose from that excel in this regard.

G12 prices are down a bit, many places are selling them now for under $400.

Charlie (also residing in the Pacific NW cloudy/grey/damp conditions!)
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Harold Gough



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PostPosted: Wed Jan 11, 2012 6:37 am    Post subject: Re: The best camera for both macro of plants/lichens & s Reply with quote

lichenophile wrote:
I'm deciding on a camera to purchase in the $400-$450 range or so that would satisfy both my desire to take excellent clear, crisp, detailed outdoor macro pics of lichens and plants, (often in lower forest light and Pacific NW cloudy/grey/damp conditions!)

You don't mention a tripod. Unless you are going to use flash, you may need to use at least ISO 800-1000, and time delay (anti-shock) on a tripod. Such a tripod will have to be able to hold the camera at about ground level. An alternative to a tripod, and much cheaper, might be a bean bag.

Some (most?) cameras have an intergral microphone, which I believe allows you to speak comments into the (?) EXIF file. You could read a hand-held SATNAV reading into the image file. (Check the technical details, as I have no experience of this).

Harold
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Last edited by Harold Gough on Wed Jan 11, 2012 7:05 am; edited 1 time in total
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dickb



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PostPosted: Wed Jan 11, 2012 6:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

lichenophile wrote:
Thanks for the feedback everyone. Dick, are you a teacher or writer? Your explanation of the differences between cameras was excellent. I could easily understand what you were saying and you were sharing info that was new to me!


You're welcome. I'm a photographer and give courses in digital photography, so I do spend spend some time explaining what cameras can and cannot do.

lichenophile wrote:
Now, Dick, you mentioned a point and shoot with a filter thread. I hadn't heard of these. I will google point and shoot with filter thread but if you have any more specific recommendations I'd be interested.


Some point and shoots (used to) have filter threads on their lenses, many newer ones have an optional filter adapter, such as the FA-DC58B Filter Adapter for Canon G12. I haven't used any of the recent digicams, so I can't recommend any specific type. Just don't get one where you can't get a filter adapter for.
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