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Is there a definition of "MACRO"?

 
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jjphoto



Joined: 01 Jul 2011
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 17, 2011 5:58 pm    Post subject: Is there a definition of "MACRO"? Reply with quote

Probably just a silly newbie question but, I'm qurious to know if there is a definition for the term "Macro" that has more weight than the common definition of simply meaning "close up" or 1:1 (or greater magnification)?

There seems to be a perception that a specific magnification defines the term, and that anything less is "technically" NOT macro. As there is no "United Nations" equivalent to define photographic terms I wonder what the hard liners (that's probably any one reading this) think? The term "macro photography" didn't even exist in the early part of the 20th century (only based on a photographic dictionary I have from the time) so appears to have evolved since then.

Does anyone know the etymology of the term (macro, as it relates to photography) or where the common understanding came from?

Also, does anyone know where this definition of 1:1 or closer comes from, if it is in fact a reasonable definition in the first place? Who says what's "technically" macro and what isn't?

JJ
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SONYNUT



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PostPosted: Sun Jul 17, 2011 6:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Macro
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rjlittlefield
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 17, 2011 7:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

JJ, you've chanced onto one of my favorite topics.

For starters, go read http://www.photomacrography.net/forum/viewtopic.php?p=9658#9658 and the surrounding thread, where it notes that
rjlittlefield wrote:
While reading one of the old books referenced in Charlie Krebs' latest post, I ran into what claims to be the first & defining use of the term "photo-macrograph" Exclamation

It's in "THE A B C OF PHOTO-MICROGRAPHY / A Practical Handbook for Beginners", W. H. Walmsley, 1902, currently available online at Google Books as http://books.google.com/books?vid=LCCN02029905&id=T29KZKfdMTIC.

According to the index, "Definition of Photo-macrograph" is on page 87 (page 104 of the pdf file):
Quote:
Photo-macrography. Worcester defined Macroscopic or Macroscopical as "noting an object which, although comparatively minute, is visible to the naked eye or to the eye assisted by a pocket lens," -- usually an inch or more in focus and magnifying less than ten diameters. A delineation or picture of an object thus enlarged would be a macrograph, and if produced by the aid of photography, why should it not be termed a photo-macrograph? At all events I have chosen to coin that word and to define it as a slightly enlarged picture or delineation of a macroscopical object produced by means of a lens and sensitized photographic plate.

Earlier, on page 2 in fact, Walmsley introduces the concept as follows:
Quote:
Macroscopic denotes an object of minute proportions, but visible to the naked eye, or by means of a pocket lens, and does not require the use of a microscope. An enlarged drawing of such an object to the extent of a few diameters is termed a macrograph: if made by the aid of cameras, why not a photo-macrograph? There is an endless number of such objects, which may be enlarged by the aid of a suitable camera and photographic lens from one to about ten diameters -- the limit of a pocket lens of one-inch focus. I have ventured to coin the word photo-macrograph in this connection, and descriptions of the method of making them, together with illustrations, will be found in Chapter V, under Negative Making.

(The reference to Chapter V refers to the text I quoted first, from page 87.)


So, the fellow who first defined the term formulated his definition only in terms of the final image and the general method of production (a lens and sensor).

The size range he was talking about ("enlarged...a few diameters") corresponds roughly to shooting at 1:1 on 35 mm film, and someplace in the early 20th century a lot of authors started writing that the only "true" macro was 1:1 or higher onto the film. I have no idea why they did that, but that's what happened.

Anyway, that was sort of OK for a long time, because the artificial 1:1 definition was more or less equivalent to the apparent intent of the original definition -- namely, that the resulting image would show detail normally seen only through a hand lens.

However, as sensors got smaller and smaller, the artificial 1:1 definition became less and less useful. Very basically, in the macro/micro range light just doesn't care how big the sensor is. All of the fundamental macro/micro problems like diffraction, DOF, etc., are essentially independent of the sensor size. What really matters is just the size of the subject and what the viewer sees, and that's nicely captured in Walmsley's original definition.

As a result, the community is now gradually moving away from the artificial 1:1 definition and back toward a definition based on subject size and what you can see in the final image, without regard for intermediate numbers like lens magnification.

It's still a controversial subject, though. Many of us graybeard members of the community first got into photography when the 1:1 definition was in full swing. As a result, we learned the 1:1 definition as a sort of dogma, and in that context, the comparatively recent movement back to the essentials of Walmsley seems like "changing the definition of macro we've used all our lives". It is changing the definition, of course, but only for the best of reasons: to back out an earlier change that ultimately proved to have been not a good idea.

--Rik
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jjphoto



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PostPosted: Sun Jul 17, 2011 8:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Excellent. Thanks Rik. That's the kind of info I was after.

I have a 1926 "Dictionary of Photography" by Wall and Mortimer, already in it's 11th edition, which simply defines "Macro-Photography" as "A term used to denote the enlargement of a negative". There is no mention of close up photography, macrography or similar however it does later define "photo-micrography" with the same meaning as today. This is an English book, not American, so maybe the terms where used or evolved slightly differently.

JJ
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rjlittlefield
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 17, 2011 11:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's an interesting case of non-parallel construction between photomicrography / microphotography and photomacrography / macro(-)photography.

For photomicrography / microphotography, the original authors were quite definite that the first term meant taking pictures of very small things, and the second meant making very small pictures of bigger things. This distinction was clearly made and defended by at least one of the original authors, and in the 1960's the issue was reaffirmed by international committee. (See HERE, in the OED entry for "microphotograph".)

In the case of photomacrography / macrophotography (with or without space or hyphen), there has never really been such a distinction. Entries in the OED and photographic dictionaries make it clear that until the mid 1900's, the terms were generally used interchangeably, both referring to making pictures of small things. At some point in the mid 1900's, a few authors apparently tried to introduce a clear distinction similar to the micro case. Kodak publication N-12B, for example, wrote regarding photomacrography that "The term should not be interchanged with macrophotography -- the making of large photographs, such as photomurals." I'm not sure what their basis for that statement was, considering the history of use documented in the OED. Analogy with micro, I suspect. In any event the distinction did not catch on. I just now did a Google search on macrophotography photomurals, and while I can find a couple of publications still asserting that use, most hits were regarding the making of photomurals from images of small subjects. If there is a Usage Authority, they're being roundly ignored.

Quote:
I have a 1926 "Dictionary of Photography" by Wall and Mortimer, already in it's 11th edition, which simply defines "Macro-Photography" as "A term used to denote the enlargement of a negative".

That definition has always bothered me because of its ambiguity. Was it referring to the generation of prints at larger-than-life-size (that is, "photomacrographs"), or was it referring to the generation of very large prints such as photomurals?

In the OED, there is a reference to the 1940 edition of Wall's dictionary, 15th edition, listing "Macro-photographs, term applied to photographs of small objects reproduced at or about natural size. Macro-photography occupies a position intermediate between ordinary photography, in which objects are much reduced, and photo-micrography, in which objects are shown greatly enlarged."

Dictionary entries lag common use, so apparently the term was well established before 1940 but at least not long before 1926.

Personally, I suspect this latter definition also clarifies what the earlier one had meant, as opposed to changing it. It would be an odd case for a a dictionary revision to drastically change the meaning of a word, particularly without explicitly mentioning that they were doing that. But I haven't seen the entire 1940 entry, so I'm not sure what all is there.

--Rik
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Harold Gough



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PostPosted: Sun Jul 17, 2011 11:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The term 'macro' has been considerably abused by manufacturers of lenses as a sales gimick. Any lens which is capable of what used to be called a "close-up", generally well short of 1:1 or higher, is marketed as a "macro" lens or has "macro" prominent in the model name and/or promotional material. Many such lenses even have a "macro" button for chosing the higher magnification range which is not the macro the purchaser may have been hoping for. Such lenses are unlikely to have been optimised for such close work as they offer.

Harold
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jjphoto



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PostPosted: Mon Jul 18, 2011 12:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

rjlittlefield wrote:
Quote:
I have a 1926 "Dictionary of Photography" by Wall and Mortimer, already in it's 11th edition, which simply defines "Macro-Photography" as "A term used to denote the enlargement of a negative".

That definition has always bothered me because of its ambiguity. Was it referring to the generation of prints at larger-than-life-size (that is, "photomacrographs"), or was it referring to the generation of very large prints such as photomurals?


I've attached small excerpts from the dictionary below. If any one feels it's a copyright breech then please let me know and I'll remove the links immediately.

The entire entry is as follows;





This one goes on for about 1.5 pages but there was no point on showing the entire entry.


JJ
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Harold Gough



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PostPosted: Mon Jul 18, 2011 6:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

A crossover species, macro/micro?

http://www.whoi.edu/oceanus/viewImage.do?id=5667&aid=2497

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rjlittlefield
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 18, 2011 7:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

jjphoto wrote:
The entire entry is as follows

Excellent, thanks for the excerpt. So this does make clear that they were talking about the production of very large prints. I wonder then if the 1940 edition that speaks of "small objects reproduced at or about natural size" also gives the 1926 definition, and what else if anything they say about the usage.

Quote:
If any one feels it's a copyright breech

There's no problem with copyright here. This is fair use of a small extract with discussion, and with the original source clearly indicated.

--Rik
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jjphoto



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PostPosted: Mon Jul 18, 2011 7:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

rjlittlefield wrote:
jjphoto wrote:
The entire entry is as follows

Excellent, thanks for the excerpt. ...--Rik


No problem.

rjlittlefield wrote:
... So this does make clear that they were talking about the production of very large prints. ...--Rik


I disagree that this refers to very large prints in any specific way, it's not that clear. Remember that they were making enlargements from celluloid films and not just plates, although the plates were often small too. They could have just been making small to moderate enlargements, 5x7 and 8x10's where a common size at the time. There's nothing at all there to suggest very large prints.

rjlittlefield wrote:
...
Quote:
If any one feels it's a copyright breech

There's no problem with copyright here. This is fair use of a small extract with discussion, and with the original source clearly indicated.

--Rik


Thanks. I'm not really sure how to handle that kind of thing and what is considered fair use.

JJ
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rjlittlefield
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 18, 2011 10:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

jjphoto wrote:
rjlittlefield wrote:
... So this does make clear that they were talking about the production of very large prints. ...--Rik


I disagree that this refers to very large prints in any specific way, it's not that clear. Remember that they were making enlargements from celluloid films and not just plates, although the plates were often small too. They could have just been making small to moderate enlargements, 5x7 and 8x10's where a common size at the time. There's nothing at all there to suggest very large prints.

That's a good point. I guess I was reacting to the phrasing about "The opposite of micro-photography", while micro-photography was described as "the reproduction of positives in a very minute size" (emphasis added). So I guess we're back to the possibility that they were just talking about making positives that were larger than life size by the expedient of enlarging a smaller negative, in which case the 1940 definition could have been intended as rewording for clarification rather than to change the definition.

--Rik
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