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Newbie to Macro - need some help please

 
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stevenfstein



Joined: 30 Dec 2019
Posts: 3
Location: New York

PostPosted: Tue Jan 07, 2020 7:40 am    Post subject: Newbie to Macro - need some help please Reply with quote

Brand new to macro with lots of questions about flash and equipment. Have Nikon D7200 and Sigma 105. Just got an inexpensive ringlight flash with left and right lights with ratios and trying to work through an interesting English translation. When using a ringflash, do you shoot in manual or TTL? If manual, how do you find right exposure - multiple shots and dial in what you like? The instruction mentions FV lock - something to worry about or set up? I plan on doing some focus stacking down the road as I get better and was wondering what you would suggest. Thinking about Manfrotto 410 or Benro GD3WH geared head and would prefer arca quick connect but not a show stopper. Also thinking about novoflex castel - l for a rail. Will mainly be photographing flowers and "things" but (insert wife here) - no insects. Suggestions appreciated.
Best... Steve
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Chris S.
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Joined: 05 Apr 2009
Posts: 3406
Location: Ohio, USA

PostPosted: Wed Jan 08, 2020 12:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Steve,

Welcome to the forum, and to macro! Very Happy

Quote:
When using a ringflash, do you shoot in manual or TTL?

With static subjects in the studio, I’d suggest shooting in manual. This way, you know exactly what your flash settings are and can adjust them to taste. With TTL, your camera/flash are making decisions unknown to you, so adjusting to taste includes an un-needed element of unknown. When you get into stacking—where you’ll be taking multiple shots to create a final image—manual settings also become useful for minimizing changes in exposure between frames (though stacking software can deal with modest exposure variation).

In the field, TTL can have more value—things like butterflies won’t necessarily stay put while you adjust your flash. (I realize you said “no insects.”)

Quote:
If manual, how do you find right exposure - multiple shots and dial in what you like?

I would take a shot, look at the histogram, adjust exposure, and repeat until the exposure is dialed in. It’s well-worth becoming good friends with the histogram, if you are not already. Also, there is a vague memory in my head that my D7100 body came with the histogram set to luminance instead of RGB; if this is the case with your D7200, you’ll want to change it to RGB, and be careful to look at all three channels when adjusting exposure. A red flower, for example, may blow out the red channel at an exposure setting where the green and blue channels are well within recordable range.

Quote:
The instruction mentions FV lock - something to worry about or set up?

I had to look that up, as the FV feature is newer than my camera bodies. But from reading about it, here goes: If you use TTL flash, and you shoot with the method: “Center subject to acquire focus and exposure, then lock these in by pressing shutter button half-way down, then recompose to shoot,” you would benefit by setting up this feature. If you don’t shoot this way, then you can ignore FV lock. Personally, this is something I might use in a fast changing situation where my subject is not centered, but this situation is not too likely to occur when I’m using a macro lens and ring flash.

Quote:
I plan on doing some focus stacking down the road as I get better and was wondering what you would suggest. Thinking about Manfrotto 410 or Benro GD3WH geared head and would prefer arca quick connect but not a show stopper. Also thinking about novoflex castel - l for a rail. Will mainly be photographing flowers and "things" but (insert wife here) - no insects.

Some members here have experience with those tripod heads, and can comment on them. As to Arca standard connections, I would strongly advise you to insist on them and use nothing else, and that this actually should be a show stopper. There may come a time when you have multiple tripods, multiple camera bodies, lenses with feet, and other items that require mounting. If all of them have Arca-standard clamps, rails, or plates, everything is conveniently interchangeable. Arca-standard connectors are now inexpensive and available from numerous vendors. Nothing else is convenient, safe, and widely interchangeable.

Regarding rails, before buying one, read Do I need a focus rail? (midway down the page) and Is it better to use a focus rail or the ring on my lens? (Both links are portions of the support documentation for Zerene Stacker software and written by Rik Littlefield.) I think you will find that there is little use for a manual focus rail such as the Novoflex Castel-L. For larger subjects, you are better off turning the focus ring of your lens. For smaller subjects, you are better off with a motorized rail such as the Cognisys StackShot or similar offerings from WeMacro or MKJZZ. (If you eventually move to very tiny subjects—the rabbit hole of macro photography tends to suck us in—then you may want to consider a microscope focus block.)

--Chris S.
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stevenfstein



Joined: 30 Dec 2019
Posts: 3
Location: New York

PostPosted: Wed Jan 08, 2020 8:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Chris, this is perfect, just what I was looking for. Do you have a feel for which gear head most members use? When I try a search for them the Manfrotto 410 or Benro GD3WH come up, along with the Arca cube which is way out of my price range right now. Wondering if there were others that are good.
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Chris S.
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Joined: 05 Apr 2009
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 09, 2020 1:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

stevenfstein wrote:
Do you have a feel for which gear head most members use? When I try a search for them the Manfrotto 410 or Benro GD3WH come up, along with the Arca cube which is way out of my price range right now. Wondering if there were others that are good.

Looking just now, I don't think our forum has accumulated enough observations to fairly compare those two products. While the Manfrotto 410 has been discussed, the Benro GD3WH has not. I thought I remembered discussions of Benro geared heads, but in searching, all I turn up for Benro at our forum is discussion of their tripods.

The best way to search our forum is using Google, limiting returns to our threads by including "site=photomacrography.net" (without quotation marks) in the search term.

A couple of interesting discussions are: Gear head vs Ball head and Manfrotto 405 and 410?. If you run searches, you will see a few additional threads.

If in need of a geared tripod head, I'd be inclined to test the Benro (albeit skeptically and within the return window) due to its integration of the Arca standard. This said, it appears that Hejnar (a solid vendor) offers an Arca converter for the Manfrotto's ridiculous, proprietary mounting standard. Also, I have no clue about how well the Benro performs, and with tripods, heads, and other things that work best with very tight machining, ruthless skepticism is healthy: High performance requires good engineering, quality materials, and tight machining tolerances. These all cost money, so inexpensive manufacturers should be evaluated with care. This said, Manfrotto, in my experience, should also be treated with the skepticism appropriate for a low-end manufacturer. I have Manfrotto products that are disasters, others that are borderline adequate, and still others that are very good. This company's products seem strangely mixed in terms of usefulness and build quality.

Question: Is a geared head really best for you? I've never used one, so perhaps I don't know what I'm missing. But I've used plenty of pan/tilt heads and ball heads. Pan/tilt heads frustrate me for still photography, as they resist quick, intuitive adjustment (pan/tilt heads were originally, and rather thoughtlessly, applied to still photography from from motion-picture filming, where they made better sense). A geared head strikes me as an even slower version of a pan/tilt head. On the other hand, a really good ball head is efficient, quick, and enjoyable to use. Please note the words "really good"--as cheap ball heads can be an horrid hassle.

Tripods and heads (aka "support equipment") are an interesting case for photographers. Too many of us start out with inexpensive, poor performing support equipment. Eventually, we tire of the hassles these cause, and move up to moderate cost support equipment. But again, we find these devices still limiting, and finally buy top-quality tripod legs, top quality tripod heads, and Arca-standard connectors. At this point, our support equipment lasts us for life; we deploy and use our support items with speed and ease; we don't lose pictures because our support equipment wasn't ready.





--Chris S.
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stevenfstein



Joined: 30 Dec 2019
Posts: 3
Location: New York

PostPosted: Thu Jan 09, 2020 6:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Chris, thank you for the search tip. Have been trying to use the search engine within the forum with mixed results. I have a Gitzo GT3541 tripod with a Manfrotto ball head but at some point I replaced the top with a RRS Arca quick release. I had problems with the Manfrotto quick release a few times. I'll check with RRS and see if they have a replacement quick release for the 410. I've been reading a lot about geared heads and they are really designed for landscape and architecture photography but most discussions also reference Macro. It looks like the Hejner replaces both the plate and a quick release plate that screws on top of that. My wife is telling me to "just take a dam n picture already" and figure out what I need. Good advice from a very wise woman.
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