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MFT and Macro Photography

Personally I enjoy macro photography plus I enjoy taking pictures of nature and in specific flowers. Another popular target for macro photographers are insects and each time I see a macro image of an insect and the detail photographers manage to extract, I am amazed. The question I like to discuss in this article is, what are the options and the cost involved for those that own Micro Four-Thirds equipment and that likes to get into macro photography?

In this short article I will discuss both close-up options plus macro options with micro four thirds cameras. Taking in account we really like to get a 1:1 ratio in macro we also need to take in account the MFT format's limitation in terms of image sensor size. For most really macro subjects its never been a issue I think, it is more a risk when targeting magnification ratios using specialized lenses. My own experience in this regard is not good and it will therefor be difficult for me to comment in detail.

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The above little guy was about 2cm tall and its flowers real tiny, approximately 4 - 7mm in diameter. Yes, it is not so much macro photography and agreed, more close up photography…..but still I enjoyed taking the shot. The difference really is that with macro photography the aim is to have the subject recorded on the sensor at its real size. That means to have the subject at a 1 to 1 (1:1) ratio recorded on the sensor. Normal kit type lenses has physical limitations when getting in close and secondly the subject might move away when the lens gets to close. This is the reason why manufacturers developed macro lenses. The special mechanical construction of these lenses enable the photographer to move in close to the subject plus in most cases macro lenses has the ability to project the subject at life size or larger onto the sensor. When using accessories like extension tubes, specially build macro lenses or when using lenses ,mounted wrong way round, one can also create good results. Macro lenses with large focal length's like the 180mm macro from Canon enables the photographer to have more distance between the subject and the lens.

My personal goal would therefor be to have a setup that will give me the 1:1 ratio or better, it should also enable me to keep a safe distance between the lens and the subject and it should not cost to much.

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On the left you see the first macro lens that to fit directly onto the Micro Four-Thirds cameras. It is designed by Leica and manufactured by Panasonic and I have no doubt that it will be a great macro lens. At nearly a $1000 in Europe it just is not a lens I will have in my bag soon. I also prefer a better focal length (45 x 2 = 90mm) when paying that much. I therefore decided to look for alternatives. Just to put this also into perspective, the new OM-5 body from Olympus sells for 1150$, without lens. From the time I wrote the original article Olympus launched the E-M5 with 12 - 50mm kit lens plus a dedicated 60mm macro lens. The 12 - 50mm kit lens is dust and plash proof, offer a dedicated movie mode plus a interesting macro mode.

If you are interested in building up a macro kit for your Micro Four-Thirds camera that costs less than $400, then you need to read the next few paragraphs. Lets take a look at what else one need to get into macro photography:

  • First one need a macro lens or a basic lens with different types of lens adapters

  • A good flash or something similar are important to have

  • One need a tripod - its a good idea to look for something that will let the camera go down deep.

  • Its good to have a few reflectors handy when doing macro photography

  • Its a good idea to have a remote shutter control so you can trigger the camera remotely.

  • A focussing rack that can be used to increase the in-focus area on the subject

Apart from the "macro" lens one will also need a flash, either the dedicated macro type or a standard camera mount flash. In the case of Olympus I personally enjoy using the free standing flash optiosn from Olympus. These free standing flash units can be controlled via the remote option build into Olympus cameras like the E-PL2, the XS1 or the new E-M5. Olympus has an interesting macro LED (MAL-1) flash "wire". The unit fits onto the normal flash shoe on the camera and it is great for creative type work. The next option is different type reflectors, I saw a reflector a guy cut from carton that works surprisingly well. First he cut a a hole in the carton so the lens can go through the hole and so the reflector basically surround the lens barrel like a traditional macro ring flash. The final option is a LED type flash that cost much less and they seem to work well. I have not tried these yet.

One could also consider a special focusing rack that will enable the photographer to extend the in-focus range by doing focus stacking techniques. Novoflex has such a special unit called the Castel-Mini focusing rack. I bought a multipurpose focussing rack on e-bay for 70$. Extension adapters are special extension tubes that fits between the camera and the lens. These extension adapters can be fitted to a normal zoom lens or a macro lens. The extension adapter change the image magnification ratio. They are difficult to work with but the results are normally good. My advice is to use a good tripod when using extension adapters.

I have seen special lens fittings that enables the user to fit the standard lens wrong way round to the camera. One can use older lenses fitted wrong way round onto the camera. The purpose is to further increase the subject to sensor distance plus to better the macro ratio. If you search for more information on this option, you will find a few more popular older lenses that photographers like to use with this option. Lets have a look at a few different options in action. The macro pictures below were all taken with the same basic set-up, I only had to move the tripod closer or further away to manage the focus point:

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FT 40-150mm Lens + 25mm Ext Tube + M43 Adapter

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The older Olympus 40 to 150mm kit lenses that was sold with the previous FT series Olympus cameras are available on second-hand market plus they selling over here in Europe for less than 100$ a piece. I had one left over from a previous kit plus I had a 25mm extension tube from my FT days. I then added the m43 DMA adapter that fit the older Olympus lenses to my M43 camera mount. I managed to buy the adapter on the secondhand market for less than half the current selling price. With the zoom lens attached to the extension ring I am able to get a 1:1 ratio and better. Another advantage is one gain a much larger distance between the subject and the lens. I can easily manage as much as half a meter between the lens and the subject with this kit. It takes a little getting use to working with this option but once mastered it is fun.

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Image taken with the older 4-thirds 40 to 150mm lens plus 25 mm extension tube


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Same lens configuration as above but with Raynox M250 macro adapter

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FT 35mm Macro Lens + M43 Adapter

Once you have the M43 adapter, you can also search for the older 50mm Olympus macro lens or the 35mm Olympus macro lens. The 35mm Macro is selling over here for as little as 140$ on the second-hand market. As a final step one can add a macro filter to the front of this set-up. I have the Raynox M250 which I used with my G7 and it works wonders with this combination.

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M43 adapter plus 35mm Olympus Macro Lens

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Different M43 Macro options plus macro adapters

It is also possible to consider the following options when building a macro kit for the Micro Four-Thirds camera. It is possible to use the dedicated Olympus Macro adapter (MCON-PO1) that fits onto the 14 - 42 II Olympus kit lens or the 14 - 150mm Olympus zoom lens. With both these lenses the Olympus macro adapter fits onto the front of these lenses and it helps to get great close up results. It is not as effective as the set-up I described in figure A, but it does cost much less. In general a zoom lens like the 40 - 150mm or the 70 to 300mm works well with a front fitting "macro" adapter like the one from Olympus or the Raynox.

More recent options are the new 12 - 50mm kit lens that also offers a macro option plus Olympus launched a brand new 60mm macro lens. Olympus positioned this lens more competitively and not as expensive as the Leica/Panasonic macro lens.

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New Olympus 12 - 50mm Kit lens in Macro Mode


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Olympus M43, 14 - 150mm Zoom lens fitted w. MCON-PO1 Macro Adapter


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Olympus M43 with 14 - 42MKII Kit lens fitted with the Macro Adapter


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New E-M5 fitted with 12 - 50mm plus MA1 Flash LED pipes…


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Here you see the Raynox M250 adapter fitted to the 35mm FT Macro lens on the E-M5


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Here you see the older FT 35mm Macro with M43 adapter fitted onto the G3 from Panasonic


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Olympus 35mm Macro lens fitted with the M43 adapter


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Taken with the kit in Figure 1 fitted to the E-M5


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Taken with the kit shown in Figure 1 fitted to the E-M5


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This image benefitted from the Raynox adapter fitted to the kit in figure 1


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This image benefitted from the Raynox adapter fitted to the kit in figure 1

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MZuiko Digital ED 60mm 1:2,8 Macro Lens

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In terms of sheer image quality, this handsome lens gives PEN, and in particular O-MD owners, the potential to capture images on a par with highend Four Thirds cameras using a ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 50mm 1:2.0 macro lens – but with significantly less outlay. With its dust and splash-proof housing and excellent macro credentials, its natural habitat is just that: the natural world outside. At 19cm and 1:1 magnification, close-ups of animal and plants come to life in spectacular fashion, with high resolution and contrast edge-to-edge. And in bright light, its multi-layer ZERO (ZUIKO Extra-low Reflection Optical) lens coating halves the effects of ghosting and flaring compared to similar conventional coatings.

I have seen this lens and had the chance taking a few pictures with it. I hope to have it soon for a few days so I can do a few tests with it. From what I read and seen this one will be on my buying list, it definitely is one to have. The above image makes it look huge, in real life it is much smaller. The moving parts move inside the lens tube similar to the 12 - 50 plus the lens is plash proof. Finally I noticed it has several focussing adjustments that enable the user to prevent zoom hunting when working with this lens…..