Capture close-up shots worth bragging about

Imagine you’re walking through a botanical garden filled with plants from around the world. You’ve got your camera in-hand and you’re snapping dozens of great shots – or so you think. If you’ve ever taken a bunch of macro shots that looked great on your LCD, but didn’t look quite as good on your computer or when printed, you’re not alone. For consistently good results, keep these simple things in mind when you’re snapping macro shots.

First, the basics: what is macrophotography?
In simple terms, macrophotography is close-up photography where the captured image is at least as large as the subject when reproduced on a 4”x”6 print.

Why isn’t the entire macro image sharp?
When focusing on close-up subjects the depth of field is reduced. This means the area in focus becomes shallow. You’ll notice on some macro shots, for example, that a flower’s protruding stamen is in focus, while the petals appear soft. Depth of field can be regained by “stopping down” the lens aperture to a smaller opening — a larger number.

In an E-System DSLR, set the Mode Dial to A for Aperture. This allows you to select any aperture you chose by rotating the Control Dial. The aperture number can be seen on the LCD screen on the back of the camera and in the viewfinder data. The camera will calculate the correct shutter speed to compensate for the selected aperture.

Can I use my flash for macrophotography?
Yes, you can use the camera’s built-in flash or Olympus E-System flash units in macrophotography. The TTL (Through-the-Lens) metering will adjust the combination of available light and flash fill light. Because the subject is so close, don’t use the lens shade. This should help prevent flash vignetting. Using the flash in sunlight fills in deep shadow areas in the subject and reveals more detail. In windy conditions (when your subject may be shifting) the autofocus may “search” for the autofocus point and not want to fire. In these conditions, enable the AF Illuminator in the camera menu. This will fire a series of pre-flashes to help the camera focus before shooting.

What is a reflector card? Should I use one?
A reflector card can be used to bounce light into the shadows of macro subjects instead of a flash. It acts as a soft version of a mirror. The card is held at an angle so light from the sun is bounced onto the macro subject. It is very inexpensive to make your own reflector card. An 8”X10" white card is suitable for most subjects. Many macro shooters glue aluminum foil to one side of the card (dull side up) for additional lighting effects. You can also try gold-colored metal foil to produce a warmer fill light.

What does the Macro Scene Mode do in my E-System camera?
While autofocusing, the camera stops down the aperture to provide a greater depth of field. This allows the camera to focus through a deeper space.


The Macro Mode creates the following settings in your E-System camera:

  • It changes the f-stop to f8, providing more depth of field
  • It skews the autofocus to focus more toward the middle of a close-up subject
  • ISO is set to 100
  • It sets the Picture Mode to VIVID
  • FLASH Mode is set to AUTO and pops up and fires when needed.
  • It sets the SATURATION to HIGH
  • It sets the SHARPNESS to HIGH

The result of all of these settings is a sharper, more-brilliant macro image.

What happens if you take a photo in Macro Mode without a macro lens?
The Macro Mode will not allow a lens to focus any closer than its normal minimum focusing distance. Some non-macro lenses will get closer than others.

Does the Olympus E-System have macro lenses? What are they?
Yes, the E-System has two macro lenses. Macro lenses have an extended helical that moves the lens assembly farther away from the digital sensor, allowing the lens to focus closely on subjects. This performs a similar function as extension tubes. A true macro lens will focus from infinity down to macro distance. These are the macro lenses:

f3.5 Olympus Zuiko Digital 35mm f3.5 Macro
This lens will focus down to a 1x magnification ratio. The 35mm equivalent is a 2x magnification ratio and the 35mm equivalent focal length is 70 mm. The closest focusing distance is 5.75 inches.
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f2 Olympus Zuiko Digital 50mm f2.0 Macro
This lens will focus down to a .52x magnification ratio. The 35mm equivalent is 1.04x magnification ratio and the 35mm equivalent focal length is 100 mm. The closest focusing distance is 9.45 inches. Being a short telephoto, this is also a suitable lens for portrait photography.
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Does the E-System have an extension tube?Extension Tube
The E-System extension tube is the Extension Tube EX-25. The extension tube is mounted between the camera body and an interchangeable lens. By moving the lens 25mm farther away from the sensor, the minimum focusing distances of lenses are shortened, allowing closer shooting distances. For example, the Zuiko Digital 40-150mm f4-5.6 zoomed to 150mm and manually focused to its minimum focusing distance will focus on a subject about two feet from the front lens element when using the Extension Tube EX-25. This provides a greater working distance when shooting elusive subjects such as butterflies.

Manual focus is recommended when using the Extension Tube EX-25.

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