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Macro - better with SLR or P&S?

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Hello all,

 

I used to shoot with a Minolta Dynax 8000i housed in a Hugyfot Jetmarin, mostly with the 100 mm 2.8 Macro, but this combination "passed away" during my last diving trip 2 years ago.

 

I also still own a Nikonos V with Nikonos 15 and 28 mm lenses and viewfinders which I intend to continue using for a few more years, or at least until I learn that something better has become available. With "better" I mean with regards to image quality shooting wide angle / landscape under water. As far as I am aware there is still nothing that comes close (but please tell me if you think different, I'm eager to learn, didn't spend ages to search the internet recently).

 

Usually I went into the water with both cameras mounted on top of each other. See a picture of this setup in my album.

 

I now want to buy a new camera for under water macro photography.

 

Because of the weight (air transportation can get quite expensive) and the bulk of the big SLR housing and flash (specifically when I encountered strong currents on my dives) I first thought with the great point and shoots available now I will buy one of these and save most of the weight I used to have with the big housed SLR.

 

Also because from trying out the one or other of the better models of this category (of course only on land, not under water) I knew many have great macro capabilities. Some of these cameras, such as the Canon G10, can shoot an area as small as 31 x 23 mm with a resolution of 14.6 MP, or 142 pixels per millimeter.

 

However when I had a closer look to evaluate this camera's suitability for UW photography I was disappointed when I learned that the great macro resolution is only available at the wide end of the zoom, and at a distance of only 1 cm from the lens.

 

This is not usable under water.

 

And as strange as it sounds when you first read about it, at the long end of the zoom range - where you would normally expect to zoom closer to your object - the minimum area covered is 89 x 67 mm, or only 50 pixels per mm.

 

Even with my old setup, where I used to scan the 35 mm slides with a Nikon LS-2000 slide scanner (with 2700 dpi resolution), I had a much better effective resolution of 106 px/mm.

 

The best combination available today, with regard to the maximum resolution achievable, should be Canon's EOS 50D. With a 1:1 macro it should go up to 213 px/mm.

 

Do I really have to buy a (D)SLR to get the high macro resolution that I want?

 

Is anyone aware of a good quality P&S which has the highest macro resolution at the long end of the zoom range?

 

What would you recommend? What else should be considered?

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One big attraction I found for going from P&S to DSLR for UW macro is the depth of field with f16 - f32. Are the better P&S now capable of more than f8? Mine wasn't, but it was nothing great.

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Like tubino says, more depth of field is possible with a dslr. A bigger advantage for a dslr is the greater minimum focus distance. With a dslr, you can take the same image from further away. While minimum focus distance isn't crucial for nudibranchs, etc., it's nice to be further away from skittish fish. You also have more room for strobe lighting. With my old P&S Oly c5050 and stacked macro lens adapters, I had to be careful not to crush the poor creatures. With my Oly E-330/105mm lens, I can take the same image from ~6 inches away. Much better.

 

eggs.jpg

 

jawfisheggs3.jpg

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not to take away from the thread but what kind of eggs are the first ones? beautiful shots jim. Will there be any jawfish with eggs in coz in mid feb? you know i'm going to spend hours on the house reef. Scott ps. wish you and debroah were going to be there.

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You can add wet macro adapters like the INON UCL-165 to help achieve high magnification on a camera like a G10 or G9 or other P&S.

 

Here is an example of what I have shot with two UCL-165s and the G9:

 

2622651941_b4b7b35bd5.jpg

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Resolution is not px/mm, it is simply pixels. To get more px/mm just increase the magnification. The 50D has the smallest photosites of the current DSLRs but it is not the highest resolution.

 

Do I really have to buy a (D)SLR to get the high macro resolution that I want?

No, you can simply add a wet macro lens like Jeremy suggests. If you want higher quality then you should go with a DSLR.

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I thank you all for these quick answers!

 

What I meant with the px/mm spec is the resolution that a particular camera / lens combination can achieve in relation to the size of the smallest object the camera can focus on. An EOS 50D doesn't have the highest overall resolution, but a smaller sensor than the few full frame SLRs that have an even higher resolution.

 

When used with a macro that can focus to a 1:1 reproduction ratio, it can reproduce objects as small as its sensor, in other words, the 50D can use its whole 4752 x 3104 px resolution on objects as small as its sensor - 22.3 x 14.9 mm -, resulting in the stated 213 px/mm.

 

A full format SLR like the Sony A900 has a higher total resolution (6096 x 4064) but due to its larger full frame sensor with an equivalent 1:1 macro lens can't reproduce objects smaller than 36 x 24 mm (frame filling). As a result, the resolution in relation to the smallest object it can focus on is somewhat inferior to the 50D's, 169 px/mm, despite it's higher total resolution.

 

So if I want a tool to picture as small objects as possible with the highest resolution possible, the 50D is the better choice.

 

 

About the add on macro lenses, don't they limit focusing to the close range?

 

Also don't they reduce image quality?

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not to take away from the thread but what kind of eggs are the first ones? beautiful shots jim. Will there be any jawfish with eggs in coz in mid feb? you know i'm going to spend hours on the house reef. Scott ps. wish you and debroah were going to be there.

 

Sgt. Major eggs, taken on the house reef SCC - five day cycle, from laying to hatching; this image was on day five.

 

I don't know if the jawfish have a season for reproduction or not. You'll just have to search them out. The jawfish cycle is about five days, too.

 

I wish we could join you in February, but I'm doing my annual volunteering with the AARP doing tax returns. Have a circus and say hello to everyone from us.

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A more interesting question is how small you want to go. Some photographers here have gone as small as 10:1 but that's not for everybody (or nearly anybody).

 

Full frame gets you to a certain magnification pretty easily; 1:1 with most lenses, 2:1 easily with long lenses and diopters. Cropped sensors do even better with the added apparent 1.5 or 1.6x multiplier. From there you have to add teleconverters which will reduce image quality (but not by much for a 1.4x one). If you are wanting to shoot really small subjects frequently then the cropped sensor may have a real advantage for you but first you have to decide if the sub-20mm frame width is that important. It isn't to me. I find that a 150mm lens with diopters is all I can use with a DX camera. I can get that amount of power with full frame too.

 

All that said, cropped cameras are easier to shoot macro with. Magnification comes more easily, focus is easier and the lenses are smaller and lighter.

 

I think the 4/3 cameras have pixel density similar to the 50D but are somewhat smaller. The 4/3 lenses can only do 1:2 but Sigma lenses are available for the system. I wouldn't go that route myself but it's a way to get even more magnification easily in a smaller camera.

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So if I want a tool to picture as small objects as possible with the highest resolution possible, the 50D is the better choice.

 

About the add on macro lenses, don't they limit focusing to the close range?

 

Also don't they reduce image quality?

I think if you are really concerned with achieving the highest image quality possible you should go SLR. What's acceptable to some is not to others and it all depends on taste and intended use and output.

 

I'm not sure the 50D is truly the ultimate SLR for underwater macro work, but I am sure that one could produce some cracking good images with it.

 

I got great macro results from my G9 and the reason I am upgrading to an SLR package underwater has everything to do with a desire to achieve much higher-quality wide angle images and nothing to do with its macro capabilities. It exceeded my expectations as a macro setup.

 

As far as image quality ... you tell me ...

 

Here's a link to that same image full-sized ... it was not cropped - that was the full frame shot - 4000 x 3000 pixels on a 9.5mm x 7.6mm sensor.

 

coral

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... I also still own a Nikonos V with Nikonos 15 and 28 mm lenses and viewfinders which I intend to continue using for a few more years, or at least until I learn that something better has become available. With "better" I mean with regards to image quality shooting wide angle / landscape under water. As far as I am aware there is still nothing that comes close...

 

Unfortunately, I don't think that this is true any more: 36 exposures, no colour balance, parallax with the viewfinder, no in-water review...

 

... yes, if everything comes together, a Nik V image can knock your socks off, but, to be honest, how often does that happen? I can bracket several shots with a DSLR, changing composition, exposure and strobe lighting: I'm limited by the patience of my subject, or my impression of its ability to tolerate photographic harrassment.

 

I'm sure that the explosion of stupendous underwater images in recent years owes a lot to the adoption of digital imaging technology.

 

And true macrophotography has always been the province of SLRs, because they have the best lenses as well as proper viewfinders.

 

Tim

 

;)

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