Shooting Macro with Micro Four-Thirds

Micro Four-Thirds system cameras are capable of excellent macro photography images. While the smaller format does have some disadvantages when compared to dSLRs, they also make life easier for the macro photographer too, particularly when it comes to portability. After years of carrying heavy camera bags, my back, shoulder, and hips protest a bit too much when I try to carry a full camera bag anymore. Micro Four Thirds systems weigh much less and still provide excellent bang for the buck when shooting macro. 

One of the great pleasures of this system is its versatility. While I shoot with Olympus MFT bodies (O-MD E-M5 and E-P2), I don’t rely on just Olympus MFT lenses. I have a variety of other optics available because of system compatibility with Panasonic, and the ease of designing adapters for using other system lenses. I routinely attach Four-Thirds lenses such as the spectacular Olympus 150 f2 telephoto to my E-M5. I also have Canon and Nikon lenses I also use with my MFT cameras. Finally, there is the excellent Lensbaby line of selective focus optics, which is also very useful for macro photography.

Another advantage of the Micro Four Thirds system cameras is their small sensor size, which produces a 2x multiplier/crop effect, a big help when you’re trying to squeeze every bit of magnification out of your gear for a small subject.

Hornet Macro

The smaller size of the micro four-thirds body can be ideal when your subject is moving about quickly.

Last summer I was working on a user guide to the Olympus OM-D E-M5 and invested in some of the macro tools the company introduced around the same time such as the 60mm 2.8 macro lens and the Macro Arm Light (MAL-1). The lens is a solid macro performer with reasonably fast autofocus. The Macro Arm Light is an interesting approach to an inexpensive (about $50) macro lighting approach. It has two LED lights mounted on a pair of pliable arms so you can position the light exactly where you want it. The main limitation is you have to be very close to your subject for the small LEDs to be effective.

The day after the lens came in I was working in the garden when I spotted a Yellow Jacket exploring the English Ivy. I figured it was a good time to check out the capabilities of the lens. Since I was working with a moving subject (and didn’t particularly want to get stung), I chose to handhold the E-M5 and 60-f2.8 combo and shoot available light. Since it was an overcast day, the light was pleasantly soft.

Hornet Macro 2

The picture quality of newer micro four-thirds cameras is very comparable to many dSLRs

While it required getting closer to the wasp than I wanted, the 60 2.8 helped me make a good image. I did resort to manual focus for these shots (I rarely rely on autofocus for macro work). Back on my laptop I cropped the image by about 50% and applied some sharpening and other tweaks via Photoshop.

(Note:) One of my projects this year is to add beneficial insect plants to my vegetable garden. Time, finances and energy permitting, I may even try to create a garden retreat in our side yard with plants designed to lure bees, butterflies and other small creatures. My goals are three-fold. First, I want to make my home more attractive. Second, I want to create a friendly habitat for butterflies and bees. And third, I want to create a “target rich” environment for macro photography. If there are any MFT, macro, gardening enthusiasts in the Southern New Jersey area who’d like to share ideas or visit, please feel free to contact me through this blog. You don’t even have to shoot micro four thirds. A love of photography, gardening or insects is sufficient.

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