Very small orange fungi. Photo by Eduardo Libby

Macro and Close Up? Give me my micro four thirds camera please!

When doing macro and close-up photography convenience is number one… well, a good subject is number one actually and quality is a given, but you get my drift…

Any digital camera and smartphone of the last few years can give you quality results… much better than anything from 10 years ago. What matters are other aspects of the image making equipment.

Orchid flower at Else Kientzler Botanical Garden in Costa Rica. Photo by Eduardo Libby
My first visit to a botanical garden with a micro 4/3 camera was a liberating experience. Panasonic GX85 with Olympus 12-40 f/2.8 Pro, 1/200 s, f/4 ISO 200

The closer you get the more difficult it is keeping all the important parts of your subject in focus because depth of field decreases with magnification. Here is that smaller sensors have an advantage: You don’t need higher magnifications I order to fill the frame.

Occasionally you want the opposite though: minimum depth of field to achieve subject isolation from the background but this is more important for larger subjects such as groups of flowers or portraits. Once you start dealing with individual flowers, insects, or details on the millimeter scale… you start needing more depth of field.

Photo of Euphorbia cotinifolia leaves by Eduardo Libby
With larger subjects a longer focal length and wide aperture are necessary to isolate the subject. Euphorbia cotinifolia. Olympus EM1 Mark II with Olympus 40-150 mm f/2.8 Pro, 1/250 s f/2.8 ISO 640

Smartphones are great for flower-sized subjects but not all of them allow you to fill the frame with smaller things. Some of the classic 2/3 inch compacts are much better here but they are a nearly extinct breed and many models only allowed for macro focusing at their wide-angle settings.

These days, 1-inch, but especially micro four thirds sensor cameras are probably the sweet spot for photographing anything smaller than a flower. The Olympus and Panasonic micro 4/3 Cameras have a lens selection range second to none, extension rings, close-up diopters and macro flash systems that can tackle any macro and close-up shooting situation with ease… and need far less magnification to fill the frame. In addition, being mirrorless cameras the viewfinder image is always bright and allows for enlarged viewing critical focusing.

Older Hydrangeas. Photo by Eduardo Libby
Hydrangeas: they age gracefully. From my Instagram feed. iPhone 8 at its own will. I wanted to keep the flowers on the background a little soft so I got really close to the ones on the foreground.

So, with all the hype and marketing surrounding full-frame (which I also own and sometimes prefer for landscape images) I find myself grabbing my small and light Olympus camera every time when I want to get real close… Have you tried to handhold at arm’s length a heavy dSLR with a 100 mm macro lens and maybe a flash on your knees while trying to get the right angle for a flower or a bug within the branches of a bush?

This is what I mean when I say convenience is number one.

What do you think?

Very small orange fungi. Photo by Eduardo Libby
These tiny fungi are only 1 mm tall! Focus stacking in camera. Olympus EM1 Mark II with Olympus 60 mm Macro, 1/13 s f/4 ISO 400

2 thoughts on “Macro and Close Up? Give me my micro four thirds camera please!”

  1. Interesting post. I only own two small cameras, both point-and-shoot. My fairly old Olympus was given to me as a gift by my daughters 7 years ago, and I’m sure it wasn’t expensive. My newer Nikon was moderately expensive (to me, at least) for a point-and-shoot, so naturally you’d think it would take better photos on all settings, right? Not so. I find the old, cheaper Olympus does much, much better on the macro setting than the more expensive, and newer, Nikon. In fact, I find the Nikon takes close-up flower photos better if I just leave it on the automatic setting instead of switching over to macro.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A friend of mine enjoys doing macro with his point-and-shoot and he would agree with you about the need to experiment with the camera’s settings. He misses his ancient Nikon Coolpix P950 which did much better macro than more recent models!

      Liked by 1 person

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