90 Macro with STF-8

This article features some handheld test images captured with the M.Zuiko 90 mm f/3.5 PRO IS macro lens, and STF-8 Twin Macro Flash. All of the photographs (except image 22) were created during a short duration visit to the Royal Botanical Gardens (RBG) in Burlington Ontario.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 90 mm f/3.5 PRO IS macro with M.Zuiko STF-8 Twin Marco Flash, efov 180 mm, f/13, 1/250, ISO-200, full frame capture, subject distance 355 mm

When it comes to macro photography, I think it is important to some readers to view a full frame capture, rather than a cropped image. So… all of the test photographs in this article are displayed as full frame captures… and resized to 1200 pixels on the long end for website use.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 90 mm f/3.5 PRO IS macro with M.Zuiko STF-8 Twin Marco Flash, efov 180 mm, f/13, 1/250, ISO-200, full frame capture, subject distance 570 mm

The M.Zuiko STF-8 Twin Macro Flash was used in TTL mode. My E-M1X was set at ISO-200, with a shutter speed of 1/250, and using an aperture setting from f/11 to f/14.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 90 mm f/3.5 PRO IS macro with M.Zuiko STF-8 Twin Marco Flash, efov 180 mm, f/13, 1/250, ISO-200, full frame capture, subject distance 455 mm

My morning visit to the RBG started out with pretty calm weather, but some breeze soon kicked up. This necessitated me having to sync many of my shutter releases with short lulls in the breeze

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 90 mm f/3.5 PRO IS macro with M.Zuiko STF-8 Twin Marco Flash, efov 180 mm, f/13, 1/250, ISO-200, full frame capture, subject distance 405 mm

In some instances the breeze was sufficiently strong and persistent enough, that I had to hold the stems of the plants in an attempt to steady them, while I shot one-handed with my E-M1X. The doubled grip design of my E-M1X came in very handy in these situations.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 90 mm f/3.5 PRO IS macro with M.Zuiko STF-8 Twin Marco Flash, efov 180 mm, f/13, 1/250, ISO-200, full frame capture, subject distance 290 mm

It was a bit overcast and somewhat cool so there weren’t that many insects out and about. Most of the flower beds at the RBG were planted with just a few species of plants… so I didn’t have a lot of variety when it came to flower types.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 90 mm f/3.5 PRO IS macro with M.Zuiko STF-8 Twin Marco Flash, efov 180 mm, f/11, 1/250, ISO-200, full frame capture, subject distance 230 mm

The insects that were visible were in feeding mode, and were quite active on the blossoms. I had to constantly adjust my single AF point to try to keep the subject insects in focus.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 90 mm f/3.5 PRO IS macro with M.Zuiko STF-8 Twin Marco Flash, efov 180 mm, f/11, 1/250, ISO-200, full frame capture, subject distance 225 mm

As is often the case when it comes to macro photography, I had to work with whatever shooting angles were afforded to me by subject insects. In a few instances I was able to capture some front 3/4 views. Or some head-on images.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 90 mm f/3.5 PRO IS macro with M.Zuiko STF-8 Twin Marco Flash, efov 180 mm, f/11, 1/250, ISO-200, full frame capture, subject distance 265 mm

As I located potential subjects it was important to keep my left thumb on the focus limiter switch on the 90 mm macro lens. This allowed me to quickly adjust to changing shooting angles and subject distances.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 90 mm f/3.5 PRO IS macro with M.Zuiko STF-8 Twin Marco Flash, efov 180 mm, f/11, 1/250, ISO-200, full frame capture, subject distance 230 mm

I used the S-Macro setting a number of times and was able to get in very tight to subject insects… allowing me to fill the frame with them without any cropping.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 90 mm f/3.5 PRO IS macro with M.Zuiko STF-8 Twin Marco Flash, efov 180 mm, f/11, 1/250, ISO-200, full frame capture, subject distance 225 mm

Folks who enjoy capturing macro images can attest to the fact that this genre of photography can quickly become a passion… and for some an obsession.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 90 mm f/3.5 PRO IS macro with M.Zuiko STF-8 Twin Marco Flash, efov 180 mm, f/13, 1/250, ISO-200, full frame capture, subject distance 235 mm

Experiencing nature’s creations in miniature can be intoxicating. It is incredible how many opportunities can be found within a 5 or 6 square foot primary shooting area.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 90 mm f/3.5 PRO IS macro with M.Zuiko STF-8 Twin Marco Flash, efov 180 mm, f/11, 1/250, ISO-200, full frame capture, subject distance 585 mm

As is the case with any photographic genre, looking for interesting light is always important. As is knowing the capabilities of the gear that is being used.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 90 mm f/3.5 PRO IS macro with M.Zuiko STF-8 Twin Marco Flash, efov 180 mm, f/14, 1/250, ISO-200, full frame capture, subject distance 315 mm

I was able to find some image opportunities where I could capture the flow, balance and beauty of nature in its very simple forms.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 90 mm f/3.5 PRO IS macro with M.Zuiko STF-8 Twin Marco Flash, efov 180 mm, f/13, 1/250, ISO-200, full frame capture, subject distance 370 mm

Other images were more complex visually, but still generated a strong feeling of flow and order.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 90 mm f/3.5 PRO IS macro with M.Zuiko STF-8 Twin Marco Flash, efov 180 mm, f/13, 1/250, ISO-200, full frame capture, subject distance 245 mm

I find that I can become transfixed when studying the details in what first may have appeared to be a very simple subject.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 90 mm f/3.5 PRO IS macro with M.Zuiko STF-8 Twin Marco Flash, efov 180 mm, f/13, 1/250, ISO-200, full frame capture, subject distance 255 mm

There is a structure and order to many things in nature. I’ve always been attracted to repeating patterns… and I regularly find them when doing flower macro photography.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 90 mm f/3.5 PRO IS macro with M.Zuiko STF-8 Twin Marco Flash, efov 180 mm, f/13, 1/250, ISO-200, full frame capture, subject distance 460 mm

Small droplets of water left by rain or morning dew can help turn a simple flower bud into a jewel-like subject.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 90 mm f/3.5 PRO IS macro with M.Zuiko STF-8 Twin Marco Flash, efov 180 mm, f/13, 1/250, ISO-200, full frame capture, subject distance 370 mm

Even mono-chromatic subjects can generate feelings of power and precision. The sharpness of the M.Zuiko 90 mm f/3.5 PRO IS macro lens is simply superb. I have no hesitation shooting at f/13, or even a bit higher, with this lens.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 90 mm f/3.5 PRO IS macro with M.Zuiko STF-8 Twin Marco Flash, efov 180 mm, f/13, 1/250, ISO-200, full frame capture, subject distance 255 mm

The compact size and ease of handling of the M.Zuiko STF-8 Twin Macro Flash allows me to get my camera and flash inside bushes… so I can capture images of shy subjects like the spider above.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 90 mm f/3.5 PRO IS macro with M.Zuiko STF-8 Twin Marco Flash, efov 180 mm, f/14, 1/250, ISO-200, full frame capture, subject distance 250 mm

Or slowly move in close to skittish ones like this fly.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 90 mm f/3.5 PRO IS macro with M.Zuiko STF-8 Twin Marco Flash, efov 180 mm, f/13, 1/250, ISO-200, full frame capture, subject distance 245 mm

My explorations of the macro world are expanding significantly with the M.Zuiko 90 mm f/3.5 PRO IS lens. And… are being further enhanced through the use of the M.Zuiko STF-8 Twin Macro Flash.

What’s the next step in my field test adventure with the M.Zuiko 90 mm f/3.5 PRO IS macro lens?

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 90 mm f/3.5 PRO IS macro with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter and M.Zuiko STF-8 Twin Marco Flash at 180 mm, efov 360 mm, f/14, 1/250, ISO-400, cropped to 3354 pixels on the width, subject distance 430 mm

Adding the M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter to my macro set-up, so I can find and photograph subjects like the fly above. It was hiding deep inside one of the butterfly bushes in our backyard.

It is photographic opportunities like this one that make macro photography so challenging… engaging… and rewarding.

Technical Note

Photographs were captured handheld with the camera equipment  noted in the EXIF data. All images were created from RAW files using my standard process in post. This is the 1,388 article published on this website since its original inception in 2015.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 90 mm f/3.5 PRO IS macro with M.Zuiko STF-8 Twin Marco Flash, efov 180 mm, f/13, 1/250, ISO-200, full frame capture, subject distance 400 mm

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13 thoughts on “90 Macro with STF-8”

  1. Good day Thomas,

    Excellent article. I am saving my pennies for this STF-8. I am currently using the FL900R, set to 1/32 or 1/64 in manual mode. I have made a rather crude AK style diffuser with poster board found around the house. It actually does not look that bad and very much does the job. I rekon I saved $150-$200 USD eh? I then can do either focus stack, or focus bracket and then stack in helicon focus later or in camera which works very well.. When focus stacking or bracketing my shutter speed is almost always 1/50 due to Olympus limitations. Of course, to use this method, the subject need not move at all. For active subjects, I use your method for macro and close-up photography using existing light and working the photo triangle. I have posted my results lately on my Flickr account. Cheers! Randy

    1. Hi Randy,

      Thanks for sharing your approach with focus stacking/bracketing. We all have our individual preferences based on our favourite techniques. When it comes to photography I’ve always preferred using natural light, even with macro work. I’ve found that the STF-8 works well with flowers and other small subjects that do not have hard, shiny surfaces. At times the STF-8 can create some hot spots when photographing insects. Yesterday my wife suggested adding a bit of very loosely woven ‘veil’ material on the inside of the STF-8’s diffusers. I was out yesterday morning giving this a try. More on this approach later…

      Tom

  2. I forgot.
    The necessary feature is that the flash charging time is approximately 0.1 sec. This is why the lithium battery is essential.

  3. Salve,

    il flash STF-8 può lavorare in focus stacking e focus bracketing?

    Te lo chiedo perché su Instagram ho visto bellissime foto, in particolare di ragni saltatori, realizzate con sequenze bracketing di molte decine di fotogrammi realizzate con i flash Godox V350 e V860 alimentati con batterie al litio, che garantiscono tempi di ricarica velocissimi.
    Inoltre ho notato che queste foto avevano una splendide illuminazione diffusa grazie all’uso di particolari diffusori a cono come ad es. AK Diffuser o Cygnustech Diffuser.

    Grazie per il sito sempre ricco di spunti interessanti.
    Saluti dall’Italia.

    —-

    Greetings,

    Can the STF-8 flash work in focus stacking and focus bracketing?

    I ask you because on Instagram I have seen beautiful photos, in particular of jumping spiders, made with bracketing sequences of many dozens of frames taken with Godox V350 and V860 flashes powered by lithium batteries, which guarantee very fast charging times.
    I also noticed that these photos had splendid diffused lighting, thanks to the use of particular conical diffusers, such as. AK Diffuser or Cygnustech Diffuser.

    Thanks for the site always full of interesting ideas.
    Greetings from Italy.

    1. Hi Riccardo,

      The Olympus/OM website indicates that the STF-8 Twin Macro flash can be used for focus stacking and focus bracketing: https://explore.omsystem.com/hu/en/stf-8-macro-flash#:~:text=The%20STF%2D8%20support%20flash,commercial%20photos%20in%20the%20studio.

      I imagine that a tripod would need to be used for this particular style of shooting. Since I bought my Olympus/OM System gear 5 years ago I’ve never used a tripod or monopod with it so I have no first hand experience using the STF-8 in this way.

      Tom

      Ciao Riccardo,

      Il sito web Olympus/OM indica che il flash STF-8 Twin Macro può essere utilizzato per il focus stacking e il focus bracketing: https://explore.omsystem.com/hu/en/stf-8-macro-flash#:~:text =Il%20STF%2D8%20supporta%20flash,foto%20commerciali%20nel%20%20studio.

      Immagino che per questo particolare stile di ripresa sia necessario utilizzare un treppiede. Da quando ho acquistato la mia attrezzatura Olympus/OM System 5 anni fa, non ho mai usato un treppiede o un monopiede, quindi non ho esperienza diretta nell’uso dell’STF-8 in questo modo.

      Tom

      1. “I imagine that a tripod would need to be used for this particular style of shooting. ”

        No, the tripod is not required. Focus stacking and focus bracketing done with flash are no different than focus stacking and focus bracketing done with sunlight.
        Greetings,
        Riccardo Antonelli.

          1. Mi sono scordato di precisare che il flash deve essere capace di ricaricare in tempi di circa 0.1 sec. Ecco perché è necessaria la batteria al litio.

            I forgot to point out that the flash must be capable of recharging in times of about 0.1 sec. That’s why lithium battery is needed.

            Riccardo

            1. Hi Riccardo,

              I tried some handheld focus stacking today with the E-M1X, 90 mm PRO IS macro and STF-8. I tested some 10 and 12 image stacks. I used standard AA batteries so there was about a 0.8 second delay between flash firings… so I had to handhold my set-up for about 8 to 10 seconds depending on the number of images in my focus stack. I used TTL with my flash set to 1/16 power, with a shutter speed of 1/50. I was able to get successful focus stacks with about 60% of my handheld focus stack attempts… which I thought was quite good for my first attempt.

              More experimentation ahead…

              Tom

              1. With my Godox V350 I can do focus bracketing sequences of 30 images with recycle times of less than 0.1 sec, with flash power set at 1/32 and electronic shutter at 1/50 sec.
                Not using an Olympus flash, I have to set the charging time to 0.1 sec on my E-M1 mark II in the Shooting Menu 2 > Bracketing > Focus Stacking > Charge Time menu.

                Greetings
                Riccardo

                1. Hi Riccardo,

                  I appreciate the capability of your Godox flash. On a personal basis I already own two M.Zuiko flashes and don’t do a sufficient amount of flash photography to justify purchasing a third flash. In terms of the number of images I use for a stack, I would never do more than about 12 as I use the in-camera focus stacking of my E-M1X. I hate working in post and would never take the time to stack 30 images in post.

                  Tom

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