This article features some close up images of frogs captured handheld with 2 extension tubes and the M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 zoom lens. As photographers we sometimes only consider a macro lens when planning to do some close up or macro photography. We forget that fitting a good quality zoom lens with extension tubes can create a very flexible and capable set-up for close up photography.
NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.
Using extension tubes with a zoom lens may not allow us to create true 1:1 macro photographs. Depending on the subject matter and shooting distances we still may be able to fill the frame with our subject and create some interesting images.
I’d like to thank one of our readers, Terry McDonald, for documenting the use of the M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 with 2 extension tubes by taking a few photographs of me ‘in action’. If you look on the rear screen of the camera in this article’s first photograph, you’ll see the frog in the above image. Terry captured a few images as I was in the process of composing some photographs.
In Terry’s photo above you can see that I had the front of my lens right up against the glass enclosure. I was trying to acquire focus on the frog that was right up against the other side of the same pane of glass. At first blush it may look like an impossibility to acquire auto-focus in this type of shooting situation.
In many cases when using 2 extension tubes, by adjusting the focal length of your zoom lens you can find the approximate focal length at which your lens will be able to acquire focus. As the subject snaps into focus, you can then use your camera’s auto-focusing system to fine tune your image. In this case I used a focal length of 57 mm.
Unfortunately the subject frog may have moved during my 10 image focus stacking run, or I should have stopped down my aperture. Either way, there is a bit of blurring on the bottom section of the frog’s eye. I included the photograph above in the article simply to demonstrate how closely a lens like the M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 fitted with 2 extension tubes (i.e. 10 mm and 16 mm) can acquire auto-focus. Have another look at the third image in this article to get a good idea for how close I was able to get to the subject frog and still acquire auto-focus.
When photographing frogs and other captive subjects behind glass, using the M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 in combination with 2 extension tubes can actually be a far more functional set-up than shooting with a macro lens. That’s one of the reasons that I always take this set-up along with my M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro lens when planning to do close up/macro photography.
I used my standard handheld in-camera focus stacking settings for the images featured in this article. My E-M1X was set to focus stack 10 photographs with a focus differential of 4. The output is a jpeg with RAW files available should a photographer want to stack their images in post.
There certainly will be times when using a dedicated macro lens may be preferred. If a photographer has to deal with reflections or soiled glass surfaces, and subjects positioned up close to glass panels in an enclosure, using a zoom lens with 2 extension tubes can often be a much more practical solution. Depending on the subject’s position in an enclosure, extension tubes can be used individually or stacked as needed.
In you are in Southern Ontario you may be interested in visiting the frog exhibit currently featured at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Burlington Ontario. It will be there until April 16. Snakes can make great test subjects for macro photography and/or focus stacking. There is one display enclosure currently included in the frog exhibit with three water snakes… sisters actually.
Depending on where a subject is located you may not be able to get close enough to fill your frame, and some cropping may be involved. If you have an OM/Olympus or other model of camera that estimates distance to subject, using extension tubes can often make these estimates unusable. I can positively guarantee you that I wasn’t 22.9 metres away from the frog in the image above, even though that’s what my E-M1X estimated. 🙂
Earlier in the week I visited the display with a long-time friend of mine. I used that opportunity to also photograph the frogs using 2 extension tubes and the M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 zoom. The photograph above, and the rest of the images in this article, are from that earlier visit.
When photography captive subjects like frogs we often find them in awkward locations in the enclosures. It can be helpful to remember that we can angle our cameras to create a more pleasing horizontal image.
I often underexpose these types of images somewhat (usually no more than -0.7 EV) to help bring emphasis to a particular feature of a subject frog, or to tone down harsh lights in the enclosures. When I take this approach with my exposure it is important that I don’t try to lighten the shadows in post as it can make potential noise more visible.
Taking the time to change one’s shooting angle with the same subject can be beneficial as it can emphasize different physical attributes of our subjects.
Now that I’ve been experimenting with handheld in-camera focus stacking for quite a while I almost never change my settings of 10 stacked frames with a focus differential of 4. I have a reasonable sense of what those settings will create for me, so I can then adjust my aperture as needed for depth-of-field purposes.
As noted in an earlier article, the M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 zoom is my favourite M4/3 lens. My appreciation for this lens has increased further since expanding its regular use to include handheld in-camera focus stacking… with or without extension tubes.
Regardless of the camera gear that we may own, it is important to keep experimenting with it to help discover additional ways to leverage its capabilities.
Photographs were captured handheld using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. Images were produced from out-of-camera jpegs using my standard process.
For those readers who are interested in calculating equivalent field-of-view, multiply focal lengths for Olympus M4/3 cameras by a factor of 2. This is the 1,266 article published on this website since its original inception in 2015.
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