We recently added an Olympus STF-8 Twin Macro Flash to our kit. The unit gives us more flexibility with our macro photography as we can now extend our work into low light situations. This article shares some images captured during our first attempt using the STF-8 Twin Macro Flash. Readers interested in the full specifications of this flash can use the link provided.
NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.
All of the images in this article were captured handheld with an Olympus OM-D E-M1X fitted with the M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro lens. As you can see in the image above, the STF-8 Twin Macro Flash attaches via a ring on the front of the 60 mm macro lens. The kit also comes with a 62 mm ring, enabling the flash to be used with other lenses. I found the flash very simple and quick to attach to my macro lens and camera, taking less than a couple of minutes.
All of the photographs in this article were captured handheld at the Niagara Butterfly Conservatory. This location gave me a selection of butterflies as well as flowers to photograph.
The easiest way to use the Olympus STF-8 Twin Macro Flash is in TTL (through the lens) mode. This is an automatic setting which allows the camera and the flash to communicate with each other to arrive at an appropriate exposure.
When using the TTL mode, a photographer can still adjust the light intensity between the flash units. Full manual control of the Olympus STF-8 Twin Macro Flash is available. With the manual mode, light intensity can be adjusted in 1/3 stop increments.
As is my standard practice, I used single point auto focus for all of the macro photographs in this article.
I love getting in tight when shooting macro. It took a while for me to become accustomed to the additional width of the Olympus STF-8 Twin Macro Flash on the front of my camera.
When selecting subjects it is important to consider both camera shooting angle and the position of the two flash heads. In the image above I did not have the flash heads properly positioned which created unwanted shadows in my photograph.
I still have a lot of experimenting to do with the Olympus STF-8 Twin Macro Flash. Controls on the unit allow the power of each flash head to be adjusted to create different effects.
The individual flash heads can be easily re-positioned on the mounting ring to change the direction of the light.
Since this was my first ever attempt to use this macro flash, I concentrated on adjusting the position of each flash head, as well as their angles. I did not adjust the relative flash strength between the heads.
Using the Olympus STF-8 Twin Macro Flash provides photographers with more creative options in terms of subject separation. Having the flash heads mounted on-camera fits my handheld shooting style.
Capturing macro images while using the ISO-200 base setting of my Olympus OM-D E-M1X has some benefits in post production. The maximum amount of dynamic range and colour depth is available with which to work in post. Noise is virtually non-existent.
I found the DxO Smart Lighting tool in DxO PhotoLab 2 to be particularly helpful in post. To varying degrees, I used it with every image in this posting. This software function can be very effective when a photographer wants to smooth out the dynamic range in a photograph or to accentuate aspects of an image. For example, it enables the creation of a more muted, creamy look to the background if desired… rather than having a very dark one. The next two images made from the same RAW file demonstrate this flexibility.
Photographers who want the maximum amount of flexibility with their images in post should definitely shoot in RAW. This allows for the most amount of creative interpretation of your photographs.
Many people in internet chat forums criticize the performance of M4/3 sensors. When shot at base ISO-200, the 20.4 MP micro four thirds sensor in the latest generation of Olympus cameras has more than enough dynamic range and colour depth. Using the Olympus STF-8 Twin Macro Flash allows Olympus owners to get the most image performance out of their cameras when doing macro work.
Using the macro flash helps to bring more definition to fine details in a photograph. I purposely chose subjects that were in quite poor lighting during this initial test. It was an overcast day which also contributed to the poor lighting conditions (Note: the Niagara Butterfly Conservatory building has a glass ceiling). Without the use of the STF-8 flash, I would have been shooting at a minimum of ISO-3200 for most of the images in this article, and some would have been much higher than that. Throughout the test the STF-8 flash significantly extended the macro photography capability of my Olympus kit.
As you can see with the details in the flower image below (and other images in this article), using a flash sync speed of 1/200 or 1/250 is fast enough to capture macro photographs handheld.
The Olympus STF-8 Twin Macro Flash can be used with some of the advanced Olympus features such as Focus Bracketing, Focus Stacking and Hi Res mode. In the months ahead I plan on doing more experimentation with these other creative options.
Being a complete novice when it comes to using the Olympus STF-8 Twin Macro Flash, I was pleasantly surprised with the initial results. There certainly is a sense of creative freedom when one walks around with this flash unit attached to a camera.
Almost anything that catches your eye is fair game for a macro image. It should also be noted that the weather sealing of the Olympus STF-8 Twin Macro Flash allows for use in inclement outdoor conditions.
During a portion of my initial test I had two Kenko extension tubes attached to my M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro lens. This would have significantly reduced the amount of light reaching my camera’s sensor. When shooting in TTL mode, my E-M1X and STF-8 flash unit worked flawlessly together in terms of communicating and providing good exposures. Overall, I am very pleased with the Olympus STF-8 Twin Macro Flash and anticipate a lot of creative macro experimentation in the future!
Photographs were captured hand-held using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. All images were produced from RAW files using my standard process.
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