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TAKE PICTURES

HOW TO

TAKING PICTURES
Ostracods, daphnia ect are very small, some millimeters or even fractions and they normally swimm fast. I had to buy quite a lot of hardware to be able to take some clear shots. A 1:1 macro lens is required but other gadgets are necessary too. Prices can be very challenging but I managed to find cheaper alternatives which provide interesting results anyway. Ligth is the real challeng as it is neve strong enough and considering the short focusing distance even the built in flash is not helpful. Therefore at least ISO 800 has to be used and I hardly had the chance to use an aperture higher 2.8. A tripod is a must.
At the bottom of the page some macro shots to compare the added value of the different gadget than can be stacked to the macro lens.

CAMERA

I use a Canon EOS 550D, 18 Mp. This is not the latest model, such as the 650D but it is pretty nice, with the same sensor and software  than most recent models.

MACRO LENS
Considering how much exensive macro lenses are, I chose a cheap one that received very good reviews, the SIGMA 50mm f/2.8 EX DG MACRO. It is a 1:1 true macro, with a focusing distance on 10 cm. A greater focusing distance would be better but prices increase quite a lot.
1:1 Macro means that an object 26mm long can be captured over the surface of the sensore, which is 26 mm long. Therefore a 26mm object will cover the whole length of your shot. To really understand a macro, or to evaluate add-ons like extension tubes or close-up lens, you should tke a picture of a ruler, at the minimum focusing distance. If you see 26mm in the picture, than  it is a 1:1 macro. With all the add-ons I can get 15 mm.
Price around 300€

EXTENSION TUBE
Extension tubes are used to allow the camera to focus at a closer distance. Therefore, by getting closer to the subject you get a slightly higher magnification. Original extension tubes could be pretty expensive, around 200€. There are other brands  offering a full set (3 different extensions) for the same price of the original. I bought a very cheap model on ebay from Hong-Kong. The drawback is that such tubes do not have contacts therefore the autofocus is not working. By the way, autofocus is not really useful for macro shots. As the focusing distance is reduced to 2 cm (only using the first and second tubes together) taking pictures is not very easy.

Price around 12€ on e-bay

CLOSE-UP LENS
Close up lens are simple magnifying lens to be screwed on top of the macro lens. As for extension tubes they reduce the focusing distance but introduces distorsions and focusing becames more difficult. The better the lens, the less the distortions. Original closeup lens can be bought for 150/200€. Normally they came with 1x, 2x, 4x, and 10x and can be stacked. Raynox produces ultra macro closeup lens, up to 32x but they requires long focal distances lenses such as 100mm or more.
I bought a set of 4 lenses on ebay.
Price 16 €.
If I stack them all the focusing distance is reduced so I can onlt take shots of what is hangign on the acquarium walls. Therefore I use only the 10x one.Stacking it with an extensione tube provides very little aditional magnification.

FOCUSING RAIL
A focusing rail is absolutely a must. When taking 1:1 picture the only way to focus is moving the camera to and from the subject, and we are talking of fractions of mm. Doing it manually is impossible and moving each time the whole tripod could be annoying (if not a real challenge). This rail allows to make micrometric correction to the distance getting the perfect focus.
Rails can be 2 or 4 axis and normally they are very expensive.
I bought one on ebay for 9 € and it works pretty well. A second one has been ordered. That would allow me to move the camera also right and left to follow the movement of some fast critter.

REMOTE CONTROLLER
A cable remote controller is a cheap solution but really helps avoiding blurred pictures due to the vibrations caused by pressing the shutter.
Only 18 euros in a photo store.

MACRO COMPARED
The next 3 shots are useful to compare the level ogf magnification of the different gadget I stack on the macro
1. Simple 1:1 Macro
2. Simple 1:1 Macro + extension tube
3. Simple 1:1 Macro + extension tube + 10x close-up lense
It is pretty clear that stacking the close-up lens is adding very little in magnification while introducing also some distortions.

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