Monday, July 14, 2014

Bug Closeups with the Micro 4/3 Panasonic-Leica 45mm f2.8 Macro Elmarit

I have had the Pana-Leica 45mm f2.8 Macro Elmarit lens for quite some time. When I purchased it, the Macro-Elmarit was the only medium telephoto available for the Micro 4/3 mount. Had the Olympus 45mm f1.8 been out at the time, I probably would have bought that instead.
The extra >1 f-stop of the Olympus would be nice. That said, the macro ability of the Pana-Leica is great. I like to be able to take closeups of details when I travel.
I have not really explored the capabilities of this lens in more classical macro applications. Yesterday, I had the time and opportunity to go bug hunting while my wife practiced free swimming in a local quarry. I decided to see what the Macro-Elmarit could do. So, I mounted it on my Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX7, set up the touch screen to focus and trigger exposure (I rarely use the touch screen features of the GX7), and connected my Nissin flash with a remote cord. Having mounted the camera on a sturdy tripod, I was ready to go.
Well, it was hot, and the bug hunting was a little tough. After waiting an eternity (okay, about 30 minutes) for a gorgeous dragonfly to return to a particular perch to no avail, I started stalking. By the way, dragonflies usually will come back to exactly the same spot over and over. I think maybe I was just too close for comfort. This is where a longer macro focal length would come in handy, giving me more working distance.
My stalking actually resulted in finding a stationary dragonfly, but my best subject of the day was this bug you see below. I'm not sure of his exact species, but guess that he's part of the hemiptera family of true bugs.
Bug, by Reed A. George
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX7, Pana-Leica 45mm f2.8 Macro Elmarit, Remote Flash
iso 200, f11 1/100 sec.
I used a mini softbox mounted on the flash head, and handheld the flash. Even with the camera on a tripod, I had too many things to hold, and the flash-to-subject distance wasn't well controlled with my hand holding method. I should work on mounting the flash to a bracket if I continue this line of imaging. I did use the touch screen to identify where to focus and trigger the exposure. I must admit it's a pretty cool tool, as long as the camera is held stationary. It was a little difficult to get the focus point just right, on the bug's head, at this magnification. But, I did get it a few times.
I was not at the closest focus distance of the lens, but was at about the shortest useful working distance for this subject. Here's a 100% enlargement of the same image (a little clarity and sharpness applied in Lightroom):
100% Crop of Image Above
So, I'd say this lens is pretty capable in the true macro realm. I don't shoot a lot of nature macro images like this, and would normally tend toward the large sensor of my Nikon D700, and either my true macro 60mm Micro-Nikkor f2.8, or a longer lens (say 105mm f2.5) with extension tubes. The longer lens would make the working distance more reasonable. Now I know that the Micro 4/3 sensor in my GX7 and Macro-Elmarit are quite capable in this realm.
On top of that, the Macro-Elmarit is a reasonably good portrait lens (limited in its shallow depth of field potential by the relatively small maximum aperture of f2.8), and an excellent lens for capturing closeup details when on travel.