A few comments.DOF is important to me, I generally use my lenses in their sweet spot.
I only have the capability to go to 10:1, and for that I use an automated Stackshot focus rail in-conjunction with a CamRanger so I can control the whole lot remotely, either wirelessly via a computer or a tablet. In my experience sensor noise is usually an issue of lack of light. I prefer to light my subjects and use the camera at base ISO.
I have been contemplating buying a Novoflex Auto Bellows in Z mount, which will allow me to get more magnification, but I rarely go beyond 1:1, I doubt I’ll get much use out of it.
In my experience a large tripod can be a hindrance, particularly for some of the subjects I photograph. Native Orchids for instance you need to be mindful of where everything is as some grow in largish groups, and I don’t want to inadvertently damage other orchids. Likewise, when photographing fungi, a lot of the time there is not much room to setup the camera and a tripod. I gave up a long time ago using artificial lighting either on camera or off. I use natural light nowadays. Sure, some of the exposures are longish, times the number of shots in the stack, but most fungi I photograph are not affected too much by a breeze.
Our needs are not always the same, what works for one may not work for another. For instance, where the nice, coloured fungi grow, it is generally leach heaven. I prefer to have the camera and tripod getting a leach or two while I stand back and take photos. Likewise with the Native orchids, we’re heading into Spring which means more and more orchids are starting to flower. This also means snakes are starting to be on the move, and I don’t particularly like being bitten Bull or Fire Ants. So, I prefer to be away from the camera and keep an eye out for what’s around me.
I know that feeling, I generally take between 2,000-3,000 images on an outing. This is the beauty of using the functionality built into the camera. Once you get your new camera, regardless of the brand, if it has focus bracketing built in you will soon see how useful it is, particularly when out in the bush.
As I’ve mentioned what works for one may not work for another. I use single point focusing and use the joystick to position where on the subject I want the camera to focus.
Most if not all my cameras use Sony based sensors. I find very little difference with regards white balance between them.
The Olympus only focus stacks JPEGs. Although most of the time there is nothing wrong with the results. It also saves the RAW files, which is what I generally use and create the stack in post.
My intention was not to try and sway you from what gear you want to purchase. I prefer to use what makes life easier for me, particularly when in the bush. I don’t worry about what others think when they rock up with their mega expensive, and megapixel setups. I know my limitations, and the limitations of my gear. All I want is a nice photo.
I used to think DX was better than FX for macro due to the 1 stop increase in DOF. With DX I use a macro lens at F16, which maximises DOF whilst maintaining sufficient IQ. (That is really an effective aperture as Nikon do not allow you to set the physical aperture. So it’s usually somewhere between F11 and F16. F11 is at about the diffraction limit with DX.) I originally thought that FX at F22 would produce cacky results due to diffraction and reduced contrast, in fact they were indistinguishable apart from slight white balance differences between the cameras. Again that’s the effective aperture, the physical aperture will typically be between F16 and F22. I am sure I would get optimal results at F8 and focus stacking, but I already spend so much time doing microscopy to identify specimens that there’s not enough hours in the day, and not much time to process photos.
For photomicrography I use a bright field microscope, whereby a thin piece of fungus is stained and placed between two sheets of glass. The illumination is from below, the optics above. I am limited by the maximum output of the light source. Yes I could hook up a flash system, or an even brighter light source, but it’d mean a lot of time spent modifying the microscope’s lighting, learning to solder and construct circuit boards, and spending money on components which might not work as intended. The microscopy is for identification purposes, not artistic output:
Ah, you’re using AF to nail the focus on a manually chosen location. That makes sense. I zoom in with live view on the rear screen. My eyes are not what they once were. Also as you know Nikon cameras have a focus indicator that aids manual focus.