Move over to Z?

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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.
A few comments.

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:
955%20Agrocybe%20arvalis%20GFC%20x40%20Congo%20red.jpg
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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.
 
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A few comments.


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:

Are you able to take longer exposures? When I photograph fungi at night some of my exposures are multiple minutes. Others choose higher ISO and shorter exposures.
 
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Are you able to take longer exposures? When I photograph fungi at night some of my exposures are multiple minutes. Others choose higher ISO and shorter exposures.
Sadly not. At that magnification a short exposure is essential, 1/1000” preferably, with EFCS.
 
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I might start a new thread on this.

Is it worth buying a Z6 guide? And if so, which one?

I once had a copy of the Thom Hogan guide to the Nikon D3. It was well written, and informative, but it was full of extraneous information about Nikon, Nikon sensors and so on that I didn’t need to know in order to use the camera. In other words, it was very wordy, and I’d prefer something more to the point, unless of course his book is the best.And I’d like something that assumes an intelligent technically literate reader.

As far as my background goes, I have several degrees in physics, I’ve used cameras for over 20 years, I was once the key developer on an image processing application that analysed photos of test charts in order to validate passport readers during production, and I understand the basics of exposure, white balance etc. In other words I’m reasonably intelligent and au fait with a lot of the concepts in photography. But, I don’t understand autofocus (never used it), I’ve never used a Z6, and I’m sure there’s stuff I don’t know, perhaps some important details. And there’s the focus stacking feature. I do focus stacking manually with a D500, I’ve never used the automatic version.
 

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I might start a new thread on this.

Is it worth buying a Z6 guide? And if so, which one?

I once had a copy of the Thom Hogan guide to the Nikon D3. It was well written, and informative, but it was full of extraneous information about Nikon, Nikon sensors and so on that I didn’t need to know in order to use the camera. In other words, it was very wordy, and I’d prefer something more to the point, unless of course his book is the best.And I’d like something that assumes an intelligent technically literate reader.

As far as my background goes, I have several degrees in physics, I’ve used cameras for over 20 years, I was once the key developer on an image processing application that analysed photos of test charts in order to validate passport readers during production, and I understand the basics of exposure, white balance etc. In other words I’m reasonably intelligent and au fait with a lot of the concepts in photography. But, I don’t understand autofocus (never used it), I’ve never used a Z6, and I’m sure there’s stuff I don’t know, perhaps some important details. And there’s the focus stacking feature. I do focus stacking manually with a D500, I’ve never used the automatic version.
I'd suggest watching some of Steve Perry's videos on YouTube for subjects such as Focus Shift Shooting, Auto Focus, and such. He explains things in sufficient detail and very succinctly.

His eBooks are Superior!

Focus Shift Shooting

Nikon AutoFocus System: Mirrorless edition
 
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Considering the cost of a Z6 and the much smaller cost of Thom Hogan's Guide, I strongly recommend it despite your considerable knowledge. I'm also an avid photographer and it was initially very beneficial to me. Even now, I occasionally use it as a resource to look up a particular issue or idea.
 
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Thanks all. A Z6 + FTZ + 24-70mm F4 S arrived today. The D500 will go on eBay. I will keep my 20mm F1.8 G and 105mm F2.8 AFD lenses.

It looks very nice, the controls are intuitive to use. The D500 seems a tad easier to use due to more buttons. Can’t see the histogram, or lens settings on the preview as per D500. Snapbridge works nicely, I even get GPS coordinates in the EXIF, well cool. It fits my hands better than a D500, although it does not superficially have the same tank like build. I got a 3 Legged Thing L bracket, looks a tad flimsy, hi ho.

I have a heavy SB800 flash and the Nikon macro flash kit. Can anyone recommend a small, light and cheap flash, no commander needed, just for macros, sometimes used with an off camera cord. SB400 size and capabilities. But cheap!
 
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Can’t see the histogram, or lens settings on the preview

Once you get to know your new camera better, you'll learn how to view the histogram and lens settings in either the viewfinder or the rear LCD before releasing the shutter.

I don't know the capabilities of the SB400, but I use the Yongnuo YN 650III to do what you want to do. People also use Godox products. Both Yongnuo and Godox flash products are considerably less expensive than Nikon flash products.
 
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Although I have a ring flash and other on and off camera options, this is my go to setup for spiders and bugs etc. so I have plenty of power close to the subject. Likewise I have other modifiers, but these ones are lighter. A mate of mine made the bracket. He uses them for photographing pollinator's in the field.

50331811853_f687e44ae4_b.jpg
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50347157036_9518435803_b.jpg
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Once you get to know your new camera better, you'll learn how to view the histogram and lens settings in either the viewfinder or the rear LCD before releasing the shutter.

I don't know the capabilities of the SB400, but I use the Yongnuo YN 650III to do what you want to do. People also use Godox products. Both Yongnuo and Godox flash products are considerably less expensive than Nikon flash products.
Thanks. It was just a menu setting to see histograms on playback.

That flash looks nice but it’s the same weight as my SB800. I’ll try and get a used SB300, it’s tiny, and under 100g plus 2 AAA batteries. Maybe there’s a Chinese equivalent. I walk many miles with a backpack and tripod, and I’m reducing weight.
 
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Although I have a ring flash and other on and off camera options, this is my go to setup for spiders and bugs etc. so I have plenty of power close to the subject. Likewise I have other modifiers, but these ones are lighter. A mate of mine made the bracket. He uses them for photographing pollinator's in the field.

View attachment 1688754

View attachment 1688755
Nice setup and image. This flash is for fungi, it lifts the shadows and helps the camera get better white balance, or at least on the D500 it does. The flash must be very light, and as mentioned above, a used SB300 should do the business. I like your Heath Robinson contraption, very effective. I have the Nikon macro flash kit with twin SB200 units. It gives decent results. This is a drone fly on mint.
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Nice setup and image. This flash is for fungi, it lifts the shadows and helps the camera get better white balance, or at least on the D500 it does. The flash must be very light, and as mentioned above, a used SB300 should do the business. I like your Heath Robinson contraption, very effective. I have the Nikon macro flash kit with twin SB200 units. It gives decent results. This is a drone fly on mint.

Thank you

Do you use a custom colour profile for your cameras?

I use a X-Rite color checker passport photo 2 and have profiles for each of my bodies and lens combinations. I rarely have issues with white balance. I also have a D500 although it is mainly used for birding, not fungi.

51164103472_702b88bf96_b.jpg
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No colour profile, I find auto white balance does a good enough job. The light can vary greatly, yellow in a forest with yellow leaf canopy, blueish if the sky is blue, white on an overcast day etc. As said earlier, I find that using rear curtain fill flash improves the white balance, my guess is that the camera uses the preflash to calculate the true colour of the scene.

You probably know that is a Mycena species, maybe M. filopes, maybe an Australian lookalike. Microscopy is needed for certainty as there are quite a few rather similar species.
 

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