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FORUMS Photography Talk by Genre Macro Talk 
Thread started 27 Apr 2016 (Wednesday) 21:20
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Sigma 180mm f/2.8 APO Macro EX DG OS HSM, hand held learning curve?

 
coatfetish
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Apr 27, 2016 21:20 |  #1

Curious to hear anyone's experience with hand held macro photography, any lens. I just bought a used rental Sigma - and have 30 days to decide if I want to keep it. I can guarantee I'll want to keep it if I can just get used to it! At risk of sounding like a wimp, true macro is hard work. I guess I'm spoiled - none of my other lenses weigh nearly 4 lbs. The lens arrived in the mail today but it was nearly dusk by the time I tried the lens for the first time. I think I'm too shaky (and it's too heavy) to not use my tripod with it, even though it has stabilization. I'm also a nearly 60 yr old woman who will need to start working with light weights if I'm going to carry this around. Not even joking, sadly. So, I'm going to post my first test pics that were hand held, at twilight. I used live view and magnified the view - that helps a lot with focusing and combined with using a tripod in the future, I hope to get better quickly. Is it typical to have a learning curve on getting sharp photos with a macro lens? (I know my test shots are not sharp). And yes, all I have in the yard now are dandelions...I did test shots inside, with a tripod, of various items and got very sharp images so I know it's me and not the lens.


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Swiftlet
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Post edited over 3 years ago by Swiftlet. (2 edits in all)
     
Apr 27, 2016 22:37 |  #2

Yes, it's murder!
What I think you're struggling with most is lack of depth of field.
At large apertures like f/4 and magnifications like half life size (=44mm across), you'll only have a sliver in focus. In practice "in acceptable focus" depends entirely on how big the "print" will be.

Your sensor is capable of producing prints three feet wide looking quite sharp all over. At that size you will have, at f/4,
about 1/100th of an inch of subject depth in really sharp focus! (How recent is your optometrist prescription?!)

If you only do screen resolution pictures then you don't see things as critically so you can accept more depth, on subject, as being sharp.
At f/16 you might accept 1/8", or 1/4". It's very subjective, but whichever, it ain't much.
It doesn't depend on the lens, f/16 would give the same on a shorter lens if you measured things, BUT the background would be smaller so look less far out of focus. (That's for the same size subject in the frame.)

Dandelion heads are unforgiving. Objects like bees are round and solid by comparison so there's nothing blurred in front of the subject.

Natural light is nice but often not bright enough for a shutter speed that's fast enough to avoid vibration. Flash is one answer. You have to diffuse it like crazy though. A white sheet of paper near the subject, lit by a flash a foot from the paper, will give quite diffuse light. Obviously you can buy more convenient diffusers.

Alternative hardware, given the investment you'd not have to make in that fine lens, would be a lighter, M4/3rds camera (smaller sensor, smaller lenses...)

This might look acceptably sharp in parts here, but it's not, anywhere . f/16


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Jack Swift

  
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coatfetish
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Apr 28, 2016 00:10 |  #3

Thank you for responding! When I took some test shots inside, I started playing with depth of field. You're so right when you address that - and I wasn't considering DOF at all when I took the dandelion shots. I hope it's a dry day out tomorrow so I can experiment for a good long while. Flash was something I gave no thought to at all in regard to a macro lens - I am so used to shorter prime lenses that do so well in low light, not realizing the macro magnification also magnifies movement. Maybe it's my inexperience speaking, but the increased magnification brings challenges I hadn't expected. It's going to be fun and interesting to work on these challenges and figure them out. Good thing this isn't film, or I would go broke learning, lol. You're hit the nail on the head and given me much to think about. I've been reading some of the threads here on speedlite and off camera diffused lighting, too. The long length of this lens is something to consider while I read about lighting options. Thank you so much for the concise response (and my optometrist visit is way overdue! lol)




  
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A-PeeR
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Apr 28, 2016 08:52 |  #4

Yes, this is a beast of a lens. It takes strength and practice to shoot with it hand held. I usually leave it at home unless the skies are overcast and I can shoot available light off a tripod. Not to say you can't use flash, I have and it works but shorter focal lengths are better suited for this type of macro photography - diffused flash close to the end of the lens with a quick flash pulse to freeze motion. The working distance of this lens makes extending the flash close to the subject cumbersome to say the least. I have used it on tubes 72mm and 96mm. The working distance is closed considerably. Overhead or close proximity diffused flash is more manageable but this shooting set up defeats the purpose of the lens and other than FOV differences and the slight flattening of the subject, this is more easily accomplished with lenses in the 50mm to 100mm range.

When I first got mine, it was a situation similar to yours, used lens - 30 day trial period. I took it out every chance I had and convinced myself I would use it. I do use it just not as often as I visualized I would. To me it's more of a specialist lens. I do like the fact that it doubles up as a nice midrange telephoto lens but often I just don't want to lug the weight around as I already carry enough in my pack. Weight wise I find the Canon 180 much more manageable in the field, so that it is an option if you like the FoV and working distance. Of the longer macro lenses I like the Sigma 150 (non OS version) the best, small trade off in working distance for 2lbs less weight. Optically it's equal to the 180 but lack of OS limits the ability to drag the shutter when shooting handheld.

Yes, when you first start macro photography higher magnifications bring up challenges you don't encounter in regular photography. Slightest wisp of wind bounces the subject all around the frame, the ability to analayze the frame in a timely manner, the focus point, the focal plane, etc. As with most things in life the more you put into the more' you'll get out of it. Go out and enjoy your trial period, have fun shooting macro, and if the weight is too great there are other excellent lens options out there.




  
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John ­ Koerner
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Post edited over 3 years ago by John Koerner.
     
Apr 28, 2016 09:13 |  #5
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I think you would be better off with the compromise of a monopod: not as much of hassle as a tripod, yet much steadier and easier to deal with than hand-holding a pretty big piece of glass.

I've had 3 iterations of the Canon 180 and could never get critical focus hand-holding, but I could with the Sigma 180, precisely because of the OS (VR/IS).

Still, I far preferred the Sigma on a monopod to give me better stability.

The Sigma 180 is a great lens IMO, so I would make the adjustments repeated use allows you to turn into "what works best" for you, and then be glad you have this beauty.

Here is a nice review (external link) on it by Gorm Teper.




  
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coatfetish
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Apr 29, 2016 01:10 |  #6

Thank you A-PeeR and John for responding - it was insanely windy today so working with the lens was a no-go. We have had the craziest windy spring this year and mother nature isn't being very co-operative. My tripod has a removable monopod leg, so I will give it a go. Honestly I hadn't even thought of trying the monopod. It will be interesting to see how I fare practicing monopod and tripod. Using a monopod would certainly be faster to set up if I'm trying to photograph insects or such, and I can use the tripod when the object will stay still, such as plant life. My next largest lens is a 100mm, and I already know I like the added 80mm for when I'm in the woods and come across wildlife (I am fortunate to live within a few miles of two National Forests). I haven't been able to use the lens outside in daylight (those quick twilight pics not withstanding) and it's calling for rain for the next five days - just my luck! I'll practice by photographing household items - that will at least let me get a feel for the lens/weight/balance on a monopod. I haven't read the review yet but I will and I appreciate the link. One of the main reasons I chose this lens was because of the high reviews I found of it (and it was a very good price used).

Thanks again to all of you for your help and opinions!




  
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coatfetish
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Apr 29, 2016 01:40 as a reply to  @ John Koerner's post |  #7

Loved the photo examples he used in the article, especially how he used the lens for long shots in the zoo - beautiful clarity!




  
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gnome ­ chompski
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Post edited over 3 years ago by gnome chompski.
     
Apr 29, 2016 14:52 |  #8

practice practice practice. I cant say the 180mm would be my first lens to get used to macro work but you will certainly gain a level of hand hold control with it. I still struggle and I use a 90mm Tamron that is very light weight compared to other lenses I have. Even then, just breathing throws things in and out of focus. I generally use a flash so a flash with a quick recycle time helps so that I can spam off a couple frames if needed. I usually end up getting keepers but there are LOTS of out of focus garbage. Embrace it and enjoy!

Ill explain my technique and post up some example pics later. I use a Canon 6D and whatever flash I have, Canon or Lumopro. Camera is set to 1/160 (sync speed) and f11. I use a flash bracket and generally start off at 1/16 power, ISO 100, 200 or 400 depending. I manually focus to 1:1 and then slowly lean in closer to the subject bringing it in focus. once Im in focus i sort of try to slow my breath and steady myself. Often that will throw things out of focus so I try to find focus again as I slowly inhale. Right in the middle of the breath I try to get the focus and take the pic. My whole rig is kind of heavy, but nowhere near as heavy at your Sigma. I have taken some pretty sharp one handed pics, the other hand trying to hold back my daughter haha.


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gnome ­ chompski
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May 04, 2016 22:29 |  #9

Sorry, took me a few to get around to posting images. I was able to take these hand held with my macro rig while boxing out my 2 year old with my leg so she wouldnt disrupt the shot. Not easy but I managed


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coatfetish
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Sep 11, 2016 20:29 as a reply to  @ gnome chompski's post |  #10

Sorry I never acknowledged your post - it's been a long time since I've been here! I have been so busy that I haven't done much photography at all, and I haven't played with the 180 since I started this thread. I will practice as much as possible before Christmas, because if it turns out to be too heavy/cumbersome for me (and it might) then maybe I can sell or trade it for Christmas, lol. Late as I may be, I still wanted to say thanks for your tips and help...




  
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Sigma 180mm f/2.8 APO Macro EX DG OS HSM, hand held learning curve?
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