Being Small in a Large World..
In another creative fervor with the Fuji X Pro 1, I decided to attend a formal CNPA (Carolinas Nature Photography Assn.) outing yesterday at Cyprus Gardens in Moncks Corner, SC. The park is full of flowers, swamp and a nice butterfly house. I had decided to leave all of my other camera equipment at home (it seems that this is becoming the rule now with the X Pro 1!) and concentrate on macro/closeup work with the Fuji system. In truth, I spent all day with the 60mm f/2.4 macro lens. The lens can shoot in the macro mode at .5x which is 1:2. The closest focus range on this lens is a little over 10 inches. With these limitations in mind I setup on a sturdy tripod and got about the business of creating images!
This post is NOT intended as a macro or flash tutorial. I will post images that I consider are the best at macro and closeup that this camera system is capable of creating. Anyone can create this type of macro images with just a little forethought and a full understanding of the physics of exposure and how to use your camera as a tool! I intend to show you what this camera system is capable of creating with thought out setups, exposure and lighting! I am going to share with you my experiences in using the camera system with the following accessories, modes and shooting supports:
- Fuji X Pro 1, aperture priority, spot metering
- Fuji 60mm f/2.4 lens
- Fuji EF-20 flash
- EF-X20 flash
- Fuji EF-42 flash
- Surefire 6PX Pro LED flashlight
- Tripod and hand held
- 40″ remote shutter release
The Zebra Longwing caterpillar above was about 1/4 inch in length and was taken with the Fuji X Pro 1 with the 60mm f/2.4 lens on a tripod. Lighting was the Fuji EF-20 flash unit on camera but tilted down and set at -1ev. As you can see, the overall setup gave a very nice image with reasonable lighting given only 1 flash! The overall image ratio is about 1:3 which puts this squarely in the macro range. I kept the aperture set to f/9 in order to get the entire insect in sharp focus and have a little bit of detail in the background. Now, the real surprise: the focus was auto with the selected focus point being the middle of the curve on the insect! Normally, we expect to manually focus when working in macro, but I intended to test the focus capabilities of the system as well.
- TIP: I added a slight lens vingyette in post processing to darken the top and sides of the image to further accent the main subject.
Given that the flash uses two AA batteries, the re-charge time should be considered quite slow, but it was actually quite fast. I enjoyed using this flash because the tilting head enabled me to shoot past the end of the the longer 60mm lens and keep the subject in nice light with no lens shading even with the lens hood installed at the 10 inch focus distance! I did find that using the button on the back of the flash to set the EV value to be a bit tedious but since I usually set it to some negative value and leave it there it was not a very large negative!
This next image of the Swallowtail butterfly caterpillar was taken using the Fuji EF-42 flash set at -.5ev and an aperture of f/8 on the tripod. Here I intended to have more of a blurred background (remember in the macro range the DOF is very narrow and even a a mid aperture you will get a very blurry background) yet again keep the insect in sharp focus across its entire focus plain.
The EF-42 flash is a much higher power unit compared to the EF-20 and it uses four AA batteries for a faster recharge time. The controls are easier to use BUT the flash head will NOT angle down beyond the level plain. This can be overcome by pulling out the wide angle lens on the top and using it as s bounce surface to angle some light down. As you can see in the image I created the exact image I envisioned. The main subject (insect) is in perfect focus and the exposure is dead on with no blow out of the whites. The background is nicely indistinct and blurry with only slight detail thus taking nothing away from the subject! Focus was again in auto with the spot set on the top hump of the insect as it was getting ready to move forward up the branch. Again, I added a slight lens vingyette in post processing to darken the top and sides of the image to further accent the main subject. As stated, this was all pre-planned before I ever looked at the camera!
OK this image of the small red flower (sorry, I have not yet identified it yet…) was again done with the X Pro 1 with the 60mm lens and the EF-42 flash at -1 ev. The big difference here was that this was hand held. I just could not get the camera into a position on the tripod in order to capture it. Plus I was setting up to switch over to shooting butterflies on the move which you just cannot do on the tripod. The flower was about1 inch in length so the image ratio here is about 1:4 which puts this image in the closeup range. Depth of field is much better in this range so in order to have a un-defined background I set the aperture down to f/4 which gave me a sharp focus on the entire flower in its plain of focus yet blurred the background nicely.
- TIP: The flash was setup using the wide angle adapter pulled partly out in order to reflect some of the light down towards the flower.
All in all I think that this is a nicely done image considering it was hand held!
Ok, moving up further into the closeup range, I created this image of a Zebra Longwing butterfly. This was again handheld but using the EF-20 flash set level at -1ev. Focus was auto with the focus point set silghtly off center to the top in the portrait mode.
- TIP: When shooting macro/closeup, I always set the focus point for each and every shot. This gives me far greater control during the setup and composition phase of my process.
OK, almost done! This last image of a purple orchid was shot on the tripod in shadow was one of the more difficult images of the day. I had to use a 40 inch remote shutter release and hunch below the flower and tripod with a 5000 degree kelvin LED flashlight angled up into the flower. I also used the EF-X20 flash set at -1ev to give the purple of the flower even lighting and a sparkle. The EF-X20 is the easiest of all the Fuji flash units to control due to its top mounted mode dial.
The LED flashlight is a 6PX Pro Tactical light with variable output and is perfect for macro work. Its light is bright white and since you can control the power level it makes for very easy control! This light and many others can be found at www.Surefire.com but be advised, they are expensive! I keep several versions of these tactical lights on hand. They are all useful and a positive addition to a macro kit!
OK, that is it for today. But consider this last point, Macro work can be done with any lens, you do not need to have a dedicated macro lens. With the simple addition of a closeup adapter (I recommend the Canon 500D series of adapters) you can convert ANY lens to macro/closeup!
Very nice images and your explanations on how they were created was most helpful. Really enjoyed this post.
Thanks Sam, I really enjoy the work and the blog is a lot of fun also!
Superb photography and I would never have guessed that the XP1 was so capable of these quality results. Thank you.
Thanks Dave! You took the words right out of my mouth! This camera has turned into my main go to system. The canon stuff rarely comes out except for when I want to really do water drop or lightning work now! Travel? Forget every other system, the X Pro 1 is it!
Thanks so much for this thoughtful article. Your macro images are extremely impressive and you have inspired me to try out your tips and techniques.
Thanks Geoffrey! As I stated earlier, one wouldn’t normally consider this style of camera for macro work, but it is fantastic! Add onto that the fact that I RARELY EVER carry any other camera equipment around now except for the XP1 and am so happy with its results really tells a story!
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As always concise explanations and great images. Many times I use a flash belt offhand. Of the 3 you used is there one u prefer?
Did u get your website domain name up and running again?
Always one of the best articles with the x pro.
Thanks John, I think for most work the EF-20 is best suited for me. You can use the Canon off flash cord for full TTL control of your FUji flashes if you wish to work off hand!
I am not going to fix http://www.markhilliardatelier.com. I like the format here for that much better!
Thanks for the info. So, we go through your articles to get to all your other past info. and blog instead of website?
I was debating between the EF-20 and 42, but did not realize until you stated it you could not bend downward. Sold my SB800 (wish In had kept it now). If the 700 works with the Fuji may go that way but otherwise will probably save the money and go EF-20.
I did not feel that there was enough good content to keep it going. I think that this site and the infraredatelier.wordpress.com sites are my best and have the best selection of images and tips/thoughts.
I have all 3 Fuji flash units and like them all for different reasons but I use the EF-20 90% of the time due to its small size and larger batteries plus decent recharge time. It works well.
Nice macro shots, Mark. I have been experimenting with macro lately but can’t find the right setup with the equipment I have but I will keep trying until I get the combination I like.
Thanks for the comment Anne! Remember there are a lot of ways to convert your lenses for great macro/closeup work. Look into a Canon 500d closeup adapter for your work as well. I have one for 52mm which will fit the other 2 Fuji lenses but have not played with it yet! Keep experimenting!
Reblogged this on Analog Ambassador and commented:
An exceptional nature photographer
Your macros are truly stunning. Very professional indeed. I’ve only got the 35mm lens for my XP1 a the moment. After looking at your photos, I will certainly get the 60mm as well
ppnuts, thanks for the comment! You might wish to purchase the Canon 500D in 52mm to use on your 35mm lens which would allow you to explore a bit in the macro world as well! THe 60mm lens really is a sharp lens and you will be very happy with it.
Some nice shots, but I think my vision is blurred or my Macbook is not calibrated or … when I see these results on my screen and compare them with the outcome of a Nikon D700 and Sigma 150, 2.8 or Nikon 24-70 2.8 … then I am quite surprised. I like what I saw of the fuji x 1 up to now but there ain’t no crispy sharpness whatsoever … only in the first one partly but also the eyes are not really sharp imo and that’s the basic rule with either animal be it insect or human:sharp eyes/ eye, everything else is alright … or maybe I have to sharpen my eyes?
Jens, thanks for the comment. Remember these are small images 1024×698 and there is a great loss of detail. I have ALL of the Fuji X Pro 1 lenses and find this 12mm to be just as sharp in day to day use.
Very nice shots Mark! It’s unfortunate that Fuji does not make a really professional flash system as the Canon Speedlite 600 EX-RT-and Transmitter ST-RT-E3. I do not use a X Pro1 but its little brother the X10 that I love, I’m still a little frustrated by having to use a flash system less efficient than my old Olympus OM2n of 1980! Of course you can survive with only one EF-42, Canon OC-E3 and OCF Gear OCF33C cords, and using a good parabolic reflector umbrellas, and passive reflectors, but it’s not really professoinnel … One can of course also work with multiple flash units in manual mode with a flasmètre, but it’s not comfortable. For a X 10 is already difficult to understand and accept, for a X Pro1 is a shame! I will not buy X Pro1 and for this reason, and I think that I am not alone in reaching this conclusion …
Thanks for the Fanchik. I look at the X Pro 1 more of a landscape system over a macro system in the overall scheme of things. I have all 3 of the Fuji system flash units and like the pros of each one. The EF-42 is very close to the capabilities of the Canon 430EX flash and have use is very successfully in both macro and normal family settings. The point of this post of course was not to promote the X Pro 1 as a macro system (it works well for that) but to show what the camera is indeed capable of! I really love this camera!
For macro shots with a Fuji X, I wonder if a system like the JJC LED Macro Ring Light would be interesting? This seems well designed and can perhaps be better than a flash, and it’s not very expensive …
I actually have one of these LED lights from JJC and found it to be lacking. It is not near bright enough and the light has a blue component that I find distracting.
Ah… Interesting, thanks for the piece of advice!
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excellent article Mark. Have just got an X pro 1 and have been debating which flash to go with it. I have a Nikon SB800 but it is a bit bulky but the flash works well in A mode.
Thanks for the kind words. I have the x20 and the larger fuji flash for my x cameras.
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Interesting article about the Fuji X Pro 1 camera.
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