Comfortably close

Barrie Smith
21 January, 2008
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I’ve done a fair bit of macro photography —- both in stills and video —- and, while the current crop of digital cameras promise amazing specs in the closeup department, most them fall down quite badly when the practical aspects are taken into account.
For instance, the Ricoh Caplio GX100 is quite a nice camera and seems to promise the world in macro shooting. Look at the figures: it will focus down to as close as four centimetres when the lens is set to the wide end of the zoom, but then claims to be able to shoot macro as close as one centimetre when the lens is set to telephoto on the zoom.

Get real! How can you shoot a macro shot of anything when the lens is one centimetre from the subject? What if you’re trying to make macro with a taipan!

Nikon’s Coolpix P5100 promises macro shooting with a range of four centimetres to infinity. That’s better because you can alter the camera to subject position without too much hassle — but you’re still way too close for comfort.

Another factor is that when you’re within kissingly close distance of a subject that cries out for a big, big closeup, chances are that you’ll throw a camera shadow across the object of your photographic desire.

Well, I’ve come across a few cameras that get it right in the closing in stakes. Closing into your subject, that is.

One is the excellent Canon PowerShot S5 IS. This baby has a zippy 12x optical zoom lens and 8.0 million pixels of image capture. Best of all is its rare macro mode: unlike all other digicams I’ve encountered, the macro button is mounted on the lens barrel and not on the mode dial. This means you can select shutter or aperture priority and macro simultaneously. The benefit: you can close the lens aperture down to the minimum setting and maximise depth of field when the camera is ultra close to the subject.

Canon’s Powershot SX100IS also delivers the goods. This is a good solid performer and unusually well-endowed for macro shooting: with it you can engage macro mode together with aperture priority, so letting you choose a small aperture for depth.
It boasts a 10x zoom and 8.0 megapixels of picture power.

Another camera that comes close in satisfying my critical needs in closeup is Olympus’s SP-5500UZ. This amazing camera has an 18x optical zoom and 7.1 megapixels of image capture. The macro facility is to be commended: the normal macro setting lets you use the zoom, so you can back off and yet still take screen-filling closeups.

Another camera worth noting in this discussion of macro is Ricoh’s Caplio R6, which has a flash mode I hadn’t seen before. The Auto Soft Flash feature prevents wash out at close range and in macro mode — a common problem with flash used at close quarters. It works by damping the output of the camera’s flash.

There you have it: a few thoughts about buying the right gear for macro. If that be your passion.

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