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Author Topic: My Take on the Nikon Z Macros: 50mm and 105mm  (Read 4155 times)

Michael Erlewine

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My Take on the Nikon Z Macros: 50mm and 105mm
« on: July 01, 2021, 12:04:15 pm »

I will weigh in with my critique of these two new Z-mount macro lenses. First, Iím not sending them back, which is statement in itself. And second, it should be understood that I am only giving my two cents as to how they relate to my work, which is usually close-up, but not macro, and focus stacked.

And I should add, I bought these for use outside with insects and shots that require (or benefit) from auto-focus. The Z 105 Macro is the deal, meaning it is the best (and most expensive) of the two. Also, I have a great many (scores) of macro-range lenses, so I am picky this late in the game. The Z 50mm Macro, I will use much less, but I will use it because of the added context possible of a wider lens. I am all about context, which is why I like close-up and not so much macro. Just sharing my parameters here.

The Z 105mm Macro

Itís good. Easily sharp enough. Able to do 1:1, not that I do much of that. The bokeh is better than I expected and very usable. In fact, the lens is all good with one glaring (for my work) exception, and that is the short focus throw.

Lenses like the CV-125 have like 360-degree throws and the Leical Elmarit-R 100 APO macro has twice this. This new Z105 Macro has way less, barely enough to be useful for my work. That is disappointing and, IMO, an oversight on Nikonís part considering this is a macro lens. What were they thinking?

Well, they were not thinking about those of us who are stacking focus. Of course, I could put it on a focus rail, but Iím not likely to do that often, because I have many other lenses that are better that do not require a focus rail. With nimble fingering on the barrel, I can sqeak through a focus stack of many layers, but I am aware of the shortcomings of this lens for that.

So, that almost would have me sending the lens back, except I did not buy it to stack focus, as mentioned, but to shoot outside with auto-focus, with or without a tripod. In summary, the 105 Z Macro is a fine lens, with the one exception I mentioned, the short focus-throw.

Nikon Z 50mm Macro

I have less to say here. This is a good usable lens, sharp enough, corrected enough, bokeh OK, and also a short focus throw. This is a less expensive lens, yet still meaningful for my work because it has auto-focus and is a wider-angle lens than most other macros. So, I will use it, outside, for greater context.

And so, as mentioned, not sending either back, but relegating it for outdoor work and probably not used in the studio, unless I get lazy. I like both these lenses.
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Chairman Bill

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Re: My Take on the Nikon Z Macros: 50mm and 105mm
« Reply #1 on: July 01, 2021, 12:45:06 pm »

I wonder whether you could set the camera to focus shift and use focus limiting on the lens? Maybe allowing focus limiting to be set on the camera would make things work better - something for a future Nikon firmware update perhaps?

Michael Erlewine

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Re: My Take on the Nikon Z Macros: 50mm and 105mm
« Reply #2 on: July 01, 2021, 01:09:17 pm »

I wonder whether you could set the camera to focus shift and use focus limiting on the lens? Maybe allowing focus limiting to be set on the camera would make things work better - something for a future Nikon firmware update perhaps?

you could, but there is not substitute for a long focus throw, because if you stack rounded objects, you have to shorten the step to catch all the roundness. They need a longer focus throw.
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kers

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Re: My Take on the Nikon Z Macros: 50mm and 105mm
« Reply #3 on: July 01, 2021, 02:01:14 pm »

In any case the photos look gorgeous...

since it is focus by wire - focus throw could be extended or am i wrong?

Do i understand you don't ( want to) use auto-focusstacking?

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Michael Erlewine

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Re: My Take on the Nikon Z Macros: 50mm and 105mm
« Reply #4 on: July 01, 2021, 02:21:13 pm »

In any case the photos look gorgeous...

since it is focus by wire - focus throw could be extended or am i wrong?

Do i understand you don't ( want to) use auto-focusstacking?

Se my last comment to understand why a long focus throw works better than an even-stepped automatic stack.
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fdisilvestro

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Re: My Take on the Nikon Z Macros: 50mm and 105mm
« Reply #5 on: July 01, 2021, 05:44:40 pm »

if you stack rounded objects, you have to shorten the step to catch all the roundness.

Are you sure that the minimum step achievable with automatic focus stacking (not necessarily with the in-camera utility) is not short enough?

since it is focus by wire - focus throw could be extended or am i wrong?

Even it this was possible (I'm not sure if this is user-configurable) the minimum step could not be shorter that what you can achieve with an external program

SrMi

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Re: My Take on the Nikon Z Macros: 50mm and 105mm
« Reply #6 on: July 02, 2021, 12:06:29 pm »

Are you sure that the minimum step achievable with automatic focus stacking (not necessarily with the in-camera utility) is not short enough?

Even it this was possible (I'm not sure if this is user-configurable) the minimum step could not be shorter that what you can achieve with an external program

Jim Kasson is also of the opinion that "the minimum step size is too large for critical work."

https://blog.kasson.com/nikon-z6-7/nikon-z7-focus-shift-shooting/
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Michael Erlewine

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Re: My Take on the Nikon Z Macros: 50mm and 105mm
« Reply #7 on: July 02, 2021, 12:47:26 pm »

Jim Kasson is also of the opinion that "the minimum step size is too large for critical work."

https://blog.kasson.com/nikon-z6-7/nikon-z7-focus-shift-shooting/


Those of us who stack a lot, in my case for many years, find that we need to change the step size to accommodate different conditions, like round or elliptical shapes, foreground or background, etc. So I have a focus knob that has regular increments, and a knob within that for very fine steps. I go back and forth between the two. I am doing things like this, which sometimes take some fine stepping. .
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fdisilvestro

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Re: My Take on the Nikon Z Macros: 50mm and 105mm
« Reply #8 on: July 02, 2021, 06:38:16 pm »

So I have a focus knob that has regular increments, and a knob within that for very fine steps. I go back and forth between the two.

Is this an accessory that you install on the lens, similar to the follow focus rigs used for cine/video?

Michael Erlewine

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Re: My Take on the Nikon Z Macros: 50mm and 105mm
« Reply #9 on: July 02, 2021, 07:25:56 pm »

Is this an accessory that you install on the lens, similar to the follow focus rigs used for cine/video?


I am using a Cambo Actus Mini with an auxiliary double-knob with a regular large knob , inset with a smaller knob for finer increments.
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fdisilvestro

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Re: My Take on the Nikon Z Macros: 50mm and 105mm
« Reply #10 on: July 02, 2021, 07:39:56 pm »


I am using a Cambo Actus Mini with an auxiliary double-knob with a regular large knob , inset with a smaller knob for finer increments.

Great, thanks!

fdisilvestro

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Re: My Take on the Nikon Z Macros: 50mm and 105mm
« Reply #11 on: July 02, 2021, 07:41:33 pm »

Jim Kasson is also of the opinion that "the minimum step size is too large for critical work."

https://blog.kasson.com/nikon-z6-7/nikon-z7-focus-shift-shooting/

Thanks for the link, however it is not clear (not even for Jim Kasson) if the issue is related to the in-camera implementation or the minimum step achievable with the lens' focus motor.

Michael Erlewine

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Re: My Take on the Nikon Z Macros: 50mm and 105mm
« Reply #12 on: July 02, 2021, 09:08:01 pm »

Thanks for the link, however it is not clear (not even for Jim Kasson) if the issue is related to the in-camera implementation or the minimum step achievable with the lens' focus motor.

My point is not about the minimum step, but the need for variable increments for different reasons.
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fdisilvestro

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Re: My Take on the Nikon Z Macros: 50mm and 105mm
« Reply #13 on: July 02, 2021, 09:55:10 pm »

My point is not about the minimum step, but the need for variable increments for different reasons.

Hi, yes, I get that, and your images are wonderful. I was just trying to get an answer about the issue with the minimal step being too large in the Nikon cameras

Michael Erlewine

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Re: My Take on the Nikon Z Macros: 50mm and 105mm
« Reply #14 on: July 03, 2021, 02:25:33 am »

Hi, yes, I get that, and your images are wonderful. I was just trying to get an answer about the issue with the minimal step being too large in the Nikon cameras

I hear that, but like the old jazz tune with Les McCann & Eddie Harris "Compared To What?"

For any given smallest increment, there has to be cases where it is too big. It's relative, IMO.
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Michael Erlewine

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Re: My Take on the Nikon Z Macros: 50mm and 105mm
« Reply #15 on: July 09, 2021, 04:25:28 pm »

More testing with the Z 105 Macro on the Z7ii camera. In this note, I am just looking at focus stacking and how that 105 Macro works with the Z7iiís internal focus-stacking ability. It seems to work well. Since I know of no way to figure out the total number in steps that will be needed, one has to guess. For example, I guessed, using the smallest increment of ď1Ē that 100 images would be enough to capture a single flower from front to back. Yet, no, that did not work. It only captured perhaps ĺ of the flower. Setting the increment to 150 steps seems to do the job.

However, why couldnít Nikon let us set the front edge of the image, the rear edge of the image, and the size of the step, and tell us the number of steps, or better yet just produce a picture given those parameters? It would not be rocket science. I would think a firmware update could handle that.

Putting that quibble aside, it seems like a step size of ď1Ē (and enough layers) would be enough for almost anything I need, which for me means I can make use of this lens for stacking focus. Now, all that remains is to consider the IQ of the image.

So far, the IQ seem OK, perhaps better than that. I have to admit, I have been kind of holding my nose as to the capability of the internal focus stacking of the Nikon 7ii, but Iíll have to stop that. The system can produce good focus-stacked images.

Now what am I going to do with all the skill I have acquired doing this by hand all these years? Oh well. All I really care about are the end results, yet the process also deserves respect. However, I can adapt to any process that produces good results. And the internal focus stacking is way faster and less jiggly than doing it by hand, especially if one considers the changing light of the sun and shadows.

It is true that I have macro lenses that have better IQ and are better corrected, many of them, but all of these are manual lenses and would have to go on an automatic focus rail if I wanted to automate them. Of course, as a professional critic (music and film) by trade, I canít help but be critical. Iím not happy with equipment, or more correct Iím happy, but could always be happier if we just tweaked this or that.

Here is a stacked image using the Nikon Z 105 Macro on the Nikon Zii.

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Re: My Take on the Nikon Z Macros: 50mm and 105mm
« Reply #16 on: July 10, 2021, 12:04:48 pm »

is the jpg compression messing with the front petal left edge and the underneath of the second petal (the one immediately left) or is that a lighting issue ?
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Michael Erlewine

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Re: My Take on the Nikon Z Macros: 50mm and 105mm
« Reply #17 on: July 10, 2021, 05:11:57 pm »

is the jpg compression messing with the front petal left edge and the underneath of the second petal (the one immediately left) or is that a lighting issue ?

there is back light behind the 2nd petal, and so on. This is just a trial photo, not meant to be a finished photo. A new lens and a new way (for me) of using it, internal stacking.
« Last Edit: July 10, 2021, 09:39:20 pm by Michael Erlewine »
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Michael Erlewine

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Re: My Take on the Nikon Z Macros: 50mm and 105mm
« Reply #18 on: July 13, 2021, 08:13:26 pm »

I can't say that the Z 105 Macro is not sharp!
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Michael Erlewine

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Re: My Take on the Nikon Z Macros: 50mm and 105mm
« Reply #19 on: July 31, 2021, 06:27:32 pm »

I continue to be impressed by the Z 105 Macro, when stacked.

Here are couple taken today as my dahlias start to come into bloom. What's not to like?
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