Micscape Book Review.

"Beyond Extreme Close-Up Photography" by Julian Cremona.
Published by The Crowood Press, September 2018.

Reviewed by David Walker, UK

Image right: One of the reviewer's own setups using an infinity microscope objective with relay lens on bellows; a type described in the book. It has a reproduction ratio within the range at which the author notes that the book covers i.e. 5:1 - 30:1+ on a 35 mm equivalent sensor.

Sony NEX 5N body with Canon FD adaptor. Secondhand Canon FD bellows off eBay. Canon FD to Nikon adaptor. Nikkor 100 mm f2.8 Series E lens as relay. RMS to 52 mm filter thread adaptor. Nikon CF 10X NA0.3 LWD infinity objective lens (fully corrected). Working distance 16.5 mm.
Reproduction range from closed to fully open bellows: 6.7 - 11.7:1 on APS-C sensor (35 mm equivalent 4.2 - 7.3:1). Field of view range on sensor 2 - 3.5 mm.

The book covers a number of older microscopes, imaging systems and tips that have been discussed by Micscape contributors.
So the opportunity is taken to link to articles where appropriate through the review as examples.


1 What is Magnification?
2 What Cameras are Best?
3 Techniques to go Beyond Macro
4 An Introduction to Microscopes
5 Lighting Extreme Close-ups
6 Support and Preparation
7 Focus Stacking
8 Inspiration for Extreme Close-up Photos
References and Further Reading
Books (including Ideas and ID books - Naturalists' Handbooks, a series of small paperbacks
Index (Photographic Topics and Index of Species Photos)

Publisher : The Crowood Press, September 2018.

ISBN : 9781785004650

Details : Paperback, 160 pages, size 24.5 x 19 cm.

Typical current prices : Paperback £13-88, $19-81, also a Kindle edition.

Amazon offers a 'Look Inside' feature. The publisher's website The Crowood Press also offer a selection of page scans.

It can be easy to take for granted the rapid changes in photography and videography that the digital revolution has enabled over the past few decades. I first took an interest in close-up film photography in the 70s with a humble Zenith EM later upgrading to a Nikkormat FT3 based system. A decade later my first digital image capture setup was a video security camera with a Snappy video still capture box. If I was shown at that time the striking high resolution colour images shown in this book with high depth of field, I would have thought that they could have only been taken with a scanning electron microscope and false coloured. The techniques which the author uses and described in this book are available to all and the book covers the full spectrum from the more affordable but capable systems through to the more advanced.

The techniques described are being widely used by amateur photographers judging from the very active specialist forums such as photomacrography.net and the Facebook Amateur Microscopy group page. This book fulfils a very useful role by describing in-depth the various approaches in the 'beyond extreme close-up' category' and it is up to date discussing the current hardware and software available.

The author in the Preface notes that the book covers photography of subjects with a reproduction ratio between 5:1 - 30:1+ on a 35 mm film equivalent sensor. He notes that the book complements his earlier 'sister' publication "Extreme Close-up Photography and Focus Stacking", shown right. This latest book fills the potential gap with some overlap in reproduction ratios between extreme close-up and microscopy, the latter covered in-depth in "An Introduction to Digital Photomicrography" by Brian Matsumoto and Carol Roullard also recently published by the same publisher. (See Micscape review, July 2017 issue.)

Image above right: Julian Cremona's 'sister' publication, 2014 also by The Crowood Press. This book covered the reproduction range of ca. 1:4 - 4:1 (35 mm equivalent sensor). One of the reviewer's setups that fell within this range is shown. A Canon 600D body with reversed Nikkor 50 mm f2.8 series E lens. Reproduction ratio 1:2 on APS-C sensor. Field of view 46 mm.

The reproduction standards as with related publications from The Crowood Press are excellent with high quality paper and first class reproduction of the predominantly colour images to do them full justice. Given the publication quality the price is very reasonable.

Julian Cremona is superbly qualified to address as he notes a 'rather difficult' magnification range. He has many years experience in the field using a wide variety of equipment and of photographing many types of subject. The bio' on the back cover notes that he is formerly the Head of Dale Fort Field Studies Council Centre and has 'run workshops' on the topics covered. His extensive experience shines out from the book but presented in an easy to follow style without becoming a heavy going monograph.

The first chapter discusses how to define terms such as macro and magnification ratios with digital cameras given the wide variety of sensor sizes and how the results will be presented—from smartphone screen, to large screen display to print. He conveniently uses magnification ratios equivalent to a 35 mm film frame in this and the earlier book to normalise ratios quoted and hence relative capabilities of each system. The use of a rule or micrometer slide to assess the mag. ratio of a given system is described by determining the sensor field of view. A valuable table shows both these ratios and fields of view for various systems described in the book. Potential problems in images as the magnification is increased are discussed. It may have been worthwhile to also remark on the value of a micrometer slide to assess the optical quality of a given setup, scales in transmitted light are unforgiving subjects and can show problems such as chromatic aberration, non-planarity and pin-cushion (the latter if a grid micrometer). I suspect I'm not the only photographer who for their own studies has dispensed with magnification as a useful parameter either on sensor or final image, preferring just to determine fields of view ranges for each setup available and state for the final image (accounting for any cropping). For a given subject of interest this then defines what setups could be used and their pros and cons.

Chapter two provides a useful survey of digital camera types now available including the use of smartphones. The value of features such as live view and electronic first curtain shutters to minimise potential vibration is described and illustrated. I haven't kept abreast of the many camera models available but was especially taken by the Olympus TG-5 compact fixed lens cameras shown in use with its Microscope Mode and internal / external stacking options with custom LED light ring guides and flash diffuser ring for close-ups (the TG-x series are also gaining popularity for their underwater capabilities). So much so that I bought a secondhand TG-5 off eBay and currently exploring its potential which hope to share on Micscape in due course. The potential problem of some mirrorless cameras isn't remarked upon, a problem my brother Ian and I stumbled upon. Some set and fire the mechanical shutter before exposure and can cause vibrations more extreme than some mirrored cameras.

Chapter three describes and illustrates the many approaches now available for imaging beyond 5:1 without the use of a microscope with examples of each type. These include optics at the more affordable end of the spectrum such as enlarger lenses, used microscope objectives (finite and infinite), coupled lenses on bellows or extension tubes through to specialist DSLR lenses such as the Canon MP-E 65mm f2.8 1-5X macro (typically £500+ secondhand), used Zeiss Tessovars or the high end microscope objectives. Expanding the section on objective lens may have been merited as some technical aspects aren't discussed: 1) The difference between fully corrected objectives such as the popular Nikon CF range and older that were designed to be used with compensating eyepieces for full correction. The latter if used need assessing (e.g. with a micrometer slide) for their extent of aberration control such as chromatic and non-planarity especially towards the edges. 2) The importance of numerical aperture on resolution and depth of field. 3) The tolerance of objectives to departure from their prescribed tube length.

Chapter four introduces the use of microscopes both stereo and compound. As the author notes, only the tip of the 'microscopy iceberg' can be covered and refers interested readers to Matsumoto's and Roullard's book devoted to photomicroscopy also by The Crowood Press. It was pleasing to see the older more affordable microscopes in use such as a Vickers M series and Wild M20. Many users, including my brother Ian and I, find these older models are superior both mechanically and optically to modern examples; even the 'big four' makers may cut corners on their current budget ranges. The author notes that stereos are less than ideal for quality imaging but does not expand upon why. The advantage of high working distances is at the penalty of lower numerical apertures than compound microscope optics. This is often the case even for flagship stereo or macroscopes.

Chapters five and six provide valuable presentations on lighting and camera support—important in all photography but especially so for 'beyond extreme macro' work. Flash and LED systems are both covered in depth reflecting the move away from tungsten systems. The author's wide practical experience is especially evident with a variety of effective homebrew suggestions for aspects such as using suitable consumer LED lighting, light diffusers, camera stands, transmitted and darkfield lighting setups. Like the book author I also find an inverted LED light ring invaluable for low power darkfield studies, especially when the LEDs face inward. Using the barebones of sturdy older compound microscopes to adopt into focussing camera supports is shown. One aspect that isn't shown is to retain if valuable the microscope's objective or condenser focussing setup for the camera. The Zeiss Photomicroscope stand's sturdy condenser support with focussing for example is valuable in this regard and using the built-in transmitted light when required.

Chapter seven which provides a clear description of the hardware and software aspects of focus stacking with many examples was particularly valuable for me. I have dabbled in the area but to date have had neither the patience nor skills with hardware and software to create the type of imagery which the book author shares and by hobbyists in forums and on social media. Commercial focussing stands and associated software are shown in use. In the earlier sister publication "Extreme Close-up" free software such as Alan Hadley's CombineZP is mentioned but not recommended in this book. Perhaps there was merit in retention; although possibly not as capable it can be a useful stepping stone before committing to commercial packages and my own studies and budget can only justify the use of CombineZP.

The last chapter eight offers plenty of project ideas to inspire the reader to explore 'beyond extreme macro'. Flora and fauna subjects throughout the year are suggested with again the author's practical experience of collecting and studying a wide variety of subjects including marine and coastal included.

In conclusion, this book is a delight and compiles the author's wealth of experience in a beautifully presented and written work. His passion and enthusiasm for the subject shines through and hopefully should be infectious for readers. Like many explorers of this area I suspect, tips and tricks have been picked up by trial and error or from others' experiences shared online or at club meets, leaving many holes in knowledge and techniques; both the novice and more experienced reader can benefit from the book. Not having any modern book on "Beyond Close-up Photography", I treated myself to a copy of the author's earlier book. There inevitably is some overlap of the two as the author notes but they each complement each other very well. At the price and production standards, the latest book is a bargain. The Crowood Press should be complimented for publishing a trio of books, two by Julian Cremona and the third by Brian Matsumoto and Carol Roullard for an attractive and complementary series for the aspiring photographer interested in imagery at any magnification from 'extreme close-up and 'beyond' through to microscopy.

Comments to the reviewer David Walker are welcomed.

Thank you to Julie Sankey at The Crowood Press for kindly offering a copy to review.


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