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Featherwing - Acrotrichis

Featherwing - Acrotrichis
Medford, (~25 miles east of Philadelphia, PA) Burlington County, New Jersey, USA
May 21, 2009
Size: 1.1mm

Images of this individual: tag all
Featherwing - Acrotrichis Featherwing - Acrotrichis

Oh man, I am so envious --
not of the specimen but of your ability to wring so much detail from such a tiny critter. I'm seriously contemplating going with your focus bracketing hack but I'll need to find one for a Canon 5D, assuming I'm able to buy one plus lenses.

full disclosure
Thanks Jim, In full disclosure, this image was actually made using a completely different set-up (which I hope to document and post someday, as I have for my Powershot CHDK setup), but one that should work for you with a DSLR :) (I know of equivalent no hack for Canon DSLRs, and seemingly never likely to be a decent one).

In one sentence, this image was made using a Compound Microscope Objective attached to a DSLR (APS-C sensor), and stacked (by hand) on a compound microscope’s fine focus stage. If you want to image the sub-3mm critters, I highly encourage you to browse the forums over at

(How I got here). The Powershot CHDK w/ reversed 50mm prime lens auto-focus stacking setup has been a joy to develop and provided many satisfying (to me) results. I’ve now worked up 3 different enlargement sizes; the A640 (29mm lens) for ~ 5-15mm subjects, the A650 (44mm lens) for ~ 3-8mm, and the S5 (72mm lens) for the under 4mm “tiny” ones. The A640 and A650 have both been working well. And I’ve posted lots of stacks from the S5, but lately I’ve noticed that many of the S5 stacks are out of focus in portions of the middle of the stack (maybe I’ve just gotten pickier). I’ve changed the stack scripts to no apparent improvement. At this point I’m not sure if this is S5s in general, with their USM lens, not “obeying” the specific requested focus steps, or my specific S5, which I bought used, and still managed to drop straight out of the box :(

So after surfing again for info on high-mag macro setups, I came upon the good folks over at and quickly realized I had a lot to learn (and lots of room for improvement). Basically for sub-4mm bugs (5x or higher on a APS-C sensor), they have effectively determined that compound microscope objectives (primarily 10x) provide the best results. They’re used either attached to a regular telephoto lens for “infinity objectives”, or without any additional lens/glass for “finite objectives”. After that, it’s very fine stacking, either by hand or automated with Stackshot (and of course lighting – either flash or continuous – always a bit of an art).

I managed to obtain an APS-C DSLR for free with some rewards points (only way I could afford something like that). And I’m currently using Nikon 10x/0.25 M Plan 160/.17 (finite) objective (~$50 off fleabay). The objective is mounted directly to the DSLR using extension tubes (no glass) of various lengths.

All in all, this approach takes a lot longer per image than the Powershot hack. But I’ve enjoyed both the “search”, and the early results. Hope you will to.

That was a lot, but if you’d like any more, let me know.


Thanks for explaining, Tim.
I too am planning a microscope objective setup with machine-screw-advanced stage for shooting a zillion focal slices for stacking. I want to see if I can mount this compactly on the lens with ring flash and reflecting dome. I realize it would have to be ultra stable. I want to be able to stash the whole setup in my heavy-duty gun safe in my jungle abode when not in use. (My property is in a town described as honest and I aim to keep it that way!)

Question: How do you obtain the blue background? Do you shoot against a blue surface or do a color swap in PhotoShop?

The blue is really there in the shots. I had been using a bluish formica sample, which provides a nice stiff substrate to move the beetles around on from scope to photo setup. But it just didn't have the "pop" that Jeff and others get in there shots. So I've now glued a Lo*wes paint sample card to the formica sample. After comparing a number of blues (there such a nice selection), I settled on #4008-10A, "Sea Frolic". Has such a nice connotation :)

Ah, the true secret passions
of the macro/micro-photographer! "Sea Frolic" color chips :-)

With such flat focal depth at such magnifications the color chip would always be out of focus a suppose. Perfect!

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