FZ35/38 and Closeup Lenses


Taking closeup shots with the FZ35/38 and other FZ models

AF Macro (Telemacro)

The "AF Macro" setting on the FZ35/38 (called "Telemacro" on earlier FZs) gives a minimum focus distance (working distance) of about 1m at maximum zoom (486mm) and a field width of about 10cm.  This is very useful for relatively large subjects such as flowers, butterflies, frogs etc and it has the advantage of providing a fairly shallow depth of field so that distracting backgrounds can be rendered OOF and blurred.  I took the shots below using this mode (click on an image for a larger view).

Bromeliad flower (Aechmea fasciata), taken with my FZ38 in AF Macro setting; 1/125s, f/4.4, ISO125, 485mm.

Although the FZ35/38 can focus as closely as about 1cm from a subject when set at "AF Macro" and at WA, this is not entirely satisfactory for taking closeup shots.  That is because lighting is difficult due to the cam tending to block the light, the DOF is shallow, and for live subjects such as insects it is often not possible to approach them so closely.


The solution for subjects such as small bugs is to use an added closeup lens, which increases the distance between the cam and the subject while also increasing the magnification.  There are many different closeup lenses, although some are only available now secondhand, and a good resource about these is Sven's (Seemolf) website at: http://www.ki.tng.de/~sgude/achromats.html.

Simple meniscus lenses (single-element lenses) such as found in cheap sets only really give a sharp focus at the centre of the image.  To achieve sharpness across the entire image an achromat (two-element lens) is required, and they are generally more expensive.

Three useful achromats for the FZs are the Canon 500D which is +2 dioptre, the Canon 250D which is +4D, and the Sony VCL-M3358, which is +3.3D and which has a 58mm thread.  The Canon lenses in the 58mm versions and the Sony lens are all currently readily available.  They do not vignette across the zoom range from about 2x up to maximum zoom on the FZ35/38.  To use these lenses on the FZ35/38 or earlier FZs the LA3 adapter (or equivalent) is required.  I have found that on the FZ35/38, the Sony seems to be sharper across the field than the Canon 250D, and the Sony has the added advantage of being cheaper to buy.

These achromats allow full resolution (12MP) shots to be taken of subjects smaller than those within the range of the AF Macro (telemacro) setting.  Such subjects include detailed parts of flowers, insects, coins, etc.

This is a shot of an Ixora flower, taken at 1m in telemacro mode with my FZ35/38.

This is a shot using the Sony M3358, hand held, which shows the detail and texture of the individual parts of an Ixora flower, giving quite a different effect from the previous image.

I find in general that If closeup lenses of lower than about +2D power are used then the benefit is hardly worthwhile compared with simply using the telemacro setting with no added lens.

The images in the slideshow below illustrate other subjects for closeups and how an added closeup lens can isolate a small subject which would otherwise be lost in the background.  

Continue to Slideshow page

Depth of Field

Using these achromats the depth of field is quite small, so it is preferable to use A mode (Aperture Priority) and to set the aperture to f/7.1 or even f/8.0 to maximise the DOF.  If the lighting is poor that may mean using a tripod because of the slow shutter speeds that may be required.  Flash can be used but the close distances make this difficult.

If closeup lenses of higher magnification than about +4D are used the depth of field becomes very small and lighting becomes more difficult so that great care and patience is required to get satisfactory shots.  Nevertheless amazing shots of the eyes of insects, etc can be achieved with higher diopter lenses when used on the FZs with sufficient skill, as posts by various people on the DPR Panasonic forum have demonstrated. 

Stacking of Closeup Lenses

For reasonably flat subjects such as coins, stacking of achromats can be successfully used.  When two closeup lenses are stacked together, the resulting power is given by adding together the dioptre powers of the two lenses.  This is demonstrated by the last shot in the above slideshow which was of a 1.7cm diameter coin.  (The 1c coin was in use in Australia from 1966 to 1990 and depicts a native feather-tailed glider.)  For that shot I used the 250D stacked with the M3358 (giving effectively +7.3D) and I used a tripod.  The field width in that case was about 1.1cm.  In that shot it is just possible to see the letters "S D" near the tip of the glider's tail.  Those were the initials of the artist Stuart Devlin, who designed the set of 8 decimal coins.  Those initials would be about 0.25mm high on the coin.  With stacked achromats the sharpness towards the edges becomes poorer and there can be some CA. 

Other Applications of Closeup Lenses

Closeup lenses can also be used with the FZ35/38 to take unusual shots of oil droplets floating on water, or water droplets falling on water, as described in a later section, here.

It is possible to extend the distance between the camera and the subject (the working distance) when using an added closeup lens by using a teleconverter, as discussed in the following section.  This is a different application to that of using a very low power closeup lens for reducing the cam to subject distance with teleconverters, which is described in another section, here.

Continue to Extending the Working Distance using a Teleconverter

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