Things We Love: Macro Functions on Tough Cameras

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One thing that many “tough” point-and-shoot cameras provide that DSLR or mirrorless camera cannot, without the addition of a specific macro lens, is close-up macro photo capability. There are some very affordable point-and-shoot cameras with macro function that enable simplified close focus with just a turn of a dial. While these macro functions are available on many compact point-and-shoots and are often recognized by a symbol of a flower, I prefer the ones available on the rugged, waterproof style of point-and-shoots.

In general, I use “tough” point-and-shoots because I am tough on my gear. The models that I prefer offer specific macro features that go beyond the standard point-and-shoot. The Olympus TG-5 Digital Camera provides Variable Macro functions, including Microscope, Microscope Control, Focus Stacking, and Focus Bracketing modes. Minimum focus distance for these macro modes is an incredible 1 cm. And because this camera can function to an underwater depth of 50' (15 m), it also offers an Underwater macro mode and, as mentioned, is tough enough to take macro shots on the beach, or to let the kids explore the microscopic world around them.

An Olympus “tough camera” demonstrates its microscope mode, focusing on halftone dots of a printed image.

Olympus makes two optional accessories that can improve your macro work with the TG-5 or earlier versions, such as the TG-4 or TG-3. The Olympus LG-1 LED Macro Ring Light snaps on, around the camera’s lens, and can even be mounted and removed underwater. It channels the camera's LED illuminator into a round, even light source that’s perfect for close-ups and macro photography. The Olympus FD-1 Flash Diffuser attaches in a similar fashion, and diffuses the camera’s built-in flash for more controlled lighting when shooting close-ups. It provides a light-intensity adjustment lever with high or low output settings.

The Ricoh WG-50 Digital Camera provides a macro mode with a minimum focus distance of 3.94" (10 cm), but also packs a Digital Microscope mode with close focusing to 0.4" (1 cm). A nice touch with the WG-50 is that it comes with six LED macro lights surrounding the lens to produce brighter, more even lighting when working with close-up subjects.

The macro mode of the Ricoh WG-5 shows pleasing bokeh.

The Nikon COOLPIX W300 and other rugged compacts also offer macro modes and each has proven to be very functional and practical. This is not to suggest that they will replace the control and precision of a true macro lens, but for convenience, durability, affordability and, dare I say it—fun—these macro modes cannot be beat.

Let us see some of the macro work that you made with a “tough” point-and-shoot!

The “Things We Love” series articles are written by B&H Photo Video Pro Audio staff to talk about products and items that we love. Opinions expressed in the articles are those of the writers and do not represent product endorsements from B&H Photo Video Pro Audio.

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