ORCHIDS AND OPTICS – Marilyn Armstrong

Flower of the Day – Orchids!

When Garry got the orchids for his birthday last year, I was dubious about ever seeing a new flower. Since the other plants in the pot were healthy, I put the pot by the French doors in the dining room. Watered them when dry and hoped for the best.

The window faces northeast so it gets sunlight in the morning for a couple of hours. Long before noon, the sun has moved on.

The window is bright but rarely sunny. Oddly, these bright but not sunny windows have been the best areas for growing flowering plants. I have to be very careful how often I water the plants. Under-watering a plant is almost always better than over-watering. This probably sounds backward, but potted plants hate mud.

So. When I walked into the dining room this morning and realized “There’s an orchid blooming,”Β  I had to grab a camera. I went to the macro lens on the OM-D, but I wasn’t happy with the pictures.

I eventually decided to use the tiny Pentax Q and its “normal” 8.5mm f1.8 lens. The lens is fast and shoots tightly.

Optics can get kind of weird.

For example, the 45mm lens on my Olympus camera is considered – more or less – the equivalent of a 90mm “portrait” lens on a full-size DSLR. Except optics are optics, so a 45mm lens is never a 90mm lens. It may look like it, or more to the point, frame like a 90mm, but optically, it will be a 45mm lens. Optics are optics. You can’t rewrite the code. An 8.5mm “normal” lens on the tiny Pentax, while the sort of equivalent to a 50mm lens on a DSLR is still an 8.5mm lens.

When someone first explained this to me, my brain did a full double twirl in my head. Optics aren’t like software. You can’t rewrite the code. There are absolutes involved in grinding glass for lenses, whether they are for your glasses or your camera. These optics don’t change. The may appear to change, but the original optics are always there.

If this makes no sense to you, that’s okay. Just trust me. It’s true whether the lens is on a camera, a telephone, your binoculars, or your eyeglasses.

That’s my strange, but weirdly useful information of the day. It also explains why I chose to use an 8.5mm “normal” lens on the Pentax Q rather than a different, equally fast (or even faster) lens on the OM-D. Because an 8.5mm lens will always focus close, much like a macro. It will be distorted along the outside of the barrel, but you can get right up to the flower which I hoped would help me get better color.

The pictures I took with the macro lens were too soft and yellow. Pictures using the Pentax were perfect. And about the optics? Although you can get extremely close using the little lens, the pictures don’t look like macros. Because they aren’t.

9 thoughts on “ORCHIDS AND OPTICS – Marilyn Armstrong

    • I didn’t dream of it, but Garry brother sent them as a birthday present. Which is pretty funny because Garry is NOT a gardener of any kind. Ever. But I used to be and since someone handed me the plants, I had nothing to lose by giving it a try.


  1. It can get very complicated. I have a macro lens but find it not so easy to handle. It blurs to easily on the surrounds. My zoom lens is good for distant objects and cuts out fence wires st animal enclosures, but the animals are not as sharp as I would like them to be. My good photos are often more luck than judgement


    • I have a variety of cameras and some lenses shoot tighter than others. Wide angle lenses will often shoot extremely close. If you have a wide-angle lens, try that for close work. Macros are very touchy and unless you are working in bright light — but NOT bright sunlight — it’s hard to get clear edges. I’ve had my lens for a couple of years and I’m still working on it. Better now than I used to be. I know when I can use it and I know when something else will probably do better. But yes, macro lenses are tricky to use and I know a lot of people give up on them before they get them to work well. I just practiced with it a lot. That’s why I have so many hundreds of pictures fuchsia. I practiced on them πŸ˜€

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