For a long time I have been looking for a professional close-up or macro photography set up.
There were two options: macro lenses with bellows or a microscope.
Until now I used the 60mm Zeiss Contax S-Planar objective in combination with a Canon Eos 1ds and different kinds of microscopes.
But I was looking for a more versatile system that combines the flexibility of a macro objective with the magnification and illumination options of a microscope.
Riechert Me F2 Universal Microscope Camera
I was lucky to find a good second hand Reichert Universal Microscope Camera Me F2. This inverted microscope was made for metallographic research. But the Me F2 is a much more versatile instrument.
The Me F2 is a 4x5" view camera with a built-in bellow, a Linhof universal back, an electronic Prontor shutter, fine focus and a precise stage.
What else do you need for micro and macro photography? Objectives.
The Reichert optics
The Me F2 has two optical systems: as an EPI microscope with high magnifications and an extreme close-up system based on Reichert Neupolar and Dallmeyer objectives.
The quality of these objectives is very good. Especially the 100mm Neupolar and the 25mm Dallmeyer.
Other macro lenses can be used with the Me F2 if they have an RMS connection.
Besides the macro objectives the microscope objectives can be used in the same way as EPI or conventional lighting. Obviously the magnification is much higher.
The optical bench and light sources
The Reichert Me F2 is mounted on a heavy duty optical bench with built-in power supplies for the different light sources. The optical bench makes that all the parts of the microscope are perfectly aligned and stay as such. No hassle in the setup. The backdrop is that the system needs space for the fixed setup.
There are two illumination options: direct light with a dedicated condenser for each objective or oblique lighting with a reflective mirror system. Both systems have their own advantages. The direct light is best used for surface examination. The oblique light is very versatile and can be used as a conventional lighting to reveal relief in an object.
The lighting system for the extreme close-up system is the same as for the microscope with the advantage of the microscope condensers and the filters. This is a big advantage over normal illumination for close-up photography. Sometimes I replace the microscope light with a Schott cold light source.
The Reichert has two light sources: a Quartz 100w and a high voltage 200w HBO or XBO lamp.
Focusing is very delicate with extreme close-up photography. The depth of field (DOF) is very small and precise focusing is needed. With software such as Helicon Focus it is possible to augment the DOF but the basic images need to be of good quality.
The Reichert has two focusing possibilities: moving the stage up and down as with a compound microscope or by moving the bellow of the camera as with a normal universal camera. By moving the bellow you not only change the focus but also the magnification. By moving the stage you only change the focus.
The focusing has two speeds: rough and fine. The fine focusing knob moves the stage with intervals of 0,002mm.
There are different stages for the Me F2. I use the round stage with fine movements in the three directions.
The stage movement is very precise and makes framing of the object easy.
The stage comes with a set of different adapters.
Camera attachment and the electronic shutter Kam ES
There are three ways to attach a camera to the Me F2: the conventional way using a monocular tube, the built-in 4x5” camera and the special camera port using the Kam ES dedicated electronic camera system.
The monocular tube can only be used with the EPI objectives in the conventional microscope setup. This option can’t be used with the macro objectives.
The 4x5” view camera works perfect for the extreme close-up objectives. With the use of an appropriate adapter you can connect a dslr to this port. That’s the option I use mostly. The Fotodiox adapter works perfect with the Linhof view camera back. The camera I use is the full frame Canon Eos ds1. A heavy camera but the solid build Me F2 has no problem with it. Don’t bother the vibration of the mirror.
The third port is the Kam ES side port. This port is mentioned for the special electronic Kam ES system for film photography. It has a built-in exposure meter and controls the electronic shutter. Of course we don’t need the exposure meter when we use a dslr. But the system has some advantages and I still use it.
The Kam ES only works with eyepiece projection. There is a set of dedicated Reichert photographic eyepieces from 1,5x up to 10x. They are all achromats but have very good chromatic correction.
Yes, I’m very enthusiastic about the Reichert Universal Microscope Camera. It’s a real universal camera well built with a lot of different possibilities for extreme close-up photography. The possibilities for microphotography are more elaborate than the ones we described here for the extreme macro photography.
Other brands also have similar instruments. The Reichert microscopes have a very good reputation.
For me it’s the best solution for extreme close-up photography.