Macro photography images and clock repair

Alarm clock mainspring close-up

How do you get those wonderful macro shots, a reader asked.

Polishing a pivot
Polishing a pivot, slow shutter speed emphasizing the speed of the lathe
Close-up of bushing wear
Extreme close-up of bushing wear (the black mark is an identifier – a bushing that needs work)

Photography easily becomes part of almost any hobby and in my view, a camera is essential for clock repair. Describing a process on paper is one thing but it cannot replace a well-crafted video or a series of detailed still images. A picture is worth a thousand words.

Having the right tool is also important. For optimum results, I suggest a dedicated camera with a good macro lens. Why? You can take wonderful pictures with a cell phone but cell-phones are very limiting because they have difficulty isolating the foreground from the background and have a hard time producing decent macro images.

I have a number of cameras, two Pansonics, a Fuji, and an Olympus E330. While the first three cameras are either new or relatively new the last, an Olympus E-330, made 14 years ago, is my go-to camera for macro work.

Bushing installed on escape wheel arbour
Close-up of a bushing installed on escape wheel bridge

At 7.5 mp it has more than enough megapixels and reducing the file for blog work makes for a particularly small but detailed file when server space is limited (as on a blog). I use artificial light on occasion but for the most part, rely on natural light from a west-facing window in my workspace. When artificial light is required, I rely on a continuous studio light and rarely use the on-camera flash.

Olympus E330
Olympus E330 with 50mm F2 macro lens

Paired with an Olympus 50mm F2 macro lens it is excellent for those very close clock shots and allows me to isolate my subject while maintaining a pleasing background blur.

New escape wheel bushing
New escape wheel bushing

After almost 15 years it works every day and I can still purchase CF memory cards and even aftermarket BLM-1 batteries. Simply put, I will use it until it goes to photography heaven.

Reverse side of punched bushing
The reverse side of a punched bushing, notice how the background is completely blurred out

The E330s best feature is its ability to activate a switch from automatic to manual focus mode and lock on an extremely close subject such as the above and below photos.

Looks like a large pivot hole but actally punched close to the hole
Looks like a large pivot hole but actually punched close to the hole, an example of subject isolation

Some clock repairers record everything on paper and to each their own, but for me, there is no substitute for a digital image. During any clock repair job, I will take dozens of photos from every conceivable angle. If I have difficulty reassembling the movement or am puzzled as to where a particular wheel, lever, washer, or spring should be positioned, my photos are my best reference. In addition, I catalog my images so that I can refer to them, days, weeks, or months later if need be.

My advice is simple, buy a good new or used camera with a dedicated macro lens for clock repair. It does not have to be the latest, greatest, and the most expensive but decent enough to give you good quality results. You will thank me.