Macro gear (insect photography), suggestions needed

Have questions about the equipment used for macro- or micro- photography? Post those questions in this forum.

Moderators: ChrisR, Chris S., Pau, rjlittlefield

Rawsons
Posts: 30
Joined: Tue Apr 07, 2015 11:38 am

Macro gear (insect photography), suggestions needed

Post by Rawsons »

Hello everyone, first post here :)

So I have been very interested in macro photography but only got my first "real" camera this year. Since then I have done literally tons of research about everything, and made a small budget setup. Note that I am not that technically talented, so I would not want to spend time with home-made stuff so to say.

Anyway, long story short, please advise how the following woud work. I am only shooting macro/insects.

- Nikon D3200
- Tokina AF 100mm F/2.8 Macro
- Kenko DG extension tube set
- Meike LED Macro Ring Flash FC100
- Raynox DCR-250 2.5x Super Macro Lens (if needed)

Unfortunately at current stage all better products are out of my range, and I have to save up some for the above as well. I currently use the Nikon 40mm F/2.8 Macro lens which obviously leaves me with very little space between the lens and the subject at 1:1.

Any help/advise is highly appreciated, I do not want to buy stuff that wont be useful long term.

EDIT: To be clear, I already own the D3200 and the Raynox DCR-250.

ChrisR
Site Admin
Posts: 8546
Joined: Sat Mar 14, 2009 3:58 am
Location: Near London, UK

Post by ChrisR »

Welcome to the forum!
That looks OK except that RING flash units aren't very popular. They give very flat lighting and bright ring reflections in anything shiny, which looks rather unnatural.
Instead, look at a "normal" flash unit, similar price. For studio or focus stacked subjects, one with a manually controlled power setting is what you need. Mine (Nikon) goes in 1/3rd stop increments all the way to 1/128th power, which is nice but more control than you really need.

Then you will have to do some home-made stuff, for a good diffuser, but there are plenty to copy. For a start look at forum member "orionmystery"'s posts, and browse his website where he shows a lot of examples.

Then read all about diffraction, effective apertures, and focus stacking! At least that is or can be free :).

Rawsons
Posts: 30
Joined: Tue Apr 07, 2015 11:38 am

Post by Rawsons »

ChrisR wrote:Welcome to the forum!
That looks OK except that RING flash units aren't very popular. They give very flat lighting and bright ring reflections in anything shiny, which looks rather unnatural.
Instead, look at a "normal" flash unit, similar price. For studio or focus stacked subjects, one with a manually controlled power setting is what you need. Mine (Nikon) goes in 1/3rd stop increments all the way to 1/128th power, which is nice but more control than you really need.

Then you will have to do some home-made stuff, for a good diffuser, but there are plenty to copy. For a start look at forum member "orionmystery"'s posts, and browse his website where he shows a lot of examples.

Then read all about diffraction, effective apertures, and focus stacking! At least that is or can be free :).
Thanks! Will check his posts here, I know him "personally" on Facebook so I know he is good hehe.

Do you have any recommendations that could substitute the ring flash? I was also thinking about buying a Nikon brand one, for example one of the R1 series later on, but figured I would start with the ring for now as it is cheap and does mostly what it supposed to do - put some light at the end of the lens.

ChrisR
Site Admin
Posts: 8546
Joined: Sat Mar 14, 2009 3:58 am
Location: Near London, UK

Post by ChrisR »

Yongnuos are popular, there are also Meike and others - browse ebay, and see what reports you can find about overheating. You will probably want to try focus stacking, where you may need a lot of consecutive flashes. No problem at low power set on a big gun, but a small unit will get hot and switch itself off faster.

Putting "light at the end of the lens" isn't really what you want to do. You need to provide a nice bright "sky" as far as the bug is concerned. See Kurt's curved diffuser, and find a simple flash bracket.
Later you may want a separate flash on the background, so a simple one will still be useful even if you go for an R1 kit.

cadman342001
Posts: 89
Joined: Wed Nov 28, 2007 5:35 pm
Location: Cairns, FNQ, Australia

Post by cadman342001 »

I use Yongnuo YN560IV flashes, good quality, way cheaper than the nikon equivalents ($100), and also the YN560TX ($50) which controls the flash/flashes remotely from the hotshoe, the flash is on a bracket with a homemade diffuser.

Andy

Chris S.
Site Admin
Posts: 3498
Joined: Sun Apr 05, 2009 9:55 pm
Location: Ohio, USA

Post by Chris S. »

Rawsons, welcome aboard! :D

You're getting good advice already. I agree with ChrisR in guiding you toward a regular speedlight, mounted on a bracket, with a large diffuser (which can be homemade). The Yongnuo flashes, as Andy recommended, are getting a lot of praise, and their prices are much lower than similar Nikon units. (My own are Nikon, because Yongnuo, Neewer, and other current low-priced didn't exist at the time I bought.)

Your choice of the Tokina 100mm macro lens is fine, but you might also consider a second-hand Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8 AF-D (this is the model that preceeded the current Micro-Nikkor 105mm VR lens, and is said to be a bit sharper than its replacement). If you don't mind buying second-hand, the Nikkor is actually a bit cheaper than the Tokina.

--Chris S.

edited typo
Last edited by Chris S. on Sun Apr 26, 2015 9:59 am, edited 1 time in total.

Rawsons
Posts: 30
Joined: Tue Apr 07, 2015 11:38 am

Post by Rawsons »

Chris S. wrote:Rawsons, welcome aboard! :D

You're getting good advice already. I agree with ChrisR in guiding you toward a regular speedlight, mounted on a bracket, with a large diffuser (which can be homemade). The Yongnuo flashes, as Andy recommended, are getting a lot of praise, and their prices are much lower than similar Nikon units. (My own are Nikon, because Yongnuo, Neewer, and other current low-priced didn't exist at the time I bought.)

Your choice of the Tokina 100mm macro lens is fine, but you might also consider a second-hand Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/.2.8 AF-D (this is the model that preceeded the current Micro-Nikkor 105mm VR lens, and is said to be a bit sharper than its replacement). If you don't mind buying second-hand, the Nikkor is actually a bit cheaper than the Tokina.

--Chris S.
Fantastic! I actually went with the Tokina first because a website (Ken Rockwell) rates it better then the Nikon 105mm when it comes to image quality. Now it made me unsure again hehe.

I just cheked ebay and found a used one of the new VR version for $220 shipping from Japan. Does that seem suspiciously cheap considering it is a $1000 lens?

Regarding the flashes, I made some further research last night and found a good one, YONGNUO YN465. I might go with that, although gear is subject to change every minute as you see.

Chris S.
Site Admin
Posts: 3498
Joined: Sun Apr 05, 2009 9:55 pm
Location: Ohio, USA

Post by Chris S. »

Rawsons wrote:Fantastic! I actually went with the Tokina first because a website (Ken Rockwell) rates it better then the Nikon 105mm when it comes to image quality. Now it made me unsure again hehe.
KR may not be a true idiot, but he plays one persuasively on the Internet, and makes a tidy living doing so. He is widely viewed as a buffoon. I think he writes whatever makes him money.

Tokina makes good lenses, no mistake about it. I shot with a 90mm f/2.5 Tokina macro for years, before switching to the Nikkor 105mm f/2.8 AF-D. No question, you can create wonderful photographs with either brand. But at similar money, I'd choose a Nikon lens.
I just checked eBay and found a used one of the new VR version for $220 shipping from Japan. Does that seem suspiciously cheap considering it is a $1000 lens?
Yes, this does sound suspiciously cheap. In a few minutes of searching, I can't find that auction, so am unable to say much more.

This said, I use my non-VR, AF-D 105mm Micro-Nikkor (as opposed to the later VR, AF-S version) because I think the earlier lens is optically better. I'd change in a heartbeat if I thought the newer technology would improve my images. So I recommend looking at second-hand specimens of the AF-D version, which are rather inexpensive.

Cheers,

--Chris

ChrisR
Site Admin
Posts: 8546
Joined: Sat Mar 14, 2009 3:58 am
Location: Near London, UK

Post by ChrisR »

Something else I would like to try is reversing the 40mm micro lens you have. I'd expect it to be good, for higher magnification than 1:1.
It's a "G" so you'll need an adapter with a lever to be able to control the diaphragm, but to prove concept you can use a matchstick wedge.

Sigma macro lenses also score very highly indeed, though long term there could be snags.

Most testing doesn't go on at macro distances, unfortunately. KR is guilty there.

pittendrigh
Posts: 42
Joined: Tue Oct 16, 2012 11:02 am
Location: Bozeman, MT
Contact:

Re: Macro gear (insect photography), suggestions needed

Post by pittendrigh »

!) Cameras lenses tubes and bellows are one part of the puzzle.

2) Focus stacking software and hardware are another part of the puzzle.

3) Lighting is yet another

I started with incandescent "reading/study" lights and a light tent made from window curtains. Worked well enough. Some people use plastic milk jugs to surround the subject.

Then I switched to cheap umbrella strobes from Alien Bees. I still have them but seldom use them now.

Now use "soft lights" from Photodiox, which are two or three daylight compact fluorescent bulbs, each one surrounded by an umbrella like light tent. I get the best results that way.

For a background I put 1/8" inch (3.175mm) translucent white Plexiglass over a mirror.

Even without focus stacking you will need either Photoshop or Gimp to edit the images, especially so if you shoot in RAW mode instead of jpeg.

Rawsons
Posts: 30
Joined: Tue Apr 07, 2015 11:38 am

Post by Rawsons »

Thank you both. I currently use Helicon for focus stacking, but as I am a beginner I still have to learn, a LOT!

This is my first attempt at stacking with the 40mm Nikon lens, only three pictures but the result is quite nice considering the lens problems, built-in flash and the size of the tiny bee in the picture.

It wont upload a picture so submitting the link instead...

https://flic.kr/p/rH226q

Rawsons
Posts: 30
Joined: Tue Apr 07, 2015 11:38 am

Post by Rawsons »

Chris S. wrote: This said, I use my non-VR, AF-D 105mm Micro-Nikkor (as opposed to the later VR, AF-S version) because I think the earlier lens is optically better. I'd change in a heartbeat if I thought the newer technology would improve my images. So I recommend looking at second-hand specimens of the AF-D version, which are rather inexpensive.

Cheers,

--Chris
Decisions, decisions :) I have seen several non-VR for versions used for about $320 + shipping from Japan. I have also found a completely new VR for more than twice as much. So will most likely stick with the older one.

ChrisR
Site Admin
Posts: 8546
Joined: Sat Mar 14, 2009 3:58 am
Location: Near London, UK

Post by ChrisR »

I expect you're well aware that you need to bear in mind your import duty issues if you buy from Japan :(

The bee pic is showing promise, but:
It clearly shows focus banding, eg on the front mid leg, which means you'd need more frames and smaller steps - not easy on a live subject!
At f/8 (from the exif) I'd have hoped that with flash, you'd have got a sharper image where it's in focus :-k
Could ambient light have been bright enough to be contributing? 1/200th, iso 800.

Chris S.
Site Admin
Posts: 3498
Joined: Sun Apr 05, 2009 9:55 pm
Location: Ohio, USA

Post by Chris S. »

The 105mm AF-D macro is not only half the price of the VR version, but it's smaller, lighter, and arguably sharper. It lacks VR, which is a questionable feature for macro, and has a slower form of autofocus--which is irrelevant for most macro.
Rawsons wrote:It wont upload a picture so submitting the link instead...
Perhaps it ran afoul of our size restrictions. An uploaded image needs to be under 300KB, and not over 1024 pixels in the long dimension.

That image looks quite nice to me--especially for a field stack, and a first attempt at stacking. The light is nicely controlled--especially given the apparent use of your camera's built-in flash. And the bits that are not in focus don't bother my eye--I'm drawn to the in-focus elements.

--Chris

Rawsons
Posts: 30
Joined: Tue Apr 07, 2015 11:38 am

Post by Rawsons »

Chris S. wrote:The 105mm AF-D macro is not only half the price of the VR version, but it's smaller, lighter, and arguably sharper. It lacks VR, which is a questionable feature for macro, and has a slower form of autofocus--which is irrelevant for most macro.
Rawsons wrote:It wont upload a picture so submitting the link instead...
Perhaps it ran afoul of our size restrictions. An uploaded image needs to be under 300KB, and not over 1024 pixels in the long dimension.

That image looks quite nice to me--especially for a field stack, and a first attempt at stacking. The light is nicely controlled--especially given the apparent use of your camera's built-in flash. And the bits that are not in focus don't bother my eye--I'm drawn to the in-focus elements.

--Chris
Happy you liked it, I am still in the learning phase.

Yea I have more or less decided to get the older non-VR lens, found one pretty cheap (€300 and seems to be in excellent condition) and it ships within Europe without extra charge. My D3200 wouldn't autofocus either way so that is not a problem at all.

A random question to all of you who shoots macro. Tripod or hand held?

Post Reply Previous topicNext topic