Macro starter kit?


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Mar 12, 2023
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I’m looking to get started with some macro photography. I really love to see macro shots other photographers produce, and want to get to know this type of photography better. What would be a good setup for a macro beginner?

I already own a Canon Eos R full frame camera and was looking at the following:
- Sigma 105mm f/2.8 macro
- Pope shield macro speedlight diffuser
- Maybe a Raynox DCR-250 type of thing to get even closer?

Would this be a good starting point? Any thoughts? Other suggestions?
I have the Sigma 105mm macro, and it's a very nice lens. Lets you get macro shots without having to get too close to the subject and possibly scaring it away, if it a living subject. I use a Godox flash with a diffuser box that works very well as well. I don't know much about the Raynox, so can't comment on that. Another macro option is using extender tubes, which move your lens away from the image sensor, which allows you to turn a regular lens into a macro lens.
I started with tubes, Raynox and basic flash.

I ended up ditching all that stuff and investing in designated Macro gear.

Depends on how serious you take it but my preferred gear now is the Canon MP-E65 or third party (Yongnuo/Samyang/Laowa 60mm etc) manual lenses. I never use AF for hand held Macro. The Yongnuo style twin head flash with diffuser head covers is a must for me too.

The shorter lenses are certainly not the easiest to master but the results can be phenomenally satisfying when you nail it.
I'd skip the Raynox stuff. Put the $$$ toward dedicated macro lenses. What about camera support? Tripod and a decent ball head?
I am presuming that you are shooting "still life" macros.

I would use one of the small LED lights.
To ME, a constant light source is easier for a beginner to deal with than a flash, where you only see the effect of the lighting AFTER you shoot the shot.

I do NOT like ring lights. Because there is NO shadow for showing depth.
But if what you are shooting does not need shadow, ring lights are OK.

KISS. Just use the macro lens for now, don't confuse the learning with the Raynox.

I prefer a longer macro lens, at least 2x normal. So for FF that is 100+mm.
The reason is lighting. A shorter lens = shorter working distance = harder to mange the lighting in that short distance.

Get a decent tripod AND an XY table.
I CANNOT hand-hold my camera steady enough at macro distances. I HAVE TO use a tripod.
The XY table makes fine adjustment left/right and front/back easier than lifting and moving the tripod.
I'd skip the Raynox stuff. Put the $$$ toward dedicated macro lenses. What about camera support? Tripod and a decent ball head?

For macro work, I would use a 3-way pan or better yet a geared head. But geared heads are NOT inexpensive.
When I am trying to adjust L/R level, I don't want the camera tilting up/down.
Thanks for the advise everyone!

I think you guys are right it's best to invest in decent gear rather then start of with the "cheap option". I'm on a bit of budget though, so have to find a middle ground there. Therefor I think going for the sigma 105mm macro would be a good start. I'm going to skip the raynox and the tubes.

Lighting I still find a bit tricky to figure out what's would be best for me. Maybe just get started and see what I lack. I already have a speed light, but unfiltered that's going to be a bit harsh. Maybe a small LED would be a better option at not too much cost.

I've got the tripod covered, I'm using a very decent Manfrotto tripod with geared head for landscape. It might be a bit bulky, but it will definitely get the job done. I can always invest in a good smaller one later on. The focusing rail is a good add-on to consider too.
I had an obsession with macro for a few years and swear I tried just about everything out there.

- Extension Tubes
- Lens Reversal
- Lens Couplers
- Raynox
- Diopters
- Dedicated Macro Lenses

Out of my experiences I usually recommend that somebody starts small if they aren't quite sure it's something they want to get into yet. My very first setup was a simple lens reversal ring and an old 50mm 1.8 lens. Manual focus, but got me some interesting shots. Then I picked up some extension tubes which I never really liked by themselves. I did also pick up the Raynox which was a neat 'toy'. I only call it that because it did give me the opportunity to throw it on a telephoto and get some decent shots but it never quite delivered the way I wanted it to. Now I just use a dedicated macro lens, currently I use the Nikon Z 105mm and the Tamron 90mm 2.8 Di depending on the body I'm using at the time. One of my favorite ones over the years (I've owned about 15 actual macro lenses now) was actually the Tokina 100mm 2.8 with that cool clutch style of auto/manual focus. It was a fantastic lens, however when I made the leap to mirrorless the lack of a focusing motor made me decide to part with it. I think if you already know you want to do macro, and don't mind spending a little money on it, go with a dedicated macro lens. If you want more than the 1:1, that's where you need to look into something different. Like the Laowa 2-5x, or any of the other closer than life size lenses.

As for lighting, I have a box full of various diffusers (both purchased and DIY), mini-tripods for flashes, flash mount rigs... even the old Pringles can speedlight trick. I switched to Godox for my lighting awhile back and have the Godox MF12 which I like a lot when I'm going 'bugging' or shooting small flowers and such. I plan to pick up a couple more of them as I only got the 2 pack, ultimately want 4 of them. It's not too heavy to work with, but gives excellent control (granted I made some DIY diffusers to work with it). As long as you have something bright, with a good diffusion on it, you can use anything that works for you. Oh, and I hardly EVER use a tripod when shooting macro so I try to go as light as possible in order to hand-hold.

For fun, this was a rig I made a few years back. It is a Nikon D7100 body, a full set of extension tubes, and old AI manual focus 135mm 2.8 Nikon, and a lens coupler that allowed me to reverse a Voigtlander 20mm on the end. It gave me a ridiculous magnification, but was pretty unwieldy and required a ton of light.


As an example shot from that rig, this is the Eye of Providence from a US $1 bill, no crop, full 24MP file.

I know I've posted this before but this is hand held with a short dedicated Macro lens. Live subject and focus by the in out camera method (ie manual focus and move the camera to and fro to nail it). I never use a tripod for live subjects like this it's near impossible imo.

It's not an easy technique to master but great when it comes together.

in addition to kit have a look at focus stacking software
Kit wise here is something I use, well a version of anyway. It allows fine control on focus
No doubt a dedicated macro lens is easier and more convenient to use, but if budget is a concern extension tubes will get you as close with a decent regular lens, prime or zoom, with virtually no loss of image quality up to at least 1:1. (This would be for 3-D subjects, of course, where the edges are usually out of focus anyway and the reduced image quality there is a non-issue.) Enlarging lenses are also excellent, best on a bellows or helical focusing tube. Lens reversing and coupling generally produce great results beyond 1:1 magnification. I recommend you do a Google search. As for brands and models, I'm not aware of a bad macro lens.
I'm new to macro and trying to decide between the Canon RF 100mm macro and the Laowa 90mm RF macro lens.

Main pros of the the Canon RF 100mm seem to be (1) autofocus; and (2) image stabilization. But I'm struggling with whether that's worth the extra cost over the Laowa.

On autofocus, it's not going to be that effective when I'm very close to the subject, right? I'm seeing recommendations to use manual focus even if the lens has AF.

On image stabilization, I'm not sure that's adding a lot of value anyway. I'll either be on a tripod or using a flash with diffuser. And I'm just interested in photos not video. So not sure the stabilization justifies the added cost.

But what makes it harder to decide is I have an R6 Mark II and I'd like to be able to use the focus bracketing, but I'm assuming you have to have AF for that. So maybe the ability to focus bracket makes the Canon RF 100mm worth it even though perhaps the AF and IS without focus bracketing isn't worth the extra cost?

Would appreciate any advice! Thanks,

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