Wanted. Photographer input.

Posted: September 12, 2015 in Miscellaneous
Tags: , ,

I’m interested in doing macro photography with my Nikon D5100.  But do I need an actual lens or the macro extenders I see on Amazon?  I’m also looking for a tripod.  And finally, I’d like to carry the Nikon with me.  A backpack is useful if I don’t need to access the camera easily but is there anything that carries the camera so I can get at it for a quick shot?

Any suggestions?  All help is appreciated!!

  1. Adrian Lewis says:

    I don’t know about the macro extenders but, if you’re serious about macro, I’d go for a real macro lens. I’m a full-frame (FX) Nikon user (D700, D800), and I simply can’t get enough of their 105mm VR macro – both for macro work and portraiture – I simply wouldn’t be without it. However your D5100 is a smaller camera, and the 105mm might make it front heavy. But there are two Nikon DX format options, the 40mm and 85mm – since DX magnifies focal lengths by 1.5, these will deliver 60mm and 127mm respectively; the 85mm has Vibration Reduction, which is a great asset. Sigma’s 105mm macro has a very good reputation, but this is again full frame. Another option would be an ordinary lens with macro capabilities. Any questions, please do ask. Hope this us useful. Adrian

    • Adrian, thanks so much for taking the time to respond in such detail. I’ll take a look at your recommendations when I get back into town and if I have questions, I’ll be sure to ask.


  2. 2e0mca says:

    I don’t do a lot of macro photography so I’ll leave that to the dedicated macro’ers, but I do a lot of street photography which means I need to access the camera in te bag quickly. I find the Lowe-pro slingshot pretty good as you wear it across your back but when you need the camera you slide it round to in front of you and the main pocket on the top side unzips to let you get at the camera. I use the Slingshot 202AW for a Canon 5D – depending on lenses you carry you’d probably be ok with the smaller 102AW. The newer Transit Sling bag looks like a good option too but I haven’t used one of those. Hope this helps.

    • Thanks, Martin! I really appreciate your suggestions. One of the most frustrating things right now is that I have to carry my camera in my hand, which can get a little tiresome, to say the least. The slingshot sounds like an answer and I’ll take a look at it.


  3. Some comments which may help before you commit to new gear. To get specialised lenses is the way to go to achieve good magnification / reproduction rates. Macro photography extends from 1.0X to 20X / (a 1:1 reproduction ratio to about 20:1). Life size is a 1:1 reproduction rate. Extension rings are useful in increasing the focal length distance which gives a higher magnification rate.
    I use the 105mm Micro Nikkor with a set of three Velo extension tubes 12mm, 20mm, 36mm. Using the kit takes a lot of patience to get good results. But the increased magnification rate brings up a whole realm of detail. My favourite backpack is a Lowenpro Sling Shot 200. It has a good broad strap and for ease of use can be worn on one’s back but easily slipped to the front for ready access to camera compartment. I use Manfrotto tri-pods -there’s quite a range, depending on your needs and whether you’ll be carrying them long distances weight-wise. Macro opens up a whole new world of fascinating detail 🙂

    • Thanks very much for taking the time to respond and in such great detail. I’ll check into your suggestions and really appreciate them. If I have any questions, I’ll get back to you. 🙂


  4. Hi Janet, macro is a specialised field and it pays to get the right kit. It’s all about the magnification/ reproduction rates. You’re aiming for 1.0X to 20X (1:1 reproduction ratio to 20:1). Extension tubes are a great way to extend the focal plane distance and magnification. I use a set of three Velo rings compatible with Nikon gear and a Micro Nikkor 105mm lens.
    My favourite bag is a Lowenpro Sling Shot 200 . Easy to carry and slides to front with access to zipped compartment. I have seen adverts for custom designed bags for women which would be worth looking into. I use Manfrotto tri-pods, there are lots of options – but bottom line for me would be light weight and built for multi- purpose. It took me a while to get into macro photography as it takes patience – completely hooked now as it opens up such a fascinating world of fine detail. Hope this helps.

    • I love macro already and have an Olloclip set for my iPhone 5s. That takes some getting used to and the phone itself does rather well. Looking forward to getting into macro even more, so thanks again.


  5. A follow-up comment re: carrying a camera for a quick shot – a sling strap – they’re attached to camera by screwing in at the tripod point.

  6. I have nothing to offer but am finding the conversation extremely interesting. 🙂

    • Good morning, Judy. I’m so glad I asked. I’m getting lots of useful information and hopefully more will come in. Glad you’re enjoying it, too. It may not be a popular post for “likes”, but it’s an extremely useful one!


  7. Cee Neuner says:

    Sounds like you are getting some good information.

  8. Janet, you might find it helpful to hop over to Bob Mielke’s site. He teaches photography and teaches a lot about equipment as well. He might have some quick answers for you. Here’s the link to his site:

  9. Well, that didn’t go as planned. This is the 3rd time I’ve tried to finish this comment. Bummer. Anyway — as I was about to say — Bob is getting ready to move from Seattle to Boston, so his blog is in flux right now with a new title, etc that will match his new life, but he’s still staying in communication with all his readers. So I’m sure he’ll answer your comment if you ask him a question. Now — one more try — here’s is link:

  10. !#^*^#@!!##(*^(#!!!! I’m sure you know there’s supposed to be an “h” on the “is.”

  11. Hmmmm. Okay, three questions you ask, so three suggestions it will be.

    When you say you’re interested in doing macro photography — just what level of macro are we trying to offer suggestions about? I ask because macro photography can be easy or complex, low-magnification or high-magnification, relatively inexpensive or as much as a new car.

    I’ve gone both routes — low-mag and high-mag macro shooting — and prefer shooting low-magnification now.

    I’ll address the high-magnification first. Any time you get over 1:1 reproduction ratios, two things happen — you run out of light and you get a depth of field that is about equal to the thickness of a penny.

    You can get better depth of field by stopping down the aperture, but then that introduces lens diffraction — which makes the image go soft (https://luminous-landscape.com/understanding-lens-diffraction/). However, you can overcome diffraction by leaving the aperture open wider and use the advanced technique of focus stacking (https://photographylife.com/how-to-focus-stack-images).

    The issue with light is because the further the sensor gets from the lens, the more dim the light reaching the sensor becomes (because physics); this can be addressed by using more light (reflectors or strobes), but starts getting into the issue of hot spots on the subject. Hot spots are best dealt with by using even lighting around the subject (otherwise known as ring-lighting), or by putting the subject in a softbox and lighting the whole thing from the outside.

    High-magnification macro shots also require a very sturdy tripod and a macro stage (http://extreme-macro.co.uk/extreme-macro-stages/). Both of these are because high-magnification is exceptionally sensitive to vibrations; the force of your breath is enough to cause the camera to jiggle (seriously), so I also used a remote control for the shutter.

    This is the only high-magnification image I have online at present: http://exploratorius.us/2014/05/23/film-friday-mountain-moss/ I know it doesn’t look like much, but that image was of an area about the size of a pin head. The gear required to shoot it weighed 32-pounds and cost a small fortune. Because of the difficulty and effort required in shooting high-mag images, I quickly lost interest and later sold my gear.

    But I like macro images. And I wanted to continue shooting them.

    So I had to scale back my expectations, figure out what result I wanted, and how to get that result cheaply and effectively. I drilled deep online and eventually stumbled across Tom Grill’s articles on the subject:

    And by using his recommendations, I eventually settled upon my go-to rig for low-magnification macros — a 50mm f/1.4 lens (which I already had) and three 10mm extension rings (which cost me about $60). I purchased the close-up filters as well, but found them to deliver too much distortion, so I ditched them in favor of more extension rings.

    No, my low-mag rig doesn’t deliver perfectly focused and crystal clear results like some people can get with a more expensive rig, but I like the look it produces and enjoy doing shooting macros with it just the same. And I don’t need a strobe or a tripod to create my macro images; everything I shoot is handheld and with the available light. You can see all that I have online here: http://exploratorius.us/tag/macro/

    Note that I’ve tried a bunch of different lenses — longer and shorter — but I still prefer the macros that I get with the 50mm lens the best.

    Now onto tripods.

    How much weight and how long of a lens are you planning to use? The bigger the weight and the longer the lens will dictate how heavy and expensive the tripod has to be, because both can create vibrations on the smaller, lighter, and cheaper tripods. Wood or carbon fiber are better at dampening vibrations, but wood is heavy and carbon fiber is frightfully expensive. Steel can be used, but you’ll need to buy the tripod from someplace that allows returns in the event that it doesn’t dampen vibrations enough, which you can only determine with your own testing.

    Me? I have three tripods. A tiny one that I constantly carry with me in my camera bag, a bigger one that I use for studio shots in the house, and a carbon fiber tripod that I keep in the car for field use during low-light landscape shoots. And none of them are heavy enough or stout enough to keep my 560mm lens from vibrating. And, no, I’m not spending $$$$ for a beefy tripod rig from Really Right Stuff or Gitzo, which is what it would require.

    Instead, I figured out that faster lenses and higher ISOs would do what I needed, and I generally avoid using tripods now.

    Onto bags.

    For a bag, I use a small one that functions like a sling bag: http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1058696-REG/incase_designs_corp_cl60487_quick_sling_bag_for.html
    I know it says that it’s designed for an iPad, but it works great for my small photo kit and doesn’t cost a lot.

    This one took me years of searching and trying out dozens of bags, with the biggest problem being that most photo bags are simply too big. You put your gear in them and find that they have extra room, so you keep stuffing it to the gills with more and more gear until it gets uncomfortable to carry for 8-12 hours at a time. However with my current bag, it’s a tight fit with the small amount of gear that I carry, so I can’t jam more in there. It’s perfect for my needs.

    I know this was long winded, but you did ask me. 🙂 I hope it helps you.

  12. Hi Janet,
    I have nothing to add about macro. It’s all been said. But, the most informative is from Mitch Zeissler. He gets the prize for best information. He would have a great photography lecturer if he gave one. Good info, Mitch Zeissler.
    I have a macro lens specifically for those shots. I’m not good with getting too technical. It takes away from my having fun. If I’m not sure I take extra photos and keep my fingers crossed. 😳
    I remember my first jewelry class. My actual chosen porfession for 28 years.The professor was talking in details about our next procdure. I had information overload and tuned him out. I know – not a good thing. Anyway, when we had to create our piece if jewelry I created something unique and unusual just because I had fun and was not bogged down with the details. I did get an A.
    I’m sure purist photographers would scowl at reading this. But, do we all have to be experts to capture a great image? 😁
    As for the bag, I like the old hippie bags. I was never a hippie and always thought they were having so much fun and I was missing it all. I wanted one of their sling bags. I bought one in Guatemala when we were there in May. It has a place for your ID, money, phone and camera. I wish I could put a photo of it. I think I’ll put a post on my blog … But … don’t know when. Anyway, I am rambling now. Hope you decide on a good one.
    Izzy 😎

    • I really appreciate all the information people gave me. I’m going to go over it all, then make some decisions. I have a sort of hippie bag, but I want something that won’t bang around quite so much when walking quickly. Tomorrow will be a photo walk again. Hurrah!


  13. I will leave the macro lens comments to others more competent in that area than I. For quick access to taking photos, I use a sling strap. I bought a cheap one at Best Buy, and I like it a lot, but now wish I would have spent the extra for a Black Rapid strap. They have some advantages. The link shows a flickr photo of my wife and I. i share it because it shows how the camera hangs at my side. It takes only a moment to swing it into position for a shot. The disadvantage with a longer lens is you’ve got to remember it’s “sticking out” to catch on stuff. Normally not a problem, but something to think about on a narrow hiking trail.

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