Discussion in 'Canon EOS' started by john_bullock|3, Jan 12, 2010.

  1. I've done some searches in the forums and can not find an exact answer, maybe im not looking hard enough, so forigive me if this has been discussed a billion times.
    i am looking to get into macro photos. i'll be using the macro lens on a rebel xs.
    i will not be investing in any ring lights or the twin flashes for the macro photos.
    so in my opinion i need good working distance, i have been considering the sigma 180, or the tamron 180, ive owned the canon 100 and it was super sharp, but like i said i want more working distance.
    my budget is around $800, before i purchase any lens, i was wondering if
    A. do i really that much working distance for macro(i will focusing on mainly insects)
    B. if the extra working distance isnt necessary, what about the sigma 105, or tamron 90
    and also a technical question about macro photography, how do people achieve the macro shots on here with insect 100% in focus, is it generally at 1.1 magnification, and good use of d.o.f, or focused from less than 1.1 and then cropped.
  2. "how do people achieve the macro shots on here with insect 100% in focus, is it generally at 1.1 magnification, and good use of d.o.f, or focused from less than 1.1 and then cropped."
    I imagine that they shoot multiple shots in burst mode, Select the sharpest one and crop for framing.
  3. I imagine that with more working distance, camera shake will be more severe, especially at near 1:1 magnification.
    You'd want a very fast lens and maybe even something with IS, if not working with a tripod.
  4. already had experience with the Canon 100mm macro. You seem clear that you want more working distance than that lens provides – and for at least some types of insect, you are probably right. So why are you asking?
    Getting what you want in focus in close-up/macro work depends on two things. The first is striking the optimal balance between increased depth-of-field and increased diffraction blur as you stop down. Often the best tradeoff is quite a bit beyond the point at which diffraction effects start to be measurable – that point is, say, f/11 on a current-generation FF sensor, but f/16 or even f/22 may give a better result overall. At those apertures available light is often insufficient, and even if you do not want to buy any specialist lighting equipment you may need to use flash in some way. The second way to get what you want in focus comes down to good technique for setting up shots, by choosing camera angles that bring as much as possible of what you want to be sharp as close as possible to the plane of focus.
  5. Very well spoken, Robin. Developing user-skills is the answer, understanding how and why equipment works, applying a big dose of patience, expect to make mistakes in trying to achieve "the perfect shot." Likewise, keep in the forefront of your mind: macro-shooting is far more difficult than it first appears; "point-&-shoot it is not. Be prepared to invest appreciable dollars in getting top-notch equipment (that will generally last a lifetime). Lastly, don't think that you can "buy your way" through what is actually a technically-challenging process. Yes, this aspect of photography is thoroughly enjoyable, but can well be thoroughly frustrating.
  6. I am asking the same question for years now :) I saw a superb Macro insect with all the amazing details of the hair and eye, and I discovered that it was done with a lens 180mm and I suppose plus some diopters/magnifying filters , and then of course a crop :)
  7. Based on my experience, I would say that Robin is right on. I often shoot macro up to f/20 or so for precisely the reason she describes.
    If you are interested in bugs, you should look at the work and tutorials here:
    You will see that most of it is shot with lenses of around 100mm. 180 will give you more reach, but it will also increase the problem of hand motion if you are doing handheld shots.
    What you will also see on that site is that most of the close work is done with flash because, as Robin suggested, it is often the only way to get a reasonable depth of field and reasonably fast shutter speed. You will see that most of the people posting there do not use ring lights because it generates flat lighting. There are some postings describing the rigs people have worked out with regular flash. I use a combination of a regular flash with a diffuser or two and a bounce card, sometimes taking the flash off the camera.
    You will also see that the very close up work is often done with image stacking, using software such as Zerene, because even with flash, the razor-thin DOF at extremely close distances makes it impossible to get enough in focus in a single image. That is, one takes several images, focused at very slightly different distances, and combines them in software.
    This kind of close up work is very demanding. I agree with Ed: you can't buy your way out of the difficulties. Even with very good equipment, it is very hard to get things as you want them, and the closer you get, the harder it becomes. I have been working on macro pretty consistently for 18 months and still delete the large majority of shots I take. However, it is worth the work--it is a lot of fun when it works.
    BTW, I don't have the Canon 100mm you used. I shoot with the Canon 60mm and the new Canon 100mm L. (Most of my bug and flower shots at were taken with the 60mm, but I got the 100 to have more reach.) However, the non-L 100, which you shot with before, is generally considered one of the finest macro lenses available.
  8. I would suggest you already have the optimal 100mm focal length for general and insect photography.
    Extra working distance is sometimes useful with particularly sensitive insects but these problems can generally be overcome with better field craft skills.
    I use three macro lenses the EF 100mm f2.8 macro USM (classic not the new L), the EF 180mm f3.5L macro and the MP-E 65mm macrophoto.
    I use the 180mm mostly for traditional methods with a tripod and the 100mm for handheld almost always insects. This is not to say you can't use the 180mm handheld or the 100mm with a tripod, of course you can.
    For insects other than the larger ones the main lens is the MP-E 65mm which allows you to get in very close.
    I shoot ambient light when there is enough otherwise I use the Twin Flash, you really do need the flash for much above life size. It is possible to use the internal flash for the 180 and 100mm if your camera has one although the lighting is rather flat.
    Shooting with a 1.6X crop camera I don't go above f11 at life size and less for higher magnifications to limit diffraction softening.
    Depth of field can be improved by using focus stacking techniques, here you take multiple shots normally using the continuous shooting mode whilst move the focus plane. You then combine these to get more depth of field. There is software available to do the stacking for you, but personally I prefer to just align the images and paint masks in photoshop to achieve the effect. I find this gives me better results with less artifacts.
    For more stuff on macro kit see
    This is an example of a manual focus stack with three frames
  9. for precisely the reason she describes​
    "he", actually. But I'm pleased to find that you and Ed agree with my comments!
  10. SCL


    There was a post last week which referenced a link ultimately leading to a software product which was used to stack macro photos so that one got incredible DOF. Sometimes there were as many as 20-40 photos in the stack, and it appeared the computing power to process the stack was rather considerable. A gentleman by the name of Charles Krebs, from Washington (state) seems to be well versed in this technique and the technicalities of producing some of these photos. I followed a series of links from the original PN post to get to some of Krebs' photos, which were pretty incredible and included 3D as well as rotational views of insects in a macrophotography mode. Unfortunately I think this post has moved off the radar, and I don't remember the category it showed up in.
  11. SCL


    I found the link to the software product: Good luck. It is quite interesting reading.
  12. John,
    Just to add a bit more information on a couple points.
    Yes, diffraction degrades image quality. But not as much as you might think. If your printer sits on your desktop, you can be confident in using the minimum aperture available, because the fuzziness from diffraction isn’t visible at those kinds of enlargements.
    Flash helps not only by providing enough light for a proper exposure, but also by freezing camera blur. The attached shot I did was a 5DII and the Canon 180 macro. It’s not merely handheld; it’s handheld at arm’s length an inch or two above the bottom of the bathtub, with the camera pointed up as I tried to see if the framing was even close to right on the LCD in Live View. I bounced a 580EXII off the shower curtain. 1/200″, f/11, ISO 800. The upper inset is 100% pixels; the lower is the entire frame. The lens was manually focused to its minimum distance.
    I made a 24″ × 24″ print to stick in my bedroom window for Halloween.
  13. I think Ben is right on both counts. Here is one shot at f/16 (with flash): not exactly blurry. The tiny increase in diffraction was well worth it to get the greater DOF. And here is one at f/20, handheld, using a shoe-mounted flash, a stophen diffuser, and a Demb Flip-it bounce card:
  14. Great "studio" shot Ben! I guess a bathtub makes for a good wraparound diffuser? Hahaha.

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