Friday, March 6, 2009

Macro - it's not all about magnification!

Since adding the MP-E65 into my arsenal, I've been pampered with the flexibility of going from 1x to 5x at just a twist of the barrel. How sweet is that?

Let's face it, most viewers are into magnification more than anything else. As long as the subject is huge in the frame, in-your-face, they'll be wowed, regardless if the image was properly composed, exposed etc.

My all time highest viewed image on my Flickr is this jumper. No prize for guessing it was shot with the MP-E65

IMG_4549 copy

I do like that one, but there are many more smaller than life-size images that I adore too. In fact, most of the macro shots I like are those with less than 1X magnification.

A beautiful butterfly, shot with my Tamron SP90. I miss that lens.
DSC_4110 copy

A female Gee Wee (Lordmint's abbreviation for giraffe weevil :D).
DSC_6139 copy

A giant tropical ant (Camponotus Gigas) being attacked by a phoridae (parasitoid fly). For more info, click here.
DSC_1403 copy

A hoverfly perching on a stem

A lovely looking yellow ladybird
New-Out99999_99998 copy

Another lovely ladybird. If it looks familiar to you, it's because it's on some Rapid Buses, LRT and monorail :)
DSC_0519 s

Why am I showing you these? I am telling you macro needs not to be all about magnification, although it can be used as another compositional tool. So pick up your 1X macro lens and go shoot something now!

All macro images shot with a 40D, Canon MP-E65 1X-5X Macro Lens and Canon MT-24EX Twin Flash

It is always good to take full body shots of your macro subjects and perhaps shows a bit of the environment as well, before zooming in for higher magnification shots. It is all about balance!

Of course, I can totally understand that when you get really comfortable with 1:1, you will want to go into higher magnification. In that case, check out options like Extension tubes, diopter lens like the Raynox DCR250, reversing ring, DMF Supermacro, Novoflex EOS Retro Reverse Adapter etc.

Monday, March 2, 2009

My Macro Rig - Then and Now

Just a quick one to show you guys how my macro rig has evolved since i first took up macro photography in July 2007. To skip right to my latest and most up to date macro rig, scroll to the bottom of this post.

Edit: I have been using mainly the Laowa 15mm since July, 2015. You can check out this lens on the official website here. I shared my thoughts and tips on this awesome lens, as well as many images taken with this lens in this blog post.

For high magnification work,  I use a 40D/70D, MP-E65, MT-24EX with DIY Concave Diffuser. You can scroll all the day down to view the image of this setup.

For natural light macro/close-up, normally with bigger subject, I use the Sigma 150 (with or without a Kenko 1.4X PRO 300 TeleconverterDG

Many DIY stuff especially DIY Diffusers/DIY Snoot Diffusers were covered in this post too. I started with a D80 and Tamron SP90 1:1 macro lens, with Raynox Raynox DCR-250 Super Macro Snap-On Lens +8 diopter glasses, and finally moved on to the Canon MP-E 65mm f/2.8 1-5X. First with a bracketed and diffused 580EXII, then with the Canon MT-24EX Macro Twin Lite Flash. I had also acquired a Sigma 150mm f/2.8 Macro Lens along the way so yes, my macro rig has evolved quite significantly!

But the most important thing is - you don't need fancy and expensive gears to get started!

June 2007

Nikon D80
Tamron SP 90 1:1 macro lens
Styrofoam plate from Tesco for diffusing the flash
Manual everything else i.e exposure and focusing. Focusing done by moving my body back and forth.

My Mighty Macro Rig - DIY styrofoam plate diffuser
Click on the image to see notes/tagging.

Edit: i have an SB800 speedlight now, but still use the same diffuser.

June 2008

I made myself a DIY snoot-diffuser. Check out how to DIY a Snoot-Diffuser here.

My Macro Rig - DIY Snoot Diffuser
Click the image to view some important notes/tagging

It works great for up to 1:1, but for any higher magnification, it's highly advisable to get the flash off the hotshoe and as close to the subject as possible. Remember, if you reduce the distance by half, the flash intensity increases four fold! That's called Inverse Square Law. In other words, if you reduce the subject to flash distance, you'll require way less flash output for the same illumination. Lower power results in shorter flash duration, thus higher motion freezing capability! I explained about this in more details in this post: Full Flash Photography - 3 Things You Must Know.

December 2008

Bought the MPE65 and switched completely to Canon. Lighting - 580EXII on a Hakuba LH1 flash bracket with ballhead and DIY flash diffuser.

Canon MPE65 1X-5X Macro Lens at minimum magnification of 1X Canon MP-E65 1X-5X Macro Lens IMG_5351

MPE65 at maximum magnification of 5X. You can see the working distance at various mag. 1X - 4", 2X - 2.5", 3X - 2", 4X - 1.7X, 5X - 1.6"
Canon MP-E65 1X-5X Macro Lens fully extended to 5X IMG_5355

Hakuba LH1 Flash Bracket. I replaced the original ballhead with cheap China made one. Cost about MYR30 . Don't mind the tissue paper. Couldn't find a washer of the right thickness LOL.
Hakuba LH1 flash bracket IMG_5356 copy

Basically, any L shaped flash bracket will do, as long as it meets these two conditions:

1. a bolt at the bottom for fastening onto the base of your SLR, but this is pretty much standard.
2. more importantly, a screw hole at the top left. This is where you screw your ballhead onto. Unfortunately, I couldn't find any suitable one on Amazon to show you. Your next best bet is Ebay.

The DIY diffuser for the 580EXII. 2 to 3 layers of Styrofoam sheet in front for diffusion. The inside of the bowl was covered with aluminum foil for better light efficiency.
DIY Bowl Diffuser for 580EXII IMG_5360 copy

You can also get a ready made, foldable ones like this:
LumiQuest SoftBox

Oh you'll need a off-shoe/ETTL cord as well.

Canon Off Camera Shoe Cord OC-E3

The fully assembled macro rig with the Hakuba LH1, eTTL cord, ball head and bowl diffuser look like this:

Note: instead of one ball head, you can use TWO as in this image below for even more flexibility! (Image courtesy of Ah_Wei)

Mar 2009 - bought the MT24EX Twin Flash

MT24EX on my 40D
MT-24EX Twin Flash on a Canon 40D and MP-E65 1X-5X Macro Lens

The DIY diffuser for my MT24EX. Sorry, shot with a lousy Motorola cellphone photo.
DIY diffuser for MT-24EX

Changed to Gen 2 diffusers starting Feb 6, 2010

I used a stofen inside.
DIY Diffuser for MT-24EX with Stofen IMG_8219 copy

Mar 13, 2010

(Edit: I have been using this same setup and concave diffuser since March 13, 2010 with no changes at all)

Testing yet another new diffuser. Idea from SteB1 - a great macro guy on juza forum.

Made out of transparent PP material from a mineral water bottle with 2 layers of polystyrene sheet over it. I use 3M medical tape to stick the concave diffuser onto the MT24EX adapter hood. You can use moldable plastic to DIY a better holder though.
DIY Cup diffuser for MT-24EX

Updated version of this easy to make, cheap but great DIY Concave diffuser is  here.

So this is how my macro rig has evolved since July 2007. I will continue to make changes when I see fit, either in terms of equipment or lighting - whatever it takes to take better macro images. But one thing for sure, my passion for the small things is still unchanged, so stay tuned - I'll continue to update My Macro Rig post whenever there is any new changes.

Note: all the macro rigs you see here are for flash macro photography. For natural light macro/close up, check out this post.

Now that you have seen my macro rigs, do also check out some other macro rigs from my friends.

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