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.

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.


  1. gotta love the move that you made starting Dec 2008. for a macro lover, i guess the ultimate way is to go canon. once you go canon, u need the MPE-65 and ultimately the MT24 lighting. Congrats on the MT24 purchase. I envy you! :P

    *starting counting coins from piggy bank.. 10c... 20c... 30c...*

  2. Thanks for the comment, Lordmint. The MT-24EX is not easy to tame either..still experimenting with it. Hope you can get yours soon:D

  3. Nikon R1C1 for the win! Because wireless is cool.

    But no MPE unfortunately.

  4. Nick, can't argue with u on the R1C1 :D...but yeah, no MPE from Nikon.

  5. I'm so tempted to sell off everything I have (except the camera body) to get the MPE and Twin Flash setup. lol :D

  6. LOL pls don't do that unless you plan to shoot only macro from now on, Vincent:D Maybe just get a full set of 68mm of Kenko tubes. That should give you up to 2X when used with a 1:1 macro lens:)

  7. thanks for the info :)
    I am just starting out with macro shots however I am using the reversed lens method.
    Gonna bring it out soon

  8. You're welcome Louis. lost 45kg? Congrats.

    Reversed lens is good too...except you have to shoot manual flash though. And dark viewfinder because you'll have to stop down the lens as you probably won't have control over aperture once reversed.

  9. fantastic , great going through your progression. Im lusting over your gear. Great pics too.

  10. Thanks, Tom. I acquired all these over time - the only way I could afford to do so :)

  11. Stanley here, i'm a beginner in macro photography. I'm so amazed by ur photos. i recently bought 100mm L 2.8 IS and feel so regret after seeing your pics taken from ur MPE-65 which can go up to 5x.

    is there anyway i can follow you to ur future outing. Feel so lonely some times when i need to shoot alone.

  12. Hi Stanley, thanks for dropping by and commenting. You'll need another lens that allows you to shoot below 1:1 so the MPE alone is not complete. Just save up and get an MPE later. But do practice on high mag (2:1 and above) to make handling the MPE easier.

    Join me in and facebook: kurt hp g

    See you there.

  13. Great works and tips. What brilliant ideas ;)

  14. Awesome evolving Sifoo. Learning lots from your article.

  15. Hi, love your blog, and this progression in your macro gear! I have Sigma 105mm but want so bad an MP-E65. I think the MP-E65 has filter size 58mm, so I could use my Sigma Macro Flash (like a ring flash, but with two lights) - would this be a good setup? I can't afford a Canon Twin Flash. Thanks, Les.

  16. Hi Les, thanks. Yes, the MP-E65's filter size is 58mm too. I think the sigma macro flash will work on your 105 but you'll get better light at high mag only. I discussed about it here:

    Take a look at it and feel free to ask again if it's not clear to you :)

  17. You are very generous in sharing your creative ideas. Keep up the good work. Love your shots!Really awesome!

  18. Awesome your blog so much. Can learn many thing here..kudos!

  19. Thanks for the kind words, Hisham, Zackri, Soo.

  20. You're an inspiration to everyone interested in macro photography. And so many people hate bugs, but to me, your images are more beautiful than any painting in a museum. I think your photos could change the way people look at nature. Oh well, back to McDonald's and reality TV :-P

  21. hi there kurt, been browsing through ur blog for quite some time now :) got to know ur blog from LYN though.. its been really great n i learned alot here (manual focusing front n back, the snoot diffuser, how to set up rigs, shots EXIF, etc..) basically i just started to get really into this world of macro photography. bought myself the tamron SP90, kenko auto extension tubes, raynox 250, and the home-made snoot diffuser. but i find it too long for the SP90 so maybe im changing my flash setup later on.. thinking of getting the MP-E65 but i need to do alot of practice with the 2:1 magnification first perhaps..anyway, i got a question - where did u find those whole lots of insects anyway? haha

  22. Thank you CreamPuf. Insects are everywhere....just check out your nearest park or hutan lipur.

  23. from ur front page on ur blog, u said u conduct macro photography workshop every weekend. how much does it cost and whereabouts of it? im interested to join :)

    and thanks for taking ur time to reply :)


  25. Hi Kurt. Read your blog with a great deal of interest. I currently use the Sigma 150mm macro lens coupled with the Sigma macro ring flash. Having given both a real beating this year with my macro photography, the ring flash is beginning to show signs of wear and tear. I would replace it with another Sigma flash at a drop of a hat BUT I really like the look of the Canon MT-24EX Twin Lite. However, despite trawling the internet, I can't seem to find anyone who uses this combination; Canon MT-24 with Sigma 150mm. I understand fully that the flash will not fit directly onto the Sigma lens but what I have been unable to find out is what kind of ring adapter would I need to buy in order to use this combination. Any thoughts from your experience?

  26. Macrolite adapter..see the right most image at the bottom of the post.

  27. Amazing photography,outstanding results.

  28. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  29. 2017....almost a decade behind.
    Just stepping into macro. And what an inspiration...
    Wonder where i can find a hakuba lh1 now ? Or anything equivalent/similar to it ?

    1. Yes, this blog is that OLD! :D. I really don't recommend using a flash bracket. I leave my 270EX on the hotshoe, with DIY diffuser. Look for Melvyn's Macro Rig for ideas.

  30. Hi Kurt. Are you using a wide angle macro lens for snakes photography now ?

    1. Yes, been using the Laowa15mm for a couple of years for most of my herp shots.



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