Macro Photography Equipment for Shooting Close-ups

Michael Sand
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Many people are interested in macro photography, and most of the best macro photographers start off shooting macro nature shots ‗ flowers, insects, and the like.

But what about macro equipment, and essential macro photography equipment?

To photograph the tiny, you need to set up your camera with the right macro lens, and you need to be able to align yourself down to the smallest of details. To do this, you’ll need a macro ring flash and a tripod, both of which are considered essential macro photography gear.

Here’s what you can do to improve your macro photography along with what macro photography equipment is needed to get started.

NameCategoryProduct
Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM Macro LensBest OverallCanon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM Macro Lens
Nissin Macro Ring Flash MF 18Budget PickNissin Macro Ring Flash MF 18
Canon EOS 5D Mark III 22.3 MP Full Frame CMOSUpgrade PickCanon EOS 5D Mark III 22.3 MP Full Frame CMOS

1. Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM Macro Lens

Our rating: 9 / 10

Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM Macro Lens

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Pros:

  • Incredible color reproduction
  • 4-stop Image Stabilizer (IS)
  • Great for shooting in low light
  • Ultra-sharp photos
  • Lightweight
  • Weather-sealed for shooting in adverse conditions

Cons:

  • Cost – one of the most expensive macro lenses
  • Built-in lens hood interferes with flash

What if you want to pick up a little more distance between you and your subject? You can do that with a specialist macro lens. This bad boy (which is regarded by many as the best macro lens on the market) can focus on subjects as close as 1cm. That means you can drop the background right out of the picture.

Why is the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS Macro Lens so popular? In a nutshell, because it offers exceptional optics, even compared to other types of lenses. You’ll be grabbing top quality images. And, you can be virtually certain that they will be perfect because this lens has been clinically proven to deliver top-level color reproduction.

2. Tamron AFF017N700 SP 90mm F/2.8 Di VC USD 1:1 Macro

Our rating: 9 / 10

Tamron AFF017N700 SP 90mm F/2.8 Di VC USD 1:1 Macro

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Pros:

  • Lightweight
  • Excellent sharpness

90mm is the optimum focal length to shoot about 12 inches (30cm) away from your subject. Tamron has a beautiful MF macro lens for shooting macro photography. It is a 1:1 macro lens which means it can shoot at the same magnification as the subject size.

The Tamron 90mm –which is one of the best macro lenses under 200– has a very fast f/2.8 aperture, allowing you to create lovely backlit images. Tamron’s use of its latest High Refractive Index (HRI) lens technology and a new Gaussian lens design means that the lens can focus on your subjects from a close range of just 12 inches – that’s a good distance for macro photography.

3. Sigma 258306 105mm F2.8 EX DG OS HSM Macro Lens

Our rating: 9 / 10

Sigma 258306 105mm F2.8 EX DG OS HSM Macro Lens

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The Sigma 105mm F2.8 EX DG OS HSM Macro Lens is a great piece of equipment for macro photography as it produces very high quality images and can focus very close, allowing you to capture subjects that usually remain out of the frame.

The lens is designed to work with both film and digital cameras, and its built in Hyper Sonic Motor ensures that operation is quick and quiet. The lens is also equipped with Sigma Optical Stabilizer which prevents camera shake, even at night. It also comes with a full-time manual focus, as well as built-in dust and splash proof technology.

The maximum focal distance is 10.3 inches, and can be used in conjunction with a 2x teleconverter, which increases the magnification to 20x.

4. Canon EOS 5D Mark III 22.3 MP Full Frame CMOS

Our rating: 8 / 10

Canon EOS 5D Mark III 22.3 MP Full Frame CMOS

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Pros:

  • Large selection of compatible lenses
  • Unrivaled low light performance coupled with ISO of 100-6400
  • Unrivaled image quality
  • High-resolution LCD screen helps ensure accuracy when shooting
  • Can be upgraded to take video
  • Software included
  • Powerful autofocus
  • Allows you to enjoy HD video recording for the first time in the history of DSLR cameras

Cons:

  • Price may be a little high for some
  • It doesn’t include a memory card

Shortcomings:

While the Canon 5D Mark III is not perfect, we feel that it is a great tool for creative photography.

The absence of a viewfinder is the main issue that buyers of the Canon 5D Mark III have reported. Eye-level viewfinders can be found as accessories to the camera at specified sites and other more expensive models. Some users have commented that images produced are slightly soft due to the lesser-quality lenses. Sample shots, however, have suggested that these reservations are unfounded.

5. Nissin Macro Ring Flash MF 18

Our rating: 7 / 10

Nissin Macro Ring Flash MF 18

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Pros:

  • Replaceable battery
  • Quick release mount
  • Has optional diffusers
  • Can add a second ring light

Quick On/Off, Adjustable.

Using macro photography equipment allows you to to focus on smaller objects in the home, like skin cells, articles of clothing, or even the landscape found in your kitchen. For most people, however, the biggest appeal is that you can take selfies of yourself taken at a close range, allowing you to capture images of yourself that you’ve never been able to get before.

The Nissin MF-18 ring flash adapts to camera lens threads, but many photographers get about the same results by using a flat white board or cardboard. Use the built-in calibrator and focus adjustment dial to get the exact brightness and control you need. With this set, you’ll be able to shoot images of items that are only a few inches big from a range of 3.9 inches.

6. Nikon R1 Wireless Close-Up Speedlight System

Our rating: 7 / 10

Nikon R1 Wireless Close-Up Speedlight System

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Pros:

  • 1080p HD Video
  • Easy to use
  • Lightweight
  • Compact
  • Versatile

Nikon R1 Wireless Close-Up Speedlight System is a product I don’t see offered too much on the market at the moment. However, it does do what it is advertised to do, and that’s to get in as close as possible to take incredible close-up pictures.

It comes in a small, compact package that’s not meant to be that bulky or intrusive in the first place. You can easily put it in your regular camera bag. It comes with a receiver attachment, so you can mount it on the hot shoe on your camera and start shooting away with close-up photographs.

The separate flash that you get with the package is set up in front of the receiver so that it can take the close-ups from a distance. It was made to have a wireless range of up to ten meters, or about thirty-three feet for you Americans out there.

7. Aputure Amaran AHL-H100 Halo LED Light

Our rating: 5 / 10

Aputure Amaran AHL-H100 Halo LED Light

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Pros:

  • Great value for money
  • Small form factor, works well with compact camera
  • Greater efficiency and reliability than non-tungsten lights
  • New sensor enables the lights to fire up to 40% brighter than previous models
  • Tungsten lights are far less expensive than LED equivalents
  • Ideal for close-up photography and product photography
  • Include a wireless controller that allows you to control the brightness in 16 shades
  • You can also use these lights with a dimmer to control brightness even further
  • They include a gel shield to protect your camera from the hot lights
  • Five-year warranty

Cons:

  • New models don’t allow you to adjust color temperature
  • The batteries take a long time to charge
  • The wireless controller can be affected by radio frequency interference, which is why Aputure includes a wired remote
  • The cords are generally shorter than other photography lights

It’s difficult to recommend the Aputure mods over standard fluorescent fixtures. If you’re only shooting one or two subjects at a time, fluorescent lights may suit you just fine. If you do decide to go with the Aputure mods, there are a few things to keep in mind.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What accessory technique can be used for close up photography?

There is one unique photographic accessory that can be used to taking beautiful close-up images. This accessory is called a diopter ring.

To understand why it is helpful to use a diopter ring, photographer Justin Mottle explains its usefulness as a macro photography accessory:

What are some tips you can use when taking close up photos or macro photography?

It all comes down to light when photographing small objects like insects or flowers. Avoid bright sunlight as much as possible, as it can ruin the sharpness of your photo. If you're shooting outdoors, try moving your subject under some nearby shade. The grass or surrounding leaves will create a soft light for your object, if you can find a good location. You can also try using reflectors and diffusers.

How do you make a close up macro shot?

There’s not one right way to take macro photos. These requirements are a combination of those shared by photographers at the forefront of the practice. The first step is to get the lens as close as possible to your subject. Keeping the subject in the middle of the frame is key to a compelling image. With that said, some of the best shots are taken with the subject as close as possible to the side of the frame.

What is the best aperture for macro photography?

For a great photo, it’s always best to shoot at the longest possible focal length combined with the highest possible aperture. This means that you’ll be able to shoot at a much higher magnification ration (that is, how close of an image you can take).

If your lens doesn’t have a nicest aperture, then you could end up with a photo that’s blurry because of excessive hand shake. To get around this, you can use a lens with a higher aperture, such as f/2.8, but most lenses with this aperture are expensive and heavier. If your lens can go as wide as possible f/1.8 or f/2, that will help you to capture a sharp photo while using lower magnifications.

Conclusion

Our main objective in writing this piece is to guide the beginner macro photographer in the right direction. There are plenty of choices for equipment out there, and it can be confusing, so we hope to help you narrow down your choices to the best gear for the job. Though we’ve discussed all the equipment that a beginner would likely need, we have tried to emphasize the importance of getting better gear as your skills improve.

Our Recommendation

NameCategoryProduct
Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM Macro LensBest OverallCanon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM Macro Lens
Nissin Macro Ring Flash MF 18Budget PickNissin Macro Ring Flash MF 18
Canon EOS 5D Mark III 22.3 MP Full Frame CMOSUpgrade PickCanon EOS 5D Mark III 22.3 MP Full Frame CMOS