Questions about macro photography - Nikon D40

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by pageerror404, Jan 8, 2010.

  1. pageerror404 macrumors newbie

    Jan 8, 2010
    I have owned my DSLR for about 4 months now and I have really developed a passion for photography. I have dedicated the time to learn my way around the camera and the basics of shutter speed, aperture, iso etc. What I really want to do now is take some great macro photos. I need to know what sort of equipment is needed.

    I don't have a tremendous amount of money to spend on an expensive macro lens, but could maybe swing for a cheaper one. I am prepared to buy an external flash and less-expensive accessories I might need.

    I have been sweeping through the internet and have heard of people using extension tubes or reversing their lenses. How does your photo differ with these techniques as opposed to using a dedicated macro lens?

    I own a tripod and know how useful it is, but is there a special type of tripod or head that I need for macro photography?

    Your help would be greatly appreciated.
  2. Designer Dale macrumors 68040

    Designer Dale

    Mar 25, 2009
    Folding space
    Great shots need great lenses. There is no substitute for good glass, whether it be portrait, landscape or macro. You don't need an L class lens, but you do need to spend $500-$600. Tamron makes good lenses in Nikon mount. Sigma has low prices, but they have quality issues in production.

    One thing to know about macro is that there are two basic kinda of lenses. The best are 1:1, meaning that the subject is full size on the sensor. The other are 2:1 (I may have that backwards). The subject is 1/2 full size.

    Since macro shots tend to be low angle work, the best tripod is one that will extend the legs out close to horizontal to the ground. Some have slots that allow the extension tube- that thing that slides up and down -to be horizontal to the ground. You take it out and slide it through an auxiliary slot.

    A good tripod is like a good lens. You get what you pay for. Manfrotto has good ones running from $200 up. Way up...:(

    Don't sweat the tripod now. Work on the right lens for what you want to do.

  3. flosseR macrumors 6502a


    Jan 1, 2009
    the cold dark north
    Macro.. yay!!

    Ok, as a Macro enthusiast myself, I can speak from experience. Tubes, reversing etc. they just don't stack up against a true macro lens. Yes you CAN get amazing results with these techniques but YES they ARE cumbersome and complex.
    Yes true macro lenses are costly but man they are fun to use and deliver results much better/easier.

    Only few things you WILL need for your Macro stuff.
    1- a tripod that is sturdy and stable
    2- a macro lens more on this later
    3- a remote release
    4- a LOT of patience and creativity

    Now, the tripod, remote release etc. can be obtained. The Lens is needed. I suggest you get one of the longer ones, 105mm or 90mm.
    Here is the thing, for good macro photography you will want to focus manually.. ALWAYS. This matters as you shoot a D40, no built in motor. However, this is also to your advantage. I used to own a Sigma 105mm 1:1 f2.8 but I have used a Tamron 90mm f2.8 as well, both superb optically. I can recommend both and they are fairly cheap to get second hand. Cheaper than the nikon 105mm f2.8 any way.

    Now, why you dont want to go with tubes or reversing. Ell you loose some or all other functionality of your lens during that time. tubes kill your infinity focus and with each mm of tube you add, you have to go closer to the subject. This is a problem as you will end up CLOSE to anything you want to shoot.

    Second, a good macro lens is also a great portrait lens as it is a nice open aperture and optically very nice.

    Lastly, don't worry about the auto focus not working on your D40, you don't want to autofocus in MAcro, because mostly the AF will hunt (the nikkor 105mm included and the Canon 100mm as well, i have had both and both hunt in macro).
    I am including a few shots from my Macro shots with the Sigma.While they are not GREAT, they show what is possible. The Wasp or fly, was shot handheld, the grasshopper is about 6mm long in reality as you can see by the grooves of my finger in the shot.

    Once you have a lens (even a shorter Sigma 70mm will do for the beginning), start experimenting and practicing. You will work with VERY thin depth of field so a lot of times your subject will get out of focus fast.

    My 2c, for what its worth.


    Attached Files:

  4. toxic macrumors 68000

    Nov 9, 2008
    the only Nikon macro (micro) lens I'm aware of is the 105 VR. dunno how much that costs, but if it's out of your price range, there are plenty of options from Tamron and Sigma. if you are serious about macro, it is a lot more convenient and sensible to use a true macro lens rather than extension tubes.

    you will need a good tripod, a rail, and eventually some sort of flash (you can get by without this in good light). the cheapest way is probably to use a normal flash and put it on light stand, but then you'll have to adjust two stands (camera + flash) before every shot. the usual way is to use a ringflash. if you start getting really serious about the quality of your macro, you'll eventually get some fancier flash, like the Canon MT-24EX Twin Lite (but for Nikon).
  5. flosseR macrumors 6502a


    Jan 1, 2009
    the cold dark north
    nikon Also makes a 85mm f3.5 VR nowadays but yea, no clue about the price... I would go as cheap as possible but as good as possible ...for starters.

  6. kreuzberg macrumors member

    Apr 23, 2009
    A cheaper possible alternative would be to get an older 35mm film camera lens and use an adapter. One of the best macro lenses ever is the Tokina 90/2.5 as it has 15 aperture blade for amazing bokeh and is extremely sharp and bright. These can be found for about $200 and when mounted to your camera would give the equivalent of a 145/2.5 lens
  7. carlgo macrumors 68000

    Dec 29, 2006
    Monterey CA
    There are nice used Nikon lenses. You don't care if they are auto focus, VR, etc. so an older one is not a big handicap. I use an old micro 55 mm on my D40, but a longer one like a 105 or 200 would be better.

    Remember that macro (micro) lenses are great at regular photography, so they are not specialized. Of course, for regular day in and day out photography the more modern auto lenses are more convenient.
  8. H2Ockey macrumors regular

    Aug 25, 2008
    I think everything said so far is great advice, and to the extent of my knowledge I agree completely.
    So far I do not have a true Macro lense but have been looking some. I didn't know about the Tonika 90, thanks for that. From everything i've read the Sigma 105 have had some build issues with some batches and lemons are out there, but the good ones rival any similar lense from any manufacturer.

    I have been using extension tubes with a 24-85mm lens that has a "macro" setting, basically the ability to focus a bit closer and claims 1:2 ratio (rather than 2:1 Dale;) ) Anyway the particular extension tubes I have do allow auto focus and metering, which I've almost never used but the few times I've needed the auto focus it was nice. One down side is, in order to get a 1:2 lens to 1:1 with exthension tubes you need the same/equivelant mm. Basically that means a pretty long and bulky length between camera and lens which also reduces stability of the lens.

    As far as tripods go, whether it be by legs that will splay out to be flat or have a middle stem (is that the correct term?) that you can mount upside down, which is what I have, you will find a lot of macro shooting is done at a very low to ground level so being able to get the camera down there is important.
  9. JBmac macrumors member


    May 19, 2008
    Eastern, PA
    Lensbaby macros

    Take a look at the Lensbaby, at . They have a macro kit available for use with their lenses. I've used it with a Nikon D40x. It might be something for you to start out with...
  10. John.B macrumors 601


    Jan 15, 2008
    Holocene Epoch
    Although I've branched out, macro is still my photographic raison d'être.

    General thoughts:

    Some lenses claim to be macro, but only do close-up. Which may be good enough for botanicals (flowers) or possibly product pics, but maybe not for bugs, etc. Canon's EF 24-70mm L, for example, has a "macro" range but its max magnification is only 0.29x (vs. 1:1 like a true macro/micro lens). Semantics aside, close-up is actually what a lot of people want when they say macro. If botanicals are what trips your trigger, a macro lens may not even be necessary as long as you have glass that has a reasonable minimum working distance, maximum magnification, and reasonable sharpness.

    Speaking of which, dedicated macro/micro lenses are the ultimate solution if you really want to see the detail in the compound eye of a bee or demand seriously sharp closeups. This is really the best solution if you can afford it, and if you find you regularly shoot in the 1:2 (0.5x) to 1:1 (1x) range. The 100mm/105mm macro lenses give you about double the working distance (around a foot from end of the lens to your subject) at 1:1 vs. a 50mm/60mm. There are even longer macro/micro lenses in the 150mm/180mm/200mm range that will give you even more working distance but that distance starts to work against you with those razor thin DOFs; you'll eventually want some sort of ring light or closeup light (I don't know which one is compatible with your D40). And a decent tripod that will get really low or let you hang your camera horizontally or upside down. If your camera doesn't support live view with magnification for focusing, your job will be much harder.

    Two other solutions for macro/closeup work:

    Extension tubes are basically tubes with electronic connections in the tube and air in the middle. Yes, in the bargain for shorter focusing distance you lose infinity focus, but infinity focus support is what makes true 1:1 macro lenses hunt; it's not needed when you are focusing on a dragonfly. The other useful thing about extension tubes is that they are temporary, easy to remove when you are done with them. Extension tubes are most useful for primes and zooms with shorter focal lengths; that Canon 24-70mm L that I mentioned above can move into true macro range with a 25mm or 30mm extension tube. N.B. For some reason the Nikon extension tubes don't have built-in contacts to enable autofocus; if you have a D40 that may not matter. Otherwise the tubes from Canon or Benko (Nikon or Canon) will support AF, etc.

    Diopters are basically clear filters that have additional magnification instead polarizing or UV filters. Canon's 500D Close-up Lens is appropriate for longer focal lengths, say, in the 70mm to 200mm range. (I have no idea why this has the same name as the international name for the T1i, I doubt anyone at Canon knows.) At $100-$150, these can be a great solution for people who only occasionally shoot macro. The main problem with these is that they mount like a filter at the end of the lens, which causes the normal filter sizing issues you have with an other (ND, polarizing, UV) filter: the 72mm version is going to need help to mount on 77mm threads, and vice versa. If you shoot Nikon, don't stress that this is a Canon product because the filter thread pitch is identical for both types of lenses. (I saw a Nikon version once at a botanical garden shoot, but was told that it was a relic as Nikon had stopped making them years ago.)


    Years ago I used bellows or reversed a wide angle lens, but no more. Extension tubes are just too cheap and easy to use to bother with bellows, and reversing lenses is asking for dust in your lens (ask me how I know).

    Also, Canon has an extreme macro manual focus 5:1 (5x) lens, but that won't work with your D40, and its a fussy beast that requires a special focusing rails on a tripod as the lens has no focusing element of it's own. Though if you want the whole frame filled with just the point of a pencil or grain of rice or a part of a bug's eye, that's the only game in town. Ultra fidgety and not the place to start. ;)

    This got more longwinded than I intended, but the gist is that extension tubes from Benko for your shorter Nikon lenses even a 50mm, and a tripod with a center column that will go horizontal or even upside down, is probably where I'd start if I only had limited dollars to spend and wanted to get into macro or closeup photography. Or a diopter if I had a good 70-200mm zoom to work with.
  11. John.B macrumors 601


    Jan 15, 2008
    Holocene Epoch
    Another approach...

    This guy went really low budget and used a Pringle's can, a lens cap and body cap, a Dremel, and some epoxy to create an extension tube for a 50mm f/1.8 for basically no money. Caveat: Don't try this at home (or at least don't blame me if you get bits of Pringle's crumbs on your sensor. :eek:)
  12. Westside guy macrumors 603

    Westside guy

    Oct 15, 2003
    The soggy side of the Pacific NW
    Thom Hogan, at the end of his review of the Nikon 105mm, also reviews the Tamron 90mm that was mentioned earlier in this thread. It certainly sounds like a very nice lens.

    I purchased a used 70-180mm Micro-Nikkor, which I like a lot... but it is quite expensive, plus it can be hard to find.

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