Which DSLR (Body) Is The Best For Macro Photography?

*updated 8 December 2016. Nothing much has changed in the Nikon lineup. We have a new winner for Canon. 

Choosing your first DSLR can be a daunting task, particularly for a beginner who has just taken his first few baby steps into the world of photography. This task becomes much more of a nightmare when you are considering a DSLR for Macro Photography, a genre that is quite different from the usual niches. I have recently written an article on the various aspects to consider when choosing a DSLR body for Macro Photography which might be useful to newcomers (Link here: Five Aspects In Choosing The Best DSLR For Macro Photography). The information there were mostly factual and didn’t really get into actual DSLR models available in the market. This article today is written, and occasionally updated, to fill in that gap. Hopefully the information here would help those who are interested, particularly beginners in selecting their Macro DSLR.

Choosing a DSLR

A DSLR for Macro Photography may require features different than those needed in normal photography.

A DSLR or mirrorless camera for “general” photography may not exactly be suitable for Macro Photography, so it is important to understand some of the technical specifications or features of some DSLRs so that you don’t making the wrong choice. Choosing a DSLR for Macro Photography depends on your budget and shooting style. Also, you don’t really need the highest-end DSLR bodies to take great Macro Shots, as skill and knowledge are more important at the end of the day!

Metallic Jewel Bugs (Scutelleridae) gathering

Even if you have gotten a great DSLR and lens for Macro Photography, learning will still be slow if there is no community to help, guide and encourage you along the way.

Alright, before I start, I would like to mention that I will only be suggesting Canon and Nikon DSLR lineups. These two brands are usually the ones to go for in Macro Photography regardless of whether you are a beginner, enthusiast or professional. I’m sure you already know that Canon and Nikon are the largest brands in the photography world, offering a dizzying array of lenses and accessories. The user communities are equally large, meaning that you will likely receive better and faster support that other brands. Not sure whether to choose Canon or Nikon for Macro Photography? Please stay tune for an upcoming article here at Pixels Dimension!   As stated in the previous article (Five Aspects In Choosing The Best DSLR For Macro Photography), a good DSLR body should have:      

 

        •  A good sensor. The bigger the sensor, the better the images. But the bigger the sensor, the more expensive the DSLR. Another article will be written to discuss whether an APS-C or FF DSLR is better for Macro Photography, so please stay tune for that one! 

 

 

 

        • High Megapixel (MP) counts. Higher MP counts will provide more details when paired with a good sensor- suitable for cropping in Macro Photography. The higher the MP count, the better the DSLR for Macro Photography.

 

 

 

        • Size, weight, ergonomics and ease-of-use. A light-weight and small DSLR will be less tiring to carry and operate, but will generally have more crowded or smaller buttons and grips that affect comfort.

 

 

 

        • Weather sealing. A DSLR with weather sealing can tolerate rough weather every once in a while, but this feature is generally limited to semi-pro to professional level DSLR bodies, which can be relatively expensive.

 

 

 

        • Available accessories. Almost all camera brands offer the standard range of macro lenses (i.e. 50-60mm and 90-105mm) which are capable of going up to 1:1 magnification (Read HERE for more details) as standard. Additional accessories e.g. reverse rings, extension tubes or macro clip-on lenses are typically required to go beyond 1:1. So far, only Canon offers a specialized MPE-65 lens that can shoot up to 5x magnification- one of a kind. Most Macro Photographers are happy with 1-3x magnification, but if you need that 5x magnification, then no doubt Canon is the brand you should choose.

 

 

Canon MP-E-65mm

If you love to get really up-close to your subjects, then you must stick to Canon since it is currently the only brand that offers the Godly Canon MPE-65 capable of up to 5x magnification! Its not cheap though.

  Okay, with that summary, now is the time to nominate the DSLRs best suited for Macro Photography! THE WINNERS ARE (as of Dec 2016):    

Canon 750D (~RM3000, 22.3mm x 14.9mm CMOS sensor, 24MP)

A 750D is the best DSLR body for Macro Photography from Canon, offering a great balance between portability, performance and price! 

 


Nikon D7200 (~RM3500, 23.5mm x 15.6mm CMOS sensor, 24.1MP, weather-sealed) 

A D7200 is the best DSLR body for Macro Photography from Nikon, offering a great balance between portability, performance and price! it is weather-sealed too! 

We have a new winner for Canon- The EOS 750D (which toppled the previous EOS 70D). Although the 750D is less ergonomic and has a slightly smaller sensor than the 70D, it takes images with higher megapixels (24MP), and is a lot more affordable. The 750D also sports newer technology that can rival or even out-compete the older 70D in terms of dynamic range and image quality.

As the older Nikon D7100 is almost phased out, the newer D7200 is now selected as the winner for Nikon. As a semi-pro model, the D7200 offers great performance, ergonomics, reliability and craftsmanship. It is also weather-sealed (not available in the 750D), which is often an important feat for macrographers. 

Both the Canon 750D and Nikon D7200 are also balanced in terms of weight and size, thus offering a comfortable compromise in between portability and ergonomics. Not to mention you get ~1.5-1.6x “free” magnification since these are crop-sensors!   Among the two DSLRs, the Nikon is obviously better for Macro Photography in many ways due to the larger sensor, ergonomics, reliability, weather-sealing etc. The results will be apparent when the D7200 is paired with a  sharp lens. The greater amount of details you get in your shots will be beneficial in Macro Photography where shots are usually cropped.  

 


  What if these are too expensive? (Budget <RM3000)  Not everyone has the money to splurge on DSLR systems like the ones above. Fret not, for there are still great DSLR bodies for Macro Photography available at a more affordable price! 

Canon60D, 600D, 700D (~RM2000-RM2400)

Canon 60D

I would opt for the Canon 60D if I could locate one, simply because it has better button layout and controls, which make it more efficient to use as compared to the entry-level 600D and 700D.

 

NikonD5200, D5300, D5500, D5600, D3300, D3400 (~RM1500-RM3000)

Nikon D5300

I would pick the Nikon D5300 as my 2nd choice. The larger screen, longer battery life and the slightly better sensor performance makes it a viable choice for macro.

 

You will likely be looking at entry-level DSLRs for a budget of RM3000 or less. These DSLRs are designed for beginners and will often have less dials and buttons, which may be a drawback when your are out in the field. Entry-level DSLRs are typically less reliable than higher-end models. However, these DSLRs are often equipped with the same sensor found in semi-pro bodies, which means that you do not have to compromise on image quality. 

For Canon, go for the 60D if you need better ergonomics. The 600D, 650D, 700D are generally similar, so just choose the one you like and can afford the most. All these DSLRs come with a 18MP sensor.

The Nikon D5300/5500/5600 is basically a cheaper and non-weather-sealed variant of the D7100/7200 and is brilliant. The performance difference between the D5300/D5500/D5600 and D3300/D3400 are not really significant and thus not worth the extra money. Whether to choose the D5xxx series or D3xxx series depends on your budget, and whether you need the tiltable screen.

As of now, Nikon’s entry-level DSLRs are much better than those of Canon, mainly because of the larger sensor as well as newer technology offered for the same amount of price.  


What if these are too cheap? (Budget >RM5000)   Some people may find the semi-pro APS-C DSLRs less ideal and rather jump straight onto the Full Frame (FF) bandwagon- this is understandable as you may actually save more money and time going for a FF system directly instead of getting an APS-C (DX) system first (and then make the change later). This is because FF/DX lenses may be different or incompatible with different bodies. Undoubtedly, FF DSLRs will certainly offer better image quality due to the significantly larger sensor; and considering that they are getting more affordable now (compared to the last few decades), FF machines are certainly worth getting if you have deep pockets, and of course, a fiery passion in photography. The best thing about FF DSLRs is the limited options, thus the DSLR you choose is usually limited to the one that you can afford.  

  • Canon– The new EOS 5DS which features an insane 50.6MP resolution is perfect for Macrography, provided  you can afford one@RM15,999. The EOS 5DS, coupled with an MPE65, will make the ideal setup for extreme macrography.
eos-5ds-b1

Fullframe (FF) Awesomeness! The new Canon EOS 5DS comes with an amazing resolution count of 50.6MP, giving you a lot of room for cropping. This feature alone will greatly improve the overall quality of your macro shots. 

  • Nikon– Definitely the D810 (outweighs even 2nd hand D800/D800E), otherwise D750 followed by D610.
Nikon D810

The high Megapixel (MP) count and great dynamic range of the Nikon’s D8xx series will certainly be useful to produce great macro photos.  

 

In terms of DSLR body performance alone; whether to choose the Canon 5DS or Nikon D810 for macrography depends on whether you prefer higher megapixel for cropping (5DS), or better dynamic range and image quality (D810). Of course, both DSLR bodies are very high-end and will likely be able to produce amazing results with the right setup and lighting. 


Well I guess that’s all for now~   I hope this article will help beginners or enthusiasts find the DSLR they need for Macro Photography! Of course, the models will change from time to time, and I will try and update this page whenever possible~ 

White-Lipped Frog- Hylarana cf. labialis

Once you have got your DSLR and macro accessories, it is time to start shooting and become a true Macro Photographer!

Please feel free to ask if you still have any trouble deciding which DSLR to get for your Macro Work!

Until the next time, have a nice day!

** Prices quoted in this article are current market prices of available DSLR models as of 1st Dec 2016 and for reference only. Fluctuation in price is expected. 

** The opinions and suggestions of this article are the author’s own. Nope, I don’t get sponsored by anyone to write anything (which is kind of sad T__T) 

5 Aspects In Choosing The Best DSLR (Body) For Macro Photography

Now this is an interesting article I have longed to write for some time. I apologize for taking so long to write such a beginner-level article; I had some problems finding a new Crop Sensor (APS-C) DSLR for the article (I have no friends :p). In the end I got hold of my old Nikon D90 from a friend just to write this XD

APS-C vs. Full Frame

An APS-C (Left- Nikon D90) and Full Frame (Right- Nikon D800) DSLR cameras. Choosing a DSLR for Macro Work can be very simple if you know what you want and need.

Most people purchase a DSLR because they are fascinated by the detail, colour, and of course, the bokeh it can produce. Most of us then use the DSLR to take casual photographs. I, for one, bought one just to photograph my soon-to-be wife LOL XD So far I have not met anyone who has gotten his or her first DSLR just to shoot Macro. That said, knowing some important features or criteria for a good Macro DSLR body will definitely help you in choosing your DSLR, especially so if you have intentions to try out some Macro!

Tze Wei 2

Yeahhh… I actually bought a DSLR to photograph my lovely girlfriend who is now my fiancée hehe XD I never ever realized I would be so into Macro Photography~

Aesthetics, budget and brand loyalty aside, there are five features of great importance when choosing a good DSLR for Macro Photography, as follows:

1. Camera shooting format (Crop Sensor or Full Frame)-

DSLR cameras are generally divided into two different formats- Full Frame DSLR and Crop Sensor DSLR. Full frame DSLR cameras employ a sensor (that converts what you see into a digital image) the size of a conventional 35mm (sensor size) film camera, whereas Crop Sensor DSLRs use relatively smaller sensor sizes called APS-C. In general, larger sensors produce better details, low light performance and colour dynamic range, but come with a heftier price tag vice versa.

Full Frame

Owning a Full Frame DSLR is every photographer’s dream as it offers better image quality and details, better noise and low-light performance, greater dynamic range as well as good ergonomics, among many others.

However, there is sort of a catch here: DSLR with Crop Sensors (APS-C) shoots photographs at a magnification of 1.5-1.6 times more than a Full Frame DSLR, regardless of the respective lenses you use for both bodies. The higher magnification acts like a double-edge sword, you get higher magnification, but at the expense of susceptibility to handshakes (which can be reduced with practice).

2. MegaPixel (MP) count-

MegaPixels (MP) of a camera basically refers to the quantity of the tiniest basic element of the image i.e. Pixel (which is sort of a small square). All these pixels constitute the final image that we see. The higher the MP count of a camera, the more details you can get when you enlarge your images (up to 100%), provided the camera sensor is large enough to take in the details (all DSLRs are fine). By taking advantage of a DSLR’s high MP counts, you could crop your photos whilst still keeping the details of subjects- sort of like taking a photograph using higher magnification in the first place. Definitely a handy feature!

3. Size, weight, ergonomics and accessibility-

The ergonomics of your DSLR will decide whether you capture that rare moment or not, and this depends largely on the dimension and weight of your DSLR, and of course, its ease of use. In general, smaller and lighter DSLR bodies are better for Macro Photography, since you can hike and move faster, and you can even operate your Macro System singled-handedly if its light enough.

Lightweight Macro Machine

Size and weight matters when it comes to a Macro-capable DSLR. The smaller and lighter it is, the faster and more efficient you travel, hike and photograph.

Many of the mainstream DSLR bodies, be it APS-C or Full Frame ones, are rather lightweight. However, a decent Macro Rig seldom consist only of a DSLR body and a lens; check out some of my best Macro Rigs and you will get what I mean: My Macro Setup. After every Macro accessory is added to your DSLR rig, even a decently light DSLR can become really heavy, so it is important to choose wisely a DSLR body and a Macro setup that suit you.

Macro Setup- Mark III

A Macro Setup can get real heavy and complicated, real quick! It is therefore best to look for gears or components that satisfy your expectations in price, performance and portability.

Ergonomics basically refers to the design of the DSLR and whether it is comfortable enough for you to use, even for prolonged periods of time. DSLRs, unlike mirrorless and Point-and-Shoot cameras, are designed and built with ergonomics in mind, so most are decent enough. However, larger DSLR bodies tend to have better grip, comfort and control.

Complications

Enthusiast and professional-level DSLRs may be very daunting at first sight due to the vast numbers of buttons and dials, they are a lot faster and efficient to operate, and may just get you that rare capture when the time comes. These DSLRs are of course, a lot more ergonomic as well for prolonged usage.

DSLRs with good button and dial layouts are more efficient Macro cameras since you can switch to desired settings a lot faster. In general, compact and light DSLRs have fewer dials and buttons vice versa. Switching of camera settings become very crucial especially when you are switching in between Macro shots using flash to shots using Natural Lighting; subjects won’t wait.

4. Weather sealing-

A weather-sealed DSLR body or lens can withstand water or moisture if you get stuck in the rain during your Macro sessions, or if you simply want to continue shooting as the rain pours. However, weather sealing doesn’t mean that it is water proof- immersing your DSLR in water will still spoil it :p For casual Macro Photographers, it is okay to not have weather-sealed equipment since most do not shoot in very isolated places with little to no shade. However, enthusiasts and professionals who often hike and journey into treacherous forests and terrain should consider weather-sealed gears.

Hummingbird

Having weather-sealed Macro Gears mean you can keep on shooting even if it drizzles or rain. Took this shot of a hummingbird hiding from the rain.

*Tip: You could always invest in a waterproof bag, which is a lot cheaper than getting weather-sealed DSLRs, lenses and accessories.

5. Available accessories-

The accessories available for Macro Photography is not as diverse as those of other genres of photography., mostly because Macro Photography is not as popular. Deciding which brand of DSLR to buy for Macro Photography is simple, and depends very much on how serious you are in this field, and of course, the type of Macro you intend to photograph.

The most basic macro startup kits

Most of the lenses and accessories for Macro are pretty standard, apart from a few that really stand out from the rest.

Although every brand offers the same type of macro lenses which are more or less similar in terms of performances (i.e. 50mm F2.8; 60mm F2.6; 100mm F2.8 etc.), Canon and Nikon still top the list because of more unique gears that might better your Macro experiences. Canon, committed to show consumers that they don’t only design and built lenses for money, offers the legendary Canon MPE65 macro lens capable of 1x and 5x magnification, which is the only one of its kind in the world. Nikon, more luck than intentional, has the behemoth Nikon D800 series DSLR with medium-format-like 36.3 MegaPixels (MP) counts that aid a lot in crop potential.

So, if you are a professional or enthusiast of Macro Photography, the choice is pretty simple: if you fancy photographing subjects at extreme magnifications (which of course, need you to hurt or kill the subject in the process), a Canon DSLR is the one to go for, followed by the acquisition of the Canon MPE65 lens. It will hurt your wallet, but it is one of the best setup there is to date. Just make sure the DSLR body follows the other aspects mentioned above.

Scholastes Fly

Extreme close-up of a Signal Fly. Since I do not own a Canon nor a Canon MPE65, this is pretty much the higher magnification plus crop I could go with my Macro gears at that time. Those with the right equipment and accessories could of course, get a lot closer!

Okaaaaaay! I am going to stop right here to keep the article short (just lazy to be honest :p). I will cover examples of DSLR models to buy from each common brand in Malaysia which will hopefully help those who are interested in getting one for Macro Photography. Of course, I will also cover the long debate on whether Full Frame or Crop Sensor DSLRs are better for Macro Photography~

Until the next article, please take care and Happy Macro-ing!

** I apologize for not being able to show any Canon gears in this article since I do not have access to them, will update again when I have some.

** All photos in this website are taken and owned by me. The use of any photos here is not allowed without my permission.