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.