Macro Photography: Raynox-150 vs Raynox-250

If you have read the articles in Pixelsdimension right from the start, you would’ve noticed that the Raynox-250 had been mentioned quite a number of times, particularly in Getting Your First Macro Camera. This Raynox-250 is essentially a Macro Conversion Lens (MCL) which, when clipped on, drastically increase the magnification of your lens (2.5x to be precise). There are many benefits to using a MCL, and the Raynox-250 is by far the most popular in Malaysia- People will always recommend this model, and most would just follow the advice. Like many others I started off with a Raynox-250.

Signal Fly

This Signal Fly was taken with a Raynox Macro Conversion Lens, a versatile macro accessory that is often present in a Macro Enthusiast’s arsenal.

It is not until my recent discussion with a famous Macro Photographer that I noticed that there are other suitable and practical MCL for Macrography, notably the Raynox-150. The Raynox-150, as you might have guessed, is the little brother of the Raynox-250, providing slightly less magnification (at 1.5x) but with a slightly farther working distance. This particular article aims to enlighten beginners or enthusiasts about the performances of Raynox-150 and Raynox-250, allowing them to select the MCL more suited to their style of photography.

Raynox-150 vs Raynox-250

Brothers. The very popular Raynox-250, and its neglected brother, the Raynox-150. Which one do you need?

After learning a bit more about the Raynox-150, I have decided to buy one and try it since it suits my way of taking natural, wildlife photos. A brief surf of the internet quickly revealed that there was pretty much only one store selling this particular lens, and at a hefty price too! So if you are keen on purchasing this MCL after reading this article, you might want to consider importing one from overseas, which will likely be cheaper. The prices of the Raynox-150 and Raynox-250 are quite close at ~RM250-300.

In terms of specifications, both the Raynox-150 and -250 have a front mount diameter of 49mm, and a rear mount diameter of 43mm (and comes with a clip-on universal mount suitable for lenses with diameter of 52-67mm). The Raynox-150 (1.5x magnification) is only very slightly lighter than the Raynox-250 (2.5x magnification).

Raynox-150 vs Raynox-250

Both the Raynox-150 and -250 are made in Japan, and look very similar to one another, even when it comes to pricing! Sorry for the dirty lenses, both have seen quite a fair bit of action in the wilderness XD

The following are some sample shots using a Raynox-150/250 on a Nikkor 105mm F2.8 lens mounted on a Nikon D800 for comparison. Shots were taken at a fixed settings of ISO100, F16, 1/250, 105mm, flash fired at full power (with diffuser). All photos are unedited and not cropped; the maximum and minimum distances of each MCL were also roughly measured. However, due to slow internet and limited quota, I am uploading the resized versions. For those who are interested in the original files, please feel free to email me at jtan@utar.edu.my.

Raynox-150 performance

Unedited photo showing [Top] the maximum possible distance (minimum magnification) and [Bottom] the minimum possible distance (maximum magnification) of the Raynox-150.

Raynox-250 preformance

Unedited photo showing [Top] the maximum possible distance (minimum magnification) and [Bottom] the minimum possible distance (maximum magnification) of the Raynox-250.

Here are the rough measurements:

Raynox-150:

The maximum focusing distance (minimum magnification) is 22cm; the minimum focusing distance (maximum magnification) is 12.5cm.

Raynox-250:

The maximum focusing distance (minimum magnification) is 13cm; the minimum focusing distance (maximum magnification) is 8cm.

* Please take note that these measurements were obtained on a 105mm macro lens, and a Full-frame (FF) Nikon D800. On a Crop-Sensor (APS-C) DSLR with the same lens, the distance will be slightly farther. Learn more about the difference between Crop-Sensor and FF DSLRs in Choosing the Best DSLR for Macro Photography.


Of course, all these numbers do not mean much when out in the field, it all depends on what you are shooting. If you are photographing a very tiny subject, say <1cm, the Raynox-250 will really come in handy as it offers enough magnification for a great shot. However, if you are photographing subjects that are larger than 1cm (which many insects are), the Raynox-250 would not be able to fit the entire subject into the frame since you can only “zoom out” that much (~13cm). Even if you manage to “squeeze” the entire subject (say <2cm) into the shot, due to the shallow Depth-of-Field (DOF) [Learn more about DOF HERE], your shot will not turn out well either, especially if you are shooting at poor angles. The Raynox-150, on the other hand allows you more versatility when it comes to photographing larger insects (due to the large focusing range of 12.5-22cm), although it doesn’t offer as much magnification as its counterpart; sometimes it can be a good thing.

Shallow DOF

Taking a single shot at the highest magnification possible will not always give you the best results, particularly so if your subject is large in size. This shot was taken with a Raynox-250. I took this shot focusing on the eyes of the bug. Even though I wasn’t shooting at highest magnification, you can easily see that part of the bug (red circle) is already out of focus (OOF). So if you were to get closer, the OOF parts will become more apparent, even to the point that it ruins your shot.

Most beginners in Macro Photography will always opt for Macro Systems with the highest magnifications (I use to do this as well XD), which is why Raynox-250 is so popular. However, in many cases the Raynox-250 is often shelved because of its limited usability i.e. close focusing distance and shallow DOF. This is when the Raynox-150 might perform better, depending on the shooting style of the Macro Enthusiast.

Raynox-150 vs Raynox-250

Getting the Macro Conversion Lens that offers the highest magnification could turn out to be a double-edge sword. It is best to understand your style of shooting before making the pick.

It is not really difficult to determine whether the Raynox-150 or -250 suits you better. Just have a look at your previous Macro photos. Do you usually photograph large or tiny organisms? For the former, go for the Raynox-150, and for the latter, the Raynox-250. Simple as that.

Heavy Jumper- Hyllus diardi ♀

A Hyllus diardi heavy jumper. If you love to shoot tiny subjects of ~1cm or less, then the Raynox-250 would certainly suit you better. However, you are going to have to learn to cope with the limited working distance, which can be challenging to focus on a moving subject.

I hope you find this short article useful, especially to those who are looking to try out Raynox MCL lenses. For those who are currently using Extension Tubes and are wondering why you should upgrade to MCL lenses, please read Long Term Review: Extension Tubes vs. Macro Conversion Lens.

Until then, thank you and have a pleasant day ahead guys!

How Good Is Your Flash Diffuser?

After shooting macro for around 2 years, I have noticed that there are quite a lot of things that I do not know, and many skills that I have yet to grasp. However, there is one thing that I am absolutely certain- You need to use flash if you truly want to master Macro. Not sure why? Please read Using Flash In Macro Photography for more details.

Pancorius cf. magnus ♀

Lighting is the most important aspect of Macro Photography. Great lighting can be achieved using a good flash coupled with a great diffuser.

 

 

Those who are into Macro Photography for some time will notice eventually that simply blasting your subjects with super bright flash will not give you great results, simply because the lights are too harsh. Diffusers are thus needed to “soften” the light. Considering the lack of readily available diffusers in the market, most enthusiasts and pros alike resort to making their own diffusers based on their own creativity and innovation. Please read HERE to learn more about making an awesome flash diffuse. Please feel free to check out my versions of diffusers (a bit outdated, but it works XD) if you like in My Macro Rig.

Assassin bug assasinating

Bad (or more accurately, NO) diffusion. One of my first outdoor macro shots. I knew that using a flash is important, but without a diffuser, the light falling onto the subject was really harsh, causing overexposed parts on the assassin bug, and casting obvious shadows underneath. You will not get this with a good diffuser.

 

Okay, so now that you have made your own diffuser, how do you gauge its effectiveness at softening the light coming from your flash? Shooting still subjects indoors is definitely a big NO NO as the ambient light is often too dark for you to assess your light diffusion. Most Macro Photographers will head outdoors to test their new diffusers, which is the right thing to do. However, most are unsure which diffusion aspects that they should check for, which brings us to today’s short article.


There are only three things to check when you assess a flash diffuser; and the best way to test them is to use specific creatures as subjects:

1. Light Diffusion

The better the light diffusion, the softer the light hitting the surface of the subject. If you are unsure, check the shadows cast of your subject: A harsh light source will also generate a harsh shadow (clear shadow boundary).

Diffuser (Before and After)

Light Diffusion: A before and after shot of a female Argiope doleschalli. I took the top shot using only one plastic diffuser for the flash. The 2nd one includes another plastic + fabric diffuser to further diffuse the light. The differences are obvious, especially on the glossy cephalothorax (head) of the spider.

Model: Any insect or arthropod with a shiny or glossy carapace e.g. metallic bugs, certain beetles, ladybirds etc.

Rationale: The glossy or shiny surfaces of arthropods are smooth and will reflect your flash directly. If your flash diffusion is mediocre, it will show up clearly. Testing your flash on other subjects (say a hairy spider or caterpillar) will not give you an accurate measure of your light diffusion since the light will be “absorbed” by the numerous minute hairs.

2. Light Spread

The better the light spread, the more evenly distributed the light that falls onto the subject. The idea is to ensure that light falls onto the entire subject (and of course the surrounding environment) from different angles, not just from the top.

Diffuser (Before and After)


Light Spread: Before and after shot of a (different) robberfly. The upper shot was taken with a flash without diffuser flashing from the top left; the lower shot was taken with a flash and diffuser coming from the top, plus a rounded dish diffuser in front of the lens (See My Macro Rig, Mark VIII). Note the eye apparent differences in shadow and colours of the robberfly’s eyes.

Model: Eyes of robberflies or dragonflies.

Rationale: The eyes or robberflies and dragonflies are large and rounded. In order to light up the entire eye, you will need a near-perfect light spread from your diffuser. The wonderful and “ever-changing” colours of the eyes of robberflies make a great indicator of your light spread too, which is why robberflies are a hit with most Macro Photographers.

3. Light Shape

The shape of your light, or more precisely, your diffuser may not be as important as the points stated above;  but they do come in real handy for specific shots.

 

Sub-female Heavy Jumper- Hyllus cf. keratodes ♀

Light Shape. The eyes of spiders (A Hyllus cf. keratodes here) make exceptionally great indicators for your light shape since they have so many eyes (8 in fact!). It is totally up to you and your imagination what type of shape you desire.

 

Model:  Eyes of jumping spiders, frogs, geckos, lizards, snakes etc.

Rationale: The eyes of many creatures will reflect the light coming out of your diffuser, which will show up in your final photo. If you create a star-shaped flash diffuser, you can expect many of your subjects to be “starry-eyed”!


Well, I guess that’s all there is to it, simple enough? 🙂

I hope you find this info interesting and useful in helping you construct a great DIY diffuser. Take note that there is no universal and “best” diffuser out there, as different photographers have different preferences in their shooting styles, so just keep trying until you find one that is most suited to your needs. Please do drop me a question should you ever need any help with designing and building a diffuser!

Green Scarab Beetle- cf. Anomala sp.

One last photo before I end- A Green Scarab Beetle (Anomala?). When you think you have designed an awesome flash diffuser, it is time to test it out on fully metallic subjects like this common beetle here. Subjects like this are almost impossible to photograph properly without a good diffuser.

 

Until the next article, Happy Shooting guys!


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

Pixels Dimension- My 20 Best Macro Photos of 2014!

Hello guys and girls! As the year 2014 is drawing to a close, I figured it would be a great time to summarize our progress over the year~

I remembered taking my first ever (horrible) macro shot about one and a half years ago, and started this website on June 2014. I have learnt a lot over this short period of time, both in terms of photography skills and also general knowledge on the wonderful creatures I’ve come across. The more I’ve learnt the more I come to appreciate Macro Photography and also our beautiful and priceless Nature.

One thing is for sure, I couldn’t have achieved any of this without the help and guidance of several humble and great Macro Gurus around the region; I also couldn’t have done it without the support and encouragements from friends, families and of course, the awesome viewers and readers here (Pixels Dimension has just break 3,500 views!)! Thank you very much for everything!   <3

Okay, without further ado, my top 20 favourite shots for year 2014! Photos are selected not only based on aesthetics, but also rarity of the moment and difficulty of the shot~ Please enjoy!

 


20. A Wagler’s Pit Viper (Tropidolaemus wagleri) envenoming a frog

A Wagler's Pit Viper eating (Tropidolaemus wagleri)

How often do you see a Pit Viper in action? You don’t. They are often well camouflaged or are exceedingly hard and dangerous to reach in the wild. This shot was made possible thank to my cousin who happened to be a herpetologist. Note the large and frightening fangs of the viper!


19. An angry female Malayan Trapdoor Spider (Liphistius malayanus)

Angry Malaysian Trapdoor Spider (Liphistius malayanus ♀)

Liphistius Trapdoor Spiders are one of the most ancient spiders living on Earth today and are thus protected by Malaysian Laws. It has been reported that the females of these spiders are generally shy and will prefer flight than fight. Well, it certainly doesn’t apply for very large individuals, they have quite a temper, and will not hesitate to bite you! An uncommon behavioural shot, thus making to the Top 20~


  18. A mating pair of Stalk-eye Flies (Teleopsis sp.)

Stalk-eye Flies (Teleopsis sp.) mating

Stalk-eye Flies are a great wonder to many, thanks to their bizarre eyes! These flies were so exciting that BBC decided to document them in Malaysia. Although not exactly very rare, the long stalks and movements of these flies make them a big challenge to photograph. I only managed to get this shot by luck (plus a lot of cropping!)


 17. Finally, A Lanturn Bug (Zanna sp.)

Lantern Bug Nymph (Zanna sp.)

I was so touched when I was shown a Lantern Bug by Macro Sifus Zaidi Razak and Lee Hua Ming. I had a lot of troubles finding, let alone photographing Lantern Bugs before this, so I was happy to be able to photograph one, even if its a nymph! *Yes yes, I know a lot of photographers who shoots these bugs for breakfast haha :p


16. A Curved, Long-Spined Spider (Macracantha arcuata)

Curved Long-Spined Spider- Macracantha arcuata ♀

Pretty much a dream come true when I came across this unique and beautiful spider with my cousin. This spider needs no introduction, as it is definitely in every Macro Photographer’s wishlist! This series of photos have been used for several publications and competitions 🙂


15. A pair of Great Angle Head Lizards (Gonocephalus grandis)

Great Angle Head Lizard- Gonocephalus grandis ♂♀

Found a male and female Lizards of the same species at different locations on the same day! Shots made possible thanks to great luck, and not to mention my superb ninja photographic skills :p


14. An juvenile female Argiope doleschalli 

Cross Spider, web stabilimenta and exuvia- Argiope doleschalli  juv ♀

A powerful and informative image of a rarely seen St. Andrew Cross Spider, showing not only the spider, but also the thick, supportive structure (Stabilimenta) of the web, and also the remaining exoskeleton (exuvia) of the spider after moulting (ecdysis).


13. A Giant Forest Scorpion (Heterometrus spinifer) under UV illumination

Giant Forest Scorpion (Heterometrus spinifer) glowing under UV light

My first attempt at photographing using UV light, made possible by my cousin as I don’t even have a UV light @@ It was pretty fun, exciting and challenging at the same time as photos need to be taken with slow shutters.


12. A strikingly orange Giant Trapdoor Spider (Liphistius desultor

Liphistius desultor ♀

My first encounter with a large Trapdoor spider, I remembered how excited and afraid I was when photographing this ridiculously fast spider. I never knew Trapdoor spiders could grow so large, and become so different from their juvenile forms.


11. An adult female Double-Hump Yellow Tent Spider (Cyrtophora cylindroides) drinking water

Yellow Tent Spider (Cyrtophora cylindroides ♀) drinking

It is no myth that spiders may need to drink water from a water body instead of gaining all the hydration from bodily fluids of preys. However, we don’t often get to see them drinking, thus to me this is a valuable behavioural shot. This was also the first time I saw the adult form of this Tent Spider.


10. Two-in-one, a dragonfly and a millipede

2-in-1: Dragonfly and millipede

A natural find of two different organism in one frame, not something you come across all the time, unless if you cheat lol :p


9. A mother crab spider (Thomisus sp.) and her babies

White Crab Spider and spiderlings- Thomisus sp. ♀

This shot is my first in getting so close to photographing a mother spider guarding her spiderlings and egg sac. The resulting shot is made possible by stitching quite a number of photos together.


8. Malayan Forest Gecko (Cyrtodactylus pulchellus) removing water droplets from its eye

Malayan Forest Gecko removing water droplets- Cyrtodactylus pulchellus

A shot made possible by my herpetologist cousin. It is from this shot that I’ve learnt that geckos don’t have eyelids and need to use their tongues to remove water droplets on their eyes. Took an entire series of shots here and I hope I will be able to make it into an animation when I know how to lol!


7. A colourful Praying Mantis

Mantis

I have never really been very lucky with mantises since I often fail to see through their impressive camouflage. This magnificent-looking mantis was in fact seen by my girlfriend. From this shot I realized how cooperative mantises are at posing for photographs, and I really hope I will be able to find more in the future, especially dead-leaf, flower and perhaps even orchid mantises!


 6. A Trilobite Beetle (Ducitola hoiseni ?)

Hoi Sen's Trilobite Beetle (juv ♀)- Platerodrilus ruficollis/ Duliticola hoiseni (?)

I’ve heard of this amazing, ancient-looking Trilobite beetle but it is until my cousin stumbled upon one that I really got to see it upclosed! Its incredible that the beetle is actually very flat, with a tiny, retractable head! And most astonishing of all is that the beetle is named after my supervisor lol!


5. Fancy-loooking Caterpillar 

Caterpillar- In and Out

I am not really into caterpillars (kind of afraid of them to be honest) but this one was so exotic that I’ve decided to take some photographs. Apart from the unique form and vibrant colours, the caterpillar was eating and defecating at the same time- talk about efficiency!


4. A Funnel Web Spider (Macrothele cf. segmentata) in action

Funnel-Web Spider hunting a helpless grasshopper- Macrothele cf. segmentata ♀

Not exactly the most fancy-looking or rarest spiders around, but the funnel-web spider may potentially be the most venomous around the region. They spend most of the time in their burrows and its not at all easy to photograph them. Photograph made possible with the help of my cousins.


3. Alas, a cooperative Robberfly! 

Robberfly

If you knew me, you would understand how desperate I am at finding and photographing a Robberfly! I never really had much luck with these creatures although they are common and some of the popular among Macro Photographers around the globe. I only managed to find this one willing to pose a bit for me (very touched!). A simple shot, but very valuable to me.


2. A male Great Wide-Jawed Jumper (Parabathippus magnus)

Great Wide-Jawed Jumper- Parabathippus magnus ♂

Like the others, I have always fancied photographing Jumping Spiders, but I seldom get the chance to photograph large Jumping Spiders (easier to shoot). Found this spider around the garden and took a long time trying to photograph it; succeeded after plenty of tries, and I am glad that the spider was willing to pose abit for the camera 🙂


1. A male Greater Bluewing (Rhyothemis plutonia)

Greater Bluewing- Rhyothemis plutonia ♂

My most favourite Macro Photograph is also the most recent! A beautiful dragonfly such as this is not common to find, let alone photograph. The dull background kinds of ruin the shot, but in my opinion the striking colours really make this shot a winner~

 

Well, that’s it! My favourite Top 20 Macro Shots for the year 2014! Again the shots are not just based on aesthetic value, but inclusive of the rarity of subjects and the difficulty in getting the shots 🙂

I really look forward to 2015 (I guess all Malaysians do), and I hope that I will be able to improve my Macro skills further aside from being able to photograph more unique and exotic creatures- I still have a very long wishlist to fulfil haha! XD

Thank you for reading guys, I would like to wish you a Happy New Year and may your 2015 be filled with healthy and prosperity~!

 

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

5 Great Tips to Photographing Jumping Spiders

Greetings everyone, did you miss me? 🙂

Looks like the rainy season is here and has really brought about much problems to Malaysia 🙁 Hopefully the rain will stop soon so that things can go back to normal. Today I will be writing an article on Jumping Spiders (Salticidae)- a group of eight-legged arachnids that is most popular among Macro Photographers around the world.

Semi-coppered Heavy Jumper- Hyllus cf. semicupreus ♀

A female Semi-coppered Heavy Jumper (Hyllus cf. semicupreus), one of the most popular Jumping Spiders of Malaysia, thanks to its tame and cooperative nature.

I suppose Jumping Spiders (locally known as JS) need no real introduction due to their unique appearances and behaviour. Jumping Spiders are generally small spiders (<1.5cm) which, as you might have guessed, love to jump around. Blessed with 8 eyes- where the largest two are located on the face of the spider, these spiders not only excel at vision, but serve as excellent and impressive photographic subjects as well.

Yellowish Black Jumping Spider- Stagetilus cf. opaciceps ♂

A Yellowish Black Jumping Spider (Stagetilus cf. opaciceps?). Not all Jumping Spiders are brownish to black in colour. Some can be extraordinarily colourful, and some may even do amazing courtship dances!

Apart from the mesmerizing eyes, these spiders tend to come in a wide range of forms and colours too, thanks partly to their sexually dimorphic nature- males and females of the same species may look entirely different from one another. Some Jumping Spiders are also known to perform amazing courtship dances to impress their partners. The wonderful diversity and interesting behaviour have enticed the curiosity and determination of Macro Photographers from all over the globe to photograph each and every one of these amazing spiders. Learn more about the amazing Jumping Spiders here: Wildlife Malaysia- Jumping Spiders.

Cookie Jumper- Ligurra sp. ♂

A curious Cookie Jumper (Ligurra sp.). Some spiders don’t mind staying awhile and posing for a few shots, but some simply can’t stand the sight of humans!

That said, photographing these Jumpers can be as easy as a piece of pie, or a horrible nightmare depending on the type of Jumping Spiders you are shooting- some are cooperative and will lie-still or even pose for you, whereas some are just interested in fleeing! Apart from that, your resulting photos depend also on amount of Macro tricks you have up your sleeves. This article aims to make your life easier photographing Jumping Spiders of the family Salticidae with these 5 useful tips:

1. Start with cooperative Jumping Spiders

Cooperative Jumping Spiders don’t move around much, so it will be easier for you to focus more on the photographing process. This will eventually help you build up the necessary skills and confidence needed when shooting challenging subjects later on. To learn more about improving your Macro skills, please read Taking Better Macro Shots Series; to pick up some basic post-processing skills, please read: Basic Post-processing Techniques For Macro Photography.

Unidentified Jumping Spider (Ptocasius sp.?) ♂

A Ptocasius Jumping Spider. This particular Jumping Spider is easy to recognized and photograph, thanks to its willingness to stay put and look at your camera lens. Be warned though, it likes to jump onto your camera too!

Unfortunately it would be impossible to even start listing down the species and names of Jumping Spiders that don’t mind being photographed, especially so when the spiders found here may not be available elsewhere vice versa. The trick here would be to observe the Jumping Spiders you find and see whether they stick around. If they do, then the next step would be to remember how they look like: chances are the same types will behave similarly even during different encounters. The patterns of the “tail” (abdomen) are a great way to recognize a Jumping Spider, although it should be stressed that some Jumping Spiders closely resemble one another even though they are of different species. Take a photo of the Jumping Spider from the top as a record and reference for use next time.

Long-Patella Ant Mimicking Spider (Agorius sp.?)

A Long-Patella Ant Mimicking Spider (Agorius sp.?). Taking a photo of the Jumping Spider from the top will allow you to remember and recognize the spider during the next encounter. It can be used for ID purpose as well.

2. Get upclose- use the right tools

Jumping Spiders are not exactly the largest spiders out there, making them a tad more difficult to photograph, even when they are not busy jumping around. In order to better portray your Macro Shots, you need to be able to get photos of higher magnifications without having to get too close and scare away the spider (regardless of its cooperativeness).

Electric Blue Banded Phintella- Phintella vittata ♂

A male Electric Blue Banded Phintella (Phintella vittata). Although strikingly beautiful, this common Phintella Jumping Spider is known to be exceedingly sensitive, you just can’t get close to it without it running away. This is the closest ever shot I have of this paranoid Spidey.

Therefore, the gears, or combination of gears you use for photographing Jumping Spiders are important. In general, any macro lens capable of (just) 1:1 does not offer enough magnification for Jumping Spiders: You need to get higher magnification than that to really capture the details.

The following are my two favourite combination of Macro Gears to photograph Jumping Spiders. I totally understand that there are many other methods to gain magnification, and would love to hear from you. Who knows yours might be better than mine? 🙂

Outdoor Jumping Spider Setup 1

My Macro Setup for Jumping Spiders 1. This setup consists of 2 (36mm + 20mm) to 3 (36mm + 20mm +12mm) levels of Extension Tubes to increase magnification beyond 1:1. A long macro lens is used to allow a good working distance. *Light diffusion system not shown.

Pros:

  • Comfortable distance between camera and subject.
  • Decent amount of zooming and magnification possible.

 


 

Cons:

  • Heavy
  • Using more Extension Tubes will reduce the amount of light detected by the camera sensor, thus making focusing challenging (can be avoided by shining the subject with torchlight)
Wide-Jawed Jumper- Likely Parabathippus sp. ♂

A male Wide-Jawed Jumper (Parabathippus sp.). This shot was taken with Setup 1. Setup 1 offers more zooming and magnifying range.

Outdoor Jumping Spider Setup 2

My Macro Setup for Jumping Spiders 2. This setup consist of just a single Extension Tube (36mm or 20mm) plus a Macro Conversion Lens (Raynox-250 in this case). A long macro lens is used to allow good working distance. *Light diffusion system not shown.

Pros:

  • Relatively lighter.
  • Macro Conversion Lens do not decrease the amount of light falling onto the camera sensor- easier focusing.
  • Photos taken with Macro Conversion Lens appear to be sharper.

 

Cons:

  • A Macro Conversion Lens reduce significantly the focusing distance and focusing range.
  • More expensive to buy a set of Extension Tubes and Macro Conversion Lens.
Jumping Spider ♂ (unidentified)

An unidentified male Jumping Spider. This shot was taken with Setup 2. Setup 2 allows a slightly higher magnification than Setup 1.

There are of course, no fixed way of gaining magnifications for your shots, thus the different combinations of accessories I use to photograph subjects. For example, for larger or uncooperative Jumping Spiders, Setup 1 works better than Setup 2 vice versa.

Personally I would recommend getting 90/100/105mm or longer macro lenses for a farther working distance- less chance of scaring sensitive subjects away. They may be quite expensive, but definitely worth the money if you are serious about Macro Photography 🙂

3. Subject displacement

Although considered as partially “cheating”, moving a subject from one place to another (within the same habitat) will ensure greater chances of getting proper shots. This is because some Jumping Spiders can be very “jumpy” and sensitive, and will flee at the first sight of danger- YOU!

Portia Jumping Spider (Portia sp. ♂)

A male Portia Jumping Spider. This particular spider just wouldn’t sit still, so I moved it onto a lichen-rich rock and took my time photographing it there. It still took me quite a lot of tries to get this one T___T Always remember to put your subjects back to where they belong!

Some spiders may be found among thick bushes or foliages, where it is near impossible to relocate them once fled; it is better to move the spider to somewhere more isolated, preferably a lone plant before you start shooting away- that way the spider will have less chance of slipping away. Try to place the spider at a height where you can comfortably shoot from while kneeling to reduce hand-shakes.

Please ALWAYS REMEMBER TO PUT THE JUMPING SPIDER BACK to where you found it after you are done! Please be a responsible Macro Photographer!

4. Make them stop

Point 3 may prevent Jumping Spiders from escaping, but it doesn’t really work in calming them down. As a result, some may resort to cruel techniques to “immobilize” Jumping Spiders or any other insects; often resulting in unnatural photos (yes, it is not hard to tell whether the subject is tortured, dead or alive). I, on the other hand, prefer a more gentle and natural approach which, unfortunately doesn’t always work. The trick is simple, feed the spider! This method will work so long as the spider is hungry. I am happy to see that a handful of Macro Photographers are also using this technique instead of using the easy way out, kudos to them!

Heavy Jumper (Hyllus sp. ♂) with blowfly prey

A male Heavy Jumper (Hyllus) feeding on a blowfly. Feeding a Jumping Spider is one of the best ways to stop them from running around!

Spiders don’t get food that easily in the wild, and because of that, they will often hold onto food for dear life- almost all will stay put and enjoy their meals, allowing you to happily snap to your heart’s desire! What’s more, a shot of a spider eating is definitely more meaningful and attractive as one without.

Jumping Spider with prey

This particular species of Jumping Spider is known to hold onto its food very stubbornly. This feeding technique is not only applicable to Jumping Spider.

I always bring a butterfly net along for my trips, and I often use it to catch blowflies (or any other flies) to feed these Jumping Spiders, especially uncooperative ones.  Consider the meal a reward for keeping still~ Try not to worry about the flies either, as most are pests.

5. Focus Stack to overcome shallow Depth-of-Field (DOF)

Since Jumping Spiders are small in general, you will most probably need to get close to gain magnification, and increased magnification will result in shallower Depth-of-Field- the amount of things in focus within the frame becomes less. Learn more about Depth-of-Field here: Overcoming Shallow Depth-of-Field in Macro Photography.

Jumping Spider ♂, ready to jump!

Note that only the eyes and a few of the legs of this male Jumping Spider are in focus, this shallow Depth-of-Field (DOF) becomes more obvious the higher magnification you go.


Great Wide-Jawed Jumper- Parabathippus magnus ♂

A male Great Wide-Jawed Jumper (Parabathippus magnus). This shot was taken using the same setup as the photo above; but note that more of spider’s body parts are in focus. This is the result of focus stacking using 4 separate photographs.

Focus stacking basically refers to a technique where several photos, each focusing at different parts of the subject, are combined to form a whole picture. For example, the shallow Depth-of-Field (DOF) in Macro Photography disallow the capture of a whole Jumping Spider: If the eyes are in focus, the front legs and abdomen (tail) will likely be blurred out. We solve this problem by Focus Stacking, one photo focusing on the eyes, one on the fore-legs, and the last one on the tail prior to “stitching” them up and resulting in a photo where all 3 are in focus. Learn more about Focus Stacking here: Using Focus Stack to Overcome Shallow Depth-of-Field in Macro Photography.

Focus Stacking can be done handheld and outdoors, but may require some getting used to. However, once mastered, you will be able to take great shots without compromising on details or the  livelihood of subjects.

Okay! That’s all for today folks! Thank you very much for reading! I hope that the information here will be able to help keen photographers snap better photos of their favourite Jumping Spiders!

Heavy Jumper- Hyllus sp. ♂

A male Heavy Jumper. We hope that you guys will have a greater experience photographing Jumping Spiders from now on! Have fun!

For those who are interested, please check out our galleries of spiders here: Wildlife Malaysia- Spiders

Before I go I would like to wish all of you A Happy New Year 2015 in advance yeah! Take care and Happy Shooting!

 

** Flash powers are mere estimates. I apologize for not being able to recall the precise settings in many of my photographs.

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

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)