Kit Guide

Pack Your Bag – the best camera, lenses and accessories for macro photography

with Ian Gilmour

Photographer Ian Gilmour takes you through the essential kit for macro photos of plants, flowers and insects.

'Fly'

Camera: Pentax K3

My main camera for macro photography is a Pentax K3. I chose the Pentax because of the brand’s reputation for their robust build and weather sealing, a must for working outdoors in all types of weather.

The Pentax K3 is a 24-megapixel camera which enables me to enlarge my shots without degradation of quality. The camera’s 'live-view' function is excellent for getting the focus exactly right, especially during macro photography where sometimes the plane of focus is literally measured in millimetres. If I want a wider depth of field, I sometimes take several shots, each one at a slightly different focal length, and then focus-stack them in Photoshop.

Accessory: Seagull Viewfinder

With macro photography, sometimes one has to get right down to ground level to get a decent shot and, in these situations, I often attach a Seagull right-angle viewfinder to the camera which enables me to look down through the viewfinder and saves any aching back.

'Cactus Flower'

Lens: Sigma 105mm

I use two lenses for macro photography. The first is a Sigma 105mm, an excellent quality lens which enables me to keep a good distance away from my subject. This is especially handy when photographing insects where the least amount of disturbance is essential.

'Moss Island'

Tripod: Manfrotto 190XDB and Manfrotto Compact Advanced

A tripod is an essential piece of equipment for macro photography as slow shutter speeds are often needed, particularly in low light situations. I generally use a Manfrotto 190 XDB tripod for all of my macro shots, which proves to be very accurate for fine adjustments. If I'm going out walking then I tend to use a much lighter Manfrotto tripod, the Compact Advanced. This is much easier to carry on long distances.

'Spider'

Accessory: Velbon Super Mag Slider

I use this Velbon macro rail to take several shots of the same subject at slightly different focal lengths, crucial for producing focus-stacked images. The rail is attached to the tripod and I usually focus on the nearest part of the subject that I want in focus. Next, I turn the adjustment knob on the rail about half a turn which moves the rail slightly closer to the subject thus focusing on the next part of the subject. I usually repeat these steps several times (anything between four and twelve times) until I have a series of shots all with slightly different parts of the subject in focus. These are then focus-stacked in Adobe Photoshop to give a much larger depth of field. Why don't I use an aperture of f/16 or higher? I want the background to be blurred.

'Shield Bug'

Additional Items

– Pentax Remote control

– Lowepro Pro Tactic 350 camera bag

Ian Gilmour

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