Camera for semi-pro fungi observations

Hi naturalists!

My workplace is going to buy me a camera (2-3k altogether with gear) for my fungi observations. I’m going from being used to a iphone 13 mini (no macro mode), though I recently outfitted it with a $130 Sandmarc macro lens that does help. I need help choosing a camera - something that’s within budget, beginner-friendly but will last me for the next 5 years, and that’s luggable/durable in the field. I do intend to get either a 50 mm or 100 macro lens, a tripod, and a ring flash. Should I go mirrorless or DSLR?

I’ve looked at the Nikon Z5 and the marketing surely speaks to me… the Canon EOS 7D Mark II has been recommended to me (is this too outdated or a safe bet?). I have colleagues that use a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV DSLR but I think that’s beyond budget. I know someone who has a Fujifilm XT3 they’re selling too. Or, other ideas?

The Olympus TG series I also see coming up repeatedly and I know folks who use them, but others have told me that the sensors and MP are too small. Unless its microscope mode makes up for that? Some sources on the internet say the Olympus TG is comparable to a higher-end iPhone - in which case maybe I should just get a new phone for the more casual observations?


I would definitely pick up something with photo-stacking capabilities, if you can, I think its doable with that budget. Here’s a good video tutorial Alan Rockefeller did with some general techniques, there’s no specific camera suggestions but he does go into what you should be looking for these little lights are actually pretty great, I picked one up instead of a flash after being recommended one and I’ll probably grab another.


For something like fungus photography I don’t think it matters too much. You don’t need some of the fancier mirrorless functionality like image recognition for auto focus or super fast frames per second. Mirrorless is definitely the future, but for macro bang for the buck with still subjects, DSLR is probably the winner here if you go with a used body. I think any of the mirrorless/DSLR bodies you brought up are fine, although the 5DIV is pretty big. The Z5 would be a good pick (I’m a Nikon Z shooter) - it’s light and solid, and the Nikkor Z 105 mm lens is fantastic and actually also quite light for its size. You might consider the 50mm Z macro for fungi, though, I think that’s what Alan uses. You don’t need the longer working distance of a 105mm, which is better for skittish bugs.

For macro I’m not a fan of ring flashes, they’re too close and not diffused enough. The kind of lights that @lothlin recommeded are good for fungi.

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I’m just gonna tag Alan , if he’s not busy he might pop in lmao XD

@alan_rockefeller oh fungi photo master, spread your wisdom

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Here are some photos I’ve taken with the Nikkor Z 105 macro.


Thanks for your input! I have watched that Alan talk - it’s amazing. Glad to hear you also like the ulanzi lights!

Haha thanks! I was too shy to ask him myself :sweat_smile:

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I have the Olympus TG-6 and use it as macro extension to my DLSR (only use a travel zoom 18-200 on the body) and use it also for fungi observations. While I love the microscope mode, I have a love-hate relationship with the autofocus. Unlike my DLSR (or my smartphone), there is no way of manually setting the autofocus point, meaning focussing can be a hit-and-miss. The tip I got for zooming in helps a little bit.
The ring LED light guide I have for the TG-6 helps a little bit with lighting, but there are probably better setups (although not as compact and probably weather resistant). The TG-6 also has focus-stacking mode, but I have no experience with that since I always shoot raw, which does not support that mode.

My personal recommendation for a camera for good fungi observations are the possibility of setting a manual autofocus point (the automatic KI and I often disagree that I want to focus on that…brown…thing in the middle-no, not that grass- no, not the blue sky!). The trend currently goes to KI autofocus, but somehow, I don’t think they have iNat in mind when training that :laughing: So the ability to set a fixed focal point, as I can do with my DLSR, is an advantage.

Concerning the camera body, I would recommend from a future perspective a mirrorless body since all big manufacturers have given up their DLSR lines and support will be better for mirrorless (also lens developments). I think you will be happy with all types since they offer enough for your intentions. Just depends on budget and desired lenses.

But my big recommendation would be a camera where you can completely flip your screen around (180°) - that truly helps with taking pictures close to the ground (e.g. from lamelles and downside of the fungus). When my Nikon DR5600 ever goes to the afterlife, the most important buying criteria for me will be that flippable screen…

Also a recommendation for gear: instead of a tripod, buy a bean sack. I sewed mine from some pieces of fabric/synthetic leather with a zipper and can fill it with rice/beans while traveling. That way, you can set your camera directly on the ground, but not in the mud, for close-ups.