Good lens setups and macro lenses for orchid photoghaphy

Hi just wondering what kind of lens setups and macro lenses would be good for orchid photography. I am currently using a Canon eos 60D with a 50mm lens and extension tubes (since I don’t currently have the money for a macro lens). below are photos of the kinds of orchids I will be photographing.
Orchids range from ~1cm to ~10cm long.


Note that due to price I am not even considering the Canon 100mm macro.

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I use a manual macro, the TTArtisan 40mmF2.8, which I paid about $120 for, which I’m very happy with. The automatic alternatives were well out of my price range!

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Consider buying used. I buy 90% of my photography gear, especially lenses, used. Mostly on ebay. The older EF-Compact Macro 50mm f2.5 seems to go for under $100 with some frequency (note that some are labeled “parts only,” which you obviously don’t want). There are probably a dozen older macro lenses compatible with your camera that can be had at very reasonable prices used, which may lack some bells and whistles of newer lenses or focus slower, but optically all tend to be excellent. As someone focused on plant photography myself I prefer macro lenses in the 35mm-75mm range rather than the more popular 90-100mm macro lenses.

That said, what’s the issue with your current extension tube setup? Replacing it with a 50mm macro or similar won’t really change much except that you’ll be able to focus between full magnification and infinity without stopping to remove the extension tubes.

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As important as the lens is the flash diffuser. It makes all the difference in the world. And it’s easy to make your own if you’re a DIY person. Here’s an inexpensive one if you don’t want to DIY.

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The extension tube setup is fine for now but it has 2 problems, 1) changing the tubes takes time, and 2) each time I change out the lens I risk getting dust on the sensor.

I already have 2 (edit: 3) homemade flash diffuses (see below).


Do you still have the 18-135mm kit lens (came with the 60D kit)? If so, use that zoomed in. Can also use with the extension tube. The zoom, even in (lens) manual mode, might solve your tube swap issue.

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True (although the lens I have is 18-55mm). But the Kit zoom lenses are lower quality then the 50mm prime.

I very much recommend the Sigma Art 70mm or the 105mm.

Both offer spectacular image quality and excellent build, and are much less expensive than other lenses of similar or even lesser build and performance quality.

Still not “cheap” though.

Here are a few photos taken with the 70mm on a Sony a6500

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I have been using the Sigma 2.8 70mm ex dg macro for the last 5 years and found it super practical for wa orchid photography. 70mm is a nice length on a cropped sensor. I recently moved to full frame and found it a little more limiting. Currently using a Tamron 180mm 3.5 macro, which is a little less portable but super helpful for getting insects and making images with more pleasing blurred backgrounds. I would have a look on ebay for used macro lenses (lots avaliable from japanese secondhand sellers). both lenses were around $400aud.

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I personally use the Laowa 60mm 2:1 macro lens. It is an all manual lens, a bit more expensive than others in its category, but it offers the advantage of an infinity focus: it has a magnification range from 0.1x to 2x. It is therefore very versatile, usable as an ultra macro lens or as a simple 60 mm lens.

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I use a very cheap macro len clip for phone, I used a iPhone 7 and matches very well. With the help of a external battery, it helps a lot in the field, and maybe a macro len clip would be useful for you.

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That’s understandable. Dust can be a pain, though it’s not too hard to clean off with most cameras, it can be quite intimidating to do for the first time.

I was looking around at the different used macro option for Canon EF and I was surprised that there was less available than I would expect for such a popular system in the real budget category (under $150). One convenient thing about the EF mount is its short registration distance makes it easy to adapt lenses from other systems- for example the Pentax M 50mm F4 macro is a relatively inexpensive macro lens with excellent optics I’ve used with adapters on a couple different camera systems. That lens plus an adapter ring could be had for under $100. Of course, it’s manual-focus only.

Another approach would be to make a lateral move to a different camera system. As someone who’s often had a zero budget but wanted to use different lenses than whatever I’ve had at the time, it’s something I’ve done many times and used many different camera systems. There are a lot of “brand wars” and silly opinions, but since 2010 or so all the cameras have been pretty good, and excellent lenses that still perform today go back way further than that. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed spending time with Olympus 4/3, Pentax K, Canon EF, Sony A, Pentax Q, Nikon 1, Ricoh GXR and Olympus/Panasonic m4/3 systems- they all have their advantages. At this point a lot of slightly-older DSLRs and mirrorless bodies are at a similar used value to your 60D with similar specifications (cameras depreciate as severely as cars do, another good reason to buy used once resale prices have stabilized to some degree, usually after a given camera has been on the market at least several years).

For example one of my favorite plant ‘beauty lenses’ is the Pentax F 50mm f2.8 Macro, which usually goes between $120-150 when it pops up on ebay, or more reliably on the used marketplace at Pentaxforums, where I’ve bought and sold gear for years with only good experiences. The Pentax K-5 is similarly specified to the 60D (better in low light, smaller but more ruggedly built, poorer video features- I had a Canon 40D for a while and switched back to Pentax after a few months) and similar to slightly cheaper used value than the 60D. In other words, you could sell your current setup and buy a K-5 plus 50mm f2.8 macro and 18-55 kit lens without spending much extra money, or even ending up a little ahead (and there are other macro lenses available even cheaper for the Pentax, the F 50mm macro is just the best ratio of price to high quality and rugged build). Similar moves could be made involving the Sony 30mm f2.8 macro and A-mount bodies (I’d stick with the SLRs and avoid the SLTs, they’re great to use but have a shutter-death issue. I really liked that lens and it may be the best bargain of all but when the A55 I used it on died I was in a position to splurge on a more expensive setup in a different system) and probably some of the Nikon macros, or the Olympus 30mm macro and Olympus or Panasonic mirrorless bodies (I’m currently using these for the size/weight advantage and video but still have a K-5 and 50mm macro in my closet).

The great thing about the 2020s is that there are so many options. The disadvantage, of course, is that there are SO many options.

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When I don’t have my camera with me, I also do like you. I take a botanical magnifying glass (with a magnification of 10x) and stick it on the lens of my mobile phone. The result is really good ! Here’s an example: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/69090468

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That is really good!

Does the 70mm sigma macro have image stabilization?

Yes I have heard about those, but I don’t really have a phone!

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nope neither of my lenses has IS, even the newer 70mm sigma macro art doesnt have it. the sigma 105, 150, and 180mm all have it though (at least newer versions do). personally I haven’t been bothered by the lack of it, I don’t take video and use pretty high shutter speeds (at the cost of higher ISO). It would certainly be nice to have but not essential.

@hugo_innes Asking you as well. Do you use AF or MF and if you use MF how have you found the focus-by-wire system on the sigma 70mm macro?

I tend to use autofocus with manual override. With macro photography I find that manual only is best suited to tripod based photography of things that aren’t moving at all. In the field even your breathing, the slight adjustments of keeping your balance, the minute bobbing of a leaf, etc easily pull something out of focus, so autofocus is a massive benefit.

With the Sony cameras, when you have it set up for autofocus with manual override if you adjust focus with the focus button depressed the viewfinder automatically zooms in for fine manual adjustments to focus. I use this a lot. I also have one of the buttons set up for zoom levels in the viewfinder so I can use the camera as a sort of low-level microscope (or telescope depending on the lens).

As a side note, I have all my cameras set up for rear-button focus, so the shutter button and the focus button are two different things. Makes everything much easier as the camera isn’t trying to refocus every time you press the shutter button.

The fly-by-wire system is fine. It’s kind of becoming the standard for lenses now and all of my Sony lenses use it, most of the lenses I had with my Nikon used it (not all of course), and the main lenses we use for our work Canon also use it.

The Sony cameras I use all have in-body stabilization, so even if I’m using a lens that doesn’t have stabilization it doesn’t matter as the camera itself handles that aspect. Means I can even use vintage lenses (with an adapter obviously) and still have stabilization.

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