Good Macro Shot Camera?

I’ve begun to really enjoy making observations of smaller creatures, but I find I’m often very limited due to my current camera. It has a decent macro mode but it can’t quite get the details of really small things. What cameras would you suggest for macro photography?

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I use an Olympus TG-5 Tough (although the TG-6 is out now)

–> pretty cheap ($500-$600)
–> microscope mode allowing focal length of 1cm
–> focus stacking option
–> usable underwater
–> very simple to use, basically point and click

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yep, I use the TG-5 too and can highly recommend it.

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If you have a decent smartphone camera and don’t want to spend a ton immediately, you can get a lot of mileage out of a good clipon lens. I bought one for $40 (Xenvo pro lens kit on Amazon) and I’ve been amazed at what it can do. I do still want a real macro camera but this has taken a lot of the frustration out of my limited budget on that front.

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Would you recommend any accessories or do you think the camera is good enough by itself?

I have the FD-1 flash diffuser which is pretty good, but you can get great results with just the camera itself.

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There’s also this discussion about clip-on macro lenses for smartphones: https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/macro-lenses-for-smartphone-cameras/9112/

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If you don’t wan’t to spend money, you can use a regular dslr camera and reverse the lens. The bad thing is that you have to hold the lens with your hand, but you can buy an adapter for reverse lens for less than 10$ (if you have a camera with fixed lenses, then this method will not work)

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I use the camera by itself, but as Alexis said there is a flash diffuser available which I know gives good results

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I’ve been using a Nikon Coolpix w300 point and shoot camera for my invertebrates. This is a drop-proof and waterproof camera that can take hefty abuse. It is also available in yellow for good visibility in case you drop it.

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@bouteloua Just wondering is there some way to have a wiki for questions about cameras and lenses? it would be cool to have a go-to resource for questions about cameras and lenses and then have links to representative images. I’m thinking that this could also have info on geo referencing images as well.

I use and like the Olympus TG-5 microscope mode for little things also. I have one major dislike–setting up georeferencing is (for me) way too complicated and so I gave up on it which means I have to remember to take a photo with my Canon DSLR of the same thing to get the gps coordinates.

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yeah on the forum any user who’s been around for a while (Regulars - trust level 3) can make a topic and then turn it into a wiki style post. Forum Moderators can also make other users’ posts into wikis.

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I am new to iNaturalist, but it was my love of wildlife photography that brought me here. While I normally use large Canon gear for my wildlife photography, I use my wife’s Olympus TG-5 for macro. B&H Photo currently has the newest version – the TG-6 – listed for under $400. See the link below:

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/search?Ntt=tg-6&N=0&InitialSearch=yes&sts=ma

The TG series has excellent macro capabilities. Most macro lenses for DSLRs offer what is known as a 1:1 magnification, meaning that the size of the object on the sensor is life-size. But for many insects this is still too little magnification. I am not sure what the exact magnification is of the TG series, but it is definitely greater than 1:1. This allows you to have even relatively small insects fill a significant portion of the frame when you zoom in.

In macro, the depth of field is notoriously extremely small, meaning the part of the photograph that is in focus. The TG gets around this by giving you the option of doing in-camera focus stacking. In other words, the camera takes several pictures at different focal planes and then blends them together so that more of the subject is in focus in the final image. For many more “professional” set ups, you would have to do the focus stacking yourself by combining multiple images in Photoshop or some other software program.

The TG series also has a small form factor, making it great to throw in the bag when I want to go out for a hike. And I can much more easily manipulate it into tight spots to get photos of insects than I would be able to do with my Canon set up. In addition, the TG series is designed to be water- and shock-proof. We bought the TG-5 for my wife after she killed two Canon point-and-shoots. No such worries with this camera.

With regard to accessories, Olympus offers two lighting options: the FD-1 flash diffuser and the LG-1 light guide. I have both, but think that I would probably recommend the LG-1 for most folks. The FD-1 acts as a diffuser for the camera’s flash, while the LG-1 diffuses the camera’s LED focusing light. While the light from the flash is more pleasant, it is also more fiddly. To use it effectively, you have to be willing to go into the menus and manually adjust the power of the flash depending on your particular scene. If you are comfortable doing this, great! But many won’t be, with the result that photos will often either be blown out or too dark. The camera’s LED light, on the other hand, is set at a constant power so this isn’t an issue. The LG-1 also offers an additional benefit. Very often if you have the camera close to an insect to take a photo of it, the camera will cast a shadow over the subject making it difficult for you to see the subject and for the camera to lock focus. You can turn on the LED light, however, by pressing the “info” button and this will then give you the light you need to see and compose the scene and for the camera to lock focus. I don’t believe you can use the LED light in this way if the FD-1 is attached because it physically blocks the LED light.

Of course, no technology is perfect and there are always tradeoffs you have to make. But all-in-all, I have been quite impressed with the TG series cameras. It just goes to show that you don’t always have to have the most expensive equipment to get good results.

I hope this helps. But remember that no matter what camera you get, you will need to take the time to learn how to use it and get the most out of it.

All the best

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I have the georeferencing set up, but it’s the one feature of the camera which totally sucks in my view. When you first turn the camera on it has to find the satellites, which I understand, but is frustrating, because my first 10-30 pics will have no GPS data. If I happen to walk through a particularly dense patch of bush it’ll lose the signal completely, and there are often times where I only walk along a path, but when I get home the coords show the photo as being taken 50-100m off said path.

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There are apps that will add geo-tags to photos that don’t have them.

Basically, a GPS track runs on your phone (or on a dedicated GPS device, if you prefer). When you get home, you upload the track and your photos, and the app adds coordinates to the image EXIF files based on the time they were taken. When you upload these images to iNat, the location will appear automatically, just like it does with a smart phone image.

There are a lot of options, but this one will let you know what you are looking for to get you started (I’ve never used that one, BTW).

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Another vote for the TG series here. I’ve been using the TG-6 since January and I’ve been very impressed with what it can do for such a compact, cheap package—particularly in the macro range. I’ve been working professionally in photographic imagemaking (motion & stills) for over ten years now and I’m always very skeptical of “consumer” point-and-shoot devices, but this one has been perfect for what I need. I need it to make good images, but I also know I wouldn’t spend nearly as much time botanizing if the gear was a hassle in any way. I don’t want this to feel like work. I can throw this thing in my pocket before a hike and not worry about it getting wet or getting bumped around. The built-in gps geotagging is a huge boon—no extra device tethered to the camera and no screwing around with software afterwards. As mentioned, it does take a little while to initially connect to the gps satellites, but I just get in the habit of turning it on as soon as I get to a trailhead and by the time I spot something to document, it’s usually locked in on the location. Occasionally it will drop signal under deep tree cover or in certain terrain, but there is a clear indicator of gps signal on the main screen and if it’s flashing I just wait for it to lock in before shooting. I bought one extra battery and with two total, I have had the camera on with geotagging for 6-7 hour outings. The batteries are cheap and I would not hesitate to get a few more for the next multi-day outing.

The camera performs acceptably for wider shots of general habitats or vistas, but a lot of phones seem to be better these days. Olympus makes a telephoto lens adapter for this camera. I tried it out in the store and was not impressed. I would not attempt to use this camera for anything telephoto—for this there is no substitute for a DSLR/mirrorless with telephoto lens. I have the aforementioned LG-1 which essentially pipes the camera’s LED light into a ring-light around the lens. I have not found myself using it very often.

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What about putting a GPS app on your phone and just photographing the screen right after you get your observation photo. That way the details are right there on the SD card alongside the photo (I file them together), and if they get separated the time and date on the photo of the GPS screen can be used to link them up. Handy GPS [ https://www.binaryearth.net/HandyGPS/ ] also lets you email the location data to yourself (or anyone else) and you can include notes in the subject line or the text.

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You may be interested in this assessment of the focus stacking capabilities of the Olympus TG-4 for digitization of museum specimen collections. A pretty good recommendation for that aspect of the TG series. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5674212/

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I’d recommend to look at photos you like of motives similar to those you plan to photograph either here on Inaturalist or in photo communities like Flickr etc - quite often people will leave the exif-info intact when uploading a photo, most of the time giving all the info on Camera model, lens and optical parameters etc. On Inaturalist, you find them in the details you can see when clicking on the i- icon.

eg. this Photo:
https://www.inaturalist.org/photos/67355694

will give away that i’m using a Fuji X-T10 with a Zeiss Touit 2.8/50 macro lense. Every lense/camera combination has certain optical aspects like the way in which the background blurs (Bokeh) etc, which is not really a “better” or “worse”, but a matter of aesthetic preferences, so it’s difficult to give advice.

Next step would be to try the camera in question, because every user reacts different to useability concepts.

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