choosing a fancy schmancy camera for macrophotography

For some time now I’ve wanted to delve into the world of macrophotography.  Basically ever since I began to notice the world of insects around me.  Up until two weeks ago, the only camera in my possession was a Casio point and shoot purchased over 10 years ago.  I couldn’t even take pictures of larger insects.  I definitely needed an upgrade, but had no idea where to start.  Here are the top 5 tips of advice that I used in making my purchase.

1.  Look around the Internet for advice.

I visited numerous macrophotography websites and blogs to see what photographs I really enjoyed and what equipment was used for those photographs.  This searching helped me decide early on that my choice of camera body was going to be Canon since the current ‘big momma’ of macrophotography lenses is the Canon MP-E 65mm 1-5x.

2.  Choose your camera body, but don’t stress about it too much.

One piece of advice reiterated over and over again in reviews was to avoid overly emphasizing the camera body that you purchase.  It matters to some degree, but everyone seems to agree that putting your money into better lenses and better lighting is much more important.  Oh also, don’t purchase the body with the lens combinations that they have listed on Amazon.  Purchase the camera you want as “body only” and then pick your specific lenses separately.

3.  Set up a budget  – be strict about it.

Camera equipment can be pricey, especially when you’re on a graduate student budget.  I’ve been saving up for this camera purchase for the last few years, so I had some money put away.  I read somewhere (I can’t remember which review) that to become serious about macrophotography you need to plan on spending about $1500.  So, that was my limit.  There are so many exciting camera items to choose from, that I wanted to go over my limit several times.  Setting this limitation for myself early on was extremely helpful.

4.  Decide what is most important for you.

Think about what you want to use your camera for and what works best for your needs.  I wanted a lightweight piece of equipment since I ideally wanted to take the camera with me on long hikes.  Additionally, there are better pieces of equipment out there that I would eventually like to purchase, but right now I feel that my equipment is something that I can grow into and expand in the years to come.

5.  Don’t forget about accessories!

When my camera arrived in the mail, there were two fairly minor pieces of equipment that I had forgotten about.  The first was a memory card – it was recommended to purchase a class ten card for faster data processing.  I also needed a camera bag so I could actually bring it with me on hikes!

In the end, I purchased a Canon Rebel T2i (550d), EF 50 mm f/1.8 lens, EF 100 mm f/2.8 Macro USM lens, a  Speedlite 430EX II flash, a PNY professional 16 GB Class 10 memory card, and a Lowepro Adventura 170 camera bag.  As a caveat, I have not extensively used any of this equipment so I can’t evaluate how pleased I am with my decisions long-term.  At the moment though, I’m really excited that I can actually focus on insects and begin taking macro photographs.  Here’s an example of what I’ve practiced on this past weekend:

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