Upgrade or buying advice - favouring macro

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headsoup New Member • Posts: 4
Upgrade or buying advice - favouring macro

Hi all,

I've been trying to research the best path forward but I'm quite confused and so need some advice. I'll provide as much context as possible to hopefully narrow down the suggestions.

Current gear: Nikon D5100 w/18-55mm kit lens.

- I recently borrowed a Tamrom SP90 f2.8 macro, which I quite enjoyed (photo ) except for noticeable chromatic aberration in some cases.

Primary use case: Photographing parasitoid wasps (can be <3mm in size), along with other interesting arthropods as I see them (crane flies, jumping spiders, bees, etc).

Other use cases: Birds (~2-100m away), 'general' shots - people, nature, etc.

Ideal macro photos I've seen are using Canon with the EP M65 lens (e.g. here), but I think this is quite above my budget, and probably limits flexibility in needing relatively still and close subjects?

I have been working through multiple options (excluding diffusers etc). Budget is limited to around $2500-3000AUD:

These are just to show what I've been thinking, I'm open to any brand/configuration that fits the requirements best...

1. New camera + lens + flash (initial thoughts Olympus OM-D EM1 Mark II (or EM5 Mark III), + M.Zuico 60mm Macro + STF-8 flash)

2. Buy macro lens + external flash for D5100, something like the Nikkor 105mm or something 150-200mm

3. Buy telephoto lens and Raynox adapter or similar for D5100 (covers bird use-case better, though lower priority)

4. Something else entirely - Sony A7, Nikon Z5, Canon?!!! MFT seems quite suited to macro, but I'm not convinced about detail and lighting without more complex setups.

Other thought: do I keep the D5100 for the general shot use cases, or sell it if another camera can meet all these requirements?

Things of high priority: 1:1 or better, low ISO noise, DoF flexibility (e.g. exposure braketing/stacking, single shot), image quality & sharpness, flash setup for macro, handheld, operating range of <10cm to 3-5m, budget!

Things of low priority: video, high-speed AF, very low-light (I assume I'll use flash for most low-light scenarios), landscape, sports, tripod

I found some questions asked in another thread (thanks gardenerassistant) which are probably helpful here:

  • whether to use a tripod (or some other means of support), or work hand-held
    • Definitely almost entirely handheld, due to having to follow the wasps around frequently. I don't mind some weight in the camera, but don't want it to become tiring easily.
  • whether to use flash or natural light, or a mixture of the two
    • Mixture, whatever's needed for best image quality, probably a lot of flash due to the frequent movement of the subjects in low-ish light (within bushes, under trees, etc)
  • if using flash, what flash mounting and what diffusion arrangement to use
    • Whatever works best for macro, working distance from ~<10cm - potentially 3-5 metres), preferenced for closer. Sometimes I see wasps a few metres away on a higher up leaf or similar and it would be nice to have enough reach to get a shot with enough clarity to identify the species.
  • if using natural light, whether to use light modifiers like reflectors and diffusers
    • Not sure I need to care too much here at this point, unless it allows for better portability and 'opportunistic' shooting without complex flash setups
  • whether to use auto-focus, if available, or manual focus
    • Mostly manual, very hard to track skittish wasps, especially in macro range
  • whether to use single-image captures or focus-stack multiple images
    • Focus stacking sounds extremely appealing, still want to be able to get ok DoF with single image (considering limitations)
  • whether to use raw or JPEG (or extract JPEGs from video)
    • I generally shoot RAW + JPEG
  • whether to use smaller apertures to get greater depth of field at the cost of a loss of fine detail
    • Tough one, I really like fine detail, so the less I have to compromise on that the better (does this factor heavily in MFT vs APS-C or FF?)
  • whether to use images more or less out of the camera or apply more or less deep post processing to them
    • Out of the camera preferred, I have not delved into post-processing yet
  • whether you want to be able to zoom in to an image to see greater detail or you want to create images to be viewed in their entirety
    • Definitely want to zoom in and maintain decent sharpness and clarity
  • whether to work with live subjects in their natural environment or work with dead, cooled, baited or captured subjects
    • Mostly live in natural environment, I on principle prefer in-situ shooting with minimal disturbance
  • whether to work out of doors in whatever conditions nature presents, or work in a controlled environment indoors
    • Mostly 'sensible' conditions outside: not too windy, not too wet.

I'm not looking to be a professional photographer, the photos are mostly for either recording species (capturing clear detail is important for ID here: i.e wing venation, leg spines, face detail) or as references for art. I.e. mostly viewed on 1920x1080 screen.

I'm torn between whether MFT is the way to go for portability and macro suitability, whether to further invest in the D5100, or whether something different best meets the above requirements?
Thanks in advance


 headsoup's gear list:headsoup's gear list
Nikon D5100 Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR
Nikon D5100 Olympus E-M1
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