Insects in flight macro lens or telephoto lens?

Started 1 month ago | Questions thread
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kayasaman New Member • Posts: 23
Insects in flight macro lens or telephoto lens?


this is my first post here and I hope it's the right place.

Basically I bought a Nikon D500 brand new a month ago and have been playing with various things with it. My other camera is a Pentax K1 ii which is amazing and I've had it for a year and already started to achieve my goals in astrophotography and learn a lot about linear photography too - though it's way harder then astro!!

Astro is easy for me because it's just science and physics and math if you wana really go that far

With linear or regular photography I'm struggling a little. The main concern is figuring out what to shoot <gulp>

Anyway, not to get too much offtopic.... I found out quite recently that I was interested in wildlife and macro. After struggling with my Pentax K1 ii which is simply not designed for being a fast camera to shoot wildlife or sports, and ending up with a lot of blurry subjects due to poor AF performance and slow speed/low buffer capacity, I did a bit of research and eventually found the D500 brand new for a bargain price as it had a damaged box but was otherwise untouched.

Currently I have 3 lenses for it. A 50mm f/1.8 that came with a classic film based FM (circa 1977-1982), I bought the Sigma 105mm macro and Nikkor 18-300mm as a walkabout/travel lens for its long reach and light weight.

My plan going forward is to buy a Tokina 11-20mm as a wide angle landscape backup lens to my Pentax and the Sigma 60-600mm for wildlife and faraway subjects like planes etc...

As I have the Sigma 105mm macro already, I am highly impressed with the image quality and AF functionality at close distances. It just works and works really well. I do have the Irix 150mm macro for my Pentax but being a manual focus only lens is difficult to use on insects which walk about a lot like bees and flies.

Ironically the only really good quality in-flight bug shot I got was using the Pentax/Irix combo. I have no idea what the insect is but has red eyes and a shiny segmented body and hovers, it also yaws left and right rather then moving forward or backward.

What I really want to know is, is the macro lens suitable for capturing in-flight insects or is a telephoto lens like the Tamron/Sigma 100-400mm a better option?

Perhaps I am missing something with technique? I tried Google'ing but only found information on taking pictures of non moving insects, which now with the D500/Sigma combo I am getting a much more consistent hit rate over the Pentax/Irix combo where I have to physically move the camera in and out until the subject comes into focus.

Here's an example of what I mean:

Bee walking about the thyme patch in the patio of our backyard

Attempt at in-flight bee lost out of frame in the same area

For the above I am also using the Godox MF12 macro flash kit additionally controlled by a ProX.

I wonder if it might be a better idea to use a wider macro lens like 60mm or whatever is available that has good AF capability?

The settings I used in camera were AFS-C with Dynamic 25 point for the non flying shot and for the other shot I used 3d tracking. Of course being contrast based, 3d tracking is not always accurate and especially with a busy background like the above can get lost very quickly.

What is the best way to get good captures of insects in flight at the macro level?

Thanks for any suggestions and feedback!

 kayasaman's gear list:kayasaman's gear list
Nikon D500 Pentax K-1 II Sigma 105mm F2.8 EX DG OS HSM Samyang 24mm F1.4 Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 18-300mm F3.5-6.3G ED VR +3 more
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