Outdoor headlamps for macro photo?

macbesmacbes Registered Users Posts: 3 Beginner grinner
Hello everybody,

I use Canon EOS 6D and I'm soon buying Canon 65mm 1-5x Macro lens.
I did take some macro photos before and I want this particular lens because
it will enable me to take some really unique shots in this incredible
magnification. Essentially, my largest macro interest are still "nature"
objects, most importantly: water in all the forms (water drops, snow
flakes, etc.), but also others such as grass, leaves, etc.

Now, I did a lot of investigation and it seems to be that for this Macro lens
and my future usage, some external light source is a must. Initially, I
thought of getting the Yongnuo YN-24ex twin Canon replacement (has
positive reviews and is much cheaper than the original Canon Twin Lite

However, I'm wondering if it would be a better idea to simply use my current
outdoor headlamps. I have several ones, including Petzl Tikka and Black
Diamond Icon Polar (they give up to 320 lumens), and I'm also planning
to get one more that gives even 1500 lumens. They are really powerful and
have one more advantage: I sometimes take shots in VERY low temperatures
(for example -40 C) and these headlamps have a great advantage: their
accumulators are detachable and can be stored in a pocket, thus they do not
discharge quickly.

However, I have no idea in practice how the "quality" of light differs between
such headlamps and dedicated twin light. Headlamps give you a lot of flexibility
(I don't have to wear them on head of course, I can put them anywhere near
the object), but still having a light source attached to the lens seems like
something that may be much better in lighting up a given object.

Any thoughts and advice? :-)

I could in principle get this twin light as well, but hey, it's always better to
minimize the stuff you carry (if reasonable), and if this headlamp would
give me the same "light-power" as this twin, then why even bother taking twin...


  • ziggy53ziggy53 Super Moderators Posts: 23,157 moderator
    edited November 24, 2017

    The Canon MP‑E 65mm f/2.8 1‑5x Macro is a serious beast, and I'm not sure that it's a best choice for a first macro lens. It's very difficult to control handheld.

    Start with the advice here:

    MACRO SHOOTING - Tips & Tutorials

    Moderator "GOLDENORFE" (Phil) and Artist-In-Residence "Lord Veterinari" (Brian Valentine) are both accomplished macro photographers and the above link shows how to see their setups and gear.

    I'll add that my own gear consists of Canon bodies (I have and use APS-C, APS-H and FF Canon bodies for macro work) and my lens of choice is an older Tamron SP 90mm, f2.8 Macro. My lighting consists of 1 or 2 Canon 580EX flash(es) and I use the flash on-camera as well as off-camera, triggered wirelessly when off-camera.

    My choice of flash diffusers varies with the shoot, but generally either a scoop diffuser on the flash, a paper diffuser on the flash, a paper diffuser near the subject, or a reflective surface near the subject.

    Moderator of the Cameras and Accessories forums
  • pathfinderpathfinder Super Moderators Posts: 14,670 moderator

    While I agree with Ziggy 100%, some lights have changed a lot recently - last few years. I am thinking of video LED lights.

    Cineroid ( and others ) make some very interesting multiple LED battery powered video lights that I am thinking of trying for macro as well - they have a frontal area of about 2x3 inches are are adjustable as to brightness and color temp, and are flicker free. The one I am playing with is the CIneroid L10-BC on Camera light - I will use it off camera of course, since it is a continuous light source, not a flash. The light source could be covered with a larger white piece of paper for an even larger diffuse light source.

    I learned of it from Wayne Suggs who was using it to light up buildings at night while shooting stars behind them. Just a thought.

    Pathfinder - www.pathfinder.smugmug.com

    Moderator of the Technique Forum and Finishing School on Dgrin
  • puzzledpaulpuzzledpaul Registered Users Posts: 1,621 Major grins
    edited November 26, 2017

    I'm nowhere near as accomplished a macro shooter as the guys mentioned above, but when I did shoot macro (with an mpe65) I used a custom flash bracket with a single standard flash - a Canon 550ex.
    The rig was similar to those shown in LordV's tutorials - but with 2 significant differences

    The bracket incorporated a Landscape / portrait 'flipper' arrangement to allow these 2 orientations to be quickly changed (<1sec) rlative to final pic.
    I also had an led 'illumination' segment that clipped onto the front of the mpe (or 100mm macro) via the front groove on these lenses.

    I found this led arrangement very useful if taking pics of subjects in very poorly lit (indoor) conditions.

    For me, using a standard flash has one big advantage - it (together with macro bracket) can also be used for 'normal' photographic duties - eg weddings. Dedicated macro lights would be useless for this - as well as being quite expensive.

    Unless Brian's changed his setup, his results show that a single (standard) flash rig can produce superb results.

    However, I'd certainly investigate other options these days if doing more macro shooting, since there might be a weight saving option using Leds - especially if batteries are remotely located.


  • macbesmacbes Registered Users Posts: 3 Beginner grinner
    Thank you guys a lot for your answers and time!
  • macbesmacbes Registered Users Posts: 3 Beginner grinner

    Thanks for the advice - I know that this lens is going to be extremely challenging,
    but this does not scare me. I mean, I'll keep using and learning it as long as it takes
    to get some reasonable outcome - even if it takes a lot of time. In addition, the whole
    point is that I really want to use this guy because it can get you much closer
    to what interests me than any other. If it takes years to get an outome - fine, I can
    live with that :-) But I guess it won't be that extreme. Finally, I took a lot of macro
    photos already - let's jump to the extreme now :-)
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