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Thanks for the detailed response. I admit I don't understand a lot of the terminology, but I appreciate the knowledge. When I did do some research it did seem to come mostly down to the available lenses even more than the actual camera, especially for macro photography. That's when things really started to narrow down. I sometimes wonder if the expense macro photography also comes down to general lack of interest, cost set by demand. I'm sure there is interest but not as much as other types of photography. I also mentioned in another discussion on the topic that lighting also seems to be a big factor, not expensive but important. I'm seen some tutorial videos with timed flashes and makeshift defusers even used in outdoor sunlight.Thanks! I love macro and have been shooting macro for many years. Last year I made a big decision and traded in all my Nikon gear for Sony, and came home with a Sony A7R IV and three lenses. Two of them were macro lenses, the 50mm f/2.8 macro and the wonderful 90mm f/2.8. The 90mm all but jumped on to the camera body just about every day throughout last winter. I absolutely adore that lens! It and the 100-400mm that I bought this past June are hands-down my two top favorite lenses. One reason I made the switch to Sony was that when Nikon brought out its new Z line, there were no macro lenses even listed on the "road map" for the future. Finally now there is but at this time, still no actual macro lens for users of the Z series unless they put one of their older macro lenses on the FTZ adapter. That was something I did not want to do. I've been very pleased with my new body and lenses and don't regret the choice I made last November. It'll be a year this Saturday!
I love to experiment. A lot of times I don't have any definite idea in mind and will look around and pick up some random object and think, "wonder what I can do with this?" and pull together a backdrop and a surface of some sort upon which to put the item, decide what kind of lighting situation I want (sometimes Nature decides for me when it's a very cloudy or rainy day) and then I slip a macro lens on the camera (usually it's the 90mm but the 50mm gets some action every now and then as well) and away we go..... Sometimes I'll spend just a few minutes, other times an hour can slip away while I'm busy exploring the subject as I see more possibilities as I'm going along. Sometimes I'll switch out lenses, other times I may change the lighting or the backdrop or add a prop or two. With lighting, I may get fancy and add a gel or two for different color effects. I just like to have a lot of fun with this!
As for shooting critters, I tend to go for the water birds and the smaller so-called "backyard birds," and the occasional cat or dog, but rarely any other type. I think it could be a lot of fun shooting Butters! Lighting situation, shutter speed and knowledge of a particular critter's behavioral patterns is helpful when shooting wildlife or domestic pets. It is easier to control some things such as aperture and shutter speed when shooting with a DSLR or a mirrorless camera and interchangeable lens. Also some so-called "bridge" or "super-zoom" cameras with a fixed, non-removable lens can be very useful, too, and although not exactly macro lenses, can be shot at the tele end so that one zooms in on the subject from a distance, which sometimes works very nicely with skittish critters. I sometimes use my Sony RX10 IV, which has a one-inch sensor and an amazing 24-600mm (35mm equivalent) lens to create closeups or pseudo macros. One of those all-in-one cameras can be really great not only around home but also for traveling.
It's surprising how much impact one can produce in an image even without a fancy studio with soft boxes, booms and other paraphernalia, and with today's amazing iPhones, definitely one can get some neat images, too. I don't shoot with the iPhone as often as I did in the past but I do every now and then pick it up and fire off a shot when I see something interesting away from home. At home I sometimes will use it as a preview of how shooting a particular subject or in a particular way might work or might not work. In general photography IS an expensive hobby, but as many people are finding with iPhones and other cell phones it doesn't have to be.
I think my mental hangup with lighting is sometimes my eyeballs like the lighting that is present but then I know at least the iPhone makes all kinds of auto adjustments that undoes that for the purpose of a better overall end result for people who don't give a shit. I couldn't tell you how many times I went to take a low light photo or video and the preview window on the iPhone is all light filled detail.In shooting wildlife, always aim for the eyes. Make sure that they're in focus. With today's technology that is a lot easier than it used to be, as most of the newer dedicated cameras have "eye-aware" software so that when you're shooting a person or a family pet or a wild creature in the woods, the software will assist the camera in zooming in focus accurately on the eyes. Amazing technology that really does work! This makes a huge impact on the overall appearance of the photo and the subject.
Lighting is indeed a critical point in all photography and macro shooting is no exception. Sometime for artistic effect the photographer will deliberately underexpose to some degree, but in general, good lighting makes for good photos. Some people use flash, either an on-board flash or an external flash unit mounted in the hot shoe, or even a "ring flash" that mounts around around the lens. Others use off-camera lighting sources, which can vary from soft boxes to "beauty dishes" to something like what I have, the Westcott Ice Light 2 and a few small LED flashlights and such.... Reflectors and diffusers are very useful, and often brought into play especially when one is outdoors or has only limited resources for lighting. A reflector held off to one side of the subject can bounce back quite a nice amount of soft light which works well to add light to the side of the subject (or his or her face) which otherwise would be in too much shadow. When possible, natural lighting works really well for a lot of images and can present fewer problems than using artificial light sources.
You are right in thinking that one reason for macro lenses not being on the priority list when a manufacturer is releasing a new line is that this type of shooting is not as popular as say, landscapes or portraits, both of which use other types of lenses. Those of us who are hooked on macro shooting are REALLY hooked, though, and we want our macro lenses, by gum!!! There are various third-party macro and other types of lenses available, but I am pretty much a big fan of native lenses and prefer to use those rather than mess with adapters or lenses which have been reverse-engineered by some other manufacturer.
Methinks you might be well-served in starting to look around for a dedicated camera, either a DSLR or a mirrorless body, and a lens or two......especially now there are probably some good deals to be had either in used gear or in gear which is a bit older than the newest item in a given manufacturer's line.... For instance, Nikon has just come out with the Z6 II and Z7 II, both successors to the the Z6 and Z7, so the older bodies should be available for a reduction in price, even new. They also recently have released a couple of other new models, less expensive than the Z6 or Z7, but very capable in their own right. Actually, though, it is important to remember that the most significant purchase will not be the camera body, but the lens(es). Right now I'm happily rocking my A7R IV body, but in two or three years that body will be history and I'll be using whatever is released at that time -- but the lenses that I currently have will be just as excellent on that new body as they are on the A7R IV right now. Bodies come-and-go but lenses tend to live with you for a long, long time....
By decent second hand lenses rather cheap new ones. That’s my advice when it comes to purchasing equipment.I think my mental hangup with lighting is sometimes my eyeballs like the lighting that is present but then I know at least the iPhone makes all kinds of auto adjustments that undoes that for the purpose of a better overall end result for people who don't give a shit. I couldn't tell you how many times I went to take a low light photo or video and the preview window on the iPhone is all light filled detail.
My mother, who was a photography teacher until she retired, offered to give me her camera body so I don't have to start with that purchase. I'll find out what model it is and maybe you can give me some lens advice.
Here's a shot I did with a cheap shit iPhone macro lens I did some years ago of one of my mantids. It's not the result I wanted but I think it's still interesting.
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