Choosing the best kit for getting started with macro photography

Whether you're photographing close-ups of bugs or babies, pets or patisserie, here are the camera and lens features to look for, and the best accessories to choose.
A close-up of a dragonfly sitting on a blade of grass, captured with a Canon RF 24mm F1.8 MACRO IS STM lens.

If you want to capture the geometric patterns of an insect's eye, a drop of morning dew on a blade of grass, or the individual eyelashes on your baby's face, the best way to bring out beautiful detail is through macro photography.

However, while macro photography is easy to get into and incredibly rewarding, it brings its own challenges, such as achieving a deep enough depth of field to get all of a small subject sharp.

Many Canon cameras and lenses are equipped with features that meet the specific needs of macro photography. To help you choose the right kit, we've picked out the features to look for when choosing the best cameras and lenses to start your macro photography journey.

An extreme close-up taken on a Canon EOS R7 with a Canon RF 24mm F1.8 MACRO IS STM macro lens of droplets of dew on a red rose.

Macro photography is close-up photography of small subjects at magnifications of 0.5x or greater, and the subject can vary – from plants and insects to food and even household objects. You can shoot macro pictures both indoors and outdoors. Taken on a Canon EOS R7 with a Canon RF 24mm F1.8 MACRO IS STM lens at 1/2000 sec, f/1.8 and ISO 200.

Camera features for macro photography

A pair of hands holds a Canon EOS R10, with the camera's screen showing focus bracketing settings.

The Canon EOS R10 features focus bracketing, which will capture a set of images at automatically incremented focal lengths. There is even the option to blend the images in-camera to produce a depth composite with perfect front-to-back sharpness.

A close-up of a plate of food including an assortment of vegetables and boiled eggs, captured on a Canon EOS R10.

When using focus bracketing, you can specify the number of images you want the camera to capture. Stacking the resulting images creates a sharp image with a wider depth of field. Taken on a Canon EOS R10 with a Canon RF-S 18-150mm F3.5-6.3 IS STM lens at 35mm, 1/2000 sec, f/5 and ISO 1600.

Advanced focusing

In macro photography, focus is critical. Canon EOS R System cameras are ideal for macro photography as they offer a range of powerful features to help you get the perfect focus every time.

The closer your subject is, the shallower the depth of field at a given aperture. If there is not sufficient light, which is often the case when you're shooting very close, then you need to open the aperture wider to let in more light, which further reduces the depth of field. This means that an image will have only a tiny slice in focus – not ideal when the aim is to bring out every detail.

To overcome this, several EOS R System cameras, such as the EOS R10 and EOS R50, offer focus bracketing. This feature takes multiple photos of the same frame, automatically moving the focus point in increments to capture lots of tiny slices in sharp focus. These images can then be combined to create one image with much more of the subject in focus than would be possible in a single shot. This is known as focus stacking or depth compositing, and a number of cameras can do this automatically in-camera. You can also do this manually using tools such as the Depth Compositing tool in Canon's Digital Photo Professional (DPP) software.

The EOS R50 goes one step further with its Advanced A+ mode. This will automatically detect when focus stacking is required, take the necessary shots and apply in-camera depth compositing too, so you don't have to set it up yourself.

If you prefer, Canon mirrorless cameras also allow you maximum control over focusing. All EOS R System cameras feature a manual focus peaking display option, which uses bright colours to highlight the areas of your image that are in focus. They also allow you to zoom into an image in Live View to check your focus manually. Some cameras, such as the EOS R10 and EOS R7, also have AF/MF switches on the body, enabling you to switch quickly to manual focusing mode and choose precisely where you want your focus.

Best cameras with advanced focusing for getting started in macro photography:

An extreme close-up of a yellow flower with minute details of the petals in focus, shot on a Canon EOS R50.

The APS-C sensor in the EOS R50 makes small objects larger in the frame than they are when you're using the same lenses on a full-frame camera. The camera also offers rapid continuous shooting at up to 15fps using the silent electronic shutter, which makes it possible to photograph moving subjects, such as flowers in the wind. Taken on a Canon EOS R50 with a Canon RF 35mm F1.8 MACRO IS STM lens at 1/125 sec, f/8 and ISO 400.

An extreme close-up of a few pink flowers, captured on a Canon EOS R50.

The compact design and light weight of the EOS R50 make it perfect for handheld macro photography. It has the same RF lens mount as every EOS R System camera, which means you can add any RF or RF-S lens, including numerous macro lenses. Taken on a Canon EOS R50 with a Canon RF 35mm F1.8 MACRO IS STM lens at 1/250 sec, f/2.8 and ISO 800.

Sensor size and resolution

Some EOS R System cameras have a full-frame sensor and some have an APS-C sensor. Both types of sensor have their benefits for macro photography. APS-C sensors are smaller, which means small subjects are larger in the frame than on a full-frame sensor at the same focal length, and APS-C sensors also generally give a larger depth of field than full-frame. This makes APS-C cameras such as the EOS R10 and EOS R50 well suited for macro photography.

However, if you have to shoot a small subject in motion and so require a high shutter speed, especially if there isn't enough light available and you have to use a high ISO as well, then a full-frame camera such as the EOS R8 can give you less noisy images.

Whether you opt for APS-C or full-frame, choosing a camera with a high megapixel sensor can also be helpful for macro shots. More pixels mean more detail, so if you crop the image to make a tiny subject larger in the frame, it'll still look sharp.

Best cameras with APS-C sensors for getting started in macro photography:

Lens features for macro photography

A Canon RF 24mm F1.8 MACRO IS STM lens close by a clump of daisies.

The Canon RF 24mm F1.8 MACRO IS STM lens can focus as close as 14cm, magnifying the subject by 0.5x. Its wide angle of view is perfect for cramming lots of detail into the frame, while its built-in optical image stabilisation will help combat blur caused by camera shake even when you're shooting handheld.

An extreme close-up of a daisy, captured using a Canon RF 24mm F1.8 MACRO IS STM lens.

The RF 24mm F1.8 MACRO IS STM lens focuses quickly, with a quiet stepping motor, so you don't have to worry if an object moves – you will still get a clean shot. Taken on a Canon EOS R6 with a Canon RF 24mm F1.8 MACRO IS STM lens at 1/4000 sec, f/1.8 and ISO 100.


For macro photography, the most important feature to look for in a lens is its magnification. When a lens magnifies at 0.5x (or 1:2), the image on the sensor is half its actual size. When a lens magnifies at 1.0x (or 1:1), the image on the sensor is real life size. This reveals extremely high levels of detail, especially when the image is then viewed on a larger display or print.

To achieve such magnification, macro lenses need to have short minimum focusing distances, meaning they can focus when very close to a subject. Examples include the Canon RF 24mm F1.8 MACRO IS STM, which can focus as close as 14cm, and the RF 35mm F1.8 MACRO IS STM, which can focus as close as 17cm. Both are 0.5x lenses that feature fast maximum apertures, which let in plenty of light, and they offer image stabilisation (IS) to help keep shots blur-free when you're shooting handheld at slower shutter speeds.

Best starter macro lenses with 0.5x magnification and short focal distances:

A close-up of a pink flower, captured using a Canon RF-S 55-210mm F5-7.1 IS STM lens.

The RF-S 55-210mm F5-7.1 IS STM lens is not strictly a macro lens but it offers a maximum magnification of 0.28x and a powerful zoom, helping you focus without disturbing your subject and capture even the smallest of details from a distance. Taken on a Canon EOS R50 with a Canon RF-S 55-210mm F5-7.1 IS STM lens at 1/320 sec, f/7.1 and ISO 100.

An extreme close-up of a green Romanesco cauliflower, captured using a Canon RF-S 18-150mm F3.5-6.3 IS STM lens.

Another lens offering a wide zoom range is the RF-S 18-150mm F3.5-6.3 IS STM. It gives a maximum magnification of 0.59x when using manual focus, which means you can capture close-up subjects in glorious detail. Taken on a Canon EOS R10 with a Canon RF-S 18-150mm F3.5-6.3 IS STM lens at 35mm, 1/200 sec, f/10 and ISO 400.

Focal length

Getting up close using a lens with a short focal distance might seem the obvious choice, but telephoto lenses provide some significant benefits too. Shooting from a little further away means you're less likely to disturb your subject or cast unwanted shadows on it. Telephoto macro lenses, such as the Canon RF 85mm F2 MACRO IS STM, which provides 0.5x magnification, will allow you to stand further away from your subject while still having it fill the frame. The lens features optical IS, just like its wider-angle counterparts, to keep things sharp at slower shutter speeds.

You could also use a telephoto zoom lens such as the Canon RF-S 55-210mm F5-7.1 IS STM or the RF 100-400mm F5.6-8 IS USM. While these are not strictly macro (0.5x) lenses, their telephoto maximum focal lengths will allow you to get close-up shots of your subject and fill the frame from a distance.

Best telephoto macro and telephoto zoom lenses for getting started in macro photography:

A screenshot from a video explaining centre focus macro. The screenshot shows a user's hand adjusting a Canon lens close to a small model of a human figure.

Centre focus macro

Some Canon RF lenses, including the RF 24-105mm F4-7.1 IS STM and the RF 15-30mm F4.5-6.3 IS STM, feature centre focus macro capability. While these lenses don't achieve macro magnification using autofocus, their minimum focus distance in manual focusing mode is much smaller, meaning they can focus much closer and achieve at least a 0.5x macro magnification.

Best starter lenses with centre focus macro capability:

Want to take it further?

If you've fallen in love with macro photography, you might be prepared to spend more for pro-level lenses with greater magnification, better optical quality, or longer focal lengths so you can capture frame-filling shots of subjects you can't physically get close to. Take a look at our guide to pro lenses for macro photography (available in selected languages).

Accessories for macro photography

Three views of the Canon Camera Connect app on a smartphone, being used to focus manually on the stalk of a green apple in close-up.

The Canon Camera Connect app enables you to adjust camera settings and fire the shutter from your smartphone. With compatible lenses, you can even switch to and control manual focus without touching the camera, helping ensure sharp close-up shots.

The Canon Camera Connect app enables you to control your camera remotely. You can use Live View on your smartphone screen to check focus and adjust it, or control exposure and trigger the shutter remotely, which helps prevent camera shake and helps ensure you don't disturb your subject.

Using a tripod will keep your camera steady when you need to use a slower shutter speed, but may not let you get very close to your subjects. The Canon Tripod Grip HG-100TBR will – it is small and versatile, and comes with a remote control which will ensure you avoid camera shake. You could also make your own beanbag to rest your lens on for steadier shots or to cushion your camera when working low to the ground.

Extension tubes fit between a compatible lens and the camera body and increase the magnification of the lens, with no distortion or loss of image quality.

Lighting can be problematic in macro photography, but the ability to use a flash off-camera, such as the Canon Speedlite EL-100 paired with the wireless Speedlite Transmitter ST-E10, enables you to be more precise and directional about lighting your subject. For committed macro photographers, the Canon Macro Ring Lite MR-14EX II flash attaches to the front of compatible lenses, illuminating your subject completely and controllably when shooting close-up.

These are the key features to look for when buying kit for macro photography. Don't worry if you haven't got them all, though – you can still achieve beautiful close-up shots. The most crucial ingredient is your creativity!

Written by Peter Wolinski

Related Products

Related Articles