ARTICLE

Illuminating the world of macro with a dedicated macro flash

Discover how the Canon Macro Ring Lite MR-14EX II and Macro Twin Lite MT-26EX-RT can help take your close-up photography to the next level.
A close-up of a tiny bee with large green eyes pollinating a yellow and red passionflower.

Wildlife photographer and Canon Ambassador Christian Ziegler captured this tiny species of bee pollinating a passionflower while on assignment in Panama. The image beautifully demonstrates the even lighting from the Canon Macro Ring Lite MR-14EX II. Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X (now succeeded by the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III) with a Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM lens at 1/50 sec, f/11 and ISO2500. © Christian Ziegler

As any serious macro or close-up photographer will tell you, a dedicated macro flash is an indispensable accessory.

One of the main challenges when shooting up close is that as the working distance decreases, so too does the light that reaches the camera's sensor. When using a macro lens at 1x magnification, there's around a two-stop exposure factor to consider, for example. While that's not much of a problem at the maximum aperture, maintaining a high enough shutter speed is more difficult when maximising the depth of field with smaller apertures. And at greater magnifications, there are even larger exposure factors to overcome, due to the closer proximity of the subjects.

Introducing additional lighting for macro photography is extremely useful, as it allows photographers to use a fast shutter speed while also stopping down the aperture to increase the depth of field.
A hotshoe-mounted Speedlite can cast a heavy shadow on or behind your subject, but a dedicated macro flash gives the freedom to carefully and creatively control the lighting for your macro photography, to help illuminate your subject when working close up. Not only that, Canon's two dedicated Macro Speedlites – the Canon Macro Ring Lite MR-14EX II and the Canon Macro Twin Lite MT-26EX-RT – are compact and portable, allowing you to move freely into position when out in the field.

Here, Canon Ambassador, ecologist and wildlife photographer Christian Ziegler reveals his experience using the Canon Macro Ring Lite MR-14EX II, and Canon Europe Product Specialist Mark Fensome explains why the Macro Twin Lite MT-26EX-RT is a great addition to a close-up photographer's kitbag.
A man photographs an insect on a leaf with a Canon EOS R5 camera and a Canon macro lens.

Inside Oliver Wright's macro photography kitbag

A professional macro photographer talks about moving to Canon's full-frame mirrorless system, including the game-changing RF 100MM F2.8L MACRO IS USM lens.
A close-up of an open Lady Slipper orchid against a velvet black background.

Christian photographed this beautiful orchid – a member of the Lady Slipper family – in Borneo using the Canon Macro Ring Lite MR-14EX. The deep, black background was emphasised using black velvet material. Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark III (now succeeded by the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV) with a Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM lens at 0.3 sec, f/18 and ISO400. © Christian Ziegler

A macro photographer uses a Canon camera, lens and Macro Ring Lite MR-14EX II flash to capture a large insect on a leaf.

Macro photographer Oliver Wright photographs a large brown insect on a leaf with a Canon EOS R5, Canon RF 100MM F2.8L MACRO IS USM and the Canon Macro Ring Lite MR-14EX II. The MR-14EX II is ideal for shadow-free lighting when you're up close to a small subject.

Portable and reliable: the Canon Macro Ring Lite MR-14EX II

Christian Ziegler is known for his eye-catching shots of tropical bats in Panama. To photograph these nocturnal mammals as well as larger animals, he uses Canon Speedlites. For smaller creatures, such as insects, along with fruit and nectar producing flowers, he depends on the highly portable Canon Macro Ring Lite MR-14EX II. Working in the middle of a rainforest is tough on camera gear, so his ring flash is nearly always paired with the reliable Canon EOS-1D X Mark II (now succeeded by the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III), the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM lens (with Macrolite Adapter 67) and the Canon MP-E 65mm f/2.8 1-5x Macro Photo lens.
The Canon Macro Ring Lite MR-14EX II.

Canon Macro Ring Lite MR-14EX II

A high performance Macrolite flash delivering creative lighting solutions for photographers shooting close-up images, both on location and in the studio.
The MR-14EX II is compatible with a number of other lenses too, including the Canon EF 50mm f/2.5 Compact Macro, EF 180mm f/3.5L Macro USM (with Macrolite Adapter 72C), RF 35mm F1.8 Macro IS STM and RF 100MM F2.8L MACRO IS USM.

"I use the Canon Macro Ring Lite MR-14EX II because it enables me to produce light close up to the lens," says Christian. "Normal flashes cast a lot of shadows. I sometimes like the shadows, but often they're distracting. When I want an evenly lit environment for a project, I use the Macro Ring Lite MR-14EX II flash – for subjects such as butterflies, for example, to create close-ups of their intricately detailed wings, and tiny insects.

"With these tiny subjects, because they're so close to the lens, just getting the light on them is really tricky," he explains. "I can be photographing a subject that's just 5cm away from the lens, so it's a question of getting an adjustable light source really close to the front of it. That is really difficult to accomplish with off-camera flash, but it's effortless with the Macro Ring Lite MR-14EX II."

In addition to its ease of use, there are many other aspects of this flash that Christian enjoys. "The heavy-duty coiled cable is durable, and the option to position the twin tubes by rotating the head about the axis is a nice feature," he says. This, combined with the Macro Ring Lite MR-14EX II's ability to control the power of either strobe (over a 6-stop ratio), means you can not only control the angle of the light source but also make one strobe brighter than the other, for relief lighting to enhance textures.
A predominately black Ulysses caterpillar with striking red markings feeding upside down on a leaf.

Feeding on its typical succulent diet, the Ulysses butterfly larva (caterpillar) is no less striking than its adult Swallowtail form. Lit with the Canon Macro Ring Lite MR-14EX using a 1:1 flash ratio for even lighting. Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark III with a Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM lens at 1/100 sec, f/14 and ISO400. © Christian Ziegler

A close-up of the bumpy scaled skin of a male panther chameleon.

The Canon Macro Ring Lite MR-14EX helped Christian brilliantly illuminate this close-up image of the bumpy, gem-like scales of a male panther chameleon. These extraordinary animals are found in the area around the district of Ambanja in northern Madagascar. Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X with a Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM lens at 1/125 sec, f/16 and ISO800. © Christian Ziegler

Additional lighting options

When working up close with small subjects, Christian finds the power of the Canon Macro Ring Lite MR-14EX II to be more than sufficient. But he also praises its ability to work wirelessly in a multi-Speedlite flash system and retain exposure control using a built-in IR-based optical transmitter. "I once photographed these really tiny wasps that are just 1mm long," he recalls. "I used the Canon MP-E 65mm f/2.8 1-5x Macro Photo lens with the Canon Macro Ring Lite MR-14EX II as the fill light and used it to trigger a couple of Speedlite 430EX III-RTs acting as the key light."
Swarms of army ants clamber over one another as they build a temporary nest.

Known for forming living bridges with their bodies, these army ants are making a bivouac (temporary nest). The Canon Macro Ring Lite MR-14EX II is fantastic when working with fast-moving macro subjects, as it recycles quickly, giving you more opportunity to get the shot. Taken on a Canon EOS 20D (now succeeded by the Canon EOS 7D Mark II) with a Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro USM lens at 1/160 sec, f/14 and ISO100. © Christian Ziegler

The coiled tail, right foot and scaled skin of a chameleon.

Most chameleons have a prehensile tail which is essential for the animal's ability to climb and navigate its natural habitat. This stunning image was lit using the Canon Macro Twin Lite MT-26EX-RT with the key light placed upper left, pointing down, and the fill light from the right. Taken with a Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM lens.

A flexible tool: the Canon Macro Twin Lite MT-26EX-RT

The Macro Ring Lite MR-14EX II is convenient and highly portable, but the Canon Macro Twin Lite MT-26EX-RT is even more versatile. "It's often used for flowers, insects, jewellery and for documenting small items," explains Canon Europe's Mark Fensome. "It has a higher guide number than the Macro Ring Lite MR-14EX II – 26 compared to 14 – with manual settings that allow you to adjust the power to 1/512th the maximum."
The Canon Macro Twin Lite MT-26EX-RT.

Canon Macro Twin Lite MT-26EX-RT

Light up the world of macro with a highly adaptable twin flash capable of powerful and creative illumination.
The MT-26EX-RT can be used with the same lenses as the MR-14EX II, including the Canon EF 50mm f/2.5 Compact Macro, EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM, MP-E 65mm f/2.8 1-5x Macro Photo, RF 35mm F1.8 Macro IS STM and RF 100MM F2.8L MACRO IS USM.

"Independently adjustable heads allow for greater control of the position of each light source, making it easy to highlight textures and create the look required," Mark adds. "Each flash tube can be moved around the mount ring or even detached and connected to another third-party mount or tripod within the length of the cables. This means you are not restricted to 180-degree rotatable crescent light sources as with the Macro Ring Lite MR-14EX II.

"You can position the heads more like you would for a portrait, for example, with a key light from above and a fill light at 90 degrees from the side," Mark continues. "This enables better control of the highlights and shadows, which can give the image a more three-dimensional feel. Each flash tube is smaller than on the Macro Ring Lite MR-14EX II as well, so each head comes with the option to attach the supplied diffuser, to soften the light if needed."
A droplet of water hanging from the spines of an insectivorous red plant.

This beautiful-looking but evidently deadly insectivorous species of plant was lit using the Canon Macro Twin Lite MT-26EX-RT with the key light placed upper left and fill light from the right. Taken with a Canon MP-E 65mm f/2.8 1-5x Macro Photo lens.

A macro photographer uses a Canon camera, lens and Macro Twin Lite MT-26EX-RT flash to photograph a small frog on a leaf.

Macro photographer Oliver Wright photographs a White's tree frog with a Canon EOS R5, Canon RF 100MM F2.8L MACRO IS USM and the Canon Macro Twin Lite MT-26EX-RT on a shoot in a tropical butterfly house. The MT-26EX-RT is perfectly designed to illuminate close-up shots of such tiny subjects.

Multi-light control

When additional illumination is needed, for backgrounds or for additional creative lighting effects such as rim-lighting, both flashes feature wireless optical IR transmitters for remotely controlling Canon Speedlites. The Canon Macro Twin Lite MT-26EX-RT also offers the additional versatility of radio-control. While IR requires line-of-sight for control, the Radio Transceiver feature does not, so multiple RT-enabled Speedlites can be positioned wherever required.

Whether you opt for the Canon Macro Ring Lite MR-14EX II or the Canon Macro Twin Lite MT-26EX-RT for close-up photography, both Speedlites will help elevate your macro photography. With either one you'll be able to sculpt the light that falls on your subject to your exact requirements to capture perfectly-lit, crisper detail.

Autor: Kevin Carter


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