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what setup to use for insects

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James Wright
what setup to use for insects
on Sep 7, 2014 at 5:07:54 pm

I am working on a grad project and will be filming bees. I lack experience in documentary film, so I need advice.

I have the following equipment at my disposal:


Black magic cinema 2k
Canon 5d
canon xha1
canon xf 105

lenses (Nikon's have adapters for fitting canon):

nikon 50mm 1:1.4
canon 85mm 1:1.8
canon 70-200 1:2.8
canon 24 mm 1:2.8
Nikon 85 mm 1.8
sigma 105 mm 2.8

What would be the best technique, settings, equipment for filming bees with good color and detail?

If I wanted some slo-mo what is the best I can do? None of the equipment is high speed but I want as smooth as i can.

I am fairly familiar with frame rate shutter angle relationships but don't know where to start or expect.

Any suggestions would be great.


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Paul Harwood
Re: what setup to use for insects
on Sep 7, 2014 at 10:15:58 pm

Hi James my name is Paul Harwood. Although a macro lens might be a great option for filming insects, you can try a macro extension tube. Using a tripod, a 50mm, the extension tubes, and a slider you should be able to get great shots. I have had great experience with the macro extension tubes, and they are very reasonable in price, as well as the slider. I will provide links below as well as a few videos showing how to get aperture setup and focusing with these tubes.

Fotodiox Macro Extension Tubes:

Macro Slider Rail:

Great video to get started (teaches how to focus):

How to setup aperture:

As far as slow motion, I would highly recommend shooting 60 fps at 720p. It takes just about the same amount of space as 1080p 30fps, but the results for putting 60 fps into slow motion are phenomenal. Going even further, if you put 60 fps footage into a 24p timeline, it will be even smoother.

I hope this helps, and please let me know if you have any questions or comments.

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James Wright
Re: what setup to use for insects
on Sep 8, 2014 at 1:47:08 am

Thanks for the info. I was thinking about getting a cinema macro lens that I saw on BH(the photo store) for around 500 dollars. Is the set up you described still a better option in your opnion? I do not have the option to film in 60 unless I use one of the xf or xha1 then the option is 60i. Will this get decent results?


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Paul Harwood
Re: what setup to use for insects
on Sep 8, 2014 at 1:32:35 pm

Sure thing James. You could definitely buy a macro lens. BH is great, and has the best prices. How much time do you have to do this project? The reason I ask is you could try the macro extension tubes, and if you aren't satisfied with the results you could then try the lens. I haven't tried the macro lens, and all I have experienced is the extension tubes as far as macro goes. I honestly would recommend the tubes, but to further convince yourself, how about looking at videos on youtube with the extension tubes as well as the macro lens? That might clarify some things. It might be a lot easier to get good shots with the lens because of possibly not having to use the slider.

Can you explain xf or xha1? I was thinking 60p with the 5d would look phenomenal, but maybe you are working in a certain timeline with clips with different frame rates? I have worked with 60i in a Canon Vixia HFM301, and slow motion can be difficult to make look as good as a dslr. If you do 60i, I would recommend trying to bump the frame rate up so that there is less motion blur. That might work.

One other thing, do you have a zoom lens, like a 70-300? Tamron makes really good zoom lenses apparently, but just make sure if you use a tripod, keep Vibration Compensation (Image Stabilizer) off. The knob on the lens. Here is a link to this lens. I think a zoom might help, and there's always those $1500 f 2.8 lenses hahh.

This lens was recommended to me by a professional photographer, and the video results are nice as seen on Youtube.

I hope this helps you James. If you have any other questions please let me know.

- Paul Harwood

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