Nikon Z 9 D5 D800, D810 D850.
Below is the list of equipment I currently use for all of my routine general natural history photography. I have used many different pieces of photographic equipment over the years and like many photographers I have often fallen into the trap of buying or using something that fell short of my expectations. It’s difficult to make a fair assessment of any equipment until you use it for a while in the field. Only then can you make a judgement on its suitability for the task.
As most of you will notice as you go through my website I have switched my photography equipment workflow to using Novoflex for a number of reasons. The design and quality of construction are among the best I have used. Novoflex also designs and manufactures many routine and specialised pieces of equipment for the photographic industry. Macro is one field that they have considerable experience and knowledge and have, over the years, built an extensive and collection of devices and equipment; many of which are unique and not supported by most of the leading camera manufacturers.
Some would call it niche market equipment and to a point that’s true but without companies like Novoflex and others, it would be much more challenging to achieve some of the results that are important to many in the photographic industry.
One of the biggest advantages of the Novoflex brand is that you are buying into a system where everything is designed to work seamlessly together which it does exceptionally well. I find this especially important in macro when you want everything from your camera and lens to the bellows and your electronic stepping rail to connect perfectly with no movement.
I have reviewed many pieces of the Novoflex equipment I use. I am not paid or commissioned by the company to do so. My findings are based on my own experience of using the various components in the field which is always the best way to access the performance of any product.
I have revised and removed equipment off the list which I still have but no longer use or has been replaced in preference for another more suitable and improved product.
TrioPod PRO 75 & TrioPod-M: These are my current tripods for all of my macro and general natural history work. The PRO75 is extremely stable and I can invert the legs completely when I need to get the camera right down at ground level. All of the various legs are totally interchangeable between other models in the TrioPod range. Is use the TrioPod-M when weight is an issue and when working in the mountains where I’m likely to do a lot of walking. You can read reviews on my Novoflex Tab.
TrioBalance: An integrated tripod base with a built-in levelling base. Ideally suited for pano photography and when working in areas for example mountain regions when a lot of walking is involved and weight is paramount. You have 20° of adjustability in all directions with the base which is ample for most situations. No additional head is required just an Arca Swiss quick release. It is also possible to attach the camera directly to the base.
Novoflex ClassicBall 5II: A superb ball head and one of the best I have used. The 5 repeatable friction controls are unique and the three drop slots also allow for 180° of vertical movement not normally available on other tripod heads. The ball head is dual-purpose, when inverted it becomes a panoramic levelling base allowing you to capture images in that format.
ClassicBall 3II: A slightly smaller version of the ClassicBall 5II but nevertheless manufactured to the highest professional standards. It has repeatable friction control and the pano levelling base as standard.
MagicBall (The Big One): Without doubt the best and most versatile ball head I have used to date. The design is unique and I use this head routinely in virtually all of my work. This ball head has more rotational movement than any other ball head currently available. The friction control is adjusted via a small lever on the knurled handle. One turn with the handle secures the camera assembly with no creep whatsoever.
Others I previously used included Uniqball 45X, Kirk BH1. However, I find the ClassicBall 5II and the MagicBall more versatile for the work I do.
Novoflex Universal L Bracket: An L bracket that will work with the vast majority of cameras and will fit precisely into any of the Arca Swiss clamps designed by Novoflex and are also compatible with other independent makes.
NOVOFLEX BELLOWS SYSTEMS
Novoflex BAL-F for Nikon Z mount: One of the smallest and most versatile bellows units currently available. Ideal for photographing in the field. Novoflex makes a complete range of adapter rings to suit almost any combination of different camera and lens systems. The bellows can be fully automated if using the appropriate Retro Reverse Adapter for your camera. Excellent results beyond 1:1 are achievable when using a bellows system.
Novoflex BALPRO-1: Currently the most versatile bellows on the market for 35mm and medium format cameras. Superbly constructed and without doubt the best one I have used to date. It supports almost any combination of lens and camera systems. Like the BAL-F it has full automation when used in combination with the correct Retro Reverse Adapter for your camera. With its complete adapter ring system, you can combine most medium-format lenses and nearly all 35 mm lenses and special lenses with any size camera body up to 6 × 7 format.
I use this unit most of the time in the field and in combination with the Castel-Micro electronic stepping rail. I also use a range of different lenses on the bellows units.
Lenses I use and tested on the Novoflex Bellows Systems
Novoflex 60mm flat field Auto macro bellows lens: Superb image quality (no longer available from Novoflex), but frequently available on eBay. Manual only.
Schneider 90mm APO Digitar: A longer focal length macro that delivers extremely sharp images up to 1:1. Can also focus to infinity on the bellows. The lens is manual only.
Nikon EL-Nikkor 50mm Enlarging Lens: Enlarging lenses generally deliver excellent image quality and can be used on bellows systems. The EL 50mm works well delivering excellent image quality beyond 1:1. The lens is manual only.
Laowa 25mm Ultra Macro 2:5-5:1: When you want to push the boundaries beyond 5:1 on the bellows. Manual only.
Lenses that can retain full automation when used on any of the bellows systems with the appropriate Novoflex adapter. Nikon Z mount only, F-mount lenses are used in manual mode.
Nikon Z MC 105mm micro Nikkor VR S: A superb lens that can be used on either bellows system, delivering superb image quality at magnifications well beyond lifesize.
Nikon Z 24-70mm f/4 S zoom: When reversed on either bellows system and used in combination with the appropriate Retro Reverse Adapter, it maintains all of the automatic functions. When the lens is reversed on the bellows it produces extremely sharp results at magnifications in access of 1:1.
NOVOFLEX ELECTRONIC STEPPING OR FOCUSING RAIL
Castel-Micro Electronic Focusing Rail: If you are into focus stacking and exploring the smaller world at higher magnifications then using electronic rails will give you more consistent and accurate results. I have been using Castel-Micro for quite some time now and the results are amazing from this rail. See the Castel-Micro Gallery for examples. There is also a review on the rail in the Novoflex tab.
Castel Micro XQ Manual Focusing Rail: When working at higher magnifications it is easier to position your camera assembly if you use a focusing rail. It also delivers excellent results in the field up to about 2:1
VR-System PRO II If you are into panorama photography and want the highest professional stands then this system is for you. The Panorama VR-System PRO II HD is ideal for professional photographers engaged in all aspects of panoramic photography including multi-row. Excellent for dealing with converging lines in architectural photography and in situations where converging lines are an issue.
Novoflex MagicBalance: A small, lightweight, but sturdy levelling device which can be used with any camera and aligned quickly. It can be rotated 20° in all directions and secured by means of a fixing screw. Its ingenious design means the levelling head is practically maintenance¬ free. and indispensable for levelling on uneven ground. The ideal tool for panorama photographers who need to level their panorama systems.
OTHER MACRO LENSES
Nikkor 85mm PCE; Nikkor AF-S VR 105 f/2.8G IF-ED; AF Micro-Nikkor 200mm f/4D IF-ED; Laowa 15mm f/4 Wide Angle Macro.
Nikkor 300mm f/2.8 G ED VRII AF-S; Nikkor 500mm f/4 G ED VR; Nikkor AF-S 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR FX.
WIDE ANGLE/ZOOM LENSES
Nikkor 14-24mm f2.8 G AF-S ED; Nikkor AF-S 24-70mm f/2.8G ED.
R1C1, macro flash X2; SB29s and SB800’s X 2
Nikon GP-1 and di-Geotagger Eco Professional 2 DC units: An essential piece of equipment for me in the field. All of my images have GPS information attached to the metadata; this is essential when working on subjects that are going to be archived by the National Museum. It adds relevant information to the image regarding its precise location, which turns your image into a valuable record. Geotagging has many useful advantages, especially for landscape and close-ups, especially when photographing rare plants and when photographing abroad.
NISI FILTER SYSTEM
NiSi S5 150mm filter system: Circular Polariser; NiSi IR Series ND filters 6 and 10 stop; NiSi GND 150x170mm ND8 (0.9) 3 Stop Soft; NiSi GND 150x170mm ND8 (0.9) 3 Stop medium.
Extension Tubes: For use with long focal length lenses for flower photography.
Remote releases: Nikon MC30, Rollei Remote Release and Hahnel Captur IR release units and Hahnel Captur Module Pro IR units.
Custom Design Twin Gooseneck Flash Brackets: For Rockpool photography.
Manfrotto Lumimuse LED units: For additional lighting in woodland e.g. when photographing fungi etc.
Reflectors: A range of Lastolite reflectors & diffusers.
Custom Designed stem stabiliser: Indespensible for macro. I never leave home without it! I have two different sizes.