Tom stated that he used a digital SLR camera and a 105mm macro lens. With his camera and that lens, he has a fairly strong telphoto, and its macro feature will allow it to focus up to 1 foot from the subject. There is no optical zoom (unless of course you switch lenses). This set up would likely have a stronger telephoto (magnification if you will) than most point and shoot digital cameras available.
As far as how he got that close to the subject, it looks like Tom has much more patience than you or I...
You have some nice ones, Tom. Did you actually go back to get the tripod for any of them? Some seem just a tad off on focus or might have slight camera shake blur -- or maybe it's just movement of the insects themselves. I'm no macro photog though, so I probably couldn't do any better, especially handheld. Also, I imagine the mirror slap of the D70 makes this a bit tough as well w/out a good tripod. Maybe a monopod would work also. Did you get the wireless remote?
And yeah, I agree w/ Scott. Most of us probably don't have quite the patience to shoot bugs like Tom does. However, you do not really need a (D)SLR + macro lens to do it. Quite a few compact digicams can do it w/ their dedicated macro modes, but you would need to get extremely close as Neil assumed -- and not all such digicams work best at full telephoto for macro shooting. As I understand it though, it seems that bugs often just stay still for you once you get w/in a certain distance. Well, that's what I've been told by Don Ellis over in dpreview anyway -- of course, he coulda just been joking now that I think of it.
You can find his wonderful galleries (and some tips) here -- and yes, he uses a Canon G2/G3 compact that doesn't even offer as good macro ability as many Nikon compacts:
And for the best macro photog I know of -- not that I try very hard looking -- on such forum sites, see these 2 links for Mark Plonsky's work (and some helpful tips as well) -- yes, he too uses a Canon G series compact:
BTW, part of the reason why I'm considering keeping my G3 around after getting the D70 is in case I suddenly get the impulse to dive into macro photography. Afterall, a good macro lens would cost about as much as what I could possibly get by selling the G3, and it's not like the G3 is shabby for shooting macros -- far from it judging from the photos one sees. And the 4x3 ratio might be more suitable anyway making the resolution diff fairly small. Also, the G3 is no larger than a macro lens and would still be a good backup and/or travel-very-lite digicam.
yeah, more than a few of them are a little soft. It turns out I *would* have been able to use my macro focus rails but I was having some sort of brain cramp and for some reason I was trying to put it together wrong. I was lying in bed last night at 12:30 when I realized it and of course just *had* to get up and see if I was right -- and I was. dumbass. I used my tripod in the normal way for a few but otherwise they are all handheld, which is definitely accounts for the softness. When you're dealing w/ a DOF measured in fractions of millimeters, the slightest movement from the intended point is gonna throw the focus plane backwards or forwards. I'm definitely gonna go back and try again in a couple weeks and use much smaller apertures (most were essentially wide open) so I can be assured of getting everything in sharp focus.
And since most were handheld, I can't really account for what effect, if any, that mirror-slap might have had. Once I get lots of tripod shots where I *know* everything should be tack-sharp, then I'd be able to assess that. In general, though, I've read that it's really not that big of an issue. I also have the wireless remote, which I'd definitely use w/ the tripod. unfortutely it is a piece-o-crap compared w/ the wired remote I had for my F100. I don't know why Nikon doesn't make one that plugs into the USB port. Seems like it'd be tailor made for such a thing.
As for how I got so close, where I went was the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum in Chicago's Lincoln Park, where they have a year-round "Butterfly Haven". You'd be surprised at how good of models the butterflies are -- they'll sit on a leaf or flower for 5,10,15,30 minutes without so much moving an antennae, even when only 1ft away using a flash. Some were pickier eaters, flitting from flower to flower but many were like they were frozen. It's definitely a fun exercise. The 105mm 2.8 micro lens definitely helps as well. It's probably my favorite lens and the one I use most often for portraits. Next time I go back I'm also gonna ues my polarizer more often as that might bring out some of the colors a little better even though the greenhouse has very diffuse light.
The website listed above has some pretty amazing stuff. I'll have to review that and a book I've got before giving it another go ... which is the great thing about digital in that you never have to worry about film cost !
Did you get the Nikkor or the Sigma lens? Seems like a big diff in price. The Sigma seems like a great bargain and consistently gets high praises. I've considered getting that for both macros and street photography and portraits, but I already have the Nikkor 85mm f/1.8D and like having the extra stop-and-change -- and as I said, not big on macro photography (at least just yet).
These 2 recent flower photos w/ the 18-70DX are about as close as I normally get to macro photography.