A few days ago I happened to meet someone who was on the Photography course that I ran at Hardy’s Plants back in September. During our conversation I mentioned that there is to be a Macro half day course at Hardy’s in March 2018, she expressed interest but explained that her point and shoot camera wasn’t really up to macro work. I agreed that an SLR is best and she looked concerned about the cost of that kind of camera. I said that there are very competent used DSLR’s available for little money that can do a great job of macro and are perfect for beginners.

When I got home I thought perhaps I should back up my confidence in cheap, used SLR’s with evidence, so I dug out my ancient EOS 350D. The batteries were dead but otherwise all seemed well. As a fair test I used the notoriously poor kit lens and added extensions tubes to get the macro capability. It was a dull November day and that showed just how much viewfinders and screens have improved over the years, however it was all usable and brought back memories of how exciting the camera was when new.

Light levels were very low so a tripod was essential, as the kit lens was both slow and poor quality wide open. Exposures were around 1/25th sec. at f8. I found a few good subjects and after a few minutes had a batch of shots to put through Lightroom. The images looked so much better in LR than they did on the tiny camera screen and after a few minor adjustments to sharpness and contrast I had some pretty useful shots.

The 350D is only 8 Megapixels – that sounds feeble even compared to modern smartphones. For web, social media, emails etc. that’s ample pixels. I found the colours, detail and dynamic range just fine for most amateur purposes. In fact, even for print the 350D images are OK up to full page. I have images with an agency that are still selling and going into print that came from the old 350D 10 years ago.

A used 350D can be found on eBay for less than £100 with lens and half that body only. A set of extension tubes is around for £14 for a set of three. A compact flash card can be found for a few ££’s, you don’t need a big one. So for not much more than £120 you can get into SLR digital macro photography.