Macro Cube

Click on any of the images below (bar the first) for a larger res version.

I thought I’d do a quick walk-around of my macro studio for those who might be interested in developing their own. This has been a few years in the making and is something I’ve designed and built myself from scratch. Much trial and error and many headaches have gone into this but finally I have a finished product that does exactly what I want it to.

Firstly, the camera and support. Here we have my Nikon D700 with L-plate mounted first on dual iShoot macro rails which allow me to precisely move the camera forwards and backwards, left and right. The macro rails are mounted directly to a Manfrotto 410 Junior (avoid the new XPRO which is the 410’s replacement.. it’s cheap, plastic and wobbles like a weeble..)  which allows me to tilt the camera forward, backwards, left and right as well as pan left and right. The final axis (up and down) is the job of the tripod itself, a “vintage” Gitzo Cremaillere 2 with Gitzo G1201 leg xxtensions (I took the legs extensions from a G1201 I had lying about because they were sturdier and lighter, being of a basalt construction).  Despite the height of this setup it’s pretty solid when all locked into place and the camera can be micro positioned via every axis. The geared mechanism on the old Gitzo is very smooth and gives just the right tension; a real joy to use and these can be picked up for a song on the auction sites. 

The “Cube” as I call it consists of 5 sheets of frosted acrylic, about 70 x 70 x 70cm. 

The exact light stand pictured above is fully incorporated inside the cube, believe it or not. I used every component of that light table but in a very different way than shown in the instructions! It gives me a good base upon which to shoot product shots and I can very simply attach different coloured backgrounds to it via some clamps that came with it.

7 LED light panels of various sizes, all of which are dimmable, allow me to position the light exactly where I need it and at the exact brightness required. All but the two small ones at the front can also be adjusted for light temperature, too. 3 standard studio lights with 200w 5500k daylight bulbs are positioned to the left, right and above the cube which help when I need the entire cube lit, as opposed to just a specific object.

Inside the cube are 16 (4 x 4) horizontal steel threaded rods and 8 vertical ones. When these are all inserted they effectively grid the entire space within the cube and allow me to position objects anywhere in the cube that I wish, whilst also allowing for accurate positioning of the lights around the object. This can be done by using the rods as shelves or by using clear “fishing lines” to hold the objects in any “hovering” position required.

Above left you can see a few of the “fishing lines” mentioned above. In the background you’ll notice several nuts sitting along each rod. These are larger than the thread on the rod but lock nicely when pulled at an angle. They allow for very quick positioning of objects. The two small round lights at the front are 4 LED sparklers, used for getting gem stones and the likes to sparkle. I have the cube positioned in a very light room who’s walls are mostly glass. During the day it provides very good natural light and the lights are barely required. For more precise colour temps, however, I black out the room and control all the light artificially.