Here’s a photo I took last week. It shows a granivorous ant with an enormous head housing muscles for milling the harvest. I used Canon’s MP-E 65mm 1-5x lens and a twin flash diffused through two sheets of mylar.
The last time I photographed this species was in the field in South Africa, using a little Nikon coolpix digicam. That was in 2003:
While it’s true that the greater magnification and sensor quality of the newer and pricier Canon gear make an obvious difference, I’d argue the single biggest advance is in the lighting. The Canon allows my to plug in an off-camera flash. I gain control over the direction and intensity of the lighting, and once I add in fifteen cents’ worth of tape, paper clips, and diffusing paper I can produce a lovely, softly-lit ant portrait.
After all, photography is about light. All the megapixels in the world won’t matter if you cannot properly light the image.