This week, I’m sharing my fly fishing and fly tying cameras I use for the images you see here on RiverKeeper Flies. It’s an updated list of equipment from a post I wrote back in June 2020 and revised June 2021 entitled Camera Equipment for Fly Fishing and Fly Tying. I’ve made some changes since then. I’ll provide a comprehensive list of cameras I use, discuss close-up photography in the field and at home, and touch on the post processing software.

Nikon Z Cameras |
Nikon Z 50 (left) – Nikon Z 6ii (right)

If you know me, I use the word journey a lot. I have been on a photography journey for several years and have learned so much in that time. But I have a lot more to learn as well. It’s something I enjoy.

I changed to Nikon mirrorless cameras in the last couple of years. Previously, I used a Nikon d7100 DSLR, which you’ll see below in some older images. It was a wonderful camera. Why did I change? One of the major reasons was camera size. It had a large footprint which prevented me from taking it with me when I fish. That’s why I purchased the Olympus TG-6. The images from the TG-6 were quite good, plus it takes wonderful macro and underwater shots.

But the more I took pictures, the more I wanted additional control. That’s the reason I purchased my first Nikon mirrorless camera, the Z 50. It’s a crop-sensor. I won’t explain the difference between crop-sensor and full-frame here. If you are interested, I suggest you Google it. The main reason I purchased the Z 50 was size and cost.

I was able to carry the camera inside my waders and pull it out to snap a picture. I thought it worked pretty well and the colors I get from all my Nikons I think are impressive. I was using the two “kit” lenses, a 16-50mm and 50-250mm. But I wanted to see if better glass (lens) would provide even better images.

So I purchased a Z mount 24-120mm lens. The f/4 lens allows me to shoot in lower light, something I need when fishing into the evening. Faster f/2.8 and f/1.8 lenses would be better in low light, and I occasionally take the 50mm f/1.8 prime lens. All I can say is WOW! The lens was probably overkill on my little Z 50, but I really enjoyed the images from the lens. The improvement was noticeable.

I’d never had a full-frame camera and wondered if the quality would be an improvement over the Z 50. In addition, several other factors pushed me to purchase a Z 6ii.

  • Full-frame
  • Full weather sealing
  • Able to power with USB-C for video.
  • Focus tracking
  • Better low ISO capability
  • Automatic focus stacking

It seems the more I learn, the more I want to improve my images.

Here is one example of why I purchased new equipment. I used the full-frame Nikon Z 6ii and 105mm macro lens (yes, I purchased this lens as well). Below is a series to show how I crop images for effects seen on RiverKeeper Flies. The original image is on the left are size 20 flies. On the right side, I cropped it to bring the flies closer and easier to see.

And a final crop of this size 20 Sierra Bright Dot.

Sierra Bright Dot |

Sharp images, right? To say it’s an improvement from the first year of RiverKeeper Flies is an understatement!

While I was happy with the older d7100, I never had images that looked this good.

I’ve been taking the Nikon Z 6II and NIKKOR Z 24-120mm f/4 S to the river with me. Here are a few images from that combination.

The same lens works very well on my Z 50 as well, which I purchased in mid-2021. The images below are from that camera.

I used to only carry my Olympus TG-6 on the water, but now carry one of the Nikons too. The TG-6 has served me well over the years and creates wonderful images. All of the underwater images are from this camera.

Don’t forget, your cellphone can work too! Cellphone cameras have become MUCH better in recent years. My wife uses hers all the time and captures some very good shots. For me, the downside of a cellphone is lighting. I just have better options to control light with my Nikons or TG-6. If it works well for you, use it. The best camera is the one you have in your pocket. A word of caution though. Many cellphones over-saturate their colors to produce images. You may or may not like the final look.

Equipment List – August 2022

Here is a current list of my photography gear. You’ll find Amazon links as a way for you to obtain detailed information. I’ve used Adorama, but B & H Photo is another great source.

Nikon Cameras

Nikon Z 6ii FX Mirrorless Camera Body

Nikon Z 50 DX mirrorless camera – I purchased the kit which included the 16–50 mm and 50–250 mm lenses and the FTZ adaptor.

Lenses & Filters (Updated 3/2023)

NIKKOR Z 24-120mm f/4 S – This lens is always on my Z6ii. It produces stunning images.

Hoya HD3 UV – 77mm

NIKKOR Z MC 105mm f/2.8 VR S – this newer native lens for my Nikon Z cameras is amazing!

Tokina 100mm Macro F 2.8 D – Nikon AF mount I use with the FTZ adapter below.

NIKKOR Z 50mm f/1.8 S – Another VERY sharp lens.

Hoya HMW UV/Circular polarizer/ND8 kit – 62mm

NIKKOR Z 14-30 mm f/4 S

Hoya HD3 UV filter

NIKKOR Z 28mm f/2.8 – my newest lens. I purchased it as an alternative to carry on the water in the evening during low light periods.

Hoya HD3 UV – 52mm

Hoya HD3 Circular polarizer – 52mm

Nikon Mount Adapter FTZ II – This adaptor allows the use of “F” style lenses on either of my Nikon Z mirrorless cameras. It’s what I use to mount the Tokina macro lens.

Olympus Equipment

OLYMPUS Tough TG-6 Waterproof Camera

Olympus FD-1 Waterproof Flash Diffuser – This simple accessory improved my images tremendously when using the macro mode. I’m constantly finding insects that seem to like the shade. Adding light makes a difference.

TG-6 Screen Protector Compatible with Olympus TG-6 TG-5 Camera Waterproof Screen Protector – this product works!

Here are a few advanced features I enjoy when using the TG-6:

  • Aperture priority mode
  • Shutter speed control – set minimum shutter speed to help with low light and utilize auto-ISO.
  • Manual flash can be used to power down to 1/64th
  • 2 Custom modes which saves user settings
  • Super macro autofocus mode

A huge benefit I found upgrading to the TG-6 was the ability to set the minimum shutter speed. When combined with auto-ISO, it allows fast shutter speed in low light conditions. Trying to capture a fish picture quickly in low light resulted in fuzzy images using 1/30 sec. Now I set the minimum shutter speed to 1/200 with improved results to eliminate motion blur.

The following Youtube videos from Backscatter is some of the best information about the TG-5 and TG-6 I’ve seen. I’ve linked to the TG-6 videos, but you might benefit from their thorough TG-5 videos

These videos will shorten your learning curve, I guarantee it!

The Olympus TG-6 can be a complex camera to learn all the settings. But you can shoot in “auto” mode as well. I use “aperture” mode because I have more control with my settings. The camera doesn’t allow a full “manual” mode, but shooting in “aperture” and tweaking a few settings gets me very close.

Lights and Miscellaneous equipment

Lighting (Updated 2/2023)

  • Flashpoint Zoom Li-on X R2 TTL (Godox V-1) speedlight – purchased 2 – Flashpoint is Adorama house brand)
  • Flashpoint R2 Pro MarkII wireless transmitter (Godox XProII)
  • Nikon SB-700 speedlight
  • Nikon SB-26 speedlight
  • Nikon SB-22 speedlight
  • Neewer CN-160 LED Dimmable Ultra High Power Panel – I use 2
  • Nikon SC-29 TTL Off-Camera Shoe Cord with AF Assist – Coiled 3-9′ (I’ve replaced using this with the wireless transmitter listed above.)


Close-up Photography

On the River

I use the term “close-up” rather than macro. The true definition of macro photography is a 1:1 reproduction of the subject. Anything closer is called magnified. The image on the right is a “close-up, magnified” view of a Caddis wing taken with the Nikon Z 6ii and 24-120 lens (1/320, f/7.1, 120mm). It’s larger than real life, or 1:1 macro definition. I cropped the image to be visually appealing.

I was lucky with the Caddis because I could move the branch into sunlight and snap the picture with the Nikon. Most times, insects search for shady locations and the TG-6 works better. The major reason I purchased the TG-6 is to add light with the Olympus FD-1 Waterproof Flash Diffuser (listed above).

Before purchasing the Nikon, I used my Olympus TG-6 exclusively for closeup photos of insects like these:

Home Studio

I’ve taken hundreds of fly pictures. Here is my first “home studio” for close-up images of the flies you see on RiverKeeper Flies, using the Nikon d7100 and Tokina 100mm macro lens.

Home Studio |

I set up my equipment on the dining room table and snap a few pics, then put it all away.

Home Studio |

Now, I use the Nikon Z 6ii and 105mm macro lens on my adjustable stand/sit fly tying table.

Home Photography Studio |

I purchased the Nikon 105mm because I can use the auto focus mode. The Tokina still works fine, and I use it on the Nikon Z 50 with a FTZ adapter. I just need to manually focus. Many photographers prefer to use manual focus for their close-up work. Both lenses do a wonderful job, producing crisp, clear images. I’ve started to experiment using both the Z 6ii and Z 50 cameras and macro lenses on my YouTube videos.

Here are my current settings for close-up:

  • f16 (for expanded depth of field)
  • shutter speed 1/200
  • ISO160
  • Speedlight 1/16 power

When taking photos, I set the SB-700 in “remote” and SB-26 in “manual ISO 100”. The SB-22 is connected to the Nikon with the SC-29 TTL Off-Camera Shoe Cord. It serves as a “trigger” for the off-camera flashes. I utilize the diffusers which come with the SB-700 and SB-26 to soften the light. Light panels are turned on at low power so as not to blow out the background with too much light. The background is colored stock glued to a backer board with blue on one side and black on the other. I purchased them at JoAnn’s Fabric.

I haven’t done too much photo stacking. This technique is used to create a greater depth of field. Even using f 16, some of the fly is out-of-focus.

What camera to use

Most of my indoor close-up photography is done using the Nikon equipment. At times, if I want to take a quick shot and not pull out all my equipment and set up the tripod, I’ll use the Olympus TG-6 hand-held. I might use its flash to “trigger” one of the Nikon speedlights for additional light. Many times, it’s easier to stabilize the smaller TG-6 for a quick hand-held shot.

Post processing

I’ve learned that post processing really adds to the final images you see on RiverKeeper Flies. The images at the beginning of today’s post of the size 20 flies is a perfect example.

I started many years ago with a free program called Picasa. It worked OK for very minor adjustments, then Google stopped supporting the program. My friend Al Beatty pointed me to Adobe products, and I now use Lightroom Classic for my post processing, which is much more robust than Picasa. Occasionally, I’ll open Photoshop for something specific, but not very often.

I shoot in RAW format now (yes, the Olympus TG-6 captures images in RAW as well) and make minor adjustments to exposure, highlights, shadows, whites, blacks, and dehaze to create the final image in Lightroom. The benefit for me of using RAW format is a wider dynamic range and greater color spectrum than using JPEG files.

Here is an example of what I can do in Lightroom…before and after.

In addition, I can remove all the specs floating in the water to eliminate distractions from the insect.

Photographing insects floating in the water is very difficult. Current speed and lighting are my nemesis! I delete many images to find one like this.

I hope this information has been useful for you. If you have further questions, just leave a Comment below and I’ll get back to you.

Enjoy…go fish!

(John Kreft is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

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  1. Fantastic article. We really appreciate all of your work John. You’ve helped me have numerous successful fishing trips, and learn much more about our sport.

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