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Thread started 27 Sep 2013 (Friday) 17:18
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The problem with the MP-E 65mm Macro Lens...

 
amfoto1
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Sep 27, 2013 17:18 |  #1

It's a fantastic lens, but not one I'd recommend to most people wanting to shoot macro. Especially not for someone trying macro for the first time.

If you are unfamiliar with it, the Canon MP-E 65mm Macro lens is not your typical macro lens... It's a 1:1 to 5:1 magnification lens. It essentially fills the roll of a macro bellows in older camera systems (a bellows would be problematic to implement with modern Canon electronically controlled lenses. Though some have done so... look up Novoflex, but be warned the price is high). Most macro lenses go from infinity focus to 1:1 or "Life Size" as their highest magnification... Meaning that on a full frame DSLR at highest mag they can fill the image area with a 24x36mm object, or on an APS-C crop sensor Canon DSLR are able to fill the image area with a 15x22mm object that's the same size as the sensor itself.

This is where the MPE 65mm starts... 1:1 magnification is the least it can do. It can't even focus to infinity... Or even portrait or other non-macro distances. It's a macro lens only, going from 1:1 up to 5:1 or five times life size. 5X means that on a FF camera it can fill the image area with approx. a 5x7mm object... or with an APS-C, a 3x4mm object.

It's also manual focus only (the aperture is controlled from the camera electronically) and comes fitted with a tripod mounting ring (which it needs). Even it's lens hood is unique, looking like sort of a funnel covering much of the front of the lens and one of the few Canon lenes hoods that screws in and is made of metal (and is ridiculously expensive!).

I've been wanting the MP-E for a long time... I love shooting macro. Finally got it recently, but I'm finding it challenging to use.

One big problem is finding a subject small enough to shoot with it. This lens literally shoots at magnifications we don't normally notice or pay attention to with our bare eyes. It's also not a fast lens to work with, most typically will need tripod mounting and that rules out using it with many animated subjects. At higher magnifications, the subject is only an inch or less from the front of the lens (which extends dramatically as it's dialed to higher mags).

Finally thought I'd found the ideal subject.... There are a lot of newly hatched garden snails in the yard since a recent rain. They climb to the top of a blade of grass in the early morning, so aren't too difficult to find. And they are slow moving. After all, they're snails! I found and brought a tiny one indoors, along with a leaf to "pose" it upon. Well, this first model turned out to be camera-shy and completely refused to come out of it's shell. The image below is shot nowhere near the lens' maximum magnification. It's probably about 2.5 or 3X...

IMAGE: http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3767/9971678323_d2d4f8fae1_c.jpg


Above image gives you some idea of just how shallow depth of field is. And this was shot at f16! That's the edge of the leaf, too... which is little thicker than a piece of heavy paper.

After dropping and losing above subject in the carpet (glad I'm renting!) while trying to encourage it to come out and play, I had to go outside and get another subject... A slightly larger and more animated snail (tho still smaller than the fingernail on my little finger)...

IMAGE: http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7301/9971564414_b152bc9e78_c.jpg

But even tho only moving at "a snail's pace", it was still a struggle with this lens to get and keep the subject framed and in focus. I had best luck moving the subject, leaf and all, but it kept crawling out of the frame, off the leaf (onto a newspaper), out of focus. The above is only around 1.5X.

One of my better shots is sort of a "snail portrait"....

IMAGE: http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7393/9971562424_0a09d672d2_c.jpg

Above is about 2X. Next time I hear someone whining about problems with shallow DOF in a portrait, getting one of their subject's eyes in focus, but not the other.... I'll laugh. Hey, try it at 2X (even at f16!).

At these magnifications (around 1.5X below), even a snail is pretty fast and hard to keep up with...

IMAGE: http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5480/9971676113_bdebc3fce4_c.jpg

And somewhere along the way, the subject picked up a couple cat hairs that look like ropes at these magnifications....

IMAGE: http://farm3.staticflickr.com/2889/9971674103_a13ff3061d_c.jpg

I am not a fan of ring light flashes most of the time... Usually for macro I use an MR-24EX Twin Lite, or just a single 580EX or 550X with an off-camera shoe cord and some white gauze over the flash head to tone it down a bit. But at greater than 1:1 magnification the MR-14EX really comes into it's own. All the above were done with one of the Ring Lite's tubes as a primary source and the other dialed way down or completely off. The top two images used the lefthand flash tube as the primary source, while the bottom three used the righthand tube (you can see the flash tube in some of the reflections).

Overall, IMO the above aren't great shots, but sure were a good learning experience. Next time I'll look for a dead bug that won't move! I may look into image stacking software such as Helicon Focus, too. I was using Live View and sure wish my 7Ds or 5DII had articulated LCD screens. I'll also be shopping for a longer lens plate, to allow me to slide the lens back and forth more, closer to and farther from the subject to focus (the MP-E's focus ring acts more like a zoom than to focus), a standard high magnification macro focusing technique. I have a couple macro focusing stages I might try, too.

Here are a couple quick shots of the rig used to make the above shots....

IMAGE: http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7312/9972066176_5ed5ab2623_z.jpg
IMAGE: http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3672/9972065076_9f6b0f4080_z.jpg

It's a fun lens... but the MP-E 65mm is not for everyone (lots of patience required!)

Okay, I gotta go look for some more tiny models now. (I released the cooperative one back into the wild.)

Cheers!

Alan Myers (external link) "Walk softly and carry a big lens."
5DII, 7DII(x2), 7D(x2) & other cameras. 10-22mm, Tokina 12-24/4, 20/2.8, TS 24/3.5L, 24-70/2.8L, 28/1.8, 28-135 IS (x2), TS 45/2.8, 50/1.4, Tamron 60/2.0, 70-200/4L IS, 70-200/2.8 IS, 85/1.8, Tamron 90/2.5 Macro, 100/2.8 USM, 100-400L II, 135/2L, 180/3.5L, 300/4L IS (x2), 300/2.8L IS, 500/4L IS, EF 1.4X II, EF 2X II. Flashes, studio strobes & various access. - FLICKR (external link) - ZENFOLIO (external link)

  
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Radders
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Sep 27, 2013 17:33 |  #2

amfoto1 wrote in post #16330000 (external link)
even a snail is pretty fast and hard to keep up with...

That did make me smile lol

Really want this lens to play with..! Love the head on shot.


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gnome ­ chompski
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Sep 27, 2013 17:56 |  #3

I was aware that the learning curve was steep with this lens. Also, I believe that the vast majority of those sharp as a knife MP-E shots that we all ooh and awe over are stacked images. That produces another learning curve, haha.

Thanks for sharing your experience.


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Copidosoma
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Sep 27, 2013 18:09 as a reply to  @ gnome chompski's post |  #4

I had one for about a month. Incredible lens but a very big learning curve associated with it.

I sold it because I just didn't have the time to dedicate to it (and because I'm extra busy with work when all the cool critters are around). I also found that I got quite a bit of diffraction showing up (on my 7D) anything above f5.6 which made for some pretty severe image stacks.

It is a one trick pony that does a a trick no other lens can and does it incredibly well. If you can do your part.

Great job with the snail shots.

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IMAGE: http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8261/8666463549_c9e45e05f4_z.jpg

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botw
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Sep 27, 2013 22:48 |  #5

I love mine, even though rarely used. I sold my first one and then repurchased it because it's one of those lenses that have no ready alternatives.


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amfoto1
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Sep 27, 2013 23:02 as a reply to  @ Copidosoma's post |  #6

...I also found that I got quite a bit of diffraction showing up (on my 7D) anything above f5.6 which made for some pretty severe image stacks....

Yeah, I noticed that too. I think my next step will be to try it on my 5DII and see if that works better.

...
Poppyseeds on a bagel:

QUOTED IMAGE

Poppy seeds don't crawl away while you're trying to get a shot, do they? ;)

That's what I find cool about this lens... It can take you into worlds you wouldn't normally see. I used to so some work for a company, making prints for them from electron microscope scans that were at far higher magnfication than any of the above... near molecular levels. The enlargements I made were used as evidence in court cases and law suits. Generally speaking I had no idea what I was looking at, but it was always interesting... Like miniature, unseen or even alien worlds. Maybe that's why I've always been intrigued with the MP-E and wanted to give it a try.


Alan Myers (external link) "Walk softly and carry a big lens."
5DII, 7DII(x2), 7D(x2) & other cameras. 10-22mm, Tokina 12-24/4, 20/2.8, TS 24/3.5L, 24-70/2.8L, 28/1.8, 28-135 IS (x2), TS 45/2.8, 50/1.4, Tamron 60/2.0, 70-200/4L IS, 70-200/2.8 IS, 85/1.8, Tamron 90/2.5 Macro, 100/2.8 USM, 100-400L II, 135/2L, 180/3.5L, 300/4L IS (x2), 300/2.8L IS, 500/4L IS, EF 1.4X II, EF 2X II. Flashes, studio strobes & various access. - FLICKR (external link) - ZENFOLIO (external link)

  
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badams
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Oct 01, 2013 16:48 |  #7

Unless the seeds fall off the bagel, then they move real fast.

I've always wanted to try that lens, but I don't even have the patience with either of my 1:1 macros (Canon 60mm & Sigma 150mm) so I don't think I could ever handle the MP-E.


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ceriltheblade
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Oct 02, 2013 00:01 |  #8

badams wrote in post #16339053 (external link)
Unless the seeds fall off the bagel, then they move real fast.

LOL.

thanks for the writeup...that has been one of my dreams too - to get the MPe65
but like one of the other posters
I am not sure I have time in my life right now to really get over that learning curve...

Anyway, thanks for the great insight into your thought processes and frustrations as well as the successes. Keep it up!!! :)


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Oct 02, 2013 07:01 |  #9

Nice write up. Thanks


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StayFrosty
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Oct 02, 2013 07:28 |  #10

Nice review, I agree 100% with what you said. I got an MP-E as my first non kit lens!

I was in awe of macro photography and really wanted to get into it. I read on the internet this was "the best" lens out there so I got one: my philosophy being buy the best or end up buying twice.

To cut a long story short it is way too hardcore for me, it sounds stupid but it is quite difficult to find stuff small enough that will make an interesting photo especially if you're approaching it from the arty side rather than the bug chasing side.

I enjoy using it occasionally but I don't think I've had my money worth from it, the 100mm f2.8 that I subsequently got has seen much more use both in picturing normal and small sized stuff.


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paddler4
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Oct 02, 2013 12:04 |  #11

I also found that I got quite a bit of diffraction showing up (on my 7D) anything above f5.6 which made for some pretty severe image stacks.

I do my macro with 1:1 lenses (and tubes) and have never used an MP-E 65, but I think I know what this reflects. Canon, unlike Nikon, displays the nominal f-stop at macro distances rather than the effective f-stop. The effective f-stop is much higher at those distances, so diffraction begins at larger nominal f-stops. See this link (external link)for an explanation.


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amfoto1
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Oct 02, 2013 14:40 |  #12

paddler4 wrote in post #16340964 (external link)
...Canon, unlike Nikon, displays the nominal f-stop at macro distances rather than the effective f-stop. The effective f-stop is much higher at those distances, so diffraction begins at larger nominal f-stops. See this link (external link)for an explanation.

This is correct. Canon details it in the manual for the MP-E 65mm.

At 2X, there's a 3-1/3 stop exposure factor (above were shot at f16 and around 2X, so the effective aperture actually was about f48).

As the lens extends even farther for higher magnifications, the effective aperture grows smaller and the exposure factor (to make manually set exposures) gets greater. At 5X it's a full 5-1/3 stop factor, making the nomilal f16 setting an effective f96.

Of course you have to balance diffraction off against the incredibly shallow depth of field. At 5X magnification and f2.8 (effective f16), DOF is only 0.048mm. At 5X and f16 (effective f90), DOF is 0.269mm.

I guess I need to seriously look into focus stacking!


Alan Myers (external link) "Walk softly and carry a big lens."
5DII, 7DII(x2), 7D(x2) & other cameras. 10-22mm, Tokina 12-24/4, 20/2.8, TS 24/3.5L, 24-70/2.8L, 28/1.8, 28-135 IS (x2), TS 45/2.8, 50/1.4, Tamron 60/2.0, 70-200/4L IS, 70-200/2.8 IS, 85/1.8, Tamron 90/2.5 Macro, 100/2.8 USM, 100-400L II, 135/2L, 180/3.5L, 300/4L IS (x2), 300/2.8L IS, 500/4L IS, EF 1.4X II, EF 2X II. Flashes, studio strobes & various access. - FLICKR (external link) - ZENFOLIO (external link)

  
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Oct 02, 2013 15:42 |  #13

amfoto1 wrote in post #16341297 (external link)
...I guess I need to seriously look into focus stacking!

That's right! That's why all the keen macro shooters (and I'm one too) go for stacking. Shooting the MP-E at f/16 results in quite dull, soft pictures. I use f/8-11 around 1:1, opening to an indicated f/5.6 at the really close end, and that gives much sharper results. If you can put a finger on a surface such as the ground, it's possible to do a stack handheld, as long as your subject is sufficiently obliging.

Here's a recent one I did of a weevil, using 13 shots to make the stack.

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Oct 03, 2013 14:43 |  #14

I use it for product photography occasionally. Here is a rare nickel I photographed for a collector who was selling it. I don't think of any other lens I could have gotten this shot with.

IMAGE: http://i.imgur.com/VmKSDqo.jpg

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Oct 05, 2013 19:35 |  #15

Great thread




  
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The problem with the MP-E 65mm Macro Lens...
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