Close up macro – the Canon MP-E65 lens
Looking at the Canon MP-E65 lens
Specialist macro lens for x1 to x5 magnification
Canon’s specialist macro lens explored. See also the ‘Macro’ category in the drop down list at the right for many related articles.
A quick look at the Canon MP-E65 lens
First up, this is no ordinary macro lens.
By that, I mean a lens that offers close up focusing for small objects.
Most macro lenses are normal lenses that have been designed to allow you to get fairly close up to an object – they can usually be used as perfectly normal lenses too.
Where most macros are pushed to reach 1 to 1 magnification, where the image size on your sensor is the same as the real object, the MP-E65 starts at ‘1 to 1’ or x1 magnification and goes all the way up to x5.
A magnification of x5 means that an object 7.2mm x 4.8mm would fill the frame of my Canon EOS 1Ds mk3 (4.5mm x 3mm on a 60D)
I’ve written up some previous macro experiments, involving extension tubes and assorted lenses showing some much cheaper approaches that you can explore.
Update: I now own the lens and its a vital part of our Macrophotography business.
The lens with no focus adjustment
The lens is nominally f/2.8 at 65mm, although both of these figures are essentially meaningless in terms of normal use for the lens. There is no focus adjustment – the plane of focus is at a certain distance in front of the lens, going from 101mm at x1 to 41mm at x5
The lens extends by far more than any other I’ve ever used
whilst for close-up…
You might notice that I’ve got the camera attached to a micro adjuster rail. This allows me to move the camera back and forth very precisely for focusing.
The effective maximum aperture also varies with magnification, and is always smaller than what your camera indicates.
With all this, exposure and depth of field become quite tricky to work out – it can be done, but I’m glad of histograms and tethered shooting to explore different setup options (using this lens with film took real dedication ;-)
I attached a Canon MT-24EX flash to the front of the lens
The object in front of the lens is a small EU flag pin I was given when I was at the EU Commission in Brussels on business a few years ago (long before I became a photographer)
At x1, this is the view
At x4, a whole different world comes into view
Here’s a 100% crop of the image above.
Why x4 and not x5?
At x5 the flash (using ETTL here) is so close that stray light reflected into the front of the lens noticeably lowers contrast – there is a specialist lens hood available to counter just this – this is a loan lens from Canon UK and didn’t come with one.
I’ll come back to more details of using the lens after I’ve had it a while, but I’ll finish with this picture of a Spider in my garden – taken at x1, hand held, but with the flash set to 1/16 power manual mode.
Update note: The lens hood
After getting an MP-E65 I noticed problems with flare, if lights were too close.
There is a lens hood available (mine was via E-bay) which I’d say is an essential accessory.
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Some articles that may be of interest:
- Using a tilt/shift lens - what it is they actually do
- Focus with tilted lenses - lots more information about what's going on when you tilt a lens. See also: Focusing the view camera - External link to [very] detailed coverage of camera movements
- Keith's tilt table spreadsheet (zipped file)
- Using old lenses on your DSLR - fun with adapters
- Keith's lens reviews and lens related articles
More of Keith's articles/reviews (Google's picks to match this page)
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