Getting Close To Your Macro Subjects With Canon MP-E 65mm Macro Lens

MPE-65_v1_76A1536Over my Commercial career, I often had to get very close to some of my photo subjects. Some of the smallest were photographing a machined part on the head of a pin or extremely small products for nerve and other surgeries. So I had a wide assortment of macro lenses to use depending on the subjects, client’s needs, camera formats and magnification I needed to fulfill my client’s needs. Now that I am semi-retired I have more opportunities for my personal photography to use them for fun and to experiment. One of the most interesting is the Canon MP-E 65mm 1X – 5X macro zoom. It is an interesting lens for extreme closeup photography. Somewhat difficult to get used to but once you use it a while it is an extremely useful piece of equipment. You can also get even closer if you use extension tubes, cropped sensor camera or a teleconverter. It is a very manual lens, you focus by moving the camera & lens back & forth so a focusing rail on a tripod also comes in handy. I usually just use a tripod and get close then fine tune focus by loosening the camera and sliding it somewhat on the rail on the tripod. Minimum f/stop is f/16. But when the lens is fully racked out at 5X you use a lot of light on the sensor, I usually check the exposure on the preview after a shot.

MPE-65_1x_use2_76A1516

Canon MP-E 65mm Macro Lens – 1X – 5X   f:2.8 to f/16 manual focus lens. (@ 1X setting, zoom)

MPE-65 -5X_76A1520

Canon MP-E 65mm f/2.8  1-5X macro lens @ 5X setting

The featured image and the two below are closeups of a butterfly wing.

It is definitely a lens you have to get used to. Manual focus  by moving the camera, usually using a focusing rail on a tripod or moving the camera & tripod. “Zooming” the lens changes the magnification from 1 to 5X.

But the more you zoom, the darker your image is in the viewfinder because of the loss of light racking the lens out. So when using studio strobes you have to adjust your f/ stop or increase power on the strobes. Also checking your preview helps when getting used to using this lens.

Macro test leaf_v1_76A1506

Studio Test Subject for image series – the leaf from top tip to bottom before stem is 2 inches. Image shot with 100mm macro. Could not get the whole leaf in with the MP-E 65mm. Images below are shot in the reddish- yellow section of leaf.

Images below are from 1X to 5X. Some are multi-image stacked images because of the very limited depth of field with this lens. Even when you think you are shooting straight in, parallel to your subject, it does not take much for an out of focus or soft area. So with this lens I always focus stack images for a series to combine in Photoshop.

Focusing with this lens can be a challenge. Even with stopping down to the minimum f/16 you usually tend to get a soft area. Using a ring light or macro flash setups also adds to the awkwardness of lighting your subjects. I usually use studio strobes instead of ring lights or other macro flash on the front of the lens which tend to get in the way. You definitely have to get used to using this lens and when you get comfortable with it you can get some amazing images and details. Once you are getting results you like, then try the challenge of using it out in the field, that is another learning experience! But once you get used to it, it is a fun piece of equipment to use and gives nice results. The only other lens sort of like this is Venus Optics Laowa 25mm f/2.8 2.5 to 5x Ultra Macro Lens at about 1/3rd the price and is available for quite a few camera brands.MP-E 65_f11_76A1461MP_65_2img_f16_76A14715x_MPE_f11_65mm_MP-E_76A1455MP-E 65_f11_leaf_4X_76A1448MP-65_1img_5X_f1676A1470MP-E 1X_MP-E65_f11_76A1446MP-E 3img stk f11_76A1451 5xMP_E_65 v1 1491.MP_E65_leafV1f 16_76A1481

Feather Closeup 1X to 5X+ in Studio

When the weather gets colder and the days get shorter and grayer it is fun to shoot some extreme closeups of natural subjects in the studio. When I am photographing outside I collect subjects to photograph in the studio at a later date. My favorite is feathers, but leaves, seeds or almost anything natural can be interesting. Your studio can be your kitchen, living room, etc. or an actual photo studio. It is fun to try stretching your photographic vision in a controlled environment to see what you come up with. It can be extreme closeups of everyday items in your home or natural items you find and bring inside. It is interesting to see even a slight change in angle or shift in lighting can make a big difference in your final image. Simplistically, shooting parallel to your image gives you more depth of field across the subject, shooting at an angle gives you more of a view to highlight a certain area in sharp focus and a softer look in other areas highlighting a certain area you want to show. Also you can use many homemade items to add to your image. Try a small reflector or mirror to bounce back a little highlight to an area or even a white fill card. Lighting from above and behind adds more to surface textures. It is fun to try different techniques or just experiment to see what you get. Another technique to try is focus stacking, especially for closeup macro shots for more depth of field in your image. Images below are from 1X to 6 or 7X with a variety of macro lenses. 50mm macro, Canon MPE 65mm , 100mm macro and 150mm macro.

Feather stack eleven v1

Feather – 11 stacked images for more depth of field

feather stack eight v2

Feather Image – 8 stacked images for depth of field

_43G5943 stack v4

Feather – 4 stacked images for depth of field

feather_43G6019Feather v1_43G5993feather stack v2_hp 43G6010Feather 5x_43G6016Feather 4x_43G5998_43G5986 set3_43G584 stack v2

Butterfly Wing Detail – Tubular Veins

Another detail photo of a Butterfly wing taken in the studio at approximately 6.5X. Butterfly wings are made of two layers (membranes) that are nourished and supported by tubular veins. The veins also function in oxygen exchange – breathing. Covering the wings are thousands of colorful scales, together with many hairs.

Stacked Butterfly Wing at 6.5X In Studio

Featured image is of Butterfly Wing shot in studio @ 6.5X with a Canon 1DMkIV, 1.3X crop body with Canon MP-E, 1-5X Macro Lens, set at 5X,  Off Camera Flash. A series of 3 images stacked in Photoshop.

 

butterfly cu v1                                                                 Wider view showing the area photographed for the stacked photo at 6.5X.

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