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.


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

Cone Flower – Echinacea 7 Image Stacks

A few different views of the Echinacea. My favorite lenses for macro above 1X are either the Canon MPE-65mm (1X-5X) plus crop factors depending on the camera body I am using or a m4/3 camera body using an older Canon FD 200mm f/4 macro lens with a m4/3 adapter. This will get me up to 2X on a m/43 body. It is easier to use than the MPE-65 and will also focus to infinity. Plus it is like using a 400mm lens on a m43 body, but with the depth of field of a 200mm lens. Also being mirrorless, I see a bright image in the viewfinder with the sharpness of the f/ stop I am using. Also I can see if I need +/- exposure compensation right in the viewfinder. Somehow, I like looking at things Really Close up. Has a totally different look and feel to what you are photographing. Even everyday objects, such as a common feather or a leaf takes on a totally different look. Then if you use focus stacking, you can greatly increase the overall sharpness & depth of field of your subject. Certain subjects can be a challenge, such as a dandelion going to seed. Or a dragonfly that might move even a tiny bit.

Echinacea stk end_1370720 v3

Feather CloseUp Stacked Images

Busy with work and not great weather outside, so have not posted much lately. Had a chance to play with a feather in the studio with extreme macro at 1.3X to 6.5X and multiple images combined with Focus Stacking in photoshop. Used a Canon EOS1D MkIV with a Canon 100mm macro and a Canon MP-E 65mm 1X-5X macro lens.

Here are a few examples.

feather v1_43G5980 v2

Feather v1_43G5993



feather base no stack_43G5925

Feather 5x_43G6016

feather 5x v1_43G6026

_43G5857 set2 hp v3


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