Posted on December 4, 2019
Over 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.
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.
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.