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MP-E 65mm

I recently bought a Canon MP-E 65mm macro lens. This is an amazing piece of kit, most of the reviews on the internet have it right, you can get some amazing results with the lens, if you take the time to get used to it, and have a whole lot of patience.

The main contributing factors to this statement are that the lens is completely manual, you focus by moving the camera (or zooming, at a push). This is exacerbated by the fact that if you’re at 5:1 macro, the frame covers an area the size of a grain of rice, and likely has a DoF of at most 0.2mm, and more likely something like 0.05mm! Also, at 5:1, light is a major issue, natural light photography is 99% impossible, and you need a ring flash or some other light source just so you can compose and focus, as the viewfinder resembles a dark mush. Apertures behave a little differently to “normal” lenses, and so you end up dealing with an “effective aperture”. What this essentially means is that at 5:1, and an aperture of, lets say f8, is effectively f48 (aperture x (magnification + 1)).

Diffraction plays a large part as well with using this lens, at 5:1, the sharpest aperture is around f5.6. Not so much of an issue if you are using the lens in a studio or lab environment, and are able to use a program like Helicon Focus or Zerene stacker, but in the field you’ll be forever searching for those magic angles.

Having said all that, I love this lens. It’s a lot of fun to use, especially if you have an entomological interest!

Taken using the MP-E 65mm at around 2x magnification

Speckled bush-cricket (Leptophyes punctatissima) Nymph