This Canon MP-E 65mm Macro lens from Canon is not the usual lens you might think about.  I used this lens for macro photography for more than a year.  There are multiple challenges with this lens that you need to know about:Please touch me

  • There is no focusing ring.  To get sharp picture you move the subject, or the lens closer or farther away from the subject;
  • The only ring on the lens is for magnification ratio.  The magnification ratio goes from 1:1 to 5:1 on a full frame sensor;
  • At higher magnification, hand holding the lens steady to take a picture is difficult.  A tripod or another form of support is a must;
  • Working distance is another challenge with this lens.  At higher magnification ratio the subject needs will be only a few centimeters away from the front element of the lens.  Some subjects just don’t get that close easily.
  • At greater magnification ratio, the lens extends much.  The use of the tripod collar, supplied with the lens, help balance the lens/camera combination on a tripod.

About Depth of Field using the Canon MP-E 65mm

As the magnification increase, the depth of field gets thinner.  Since there is no focusing mechanism on that lens, at a given magnification ratio, aperture is the only way to act on the depth of field.  Even at f/16, the depth of field available could be only a few millimeters.  To get the subject in focus you might have to resort to techniques like focus stacking.

As magnification increase, the available light drop proportionally.  This means that at 5:1 you have about only 20% of the light available at 1:1.  Depending on the condition it could be difficult to see if the subject is in focus because of the low light.  Should you wish to increase depth of field by closing the aperture to f/16 at magnification ratio of 5:1, the available light would be about equal to f/96.  A specialized flash, even in full daylight, is of great help.

To illustrate these constraints, here is a picture of a Heucherella flower.  Try to find a picture of a flower on http://image.google.com.  This flower is only 3 mm in width.  This picture was at 5:1 magnification ratio on a crop sensor Canon T1i at f2.8.  Only the front of the flower is in focus.

I strongly recommend renting this lens before considering buying it.  Although there are very few options to reach a 5:1 magnification ratio, the challenges associated with this kind of macro photography are real!

After one year, I sold back my lens on the used market.  If you have the needed vocation, here are a few resources to fuel it furthermore:

http://skycrystals.ca/catalogue/

http://www.flickr.com/groups/14414927@N00/

http://www.luminous-landscape.com/reviews/lenses/mp-e-65.shtml