Beyond 1x - is Canon MP-E 65mm the right choice for me?

Just bought that first macro lens? Post here to get helpful feedback and answers to any questions you might have.

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olly
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Beyond 1x - is Canon MP-E 65mm the right choice for me?

Post by olly »

Hi,

I'm new to the forum and so I'm posting in the beginners topic, but I'm not a complete beginner. Please be gentle :)

I am a keen amateur macro photographer. Mainly flora so far and I'm lucky enough to have a Canon 5D MkII, an EF 100mm IS macro and a Sigma 150mm IS macro. I hand hold quite a lot, but also do some tripod work with a few speedlite flashes. I have one of those (can't remember brand - Eastern European) ring flash adapters that fits on to a speedlite - it's a bit bulky and heavy and I suspect a "proper" ring flash might be a future investment.

Anyhow, I often want to get closer in than the 1x magnification on my existing lenses allows me. I've been thinking about getting a Canon MP-E 65mm for a while, but they aren't cheap and so I am hoping I can get some advice please?

I have read a few of the online reviews which seem pretty positive in the main, and I already have a beefy tripod and one of those micro-adjustment plate thingies. One thing that has worried me is mention in reviews of lack of sharpness at higher magnifications with this lens. Both the canon 100mm and Sigma 150mm I currently own are very sharp even stopped open (particularly the sigma) and I always seem to end up selling soft lenses. Or is the softness not related to this lens and more a general problem that such high magnifications cause?

Thanks

Olly.
.

olly
Posts: 5
Joined: Sun Jul 08, 2012 2:33 pm

Re: Beyond 1x - is Canon MP-E 65mm the right choice for me?

Post by olly »

olly wrote:Hi,

I'm new to the forum and so I'm posting in the beginners topic, but I'm not a complete beginner. Please be gentle :)

I am a keen amateur macro photographer. Mainly flora so far and I'm lucky enough to have a Canon 5D MkII, an EF 100mm IS macro and a Sigma 150mm IS macro. I hand hold quite a lot, but also do some tripod work with a few speedlite flashes. I have one of those (can't remember brand - Eastern European) ring flash adapters that fits on to a speedlite - it's a bit bulky and heavy and I suspect a "proper" ring flash might be a future investment.

Anyhow, I often want to get closer in than the 1x magnification on my existing lenses allow me. I've been thinking about getting a Canon MP-E 65mm for a while, but they aren't cheap and so I am hoping I can get some advice please?

I have read a few of the online reviews which seem pretty positive in the main, and I already have a beefy tripod and one of those micro-adjustment plate thingies. One thing that has worried me is mention in reviews of lack of sharpness at higher magnifications with this lens. Both the canon 100mm and Sigma 150mm I currently own are very sharp even stopped open (particularly the sigma) and I always seem to end up selling soft lenses. Or is the softness not related to this lens and more a general problem that such high magnifications cause?

Thanks

Olly.
.

Charles Krebs
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Post by Charles Krebs »

It is an excellent lens. Most of the reports you see of "lack of sharpness at higher magnifications" are directly related to poor usage technique. (Naturally not all samples of a lens offer identical performance, so you can never say someone did not get one that is less than stellar).

But generally the lack of sharpness stems from two areas.....

- motion or vibration of camera or subject

- selection of an aperture that is far too small for the magnification, resulting in poor resolution due to diffraction. This is an issue that is universal with all lenses used in the magnification range offered by the MP-E, and certainly not an MP-E "issue".

For many this is the first foray into magnifications over 1:1 (or perhaps even 1:2). Many do not realize how severe a "resolution penalty" diffraction can take at the magnifications provided by the lens.

Effective aperture = f#(m+1)

So, for example, at 5X even an aperture of f/5.6 will yield an "effective aperture" of about f/34. This is really too small on an APS-C body, and still really too small on a "full-frame" (24x36mm) sensor (unless the end use is only for a rather small image). If you are after good resolution at 5X you better be using f/2.8 or possibly f/4 and the DOF is frighteningly shallow. (Thus the need for image stacking)

If, in a mistaken notion the user decides they need far more depth of field at 5X and uses a nominal f/16 the effective aperture is f/96, and the image will not be sharp at all!

So if you pay attention to motion/vibration concerns and watch the aperture used at different magnifications it is an impressive and unique lens.

Admittedly it does take some getting used to handling it. The great increase in extension as you focus closer can make it a challenge when used on a tripod unless you have a focusing rail with a good amount of travel. Also, the working distance gets pretty short, especially considering the fairly large diameter of the front of the lens.
Last edited by Charles Krebs on Sun Jul 08, 2012 5:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.

olly
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Post by olly »

Charles Krebs wrote: - selection of an aperture that is far too small for the magnification, resulting in poor resolution due to diffraction. This is an issue that is universal with all lenses used in the magnification range offered by the MP-E, and certainly not an MP-E "issue".
Great. That makes sense. Thanks. I read a thread somewhere else on this forum where someone has provided a table to show minimum aperture size vs magnification.

Having seen some photos taken with this lens I think I'm going to go for it. I am patient, so hopefully with some perseverence I can get some good results. I guess at high magnification it's all about getting enough light in the right place on the subject? ie you need lots, but with the subject so close to the lens it's hard to get it illuminated well?

Thanks

Olly.
.

rjlittlefield
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Post by rjlittlefield »

olly wrote:I guess at high magnification it's all about getting enough light in the right place on the subject? ie you need lots, but with the subject so close to the lens it's hard to get it illuminated well?
True. One drawback of the MP-E 65 -- perhaps its only drawback -- is that it has a wide barrel that extends clear to the front of the lens, about 8 mm in front of the glass. This makes it harder to get light around than some of the older bellows lenses that have narrower tapered snouts. But it's not a huge problem.

A lot of people use flash with a large diffuser close to the subject to provide soft light. This works even with handholding because of the short effective exposure time. Another approach is to shoot natural light with relatively long exposure on a tripod. This is especially effective in early morning when bugs are still quiet.

I debated a long time before shelling out for an MP-E 65. From my standpoint, it's mostly a specialty lens for field use because of its rugged build, auto diaphragm, and wide magnification range. For that application it's superb. In studio, I'll usually choose some other lens that's a little easier to illuminate around. But for optical quality, the MP-E is hard to beat. See http://www.photomacrography.net/forum/v ... hp?t=15876 for my evaluation of lenses for use at 4-5X on an APS-C sensor. In that comparison, the MP-E is the best I tested that would still cover full-frame.

--Rik

Rylee Isitt
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Post by Rylee Isitt »

The MP-E 65mm is an excellent lens. I've been able to handhold it up to 3x if using a gun-stock style attachment to brace the camera against my shoulder. At higher magnifications, you're probably going to need something serious. At least a tripod and some kind of clamp to prevent wind from blowing your subjects around (if you're in the field). Or a macro studio.

When using something like the MT-24ex in combination, I've found it difficult to go above 3x since the flash heads get very close to whatever you're photographing. I mount diffusers on mine, which makes it even harder.

It's not easy to use. Not like a regular 1x macro lens. But I've had excellent results.

If you don't pixel peep, you can still try to control depth of field with the aperture. But if you want the highest image quality, as others have suggested you need to shoot wide open (or one stop closed) and stack many shots to control depth of field. It's much more work, and limits your choice of situations, but the results are really worth it.

olly
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Post by olly »

Rylee Isitt wrote:stack many shots to control depth of field. It's much more work, and limits your choice of situations, but the results are really worth it.
I had a look at the Zerene s/w. Looks quite good. Is that recommended? Just to help me with expectations, if I was shooting an object with a front-rear size of say 3mm at 3x mag what kind of number of shots would I be looking at to get a good sharp stacked image?

Thanks

Olly.
.

Blcak
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Post by Blcak »

One thing I dislike about it:
The aperture isn't that nicely shaped, so the out of focus blur can look a bit nasty at times. But that's hard to produce at these magnifications ;).
Edit: Found a picture on flickr by someone else which shows it:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/naadodi/6617779097/

Canon should think about remaking the lens with a narrow tube and more, rounded aperture blades.

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Post by ChrisR »

Zerene seeems to be the one most used for macro, sure. It's easy to get going with so download it for a trial.

3x, 3mm, well, depending on your requirement and aperture, something between about 20 and 100 shots in the stack. There's usually something sticking out which means you need more depth than you think, too.
(Depth of field has beeen addressed a lot on the forum -future reading!)

Where the MPE really scores is field work. If you look at the examples on the forum at say 3x, it's the most popular lens by far. I don't have one, but I expect I shall.
Major problem #1 with anything else, is that you don't have an auto diaphragm. With your sensor, you're hitting diffraction at about effective aperture f/32, ie f/8 on the lens, at 3x. (8 * (3+1) = 32)
Unless you rig up a bright focus light, (which is certainly feasible,) it's pretty darned hard to see what you're focusing on at eff f/32. Trying to use a Luminar in the field is gloomy!

Your DOF at that aperture for Circle of Confusion at field width/1500, is 0.17 mm, by the way. Less if you're more critical.
Major problem #2, is having an arrangement which allows you to focus over that wide a magnification range. Sure you can swap between tubes and bellows, but when crouching on hands and knees... :evil:
You're "lucky" in having the larger sensor - 36mm as a max for me, is more useful than 23mm (APS-C).

An NB - You'll find a lot of small stuff on flowers etc, none of which is stackable, because it moves too fast. It's not always an option! Again, an MPE is about as good as it gets.

olly
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Post by olly »

Thanks for all the advice. I have just ordered an MP-E, I should get it Thursday :). I'm fully prepared to get quite frustrated before getting happy, and I'll certainly have a go with the Zerene trial once I have the lens.

Cheers

Olly.
.

Rylee Isitt
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Post by Rylee Isitt »

I recommend looking up a photographer known as "dalentech". His diffuser design was a good starting point for me, although I'm thinking of altering it.

Plus his single-shot photos are very good. One thing about NOT stacking is that it forces you to get the most out of an insanely shallow depth of field.

I try to do single-shot stuff on a regular basis to keep myself in practice, and often you don't have a choice.

See his blog: http://nocroppingzone.blogspot.ca/

rjlittlefield
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Post by rjlittlefield »

Rylee Isitt wrote:"dalentech" ... his single-shot photos are very good. One thing about NOT stacking is that it forces you to get the most out of an insanely shallow depth of field.
Very good indeed, and in some cases an excellent example of "breaking the standard rules" to optimize for what you care about. For example at http://dalantech.deviantart.com/art/Lad ... -123027725 there is a lady beetle shot with an MP-E 65 at f/13 and 3X on a Canon 40D. That's effective f/52 on an APS-sized sensor -- so deep into diffraction territory that his 10 MP camera is actually acting more like 1.5 MP. But the result works great. Yes, it would be fuzzy at actual pixels and full camera resolution, but it's still sharp enough to capture the ommatidia of the eye and the increased DOF from stopping down so far gives a very pleasing overall appearance.

--Rik

Blcak
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Post by Blcak »

rjlittlefield wrote: That's effective f/52 on an APS-sized sensor -- so deep into diffraction territory that his 10 MP camera is actually acting more like 1.5 MP. But the result works great. Yes, it would be fuzzy at actual pixels and full camera resolution, but it's still sharp enough to capture the ommatidia of the eye and the increased DOF from stopping down so far gives a very pleasing overall appearance.

--Rik
Well, it depends on the size of the final medium. Like you say, it's ~1.5MP effective resolution, so if you reduce that picture size to roundabouts 1.5MP, then of course it's sharp. Even more so if you apply some sharpening.

But it wouldn't work well for a larger print, and you can't really crop, either.

Decreasing the magnification just a bit and cropping can produce equal results at less difficulties.

johan
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Post by johan »

Blcak wrote:One thing I dislike about it:
The aperture isn't that nicely shaped, so the out of focus blur can look a bit nasty at times. But that's hard to produce at these magnifications ;).
Edit: Found a picture on flickr by someone else which shows it:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/naadodi/6617779097/

Canon should think about remaking the lens with a narrow tube and more, rounded aperture blades.
Nikola's latest shot shows it quite well too - http://www.flickr.com/photos/eurythyrea ... hotostream

From my reading round the subject, it sounds as if you might want to also purchase the MT-24EX twin flash? Although Andrea has recently waxed lyrical to me about LED panels on his 65 =)
My extreme-macro.co.uk site, a learning site. Your comments and input there would be gratefully appreciated.

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