Super Duper Macro (Canon MP-E 65mm f/2.8 1-5X Macro Lens)

MacBook Pro Power Button 1x (MP-E 65mm)

Anyone who has had a poke at my photography knows that I totally dig macro photography. I love taking photos of flowers and critters where the extremely small fills the frame.

The second lens I added to my tiny photo tool chest was the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM Lens. I can’t say enough good things about this lens. Actually, I really need to write up a review of the lens because it is just a stunning piece of glass and is worthy well beyond just being a Macro lens.

However, there is a much more extreme, single purpose, Canon macro lens and I was just lent a copy today (by David Hill — of Medialets, of interest to iPhone app develoeprs — one incredibly generous soul!).

The Canon MP-E 65mm f/2.8 1-5X Macro Lens. It is, flat out, ridiculous. Just very very different from normal lenses. The wikipedia article contains a decent explanation.

The picture at left is taken at a minimum magnification of 1x. It is of the power button on my MacBook Pro.

Since the lens is fixed focus, that is the maximum sized bit of reality that can be captured with the lens (the image is cropped just slightly — about 90% of the original size).

So what does 5x look like? Click through to find out….

MacBook Pro Power Button 5x (MP-E 65mm)

This is a 5x image of the metal bits inside the circular divot surrounding the vertical divot in the MacBook Pro’s power key.

Again, the image is only slightly cropped.

To fully appreciate how weird this lens is, the focal distance in that image is about a quarter of an inch in front of the front element of the lens.

The depth of field is unbelievably shallow, too. The maximum depth of field is only 2.24mm at 1x magnification, dropping to fractions of a millimeter at higher magnifications.

MacBook Pro Screen 5x (MP-E 65mm)

The lens, quite literally, has no focus motor or focus ring. You have to move it back and forth.

And given that the focus area is so incredibly tiny, you need lots of light or very long exposures when taking the photos.

As well, the camera has to be steady. Very very steady. I tried taking a photo right as my desktop Drobo (need to review the Drobo, too) kicked in and the vibration from the drive completely blurred the shot!

Fortunately, my ring flash is compatible with the MP-E lens. However, the borrowed lens also came with a Canon MT-24EX Macro Twin Lite Flash which has two adjustable flash heads, enabling tight control of light direction and intensity.

The image at left is of the MacBook Pro’s screen at a 5x magnification. The flash did fire and the white blobby bits are reflections off of dust or imperfections in the screen. They can’t be seen with the naked eye.

The RGB bits are the individual cells within the LCD.

iPhone Screen 5x (MP-E 65mm)

Finally, this is a 5x image of an iPhone 3G’s screen.

Since the screen is higher density, the individual RGB cells are smaller. The screen image was a bit of a satellite map on the Maps application (only because that app tends to disable sleep on the phone for a long time).

These are, literally, the first four usable images out of the first dozen I have taken with the lens. I can’t wait to see what I can do with flowers, bugs, and other critters in highly controlled environments.

And to that ends, the timing could not be better. Tomorrow, Roger and I head to Missouri for a week long critter hunting adventure. Should be a blast!

6 Responses to “Super Duper Macro (Canon MP-E 65mm f/2.8 1-5X Macro Lens)”

  1. BWJones says:

    Wow… So, I think you’ve just showed me the next lens I will have to buy….. JUST FOR THE BUGS! 🙂

  2. Jonathan Wight says:

    At first I only saw the topmost image on this page and thought “so what?”. Then I scrolled…

    Holy cow.

  3. bbum’s weblog-o-mat » Blog Archive » Roger’s Geode Collection says:

    […] Not surprisingly, this image was shot with the Canon 65mm 1-5x macro lens. […]

  4. Macro Photography for Beginners says:

    The Canon MP-E 65 is a very impressive lens. It might prove difficult to get shots of entire insects (depending on their size) with such a shallow depth of field and extreme magnification. I know that some photographers use a technique called “stacking” to overcome this problem. Basically it involves taking a lot of shots of the subject and then using software to stack them all and blend all the sharp areas together to get one “extreme” macro shot. I’m fairly sure that there is free stacking software available on the internet.

    Marvin Africa

  5. bbum’s weblog-o-mat » Blog Archive » Red Pincushion Protea (Leucospermum cordifolium) says:

    […] f/2.8 Macro lens and the second two with the Canon MP-E 65mm f/2.8 1-5X Macro lens (that I had written about previously). All photos were taken in direct sunlight passed through a UV filtering […]

  6. John Wright says:

    This lens certainly grabs the imagination. I recently bought the Canon 180mm macro which gives the minimum macro value of 1:1 (lifesize) .Then, only yesterday (August 15) I came across this MP- E 65 and thought I’d bought the wrong lens. I’ve just finished reading the below review and it pulls no punches and I think those who are enthralled with this MP-E 65 , just as I was, should read it and then at least when going ahead and purchasing it you’ll be in full knowledge of the problems and extra equipment that seems to be required.

    John Wright (UK)

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