Another macro photography post? Well, why not? Upon returning the Canon 100mm f/2.8 L IS USM macro lens to my friend last week, he let me borrow his Canon MP-E 65mm f/2.8 macro lens to review that as well.
What a lens!
If you thought the details in that quarter in last week’s blog were neat, you’ll get a kick out of how much closer the 65mm macro can get to subjects.
This week I chose to go with a Lego Star Wars theme because those toys are all over the shelves of stores everywhere. Christmas and the latest movie are nearly upon us, so I thought it would be fitting.
Lego figurines are generally really small, so I thought I’d use the 65mm macro to enlarge the little Lego.
This lens is unique in that you don’t have image stabilizer, autofocus or zoom.
In fact, you can’t focus at all with this lens except by moving the lens forward and backward. The changes in focus are so minute that putting a focus ring on this lens would cause more headaches than solve.
Instead, the easiest way to bring your subjects into focus is by using a rail system like pictured in the bottom right of this page. You can make millimeter micro-adjustments and even take a bunch of photos at different focus points to focus stack images so the whole subject is sharp.
When shooting with this lens, you’ll need to shoot with tiny subjects. Think ant-size stuff. Even the Lego figurine was too big to fit into the whole frame. I had to take three separate photos and stitch them together to get the whole figurine to be in a single image. Crazy.
But the amount of detail in the images taken really makes up for that.
Like I mentioned before, the 65mm macro doesn’t zoom. Instead, it magnifies. You can create an image at a 1:1 ratio or you can magnify that image up to five times the size of the subject.
The best example of the magnification at work is the figurine’s eyes below. The amount of detail this lens shows is astounding.
I shot all of my images with this lens on a tripod. Handholding for this requires A LOT of light. Even with lamps and my light table I had to hold my breath when pressing the shutter button so I didn’t cause any vibrations.
Eventually I switched to video mode and used that to fine-tune my focus. The mirror on the camera also locks up in that mode so when the shutter is pressed there are even less vibrations.
The other thing about macro photography that is really emphasized when using this lens is that the depth of field at wider apertures is insane. The in-focus areas are razor thin, forcing the user to employ smaller apertures or focus stacking to get a sharp final image.
Overall, this lens is a lot of fun to use. Is it practical? Eh, I suppose if you enjoy shooting tiny stuff, but its uses are limited to just that, tiny stuff.
At roughly $1,000 I will probably pass on purchasing this macro lens. It’s a fun piece of glass to play around with, but I don’t see myself using it a lot. Still, I rate this lens as a really cool tool.