Canon MP-E65mm f/2.8 1-5X Macro Lens Review:

 

Canon MP-E65mm f/2.8 1X-5X Macro. I want to share my experience with this unique lens. I have no intention to shoot test charts, because nobody shoots test charts, print them and hang the pictures of test charts on the wall in real life, and there are lots of places over the internet, where you can check out formal lens tests. I will supply a link or two at the bottom of this review page where you can check all these formal test results if desired. I want to share some real life experience here. Unfortunately it was winter at the review time, so it was impossible to find any creatures as a subjects, so I'll limit myself to a slightly different look at common things.

Canon MP-E65mm f/2.8 1-5X Macro is a unique lens, no other manufacturer makes similar lenses, that can be used in a macro range only. Some time ago there was an 1x-3x Minolta, but it had only 3 times magnification. Canon MP-E65mm f/2.8 1-5X Macro is designed to shoot subjects with 1x to 5x magnification. These means that a subject's image will be life size or several times bigger than actual subject. One can get up to 5x magnification when shooting with full frame camera body like Canon 5D Mark III or Canon 6D. When using APS-C cameras magnification range will be between 1.6x and 8x. This lens grants incredible opportunities to a photographer. I must say however, that it requires certain amount of skill and patience to fully unlock the potential of Canon MP-E65mm f/2.8 1-5X Macro.

Canon MP-E65mm f/2.8 1-5X Macro build quality is excellent, it similar to modern Canon L series lenses, or even exceed it. Focusing ring makes 2-3 full turns, goes very smoothly and don't have any noticeable play in it. Actually it is not a usual focusing ring, Canon MP-E65mm f/2.8 1-5X Macro changes subject magnification with focusing ring rotation. So when given magnification is needed, one should set it and than achieve focus by moving camera  to or from the subject. I recommend special macro focusing rail for any serious work.  Macro focusing rail is a geared-track stage that offers precise movement for macro work. Using a focusing rail saves you time and improves results when shooting precise macro work. It is especially advised for extreme macro work. 

There are some caveats, that macro photographer should be aware of. First, the rule of thumb that estimates safe shutter speed to be 1/(focal length) doesn't work in extreme macro range. Every camera movement is magnified according to the magnification we are shooting. I can not provide a foolproof formula here, but even shooting at 1:1 magnification resembles shooting with a long telephoto lens.

Avoiding camera shake is not the only difficulty when shooting with Canon MP-E65mm f/2.8 1-5X Macro. It's aperture is claimed to be f/2.8, but the aperture displayed by the camera assumes that the focus is set to infinity. As we deal with macro range only and are very far from infinity, we should speak about effective aperture. The actual or effective aperture determines the amount of light that actually reaches camera sensor.  It becomes much darker at closer focusing distances (the closer you are to the subject the greater magnification you have).   To calculate effective apertures one can use this approximated formula:

Effective Aperture = (Lens Aperture Setting) X (1 + Magnification)

So as we can see from the above formula,  the amount of light that reaches camera sensor decreases to a noticeable value at high magnifications. Camera exposure automatics with TTL metering is correct with both natural light and flash, but by 5x magnification the viewfinder becomes very dark. And you need a lot of light for correct exposure. This means that you either have to shoot motionless subjects from a very sturdy tripod or use flash as a light source. I can recommend special macro dual headed flash light Canon MT-24 EX. The unit has two heads on a flexible cables, so you can make a small studio, as you are free to position lights around your subject.

Thread and needle, Canon 5D mark III, f/8, 1/200.

Thread and needle, 100% crop, Canon 5D mark III, f/8, 1/200.

Wrist watch mechanism, Canon 5d mark III, f/14, 1/2s.

 

Canon MP-E65mm f/2.8 1-5X Macro is excellent optically. It is very sharp even wide open. Sharpness increase slightly when stopped down, but it is noticeable only at small magnification values between 1x and 2x. At high magnification levels diffraction begins to affect sharpness even at small aperture values. So we increase depth of field when stopping down, but decrease sharpness in the point of exact focus. Color reproduction is very accurate; saturation and contrast are excellent. Canon MP-E65mm f/2.8 1-5X Macro can capture all the tiniest and finest details, if used in a proper way.

Extremely shallow DoF is one more thing that should be taken into account when shooting with  Canon MP-E65mm f/2.8 1-5X Macro. Depth of field is in a  0.048mm (at 5x, f/2.8) to 2.24mm ( at 1x, f/16) range.  At  5x magnification and f/16 aperture, DoF with Canon MP-E65mm f/2.8 1-5X Macro will be as shallow as 0.269mm. I must notice, that at high magnifications diffraction is very apparent, so sharpness decreases severely when stopped down. The effect is illustrated on the sample with jeans below.  So when setting aperture with Canon MP-E65mm f/2.8 1-5X Macro we should take into account both diffraction effects and desired DoF. Click the picture below to see the difference.

Jeans, Canon 5D mark III, f/8 - f/13, 1/200s, click to compare.

Jeans, 100% crop, Canon 5D mark III, f/8 - f/13, 1/200s, click to compare.

 

Chromatic aberrations are corrected very well in Canon MP-E65mm f/2.8 1-5X Macro and can be visible only in extreme situations. They are not visible on most shots even without software correction. The last traces of them can be removed in DPP, that I use, or in any other imaging software. There is no CA correction for the sample photos  in this article, so you can see that they are virtually non-existing.

Vignetting is not significant even when you shoot with Canon MP-E65mm f/2.8 1-5X Macro wide open on a full frame body. Distortion is not noticeable in real life shots too.

Canon MP-E65mm f/2.8 1-5X Macro, Canon 5D mark III and Canon MT-24EX.

Screwdriver close-up, 4x magnification, Canon 5D mark III, f/14, 1/200s.

Drill close-up, 4x magnification, Canon 5D mark III, f/14, 1/200s.

Микрофон, Canon 6D , f/2.2, 1/60s.

 

Bokeh, or how the lens renders of out of focus areas, is a very important characteristic of any lens. It is subjective characteristic that is difficult to measure, but is very easy to see. Canon MP-E65mm f/2.8 1-5X Macro background blur is very strong, that is not surprise given the magnifications. In general background is rendered very smooth and nice looking, however highlights in some cases may have hexagon shaped visible edges so the background may look busy.

Orchid , Canon 5D mark III, f/10, 10s.

Match ignition, Canon 5D mark III, f/10, 1/200s.

 

Conclusion. Canon MP-E65mm f/2.8 1-5X Macro is a unique lens that is capable of a very special look on the world around us. It is possible to make incredible images with a very common things as a subjects. No other lens gives such opportunities even with extension tubes and close-up filters. Image quality with Canon MP-E65mm f/2.8 1-5X Macro will be many times better than when using above methods with conventional macro lenses. The lens image qulity is very impressive and its build quality is very high too. One can get phenomenal shots with Canon MP-E65mm f/2.8 1-5X Macro if use it skillfully. But you will need patience and learn how to shoot at high magnification. A stable tripod and quality macro focusing rails are desirable for good results. For handheld shooting flash is almost mandatory. Good idea is to use Canon MT-24 EX, or it is possible to make a custom rig from conventional flash units. I can not recommend this lens to beginners in macro photography, as without experience results will be disappointing.  But if you have passion and patience the results may be exceptional. Highly recommended!

You can buy Canon MP-E65mm f/2.8 1-5X Macro here (use these links to support this site) :

Canon MP-E65mm f/2.8 1-5X Macro Lens at Amazon.com

Canon MP-E65mm f/2.8 1-5X Macro Lens at Adorama

Canon MP-E65mm f/2.8 1-5X Macro at B&H Photo

Thanks for reading!

 

 

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