[mini-review] Initial impressions: MP-E 65 vs Canon 100 & Sigma 105

Discussion in 'Canon' started by Troy Piggins, Aug 3, 2008.

  1. Troy Piggins

    Troy Piggins Guest

    Recently bought the MP-E 65mm f/2.8 1-5x Macro lens. I've been
    shooting macro for about 9 months with my Canon 100 and also the
    Sigma 105 macro lenses. I got to a level where I am very
    comfortable shooting at 1:1 minimum working distance. Lately I
    have been adding extension tubes and almost exclusively shooting
    between 1:1.5 and 2:1 to get used to slightly higher

    I have been studying, saving, and reading about the MP-E 65 since
    the beginning. I thought I understood all of the implications,
    was comfortable shooting up to 2:1 magnification, so decided to
    take the plunge and get the MP-E 65. It arrived last Monday, but
    it's only this weekend I have had a chance to use it as I had
    intended - shooting bugs.

    It's quite heavy compared to the others. MP-E 65 is 0.73kg,
    Canon 100 is 0.60kg, and the Sigma 105 is 0.48kg. Not so heavy
    that it's difficult to handle, but noticably more than the Canon
    100 that I'm used to.

    First thing I did was wind that baby out to 5x mag to see...
    well, just to see. It gets long. At 1:1 the lens is only 98mm
    long, shorter than the Canon 100, and much shorter than the Sigma
    105 at 1:1. But extended it stretches to over 200mm.

    I'll post photos for comparison when I get a chance.

    If you've read about the MP-E 65, you'll know it's manual focus
    only. There are no switches on the lens, and only one dial which
    controls the magnification factor. It only shoots from 1:1
    lifesize to 5:1 lifesize. There is no infinity focus. You
    cannot shoot anything beyond about 100mm in front of the lens.
    At 5:1 the WD is only about 40mm.

    Time to actually shoot some photos. Mounted the 65 set to 1:1
    and off I went. First 3 bugs I found to shoot flew off while I
    was moving in to focus. This was never a problem before, because
    I'd stay back a comfortable distance with the 100, focus, and
    snap a few frames as I moved in closer refocusing as I went. At
    least you'd get some shots as you approach 1:1.

    Finally did find some plant bugs that I could get close enough to
    for 1:1 shooting. Unfortunately they were a little big to fit in
    the frame. Again, with the Canon 100 you can just step back at
    slightly less than 1:1 to fill the frame. With the MP-E you
    cannot do that. So for bigger bugs, you'll only be shooting part
    of them. I was aware of that beforehand, just thought I'd make
    the point here and it's still something I'll have to get used to.

    Let's try some higher mag shots. Wound it out to 3:1. Oh, the
    lens has extended and now my flash diffuser is sitting back half
    way along the barrel. I usually have my flash mounted on a
    bracket with the front of the diffuser top left of lens and right
    at the end of it.

    So with this type of setup, you'll have to adjust the bracket
    every time mag is adjusted. And considering the difference in
    length of the lens from 1:1 to 5:1, it's a pain if changing mag a
    lot. Helpful to pick a mag before shooting and stick with it,
    rather than changing mags - the bug would take off while you're
    mucking around with mag, bracket, flash etc.

    This would not be a problem if using one of the macro specific
    flash systems like the MT-24EX Twin Light or the MR-14EX Ring
    Light which mount on the front of tlens, so as it extends the
    flash automatically goes with it.

    I know there are MP-E 65 users that do use bracketed speedlites
    as I do and they take absolutely beautifully lit macros. And I
    can't afford the MT-24EX at the moment. I suspect it's either my
    technique and/or bracket system. I'll have to play around with
    it a bit.

    The other thing I noticed is something I did not think of with
    all the reading I had done. With the other lenses I had used,
    even with extension tubes, if you're shooting at some particular
    distance and want higher magnification, you focus in and move
    towards the subject more. Seems logical. With the 65, because
    it extends more than it's working distance when going from 1:1 to
    5:1, you actually move backwards while rotating from 1:1 to 5:1
    keeping the subject in focus.

    As the magnification increases, camera stability gets harder and
    harder to control. Every little movement is accentuated. I used
    a broom handle gripped with my left hand at the same time as the
    flash bracket. Works like a sort of monopod, but very quick and
    easy to change angle and height. Reckon you'd need to do this
    from about 2:1 and higher mags.

    I've read posts from people saying that tripods and focus rails
    are a must for macro. This is not true. In fact, I think it's
    more of a hinderance. There is no way you could keep up with
    bugs with a tripod.

    I haven't done any tests yet, but understand that diffraction
    softening comes into play a fair bit at higher mags. At 1:1 I
    try to keep below f/16 to minimise this, usually shooting at
    f/11. At 2:1 I drop it down to f/9. I have read that this
    should continue 3:1 f/7.1 max, 4:1 f/6.3 max, and 5:1 f/5.6 max.
    These are for maximum sharpness. You can use higher apertures,
    but image will soften.

    Not sure if it comes with new lens, I got mine second hand, but I
    got a hood with it. I will never use it. You're too close and I
    value the real estate between lens and subject. We're only
    talking less than 100mm at 1:1 and 40mm WD for 5:1. You need all
    of that.

    Summing up, it's clear I need to get a lot more practice with
    this very specialised lens. I will definitely keep the 100mm
    macro lens. Might even keep it mounted to start the day's
    shooting, and swap to an opportunity where I think the 65 will be
    better. The 100 is just more flexible, even with tubes on.

    For the type of shooting I have done to date, I think the MP-E 65
    will shine for things like dewdrop refractions, very small bugs,
    very stationary bugs, and maybe some still life abstract type
    macro. But I don't see it as the macro lens that would stay on
    my camera... unless I get another body.
    Troy Piggins, Aug 3, 2008
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  2. Troy Piggins

    Paul Furman Guest

    Semantic question: Is it really a 60mm lens with this extension or a
    200mm lens? No value judgements attached, the most extreme (archaic)
    Nikon 'micro' lenses are wide angle by their numbers and used with very
    large extensions, I just somehow understood that the extension effects
    the actual focal length, like: as you focus, the 'strictly defined'
    focal length changes and the stated focal length is assumed at infinity
    focus. Again: no accusations, just pedantic inquiry. Since this lens
    doesn't do infinity, how do they figure the focal length? My guess is
    without mount & mirror obstructions, it would focus at infinity with
    60mm of extension.

    Most modern 100mm macro lenses are said to move elements around to
    transform to a shorter/wider focal length as they approach 1:1 which
    seems to contradict my assumptions. This effect is apparent as
    magnification changes wildly while focusing closer and I've heard folks
    say older models lacking this transforming/zooming-out feature are
    easier to work with as they require less moving of the camera. A
    focusing rail moving the whole rig is supposed to be the ideal setup.
    Once more, I'm not saying the 65 MP-E is cheating or inadequate, I'm
    just trying to understand.

    Paul Furman

    all google groups messages filtered due to spam
    Paul Furman, Aug 3, 2008
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  3. Troy Piggins

    Troy Piggins Guest

    * Paul Furman wrote :
    Good question. I won't pretend to understand the physics
    of optics etc, but I suspect that the "focal length" of consumer
    lenses is actually an effective focal length of some sort.

    Come to think of it, and if I understand what you're
    saying/asking, you could be right. The lens body (98mm) is
    longer than its focal length (65mm) to start with. So maybe what
    they've done is sort of built-in extension tubes, and that's how
    the lens works.

    Interesting. I might ask around some long-time MP-E 65 users and
    Troy Piggins, Aug 3, 2008
  4. Troy Piggins

    D-Mac Guest

    Is there some reason you are cross posting between a digital group and a
    '35mm' group? People who choose to read both groups are going to get
    pretty pissed off with you if this is the method of posting you intend
    to make in your new home(s).

    It sort of defeats the purpose of having different groups if switching
    between them only produces identical posts. The reason this group split
    from the original digital group was too much traffic to sift through.

    Most people who read groups are not idiots. To assume they are and cross
    post to near identical groups in case they magically miss one of your
    posts is (IMHO) not going to keep you out of kill files for very long.

    The last bastion of Photographers is the two groups you cross post to.
    Try not contribute to this one becoming the fucking mess Aus.Photo has
    become please?
    D-Mac, Aug 3, 2008
  5. Troy Piggins

    Helen Guest

    Congrats on the MP-E 65 Troy!!
    It is one serious, monster of a lens.
    At that magnification it will definitely take time to master, so give
    yourself time.
    Good luck!
    Helen, Aug 3, 2008
  6. Troy Piggins

    Troy Piggins Guest

    * D-Mac wrote :
    Hi Doug. You are Doug today, aren't you?
    Yes. It's a mini-review of a lens that can be used on both 35mm
    SLR cameras and digital SLR cameras. It's completely on-topic in
    both groups unless someone can point me in the direction of an
    authoritative cite otherwise.

    And I hardly think you are the right person to accuse /anyone/ of
    crossposting anything - particularly when it's on-topic.

    I know you chastised me recently, not as D-Mac but one of your
    other failed attempts to post under another alias - 2Squid or
    something like that - for posting photos to the 35mm group. This
    isn't photos, it's equipment. And even if it was photos, it'd be
    on topic.
    Firstly, if their newsreader is any good at all it will recognise
    a crosspost so after they're read it in one it will not appear in
    the others.

    Second, if they do come across it in both groups, I'm sure
    they'll recognise that it's on topic and won't have any problem
    with it. I'm sure they'll let me know otherwise.

    Thirdly, it's not my new home. I subscribed to these groups
    before I had even heard of aus.photo. The fact that I choose not
    to subscribe to that group any more because of all the flame wars
    between you and every man and his dog does not make this my new

    Fourth, who are _you_ to chastise _me_ on when and where to post?
    You post whatever crap you like, wherever you like. Doesn't
    matter if it's flame-bait, racist comments against Americans,
    posting under multiple aliases/nyms to appear like you actually
    have any supporters, dodgy ebay seller comments, posting photos
    deliberately to boost google ratings on your business sites, or
    whatever. You have admitted to, or there's proof of, all those
    things I just mentioned.

    Then again, you are the expert on how to piss people off, so
    maybe you're right.
    Once again, you're the expert on how to get into killfiles.

    Do me a favour, add /me/ to /your/ killfile so you never have to
    read my on-topic, cross-posted to relevant groups, 2 group
    maximum, posts and I never have to read your followup containing
    such hypocritical bullshit. Please.
    That's exactly why I decided to discontinue reading aus.photo.

    If _you_ stayed out of aus.photo, it wouldn't be the mess it's in
    now. You are the single-biggest contributor to its demise. I
    have no doubt that /everyone/ in that group would agree. But
    you can't control yourself enough to refrain from adding to it.

    If you're going to respond to this, make sure you quote all of
    it. You have a tendency to snip the good questions/comments to
    take it all out of context.
    Troy Piggins, Aug 3, 2008
  7. Troy Piggins

    Troy Piggins Guest

    * Helen wrote :
    Thanks Helen. It's going to be a fun ride :)
    Troy Piggins, Aug 3, 2008
  8. Troy Piggins

    D-Mac Guest

    As big a fucking jerk as always.

    Plonked here too!
    D-Mac, Aug 3, 2008
  9. Troy Piggins

    D-Mac Guest

    Not that an arrogant asshole like you was ever bothered with manners...



    Pay attention to the bit about personal attacks -- Which you just
    initiated when I politely asked you stop acting like a fuckwit,
    D-Mac, Aug 3, 2008
  10. Troy Piggins

    Troy Piggins Guest

    * D-Mac wrote :
    Thanks Doug(?). www.d-mac.info is certainly one of the world's
    most reliable sources of information. I'll download those
    documents so you boost your google hits or something...
    Oh, my. That doesn't sounds like it's in the charter. I didn't
    read anything in there about bringing grown-up's words in here.

    You're pissing people off, Doug. Better change your alias.
    Troy Piggins, Aug 3, 2008
  11. Troy Piggins

    Troy Piggins Guest

    * D-Mac wrote :
    Read you like the cheap novel you are.
    What do you mean "here too"? If you plonked me elsewhere, like
    aus.photo, how did you know I'm not posting there any more? Are
    you stalking me?
    Troy Piggins, Aug 3, 2008
  12. Congrats on the new lens! It's good to see that you haven't totally
    abandoned us. That was my dream lens had I stayed with Canon. Too bad
    Nikon doesn't have a version of that one. I really think you're going to
    fall in love with that lens in the next few days. Anyway, enjoy it and keep
    posting your macro shots.

    Stamping out Internet stupidity one idiot at a time. Never empower the
    idiot, embrace it and stimulate it. For more details go to the Usenet
    Stimulus Project page.

    Rita Berkowitz, Aug 3, 2008
  13. Troy Piggins

    jimkramer Guest

    Remember all that if you decide to go looking for focusing rails, I have yet
    to find a set that is really long enough and stable enough.
    Manual focus is a bit of a misnomer; there is no focus only a adjustment for
    magnification. Pick your magnification and then you have a set working
    Stalking technique and patience; move slowly and hold the camera infront of
    your face while you are moving in for the "Kill."
    See there's a good reason to go out and get a 5D, Think of all that extra
    real estate on the sensor! :)
    The MT-24EX is much easier to use, but: the flash heads get in the way at
    high magnification, the camera looks that much more intimidating to insects
    and your fly away rate will be higher. When you get it, invest in some
    diffusers and I am still looking for some flash bracket extenders to pull
    the flash heads back about 5cm.
    Don't use the magnification as a focus ring because you will run the front
    element into your subject, you don't want to scratch that front element.
    After about 2:1 you will also want to consider using high speed flash sync
    and manual settings to help stabilize you hand held work.
    It depends on the camera, the subject and the lighting. There are always
    trade offs to make when selecting the F stop. Make sure you are comfortable
    with using USM to sharpen the images. Eventually you may want to look at
    focus stacking images for stationary subjects, but that is of little use in
    the "real world."
    The lens hood is extra, doesn't come with the lens, and is a waste of money.
    The MP-E 65 is a specialty lens and if you use it like one you will be happy
    with it, if you were expecting a general purpose lens you will not be happy
    with it.
    Yet another excuse to get a 5D. :) Enjoy the lens and practice, practice,
    jimkramer, Aug 3, 2008
  14. Troy Piggins

    jimkramer Guest

    jimkramer, Aug 3, 2008
  15. Nice review, Troy. I am not really a close up sort of macro guy, and
    definitely not a bug guy, but I appreciate good writing and throroughness.
    John McWilliams, Aug 3, 2008
  16. Troy Piggins

    Annika1980 Guest

    You covered most of the difficulties of using this lens.
    I hate to say "I told ya so..."

    One other thing worth noting is that as you rack out the lens to
    increase magnification, you'll need longer exposure times. This
    complicates things since at 5X any lens motion is magnified. Also,
    since the DOF is so tiny anyway the tendency is to want to shoot at
    higher f/stops (smaller apertures) which also requires more light. It
    is a rare bug that can be shot in broad daylight at high magnification
    without a lot of flash.
    I predict you'll find yourshelf shooting at higher ISOs as well.

    That's what makes the MP-E so tough to use. You've got a lens which
    you want to shoot at high magnification, small apertures, high ISOs
    and must usually be handheld. All of these run counter to what one
    normally would expect to do to get a great shot.

    I've had some success using a quickflip bracket to mount the
    speedlight and then using a Lumiquest Softbox diffuser on the flash.
    This method puts the end of the diffuser right beside the end of the
    lens. Since the MP-E has it's own tripod mount you can either use it
    for the bracket or the camera's mount, depending on the distance you
    need the flash to stick out.
    Oh yeah, forget using the built-in popup flash with that beast as the
    lens will always be in the way.

    After using the MP-E lens for a while, going back to the 100mm macro
    will feel like cheating. Good luck.
    Annika1980, Aug 3, 2008
  17. Troy Piggins

    Troy Piggins Guest

    * Rita Berkowitz wrote :
    Thanks Rita. It certainly is a unique lens with some quirky
    Troy Piggins, Aug 3, 2008
  18. Troy Piggins

    Troy Piggins Guest

    * Annika1980 wrote :
    Haha. You did, and I knew it was coming.
    I rarely shoot macro without fill flash anyway.
    I use a speedlite on a bracket already. I've played with several
    different diffusers and have been using the LQ Softbox for some
    time. It works very well.

    As I said in the OP, the trouble is extending the diffuser as the
    lens extends. I'm thinking about some bracket DIY modification
    that'll allow the flash to run along a rail parallel to the lens
    Same with any macro lens.
    It does already :)
    Troy Piggins, Aug 3, 2008
  19. Troy Piggins

    Troy Piggins Guest

    * jimkramer wrote :
    Hi Jim. Thanks for reading my lengthy post :)
    Hmm, hadn't thought of that. I usually shoot at around 1/100s to
    1/200s at the moment. It seems to be fast enough for up to 2:1
    mag. Hadn't considered what it'll be like at up to 5:1.

    I suspect the problem will be stability to actually take the shot
    at the right time - while the subject is in focus. But once I
    get that down, HSS might be the next stop.
    Many of the experts in some forums I participate in use focus
    stacking. I had given it a try a couple of times, but the
    post-processing time takes all the fun out of it and I decided
    against it while shooting 1:1. Think now I need to reconsider.
    Oh I realised that long ago.
    :) Can't justify a 5D, and I have a couple of EF-S lenses that
    won't play nicely on it anyway.

    Thanks Jim.
    Troy Piggins, Aug 3, 2008
  20. Troy Piggins

    Troy Piggins Guest

    Troy Piggins, Aug 3, 2008
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