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Occasional Contributor
Posts: 13
Registered: ‎11-26-2012

Lens Macro

Would a MPE-65 be a better choice than the 100mm f/2.8L, I have a canon T3I and a 60 D. I also have a 60 mm f/2.8 USM. I have read some reviews about the MPE-65 some good some bad???. What kind of accessories would I need to go along with the lens and will It work with my cameras, I am thinking could I really learn to work the lens to get the best shots. I have been taking pictures about two years.

Respected Contributor
Posts: 1,861
Registered: ‎12-02-2012

Re: Lens Macro

[ Edited ]
MPE 65 is an incredible lens, with the 5:1 macro enlargement. No one makes anything like it. But you need to be serious about the extreme macro. You focus the thing by moving it closer or farther from the subject, in tiny tiny amounts. You need macro rails and a tripod to do it. And it is only for macro.

If you plan to carry a lens around and shoot bugs and flowers and babies' fingers as opportunities arise, and also use it for normal shooting and portraits, get the 100mm.

Here's a good review.

Canon 5d mk 4, Canon 6D, EF 70-200mm L f/2.8 IS mk2; EF 16-35 f/2.8 L mk. III; Sigma 35mm f/1.4 "Art" EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro; EF 85mm f/1.8; EF 1.4x extender mk. 3; EF 24-105 f/4 L; EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS; 3x Phottix Mitros+ speedlites

Why do so many people say "FER-tographer"? Do they take "fertographs"?
Reputable Contributor
Posts: 790
Registered: ‎06-11-2013

Re: Lens Macro

[ Edited ]

Baby snail on newspaper


This baby snail, with a shell around 6 or 7mm in diameter, was photographed with the MP-E 65mm Macro lens near that lens' least magnification... probably less than but not more than about 2:1 or twice life size. The surface the snail is crawling on is a photo in a newspaper, you can see the photo's printed dot pattern pretty clearly. That's a cat hair on the left.


The MP-E is not your typical macro lens. The very least magnification possible with it is 1:1, which is the maximum magnification most macro lenses reach on their own. And it goes up to 5:1 or 5X life size. You can fill the entire image area of your camera with a grain of rice.


The MP-E is manual focus only and cannot focus anywhere close to infinity. The max working distance, farthest away the lens can focus (at it's weakest magnification) is four inches. At it's highest mag, it's less than an inch from the subject.


The MP-E also is not an Internal Focusing (IF) lens like the EF-S 60mm, EF 100mm and EF 180mm macro lenses. This means the lens extends when focusing closer. It goes from about 4" long at minimim mag to 9" long at the max.


One side effect of this is that the lens' aperture effectively is reduced, as the lens is focused to higher magnifications. It's smallest aperture is f16 at the minimum mag, but by the time you focus to the max the aperture it's an effective f90.


What this means is that very likely a flash or some other form of additional lighting will be needed for most shots with this lens. For the shot of the snail above, the ML-14EX Macro Ring Lite was used. I'm not a big fan of ring light flashes for lower magnification macro (the lighting can be too "flat" for my tastes). But it's the ideal choice for this particular lens, with it's very high magnification capabilities. The lens is designed to allow the Ring Lite to mount directly to it. With other, lower magnification macro lenses I use the MT-24EX Macro Twin Lite or a standard flash (580EX II and others) off-camera and diffused.


I would not recommend the MP-E 65mm Macro lens to everyone. It's a pretty highly specialized lens. For the large part, is cannot be used handheld and is extremely difficult to use with any moving subject (even a snail!) In the Canon system, it does a good job serving purposes that less convenient "macro bellows" filled in vintage cameras systems. A bellows is impractical with electronically controlled lenses, such as the EF/EOS system uses.


Besides a dedicated macro flash, previous post is correct and you will almost certainly need a good tripod, head and macro focusing rail to use with this lens. The lens comes with a tripod mounting ring and it is nearly impossible to use handheld. There is a special, unusual lens hood for the MP-E, too.


You can download the user manual for the MP-E 65mm from the Canon website. I suggest you do so and read it thoroughly, before buying the lens.


Frankly, your EF-S 60mm is an excellent macro lens and you should be able to get great shots with that. If you aren't, you won't do any better with a different lens and actually might find the MP-E 65mm makes matters worse because it's more difficult to work with and specialized.


Your EF-S 60mm is nice and compact, encouraging you to take it with you and use it. It's fast focusing and has excellent image quality. The only possible drawback... the 60mm focal length can put you pretty close to some subjects. That's the primary reason you might want to consider a longer focal length (and the MP-E65mm would actually do the opposite and put you closer to subjects).


There are a number of good macro lenses in the 90mm to 105mm focal length range. That's what I'd recommend for someone shooting with a crop sensor camera. Any longer focal length becomes difficult to get enough depth of field and a steady shot, you are more likely to need to use a tripod, flash and very small apertures.


Canon 100/2.8 USM Macro and 100/2.8L IS USM Macro are both top quality lenses with all the features I can think of that one might want in a macro lens. Both can optionally be fitted with tripod mounting rings (recommended). Both are Internal Focus (IF) designs, which means they don't grow longer when focused closer.


Both the 100mm Macro lenses have USM focus drive systems, which make for faster, accurate auto focus. Not as fast as many non-macro lenses... but that's to be expected. A macro lens has to move it's focus group a long, long way to go all the way from infinity to 1:1 magnification. And most macro lenses use "long throw" focus mechanisms, which emphasizes accuracy over speed... That's necessary because of the very shallow depth of field that's often the case when shooting macro. Plus, both the Canon 100mm Macro lenses have Focus Limiters, which are used to limit the lens to work within one part of it's focus range, also helping to speed up focus. You may not want to use these lenses for sports/action photography, but both the 100mm Macros are fine for many non-macro purposes.


The difference between the two Canon 100mm Macros is the 100L adds Image Stabilization. It also has a slightly more sophisticated Focus Limiter (3 "zones", compared to 2). Otherwise, the two give pretty equal image quality and performance. Personally I don't need IS for macro shooting (tho I use it and love it on longer telephotos), so I have stuck with the 100/2.8 USM Macro and not spent the extra for the 100L IS. The 100L includes a lens hood, like most L-series lenses. The 100/2.8 USM's hood is sold separately (...and is huge! But I still recommend it.)


There are also two Tamron 90mm, a Tokina 100mm, and a Sigma 105mm macro lenses to consider. They are all very good lenses, foo. But, frankly, none of them have all the features found in the Canon 100mm Macros. For example, AFAIK, none of the third party lenses can be fitted with a tripod mounting ring, which is something I find very important and helpful for macro shooting.


If you want more than 1:1 magnification with your 60mm lens (or either of the 100mm).... I'd recommend you simply get some Macro Extension Tubes and use those. I use three of the Canon (two 12mm and one 25mm) and a Kenko set (12mm, 20mm and 36mm).


Have fun shopping!


Alan Myers

San Jose, Calif., USA
"Walk softly and carry a big lens."
GEAR: 5DII, 7D(x2), 50D(x3), some other cameras, various lenses & accessories

Esteemed Contributor
Posts: 3,854
Registered: ‎06-11-2013

Re: Lens Macro

I think we need to understand what situations you have where the EF-S 60mm f/2.8 USM Macro is not meeting your needs.


As Scotty and Alan already pointed out, the MP-E 65mm is a special purposes lens designed for extreme macro only -- and cannot be used as a non-macro lens.


Your 60mm can be used as a normal 60mm lens... but has the ability to focus closely enough that it can produce a 1:1 scale image.


1:1 scale means that the size of the image projected on the camera SENSOR is the same size as the subject in real life.  I use the example of a penny.  A penny has a diameter of about 19mm.  The dimensions of your camera sensors (on both the T3i and 60D) are roughly 15 x 22mm.  This means that that the sensor is wide enough (22mm) to fit the diameter of the penny (19mm) on the sensor.  BUT...  it is not tall enough (15mm) to fit the penny in that direction (at the 1:1 scale) so the image will be slightly cropped at the top and bottom.  


On the MP-E 65mm... that's the SMALLEST that the penny can be... and it can zoom in to make the penny 5x larger.


Another factor to consider is that at these distance, the depth of field becomes extremely thin even when using high f-stops.  If you focus the camera while hand-holding the shot, and then you BARELY MOVE (perhaps the camera moves just a millimeter or two), that's enough to completely lose the focus and you end up with a soft image.  A tripod is pretty much a requirement.  You may also want to learn about "focus stacking" (but that's another subject).


All other Canon macro lenses (other than the MP-E 65mm) can be focused all the way out to infinity -- so in that respect they can be used like a normal lens.  


The longer focal lengths allow you to be farther away when you focus your subject.  This can have the advantage of not scarring away tiny creatures that are shy.  But also when the camera (and frankly you) are very close to a subject, you and the camera may be blocking some light.  It's sometimes easier to "light" your subject if you can get a bit of breathing room.


Tim Campbell
5D III, 5D IV, 60Da
Forum Elite
Posts: 14,347
Registered: ‎12-07-2012

Re: Lens Macro

In addition to the rather verbose posts above the real joy in photography is the very specialized lenses and equipment.

These can be the most fun and rewarding of all. I currently have lenses from 8mm to 600mm. Some sit for long periods of time between uses but if you are really into the wonderful world of photography they are all worth it.  Smiley Happy

EOS 1DX and 1D Mk IV and several lenses!
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