Photography tutorials

Using a Canon MP-E 65mm Macro lens to take nightmare inducing photos

We are always looking for ways to produce spectacular and shareable content to bring more users to the platform and this week we decided to explore the world of super macro lenses, in this particular case the Canon MP-E 65mm f/2.8 1-5x Macro manual focus lens. Now, this is quite a spectacular lens, and can produce awesome photos. Below is a fly thorax of a dead fly we found while playing around with the lens

dead fly thorax Canon MP-E 65mm f/2.8 1-5x Macro manual focus lens

Fly thorax. Canon MP-E 65mm f/2.8 1-5x Macro manual focus lens

However, don’t rush out and get one, whilst they are spectacular they are not easy to use! This lens has absolutely no electronic or barrel focusing, it is focused by literally moving the camera, lens and all, closer to or further away from the target. This of course is a nightmare, as with the sort of magnification this lens can provide even the slightest movement results in blur or, because the field of view is incredibly shallow, the target going out of focus. This lens HAS to be coupled with 4 other components to be used effectively:

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  1. You NEED a ring flash, preferably with a built in lamp. The lens has to get so close to the subject (10mm away) that external lighting just doesn’t work. And mounting a flash onto the top of the camera does nothing, nada, all you’re going to do is light up the lens and the table but not the subject. The lamp also helps focusing immensely. Before we put on the ring flash the lens was a nightmare to focus and the eye strain so bad we had to give up fairly quickly
  2. An X/Y table, this fits in-between a tripod and the camera and allows for very fine adjustment of the whole camera and lens assembly
  3. A fluid motion tripod head, we used a Sirius VH-10 fluid head
  4. a very solid tripod, no carbon fibre, you want something that is very heavy we used a Sirius N-3004X
  5. a remote trigger, even the slightest movement and you’ve lost your photo


setup for a canon super macro lens

setup for a canon super macro lens


Spider head taken with the Canon MP-E 65mm F/2.8 Macro lens

Spider head taken with the Canon MP-E 65mm F/2.8 Macro lens


Squashed fly head

Squashed fly head

Once you have these components simply find something you want to photograph and start looking at the world in a whole different way. Please do upload your photos onto ClickASnap and you can start earning a bit of cash back for the cost of the equipment!

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If you’re interested in following our super macro lens adventures then you can see my album HERE

Tom Oswald

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  • Reply
    November 18, 2016 at 10:46 pm

    My local camera shop has one for sale second hand and the fact that it was manual focus put me off. I didn’t realise it could possibly be this hard though. I guess that’s why they’re struggling to sell it.

    • Reply
      November 19, 2016 at 10:30 am

      Yea it’s very difficult to use but the results are phenomenal Gina. So perhaps you could negotiate a much lower price for it?

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    Ned Martin
    April 28, 2018 at 6:19 pm

    I just bought the Canon MPE-65mm macro lens to do macro photography of flowers. Upon opening the box I find it has no focusing ring or aperture ring ! I need some personal instructions on it’s use. I need someone to help me.

    My name is Ned

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