Canon MPE-65 1x-5x macro

The canon MPE-65 f2.8 1x-5x is a dedicated macro lens.  Macro-photography was originally defined as when what you are photographing is the same size on the sensor or film plain is it actually is or larger.  As a dedicated macro lens incapable of focusing to infinity the lens takes only photos that fall into that category.  The MPE-65 takes images where the ratio of size is 1:1 to 5:1 in size (1x-5x).  The lens has an f stop range of 2.8-16 but when the magnification is increase the effective f-stop becomes significantly smaller.  According to the manual the effective f-stop can be calculated using the following equation:

Effective Aperture = (Aperture Setting) + (Aperture Setting x Magnification) 

So at x5 magnification at f16 you have an effective f stop of f96.  As a result the lens becomes incredibly light hungry as you increase the magnification.  Complicating use of this lens is the small depth of field.  At these settings you depth of field of 0.269mm.  You can see what this looks like in the last mantis portrait in this blog entry.  A third problem when using this lens is the working distance.  The lens achieves focus between ~100mm at x1 and ~40mm at x5.  When shooting live subjects this can be quite problematic.  Under the hot lights my ghost mantis livened up and would leap onto the front of the lens as i tried to achieve focus.  This of course being in exactly the wrong spot for me was the only spot where he would calm down.  This can also make lighting difficult unless you are utilizing a ring flash or canon's twin-lite flash.  Further the lens does not perform well at all with flash directly hitting the front element.  Canon does make a lens hood but must be purchased separately.

Because of the shallow depth of field a focusing rail becomes essential to get clear image.  Cheap older ones are available on ebay.  I picked up an older Minolta rail for $25 and I have no regrets.  Quite intelligently on canon's part they included a tripod mount the lens making for better balance (especially when the lens is fully extended) and allowing you to rotate sensor plain without shifting everything.  Without the mount you would have to readjust tripod placement when shifting between orientations.

I come from working originally with an EOS mount bellows and then later added the canon 100 f2.8 macro (non-L).  No regrets on that lens.  It's fantastic for the price and for most macro work will be fine.  Working with that lens and bellows in combination to get a similar magnification to the MPE-65 was nightmarish.  Working at that magnification is always difficult with the added size and awkwardness of the bellows it was prohibitive.  The MPE-65 is easier to use and provides better results.



Having used the lens on a handful more shoots there are two other things that should be mentioned.  The camera has a 6 bladed aperture that at times will show up.  It's not the best look.  The lens also has pretty serious flare issues when the flash hits the lens.  All lenses suffer when this happens but this one is on the worse end of the spectrum.

6 bladed aperture of sadness

Edit 2

Lens hood acquired! I am a firm believer lens hoods, they are almost a completely win-win item.  The hood for this lens is a bit of an odd duck.  Instead of the usual twist and click around the outside of rim of the lens, this hood screws into the filter mount.  At x5 magnification the hood does cause problems because of how close it gets to the insects but otherwise it's effective.  Unlike other lens hoods it appears to be metal.

Nature Tips #5 Trespassing and Public Access Land


Trespassing in Maine

All the photos in this blog are from times when I was trespassing or on public access land.

Trespassing comes up every so often when I'm out photographing with someone.  Often times they find it astounding that when I am out in the middle of nowhere I just wander out onto some guys land to make photos or I slip into some abandoned building to take photos.  While trespassing is indeed illegal and I can't recommend that you do it, there are some basic rules that can help you stay out of trouble when doing it.

1) Don't take anything from the area and don't leave anything behind.

2) Don't break or destroy anything, keep your presence low impact.

3) Anything you open, like windows, doors, gates, etc you should close as you go.

4) When possible, just ask them if they care you're out there.  More times than not they won't care in the slightest and often enough they're delighted someone is out photographing their land.

5) If you get caught, don't act like an ass.  You're just a photographer doing your trade.  Hand them off a business card if they want one and tell them straight up that you liked the lay of their land and so you went out to shoot it.  If you didn't ask them hopefully it was because it wasn't obvious who owned the land or that your light was fading fast, just explain yourself.

6) Stay away from livestock.  Regardless of anything just don't go near them, like stay a few miles away at least.  Even if you've told them you're going to be out there just stay clear of them.  

Following these rules you should be able get access to what you want without getting in trouble.  Landowners get burned by people (usually weekend warrior hunters) not following just basic ettique rules like these.  If they can't tell you've been there, there's no harm in it.

Now if you're just not comfortable with trespassing or talking to landowners but state and federal parks are just not working for you, you have another option.  For those of us in the USA each state should have a handy dandy Public Access Atlas (


) that will list and show on maps every single piece of land that you can legally wander aimlessly around in.  You can find them on the state's Park and Rec page or you can find them in some sporting good stores like Cabella's here in Omaha tends to have them.  These are put out each year for hunters to find areas in which to practice their sport.  Keep this in mind when you go to these places and mind the seasons (listed in the front of the atlas).  I would stay away from most of these places during deer season for example and I would wear hunter's orange near those seasons as well.  Unfortunately the best hunting times are often the best times for photography so there are chances you will overlap.  Regardless, the atlas is an excellent and detailed resource.


Nature Tips #4 Vignetting

Vignetting is a dirty but useful tool.  It allows you to place emphasis where you want after the photo has been taken, but using it is frowned upon.  The trick is to get away with it.  You tend see three versions, one in which it happens on its own, hipsters just blocking out the corners, and people using more discrete but still noticeable methods in photoshop.  Lens vignetting happens when the image circle created by the lens does not quite cover the sensor, causing fall off on the corners.  Usually these days you see it with older film cameras especially with the cheaper super wide zooms.  It can still happen with the new lenses, especially when filters are stacked.  Holgas and other such garbage by purposeful bad design tend vignette.  Hipsters love to recreate that effect in photoshop with sloppy black mask and gradient.  With more careful adjustments, the same emphasis on your subject can be achieved with more taste and discretion.

The intent on creating a vignette should be to change areas of contrast or to create a new contrast between the subject and the rest of the image.  The most basic way to do this is to create a level adjustment and then to mask out the subjected with a simple graduated mask.  By creating this mask, you create a contrast between subject and the rest of the image by placing the majority of the brighter tones in the subject.  Using a curve layer you can fully remove true whites from the rest of the image again drawing the viewer's eye by placing the stronger contrast in the center of the image.  The adjustments do not have to be entirely tone based, but can be based on color as well.  Look at the image of the ants, using the movie poster popular blue/orange contrast the image becomes stronger because it feels more dynamic because of the contrast.  The ants to begin with were already red orange and yellow dominant, so it was easy to create the contrast by making the area surrounding them green blue and purple dominant.  Further since the center of the subject is warm while the outside is cool the ants again become the focus.  As teh view's eyes are drawn to the warmer tones first.