Canon MP-E 65mm...what add-ons?

BoTab76

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I've had a Canon 100mm f/2.8 lens for YEARS and love it. I never took a photography class and just learned by "working the buttons," so I don't really know the technical jargon for anything and never bought any add-ons. My husband, knowing how I love macro photography, splurged and bought me a Canon MP-E 65mm lens a few years ago. I tried using it, but couldn't get a decent photo. You can probably already guess that I needed a flash. I bought a YONGNUO YN-565EXII ETTL Flash Speedlight, but by the time it was delivered, I was already overwhelmed by the amount of add-ons that I would probably need with said flash. Soft box? Micro rail? Some sort of diffuser?

Needless to say, the lens and flash have both sat in a box of shame together for far too long. I'd really, really love to use this lens. This is only for hobby photography and I don't need anything fancy. What is the basic bare minimum that you'd recommend? I typically do insect/nature photography and am not crazy about using a tripod - I need to stay mobile, usually!
 

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For live insects or moving subjects, particularly in the field forget a tripod and focus rail etc. Hand held is the way to go. Your lens is manual focus and has a pretty close working range so set the focus and magnification and gently move the camera and lens back and forth to nail it.

I use the the Yongnuo twin head flash with head covers filled with packing foam for diffusion.

Yongnuo YN24EX E TTL Macro Flash Speedlite for Canon with 2pcs Flash Head and 4pcs Adapter Rings


The flash you have can be used and I'd check videos on Youtube to see how to diffuse it.

IMO the MP E-65 is the ultimate Canon Macro lens. It's not an east piece of kit to master but boy is it fantastic when everything comes together.
 

Space Face

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Welcome BTW.
 

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The MPE 65mm is a fantastic lens but also perhaps one of the hardest lenses to use. One thing to keep in mind is that what makes it tricky is that as you increase its magnification the amount of light that can get through the lens reduces. By the time you are at 5:1 magnification (its highest) it is very dark to look through.

This makes focusing with the lens much much harder because you're battling not just razor thin depths of field, but also very low light. The twinflash that Space Face links above is designed to fit over the end of the lens to put the lights right near the front. This is important because they not only provide light for the exposure, but also provide spot lights which you can turn on (with the canon version they turn on with a light double tap of the shutter as if you were enabling the AF on a regular lens). These spot lights help immensely in giving you enough like to aid seeing the subject

In addition the lights being on the end of the lens means that if you change the magnification and the lens changes length, the lights keep up with it. Often one trick with the lens is to focus at 1:1 (when its shortest) and then slowly turn the ring so that its magnification increases and you're already close to the position you need to be in and just need to adjust a little.

With a static subject and tripod its not too hard to then move the lights; but with a living subject or hand holding its not really practical.





Canon also make their own twinflash, in fact it got updated semi-recently to a new version which (the old one has an audible whine to it as it charges its capacitors). The Canon ones are not cheap, but you might find a second hand first edition one at a decent price if you look around (I honestly have no idea what stock or prices of them are like). I use the original twinflash and it works great for me. I did pair it with a Pixel battery pack which helps a lot in speeding up its rather sluggish recharging rate (and cuts down on the whining charging sound too so I tend to use the pixel all the time with it).

Whether you go with the Yongnuo or the Canon twinflash, I would rate that as the absolute minimum for working handheld with the MPE 65mm. I think you will find that they make the lens ever so much more practical to use out in the field. From there its a case of a lot of practice - it is a fantastic lens - a challenge to use for sure - but also a wonder once you start to master it.
 
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BoTab76

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Thanks, Space Face! I'll watch some you tube videos on that. Do you think that the Yongnuo YN24EX E TTL Macro Flash Speedlite for Canon is superior to the one that I currently own (YONGNUO YN-565EXII ETTL Flash Speedlight) or worth reselling mine and getting the other? I see that it's around $200 so hesitate to buy unless it would truly improve the photos/experience.

Thanks, too, Overread, for the info! I'm such a visual learner and I frequently get bogged down/overwhelmed when presented with a complex system (curse you, Photoshop!) of unfamiliar terms. I'm actually taking an online photography course now so that I can properly learn terms and techniques other than my "dial it this way" system. I love photography and want to improve. Thanks so much!
 

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Your current flash and the flash Spaceface links too are very different tools.

Your current flash is a very good speedlite design flash. That makes it very versatile in many situations and for general photography. It's even a great light for working with regular macro photography or in combination with the other flash for some situations.

The flash Spaceface links too is more specialist for the MPE65mm lens. It is more limited - those two smaller heads won't have the same power as a big single head of your current flash. However being close to the subject they've more than enough to work for macro work.


Unless money is very tight I would not sell your current flash, but instead invest into the other one as well. That will give you two flashes for different situations. However you approach it the twinflash I think is going to be an important tool to help you get the most out of the MPE lens you have
 

Space Face

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Thanks, Space Face! I'll watch some you tube videos on that. Do you think that the Yongnuo YN24EX E TTL Macro Flash Speedlite for Canon is superior to the one that I currently own (YONGNUO YN-565EXII ETTL Flash Speedlight) or worth reselling mine and getting the other? I see that it's around $200 so hesitate to buy unless it would truly improve the photos/experience.
Right, I think 'superior' is perhaps not the best word to use as both flash's have their individual merits. What I will say tho and this is through my own experience in the field, is that the twin head flash is much better suited to the type of Macro you intend doing. IE getting down and dirty in the bushes and undergrowth. It's specifically designed for this style as one of, if not it's main strengths.

Ideally as said, both lenses in the bag is the better option (and I have both the twin head and speedlight flashes) but for me the twin head is the one for the style of Macro being discussed here. I never use the speedlight for Macro now.

I'll see if I can find a recent (2020-2021) picture I took with this combination and post it up for you to see what you think.
 
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Space Face

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Here's a couple I took August 2020:



 
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BoTab76

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Got it! Very good information...and WOW, Space Face! Your photos are amazing!!
 

Space Face

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Got it! Very good information...and WOW, Space Face! Your photos are amazing!!
Thank you. It's all out there just waiting to be captured.😉
 

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