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MP-E 65mm f/2.8 1-5x Macro lens, nice to meet you

Hi all,

I've recently decided to get (even more) serious about delving into the micro-cosmos, and I acquired the above mentioned lens. While familiar with the specifics for macro photography, I also anticipated that it would require some 'getting used to' that particular lens and its particularities.

I also knew beforehand that the limited DOF would pose some challenges, but there are software solutions that allow to tackle that.

So, I confronted both challenges, and these are my first results:



This is a composite of 6 images at different focal positions, blended together with "Helicon Focus". Because the total DOF at the optimal aperture (f/8.0) is only something like 0.14 mm (or less, depending on several factors), it requires the stacking of multiple focus plane shots to get a reasonable DOF coverage, and Helicon Focus is one of those applications that makes life a lot easier if you have to do a lot of focus stacking.

The tiny seeds shown (I've yet to identify the weed/plant species), imaged at almost 5x true size on sensor array, measure something like 1.4 millimetres in length and 0.31 mm in width. The hairs will allow for airborne transportation.

As for the artistic merit, the seeds reminded me of the Sentinels in the "Matrix" sequel, so I deliberately chose the layout as shown.

Another example of a focus stacked image is the following composite of 17 images:


This is quite a dirty version of a meat fly, dirty due to the fact that it was dead and recovered from a corner of a room that was over-due to be cleaned ...
I deliberately limited the potentially full (stacked) DOF coverage, because I wanted to simulate a 'fly in flight' situation (maybe I should also add some motion blur).

This micro-cosmos is almost as (if not more) challenging as the super-tele range. The slightest movement is magnified multifold, and there is very little light available at these extreme magnifications (5:1 magnification leaves only 1/36th of the incident amount of light), so a dedicated flash system is almost un-avoidable.

Bart
 

Ivan Garcia

New member
Wonderful shots Bart.
I am also smitten by the MP-E65 / MT-24 combo (purchased last year fro my 40th birthday)
I have been paying around with helicon focus for a while, but my efforts are poor compared with yours.
Will you be so kind as to elaborate in the technique you employ?
 
Wonderful shots Bart.
Thanks, but wait, I'm just getting started with this combo ...

Will you be so kind as to elaborate in the technique you employ?
Sure.

First and foremost, make sure that the individual image capture quality is optimal. Afterall, GIGO (garbage-in-garbage-out) still rules. I've tested the residual aberration/diffraction effects of my 65mm lens on my 1Ds Mark II, and decided that f/8 (only marginally better than f/9) provides the best single image resolution. Other lens/camera copies/combinations may/will lead to somewhat different numbers. Cameras with e.g. a smaller sensel pitch will most likely lead to a narrower optimal aperture. Just shoot an aperture sequence of a detailed subject, from f/16 to lower f-numbers, and choose the best one in the focus plane (disregard DOF, just go for focus plane quality).

As for exposure, and since you also have the MT-24EX Macro twin lite flash, I decided to go for manual setting rather than ETTL in the case of indoor (no wind motion!) tripod scenarios. Sometimes the ETTL will be triggered to significantly change exposure (which often works fine for handheld outdoor situations) due to subject reflection variations, but I prefer to standardize exposure for focus stacking (even though Helicon Focus can adjust for exposure differences). I also prefer to set a different exposure between the A and B flash heads, to add a more 3D look to the subject. I can check my camera's R/G/B histograms on the camera LCD for clipping, you may need to inspect the histograms in an image editor if your camera doesn't allow to do that. Check for R/G/B channel clipping on a white subject for a given magnification (magnification 'M' will change fixed exposure as (M+1)^2 , so significantly at anything above 1:1).

Focus the individual focal plane images in small incremental steps, usually going from closest to most distant. I've set the MR-24s C.Fn 9 to allow the focusing lamp to be set with the shutter release button, because the viewfinder gets very dark with large magnification factors. Switching it on/off with the shutter release button helps to speed up operations if the subject can change position. Take small focus steps, visually stepping from focus position to focus position (DOF is practically non-existing at high magnifications, so the wide-open f/2.8 viewfinder preview is a good guideline). I use a macro focusing rail for general focus position, and the lens for micro adjustments (Helicon Focus will adjust for the magnification variation due to entry pupil differences). Don't try to get full DOF coverage, retaining some very near/far out-of-focus (OOF) areas will help to convey the 3D sensation, and reduce stacking artifacts.

Focus stacking in Helicon Focus is pretty straightforward. For now, I've settled for a starting point of R=7, S=4 (may change per stacking sequence, depending on amounts of artifacts). Remember that the more extreme the DOF situation is, the more likely the artifacts will be, so limit yourself to a good DOF subject positioning to begin with.

Downsampling (and final output sharpening) of the stacked result for Web display requires some care for best quality, but that is no different from other repurposing/scaling operations.

Bart
 

Ivan Garcia

New member
Thank you Bart.
I think you have nail it, I´ve been over enthusiastic with the DOF, and so my images look kind of 2 dimensional.
Also, the use of a focusing rail seems to be a must, so I will be looking to purchase one very soon.
Any tips as to which FR is best?, ( as in smooth and robust)
 
Thank you Bart.
I think you have nail it, I´ve been over enthusiastic with the DOF, and so my images look kind of 2 dimensional.
Well, you can sometimes get pretty poor advice on the general WWW. In the end many things are governed by physics anyways, so diffraction is something to deal with, and single shot DOF will be limited. That's the advice you'll get on OPF ...

Also, the use of a focusing rail seems to be a must, so I will be looking to purchase one very soon.
Any tips as to which FR is best?, ( as in smooth and robust)
That depends. I've settled for a 'Really Right Stuff' (RRS) Macro Focusing Rail, because that's my system of choice. The 1DsMk2+MP-E 65mm+MR-24EX combo is quite heavy, so it really strains the MFR. There may be other suitable solutions around, also depending on your gear weight constraints.

Bart
 

KrisCarnmarker

New member
Nice shots Bart! I especially like the top one. What mag where you at?

I've been eying the MP-E 65 for a while, but so far I've resisted the temptation :)

As for focus stacking with HF, I have had a hard time getting good results. I tend to get ghosting and other artifacts. I've never done it at this scale, but I see no reason why it would be any different. For instance, here a flower shot:



It is not all that obvious when the image is scaled down, so here's a crop:



I spent a good deal of time trying to get HF working for me, but eventually gave up. Your posted images ave given me renewed interest and I will give it another shot.
 
Nice shots Bart! I especially like the top one. What mag where you at?
Thanks. The images were taken at almost 5:1 (approx. 4.9:1), I like to use the last bit of extention for depth 'focusing'. If needed I could use the marcro focus rail, but small turns of the lens works fast.

I've been eying the MP-E 65 for a while, but so far I've resisted the temptation :)
I've also been able to resist for some time, afterall it is a dedicated macro lens that can only be used at 1-5x magnification and it is not cheap, but I cracked down and got it. I also knew that I'd have to address the narrow DOF issue at these magnifications, and stopping down beyond f/8 - f/9 on my camera only gains a little DOF at the expense of diffraction blur.

As for focus stacking with HF, I have had a hard time getting good results. I tend to get ghosting and other artifacts. I've never done it at this scale, but I see no reason why it would be any different.
I haven't done focus stacking on close-ups yet, only on macros. The difference is in the DOF overlap between individual images, much less backgrond/foreground blur in close-ups (should be easier if HF can differentiate between OOF areas). I'll give it a try and see what my findings are. Maybe one needs to shoot at wider apertures allowing HF to create a more accurate OOF mask, I'll test my own theory.

It is not all that obvious when the image is scaled down, so here's a crop:

Yes, it looks like you needed a larger S-parameter setting, or maybe smaller focus increments between images, and maybe a wider aperture. The more expensive HF-Pro version allows to retouch such artifacts, although it chokes on my stacked 16 MP images. I assume it's a bug that needs fixing.

I spent a good deal of time trying to get HF working for me, but eventually gave up. Your posted images ave given me renewed interest and I will give it another shot.
I have only played with HF for a short time, but I can already think of a few feature enhancements (for the Pro version) that can help in tackling such residual artifacts. I'll propose them to Dan.

Bart
 

Doug Kerr

Well-known member
Hi, Bart,

Fabulous work - a really great achievement.
. . . there is very little light available at these extreme magnifications (5:1 magnification leaves only 1/36th of the incident amount of light) . . .
That certainly well explains one of the large challenges of such a setup.

But let me, for the benefit of the wonks among us, point out what is really happening here. At a magnification of 5:1, the illuminance on the sensor, for any given scene luminance, is 1/36 of what the same f/number would give for focus at infinity. (Illuminance is what, together with exposure time, the sensor responds to. It is luminous flux per unit area.)

And that's basically just because the amount of light captured by the lens from any given region of the image (unchanged by a change in magnification) is spread over larger and larger areas on the sensor as the magnification increases, leading to a corresponding decrease in illuminance.

It's not really about "leaving only 1/36 of the incident light". The captured light (incident light is on the subject) is all still there. It's just "spread thin".

(I'm not at all complaining about your "metaphor", which well presents the impact of the setup - just trying to fill in some of the underlying technical realities!)

Again, congratulations on this superb work.

Best regards,

Doug
 
Hi, Bart,

Fabulous work - a really great achievement.

That certainly well explains one of the large challenges of such a setup.
Thanks, for the kind words.

It's not really about "leaving only 1/36 of the incident light". The captured light (incident light is on the subject) is all still there. It's just "spread thin".

(I'm not at all complaining about your "metaphor", which well presents the impact of the setup - just trying to fill in some of the underlying technical realities!)
Thanks, appreciated. Indeed, 'spreading it thin' is the main issue, and it's hard to compensate for without compromising image quality. Part of what makes the seeds image work IMO, is its silky smoothness in the OOF areas. High ISO noise would not help, although NeatImage/NoiseNija could.

On the technical/practical side, it also means that at the more extreme magnification factors the viewfinder becomes too dark to focus! That will require the help of the build-it setup lights of the dedicated macro flash, the MT-24EX macro twin light in my case.

Bart
 

KrisCarnmarker

New member
On the technical/practical side, it also means that at the more extreme magnification factors the viewfinder becomes too dark to focus! That will require the help of the build-it setup lights of the dedicated macro flash, the MT-24EX macro twin light in my case.
I actually use a narrow beam flashlight :) I read somewhere that those light bulbs will not last very long, and I want to "save" them for DOF previews.
 
I actually use a narrow beam flashlight :)
Good suggestion, I'll pack my "MAG-light Solitaire" just in case when I'm shooting outdoors. The benefit of the built-in lamps is that you can also approx. judge light-angle, shadows, and reflections.

I read somewhere that those light bulbs will not last very long, and I want to "save" them for DOF previews.
I would be interested in reading that, in case you happen to stumble on the link to that report. I do wonder, whether it involved an isolated case of mishap, or a more structural thing. It would seem odd that they would be more susceptible to wear than regular ones, unless they run on a higher voltage.

By the way, the "focusing lamps" (as Canon calls them) won't be used for DOF preview. Pressing the DOF preview button, will trigger the flash tubes (called modeling flash) to emit a 1 second burst of strobed flash.

Bart
 

KrisCarnmarker

New member
The benefit of the built-in lamps is that you can also approx. judge light-angle, shadows, and reflections.
Yes, there's no substitute for that, and they are very useful. I only wish they were brighter as it would be even more helpful. LEDs maybe.

However, I have found that I tend to stick to one setting here, and don't change it too often. I have the left flash at approx. 45 degrees, and the right at approx. 90 degrees with a 1:2 or 1:4 ratio (the 90 degree flash being dimmer)

I would be interested in reading that, in case you happen to stumble on the link to that report.
I'll try to remember that, as I can't remotely remember where I read it. It was a long time ago.

By the way, the "focusing lamps" (as Canon calls them) won't be used for DOF preview. Pressing the DOF preview button, will trigger the flash tubes (called modeling flash) to emit a 1 second burst of strobed flash.
You are, of course, correct.

I think I started using the flashlight when I found I was repeatedly pressing the lamp button during focusing. Remembering what I read I just thought "well, this can't be good" and so used the flashlight instead. The flashlight provides a brighter beam as well.

All this is on my 20D, which has a relatively dim viewfinder. I also use extension tubes, which makes the viewfinder even dimmer. All in all, the flashlight helped.
 

Barry Johnston

New member
Amazing photos Bart...

I have to be honest, it's the first time I have heard of 'focus-stacking', but it obviously takes some practice and quite a lot of time to do. I may have to get you to show me how it's done....

I have wanted to buy a good macro lens, and have heard some good things about the 100mm macro. I know nothing of the 65mm here, is it more of a micro lens? Which one would you recommend I look at buying. I'd also like to get the twin head flash system as well.

Anyway, I am impressed by your shots displayed, thanks for sharing.

Regards.
 
I have to be honest, it's the first time I have heard of 'focus-stacking', but it obviously takes some practice and quite a lot of time to do. I may have to get you to show me how it's done....
To start with, you'll have to work from a tripod. You then focus on the nearest part of the image that must be in perfect focus, and repeat that in small steps while adjusting the focus for more distant focus planes for each shot. That also means the subject must not move, at least during the shooting sequence. If you can work fast, and the subject cooperates, then even living creatures can be captured. You then use software to select the in-focus parts of each individual image, and combine the in-focus areas into a new composite result. That software recombination is a tedious and computation intensive job, so a good application can do most of that work. The amount of time the software needs depends on the size and number of images, and also a potent computer will help in reducing the calculation time.

I have wanted to buy a good macro lens, and have heard some good things about the 100mm macro. I know nothing of the 65mm here, is it more of a micro lens? Which one would you recommend I look at buying. I'd also like to get the twin head flash system as well.
I'd recommend the 100mm, and while it is made for macro photograpy up to 1:1 without separate extenders or close-up lenses, it also functions very well at longer distances. It auto-focuses fast enough to use it in AI-servo mode which helps with outdoor shooting (where wind motion becomes an issue, especially close-up). The 65mm is a specialist's manual focus lens, only useful for macro photography, so it can only be recommended if you already have a lot of experience and/or do a lot of photography of really tiny stuff.

The "twin lite" flash is an expensive, but very useful dedicated piece of gear if you do a lot of macro shooting. You can start with a regular on camera flash, with a diffuser, but that will result in rather flat lighting so you'll soon want to experiment with an off-camera flash (or two), but you'll soon run out of arms to juggle it all. Take it step by step, learn as you go, and throw money at it when needed to progress.

Anyway, I am impressed by your shots displayed, thanks for sharing.
You're welcome, I hope they also serve as inspiration for others to explore the amazing micro-cosmos we're surrounded by, and share some results here at OPF. The combination of technical challenges and artistic composition/lighting demands a lot from the photographer, but practice makes better/perfect.

Bart
 

Cem_Usakligil

Active member
Hi Bart,

I am so amazed, I almost forgot to reply and tell you how much I like your pictures. Sorry if this sounds like the typical "flickr" reactions, but it is really sincere :).

Cheers,
 
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