Macro photography (Canon 65mm macro lens thoroughly tested)

We returned to Parque Natural Metropolitano in Panama City with a new set up in our bag, as stated previously we acquired a Canon MP-E65 lens along with a macro twin lite (MT-24EX). The main purpose was to make a real life test of the lens as an one-do-it-all for our bugs and insects macro shots.

The rig we are testing: 7D Mark II, MP-E65 lens, twin flash, LED ring as focusing assistance and fill light, Lepp macro bracket to mount the ring light, and in addition a monopod for stabilization.

The lens offers a lot of versatility since it starts at a minimum 1x optical magnification (which with a crop sensor body converts to 1.6x), and reaches to 5x optical magnification  (8x with a crop sensor body) which I find worthless for my work because depth of field at that distance is minimal, hindering focusing and/or getting sharp images.

My usual rig with a 100mm macro lens provides a maximum 2.24x optical magnification. Therefore, using the 65mm macro lens expands the range in the maximum magnification but has certain drawbacks. 

  • The first drawback is that unlike other macro lenses you have no option to shoot at less than 1x. 
  • The second drawback is the way it focuses, the 65mm macro lens has only one focusing distance, if you move the focusing ring you are actually changing the magnification, therefore at any given magnification you can only focus at a specific distance, you should focus moving the lens towards or away from the subject, unlike other lenses when you can fine focus turning the focusing ring once you have reached the desired distance to the subject
  • There's no "safe distance" to work with this lens. Usually you approach macro subjects from a safe distance and adjust focusing as get closer. Sometimes getting shots from the safe distance, ensuring shots before the subjects flies away. 
  • Lastly, minimum aperture is f/16. Therefore, it's not possible to broaden the depth of field beyond that point.
With all the above in mind I focused in doing two things, either super macro shots of larger insects or shots of really small insects that require higher magnifications without reaching to the extremes as explained above. Basically, working in the 2x to 3x range of the lens.

For reference, I used the following settings on all the shots ISO 160, f/16, 1/200 seg.,  evaluative metering,  "flash" option white balance and ETTL flash mode.

Cricket (Gryllidae family)

Crickets are hemimetabolic insects, whose life cycle consists of an egg stage, a larval or nymph stage that increasingly resembles the adult form as the nymph grows, and an adult stage. The egg hatches into a nymph about the size of a fruit fly. This passes through about ten larval stages, and with each successive moult it become more like an adult. After the final moult, the genitalia and wings are fully developed, but a period of maturation is needed before the cricket is ready to breed.

Damselfly (Zygoptera order)

The compound eyes of the damselflies are large but are more widely separated and relatively smaller than those of a dragonfly. Above the eyes is the frons or forehead. The top of the head bears three simple eyes (ocelli), which may measure light intensity, and a tiny pair of antennae that serve no olfactory function but may measure air speed.

Fly (Diptera order)

Flies have a mobile head with eyes and in most cases have large compound eyes on the sides of the head, with three small ocelli on the top.

Planthopper (Delphacidae family)

Delphacidae is a family of planthoppers containing about 2000 species, distributed worldwide. Delphacids are separated from other "hoppers" by the prominent spur on the tibia of the hindleg. All species are phytophagous, many occurring on various grasses.

Leafhopper (Cicadellidae family)

These minute insects are plant feeders that suck plant sap from grass, shrubs, or trees. Their hind legs are modified for jumping.

Treehopper (Membracidae family)

Thorn bugs are best known for their enlarged and ornate pronotum, which most often resembles thorns, apparently to aid camouflage. In some species, the pronotum is a horn-like extension, but can form more bizarre shapes. The specialised pronotum (or helmet) may not be simply an expansion of the prothoracic sclerite, but a fused pair of dorsal appendages of the first thoracic segment.

 Barklice (Psocoptera order)

Psocoptera are an order of insects that are commonly known as booklice, barklice or barkflies. They are often regarded as the most primitive of the hemipteroids. Their name originates from the Greek word ψῶχος, psokos meaning gnawed or rubbed and πτερά, ptera meaning wings. There are more than 5,500 species in 41 families in three suborders. Many of these species have only been described in recent years. The barklice are found harmlessly on trees, feeding on algae and lichen.

Spider (Araneae order)

Anatomically, spiders differ from other arthropods in that the usual body segments are fused into two tagmata, the cephalothorax and abdomen, and joined by a small, cylindrical pedicel. Unlike insects, spiders do not have antennae. Certain spiders are ambush predators including many crab spiders, and a few species that prey on bees.

Stingless Bee (Apidae family, Meliponini tribe)

Stingless bees, sometimes called stingless honey bees or simply meliponines, are a large group of bees (about 500 species), comprising the tribe Meliponini. They have stingers, but they are highly reduced and cannot be used for defense. Meliponines are not the only type of "stingless" bee; male bees and bees of several other species, such as in the family Andrenidae, also cannot sting.