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I am having trouble deciding between these two lenses for insect photography. Please help me decide!

Edit: I’ll be taking pictures of live insects using a flash with a soft light diffuser. I probably won’t use a tripod or a focusing rail but I cant keep my hands relatively still for pictures.

Any suggestions/tips on either one of the lenses will be appreciated!

Thank you!

  • Live or mounted insects? How large do you want to make them? Handheld or tripod mounted with a macro focusing rail? How much and what type of light? – Michael C Nov 29 '19 at 22:06
  • Live insects. Preferably handheld because i like walking around. As for the lighting I have a flash with a light diffuser. I was just wondering whether I’d be able to see the compound eyes of an insect with a 100mm lens and a diopter – Anita Nov 29 '19 at 22:44
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    The MP-E 65mm 1-5X Macro is not a lens to be used handheld. Nothing that magnifies much larger than 1X is, because even the slightest amount of camera shake has a significant effect on the image. The only way to focus the MP-E 65mm 1-5X Macro without also changing the magnification ratio is to move the camera forward and back with respect to the subject in very precise amounts, since depth of field is so thin at those magnifications. – Michael C Nov 30 '19 at 0:48
  • @MichaelC - I have had success handholding the MP-E 65mm when using off-camera flash on a DIY bracket. You need a steady hand to trigger the shutter while it is in focus. I don't remember if the Aphid was handheld, but for sure I have others. – Mattman944 Nov 30 '19 at 15:12
  • @Mattman944 Of course, if one is using enough flash to kill the ambient then there will be very little or no blur due to camera movement, but one must still fire the shutter when the subject is in the very narrow field of focus. – Michael C Dec 1 '19 at 3:53
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I own the Canon 100mmf/2.8L macro, and I bought the 65mm MP-E, but sent it back after a couple of weeks. I love my 100mm macro, but personally, I found the MP-E was too difficult for practical use:

  • there is no focus ring... you focus by moving the camera. This means a tripod and a focusing rail at a minimum. More gear than I was willing to carry for what I was interested in at the time.

  • depth of field is paper thin... this means focus stacking for virtually anything with any depth at all.

  • focus stacking means a carefully thought out sequence of images, plus more equipment: image stacking software & focus rail at a minimum. The fine adjustments required on the (mostly) poorly-designed manual focus rails is tedious and error prone for a lot of shots (hundreds might be required for an insect). An automated stepper would help with the tedium, but still requires thought, setup and greater expense.

  • how are you to keep those insects still during all of this set up and exposures?

OTOH, you can get some pretty good closeups withe the 100mm macro. I pair mine with a 5DS-R, and that gives me scope for cropping if necessary. I don't mean to imply that focus stacking is unnecessary w/ the 100mm macro, but two things counteract to mitigate the chore:

  1. depth of field is (usually) greater, so fewer exposures required

  2. 100mm macro has autofocus, which means it can be driven/controlled in an easier fashion. I particularly like the Helicon FB Tube as it is small, light and Helicon's aux software (runs on phone or tablet) helps with automating the shot sequence (Disclaimer: I've not tried this myself, but have seen a friend's results).

Anyway... there are some shots where you just need the MP-E's magnification. If you do, that makes it an easy choice. If you can get your shots with the 100 mm, I believe you're better off with that setup.

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My experience is about the same as Seamus, although I still have my MP-E 65mm. I haven't used the Raynox diopter, so I can't compare. It is unlikely that you will find someone who has used both.

The working distance of the MP-E 65mm is very short, many subjects will not tolerate a lens this close. DOF is very narrow, to be expected at high magnification.

From what I read about the Raynox diopter, it seems to have a longer working distance.

I use flash with a diffuser. The flash is not on the hot-shoe, it is on a DIY bracket. The DIY diffuser is attached to the front of the lens.

Aphid, MP-E 65mm, 5X magnification, f16, slight crop. No stacking, impossible with this subject, it was walking.

enter image description here

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There is another option for extreme macro: the Laowa 25mm f/2.8 2.5-5x. I got this because I wasn't satisfied with the quality of the Raynox, and my Nikon camera is not compatible with the MP-E 65mm. It has comparable image quality to the Canon, and the depth of field is slightly better thanks to its shorter focal length. It is possible to handhold stacks at these magnifications, but not easy. You might also consider Loawa's 100mm f/2.8 macro lens, which goes to 2x magnification but can also focus to infinity. This might be more suitable if you are mostly hand-holding, and will give you more versatility for larger insects for which 2.5x magnification is too close.

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