Has a Canon MP-E 65mm f/2.8 got an Image Stabiliser? Following an answer to a previous question re my wifes Canon EOS 450D in which Jrista suggested the Canon MP-E 65mm f/2.8 lens rather than the Canon 100mm F/2.8 Macro (the second photograph is stunning). The price of the 100 with IS is not a long way off the cost of a 65, I just wanted to know if the 65 had an Image Stabiliser and if not could she have problems holding it still, with freehand shots?

  • In response to your question about hand-holding, there are some tricks. While the below answers are correct, that often because of the minuscule Depth of Field, focus stacking is necessary with the lens and thus most probably a focusing rail+tripod is appropriate, there are some hand-holding techniques. A common one is what is called the "left-hand brace". This is pretty intuitive, but it helps to read this: nocroppingzone.blogspot.com/2008/07/left-hand-brace.html
    – BBischof
    Nov 30, 2010 at 5:49

5 Answers 5


No, it does not have IS, but it could still be useful. Image stabilization is just one way to improve you freehand shots, but there are lots of other ways. It is really all just about having a fast enough shutter speed that movement is not noticeable.

  • 6
    It's a dedicated macro lens and only useful for macro work while the 100mm can be used for other purposes too.
    – Karel
    Aug 24, 2010 at 17:33
  • @Karel, good point.
    – chills42
    Aug 24, 2010 at 17:34

As @chils42 points out, the lens does not have IS.

The MP-E is really a specialized lens for macro. At 5x magnification, movements will be very much exaggerated.

As the lens is a specialized macro lens, it cannot focus more than an inch away, making it inappropriate for any photography beside macro (although I'm sure people have found other creative uses for it). As such, macro does not lend itself well to handholding; however your wife might not have time to setup a tripod if she wishes to capture a subject that moves frequently. Your wife could have problems holding it still for handheld shots (especially at higher magnifications), but there are techniques she can do to better hand stabilize the camera and lens (breathing, bracing her body, bracing the camera body etc).

If she is primarily interested in hand holding, then perhaps the 100macro IS is a better choice.

  • For the most part you are right, however there is a bit of a hack. Some Macro shooters, want to use the MP-E as a main lens, but get annoyed with the need to switch lenses for everything(especially because sometimes you need to get a quick shot). Because of this desire, they came up with a couple work-arounds to take larger distance shots. The trick is to use a converter on the end, to add another lens on the front of the MP-E. Here is a lot of links explaining how: fredmiranda.com/forum/topic/927952
    – BBischof
    Nov 30, 2010 at 5:44

The MP-E is a tricky lens to use, requires practise and more practise. A set of macro flashes (MT-24EX) is often recommended.

I would go with 100mm lens unless the goal is to take photos of the fly's eyes.

  • Good point about it being tricky to use. The MP-E has an astonishingly small depth of field, and when you magnify beyond 1x, it can be very difficult to get DOF in the right place. Many of the MP-E pros actually take multiple shots with focus at different depths, and "stack" the shots in post processing to get a useful depth of field. So, tricky...yes, very tricky.
    – jrista
    Aug 27, 2010 at 20:09
  • Thanks Petteri and jrista, I think these last two comments have help make my mind up. My wife has only started taking photography serious in the last few months. I think I will go for the 100 without IS as a gift. Not just because it is cheaper, honest! Thanks also to Alan,Chills, Karel and Hamish for your extremely useful comments Dennis
    – Dennis
    Aug 27, 2010 at 21:17

The MP-E 65mm does not have IS. When it comes to real close up macro work, IS can be a blessing or a curse. The 100mm L Macro with IS is a fairly new type of lens, and there really is not enough information out there yet to demonstrate whether the IS has any value at the macro scale.

IS is not the only way to stabilize a shot, however. If you really want to get solid, stable macro shots, you can look into getting a macro focusing rail mount. These offer a very stable, low-profile mount with smooth movement in multiple planes. IMO, they are a much better way to stabilize and focus macro shots than a lens with IS.

EXCERPT FROM DPREVIEW of Canon 100mm L IS Macro:

Close range test

To see how effective Canon's new Hybrid IS actually is at dealing with shake during macro shooting, we repeated our test at a much closer distance, with an image magnification of approximately 1:1 (very much the worst-case scenario). In this test we also have to take special steps to keep the chart consistently in focus, using a small aperture combined with AI Servo focusing. IS OFF IS ON

The Hybrid IS is clearly having some positive effect even at 1:1 magnification, but in truth the benefit isn't huge (closer to 1 stop in this test as opposed to Canon's claimed 2 stops), and we struggled to get many really sharp shots which truly reflected the lens's exceptional resolution. It's worth noting here that the 1/focal length rule of thumb for estimating the lowest 'safe' hand-holding shutter speed has clearly broken down, which tends to be the case when shooting at macro distances - you need to use even faster shutter speeds than usual.

The Third Dimension (or, where Hybrid IS still breaks down)

In its publicity material describing Hybrid IS, Canon helpfully provides a diagram explaining how its new technology corrects for slight vertical and horizontal shifts in the camera's position, as well as the usual tilts. What it fails to mention, though, is a third dimension of shift, namely back and forward movements of the photographer (and camera) relative to the subject. This has the effect of throwing the subject out of focus, and becomes highly problematic at macro distances for which depth of field is measured in millimeters or less.

The problem with this kind of movement, and the focus shift it creates, is that even the new Hybrid IS system doesn't attempt to correct for it. All you can do is set the camera to continuous autofocus, and hope for the best. This of course assumes you can place an AF point precisely where you want to on the subject, which often isn't possible.

In practical shooting with the 100mm macro, this effect frequently negates any potential benefits offered by the Hybrid IS, as there's little point in getting a picture which is unaffected by shake but not in correct focus. So until designers work out a way to continuously correct focus in a similar manner to shake, even Hybrid IS is only a very partial solution.


The MP-E 65mm f/2.8 does not have IS, but at the magnification it allows I would think you would really need a tripod. In many ways you'd better thinking of it as a microscope rather than a normal lens.

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