Contemplating Canon…

Since I began this bug  photography blog I have been super-impressed by the results of  the photographers that use the  Canon MP-E 65 mm 1-5X macro lens. Many well-respected macro photographers on the web are using this fantastic lens, which allows for magnifications of 1 to 5 times life-size while maintaining amazing image quality. Unfortunately I discovered this after I became fully immersed in a Nikon system. Having recently returned from a week-long field trip in southern Alberta where I was taking a variety of macro photographs at different magnifications, I was beginning to feel somewhat frustrated…every change in subject size required me to add-on or subtract extension tubes, tele-extenders and reverse-mounted lenses. Not an efficient system,  and not always providing top-notch results for the effort involved. The constant mounting and dismounting of lenses also increases the chances of moving dust into the camera – creating conditions on the sensor that requires risky cleaning and/or the tedious digital removal of the dust particles that show on the image.

I have always looked at camera systems with the approach that it should either be Olympus or Canon or Nikon. But why not invest in multiple systems? Why not use those aspects of a system that are most suitable for the type of photography we do? The cost aspect is a big deterrent. Can I afford to invest in another system?

All things considered, can I afford not to? I could continue to use my Nikon system for all other photography and for close-ups up to 1x magnification, and then use a Canon system for all the true macro work. I have been saving to obtain a DSLR with a full size sensor, but should I instead consider using the money for a dedicated Canon macro system?

Consider a basic Canon macro kit…

  • A new or used Canon DSLR body (the new 18 MP Canon Eos 550 D ( Rebel T2i) is getting rave reviews, and at a respectable cost).
  • A new or used Canon MP-E 65 mm 1-5X macro lens
  • Canon MT-24EX,  Macro Twin Lite Flash Unit
  • Canon right-angle viewfinder

There are pros and cons to using a two system approach…any comments or suggestions? Are there alternatives I haven’t considered?

All comments or thoughts on this issue are welcome…

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  1. j2studios 7 June, 2010 at 8:13 PM #

    Hi Adrian,

    Looking at cost practicality the Canon T2i body and MP-E 65mm lens option would cost you $1800-2000. An added benefit you would also get is HD video.

    As far as full frame goes, I had a similar dilemma recently and I ended up deciding not to go full frame. At least as far as Canon goes I was deciding on between two bodies, a 5D Mark II and a 7D, and I concluded that there wasn’t any real advantage to go full frame, at least for my purposes. The two advantages a full frame would have presented me was image isolation on depth of field (due to a larger sensor) and a slighlty better noise performance on higher ISOs (3200 +).

    While on the other hand the advantages I had on sticking with a crop sensor is a greater usable focal length on telephoto shots (very big advantage for nature photographers like yourself), IQ due to the image being cropped on the sweet spot of lens (the centre), and the cost savings on not having to invest on several new lens that are compatible with a full frame sensor; when I am already happy with the IQ and performance I have on my current arsenal of lenses.

    In the end for me there was only 1 advantage for full frame and that was depth of field/image isolation, but even then, I can accomplish that with focal length and aperture. Also the noise is WELL controlled on ISOs all the way up to 6400; and the difference between the 5D and 7D is little up until this ISO, and I can vouch for that as I have even taken portraits with my 7D at 3200ISO and have been happy with them.

    So if its any food for thought, rather than investing in an expensive Nikon FF why not consider on sticking with a crop sensor? The Nikon D700 seems to be a comparable body to the 7D, have you considered that model?

    With the money saved on not going FF you could invest it into a dual body system – like the Canon T2i. Christina has that model and really likes it, she saw how happy I was with all of my recent photos on IQ, contrast, color and noise, she just HAD to upgrade. Also the HD video is a pretty cool feature.

    Or, if you decide on changing companies altogether then I would suggest the Canon 7D; I love it and am completely happy with it. The T2i and 7D are similar on HD video quality, megapixel count; but quite different on body construction and other quirks. I also like the feel of the 7D more as my hands are a bit bigger than Christina’s and the Rebel line tends to be more comfortable for people with slightly smaller hands. But this would also be quite costly……so my suggestion would be stick with Nikon and grab a T2i and that 1.5 macro lens.

    Hope this helps!

    BTW I like your Waterton rainbow picture! Nice job!

    • Adrian Thysse 7 June, 2010 at 9:48 PM #

      Thanks for your extended comment! The full frame camera I was considering the D700 or whatever the newest replacement of that model will be. For me the benefit of full frame would be mostly for landscape work and the better high ISO quality. I would also have to add a suitable lens, as most of mine are designed for the smaller APS-C sensor. For macro or wildlife I would still prefer the advantages of the cropped APS-C frame.

      I now think it is advisable to purchase the best lenses you can afford and stick to mid-range camera bodies. Lens designs are far more constant and durable than the ever-changing technology that is being developed for the camera bodies. It just takes a year for the technology of the top-of-the-line cameras to filter down to the mid-range cameras. Save on the body and put your money on the high quality lenses. (Unless you have an unlimited budget, of course!)

      Unfortunately, none of the frames in this sequence of this particular rainbow shot are completely sharp. The combined effects of low light, wind and rain did not allow for a steady shot.I posted it just because it was such an amazing experience.

  2. Tim Eisele 10 June, 2010 at 10:45 AM #

    One thing that I remember Alex Wild pointing out, is that a 5 or 6 megapixel camera is already taking advantage of pretty much all of the capability of the MP-E lens, so a top-of-the-line camera body isn’t strictly necessary to drive it. Also, the lens can’t really take advantage of most of the advanced features of the newest cameras. So, you might as well use an older used body, which can be had pretty cheaply. I bought a used Canon 10D last fall for just $250, which is way cheaper than any of the higher end models (10Ds are relatively cheap because they can’t mount the new EF-S lenses, but they will mount an MP-E just fine).

    At that price, it would be practical just to buy a dedicated 10D body, mount it on the MP-E lens, and just never take it off.

    • Adrian Thysse 10 June, 2010 at 11:33 AM #

      Thanks for dropping by Tim.

      Alex did state that at 2-3x plus magnification you wouldn’t need more than a 6 megapixel camera, however that is for that range – much of my macro takes place at 1-2x range. Newer bodies not only have higher megapixel sensors, they also have better sensors than 5 or 6 years ago: less noise and more dynamic range plus the benefit of video: something I could have used when photographing the ‘stump stabber’! More megapixels also gives more leeway for cropping, something very helpful when photographing the quick and erratic movements of bugs.

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