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The Canon MP-E 65mm 1-5x Macro Lens

There is only one lens on the market that can take this shot
Only one lens can take this shot.

If you’ve paid attention to insect photography over the past decade, you’ll likely have noticed that a single lens, Canon’s MP-E 1-5x macro, has come to dominate the market.  Every professional insect photographer I know owns one, and many of the dedicated amateurs do as well.  Indeed, some photographers have even switched from Nikon to Canon just to be able to use it.

Yet the lens is also a throwback, possessing few of the electronic features of modern camera technology.  It is largely manual, with no auto-focus or image stabilization, and is notoriously difficult to operate.  So what’s the deal?  Why has a cantankerous retro lens become the glass of choice for macro?

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Canon's MP-E 65mm f2.8 1-5x macro lens mounted on an EOS 20D camera body, in many respects the ideal back for this specialized lens.

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