What occured to me is that the Canon MP-E 65mm F/2.8 Super Macro 1-5x lens is used for extreme macro shooting at very short distances. The distances are so small that adding a ringflash may just spoil things already. So I set out to figure out a new way to light the subject. Especially since I shoot a lot of macro handheld, I need the higher shutter times, the smaller apertures… So light as well, and plenty of it.

Thinking up a lighting system

The Canon MP-E 65mm F/2.8 Super Macro 1-5x surely is an amazing lens. But when you look at it, you immediately see that it is a weird duck; the lens looks like it has been built backwards! Makes sense though I guess, I have had great results reversing the Canon EF-S 15-85mm F/3.5-5.6 IS USM and that setup looks very much like the MP-E 65mm.

The upshot of this is that the front element of the MP-E 65mm is tiny:

Canon 6D with the Canon MP-E 65mm lens attached. Notice the small front element of this lens.

As the front element is SO tiny compared to the 58mm filter size, I got a “bright” idea: Why not put led lighting there?

Ordering Chinese

I figured I might be able to add led ring lighting to the lens. Time to order some chinese! Through ebay.com I looked up step-down rings. The best one I could find was a step-down ring from 58mm to 37mm. That would leave enough room for the lens to peek through, and to place some led rings as well!

Next to the step-down ring I also ordered two “Angel Eyes” LED rings that would just fit on the step-down ring. As these angel eyes require 12V, I also added a step-up converter that takes 3-5V as input and delivers 12V, 1A output. Finally I ordered a Lithium battery type 18650 and a battery holder.

The result so far

This has been the result so far:

Angel-Eye LEDs mounted on the step-down ring

I soldered the elements together to get a setup like this:

Canon MP-E 65mm with Angel Eyes

Switching on the 3.6V Lithium powersource delivers quite a bright light out of the MP-E 65mm. But will it be enough:

Canon MP-E 65mm with the lights on

Now to get ready to play with the setup!

Initial tests

Playing around with the setup, I quickly discovered that the angel-eye leds are delivering a lot of light, but the angle at which they emit the light is very wide… So a lot of light is lost as it does not hit the subject. Still, it helps already… But I have to figure out a way to focus the light more on the target. Some quick test shots:

Test shot #1 with the Canon MP-E 65mm and angel-eye led lighting

Test shot #2. Another Spider shot with the Canon MP-E 65mm and the angeleye led lighting.

Stay tuned for more on this!