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Lens and lights for super macro photography:

Surgery on a shooting table

Do you know what surgical forcep is? According to Wikipedia: “Forceps are used when fingers are too large to grasp small objects or when many objects need to be held at one time while the hands are used to perform a task.” In case if the object is a tiny piece of human body needed for biopsy, something very internal, surgeons pin a hole in human’s body and use 1.5 mm in diameter micro jaws to bite a piece of the liver, for example…

Macro photography in your hand

Scary enough? Do not worry, I won’t go further:-)

I was lucky to feel these things in my hands, not inside of me. One of our good long-term customers, medical supplier EndoChoice sells such devices and my duty is to produce outstanding images of these little gremlins.

For this task I use the most unusual lens in our collection, Canon MP-E 65mm F2.8 1-5x macro.
The lens is unusual because:

  1. It has a smallest diameter front element I ever seen on lens for 35mm cameras.
  2. It does not have auto-focus… It does not have focus at all! No focusing ring, just a zoom grip.
  3. This is a longest (compared to collapsed size) zoom expansion I know: the lens extends almost 3 times in length.
  4. Has magnification ratio from life-size (1x) to 5x, which makes it microscope-like tool for photographer.

Here it she is:

Canon super macro lens MP-E 65mm 1-5x

Canon super macro lens MP-E 65mm 1-5x

Canon super macro lens MP-E 65mm F2.8 extended

Now, the forceps shoot setup.

For such small objects  I need to use relatively narrow light beams, so no softboxes here:-) Total 4 Paul C. Buff lights: two on the forcep, two on the table to highlight the background where lens is aimed. Because of a small front element and because I need DOF to be as deep as possible (aperture was set to a maximum value for the lens  F16), setup was required a good amount of light.  Total  1200WS through 20° honeycombs to a background from 2 feet away and total power of 2400WS on the forcep through 10° honeycombs were used.

Lighting setup for super macro photography

Lighting setup for super macro photography

I use Manfrotto modified arm (see details below) to hold a wire the way I need, arm connected to a Manfrotto  shooting table frame. What was really missing in my setup is a geared focusing rails for macro photography. Because a focusing can be done only by changing the distance between the lens and the object, it was really hard to move camera precisely toward the object. The head I used, Manfrotto 405 geared head, did not help a lot (BTW, great head for product photography), as it does not allow frontal movements. I’ll need something like this on top of my Bogen.

Now few of the results, all done on 2x magnification:

Super Macro forcep image, by Atlanta photographer Alex Kolsokov

Macro photography forcep, by Atlanta photographer Alex Koloskov

Equipment and shooting spec:


Camera gear:

Lighting, light modifiers and accessories:

All shots were done with: shutter speed 1/250 sec, F16, ISO 100, Custom WB 5600K


As usual, your feedback highly appreciated!
-Alex




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