Following up to the earlier post, this afternoon I pitched the plucky newcomer against the old master. The Canon MP-E 65mm lens is pretty much the holy grail for macro photographers – it made me switch from Nikon to Canon years ago, and i’ve only just bought one now! The MP-E 65mm is capable of 5x lifesize reproduction but is a pain to house. Luckily I also happen to have the special gear that Nauticam makes.
The SMC (super macro converter) is Nauticam’s brand new macro diopter. A little stronger than the Subsee +10, and the general consensus is that for most people it will not replace the subsee – it will be used in addition to it in a slightly different way. The SMC is available now and is just like any other diopter in the way it attaches. The Multiplier is a special add on lens designed for the SMC to boost it’s power. This is still in the prototype phase, and is the David in this little story!
Anyway, I went out this afternoon with Johan armed with 2 x 5Dmk3 housing, one with the MP-E 65mm and the other with 100mm and 1.4x teleconverter inside and a SMC / multiplier combo on the outside. We didn’t find everything we wanted for the test and the current was beastly this afternoon – but I got a few shots which may be of interest.. Of course I cant stress enough – we are comparing a Canon production lens with a Nauticam prototype, but in the end i think it does pretty good.
Subject 1 – Hairy Shrimp
This was a monster Hairy Shrimp, about 6mm long. All the MP-E photos are shot at ISO160/F16 and 1/160th second, all 100mm+1.4TC shots are shot at ISO160 F/32 and 1/160th. I used the max F stop to get as much DOF as possible.
From these test shots you can see that they both perform well. In my opinion the MP-E 65mm lens is a little cleaner – but you would expect that as there are less glass elements. However what is great is the versatility of this macro system that Nauticam is creating. You can do a lot on one dive, although it makes the rig nose heavy and also you have to focus super close. When doing this type of photography it is always best to get a private guide to help make sure you don’t damage anything and to minimise frustration from looking for the subject.
Subject 2 – Corallimorph Shrimp
This one wasn’t on the original ‘list’ but Johan challenged me so I had to give it a go. In the end this was a good example of Chromatic Aberation, mnost likely due to the amount of glass in the equation for the 100mm /1.4tc setup. It should be said that this amount is quite small – the Tokina 10-17mm produces more than this out of the box. This is the challenge that Diopter manufacturers face – balancing cost/optical quality and magnification. This final part to that puzzle is working distance which is where the MP-E65mm triumphs.
The Bottom Line
If you can afford the investment in frustration, setup time, missed opportunities (by being fixed in supermacro) extension rings and gears, and of course the expense of the MP-E 65mm then do it… But something tells me that that type of person will also get the SMC anyway to see what it is like. For the rest of you the SMC is a useful addition to your subsee collection, especially for compact users. The multiplier will be a surefire hit when it hits the market, but remember you’ll need to get both pieces for it to work properly. It is a great replacement for all those smaller diopters that some compact users stack up – bear in mind that this level of magnification is a serious pain to focus and is not for everyone. If you cant use a diopter without hitting pygmy seahorses with your camera please don’t get this one.
Tomorrow’s task will pit the SMC against the subsee with no telelconverters