My favorite close up lens for the Canon S3IS and S5IS is the Raynox DCR-250 which in my opinion has relatively good optical qualities for its price (~$ 40.-). The majority of my pictures of life critters were taken handheld using this lens. Most of the times I use f8 and the onboard flash with diffuser:
The distance from the front of the lens to the subject is ~10-11cm. To demonstrate the field size I photographed a sheet of “millimeter paper” (printed with my inkjet printer) where each small square is 1 square mm. The field size at 6mm focal distance shows some pin cushion distortion:
Field size at full zoom =72mm focal distance:
A 100% crop shows considerable chromatic aberration:
As an aside I noticed blotches in the image taken at 6mm focal distance. Thus, I cleaned the lens and took the picture again, with the same result. However, when using the unsharp mask in Photoshop Elements in the 100% crop window these blotches did not show up, no matter where I moved the rectangle pointer, indicating that this is some kind of artifact that I cannot explain:
Unfortunately, the rectangle pointer did not show up in the screen capture but it was somewhere in the area circled in red.
For high magnifications I use the Raynox MSN-202 lens which costs ~$60.-. This lens shows prominent pin cushion distortion at low zoom settings. Also chromatic aberration is quite noticeable, in some stacked images. Because of the shallow depth of field I use this lens only with a tripod mounted camera and stack images whenever possible. The distance from the front of the lens to the subject is 5cm. Field size at 6mm focal distance:
and full zoom (72mm):
In the 100% crop the “grain” from the inkjet printer is very obvious:
The image of an ocular reticule with 1mm squares:
and a 100% crop:
of the same image are better examples.
I guess these pictures demonstrate the ~$900.- price difference between my lenses and the MPE65, although I have not had a chance to use this lens.
For stacking I use a focusing rail, the Velbon Super Mag Slider (~ $70.-), which moves the vertically mounted camera up and down, as well as forward and backwards when mounted upright, as well as sideways:
Working on my kitchen table near the window I use natural light with a home made reflector (Mylar mounted on a 12½ X 17½cm cardboard. Mylar = cleaned inside of a snack bag, like potato chips.) on the opposite site of the window. Using a small level I make sure that both, the camera and the table, are level. With the camera set to manual focus I take the first image with the part of the critter that is closest to the lens in focus, and than take subsequent images while moving the camera, via the focusing rail, closer and closer to the subject until everything is out of focus. For the DCR-250 I use larger and for the MSN-202 smaller increments between images. Since there is no cable/electronic release on the S3IS or S5IS I use the self timer set at 3 sec. delay. Without the self timer there is camera shake even with my sturdy tripod. For stacking I use the freeware CombineZ5.
My setup at the kitchen table.
I purchased my close up lenses from Lensmate. Their website is quite informative.
All my stacked images have 8-digit identifiers.
Like this eye arrangement 06210625. This translates into a stack of 5 images stacked, namely images 0621 to 0625.
Comments and suggestions for improvement are welcome.