Attempts at macro photography of minerals

Software for photogrammetric 3D reconstructions pretty much doesn’t care what scale the photographs are that you feed it. As long as there are pixels and EXIF data, all is fine. Without EXIF it requires a bit of fiddling; see for example the wonderful Paluxy river trackway 3D model in this paper. Wish I’d done it! I had played with the idea, but Peter Falkingham was so much more obviously the guy to do it… well, anyways. Software doesn’t care about scale, so you can feed in satellite images or macro images – it will calculate ahead. I did some macro photogrammetry before (here and here), but in both cases I loaned the macro lens only for that specific purpose. However, I wanted to play around with the lens a bit for straightforward macro photography, too. Now, I finally got around to that.

macro_01

Markasite FeS2 and Lostlabelit (maybe Cerussite PbCO3 ?
I’m too lazy busy to check right now)

The lens in question is one of the coolest toys in this field you can imagine: a Canon MP-E 65 mm! What’s so cool about it is that, although it seems, from its name, to be  regular 65mm macro lens, it is in fact a 5:1 lens! Yes, you read that right: 5x magnification! You can go all the way from 1:1 to 5:1! Most macro lenses go from 0.5:1 to 2:1 or so.

macro_02

Vanadinite Pb5(VO4)3Cl

The huge magnification does have its drawbacks, though. For one thing, the lens does not have autofocus. When you see it in action, it becomes immediately clear, why an autofocus would not really be a good idea. The dinky 65 mm’s 98 mm total length turn into a whopping 300 or so mm (I didn’t measure) – this lens is longer when used at 5x magnification than many a good tele! And focusing via the focus ring and changing magnification is the same thing – therefore, I tend to set magnification first, then move the whole camera or the subject until it is in focus.

macro_05

Anapaite Ca2Fe2+(PO4)2·4H2O

macro_03

Bornite tarnish Cu5FeS4

macro_04

Calcite CaCO3

Overall, this lens quite clearly is not for the noobs and lazy out there! I count among the former, but I did have a lot of fun with it. It makes many of my at first glance boring minerals and crystals look really impressive, and the effort is tolerable. And it is surprisingly cheap (well, kinda) at currently slightly over 1000 €! As a colleague wrote on Facebook, he gets better results photographing microfossils with this lens than with the Senckenberg’s dedicated equipment that costs 40x as much.

About Heinrich Mallison

I'm a dinosaur biomech guy working at the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin.
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