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Snowflake 879 | by Don Komarechka
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Snowflake 879

A true rarity, a double-terminated arrowhead snowflake! Not only are these uncommon, but never before have I been able to photograph one with shining reflections on its surface. This image was shot with the newly redesigned Mitakon 85mm F/2.8 1x-5x macro lens – read on!


I had previously tested the newly-released Mitakon 85mm macro lens back in December ( ), and was so sorely disappointed. So much so, that based on my feedback and the equally disappointed responses from others, they halted the sale of the lens and redesigned it. The new lens just arrived, and I put it to the test.


How does it compare to the Canon MP-E 65mm, the “king” of extreme macro lenses? It trades critical resolution for working distance. This is a trade-off you see in microscope objectives as well: if you want more working distance, you’ll have to live with less resolving power. This shouldn’t be seen as a bad thing, though. A longer working distance at 5x magnification (10cm away from the subject compared to the Canon MP-E 65mm being only 4cm away) allows for more flexibility in composition and lighting.


Snowflakes are a great example for this. If the snowflake is farther away, the angle for which light from the ring flash reflects off the surface of the snowflake can be less extreme. This means less focus stacking, as the snowflake can be placed much closer to parallel to the focal plane. I had never previously been able to get reflected-light details off of the surface of an arrowhead crystal before, but with this longer working distance that angle was easier to find and work with.


Yes, the resolution is lower. It’s as if I stopped the Canon MP-E 65mm down to F/5.6 from F/2.8 (two stops) at extreme magnifications, where diffraction starts to erode critical sharpness. With some clever sharpening and texture-enhancing techniques, the images can still be very presentable. I wouldn’t have noticed the detail degradation if I was using a lower resolution camera – this was shot with a Lumix S1R – but even still, it holds up.


Will this lens replace the Canon MP-E 65mm for me? No. At least, not in every scenario. I’m thrilled I had it on my camera when I encountered this rare gem of a snowflake, however. Arrowhead crystals themselves are rare, but I had never before seen one grow out balanced in both directions from the point of origin before. Add to that the ability to get surface reflections? Right place, right time, right lens. Looking forward to trying it on some “monster” snowflakes!


Want to know more about extreme macro photography? Check out my upcoming book!:

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Taken on March 27, 2019