After 23 years Canon has ended production on one of the best and most unique macro lenses ever made, the Canon MP-E 65mm f/2.8 1-5x Macro.
The official statement from Canon – reported by Canon Rumors – states the discontinuation of the lens, with any retailers left to sell through their remaining stock, but it will not be replenished.
The Canon MP-E 65mm f/2.8 1-5x Macro was introduced in 1999 at the cusp of the changeover from the film era to digital, as one of those niche lenses that occasionally appear from Canon (such as the recent Canon RF 5.2mm f/2.8L Dual Fisheye). With a 1x to 5x macro magnification and a 24cm focusing distance, this lens allowed you to get closer to your subject than ever before. It also used some of Canon's latest and greatest technology of the time with super spectra coatings and low dispersion glass.
This is an optical formula that to this day has not really been repeated. Take the current Canon RF 100mm f/2.8 L Macro IS USM lens. With its maximum magnification ratio of only 1.5x, this pales in comparison to the 5x that the MP-E was capable of. There does not seem to be any replacement in the pipeline from Canon, but Canon is rapidly expanding its RF and RF-S lineup, so we might expect to see some new macro-capable lenses soon.
One can only assume that the rise in competition from specialist macro lenses from Chinese brands such as Venus Optics, the phasing out of the EF mount, as well as the niche nature of the product, have contributed to the discontinuation of the Canon MP-E.
Venus Optics' Laowa range of lenses has proved to be optically fantastic, with sharpness and clarity rivaling or besting first-party lenses, with increasingly improving build quality. The Venus Optics Laowa 100mm f/2.8 2X Ultra Macro APO lens, available in RF and EF mounts, is one of the best macro lenses available and currently has the industry-leading magnification of 2x.
The Canon MP-E is truly a magnificent lens for any macro photographer, in a niche design, and we may never see it again. Don't fear too much if you are just hearing of this lens now, as there might be a very strong second-hand market for it – and some retailers have not yet run out of stock.