Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM Lens Review:

 

Here is the review of very nice lens, Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM. It is not actually a review; I’d rather want to share my personal experience of using this lens. I have no intention to shoot test charts, because nobody shoots test charts, print them and hang the pictures of test charts on the wall in real life, but it seems, that buying such an excellent lens for shooting test charts is extremely wise decision. There are lots of places over the internet, where you can check out test charts. I will supply a link or two at the bottom of this review where you can check all these formal test results if desired. I want to share some real life experience here. In general, I prefer to use the best equipment I can afford, and I usually choose my gear very carefully by a price/performance/handling/weight criteria.

Canon's newest "L" series lens is its first mid-telephoto macro lens to include Canon's sophisticated Image Stabilization. With the highest quality optics available, combined with near-silent Ultrasonic focusing and life-size close-up capabilities without an adapter, the EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM is simply unrivalled.This is the first lens on the market to incorporate Canon's new Hybrid Image Stabilization Technology. Hybrid IS effectively compensates for both angular and shift camera shake during close-up shooting. The lens was developed to expand users' photographing range and allow a wider range of users to easily enjoy macro photography. – this is a short description from official Canon web site.

Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM was bought as an upgrade for my trusted Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM, which served me very well since 2004, when I discovered the world of digital photography for myself. From the beginning I had an intention to shoot macro. Shooting macro and discovering the small world around us is a great fun. Macro lenses let you have a different look at small everyday things, and discover tiniest details that are invisible to human eye otherwise. Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM is not an excellent macro lens only, thanks to floating elements in its construction, image stabilization and very fast AF it can be successfully used as a short telephoto lens, without any compromise in image quality. As a telephoto lens it is much better than original Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM, thanks to vastly improved AF performance and IS.

Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM is a medium sized lens, it is neither small nor huge. It is nearly the same size as its predecessor. Focus ring is wide, and operates precisely and smoothly, without any creeks or wobble. Unlike other lenses with red stripe, this one is made of plastic, but as it helps to reduce weight, and feels warm in cold weather I don't think that it is bad.

Image quality is the main criteria for choosing a lens. Optically Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM is nearly flawless, Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM is even better.  It is very sharp even wide open. The difference between two lenses is most noticable here, but as original non-L lens is very sharp for almost any photographic task, the same is true for the new one. Sharpness improves slightly when stopped down, but there is plenty of sharpness for any real life use even wide open. So when I use Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM as telephoto lens I adjust aperture for DoF only. Color reproduction is very accurate; saturation and contrast are excellent. Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM is slightly better than non-L lens in terms of color rendition and micro contrast, so the images turn out to be more vivid. I think better and newer coating on L lens gives better colors. It captures almost all the tiniest and finest details, look at butterfly fur or scales on the wings on sample shots! It can reproduce very accurate even fine gradations of dark red color, just have a look at rose shot below:

Dark red rose in morning dew, Canon 7D, 1/160s, f/7.1, natural light.

Dark red rose in morning dew 100% crop, Canon 7D, 1/160s, f/7.1, natural light.

 

Bug just landed on flower petal, Canon 7D, f/9, 1/125s, natural light.

Butterfly in grass, Canon 7D, 1/200s f/9, natural light.

Butterfly in grass 100% crop, Canon 7D, 1/200s f/9

 

The lens is equipped with a ring-type USM for fast and silent AF operation, and allows full time manual override. AF speed is excellent for a dedicated macro lens. More over it is not any bit worse than anything Canon can offer for this focal lenth, for example it is at least on par if not better than Canon EF 200mm f/2.8L USM lens. Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM focuses quickly enough even for action shots. Remember to use range limiting switch when you shoot distant objects, it greatly improves focusing speed on any telephoto lens, and is especially effective on macro lenses as they have to travel longer. AF accuracy is although very good. I almost always use AF when I shoot macro. Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM has a very welcome feature, that alone is worth upgrading from original Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM, it is 3-position AF range limiter, that allows to lock the lens in th 0.3m - 0.5m macro range. For those who shoot macro handheld and with AF it is nearly priceless. With range limiter set to 0.3-0.5m position Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM AF hunts for focus very rarely when shooting small subjects at high magnification (about 1/2 life size and higher). It is much better in this regard than original Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM. People usually shoot macro with a tripod and manual focus, but I prefer to shoot macro handheld and with AF.  I don’t like taking pictures of sleeping insects, so I found chasing bugs and flies to get an action shot to be much greater fun.Most bug shots below were made with AF, in Ai-servo mode with Canon 7D. AF performance of the new lens is much better than that of original Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM, especially if you use range limiter properly. And I must say that before the introduction of Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM old 100mm macro had the best AF performance among macro lenses with 100mm or longer focal length.

The lens has internal focusing and doesn’t change its size. Filter thread is fixed and doesn’t rotate, so it accepts polarizing and gradient filters well. It is very important for a macro lens, as it grants very comfrtable working distance of 5.9in. (147mm), Its baby sister Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM has the same working distance, actually it is even 2mm longer at 149mm. Every other macro lens at this focal length, offers less than 4in at 100mm. Only Sigma 105mm f/2.8 EX DG Macro offers 122mm, but it is not as good optically.

Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM has 67mm filter thread. I recommend using high quality UV or protection filter, that doesn't degrade image quality, to protect the front element from accidential fingerprints, dust, waterdrips and scratches. When shooting small subjects at close distances it is easy to touch something with the front element. Good examples are Canon Protect filter, or B+W UV MRC filter. B+W UV MRC filters are probably the best, as they don't degrade image quality at all, and cleans very easily, thanks to special coating. I feel much more comfortable cleaning dust and fingerprints from filter than from an expensive lens, sure one shouldn't expose lens to these, but unfortunately it happens sometimes.

Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM is the first lens that features new hybrid IS system. Hybrid IS compensate for shift movement in addition to the conventional angular correction. New IS system effectively expands the range of situations suitable for handheld macro photography, especially combined with high ISO capabilities of modern camera bodies. Few years ago nobody could even imaging shooting macro handheld in overcast day in the forrest. Dung beetle picture was taken in such conditions with Canon 7D body. IS may be very helpful for action shots as well, for example if you shoot motorsport. It's a joy to shoot with new lens with panning handheld. Canon claims that IS is 4 stops effective at normal shooting distances and 2 stops at high magnification. Judging by my experience I can say that it is about 1-4 stops for telephoto shooting, and 1-3 stops for close ups. It depends on a combination of shooting and my personal conditions. When you shoot from a sturdy tripod or with shutter speed short enough to handhold steady, you better keep IS turned OFF, turning IS ON when shooting from tripod makes resulting images noticeably softer. Here is an example, tripod, ISO 100, mirror lock up, f/5.6, actual pixels from the center of image, shot in RAW converted in DPP with NR off, sharpness 3 (click the image to change):

One of the reasons to upgrade from Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM to the L version, is weather sealing of Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM. For the lens that is primary used outdoors, it is really a big plus.

Combination of image stabilization, excellent AF performance, great image quality and weather sealing makes Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM a very versatile tool. It is a real joy to use and the results are great. Original Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM is a great lens capable of producing stunning results too, but with this one such results are much easier to achieve. This lens opens new horizons in nature photography, especially in low light.

Dung beetle, family Scarabaeoidea in a forrest, Canon 7D, ISO 1600, 1/20s, f/8, natural light.__________:

Dung beetle, family Scarabaeoidea in a forrest 100% crop, Canon 7D, ISO 1600, 1/20s, f/8, natural light..

 

Spider packing a fly, Canon 7D, ISO 800, 1/80s, f/9, natural light, handheld.__

 

Chromatic aberration on Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM may be noticeable only in extreme conditions, but in real life shots there is nothing to worry about. I never found any real life scenario when they are disturbing.

Vignetting is not field relevant, at least when using Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM on APS-C bodies. It may be noticeable wide open on full frame body, but quickly disappears stopped down.  I never noticed it on any of my shots. Distortion is negligible in real life shots too. This is common for telephoto primes, especially dedicated macro lenses. I never heard about macro lens that suffers from it.

Butterfly on a flower. Canon 7D, 1/400s, f/9, natural light.

Butterfly on a flower 100% crop, Canon 7D, 1/400s, f/9, natural light.

 

Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM is not only excellent macro lens, it can be used whenever you need high quality telephoto lens.  It can be a very good portrait lens, as it has very pleasant bokeh and has good micro contrast for subtle details and tonal gradations. This gives images from Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM nice 3D look.

Bokeh, or how the lens renders of out of focus areas, is a very important characteristic of any lens. Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM bokeh is very good, thanks to 9-blade circular aperture. So it can be used as a good portrait lens. Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM bokeh is smoother and more pleasant than bokeh of the old non-IS lens.


Portrait sample shot, Canon 7D, f/3.2, natural light, handheld.

Water drops, Canon 7D, ISO 800, 1/15s, f/3.5, natural light, handheld.

Tarsier

Tarsier, Philippines, Bohol, Canon 7D, ISO 800, 1/40s, f/4, natural light, handheld.

Sunrise in Bretan, France, Flare sample, Canon 7D, f/5.6.

 

 

Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM lens ships with a soft pouch and lens hood, but without tripod collar. The lens is relatively lightweight, so tripod collar is not needed if you have sturdy tripod. If you shoot macro from a tripod you should have one, so absence of tripod collar is not a problem even with lightweight xxxD or Digital Rebel series body.  Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM lens resists flare quite good, I have no macro shots where it is an issue. The landscape above illustrates occasional flare issues with this lens, (red spot in the right part of the pictue). The Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM Lens's ET-73 Lens Hood is rather large, so I use it for macro work only about one third of the time, as it reduces working distance by about 6 cm and scares bugs. But when I use my Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM as a telephoto lens, I usually keep the hood mounted, as it offers good protection for the lens from both sunrays and accidental fingerprints.

What about the competition? Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro USM and Sigma 70mm f/2.8 8 EX DG HSM Macro are very good, but they have shorter focal length, and their working distance is less than 10cm (9cm and 7 cm respectively). For shooting not sleeping insects it is too short to my taste. Tamron SP 90mm f/2.8 Di Macro Lens is very good lens, it is not much worse optically, but it’s AF is not as good as Canon USM, it  doesn’t give you as much working distance and lacks IS. Sigma 105mm f/2.8 EX DG Macro lens is much cheaper than Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM, but you get what you paid for, I found even original non-IS Canon 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM to be superior both optically and in handling department (it gives you more working distance and has much better AF).   All lenses, mentioned in this paragraph give you noticably less working distance. 90mm Tamron and 105mm Sigma expands when focusing at close distance, thus reducing working distance and scaring insects.

Weevil, family Curculionoidea, on a leaf, Canon 7D, ISO 800, 1/80s, f/8, natural light, handheld.

Bug that don't like paparazzi, Canon 7D, ISO 800, 1/125s, f/9, natural light, handheld.

Web-walking stinkbug, Canon 7D, ISO 640, 1/100s, f/10, natural light, handheld.__

Biker shot with panning, Canon 7D, ISO 100, 1/100s, f/5.6, natural light, handheld.

 

Canon 180mm f/3.5 L Macro USM and Sigma 180mm f/3.5 EX DG HSM Macro Lenses are very good optically, and have the best working distance, but due to long focal length they are barely handholdable and require tripod or flash. Sigma 150mm f/2.8 EX DG HSM Macro lens is another good option, it has longer working distance and focal length. Sigma 150mm is also excellent optically, but it does not focus as quickly and accurately and weighs more. It costs less, than Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM, so if you need longer macro lens and don't want IS and weather sealing I can recommend it. On a full frame body longer lenses like 150mm Sigma or 180mm Canon may be better choice. If you shoot insects from a tripod, longer lens is better choice wether you use full frame or cropped camera body.

There many alternative macro lenses on the market, but I must conclude that Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM is the best overall performer among dedicated macro lenses with medium focal length. It does not have any significant weakness in any area. Original Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM non IS is very good and less expensive. Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM has slightly better sharpness wide open, slightly crisper color, slightly better contrast and smoother bokeh, but I must say that at real life macro apertures the difference is very small. You should go for L version if you need IS, weather sealing and shoot macro handheld with AF, it gives you more creative opportunities. As general purpose telephoto Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM is better choice, thanks to 4-stop IS and faster and more reliable AF.

 

There are many shots with Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM lens in my gallery:

 

You can buy Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM here (use these links to support this site) :

Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM Lens at Amazon.com

Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM Lens at Adorama

Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM Lens at B&H Photo

Rebates awailable for this lens!

You can read some Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM reviews here:

www.dpreview.com

www.the-digital-picture.com

 

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