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

 

Here is the review of very nice lens, Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM. It is not actually a review; I’d rather want to share my personal experience with 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 in 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 on a price/performance/handling/weight criteria.

Autofocus lens for macro photography up to life-size (1x) magnification. Inner focusing affords a long working distance of 5.9in. (149mm) at 1x. A 3-group floating system results in excellent delineation at all focusing distances. Ring USM for silent and high-speed AF, and full-time manual focusing also provided – this is a short description from official Canon web site.

Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM was my first high quality lens after 18-55mm kit lens, I get with my Canon 300D (Digital Rebel). It was in 2004, when I discovered the world of digital photography for myself. From the beginning I had an intention to shoot macro. It is very interesting to discover the small world around us. Macro photography 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/2.8 Macro USM is not an excellent macro lens only, thanks to floating elements in its construction it can be successfully used as a short telephoto lens, without any compromise in image quality.


Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM is a medium sized lens, it is neither small nor huge. Focus ring is wide, and operates precise and smooth, without any creeks or wobble. The lens is equipped with a ring-type USM for fast and silent AF operation, and allows full time manual override. AF speed is very good for a dedicated macro lens. Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM focuses quickly enough even for action shots, look at the biker sample below. Remember to use range limiting switch when you shoot distant objects, it greatly improves focusing speed. AF accuracy is although very good. I almost always use AF when I shoot macro. Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM AF hunts for focus occasionally when shooting small subjects at high magnification (about 1/2 life size and higher). 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. For example, hoverfly in flight shot below was made with AF, in Ai-servo mode with Canon 40D.

Butterfly eye close up. Canon Digital Rebel (300D), f/11, 1/250s, flash.

Biker riding at night, shot with panning, Canon 40D 1600 ISO 1/60s f/2.8

Hoverfly in flight, Canon 40D, AI-Servo AF, natural light, ISO 400, 1/250s, f/8

Hoverfly 100% crop.

 

 

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. (149mm), every other macro lens at this price point offers less than 4in or 100mm. Only Sigma 105mm f/2.8 EX DG Macro offers 122mm, but it is not as good optically. Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM has 58mm 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.

You can enhance maximum magnification of Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM lens by stacking it with Canon 250D 58mm Close-up Lens. Canon 250D 58mm Close-up Lens mounts to a filter thread. It will increase maximum magnification by about 1.5x, but you will loose the ability to focus at distant objects. The wet butterfly close up portrait below illustrates this. Image quality with Canon 250D 58mm Close-up Lens attached decreases slightly in the center and noticably in the corners, but the results still looks appealing. AF speed and accuracy of the combination is not good at all so I strongly recommend using manual focusing here.

Unfortunately, Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM is not weather sealed. For the lens that is primary used outdoors, it can be really a big plus.

Optically Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM is nearly flawless.  It is very sharp even wide open. 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/2.8 Macro USM as telephoto lens I adjust aperture for DoF only. Color reproduction is very accurate; saturation and contrast are excellent. It captures almost all the tiniest and finest details, look at butterfly fur or eye facets on sample shots!

 

Butterfly fur and facets subtle details. Canon 40D, .__________________________________

Wet butterfly close up portrait. Canon Digital Rebel (300D), f/13, 1/250s, flash, Canon 250D Close-up Lens._

 

 

Chromatic aberration on Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro 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 visible.

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

Daemonic butterfly portrait. Canon 40D, 1/250s, f/16, flash.

Daemonic butterfly 100% crop.

 

Butterfly closeup portrait. Canon Digital Rebel, 1/250s, f/16, flash.

Butterfly eye, 100% crop.

 

 

Bokeh, or how the lens renders of out of focus areas, is a very important characteristic of any lens. Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM bokeh is very good, thanks to 8-blade circular aperture. So it can be used as a good portrait lens.

Portrait sample shot, Canon 40D, f/2.8

Cloth trader, India, Kerala, Canon 40D, f/5.

Woman with basket, India, Kerala, Canon 40D, f/3.2.

 

 

 

Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM lens ships without tripod collar and lens hood. 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/2.8 Macro USM lens resists flare quite good, I have no macro shots where it is an issue. The Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM Lens's ET-67 Lens Hood is an optional accessory. It is rather large, so I very rarely use it for macro work, as it reduces working distance by about 6 cm and scares bugs. But when I use my Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro 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.

Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro 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/2.8 Macro USM nice 3D look.

There some alternative lenses on the market, but I must conclude that Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM is the best performer among affordable dedicated macro options without any significant weakness in any area. Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 L IS Macro USM is better but it is about twice more expensive. It has slightly better sharpness, color, contrast and smoother bokeh wide open, 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 with AF, so range limiting to macro range only will be very useful.

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 about equal optically, but it’s AF is not as good as Canon USM  and it  doesn’t give you as much working distance. Sigma 105mm f/2.8 EX DG Macro lens is cheaper than Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 macro USM, but you get what you paid for, I found Canon 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. I doubt that it will be that easy to get draonfly's lucky hunt shot with either of these lenses.

Dragonfly's lucky hunt. Canon Digital Rebel (300D), 1/250s, f/16, flash

 

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 only slightly more, than Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM, so if you need longer macro lens I recommend it.

My conclusion is that Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM is probably the best affordable macro lens, that lets you dive into the world of macro photography. New Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM is better and will give you even more fun, if you can justify the price difference.

 

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

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

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

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

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

Rebates awailable for this lens!

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

www.the-digital-picture.com

 

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