Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM
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November 2, 2009
by Andrew Alexander
An update to its previous 100mm f/2.8 macro, the Canon EF 100mm ƒ/2.8L Macro IS USM is one of three standard Canon full-frame macro lenses: the 50mm ƒ/2.5, 100mm ƒ/2.8, and 180mm ƒ/3.5. Two other macro options exist, the exotic MP-E 65mm ƒ/2.8, and the APS-C compatible EF-S 60mm ƒ/2.8.
It can be said that the 100mm ƒ/2.8L Macro IS USM is more than just an update, but rather, a distinctly lens inspired by its predecessor. As an L-class lens, the lens enjoys a tough new weather-sealed body: a little longer and a bit heavier, but not by much. Of course the big story here is the addition of image stabilization, and it's a brand new version of image stabilization to boot. Canon's new ''Hybrid'' image stabilization is said to ''effectively compensate for both angular and shift camera shake during close-up shooting.'' The system is said to be of particular benefit to macro shooting, making it optimal for this lens.
The EF 100mm ƒ/2.8L Macro IS USM was designed to cover the 35mm sensor, making it compatible with both APS-C subframe and full-frame digital camera bodies. When mounted to the former, the effective field of view is 160mm.
The lens takes 67mm filters and ships with the new ET-73 circular lens hood. The lens is available now for approximately $1,050.
Mounted on the Canon 20D, the lens is very sharp, even wide open at ƒ/2.8. At this aperture setting almost the entire frame is shows just over one blur unit, though there is some corner shading at the bottom of the frame approaching 2 blur units. Stopping down only improves these results, reaching absolute tack-sharpness at ƒ/5.6. The lens continues to be sharp all the way to ƒ/16, where diffraction limiting has set in, though even here we note sharpness results of 1.5 blur units across the frame. At ƒ/22 it's a bit more obvious - 2.5 blur units across the frame - and fully stopped down at ƒ/32, things are quite soft, 4 blur units across the frame.
On the full-frame 5D, performance is equally good, though we see a bit more of the corners of the lens that aren't exposed on the sub-frame sensor of the 20D. Wide open at ƒ/2.8, we still see the sharp sweet spot, but the area of sharpness isn't as generous, covering only about the central third of the frame at 1.5 blur units. Corner sharpness at ƒ/2.8 is around 2 blur units, still quite good. Stopping down to ƒ/4 improves these results, and again by ƒ/5.6, it's as good as the lens can deliver, but not quite tack-sharp across the frame. The central area of the frame is sharp, easily 1 blur unit, but the corners don't fall below 1.5 blur units. This is me being extremely picky - 1.5 blur units is still extremely sharp.
Diffraction limiting sets in at ƒ/11, where we not approximately 1.5 blur units across the frame, and performance degrades only very slightly from there. It's about the same at ƒ/16, not showing any real loss of sharpness until ƒ/22, where results are just over 2 blur units. Again, fully-stopped down we note some softness - just shy over 3 blur units across the frame.
In summary, excellent results for sharpness, provided you stick to between ƒ/5.6 and ƒ/11 for maximum performance. Even ƒ/16 and ƒ/22 are very good, but I'd avoid ƒ/32.
Chromatic aberration is well-controlled with this lens, at every aperture setting, on either the 20D or the 5D. Interestingly, there is a bit more CA present in the 20D, though it's only most noteable in the extreme corners and at small apertures. If you're peeping very closely, you'll see a slight increase in CA at the smaller end of the aperture spectrum (ƒ/32) but it's only very slight.
Corner shading is minimal on the 20D, the only noteworthy result found with the lens set to ƒ/2.8. In this case, the corners are a quarter-stop darker than the center; or, not very much.
On the 5D, it's a little different. At ƒ/2.8, the corners are almost a full stop darker than the center. Light falloff improves as the lens is stopped down; a half-stop at ƒ/4, and less than a quarter-stop at ƒ/5.6 and smaller.
On either the 20D or the 5D, distortion is negligible, at less than +/- 0.1% distortion in the corners.
With Canon's USM specification, the lens autofocuses quickly and quietly, taking about 1.25 seconds to focus from infinity to closest-focus. Short focus throws seem to happen a bit more quickly. Autofocus results can be overridden by simply turning the focus ring, and the front element doesn't rotate while focusing.
Offering a full 1:1 (100%) macro reproduction is the chief function of this lens. With a minimum close-focusing distance of 30cm (around one foot), there's much less risk of shadowing the subject with the camera or your body, and if bugs are your game, you're a bit less likely to scare them off.
Build Quality and Handling
The makeover of the 100mm f/2.8 USM included an upgrade to L-class styling, in the form of the svelte matte-black textured finish, complete with the telltale red band outside of the front element. Of course it's not all on the surface: weather seals, ultra-low dispersion glass elements and image stabilization are the big changes. Overall, there has been only slight changes to the physical size of the lens, weighing in at 625 grams (around 22 oz) - only 25 grams heavier than the previous version. Similarly to the previous model a fair deal of real estate has been allocated to the focus ring and a distance scale, though the distance scale has been repositioned on the far side of the focusing ring. An additional diaphragm blade has been added to make up a total of nine, and as is the current trend to improve bokeh results, the blades are rounded. The body mount of the lens is metal, and the 67mm filter threads are plastic.
The distance scale is windowed and recessed, offering distance information in feet and meters, as well as the magnification rating offered at a given range. Beside the distance scale is a switch to enable or disable autofocus. No depth-of-field scale is offered, and neither is there an infrared index. Finally, there is a focus range limiter which improves focusing speed by physically limiting the range the lens can focus through: the approach to the focus limiter has also changed in this model. Canon has added a third position to the focus limiter switch. The first setting is labelled ''full'', and doesn't limit the focus at all. The second limits the range to 0.5m-infinity; the third limits the focusing to just the macro range, or 0.3-0.5m. A new switch has been added to enable or disable image stabilization.
The focusing ring on the lens is considerable, a rubber ring 1 1/8'' wide with a texture of segmented raised ribs. The ring offers excellent manual focus control, with just the right amount of tension, but a smooth turning operation. The lens will focus slightly past infinity. There are soft stops on the infinity and close-focus ends to let you know you've reached the end of that particular focusing direction. The internal focusing operation means the lens doesn't extend while focusing, and the front element doesn't turn either.
The E-73 lens hood comes standard with this lens, a bayonet-mount circular lens hood that reverses and mounts on the lens for storage. The interior of the hood is flocked to reduce the effect of any stray light hitting the front element. The hood is long: three and a quarter inches, so when mounted, you're going to add a full three inches to the length of the lens. A tripod mounting ring will eventually be available for this lens, but at the time of writing, is not yet so. For even greater magnification, 12mm and 25mm extension tubes are available, however when these are used the lens will no longer focus at infinity. Canon also notes that teleconverters are not compatible with this lens.
Of course the big change for this lens is the addition of image stabilization. Not just any IS system, but a new variant developed especially for the macro lens: Hybrid image stabilization, minimizing camera movements in both panning and angular directions. We test image stabilization separately for lenses, but anecdotally, our tech Rob has mentioned that in his usage of the lens the effect is very noticeable when using the lens hand-held on a macro subject.
Canon EF 100mm ƒ/2.8L Macro USM ~$550
The previous version of the 100mm ƒ/2.8 macro is a very sharp lens, only very slightly less sharp than the IS version - you'd have to look very closely to see any difference. CA performance is comparable, even a little better on the 20D, and both have very little distortion to speak of. If you don't need image stabilization, you can save yourself a few hundred dollars.
Canon EF-S 60mm ƒ/2.8 Macro USM ~$450
For the APS-C camera uses in the Canon lineup, the EF-S 60mm offers an equivalent field of view of 96mm, or essentially similar to the EF 100mm. In our tests it's on par or even better than the 100mm, but by ƒ/5.6, both lenses are exquisitely sharp. CA and corner shading are only marginally less optimal with the 60mm, and distortion is essentially zero. If you never plan on going full-frame, the 60mm ƒ/2.8 macro is an excellent alternative.
Sigma 105mm ƒ/2.8 EX DG Macro ~$450
The Sigma 105mm macro offers very similar performance for a bit less price: results for sharpness are almost the same, and CA performance is even better than the Canon. There's also near-zero distortion and light falloff. If it matters to you, the Sigma stops down to ƒ/45, though it is very soft at that aperture. It's a bit lighter, and also takes 58mm filters. The lens doesn't offer USM-style focusing, so the focus experience will be a bit noisier.
Tamron 90mm ƒ/2.8 Di Macro 1:1 SP AF ~$430
The Tamron 90mm macro is also an excellent macro lens, offering extremely sharp results - we only note a slightly better sharpness result from the Canon at ƒ/2.8. After that, it's essentially equal between the two lenses, though the Tamron shows less corner shading on full-frame. The Tamron takes smaller 55mm filters and weighs a little less as well, though it doesn't offer USM-style focusing, so the focus experience will be a bit noisier.
Canon's really raised the bar with this lens: exceptionally sharp, even wide open at f/2.8, with strong results for resistance to chromatic aberration and distortion. Corner shading can be a tad high at f/2.8 when used on a full-frame body, but for macro work, I imagine most people will be using this lens in the stopped-down range to get as much depth-of-field as possible. The addition of image stabilization is overdue, but will nonetheless be welcomed by photographers who don't want to be weighed down by tripods.
The VFA target should give you a good idea of sharpness in the center and corners, as well as some idea of the extent of barrel or pincushion distortion and chromatic aberration, while the Still Life subject may help in judging contrast and color. We shoot both images using the default JPEG settings and manual white balance of our test bodies, so the images should be quite consistent from lens to lens.
As appropriate, we shoot these with both full-frame and sub-frame bodies, at a range of focal lengths, and at both maximum aperture and ƒ/8. For the ''VFA'' target (the viewfinder accuracy target from Imaging Resource), we also provide sample crops from the center and upper-left corner of each shot, so you can quickly get a sense of relative sharpness, without having to download and inspect the full-res images. To avoid space limitations with the layout of our review pages, indexes to the test shots launch in separate windows.
Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM User Reviews
10 out of 10 points and recommended by caMARYnon (8 reviews)Impressive IQ, excellent IS, very accurate AFnothing
Nothing new to add.reviewed November 18th, 2013
10 out of 10 points and recommended by gunzorro (5 reviews)Just about a perfect lens!Big lens shade (I usually use a shorter, screw-in shade)
One of the best built and sharpest lenses I've ever owned. Great IS, great color. Part of my "perfect FF trio":reviewed April 4th, 2013 (purchased for $800)
24 TSE II, 50/1.2L, and 100L macro.
My only wish (very minor) is that the design was shorter to accommodate a recessed front element so no shade would be required for most shooting.
10 out of 10 points and recommended by hdhani (14 reviews)Image quality, focus ring, AF speed (for a macro), weightThe body is made of polycarbonate NOT metal
This is, as Bryan Carnathan at Digital Picture mentioned, a fun-per-dollar lens, and i wholeheartedly agree with him. Mounted on APS-C body, it becomes 160 mm lens which is great for taking candid pictures; if chances present itself you can shoot close-up without changing lens. However, this lens will mostly act as a second lens, accompanying standard zooms/ primes. Detail shot is where this lens shines. Corner-to-corner sharpness is wonderful. The Hybrid IS is useful IMO for handheld macro shots.reviewed March 26th, 2013 (purchased for $700)
For anybody looking for Macro lens which is versatile enough, this lens is worth consideration.
9 out of 10 points and recommended by marduk360 (3 reviews)Sharp, Fast and accurate AF, Lightweight without feeling cheapNo Tripod ring, HIS (regular IS would have sufficed)
Very sharp and fast/accurate AF. Focusing is very silent too. The focusing ring has a smooth feel to it, but somehow feels a bit too loose (imo only).reviewed July 16th, 2012 (purchased for $1,000)
The build quality is very good despite the material used.
Feels solid but light for its size.
Only gripe is that there is no Tripod Ring included.... the MSRP of the original is ridiculous. Probably would settle for a 3P solution.
Another gripe, is that HIS is still not thoroughly tested to warrant being release to the public. Its only purpose in this lens (IMO) is to drive the price up and to differentiate it with the non-L 100 macro. I believe the normal IS would have sufficed for this release (for short telephoto use).
0 out of 10 points and recommended by kruprathai (3 reviews)Sharpness is outstandin.
The 100mm f/2.8L Macro Lens is Canon's 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.reviewed June 10th, 2012
This is the first lens on the market to incorporate Canon's 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.
See Test Lens : http://canonslr.babybi.com/detail.php?id_detail=Canon-EF-100mm-f-2-8L-IS-USM-1-to-1-Macro-Lens-for-Canon-Digital-SLR-Cameras-id89
More Detail : http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B002NEGTSI/tipfla-20
10 out of 10 points and recommended by shroud72 (5 reviews)Quality optics, amazing color and contrast, 4 stop hybrid IS, bokeh, lens barrel does not rotate during focusinga bit expensive over the non-IS Canon version but inexpensive for an L lens
Wow, where do I start, this is truly a very magical piece of glass. I am always amazed at the quality of the images that I get from it when I use it.reviewed September 28th, 2011 (purchased for $795)
For the price of 1 lens you are able to get 3 purposes:
2. Short Telephoto
Many people may argue that you should not take portraits with this lens as the results are too sharp, however I find that you can always soften an image in post processing if needed but I am always happy with the results and the bokeh that this lens produces with portraits.
100mm equal to 160mm on a crop sensor makes a nice distance to shoot short telephotos from. The added plus is the new hybrid 4 stop IS which works rather well. This lens is sharp at 2.8 but stop it down to 4.0 and its sharp as a razor blade.
This lens makes handheld macro shots possible although it does take some practice with the shallow depth of field.
9 out of 10 points and recommended by JeanP (4 reviews)L-quality optics, lightweight and wethersealednone
This is also a very nice portraitlens on my 400D. Use this lens on f2.8 and further up to f16 and your results will be nice and with good contrast.reviewed August 20th, 2011 (purchased for $850)
I had to send my lens with my 400D to a service point for calibration.My copy had focusproblems (also on a new 7D at the shop)
After this calibration (lens is paired with camera) my pictures are very sharp and nice.
This calibration is a well known (at least at the servicecenter) issue and is carried out under warranty.
I am very satisfied with this level of Canonservice.
10 out of 10 points and recommended by MartinM (31 reviews)IQ, AF Speed, IS, weather sealingnone i can think of
I used to have the Olympus 50 F2 Macro, which dpreview rates as the best IQ they ever saw. Now actually this one is not better, but at least as good.reviewed July 29th, 2011 (purchased for $1,050)
The IS is a real help when taking movies with the 5D2 and of course when taking pictures on portrait distances.
Due to its really fast AF, this lens is a very appealing dual purpose lens too. It can do excellent macro aswell as serve as a general medium telephoto prime.
The 135L and the 200L2.8 have no sealing. This one has a full weather sealing. I'ld wish my other primes would have a sealing.
Simply worth the price tag you pay.
10 out of 10 points and recommended by MS (2 reviews)IQ, IS, ruggednone
Wow. I wish all lens had the IQ this one does. The resolution, color and bokeh are all top notch. IS and autofocus work great. Nice build quality, plastic but very good plastic and as a result light weight for its size. This is perhaps the top "bang for the buck" of the L glass since the IQ as a tele is in the "best of the best" short list, as is the IQ for macro, so two top lens in one. Plus this lens won't get stranded when I upgrade from 50d to 5d3 full frame.reviewed May 6th, 2011 (purchased for $1,049)
9 out of 10 points and recommended by 3systemuser (19 reviews)super fast AF for a macro , decent sharpness , no distortion, very effective IS , sealed.as a macro lens it is not as good as the Zeiss 100f2, like the previos guy said it hunts in close focus distance.
the Zeiss 100f2 zE is a better lens for landscapes or macro works but this one is more practical for almost anything elese and oh well, this one at least have some sort of sealings and very effective IS, so I just use it for low light street work.reviewed March 25th, 2011 (purchased for $800)
I never use this lens for macro after my first 3 test shots with a tiny flower on a side walk.
If you are buying it as a macro lens , I'd say get a Tamron 90 macro and save some.
if you are getting ultimate 100 mm prime for landscapes or some very very critical works , get the Zeiss like I did.
if you want a good all around low light mid tel lens with super fast AF with IS, get this one.
so , imo , the Tamron 90 , the Zeiss 100 and this one are all excellent lenses but designed to do different things well.
I think I will keep all 3 of these.
I love this focal range , I sold my 135f2L after I got this one and Zeiss 100f2 zE.
I mean the 135L is a better lens optically but this one has sealed barrel and very very good IS, so it is the most practical mid tele lens available for Canon EF mount.
7 out of 10 points and recommended by bridges (4 reviews)silent, Sharp, fast AFnot accurate AF, slow with IS
good 100mm macro lenses, it's well built but not heavy. Not sure it meets requirements for 'L' sign like others, maybe Canon is getting lax on this?reviewed January 6th, 2011 (purchased for $988)
focus limiters is needed, if IS is on it hunts a lot. If off, may as well get the no-IS and save $$$$. I use tripod anyway.
compared it to the Sigma 105 Macro it's a bit sharper, but not sure if worth the extra cost. Against the old non-IS, it's similar, maybe the non-IS has a slight edge. It comes down to tripod and cost again.
10 out of 10 points and recommended by nathanielgeorgeweir (3 reviews)Sharp, light, distortionless, effective IS, weathersealed, Fast af with limiterLoud IS, mediocre build for an L lens
Very sharp and easy to use, big switches, and loud but effective IS. Very sharp at f2.8 and ridiculous at f8. Buy it now!!!reviewed October 4th, 2010 (purchased for $960)
8 out of 10 points and recommended by PhilUKNet (8 reviews)High build quality, none of the AF problems of its predecessorExpensive, new IS system is of limited use, not the greatest telephoto lens
A 100mm macro lens always figured in my lens requirements list but I had problems with the old Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 macro. It was OK in macro mode but the AF was hopeless when I used it as a telephoto lens. I got frustrated with so many OOF shots that I sold it.reviewed April 26th, 2010 (purchased for $1,082)
I was pleased when Canon announced this lens and I knew that I would buy it. It's a very good lens but I haven't been quite as blown away with it as I thought I would.
As a macro lens it performs well, but as far as being better than the old macro lens for close-up work that is debatable.
The new whizzy hybrid IS system gets turned off when I do macro because I always use a tripod.
As a telephoto lens it has none of the AF problems of its predecessor, but I've compared it directly with the cheap EF 85mm f/1.8 and I prefer the photos from its poor brother.
When used in telephoto mode I also prefer the EF 70-200 f/4L IS - better colours, image quality, and IS.
Where does this leave the new 100mm f/2.8L IS macro?
The new hybrid IS system was apparently designed for macro but I don't use it when doing macro.
The image quality for macro isn't a great deal better than its predecessor, and if I want a medium telephoto lens for portrait work I prefer my 85mm f/1.8 or my 70-200 f/4L IS.
If you plan on doing mostly macro work, with a little bit of telephoto, this lens might be for you.
If you plan on doing mostly telephoto work, with a little bit of macro, you might be better off buying the 85mm f/1.8 plus an extension tube. The 85mm is a better portrait lens (in my humble opinion), and used with an extension tube it becomes a useful macro lens.
8 out of 10 points and recommended by mariorosado (1 reviews)High quality imageSlow Focusing
I bought this lens when it arrive to the market, my expectations were very high and i was a bit sad with the slow focus when using the image stabilizer.reviewed January 29th, 2010 (purchased for $500)
all the rest are excellent.
10 out of 10 points and recommended by kinematic (13 reviews)Very, very sharp lens. IS makes it possible to handhold macro shots. On FF makes an excellent portrait and walk around lens.No Tripod ring - boo Canon. Noisier than usual IS.
There aren't too many lenses I would give the highest marks possible, but this lens is my most favourite piece of glass that Canon has ever made. Everything they could learn from the original 100mm macro and then add the new hybrid IS onto it was put into this package.reviewed November 5th, 2009 (purchased for $1,000)
The only thing that annoys me is that this lens does not come with a factory tripod ring which is unusual for an L-series lens. Is it necessary? Not totally, as it is pretty light weight and shouldn't put too much strain on your lens mount.
Build quality is the usual high quality polycarbonate L-series engineered plastic. It's lightweight but does still have some decent mass to it. I normally like steel cased lenses, but it doesn't bother me that this lens isn't. Keeps it light weight and easy to tote around.
Sharpness is by far the top of the heap even at F2.8. I used to rave on about the Nikon 105 VR, but this just beats it. Especially since the IS actually works in Macro mode (Unlike the Nikon which shuts of VR when you get closer to the macro range) and with the hybrid IS is very useful.
I found the IS a touch noisy. Most noticeable in a very quiet room, but perhaps I have sensitive ears. It's like a casino in the distance but it's not going to disturb anyone, and even with the 5DmkII's overly sensitive internal mic, is barely picked up by it.
The vignetting in full frame is noticeable at F2.8 at the edges by just a touch but it's desirable when doing portrait or even street photography. My 24-105 has gone to the shelf as a result of this lens. The background blur or bokeh is very smooth, silky and desirable.
The focus limiters are very handy as well if you want to shoot action with it. Three positions is just perfect. AF is pretty snappy, even better when you put the limiters on, however in low light there's some seeking that happens. I kind of expected that.
Last thing to add is the 67mm filters was a little annoying at first, but with step up rings is no long a problem (Most of my lenses are 77mm so I got a 67-77mm step-up ring). The plus to this size I found was that I could put my Raynox DCR-250 directly on it with no need for a step up ring. This really increased my magnification and the pairing is quite nice. Easy to pocket the Raynox adapter and just add it if I need that extra zoom.
The included lens hood is very large. It can be a little cumbersome and in the way. If you like to manually focus, you'l always have it in the forward position as it generally obstructs the very substantial focus ring.
I highly recommend this lens not just as a macro, but as an all around walk around prime. You'll not be disappointed. Is this worth the premium over the original 100mm, that will be a little more difficult to say. The sharpness is about the same, but with the IS and the fact that the front element does not extend is hugely worth it to me.