There are many third party lenses available and whilst most are more than adequate for taking some pretty impressive macro shots there really is only one lens for Canon DSLR owners – The Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM. Whilst it is at the higher end in terms of price, you really do get what you pay for with this lens and it is definitely worth spending the extra especially considering the types of images that are possible with this lens.
The Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro lens is a small to medium sized lens that is very lightweight, which makes it possible to carry around all day long without making your arms ache. Being a genuine 1:1 macro lens, this lens allows the sensor to record a subject the same size it is in real life. This 1x magnification is achieved at the minimum focus distance 30cm. This lens allows a reasonable minimum working distance 15cm from the end of the lens (without the hood in place) making it ideal for photographing insects, bugs and other mini beasts. If you want even more magnification you can use extension tubes with this lens, however there will be a loss of light, which is to be expected.
Despite being labelled a macro lens and capable of taking 1:1 reproductions the EF100mm f/2.8 is capable for many other types of photography, including landscapes, portrait and a general walk about lens.
The EF 100mm lens is a prime lens of fixed focal length and does not extend when focusing which is perfect for extreme close up work. There is nothing worse than accidentally nudging in to the subject whilst focusing because the lens extends and you don’t realise. This is not an issue with the EF 100mm lens. When using this lens for extreme close up and proper macro work the focusing is best done manually as the autofocus will tend to hunt around, making it difficult to lock on to the subject. This is an issue with all macro lenses therefore it is not a criticism of this lens. The manual focusing ring is a nice size, nicely located, well damped and very smooth, which makes it a dream to use.
When using auto focus when taking images slightly further away from the subject is a totally different matter and the USM (Ultrasonic motor) is exceptionally fast focusing, almost silent and will accurately lock on to the subject before you know it, which is a great feature.
Arguably, the best feature of the EF 100mm lens is the image quality, which is second to none. The images are tack sharp and the colours bright and vibrant. This lens is sharp wide open, however stop it down a notch or two and it is even sharper. The level of detail this lens produces cannot be seen with the naked eye and it is amazing to see exactly what subjects look like once magnified. Have you ever seen the hexagonal pattern on the eye of a fly? What about the individual hairs on a dragonfly’s chin? This is the level of detail you can expect the EF 100mm to produce. There is slight vignetting when the lens is wide open, however this is the same with all macro lenses. Stop the lens down and the vignetting almost disappears. Eight aperture blades allow smooth and creamy bokeh that really makes the subject stand out.
The build quality of the EF 100mm is very good. It is not quite as durable or robust as the Canon L series of lenses, but then it doesn’t cost as much so it is to be expected. That said, the EF 100mm is solid and very well built, but then it is a genuine Canon product so no surprises here.
The Canon EF100mm f/2.8 macro USM does not have image stabilisation technology but then with the fixed focal length of 100mm camera shake should not be too much of an issue. Besides, syncing this lens to the flash (which is common practice in macro photography) should ensure shutter speeds to eliminate camera shake. Blurry iamges are likely to be thresult of subject movement, which is something that image stabilisation technology cannot assist with.
Optional accessories for the EF 100mm include a lens hood (model ET-67), a protective lens pouch (model number LP1219) and a tripod ring. It should be noted that Canon’s extenders are not compatible with the EF 100mm, which is a shame.
Overall the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM macro is a fantastic lens and if Canon owners want a designated macro lens, this is the one to go for. Forget about the third party equivalents as this is the real deal. Whilst it is quite expensive the additional cost is well worth it, especially when you see the types of images that are possible with this lens.