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Canon 100mm Macro
EF Full-Frame (1990-today)

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How to Shoot Macro   Best Macro Lenses Compared

Intro  Specs   Performance   Recommendations

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Canon 100mm Macro

Canon 100mm f/2.8 Macro (58mm filters, 20.6 oz./584g, 1:1 macro, about $550 new or $375 used). enlarge. I'd get it new at Adorama or Amazon, or used at this link directly to them at eBay (see How to Win at eBay).

My biggest source of support for this free website is when you use those or any of these links when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live — but I receive nothing for my efforts if you buy elsewhere. I'm not NPR; I get no government hand-outs and run no pledge drives to support my research, so please always use any of these links for the best prices and service whenever you get anything. Thanks for helping me help you! Ken.

 

Good News:

1.) Spectacular optics!

2.) Super sharp.

3.) No distortion.

4.) Super-fast focusing.

5.) Goes to 1:1 in one twist.

6.) I'll say it again: spectacular optics!

 

Bad News:

None. This is a great lens!

 

June 2013   Canon Reviews   Canon Lenses   All Reviews

Compared to more 105mm Macro lenses

How to Shoot Macro.

Best Macro Lenses Compared.

Why fixed lenses take better pictures.

NEW: Canon 100mm f/2.8 L Macro. Adorama pays top dollar for your used gear, especially this non-L 100mm Macro.

 

INTRODUCTION     top

Intro  Specs   Performance   Recommendations

Adorama pays top dollar for your used gear.

B&H Photo - Video - Pro Audio
I use these stores. I can't vouch for ads below.

I love this lens. It does everything well and has no weak points.

It's hard to convey this in writing. This is one of those lenses that works so well, efficiently and effortlessly you wonder why all lenses can't be this good.

By comparison, Canon's 50mm macro works well, but sounds like a toy when it focuses. This 100mm focuses instantly in near-silence.

This is Canon's most practical macro lens. The reason you buy it instead of the 50mm is because when you're close to a subject, you can be so close that you can annoy insects or block your own light. This 100mm lets you step back a little further.

This Canon 100mm is less expensive than any of the Nikon 105mm Micro (Macro) lenses, and it works better than either, too. It's easy to use and works great.

This Canon macro doesn't have image stabilization. This isn't a problem, since I and most people shoot all my real macro shots with flash.

It works perfectly on every Canon digital and autofocus SLR. The only Canons on which it won't work splendidly are manual-focus FD SLRs from the 1980s and before.

 

SPECIFICATIONS    top

Intro  Specs   Performance   Recommendations

 

Name

Canon calls this the Canon Macro Lens EF 100mm f/2.8 USM. EF means "Electronic Focus" which all Canon autofocus lenses do. USM means Ultra-Sonic Motor, which means it autofocuses almost silently.

 

Optics

12 elements in 8 groups.

 

Focal Length

100mm.

On the 30D, 20D, Digital Rebels, D30, D60 and 10D (1.6x factor, APS-c) it gives a field of view similar to what a 160mm lens does on a 35mm camera. On the 1D series (1.3x factor, APS-H) it gives a field of view similar to what a 130mm lens does on a 35mm camera.

 

Maximum Aperture

f/2.8 indicated at all distances. This Canon does get slower, unfortunately the camera doesn't indicate the true f/stop as you focus more closely. You'll have to do the compensation in your head if you're using an external meter! This is unlike my Nikon 105mm AF Micro, which slows to f/5.0 at 1:1 and says so in the camera.

 

Diaphragm

8 blades.

Octagonal except at almost wide open at far distances.

Stops down to f/32 at all distances.

Canon claims a secondary diaphragm blocks stray light at f/2.8, increasing contrast when shooting wide-open.

 

Close Focus

1.02' (31 cm), measured from the image plane (back of camera).

 

Working Distance

At closest focus, the subject is 6" (15 cm) from the front of the lens.

 

Reproduction Ratio

1:1 (life size).

This means something the same size as your sensor or film fills the image.

 

Filter

58mm, plastic thread.

 

Hood

ET-67, not included (not needed, either).

 

Case

LP1219, not included.

 

Size

3.092" diameter x 4.655 " extension from mount (78.55 x 118.25mm), as measured by me.

Nothing moves or changes size with focus: it's all internal.

 

Weight

20.610 oz (584.2g), as measured by me, without filters or caps.

 

Introduced

March 2000.

It replaces the non-USM version introduced in April 1990.

The Canon 100mm f/2.8 L Macro replaced this in Fall, 2009. The new IS version costs twice as much and adds IS, and is otherwise mostly the same.

 

PERFORMANCE     top

Intro  Specs   Performance   Recommendations

Autofocus    Bokeh     Color Fringes     Construction     Distortion

Falloff    Film    Flare   Flash   Macro   SN   Sharpness    Sound    IS   

 

OVERALL

This 100mm macro's performance is the performance to which other lenses aspire. I wish everything was this good. You can use this lens as a reference against which to compare everything else.

It's also a pleasure to use and well made.

This lens will make photos limited only by your skill and imagination.

 

FOCUSING   back to Performance or back to Introduction.

Nothing external moves during focus. The length never changes, even at life size. My Nikon 105mm AF gets a long as it focuses more closely.

The Canon 100mm has three internal floating groups for focusing, which is very advanced. If you watch the rear group with the lens off a camera, you'll see it move forwards, then backwards, and then a little forwards again as you focus from infinity to life size.

Canon 100mm Focus Limiter Switch

Canon 100mm Macro Focus Mode and Limiter Switches

Autofocus Speed

AF is fast!! It's much faster than my Nikon 105mm AF. It's so fast that it's useful for some macro shooting. For most macro shooting we focus manually and move the camera back and forth while chasing moving subjects.

On my 5D it's just about instantaneous. It's almost scary!

If you have it focused way out of range it can get confused, but so long as you have a real subject and some light you're fine. Turn the manual ring to get it in range and it will take it from there.

If you're in the dark you're in trouble with a 30D. The 30D has no AF assist light - it uses the flash! The 30D annoys the heck out of live subjects because it fires numerous flash bursts to light the subject to help focusing. It doesn't focus well this way, but does a bang-up job of annoying your subjects. You may even get thrown out, as my wife did while I was trying to photograph her dogs since she thought I was blinding them.

It seems a little better on my 5D, which has no flash for assist. It slows down if it's dark to try to find the subject.

Be sure to have at least a reasonable amount of ambient light (more like LV7 than LV1) if you want to autofocus well.

Autofocus Accuracy

Autofocus accuracy is astounding: it's dead on at f/2.8 at every distance. Bravo!

There is a catch: on a Rebel XT at f/2.8 at infinity it focuses a bit in front of the subject. It's fine on my 5D.

You have to look very hard to see any of this; it works great.

Manual Focus

Manual focus is easy! Just grab the focus ring at any time. Switching is automatic and instantaneous. It's much better than my Nikon 105mm AF, which requires dorky manual switches to swap modes. I haven't compared it to the new Nikon 105mm AFS VR.

Manual focus moves in the opposite direction from Nikon. Don't try this if you use both systems.

 

BOKEH   back to Performance or back to Introduction.

(what is Bokeh?)

Bokeh is neutral. At f/2.8 it's a tiny bit negative, but otherwise very neutral.

You will see the octagonal diaphragm if you look for it.

It's a pleasant lens to use for portraits presuming you want a sharp subject. Look out: it's so sharp it will be very obvious what's in focus and what's not unless you use a soft filter. This ain't no stinking lensbaby.

 

COLOR FRINGES
(Lateral Chromatic Aberration or LCA)

back to Performance or back to Introduction.

On a 1.6x camera or 5D, none! You can see an example below under sharpness.

Patio furniture photographers rejoice!

 

CONSTRUCTION QUALITY

back to Performance or back to Introduction.

Made of

Plastic exterior and switches.

Metal mount.

Internals unknown, looks mostly plastic and metal.

I like this: it uses plastic where it can to save weight, and metal where it needs to.

 

Made in

Japan.

 

DISTORTION   back to Performance or back to Introduction.

It has no distortion at any distance between infinity and 1:1, except at around 15 - 20' (5m) on a full-frame or film camera. This means I can blow it up to 100%, drop a guide on a straight line along an edge in Photoshop, and it doesn't waver. I can't see any distortion even at 15' on the 1.6x cameras.

At 15' on a full-frame camera you can use about +0.5 in Photoshop CS2's lens distortion filter to correct the slight barrel distortion. If distortion is critical, you also could get closer or farther away. Even at it's worst it's better than most other lenses, and certainly better than zooms.

This isn't a problem: macro is for close distances where it has no distortion, and used at infinity it goes away, too.

This is excellent, and as expected for a macro lens.

 

FALLOFF (Darkened Corners)

back to Performance or back to Introduction.

It is very resistant to falloff, even measured on a full-frame camera. This is excellent performance!

Performance gets better as you get closer, and even at infinity, falloff is gone just a stop or two from full aperture. At closer distances it goes away even at wide apertures.

Here are shots of an Expodisc on a full-frame camera. This is a deviously tough test which shows even the slightest falloff. You'll never see it this way in normal photography. Ignore the minor exposure variations between frames.

 
f/2.8
f/4
f/5.6
f/8
Infinity
1:10
1:3
1:1

 

 

This will be even better on an ordinary 1.6x camera since only the middle of the frame is used. On these popular cameras, there is a little falloff at f/2.8 at infinity, and it's gone completely by f/4. There is none at 1:1, even at f/2.8!

Even if it were bad, falloff can help in portraits and many other subjects, since falloff makes a better picture by concentrating the viewer's attention on the subject and away from the corners.

For photos of blank sky or brick walls falloff is bad, but so are photos of blank skies!

This lens has excellent freedom from falloff.

 

USE ON 35mm CAMERAS   

back to Performance or back to Introduction.

This lens is designed for film and full frame cameras, and it also works great on every other Canon digital camera. Knock yourself out; you're not going to find any flaws.

 

FLARE AND GHOSTS  back to Performance or back to Introduction.

There are no flare or ghosts with any shot with a light source in the image, so long as it's not so insanely bright that you can't safely look through the finder.

If you devise some crazy test you can get a little flare, but after I ran this test, I'm still half blind in my finder eye as I type this. Serves me right!

Canon 100mm flare

Bright enough to leave me blind in one eye for an hour, and no flare!

The lack of flare hides just how insanely bright the sun was. The 5D easily handles the overload of the disk of the sun, so this images doesn't convey how far I went to try to get this lens to flare. It was a clear sky after a rain, and about as bright as noon. Even dropping the exposure to try to see the flare, I couldn't.

The only way I could get the Canon 100mm macro to flare was to increase the exposure four stops and tilt down to see the land on the bottom. Of course this completely obliterates the sky, so you'd never, ever need to do this. You'd either add 50 megawatts and 50 genny trucks of fill or use an ND grad, either of which, along with your change in exposure, would drop out the flare.

Canon 100mm Macro

If you knew how bright the sun was here, you'd understand. Take my word for it: I don't see how I'd ever get this lens to flare if I wasn't deliberately trying.

 

USE with FLASH   back to Performance or back to Introduction.

There are no shadows, even at 1:1, with the built-in flashes.

I get good results with a 30D's built-in flash. I get crummy (inconsistent)) exposure with the XTi's built-in flash. I'm unsure if this really is related to the cameras, or just what I saw with the few dozen shots I fired off around the house for each. It's not like Nikon, which is always dead-on.

I need to compensate the flash if the subject is dark or light, which is worse than the Nikon system.

 

MACRO   back to Performance or back to Introduction.

This lens is all about macro. As expected, it excels!

This is shot on a Rebel XT. It does the same thing on the 20D and 30D. On a 5D the full field is larger, since the 5D has a larger sensor. On an XTi the 100% crop would be a little closer. No surprises here; I show this so you can compare with other regular lenses macro shots of my watch.

18-55mm macro

At close focus limit, 1:1 (complete image)

18-55mm cropped

100% crop, unsharpened. This is the small dial in the center of the above image! The full image would print 3 feet wide at this magnification.

This looks great!

The top shot is my standard target: the watch on my wrist. That's the full image, which at life size on the sensor means that an area 15 x 22mm (2/3 x 1") fills the image. As seen on your screen, the top full image is 6x life size, and the bottom crop is 35 times larger than life in each dimension!

My watch isn't printed as well as this lens resolves, and its magnifying crystal is of poorer quality than this lens. This magnifying crystal leads to the slight red/blue fringes on the side markings. It's not from the macro lens!

The depth of field, even at f/8 in these shots, is so narrow that the little hand shown on the tiny dial is out of focus, and it's only a few tenths of a millimeter above the dial, way below the other hands that fly over it!

It takes practice to get this shot this good.

My results with macro lenses are more limited by my skill than the quality of this lens.

 

SERIAL NUMBER  back to Performance or back to Introduction.

The serial number is on the inside of back of the lens, on the back of the mount opposite the electrical contacts.

 

SHARPNESS  back to Performance or back to Introduction.

It's insanely good! I've never gotten sharper images anywhere. Forget the tables, have a look at these 100% crops from my 5D, or click to download the original 5MB file to see for yourself:

Canon 100mm MAcro

Full-frame Image from my 5D. Original file (5MB).

 

Crop from Center

100% crop from lower center.

 

Crop from corner

100% crop from very top right corner.

These unsharpened crops looks good enough to use as is! These were at ISO 50, 1/400 at f/6.3, hand held. If they aren't sharp enough for you, here's the top right corner sharpened a bit:

Sharper

100% crop from very top right corner, sharpened.

If I showed the entire image at this 100% magnification you would need a 44" (1.1m) wide screen to see it!

It's this sharp wide open, too. Just watch the focus.

Your skill will be your biggest barrier to sharp images, not this lens. Diffraction is usually the sharpness-limiting factor for all lenses, especially digital SLRs, at about f/11 and above. See also How Sharpness Varies with Aperture.

On a 30D at 100%:

Letters correspond to center - corner. The corners are the corners of a 1.6x sensor 30D. Possible ratings are E - VG - G - F - P. These are subjective. Don't fret over differences between adjacent grades.

 
f/2.8
f/4
f/5.6
f/8
f/11
Infinity
VG - VG*
E - E
E - E
E - E
E - E
3' / 1m (1:10)
E - E
E - E
E - E
E - E
E - E
1.5' / 50cm (1:3)
E - E
E - E
E - E

*watch the focus, it can focus in front of the subject sometimes.

On a full-frame 5D:

Letters correspond to center - side - corner. Possible ratings are E - VG - G - F - P. These are subjective. Don't fret over differences between adjacent grades.

 
f/2.8
f/4
f/5.6
f/8
f/11
Infinity
E - E - VG
E - E - E*
E - E - E
E - E - E
E - E - E

*watch the focus, it can focus in front of the subject sometimes.

 

SOUND and NOISE   back to Performance or back to Introduction.

Auto Focus: Quiet plastic sliding on plastic.

Manual Focus: Plastic sliding on plastic.

IS (Image Stabilization)

back to Performance or back to Introduction.

The Canon 100mm f/2.8 Macro has no IS, so be careful hand held in anything but the best light. Then again, as you saw above I get superb results hand held and those were shot at ISO 50, so it's not that big a deal unless you need smaller apertures for depth of field

TIP: In dim light, fire several shots and pick the sharpest. Blur is a random event, so if you fire enough shots, you'll eventually get a sharp one even at very slow speeds.

 

RECOMMENDATIONS     top

Intro  Specs   Performance   Recommendations

If you need a macro for any autofocus or digital Canon SLR, this is it, and the price is right, too!

Since you can get this real Canon lens for not much more than the knock-offs, I'd not bother with the discount macros out there.

 

Thanks

Many thanks to my friend Dr. Jim Chen from our local photo club, who loaned his lens to me.

 

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Thanks for reading!

 

 

Mr. & Mrs. Ken Rockwell, Ryan and Katie.

 

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