Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM

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Image-stabilized, full-frame macro lens offering exceptional image quality

There has always been a good case for saying that optimum performance is achieved when a lens is designed for one specific purpose: some lenses are great for versatility but if you have a particular application in mind then it is always best to seek out a lens that was designed for that specific purpose. Canon's EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM is the perfect example of a lens that does one thing very, very well indeed.

CANON EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM

CANON EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM

The 100mm focal length is ideal for many types of everyday macrophotography as it places a comfortable distance between the lens and the object being recorded. It is also a focal-length that is easy to work with from an optical-design point of view, and the exceptional MTF results returned by this lens are proof of the extent to which Canon’s designers have excelled in this area.

The lens itself is rather large, with a barrel length of 123mm, but its handling is perfect. The focusing ring, which remains static in AF mode but offers full-time manual intervention, is broad and ideally placed. Three sliders to the rear control the focusing range, AF mode and IS system while the focused-distance window sits right at the front of the lens.

An equally generous, cylindrical type, lens hood is included together with a soft carrying pouch. A tripod-mounting collar and extension tubes are also available as optional extras.

Another benefit worthy of note is the way in which Canon has addressed exposures for macro photography. There is a general rule that says the maximum exposure time (shutter "speed") for blur-free pictures is given by the reciprocal of the focal length, which for a 100mm lens would be 1/100sec. That is fine for everyday photography but in close-up work, with a higher magnification ratio, less blur is required for the image to appear unsharp. Sadly, under these very conditions the lens projects a dimmer image on the focal plane, requiring an increase in exposure that tends to lead to longer, rather than shorter, exposure times.

CANON EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM

The traditional solution to this problem is for flash to be used in a lot of macro photography, not simply to illuminate the subject but also to provide a brief burst of light that acts as an ultra-short exposure time. In its new 100mm Macro lens, Canon has given photographers an additional helping hand in the form of image stabilization that provides a two-stop reduction in exposure time for macro photography, rising to four stops in normal use.

Things are not quite so simple in the latter respect, however, because image stabilization systems typically reduce the sharpness of pictures when the lens is supported on a tripod - and most macro photography is undertaken using tripod-mounted cameras. Although technical testing revealed a slight drop in MTF when the IS was activated on a tripod, the resulting curve in this case remained comfortably above 0.25 cycles-per-pixel from f/2.8 to f/22 and still sat above 0.4 cycles-per-pixel between f/4 and f/8.

Similarly, although there was just a hint of chromatic aberration on the technical testing targets, nothing showed up by way of color fringing in any of the real-world pictures (both large-scale and macro subjects).

In short, this is clearly a very impressive lens in all respects

In short, this is clearly a very impressive lens in all respects. It is also keenly priced. While it's true that for only about $228.4 more you could buy Canon’s very capable 24-105mm f/4 zoom, which is a better all-rounder, the 100mm macro is not meant to be an all-rounder: it has been conceived for one specific purpose only, and Canon’s engineers are to be congratulated on designing and manufacturing such a superb bespoke lens


·         Maximum aperture: 2.8

·         Minimum aperture: 32

·         Lens mount: Canon

·         Number of blades: 9

·         Image Stabilization: Yes

·         Optics (elements/groups): 15/12

·         Minimum focus: 3mm

·         Filter size: 67mm

·         Lens hood: Yes

·         Width: 78mm

·         Length: 123mm

·         Weight: 625g


·         Stunning MTF performance


·         Nothing of significance


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