EF 100mm f/2.8 USM

These lens tests are designed to show you what a rank amateur can do with these lenses.
Very little adjustment has been done to these images and, where indicated, actual straight-from-the-camera images are provided.
In other words, if "I" can get these results, you should be able to, as well.
Courtesy of (and about US$65.00), I rented the Canon macro 100mm lens for two weeks (March 27 - April 10, 2007), just in time to catch the early Spring flowers and bugs. After those two weeks, I knew that I had to have one of my own. (I do.)

First impression

This lens is everything I've heard and read, a wonderful (and somewhat affordable, at retail US$599.99) close-up lens with a fast shutter and great usability. You've got to picture me kneeling in the mud to get as close as possible (about a foot) to a handful of crocuses (crocæ?). Not the best position for a steady hand, but the results are fantastic. Shooting a bug in the sunlight at f/2.8, I had the shutter speed set at 1/4,000th, and STILL too much light was coming in. I had to back out the aperture to get the shot.

The learning curve is ... hell, just throw it on the camera and have fun. For the true macro close-ups, you're going to want to invest in a solid tripod. The 100mm's absolute strength is in close-up work, although it's no slouch at portraits and scenic shooting, either. Just as the 50mm f/1.8 is considered a "best bang for the buck," the 100mm macro is, I think, a must-have for the dedicated amateur's camera bag.

Note: Canon now also has the L variant of this lens with image stabilization at just $300.00 more. I haven't played with the L version yet, so keep that in mind. I give this older 100mm lens high marks, but the extra $300.00 might well be worth the move up.

Once I had the 50mm and 70-300 telephoto zoom, the 100mm seemed to be the next logical choice. In audio terms, I now had a solid bass, midrange, and tweeter on my shelf.

The minimum focus distance is about one foot from the camera, or 6" from that lens hood. Even in sunlit macro situations, a tripod is recommended to get the full detail you're after.

This lens has a switch for auto/manual focus, the requisite gauge for focal length, along with a switch that limits focus range for faster autofocus.

So, let's get to shootin'.

First shot at 8 feet from the subject, second shot at 1 foot (both f/9, 1/160, ISO200).
Click either photo for the full direct-from-camera image (each over 4MB).

Kitten napping on my computer desk as I write this (f/2.8, 1/30, ISO1600, 4MB). Even though this photo was handheld and at ISO1600, it shows the very shallow depth of field at f/2.8 and a distance of about one foot (no flash).

To be fair, here's Kitten's sister at about 2 feet distance, using flash (f/6.3, 1/50, ISO200, flash, 4.5MB).

A few quick photos from the past few years (link to 1920x1080 images). See more samples below.

f/5, 1/80, ISO400

f/18, 1/80, ISO200

f/10, 1/400, ISO200

SAMPLES: See a slideshow of various images from the 100mm macro

Canon User Manual for the 100mm, for those who want it (PDF)

bottom line

I flat-out love this lens. Most likely, you will, too. From portraits to bugs to flowers all season long, the 100mm macro is a joy to work with. As with the mighty little 50mm wonder, this 100mm lets you work without flash with less light than you'd expect, and it can focus on one individual hair on a bumble bee's backside. Highly recommended.

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dwight munroe
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