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Lens expert Gary Wolstenholme takes a look at Canon's EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM lens.
This 100mm lens from Canon costs around £779 and provides life-size magnification at its closest focus, image stabilisation, weather-sealed construction and an ultrasonic focusing motor. This is not the only 100mm Macro lens Canon produce. The older version without the 'L' designation lacks an image stabiliser, but only costs £439.
Almost every third party manufacturer offer a macro optic at around this focal length, none have an image stabiliser or ultrasonic focusing though. Sigma's 105mm macro lens costs around £380, Tamron's 90mm costs around £345 and Tokina's 100mm optic costs around £348 making them all under half the price of Canon's premier macro offering. Is it worth the difference? We'll take a look.
Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM: Handling and features
The red stripe that is prominently placed around the front of the lens barrel isn't just for show. The lens feels impeccably put together with a nice wide rubber focusing ring placed two thirds along the length of the barrel. The lens balances well on the EOS 50D used for testing.
Manual focusing is a pleasure, even when in AF mode, as it offers full-time manual focus, which is great for quick adjustments. Autofocus is swift and accurate, thanks in part to the ring-type ultrasonic focusing motor. Focusing is performed internally, so the lens doesn't extend as you get closer and the front filter thread doesn't rotate. A three position focus limiter switch provides the option between allowing the lens to track through the full focus range, or for distances greater or closer than 50cm. Selecting the correct zone can dramatically improve focus performance, especially at close distances.
Quite strong focus breathing is apparent through the viewfinder, especially at closer focusing distances, which can sometimes make it a little more challenging to frame your subject accurately while focusing, but I didn't find it too much of a problem.
A new design of Image Stabiliser, specifically designed for use at close distances, has been employed in this new optic. It differs from tradition in-lens stabilisation units because it's able to correct lens shift movements as well as angular movements of the lens. Canon say that the new system should be able to give up to two stops worth of shake correction at the closest focus of the lens, and four stops at infinity and I would say that's about right. I find it also helps greatly with composing an image while hand-holding, and with gaining an AF lock too as your subject isn't moving around so much in the viewfinder.
Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM: Performance
For this review, the lens was tested on a 15Mp Canon EOS 50D using Imatest.
As you would expect for a Canon lens carrying the 'L' designation, this is a very high resolution lens. Wide open images the resolution is already very good right to the edges of the frame and by f/4 the resolution has already reached excellent levels. As the lens was tested on an APS-C camera, diffraction sets in early, reducing the resolution as the lens is stopped down. From f/8 onwards I would fully expect the resolution to be higher than shown on the graph here when used on a full-frame body, such as the EOS 5D Mark II.
Resolution at 100mm
Canon's use of UD glass in the design of this lens has kept Chromatic Aberrations in check. Although higher figures than I expected were recorded towards the edges of the frame I didn't notice any colour aberrations in real world images.
Chromatic Aberrations at 100mm
For a wide aperture lens, light falloff towards the corners is very well controlled. The corners of the frame are only 0.6 stops darker than the image centre at f/2.8 and is uniform by f/5.6. Although this figure will have been helped by testing on an APS-C SLR, the lens still performs well in this area.
As expected for a fixed-focal lens, distortion is virtually non-existent. Imatest recorded only 0.1% barrel distortion.
Ghosting and flare performance is excellent. Strong point sources of light will create a feint flare pattern on the opposite side of the frame, but only in extreme circumstances. Light sources outside of the frame can cause a slight loss of contrast, but the deep plastic lens hood supplied does a great job of shielding the front element from extraneous light. Using the hood can pose its own problems though. Due to its sheer size, it can make it difficult not to cast a shadow on your subject when working at close distances.
Frame-filling shots are possible at the closest focusing distance.
|DxOMark provides objective, independent, RAW-based image quality performance data for lenses and digital cameras to help you select the best equipment to meet your photographic needs.
Visit the DxOMark website for tests performed on the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM.
Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM: Verdict
This new 100mm macro lens from Canon is a no-compromise optic worthy of the 'L-series' designation.
Not only does it impress with the high resolution images it can produce, but the new Image Stabiliser really does make a notable difference when hand-holding at close distances.
Although the price may seem a little steep when compared to third-party offering, if you want or need the best, you must be prepared to pay for the best and in this scope this lens represents good value for money.
Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM: Pros
New Image Stabilisation system
Useful Focus limiter switch
Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM: Cons
Supplied lens hood is a little deep for use at close distances
Focus breathing can make composition tricky
|VALUE FOR MONEY|
Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM: Lens specification
|Construction:||15 elements in 12 groups|
|35mm equivalent focal length (on APS-C body):||160mm|
|Size (lxw):||123mm x 77.7mm|
|In the box:||Lens Hood, Case|
The Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM costs £779 and is available from Warehouse Express here:
Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM