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This is Canon’s offering in the long, medium telephoto macro area of interchangeable lenses. Long because it is about as long as true Macro lenses go although it is still only a medium telephoto lens in the overall picture. We take a look here at how it performs.
- Focal Length 180mm
- Max aperture f/3.5
- Min aperture f/32
- Construction 14/12 elements/groups
- Closest Focus 0.48m (1:1)
- Filter size 72mm
- Hood ET-78 (supplied)
- Size 82.5x186.6mm
- Weight 1.09kg
- Price (RRP) £1129.00
Build and handling
This lens has the well-built feel and finish of Canon’s L range and gives the impression that it will last a lifetime. It is supplied fitted with a slightly chunky looking tripod collar that can only be removed with the lens off the camera. A control panel on the left of the barrel, just in front of the collar, contains two switches, one for the AF/MF and the other a focus limiter that can switch from the full range of 0.48m-infinity to 1.5m-infinity. This cuts down the focusing time when the lens is used as a normal medium telephoto. Next up is a broad manual focus ring that has a 44mm area of rubber ribbing attached. Last on the barrel is a distance window marked in metres and feet with the token (f/32 only) depth-of-field scale on it. The barrel increases slightly in diameter here before it reaches the front element and its 72mm filter thread.
Autofocus is achieved by ultrasonic motor and is almost silent in use. However, as with most Macro lenses, tracking through the full focus range is still a little slow. The limiter does speed the process up a tad, but don’t expect lightning. Once locked on, the focus is accurate.
The lens is possibly slightly heavy, but this is mostly due to the very solid metal barrel which gives it a bombproof feel.
F/3.5 does seem a strange point to start this lens off, especially as it is a macro lens that will, by it’s very nature, be used well stopped down. From f/4, the lens performs well at the centre with the aperture set wide, although there it softens towards the edges. From f/8 onwards the resolution is fairly consistent across the frame and with the legendary contrast and colour rendition of L class lenses it produces pleasing results that cannot really be criticized. All of the normal problems and awkward areas are well controlled and with a distortion reading of only 0.19% barrel that is invisible to the eye, there are no nasty surprises.
The focal length of this lens is ideal for natural history photography where a good distance to the subject is handy in not disturbing (or annoying) the subject, as seen here with these two images of wild native snakes taken on a Canon 20D
Click on each comparision photo below to view full size versions
180mm set at f/3.5
Below is our lens test data. To find out how to use these graphs look at this article: How we test lenses
A lens that is obviously built to last a lifetime of hard work is the way I would describe this optic although the robustness leaves it looking a little chunky. It possibly goes some way to warranting the price, which is high. Optical output is at the high end of good for the type, although it is not outstanding.
I would like to see Canon develop a quick release mechanism for their tripod collars to make hand holding a little more comfortable. Having to remove the camera body, with today’s problems of dust getting on sensors, is not really on.
In summary, the positive points of the Canon EF 180mm L Macro are:
Superb build quality.
Good optical quality
Good contrast and colour with no distortion
The negative points are:
A little heavy.
Trapped tripod collar (when on camera)
Check the latest price for the Canon EF 180mm f/3.5 L Macro here
Discuss this lens and other related lens subjects here
Test by Ian Andrews www.wildaboutkent.co.uk