Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 L IS USM Macro Lens Review

Product Summary


Macro lenses can open a completely new dimension to your photography. It is a segment of photography that deals with shooting pictures of small subjects at a size of 1:1 ratio or larger magnification and in the process capturing incredible details which are normally impossible to notice. For some unknown reasons two of the major lens manufacturers refer to their range of extreme close-up photography lenses with two different names. While Canon refers their lenses as Macro, Nikon prefers to call them Micro. For the ease of understanding, however, we shall be referring these close-up lenses as Macro in our discussion.

Two things are extremely important when it comes to choosing macro lenses. First is the ability to magnify the image to a minimum ratio of 1:1 and the second is the ability to focus without protruding the lens elements outside the barrel. Macro photography is all about shooting images of subjects which are very small and then filling the entire frame with them. A 1:1 magnification ratio is normally used to shoot very small subjects. 1:1 magnification denotes that the size of the subject on the sensor (and thus on the final image) is the exact same as that of its size in real life. Normally a 1:1 magnification is necessary to make a great quality macro photograph but higher ratios are also possible and can capture incredible amount of details of objects that are normally impossible to be seen by the naked eye.

Canon’s line of L series Macro lenses are incredibly sharp and offer a photographer with options to shoot very small subjects from a close focusing distance. The Canon EF 100 mm f/2.8L IS USM is a great lens for serious Macro photography enthusiasts.

Vanguard Alta Pro 284 CT Tripod

Build quality and weather sealing

Normally Canon’s L series lenses are very tough. They are all weather types and can withstand water (some lenses may need an additional UV filter to complete the weather sealing, so if you’re unsure whether your lens is weather sealed, don’t expose it to water). The EF 100 mm f/2.8L IS USM is not built entirely with aluminum. The focusing ring, the lens mount and the plates carrying the numbers and details are made with aluminum. The rest of the body is made with “engineered plastic”. Engineered plastics gives a similar quality build but they are comparatively lighter. Pick the lens up in hand and the feeling is reassuring.

The lens is weather sealed making it an ideal companion to have when shooting outdoors. Macro photography is often practiced outdoors, in the woods or in the middle of nature. It is a reassuring feeling in these conditions if your lens is weather sealed to go with a weather sealed body.

Canon’s L series lenses feature RingType USM (UltraSonic Motor). Unlike the MicroMotor type USM they are quicker when focusing and also silent making them less intimidating.

Another good thing about the EF 100 mm f/2.8L IS USM is that when focusing the front elements of the lens does not push forward. The lens focuses internally and the barrel does not even rotate. This is a great thing when you’re using filters or polarizers as turning the focusing ring would not rotate the filters mounted at the front end of the lens. There is also another major advantage of a non-protruding lens element. When using a lens that extends beyond the lens barrel during focusing it is not always easy to be aware how much the lens has gone forward. Chances are that the lens may bump against the subject or a surface damaging the front elements. With a non extending type lens such as the EF 100 mm f/2.8L IS USM it is possible to get as close as possible without a nasty bump or scaring the subject. Additionally the lens comes with FTM (full time manual focusing). It means one can let the AF to lock focus on the subject and then manually adjust the focusing without having to flip the switch from AF to MF.

Weight and convenience when using for handheld shots or carrying around

At 625gms, the EF 100 mm f/2.8L IS USM is neither light nor is it is too heavy. This should be just right for some one who is looking to capture some good macro shots over a couple of hours.

EOS 5D Mk III, EF 100mm f/2.8L IS Macro

EOS 5D Mk III, EF 100mm f/2.8L IS Macro
Exposure: f/2.8; 1/80 Sec; ISO 100, IS On, Handheld

Image Stabilization system

Canon’s image stabilization system has the effect of having four stops of faster shutter speeds when compared to lenses that don’t have it. The earlier macro lenses from Canon such as the EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM did not have IS built-in. As a result hand holding was a bit of a hassle. Sometimes its really handy. AF is very good, much like the performance of the older EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM. However in absolute macro shots a tripod is a must. For serious macro photography IS is no a game changer.

Image quality

Image quality of the lens is excellent. Even at its widest aperture of f/2.8 it is quite sharp. Some amount of vignetting is unavoidable specially when mounted on a full frame DSLR. However if one stops down to f/4 or f/5.6 this is greatly reduced. Mounted on a crop body the problem of vignetting is almost on-existent.


At f/2.8 a nice bokeh is obtained which should come handy if one prefers to blur out the background and focus on the subject only. Users preferring to create a smooth out of focus effect at wide angle will find the results to be near perfect. The availability of IS means handholding shots in windy conditions is much easier, something that the older 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM did not have.

Is it a good buy?

The EF 100 mm f/2.8L IS USM about twice the price of the nearest comparable macro lens from Canon making it one of the most expensive macro lenses from Canon. If you feel like not opting for an IS lens, then something cheaper like the older EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM is better. But if you need hand holding capabilities and the option to get as close as possible without having to constantly keep an eye on the extending lens elements then this is the right choice for you.

Images by EF 100mm f/2.8 L IS USM Macro Lens on flickr

Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 L IS Specifications

Image size Full Frame & APS-C
35mm film equivalent focal length100mm
Angle of viewH:19.8°,V: 13.5°, D: 24°
Construction (elements/groups)15/12
No. of diaphragm blades9
Closest focusing distance (m)0.3
Max magnification (x)1
Distance informationProvided
Image stabilizer4-stops
3-stops at 0.5x magnification
2-stops at 1.0x magnification
AF actuatorRing USM¹
Dust/moisture resistanceYes¹
Filter Size (mm)67
Max. diameter x length (mm)77.7 x 123
Weight (g)625g
Magnification – Extension Tube EF12 II1.17-0.12
Magnification – Extension Tube EF25 II1.37-0.27
Lens hoodET-73
Soft caseLP1219


Purchase options

EF 100mm f/2.8 L IS USM Macro available at Amazon | Adorama | B&H

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