5 May 2009

A star in the range - EF100mm f/2.8 Macro USM

The second part of our 'star in the range' series sees us looking at the EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM lens. Those of you with this lens will know how good it is, those without can only wonder what all the fuss is about. The truth is, this lens really is quite remarkable. It offers full 1:1 (lifesize) reproduction without having to change the length of the lens when focusing, and the results are stunningly sharp. So sharp in fact, that a common question asked is "Why is it not an L-Series lens?" The answer is that it doesn't use some of the technology required to make it an L-Series model, however the optical performance is more than enough to justify it.

If there are any complaints leveled at this lens, it's that it is in fact too sharp in some situations. Portraits usually. This lens seems to resolve detail that you just don't see, meaning that in a portrait shoot (for which the 100mm focal length is actually very useful) you end up with lots of images that need retouching to remove skin blemishes you didn't know where there!

So, should you buy it? Well, if you want to get into macro photography, it is the obvious choice in the range. The MP-E 65mm f/2.8 1-5x Macro photo is too specialised and lacks the ability to focus at infinity, the EF50mm f/2.5 Macro only does shalf life size unles you add the life size adaptor and the EF180mm f/3.5L Macro USM is more designed for subjects that need a longer working distance - butterflies and dragonflies for example. The 100mm is the all-rounder. You can shoot insects with it as long as you're careful about what you're doing, you can get in close to flowers and fungi and you can use it for portraits and general photography.

Is there anything missing from this lens? Well, I wish they'd box it with a lens hood included and I'd like to have this lens with an image stabiliser fitted like the N!kon VR Macro lens. Other than that though, it's a stunning lens that anyone interested in macro photography should seriously consider.

Have you got one? If so, what are your thoughts on it? Would you buy it again if you had to?


1 comment:

John Lester said...

I got this lens a few years back as I wanted a Macro to capture small details of things. The image quality that this lens gives is just staggering! There's a clarity and warmth which none of my other glass can deliver (even the 16-35mm L or 70-200 f2.8 L IS).

As mentioned in the article, the lens works well at all ranges from 30cm to infinity and I've used it for taking everything from pictures of daisies to pictures of sheep against the snowcapped hills of the Lake District.

Personally, I find 100mm a bit long for portrait work, and if you're not careful the viciously sharp focus can miss its target at close range, but they're both technique not lens issues.

If I lost this lens, I would be straight back to buying it again, it is one of my "do not leave at home" bits of equipment.

There's an example picture of some purple flowers in my Tuesday Tog entry for those who are interested.