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Canon 100mm f2.8 L Macro IS Review

Looking to find more information regarding the Canon 100mm f2.8 L Macro IS? Read our latest review to learn more about the Canon 100mm f2.8 L Macro IS, its specifications, and if it’s a good camera lens for you. 

Canon 100mm f2.8 L Macro IS Overview

Their niche design indicates that new macro lenses are released rather infrequently, however all major manufacturers have at least one contemporary 100mm (or so) focal length macro lens in their lineup. In 2009, it was Canon’s turn to release an update to their old 100mm f/2.8 macro lens with the release of the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 L IS USM.

Given its “L” lens status, the EF 100mm f/2.8 L IS USM Macro was more than simply a small upgrade of its predecessor, featuring a more robust weather-sealed body and a brand-new optical formula to match. Maybe the most crucial addition to the EF 100mm f/2.8 L IS USM Macro lens was a brand-new variation of Canon’s Image Stabilization system. The Hybrid image stabilization system used in this lens was developed to efficiently compensate for both angular and shift motions, providing 4 stops of camera movement aid at conventional distances and up to 2 stops at 1:1 reproduction distance.

The addition of image stabilization considerably enhances the EF 100mm f/2.8 L IS USM Macro lens’s usability in the field when shooting hand-held. While macro photography is frequently tripod-based affair, there are situations when utilizing a tripod is not a possibility and where having image stabilization is crucial to getting the last shot. I acquired a copy of the lens 4 years ago, and it has been my buddy on several trips over that time. Initially, I matched the lens with Canon’s 1D III body and later on a Canon 1Dx.

Canon 100mm f2.8 L Macro IS Specifications

Below is a summary of this lens’s specifications:

Indicative Price: $969Zoom Type: /
Release Date: 10/01/2009Mount Type: Canon EF
Focal Range: 100mmTripod Mount: Optional
Aperture: F/ 2.8Colors Available: Black
Filter Diameter (millimeters): 67Full-Time Manual Focus: Yes
Maximum Diameter (millimeters): 77.7Number Of Lenses: 15
AF Motor: USMLength (millimeters): 123
Stabilization: YesWeight (grams): 625

Canon 100mm f2.8 L Macro IS Performance

Below are several key measures that we grade our camera lens on:

Build Quality and Handling

The most essential feature of the EF 100mm f/2.8 L IS USM is that it provides a full 1:1 macro reproduction and a minimum close-focus range of simply 30cm. While 30cm doesn’t sound all that close, the reality is that this is measured from the lens’s primary plane and at 1:1 the subject is located a simple 13cm from the front element.

The Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 L IS USM Macro is a sturdy lens made with a metal mount, a premium plastic barrel, and a rubber-coated focus ring. The usage of plastic rather than metal for the lens barrel is a bit surprising provided the lens’s inclusion in the L lens lineup, however thankfully Canon’s usage of crafted plastic suggests it feels quite robust. The lens is just 25 grams much heavier than the older Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM lens and an excellent deal lighter than its Nikon equivalent.

Total handling is very good with the rubberized focus ring offering smooth operation. It does take a nearly 160-degree rotation of the focus ring to run through the whole scale, and with the majority of the scale in the macro variety of the lens, very little rotation is left for normal working distances. To move from 0.5 m to infinity on the distance scale just takes a 45-degree rotation and from 1 meter to infinity an impossibly brief 15-degree turn. In useful usage, this means that when contending normal working distances, you are practically totally reliant on the camera’s autofocus as there isn’t adequate subtlety in the focus ring to make accurate fine-tuned changes to the focus. On the other hand, for macro or near macro working ranges the focus ring is great, with the large range and flush-mount design making manual focus much easier for at or near 1:1 working distances.

At the front of the lens is a non-rotating 67mm filter thread, surrounded by a bayonet mount for the rather flimsy Canon ET-73 lens hood provided with the lens. The interior of the hood is flocked to restrict any roaming light reflecting off the hood and triggering internal reflections. The hood is rather long but thankfully extremely narrow, and so it is simple to reverse mount it for storage without it taking any unneeded space.

Like its predecessor, the lens utilizes an inner focusing system and doesn’t extend when focusing. Likewise, no external elements rotate when the lens focuses, therefore a polarizing filter can be used with ease.

Towards the back of the barrel is a void for a lens collar and tripod mount foot. Given that this is a macro lens, I would have believed Canon would include a tripod foot with the lens. Sadly, they chose to make some additional money by making the Canon Tripod Mount Ring D an optional accessory.

The lens has three switches which adorn the side of the lens barrel and sit right listed below the distance scale window. The first switch is a focus distance limiter which assists to substantially accelerate the focusing when using the lens for either macro photography or traditional photography by splitting the macro working distance from the normal one. The first option, FULL, permits the lens to focus through the entire variety. The second choice, 0.5m-infinity, is best for typical shootings distances while the last option, 0.3m-0.5 m, is the best alternative for getting faster focus speeds when shooting at close range. The 2nd switch is a simple AF/MF switch. The last switch deals with the Image Stabilizer and is a basic On/Off switch.

Focus Performance and Accuracy

Provided that the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 L IS USM is an L series lens, I expected the autofocus operation to be outstanding. The internal focusing motor (USM) enables the lens to focus very rapidly, silently and precisely; nevertheless, the total speed is limited by the fact that the lens should go through an extremely large range of focus, all the method from a close-focusing range of 30cm range to infinity.

Image Quality

By design, most macro lenses are really sharp, and the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 L IS USM is no different. The lens is currently very impressive in the center of the frame at max aperture with corners lagging a bit but still rendering extremely sharp outcomes. By f/5.6, the center improves ever so somewhat, and you will be hard pushed to find a sharper lens in the center of the frame.

Vibration Reduction

A special aspect of the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 L IS USM lens’s style is the “hybrid” image stabilization system used in its design. While standard image stabilization systems compensate entirely for angular camera motion, Hybrid Image Stabilization likewise compensates for shift-based movement. Canon’s own literature further discusses this:

“Sudden modifications in camera angle can substantially alter images taken throughout standard shooting, whereas shift-based shaking, which occurs when a camera moves parallel to the imaging scene, is more pronounced in macro photography and other close-range shooting. The new Hybrid IS innovation includes an angular speed sensor that spots the degree of angle-based shaking and is found in all previous optical image stabilizer systems, in addition to a brand-new acceleration sensor that determines the quantity of shift-based camera shake. Hybrid IS also employs a freshly developed algorithm that manufactures information from the two sensors to make optimal adjustments, thereby significantly boosting the impacts of image stabilization throughout shooting, including macro shooting.”

When shooting at normal ranges and up to 2 stops when shooting at 1:1 macro distance, the Hybrid IS system is ranked at 4 stops of compensation. From my experience, Canon’s ranking for the IS system is fairly accurate. I have actually found that when shooting at macro distances I can get about a two-stop benefit when using the Hybrid IS system. This was specifically evident during my night photography sessions in Costa Rica, where the restricted quantity of light required me to use very high ISO’s and long shutter speeds. I would not have actually been able to capture sharp images were it not for the IS system.

A substantial benefit of image stabilization in a lens is that it is easier to frame the shot. The jittery-ness and shake of the viewfinder disappear, and you have a still view of the topic. When attempting to frame or by hand focus at macro or near macro distances, this is especially helpful.


The quality of the bokeh is critical in a macro lens, and fortunately the lens can develop an exceptional foreground/background blur. This is specifically real at limit aperture where it produces a few of the best bokeh I have seen. Out-of-focus highlights are rendered smoothly and remain perfectly circular till f/5.6.


When used at its maximum aperture, the lens displays a moderate amount of corner shading of around 1.5 stops. By f/4 the vignetting is considerably minimized to around half a stop, and it becomes minimal from f/5.6 onwards.

Lens Flaring

When pointed at an intense source of light, such as the sun, the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 L IS USM produces some flare with the most popular being a green artifact in the frame corner opposite to the light.

Chromatic Aberration

Lateral chromatic aberration is not a big problem on the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 L IS USM lens as it is well controlled. The same can’t be said for longitudinal chromatic aberration which is rather apparent when using the lens at its largest aperture of f/2.8 where there are strong traces of magenta halos in the foreground bokeh along with green halos in the background out of focus areas.

Main Lens Competitors

The apparent rival for the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 L IS USM lens is its predecessor, the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM. The older design uses a very good performance and is a really sharp lens. Whether this is important to you depends on how much you will be hand-holding the lens.


It’s rare to find a macro lens that doesn’t carry out admirably throughout a lens test therefore I wasn’t amazed that the EF 100mm f/2.8 L IS USM performed almost flawlessly. It’s a durable lens with weather sealing to boot. It handles very well, with a extremely functional and very great focus ring that makes manual focus while contending or near macro ranges much easier. The absence of an included tripod collar (which can be purchased individually) is an unfortunate choice on Canon’s part. Optically, most macro lenses are unbelievable, and the EF 100mm f/2.8 L IS USM kips down an exceptional performance. In the image center, sharpness is already outstanding at f/2.8 and images become tack sharp by f/5.6. Compared to the older Canon 100mm f/2.8 USM lens it changes, the L lens is unquestionably a bit sharper at f/2.8, however by f/5.6 you will be hard-pressed to find any noticeable distinctions.

The EF 100mm f/2.8 L IS Macro has quite astonishing image quality in the center of the frame and very good sharpness in the periphery of the image. Considered that it is an L lens, I thought that it would be a bit better in the corners and it never manages to be uniformly sharp across the entire of the frame like the twice as pricey Zeiss Milvus 100mm f/2M lens. That does not mean it isn’t very sharp in the corners, just not quite as best as its Zeiss counterpart. If there is one genuine gripe I have with the image quality, it’s how longitudinal chromatic aberration is dealt with, with it being specifically evident at f/2.8.

Probably the best asset of the Canon lens is the Hybrid Image Stabilization System which works exceptionally well and makes handheld macro photography a possibility under dim lighting conditions. Overall, the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 L Macro IS USM is a great lens that is well priced. Certainly, its handling of chromatic aberration could have been better, but the combination of high sharpness, terrific bokeh, quick focusing, robust construct and unique image stabilization makes it highly advised for professional photographers looking for a macro lens in the EF mount.

Their niche design indicates that new macro lenses are released rather occasionally, however all major producers have at least one modern 100mm (or so) focal length macro lens in their lineup. The use of plastic rather than metal for the lens barrel is a bit unexpected provided the lens’s inclusion in the L lens lineup, however the good news is Canon’s usage of engineered plastic suggests it feels quite robust. At the front of the lens is a non-rotating 67mm filter thread, surrounded by a bayonet mount for the rather flimsy Canon ET-73 lens hood provided with the lens. Provided that this is a macro lens, I would have believed Canon would consist of a tripod foot with the lens. It’s unusual to discover a macro lens that does not carry out admirably throughout a lens test and so I wasn’t surprised that the EF 100mm f/2.8 L IS USM performed almost perfectly.

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