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

Macro lenses have not been as popular as more versatile lenses, but they only get insufficient attention upon their launch. Nonetheless, their specialty in close-up photography keeps them irreplaceable in the world of professional photography, making them an essential element in the catalog of a lens manufacturing brand.

Due to their unfortunate unpopularity, their release is less frequent than a regular lens. Nonetheless, all major brands have at least a new-fashioned 100m focal length or something similar.

In 2009, Canon launched an upgraded and far updated version of its old 1000mm f/2.8 macro lens, replacing it with EF 1000mm f/2.8L IS USM. Since it carries an “L” lens tag, this new lens was more than just a minor upgrade to the old one. The Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM Lens review highlights everything unique about this newer lens, from its build specifications to image quality and focus performance.

While these are the central features that characterize a lens’s overall performance, other specific features make it unique when matched against a normal lens. We will be considering that too.

Can I Use a 100mm Macro For Portraits?

Some photographers’ preference for shooting portraits with macro lenses is quite uncommon as plenty of others prefer not to. The choice of shooting portrait photography with a macro lens is thus a personal one, which has several benefits and downsides; we will be looking at this section.

A typical 1:1 macro lens allows for a phenomenal portrait shoot in many ways, especially for photographers whose target is shooting relatively close images like headshots. Here are some reasons why we think shooting portraits with a macro lens is worthwhile.

They have incredible detail

Macros lenses are popular for capturing unbelievably sharp details as a lens intentionally designed for capturing the most minute details. When you’re focused to a point, macro lenses can be trusted to resolve some crisp that only a few lenses can measure up to. This, of course, then creates extremely clean, razor-sharp shots that’ll grace the eye of viewers when in print.

They often come in exceptional portrait focal lengths

While there are a few macro lenses that may defy this, a good number of lenses in the market embody the perfect characteristics of focal lengths with a great balance of telephoto properties es that can create stunning portraits, and what seems to be the most common focal length is that of the 100mm, which is characterized by many portrait photographers as being the most suitable focal length for headshots.

They can focus close

If you are a portrait photographer, you may have been in this frustrating scenario where you’re trying to catch and retain a focus while shooting with your normal lens. Your camera keeps getting a couple of inches close to the focus and failing.

Chances are that you may have experienced this, with your target composition not too far, but with your lens, you won’t just reach. With a macro lens, this problem ceases, as you will be nowhere close to the focusing ability of a macro lens if you’re doing portraits.

Considering why they are almost impeccably the deal for portrait shoots, leaving out potential reasons why they may suck at it wouldn’t be fair analysis.

Macro lenses make dark images

Generally speaking, macro lenses are often built to be f-stop or make images darker than the non-macro counterpart at the same focal length. The fastest macro lens available in the market often flaunts an aperture as wide as f/2.8.

The problem becomes more complicated with the 1:1 feature, as they tend to give up their maximum aperture as their focus begins to inch beyond infinity. You can’t blame them for this; it’s how the physics of their focusing permits.

Macro lenses are not as fast are non-macro ones

Many macro lenses render a focus range of switch-to-limit to reduce this problem. Still, the reality of having a higher range of focus is that the lens automatically would need to scan more range to enable the autofocus lock-in. A macro lens will fuel you here if you’re caught up in a shooting situation requiring accurate and fast autofocus.

How Close Can You Get With a 100mm Macro Lens?

With a macro lens, concerns about how close you need to be to your subject while shooting will never cease. Many photographers who shoot close-up shots will quickly quip that you need to allow a little bit of a distance, rather than just one top of the subject.

One of the nice things about shooting with a macro lens is that getting too close to your subject doesn’t have to happen to get a good macro shot. The idea is that with a little proximity, your subject is given a peaceful space for expression.

More precisely, however, if you’re shooting with a 100m f/2.8 on a 1:1 macro, you’ll need to be about 5.9 inches away from your subject, as your drifting further away would mean losing the term “macro shot.”

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

About system

The Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM is primarily made for full-frame EF mount cameras such as the EOS 6D, EOS 5D, and the 1DX/1Ds digital camera series. However, this doesn’t imply the lens isn’t compatible with crop sensor EOS bodies such as the 10D-90D and 7D series. The lens can also be adapted to the brand’s full-frame mirrorless bodies.

It can also work perfectly even when the autofocus speed is slightly diminished on the crop sensor EF-mount cameras such as the M50, M100, M6, and M5. An EF mount adaptor can also be used with the lens, including Sony’s E-mount adaptors, Micro Four Thirds, X-mount, Nikon Z-mount, and many more.

However, the autofocusing speed you get from these off-brands depends on the adaptor’s quality. The lens’s image is large enough to cover smaller medium-format sensors.

Body design and ergonomics

The most flattering feature of Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM is its 1:1 full macro reproduction ability and a focus distance of 30cm, being the minimum. While 30 cm may not sound that close, it’s necessary to know that this measurement is made from the main page of the lens and that at 1:1, the subject’s proximity is just 13cm away from the front element.

As expected, the lens is well built, crafted with a metal mount, a special plastic barrel, and a focus ring coated with rubber. However, Canon opting to use plastic for the ring barrel in place of metal came off a bit surprising, given that the lens was included in the brand’s L faction.

That being said, it would be less surprising that the lens weighs only 25 grams more than the older Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM lens. This newer version is weather-sealed, and many users have reported that even after rugged use in extreme weather conditions, including heavy rainfall and high humidity, it returned for re-use flawlessly.

The handling of the lens is also pleasing as it makes for extended holding periods, and with the focus ring of the lens being rubberized, there’s often smooth operation.

Autofocus and focus performance

Given that the lens was launched under Canon’s L-series expect nothing short of a great autofocus system. And quite unsurprisingly, the internal USM gives the lens an extraordinary ability to focus quickly and accurately.

However, the lens’s overall speed is clamped down, given that the lens has to go through an excruciating wide range of focus, beginning with a 30cm close-focusing distance down to infinity.

Fortunately, Canon considered this and included a focus distance limit with 3 options: 0.3m to 0.5m, 0.5 down to infinity, and a full option. Hence, the focus speed of shooting is significantly improved when using any of the options.

Image quality

Typically, most macro lenses are built to be very sharp, and as expected, the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM isn’t an exception. At an aperture of f/2.8, it fields a fantastic contrast and sharpness across the frame. It already has impressive performance at the center of the frame at maximum aperture, with slight lags at the corners, but still delivers quick results.

When shoe down to f/5.5, there is an overall improvement in the center and the corners as well, as they immediately become sharp.

Special features

Vibration reduction

A unique element of the lens is its hybrid design for image stabilization. While normal image stabilization systems address stability issues of angular camera moments, the hybrid system deployed in the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM addresses shift-based movements.

Interestingly, the hybrid IS system is rated at 4 compensation stops when normal distances are shot and about 2 stops at a 1:1 macro distance. The significant upside of image stabilization is that it’s much easier to frame a shot. This automatically makes the jitteriness of the camera’s viewfinder disappear, making a still view possible.

Bokeh effect

One important thing about shooting with a macro lens is the bokeh quality; fortunately, this lens can create an amazing foreground blur and add a background one. This is especially true at the maximum aperture, where some of the smoothest bokeh are produced.


The Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM lens exhibits decent corner shading and is about 1.5 stops when used at maximum aperture.

Internal and external video capture

The lenses’ image and capture, both internal and external, aren’t too bad for starters. Depending on the shooting you’re using the lens, it could appeal to something less professional than a movie or documentary.

This doesn’t completely rule out their utility here, but you’d have to do lens swaps to enable you to record the wide angle of your shooting areas and still have a significant depth intact.

Exposure Controlling

One common fact that is a hard pill for many photographers to swallow is that macro lenses require well-lit environments to get the best out of them, and the Canon EF 100mm  f/2.8L IS USM is no exception, except that it may perform better than many older lenses also carrying the “macro” term.

It also goes without saying that if you desire extremely sharp images, you must shrink the lens’s aperture to keep that consistent. This lens allows reasonable exposure control without compromising the image’s sharpness.

Still image capturing

With the Canon EF, 100mm f/2.8L IS USM, capturing still images is just as exciting as shooting with normal prime or zoom cameras. The output may vary, and there’s a better close focusing with the 100mm f/2.8L, with undiluted retention of incredible image output.

Purpose of uses in photography

A macro lens like the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM comes very handy in shooting outdoor shots like nature, portraits, and wildlife. This is because its palatable close-focusing ability is no joke when needed to lock in on insects, birds, or a jaguar without getting too close and chasing them away.

For portraiture, you can also exploit this feature to keep your subjects as close as possible with very little proximity, which is especially important in street photography.


  • Close-up shots are remarkable
  • Bokeh and portrait effects are awesome
  • Quiet autofocusing


  • Not multipurpose
  • Costlier than extension tubes

Key Specifications of Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L

Specifications Standing
Mount type Canon EF
Focal length range 100mm
Maximum aperture f/2.8
Minimum aperture f/3.2
Lens elements 15
VR image stabilization Yes
Autofocus Yes
Internal focusing Yes
Filter size 67mm
Weight 625 grams

Top Questions (FAQs)

What is the best focal length for a macro lens?

For people who desire to shoot with a decent walkaround lens with great macro capabilities, a 50mm should suffice well enough. However, if your target is a double-purpose lens for portraits and close-ups, a 100mm lens is the way to go.

Can macro lenses be used in astrophotography?

Due to the field-flattening feature of a macro lens which is desirable in astrophotography, a good number of astrophotographers often have the lens as part of their arsenal for capturing breathtaking images of stars and nighttime. This ability to render edge-to-edge sharpness is what seems to be the hot spot for many astrophotographers.

What is the minimum aperture of Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM?

While the lens can open as wide as f/2.8, its maximum aperture was pegged at f/3.2 by the manufacturers. This is a far cry from what’s obtainable with other kinds of prime lenses, but it still has an exceptional relevance relating to what area of photography it’s suited for.

Why Is Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro Lens Great For Beginners (Video)


Final Words

Sometimes when lenses are being talked about, a macro lens often seems like an oddball, partly because of their somewhat optical range rigidity and partly due to the infrequence in their production.

However, more modern ones are causing heads to turn, and Canon is one of the leading brands in this revolution. Its EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM lens is indeed an optical marvel.

Don’t eyeball this review. If you are interested in macro photography, pick out the sections and peek into them more closely, as we have unpacked a lot. Cheers!