The Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM ($599.99 direct) is a telephoto lens for Canon cameras that can focus close enough to capture objects with true 1:1 magnfiication. It is adequately sharp, even at its maximum aperture, but does suffer from some optical issues in certain high-contrast situations. There are other macro lenses of similar focal lengths available for Canon cameras, including the company’s own EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM—part of its top-end L series of lenses—as well as the manual focus Carl Zeiss Makro-Planar T* 2/100—but both will put a bigger dent in your wallet than this relatively inexpensive lens.
The lens is rather compact when you consider its focal length, aperture, and close focus capability. It measures 4.7 by 3.1 inches (HD) and weighs about 1.3 pounds. Standard 58mm filters are supported, and the front element doesn’t rotate so using a polarizing filter is possible if desired. There is a focus limiter switch on the lens, so you can set it to seek focus over its entire range, or to restrict it to close focus only. A lens hood, which will reduce the chance of flares and improve image contrast, is not included.
I used Imatest to check the sharpness of the lens when paired with the full-frame Canon EOS 6D. It just crossed the 1,800 lines per picture height barrier at f/2.8, which is what we require to define an image as sharp using a center-weighted algorithm. Stopping down to f/4 improves the score to 2,152 lines, and the lens performs at its best at f/8, where it nears 2,500 lines. Distortion is not an issue, but the lens is prone to color fringing when shooting high-contrast scenes—this can be corrected in Lightroom, but requires a little bit of work with sliders to remove the unwanted purple and green aberrations. The Zeiss Makro-Planar opens up to f/2—capturing twice the light as this lens—and is sharper at both f/2 and f/2.8. It isn’t prone to color fringing, but only offers 1:2 magnification and doesn’t support autofocus.
The Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM is the lesser-loved of Canon’s pair of 100mm macro lenses. Its more expensive sibling, the EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM, adds image stabilization and uses a more complicated optical design—but it costs $1,049. There’s also the manual focus Zeiss Marko-Planar—it has a faster aperture and is impressively sharp, but costs $1,843 and only supports 1:2 magnification. The EF 100mm f/2.8 isn’t the best macro lens that you can buy, but it’s adequately sharp and delivers true 1:1 magnification.
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