Podcast 211 : Canon EF 100mm F2.8 L MACRO IS USM Lens Review

I'm not sure if Canon is using this marketing worldwide, but in Japan, they are calling the 7D the Image Monster! On the same day as the 7D release, Canon also released their new EF 100mm F2.8 L MACRO IS USM and having tested it both in the field and...

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Martin Bailey
Martin Bailey is a nature and wildlife photographer and educator based in Tokyo. He's a pioneering Podcaster and blogger, and an X-Rite Coloratti member.
  • Carl Stammerjohn
    Posted at 09:48h, 07 October Reply

    I think you might be incorrect on your explanation of the image size on a crop-sensor camera. The image is still 1:1 on the sensor, it’s just cropped. That makes it look bigger a factor of 1.6 or 1.3, but 1:1 is 1:1. Right?

  • Martin Bailey
    Posted at 09:52h, 07 October Reply


    That’s correct, but the result is a larger than life-size representation of the subject.

    You are basically agreeing, so I don’t quite follow your point.


  • Forrest Tanaka
    Posted at 02:15h, 08 October Reply

    Carl might mean that on a crop sensor, at life size, the image would still be 1cm long on the sensor, not 13mm or 16mm, because the crop factor doesn’t actually magnify anything.

  • Carl Stammerjohn
    Posted at 02:27h, 08 October Reply

    Thanks for the quick response. I think I understand this, but I’m unclear (and maybe others are too) on what you mean when you say: “…basically if you shoot something that is 1cm long in real life, at life-size, the object take up 1cm on the image as well, by comparison to the 35mm film or digital sensor. If you use a crop factor camera however, the 1cm object will take up 16mm, or 13mm for a 1.3X crop factor camera.”

    I read “on the image” as “on the sensor” (my mistake). But what does “on the image” mean? If I print this image as an 8 x 10 from my 40D (1.6 crop), where does the 16mm come in? Once I enlarge the photo to print it, measurements like that don’t seem to have any meaning. That’s where I’m confused.

    Part of my issue is my engineering background; I understand things very literally, and maybe this is getting in my way…

  • Thysje
    Posted at 04:04h, 08 October Reply

    Just finished listening to the podcast – great as usual! I’m impressed with your results with the Bokeh Monster. The bokeh is lovely and smooth, and sharpness where desired is great.

    The spider looks surprisingly ‘cute’ for an arachnid, and I know this species well. It moves extraordinarily fast when it wants to as it’s a hunter rather than trap setter. It can also jump impressively. I bring this up because I thoroughly enjoyed your description of standing on tip toe and getting wobbly holding the gear up high to get a shot of the little beast. ๐Ÿ˜€

    Are you going to sell your ‘old’ macro lens now?

  • Martin Bailey
    Posted at 09:33h, 08 October Reply

    I see what you mean now Carl. My example is misleading. The millimeters only hold out IF you convert the image back to the size of a 35mm sensor of piece of film, which is confusing.

    On the image means on the image at it’s native size on the sensor or piece of film. Of course if you print this the size changes.

  • Martin Bailey
    Posted at 09:42h, 08 October Reply

    Thysje, I’m pleased you enjoyed this. I am also pleased the spider didn’t send you screaming and hiding behind the sofa. ๐Ÿ™‚

    They do move fast, and jump as you say. This is pretty much the only species of spider I get here in my Tokyo apartment. We generally have two or three of these in our place all year round. They have babies sometimes which freaks my wife out, but I don’t really mind. I am too happy when she can’t stand it anymore and kills the odd one, but we live together, so I have to make exceptions to keep the peace. ๐Ÿ™‚

    I will be selling the old lens. A friend up north in Japan called Pete Leong has first option.

  • Thysje
    Posted at 11:35h, 08 October Reply

    Yes but Martin, the spider wasn’t on MY ceiling! ๐Ÿ˜€

    Ah well, I should have expected that there was a market for the old lens. ๐Ÿ™‚

    I’ll look forward to seeing more of your images made with the Bokeh Monster in future, oh and by the way I alerted my brother to your podcasts and he’s now enjoying them as much as I am – I pass on his comment:

    “I’m impressed with the effort that Martin puts into his podcasts (and you can tell him that ).”

  • Bryan
    Posted at 16:40h, 09 October Reply

    Thanks Martin
    I went surfing for a reveiw of this lens & definately found one
    The lens will be available in Australia any day now & I will probably buy one based partially on your reveiw. I really enjoyed your podcast & appreciate the fact it came out so soon after the lens’ release
    I currently have 2 Tamron macro lenses (90 & 180mm) and while they offer very sharp images, AF is not a strong feature of either one, both have noisy operation & the 180 has no focus limiter
    I like to do a lot of hand held shots, so fast & quiet AF is a feature I would pursue, the bokeh really does look nice & smooth also
    Just a final question: I note that the filter size is 67mm & the twin light mount obviously closes this down to around to 58-60mm, is there any ill effect from this?


  • Martin Bailey
    Posted at 18:06h, 09 October Reply

    Thanks for spreading the word Thysje! And thank your brother too. I hope he continues to enjoy the Podcast.


    I’m glad the review was useful.

    The Twin-lite fits snugly onto the 67mm adapter that was also released last week, with no ill-effects. I even left my protector filter on, and screwed the adapter into that, and could not see any vignetting.

  • Steve
    Posted at 08:11h, 15 October Reply

    Thanks Martin for one of the first in depth reviews on the net that I’ve found.

    I’ve just come back from Hong Kong where i searched high and low for the old 100mm f/2.8 but i came back empty handed due to everyone having sold out. But I’m sort of glad as your review and finding one of the new IS 100mm at a great price, has help me make my decision to get the new IS 100mm.

    I just wanted to know what you get with the lens ie. hood, pouch? I’ve heard all canon L lens come with a hood and pouch. Is this correct?

    Thanks again your podcast is one of the best around.

  • Martin Bailey
    Posted at 17:59h, 15 October Reply

    Hi Steve,

    I’m glad the review has helped you, and congratulations on not getting the old 100mm during your Hong Kong visit. The old 100mm is great, but if you are buying now, the IS is the way to go.

    You are correct, that this lens comes with a hood and pouch. I suggest you also pick up the optional tripod ring as well though, unless you will be using it exclusively hand-held. It adds cost, but well worth it for tripod work.

    If you use a twin-lite or ring flash from Canon, you’ll need the 67mm adapter as well.

    Thanks for the kind words about the Podcast too. I’m pleased you enjoy it!


  • Phil
    Posted at 07:27h, 15 November Reply

    Great review and some equally great sample pics!

    I noticed in the review you mentioned using the 25mm extension tube – you said you wanted to try the new lens with the tube. Do you recommend using the extension tube with this lens? If my maths is correct (magnification increase = length of extension / focal length of lens) I’m looking at a .25x magnification bump with the 25mm tube?

    I’m on the brink of ordering the lens and will be photographing all types of small creepy crawlies and such.. I suppose a .25x increase is a .25x increase at the end of the day?


  • Martin Bailey
    Posted at 20:26h, 15 November Reply

    Hi Phil,

    Thanks for the comments and kind words.

    Yes, I do recommend using tubes with this lens. I often used my old 100mm macro with a 25mm and/or 12mm extension tubes, because they’re light and easy to carry around, but give you a bit of extra magnification when necessary.

    The calculation of extension tubes is a little more complicated when shooting at 1:1, so I decided to do some tests to see what you really get. It seems that a 25mm tube with this lens gives you roughly .35x magnification. I just posted the results here:

    I hope this is useful.


  • Becca
    Posted at 04:38h, 23 February Reply

    Hi Martin…I have just found your site here and really~really enjoyed reading and looking at your photos…I am a novice, but LOVE Macro, and want to get those close up pics of the eyes etc. It was so great that you mention all the information you used, for someone like me that is learning, it’s wonderful! I am still putting together all the pieces of this wonderful world of digital! :0) I also love action, and am impatient (LOL) so have been wondering since I am a novice, should I spend the extra for the L IS model 100mm Canon…after reading and looking at your shots here, it seems I would be enthralled with that lens. I am currently looking at the 70-200mm L lens w/o IS for action. I was thinking I could get this lens and the 100mm w/o IS for about what I wanted to spend without going broke, but wonder now, if I will be sorry and wish I had gotten what I wanted in the first place…Can you give me a little advise? :0) I’m just struggling with if I need the IS 100mm..or could do with the 100mm…at this stage of my photography abilities. Hope I haven’t confused you…Thanks so much! Becca

  • Jerminal
    Posted at 12:59h, 23 March Reply

    Hi Martin,

    I came across to your site while looking for some information about Canon lens EF 100mm F2.8 L IS USM . The site is very informative and your pictures are a real joy for eyes.

    I was wondering if you have any thoughts about using Zeiss 100mm f/2 Macro Planar with canon 7d. Do you think Zeiss will have higher resolution than canon 100mm f2L IS USM?

    Thank you,

  • Kyle Bultman
    Posted at 05:03h, 18 August Reply

    Thanks for your review of the 100mm L. I currently have the “old” 100mm macro, and have really enjoyed it for close portraits, but have been very disappointed with its ability to focus in low light or at a distance for full body portraits or candids. So my question: Is the auto focus capability improved enough that can compete with the 100mm 2.0 as a telephoto for events? I would feel silly hauling around the 100mm 2.8 and 100mm 2.0 if the new L macro can do both jobs.

  • Martin Bailey
    Posted at 10:29h, 24 August Reply

    Woh! Sorry for not replying to the last three comments earlier. For some reason they didn’t show up in the admin dashboard.

    If you want to shoot macro shots with the 100mm, I certainly suggest you go for the new Hybrid IS version. It makes a world of difference being able to hand-hold for shots that would otherwise be impossible.

    As for using the 100mm for action work, I don’t really think it’s a good idea. For action shots you have to have a fast shutter speed, unless you are doing panning shots with a blurred background, so IS won’t give you much on the 100mm. Also, being able to zoom and get in closer with the 70-200mm is probably going to help. I would suggest IS on the 70-200mm too, to make the lens more versatile, but I know it starts to get expensive.

    Thanks for the kind words. Unfortunately, I haven’t used the Zeiss 100mm F2 Macro Planar, so I can’t really comment. I’m sure it’s a great lens, but I can’t offer advice without first hand-knowledge. If you post the same question in our forum you might get some first hand information.


    I didn’t really notice the old 100mm Macro being slow, but I tried the new one focusing in my storeroom with the lights off, and it was able to get focus pretty much as well as any of my other lenses. I did have to make sure I had the focus point over a line or something with contrast, but that’s the same with all lenses.

    One thing to check I guess is that you have the focus distance switch turned to not try to focus at minimum focus distance. There’s a switch on the lens barrel for this. Make sure you have it set to focus from the further out minimum distance to infinity, and that way it won’t search as much when it can’t get focus in dark conditions.


  • Bob Watson
    Posted at 06:15h, 06 January Reply

    Can you tell me how I can attach the new Canon EF100mm F2.8L IS USM MACRO lens to the new Canon EF 2x III converter?
    It will not fit directly as the glass in the lens, extends out of the back of the lens – stopping it from locating in the EF 2x III TC.
    I think you have to use an (empty-no lenses) extender TUBE between the EF 2x III TC and the Lens – but WHICH ONE?
    I have been looking for hours – can you help me please?

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 10:22h, 06 January Reply

      Hi Bob,

      Unfortunately that’s not a supported combination. The 1.4X and 2.0X Extenders only work with the 70-200mm L lenses and L primes over 135mm.

      You can use any of the Extension Tubes with the 100mm Macro. In fact, I sometimes use two 25mm tubes, and even add the 12mm tube on occasion.

      I had never tried using an Extension Tube to give me some clearance behind the lens, but I just gave it a try, and the shorter Extension Tube EF 12 II and it does enable you to attach the 2.0X Extender to the 100mm Macro lens, but autofocus goes out the window. It just continues to search for focus. That probably wouldn’t be a problem, as you often manually focus for macro work anyway.

      Note too of course that you lose the ability to focus to infinity. The furthest I could focus was about one meter, maybe a little more.

      I hope this helps.


      • Bob Watson
        Posted at 00:15h, 07 January Reply

        Thanks very much Martin.
        I have been searching on the web for a couple of days…….

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