Choosing a macro lens for Canon

This is a discussion on Choosing a macro lens for Canon within the Digital Cameras, Lenses & Accessories forums, part of the PHOTO FORUM category; What would be a good off brand that I can get for macro (at least 1:1). Canon's 100mm is a little too expensive. Any feedback ...


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  1. #1

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    What would be a good off brand that I can get for macro (at least 1:1). Canon's 100mm is a little too expensive. Any feedback will be appreciated.


  • #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by canon View Post
    What would be a good off brand that I can get for macro (at least 1:1). Canon's 100mm is a little too expensive. Any feedback will be appreciated.
    There are many alternatives. It really depends on your photographic goals. You can buy a 3rd party lens and save a little. You can buy one or a set of extension tubes like the Canon EF25 II, or you can buy a set of diopters.

    Macro doesn't mean you'll get 1:1 magnification. Most lenses that are labeled macro do not achieve 1:1 magnification. I know of only one lens that has greater than 1:1 magnification and only a specialist or a very dedicated amateur would buy it because it won't focus beyond 4 feet (or something like that). The only other way to get 1:1 or better is to add diopters or a tube. The reason that things look so big when presented online is that they've been cropped. This is where a camera with a lot of megapixels comes in handy. You can crop and still have a good sized image.

    Tubes:
    An extension tube is just that. It has no lens it just changes the distance between the lens and camera so that you can focus closer.
    Kenko makes a set of extension tubes for under $200. The tubes allow you to turn many, but not all, lenses into macro lenses. When using a tube you can generally count on losing 1 stop of light.

    Diopters:
    Diopters or close-up filters as they're often called, screw into the filter threads of your lens. Since there are many different filter sizes, you have to buy a set of diopters for each filter size or you have to buy a set for your largest filter size and then use a "step-up" ring for your other lenses. When you add a diopter to a lens the Image Quality (IQ) will degrade. The better the quality of the diopter the less the IQ will degrade. If you stack diopters to get high magnification the degradation will increase.

    Third party lenses
    Sigma makes some very nice macro lenses as does Tamron and Tokina. None of these are as good as the Canon 100mm f/2.8 macro lens. There are various differences between them and the Canon always comes out on top. I have a Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 macro so it's a zoom macro. But, as I said earlier, macro just means you can get closer than a non-macro lens. I don't know what the magnification is, but it's no where near 1:1.

    The Canon lenses
    Canon has several lenses that are labeled macro. The older Canon 100mm f/2.8 lens, which does not have IS, is one of the finest lenses Canon has ever made. It is by far the sharpest lens I have among all of my Canon, Nikon, Sigma, and Tamron lenses. It may cost more but it's worth the money. Even though I have a bag full of lenses and stuff, the Canon 100mm is the lens I try first. It works as a low to mid range telephoto (but you can't add a teleconverter to it); especially on a cropped sensor camera and it does a very nice job of portraits if you have enough distance to use. If you buy the Canon 100mm f/2.8 (around $600) you will never want to replace it. You might someday want a shorter or longer macro lens to supplement it.

    Charles
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  • #3
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    Hi, Canon. Welcome to the forum!

    Charles advice above is excellent and thorough. I own a Sigma 150, which I'm thoroughly pleased with. The Tamron 90 gets high marks. Do you have a preferred type of macro subject?


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  • #4
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    Good advice Charles!......I have the Tamron 90mm and although it is a fabulous lens, I wish I had been better educated when I was buying and had gotten the Canon 100mm.
    Patty

    "It's safe to say I'm addicted"
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    Canon 50D/Sigma 10-20mm f3.5/Sigma 100-300mm f4/Tamron 90mm macro f2.8/Canon 50mm f1.8

  • #5
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    Here's my thread from when I was trying to decide between the Canon and the Tamron. Cadwell gave some nice details highlighting the differences.

    http://www.photoforum.com/index.php?showtopic=63361

  • #6
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    Canon makes two different 100mm macro lenses...

    There's the EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM -- which is the expensive version -- usually about $950
    There's the EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM (no IS and not an "L") which is much less... usually a little more than $500.

    The other lenses are in the low $400 range... so the $500 100mm macro isn't too far beyond that. Were you looking at the $500 lens when you said it was out of your budget of the lens that costs closer to $1000?

    The non "L" lens is extremely good (and in fact, so is the "L") but the "L" has a hybrid image stabilization (multi-axis so it detects lateral movement as well as twisting/pivot movement) and allows hand-holding with (if I recall -- and I own this lens so you'd think I'd have memorized this) up to four stops.

    Normally you would use a tripod for macro work -- but this is because the subject is so close and your depth of field may be so narrow that even if your shutter speed is fast enough to not have camera-shake issues, just a tiny amount of forward/backward shake will change the focus point that the subject will just leave your DoF range completely and you'll get a blurry shot (you have near paper-thin depth-of-field if you're at f/2.8 but using a very short focus distance so it doesn't take much shake ruin the shot.)

    Canon ALSO makes...

    EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro USM -- which is another fabulous lens (it's probably one of the two best EF-S lenses made... that and the EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM) and it's roughly around $400

    It's in the same price range as the Tamron. BUT... it's an EF-S lens which means it'll only work with APS-C crop-frame bodies. If you plan to get a full-frame (5D) body someday then you'd need to replace the lens.

    I own both the 60mm and the 100mm "L" and I dare say that 60mm produces images that rival the quality of the "L" (there are other features of the "L" that set it apart -- and it's a completely different focal length.)

    The 60mm could double as a portrait lens. Remember that a 60mm lens on a crop-frame body works out to about 96mm full-frame equivalent (nearly 100mm). So the EF-S 60mm on a crop-frame is a lot like using an EF 100mm on a full-frame body.

    The lenses closer to 100mm focal length (Tamron 90mm, Canon 100mm, and Sigma 105mm) are better if you're shooting skittish things that may run away and want to have a bit of distance (although they do make a 180mm if you REALLY have to be at a distance) and while they WILL focus out to infinity, you'll have to take quite a walk back to get your subjects in frame (on a crop-frame body). If you don't already have a portrait lens then the 60mm could to the work of both.
    Tim Campbell

  • #7

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    Thanks for the responses. Yea, I'm still a college student. Guess i'll have to save up for some macro lens. I found the USM version for about $300.

  • #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by canon View Post
    Thanks for the responses. Yea, I'm still a college student. Guess i'll have to save up for some macro lens. I found the USM version for about 0.
    As Charles pointed out above... if you're on a budget, there are ways to cheat. Close-up filters are typically inexpensive. Extension tubes are just hollow tubes (they have electrical contacts and circuitry to allow the camera to communicate with the lens -- but nothing sophisticated) and they reduce the minimum focus distance of the attached lens. Due to their simplicity, they don't usually cost much. These are ways to let you get "pretty close" even though it's not true 1:1 macro scale -- but at a fraction of the cost of buying a true macro lens.
    Tim Campbell


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