Macro Mania Megapost

posted by tucker

I’ve had the 100mm f/2.8L IS Macro for just 3 days now and it has literally still not come off my camera. I cannot overstate how good this lens is, in fact I think the quote that does it the most justice comes from dpreview’s excellent and in depth review of this lens:

“Just occasionally a lens turns up which delivers such implausibly good results in our studio tests that I have to go back and repeat everything, double checking all settings to make sure I haven’t done something wrong. The Canon EF 100mm F2.8 L IS USM Macro is one example; but in this case when I repeated the tests, the results were if anything slightly better. There’s little doubt that, all round, this is one of the very finest lenses we’ve seen – optically it’s superb, and operationally it works very well too, with fast and positive autofocus, and one of the most effective image stabilization systems currently available.”

It is simply the single most stunningly fun lens I have ever used, without exception. The 50mm f/1.2L was fun in a whole other, impractical, sense, but for some one who does not shoot portraits it makes no sense to have. This, though, will be a lens that gets, um, a lot of use. I recently had a few different people say to me, “oh, well any serious macro work is done from a tripod, the IS on that lens is just a gimmick.” I have found that this lens fundamentally alters your ability to shoot macros becauseĀ I have yet to mount my camera on a tripod with this it. All of these shots are hand-held. I can get tack sharp results at 1/30th of a sec at 1:1; if I am shooting something farther away I can get down to 1/10sec. The lens is unbelievably sharp corner to corner all the way open at 2.8, shows literally no distortion, chromatic aberration, or halation, has creamy wonderful bokeh, and to top it all off the IS is superb.

I should say that, while this lens does completely free your macro work from a tripod, there is one thing that even Hybrid Image Stabilization cannot correct for: the small movements forward and backward that we are prone to making, even standing very still. This can even be an issue on a tripod, as you will sometimes encounter a subject such as a flower or plant that is moving slightly in the wind. With normal lenses, especially wide angles, these small focal distance changes are not an issue, but when you are zoomed in at 1:1 magnification and your plane of focus is literally determined by 10ths of an inch, your movements are hugely magnified and it becomes a matter of whether you get the shot or not. The cure? Get a big memory card and shoot a TON of the same image, with slightly different focus every time. It’s good practice for macro work anyway; what you see in the viewfinder may look different on the monitor, and you may decide that you like the composition you have but want your focus on a different part of the subject and if you’ve taken a bunch of shots of the same scene, you will have the freedom to choose. It is, in a way, like bracketing your exposure, in that you are keeping the same composition but just changing one variable and shooting around it.

I took a walk around my block to see what flowers I could find just on the sidewalk by people’s yards and, turns out, there was some good stuff… but then again, a macro lens lets you make small worlds out of anything you find. This lens just lets you do it free from a tripod wherever you are, at previously unheard of shutterspeeds. I will say it one last time: this is the best, sharpest, lens I have ever used, and it produces simply gorgeous results. All of the images below are linked to their full res versions so you can see the 21mp files in all their glory :) I can’t wait to really take it out and shoot things other than flowers, but I have a certain weakness for these colorful cliches….

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