New Canon EF 100mm f2.8L – first impressions

In our little home studio, the Canon 100mm macro lens has been the go-to favorite for tabletop product shots. Suzi bought the original EF 100 macro about five years ago, and has taken a majority of her stock photos with that one lens (although she’s also had occasion to use the wider 50mm f2.5 compact macro, and has recently enjoyed the unique benefits of the TS-E 90mm f2.8 as well.)

There had been rumors circulating about an update to the 100mm, especially after Canon announced this summer that they had developed a new generation of image stabilization technology. When shooting in the field at high magnification, even slight camera movement can cause unacceptable blur, so image stabilization is a generally welcome feature in a telephoto macro. But, since Suzi and I mostly shoot in the studio with fast strobe lighting (close to 1/2000th second flash duration), motion blur is rarely an issue, and IS is not as important for us.

The just-released model EF 100mm f2.8L offered some additional benefits, though, that convinced us the upgrade was worth the higher price tag. This lens has improved autofocus, and the option to force the lens to hunt for focus only within the macro range, which makes for faster acquisition. The aperture blades are now rounded, which makes for nicer bokeh. This lens also features an ultra-low dispersion element, and a new optical construction with 15 elements in 12 groups, rather than 12 elements in 8 groups. This should translate into improved sharpness and contrast.

The original EF 100 macro had fairly sturdy construction, but the new lens is even tougher, with weather seals to keep out dust and moisture. As a member of Canon’s “L-series”, the new 100mm macro is designed for professionals who will put their equipment through hard use. The engineers at Canon paid attention to even small details, such as improving the visibility of the numbers on the focus indicator, and adding a new texture to the lens hood to protect it from the typical handling marks that are common on the previous generation of lenses.

Physically, the new lens is very slightly larger than the original, with a wider front diameter (67mm filter size as opposed to 58mm), and a bit more length. (Note that in my pictures, both lenses are fitted with B+W brand UV filters.)

The real test will be in the pictures. I’ve taken a few shots with the new 100mm f2.8L macro, and they are gorgeous. I’ll be taking a few same-subject shots with these lenses in the next few days to make a fair comparison. Check back soon for those results.


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