canon 50mm macro vs 100mm macro

Discussion in 'Canon EOS' started by matt_houston, Mar 15, 2007.

  1. After a weekend shoot I realizede that I needed a new lens. I already own the 16-35 mm, 70-200mm, 85
    mm and 1.4 converter. All lenses are 2.8 except the 85mm which is a 1.8. During the shoot ( 3 month old
    baby )in which I brought a backdrop and lights I realized that with my 70-200mm I had to back up way to
    far and with my 16-35mm I was eggheading the poor kiddo. My 85mm was the same situation with having
    to back up too far.

    So I am thinking I need a new lens. I was a professional journalist for 10 years and never needed any other
    lenses as I was shooitng news all the time and only needed my 16-35 or my 70-200. I have burned out
    and I am now starting a portrait biz. The lighting, backdrop and portrait biz is new to me and I am slowly
    working my way in.

    So the question is...Should I buy the 100mm macro or the 50mm macro. I will be doing maternity and
    baby shots.

    I figure that this lens would fall between the 16-35mm and the 70mm and the 85mm, covering the gap in
    distance. It seems to me that if I buy the 100mm I would already have that covered with the
    70mm-200mm although this lens isn't a macro or considered a " portrait lens ".

    I am worried that with the 100mm I would not be ablt to get hubby, baby and wifey all in the same shot.
    But maybe the 50mm would be too close.

    Macros will also be nice to get those detail shots as well. ( hands feet and eyelashes etc. )

    Any of you experienced portrait guys have any advice.

    Remember that right now I am working in peoples and I have no studio yet.

  2. If the 85's too long, the 100 macro certainly will be, as well.

    I bought the 100 macro 4 years ago as a dual purpose macro / portrait lens, and found it too long for portrait (on my then 10D), and returned it to buy the 50mm compact macro.

    The 50 is my only non-USM lens, and as such it's a little buzzy when it focuses, but I still love it. It's marginally faster than the 100 (f/2.5 vs. f/2.8), but not so much that you'd really notice the difference in most situations.

    Anyway, it's sharp and clear and contrasty and fast and small and light and cheap. I'm really happy with this purchase.

    On the other hand, have you considered the 24-70? It's big and heavy and expensive, but it's f/2.8, and would give you more flexibility while your "studio" is still your clients' homes.
  3. Awesome answer. The 50mm is defiintely cheaper. I am glad to hear that it is tack sharp. i
    also appreciate the info about using it aas a portrait lens as it is too long. Is there any
    noticeable distortion in the photos such as in the corners of the pics?
  4. Awesome answer. The 50mm is defiintely cheaper. I am glad to hear that it is tack sharp. i
    also appreciate the info about using it aas a portrait lens as it is too long. Is there any
    noticeable distortion in the photos such as in the corners of the pics?
  5. Matt: you don't specify whether your body is 1.6x, 1.3x or full frame.

    I'm still shooting 1.6x (20D), but on it the 50/2.5 macro is very low distortion. Based only on what I've read, that's still the case even on full frame.

    Perhaps others here with both the 50mm macro and a FF body (like the Pupster) could chime in.
  6. Old Eos 1d with 1.3x.
    I also need to know what kind of backdrop I need, I am looking at black ones. Righ now I am
    using a black king size sheet but I am getting wrinkles and drop lines. Can you help?
    I need something inexpensive. Hence the king size sheet. It doesn't get any cheaper than

  7. I am less and less happy with digi as I investigate more to answer questions like this. Glad I have not invested past a point and shoot.

    The classic way to resolve getting closer is extension tubes and closeup lenses or bellows.

    Bellows seem not to be listed. 12 and 25mm extension tubes are cataloged, EF12 and EF 25. They increase the spacing between the lens and camera allowing closer focus. No details are given so you are left to figure what your needs on your own. Manual focus is recommended.

    Key being 42mm total extension from infinity focus will get you 1:2 or half life size, 85 mm will get you life size or 1:1 using your 85mm lens. Subtract the built in extension of the lens from the above numbers, 42 or 85, and calculate how much more you need. How you figure the built in extension on an autofocus lens I do not know.

    Close up diopters are also listed. 250D in 52 and 58mm screw in size and optimised for 50/135 lenses. No data given and I have no Idea how to calculate anything as the diopter strength is not listed.

    Also 500 and 500D for 70/300 mm lenses.

    Manual focus recommended for closeup lenses too.

    A standard 50 1.4 will focus to 18 inches which will cover 7x10 inch subject. EF 25 tube will get it to 3x5 guessing.

    Macro lenses have flatter fields which will not be important in portrait work. Edge sharpness and contrast at the edges are far better than standard lenses. Probably not important for you.

    Since you have an 85, use it for headshots and 3/4 portraits.

    You need a fifty ish for small groups.

    50 1.4 described above. 50 2.5 compact macro focus to .8 foot.
    60 2.8 macro focus to .65 foot.

    I would get a fifty 1.4. Maybe a EF12 to match. Small babies don`t hold very still anyway and closeup work is harder than you think. Cropping is always an option and you will not sell a 16x20 of a baby hand.

    If I wanted a macro, I would get the 60 as I use mine in the Leica system a lot. The 100 will get the same area as a 50 at a greater lens to subject distance. It will also work well for 3/4 portraits to headshots.

    I also recommend natural color mode and low contrast settings. This will resemble porofesional portrait film.

    You should try Mpix color lab. Quality and service and turnaround are excellent and they will print on profesional paper so the contrast does not go out of sight like all consumer labs give you. The crops you send will come back the way you want.

    I would never use zooms for portrait work. My ideal selection would be the 24, 35, 50 1.4, 100 2.0. Substitute the macros for the 50 and 100 if you want.

    Zooms are nice for news and travel.

    If you still like zooms, the 24/70 2.8 is very good and close focus is a bit over 12 inches. This lens has very little distortion.
  8. Also is there a way to keep my black back drop from going to Grey?
    I am trying to get a nice deep back in the background and I find myself having to burn the
    black severely to get a true black.
    I am shooting at 250, the max allowed and it still willnot go black.
  9. That's avery involved and informed answer. Thanks so much! Forgive my short answers.
    Mytyping is not so good and it takes me forever to type. BTW I just bought the 50mm online
    given all the suggestions. I am sure I will be happy with it. It is also great advice about the
    baby hand not being made as a 16X20. You seem to know your photography and lenses. A
    lot of the stuff you mentioned above went over my head, but I get the point...showoff :)
  10. Matt: your "showoff" comment to Ronald was obviously in jest, but ask for more information about anything you didn't understand and want to learn more about.
  11. The 100mm macro works very well for portraits of babies and very small kids. With a 50mm you be right in the kids face.

    As noted you could just add a tube to your 70-200 zoom if that is all you need if for.
  12. You need a flock black or valour black background, These are dead black to film. Black paper will not work.

    Try to keep the subjects as far away as possible to the background. I use 6 feet, but this is not always possible in a home setting.

    If you are using a 10, 20 30d, a 50 will make semi head shots to 3/4 poses.

    Google photo backgrounds
  13. Hi Matt, I own the 50mm Compact Macro and use it often for portraits on both 1.6x and FF bodies. I consider it one of Canon's "jewels", not only because it's amazingly sharp - even wide open - but is practically distortion-free. Also, since the lens is recessed way back in the barrel, you really don't need a lens shade. No, it doesn't have USM but if you have decent modeling lights it'll lock focus pretty quick. It is absolutely one of the top three sharpest lenses that I own and I've got a few.

    I also use some stuff for a backdrop you might want to check out called "Blackest Black" by Photek. You can get it at B&H and they may just call it "black" but it's the same stuff. I believe it's made of velour but it looks and acts a lot like black velvet and really sucks up the light. Here's a portrait I took with my 1Ds Mark II, the 50mm Compact Macro and the Photek "Blackest Black" just the other day - Warning; It is a nude, but hopefully tastefully done:

    The Photek stuff is very easy to take care of. You just bunch it up in its included carry-bag and don't need to worry about wrinkles. When you pull it out it manages to straighten itself out. I'd double-check this but I think it's machine washable too. It's not cheap but IMHO, it's worth it. Good luck!
  14. Sorry so long between posts but I had to go out this afternoon for awhile.

    Nice looking model Beau and the picture is exactly what I am talking about as far as the black
    background is concerned. Thanks to all for being so nice and informative for a beginning
    studio guy like myself. I am surfing the backdrop stuff now as I am speaking with you guys.
    Next stupid question is what in the world is a tube for a 7-200mm and what does it do? I
    have never heard of it before.
  15. Hey guys.

    I just looked up the " tube " question on wikipedia. That site is freakin' awesome. It's
    almost as good as asking you guys questions but not as experienced. Thanks for all of the
    invaluable info. I need to join so I can chat it up with all kind of questions.
    If you all want to see my current journalism portfolio its at
    My new portrait biz is at As you can see, my journalsim is
    stronger than my portrait stuff. That's where you guys are coming in.

    Once again Thanks to all of you.
  16. I have the 50 f2.5 CM too. It is very sharp, good contrast and negligible distortiion. What i don't like about it is that it has a buzzy focus motor, and no focus limiter. When trying to focus in low light or low contrast situations it can rack back and forth and given its long focus throw this can be both slow and annoying. You might want to try it out before you commit.

    As others have said if you 85 is too long then the 100 macro will be too. Other lenses to consdier are the 50 f1.4 USM, or the budget 50 f1.8, which is so cheap you could try it just to see if you like the focal length.
  17. Its not reply for your questions, but, with 35/2.0 and 50/1.2 you can make some really specially looking images in the area you're heading into.

    24-70/2.8L is excellent lens by all means.
  18. I second Petr on this.

    Instead of a macro, you may need a fast 24-70. You can focus close enough and also step back and can still frame the hubby, wife and kid and leave them some air.

    Remember that macro photo requires more light if you need DoF. Artificial light may be agreesive for the baby.
  19. If money is not an issue, I would rather have gone the 24-70 L route, rather than the 50 prime lens. Even with posed family shots, the flexibility of the zoom would be very welcomed, I would think.

    And if you want to shoot some sort of "baby in activity" photos, with a moving kid, the zoom is the way to go.

    But the other posters a re correct, the 50 macro is optically top quality; however, focus can be on the slow side.
  20. tan


    Another vote for the 24-70L. The 50/2.5 macro is a terrific lens - contrasty and very sharp
    even wide open, but I sold it to get the 100/2.8 USM macro. I use it mainly to shoot still life
    and products.

    The 24-70L is my favorite lens by a long shot - it's sharp and versatile. I am replacing my
    17-40L with the new 16-35L II (on order) ..... which I believe is very sharp edge-to-edge on a
    FF body.
  21. Hi Matt,

    A few more things to think about...

    The EF 24-70/2.8L has a "macro" range as well. It's very close focusing and might serve your needs very well. I use one a lot for sports, to compliment a 70-200/2.8 IS, both mounted on 1.6X crop DSLRs.

    I wouldn't overlook the 50/1.4 as a possibility, too. It can be used with 12mm and 25mm extension tubes for close-up work. The extra speed of this lens might serve you well. They 50/1.2 is just so much more expensive, personally I'd have a hard time justifying it.

    This is not to say the 50mm macro isn't a fine lens, it is. However, might it possibly be overly sharp for portraits? Is the focal length long enough for the close-up/macro work, or will you be shading your subject or "getting in their face", even with a 1.3X camera?

    Another possibility, I haven't used it but the Sigma 70mm f2.8 Macro might be an alternative worth considering. If you are using your 70-200 at the short end a lot, that's a very large lens and the Sigma might be a smaller and less intimidating alternative.

    Personally, in studio situations, I generally prefer smaller fixed-focal length lenses. On the other hand, working with highly mobile infants, a zoom can come in handy.

    These are just ideas, ultimately you can decide finally these lens questions. There are lots of options!

    Good suggestions on the backdrop so far. You might also experiment with your lighting setup. Move the lights & subject further away from the backdrop. Use scrims, grids, barndoors or other modifiers to better direct the light (Photoflex has a website with a lot of lighting education info on it). I'm guessing you are using continuous lighting of some sort, since most studio flashes won't work at the 1/250 you have mentioned (most sync at 1/125 or 1/60). If using "hot lights", you can go to higher shutter speeds. If instead using several flash units like the 580EX or other Canon units, you might try high speed sync mode. This quickly reduces the flash's reach and could help the background go black.

Share This Page