Choosing a Macro lens for EOS

Discussion in 'Canon EOS' started by patflynn, Oct 23, 2006.

  1. I want to buy a macro lens as the next addition to my EOS kit (20D body, "L"
    lenses from 17 to 400 mm, all of them telephoto zooms). Obviously for the macro
    lens, I am choosing between the 60mm, 100mm and the 180mmL. I'm pretty much
    down to the latter two and am weighing the cost/size advantage of the 100mm
    against the optical superiority and greater working distance of the 180mm.
    Aside from soliciting general opinions and advice with this posting - I would
    be happy for any comments on this decision - I do have one specific technical
    question: What is the minimum distance from a subject that I can shoot with the
    180mm? Canon's own site appears to say that 1.57 feet is the closest that I can
    be to get focus, but various reviews that I've read elsewhere suggest much less
    distance than that. Thanks for any insights from users of these lenses.
  2. Judging from everything i have heard about those lenses, the Canon 180mm (i suppose you are talking about Canon lenses alone) does not have "optical superiority" compared to the 100mm.

    I think the 180mm is too long for a macro lens, 100mm on a 20D is enough even for insects.

    Read up on where all Canon lenses are thourougly and comparably tested (in english).
  3. Have a look at this comparative review of macro lenses which has much more macro specific information than Photozone's tests:

    Included is a table that shows working distances with and without hoods. I suspect you may come to different conclusions about which lens to buy. Be sure also to read the links to the newer lenses.
  4. I think the 180mm is too long for a macro lens
    Actually 180mm gives you a lot more working distance from your subject which can be a real advantage. Check this PBase gallery for examples taken with the Sigma 180mm (not my gallery).
  5. Canon says the minimum focusing distance for this lens is 48 cm. Keep in mind that this is not working distance, which is measured from the front of the lens to the subject; it is measured from the film/sensor plane. To get working distnace, you have to subtract the length of the lens (18.7 cm) and the lens register for the EF mount (4.4 cm), yielding a working distance of about around 25 cm, or around ten inches.
    As was pointed out above, don't assume the 180 is superior optically just because it has an L in it. The 100 has a stellar reputation.
  6. Patrick, I would guess that people shooting closer than 1:1 magnification (which in the case of the 180mm macro is around 18") are using extension tubes or bellows.
  7. Hi,

    I have both the EF 100 and 180 macros. The 180 is a great lens for full frame cameras. It's simply too long when working with 1.6X cameras (nearly 300mm, effectively!). Such an extreme reach with a macro lens makes locating/framing subjects and keeping the shot perfectly steady a lot more challenging.

    Personally I find the 100mm to be much more useful on the 1.6X cameras, where it acts like a 160mm focal length lens, of course.

    In fact, I might eventually add a 50mm to 75mm macro for closer work with 1.6X cameras, where these would effectively give 80mm to 120mm. In the past, with full frame 35mm cameras, about the shortest macro I used consistently was 90mm. This was largely outdoor "nature" shooting, with live subjects and usually in the range from 1/4X to 2X lifesize. (Someone doing copy work or more extreme magnification may have very different needs.)

    Close focus distance will remain the same whether the camera is full frame or 1.6X. I don't have the specs of the 180 at hand, nor have I actually measured the distance to the subject to confirm Canon's statement. But, I'd guesstimate that's about right. I do know that on full frame cameras it gave a more comfortable working distance from nastier critters like tranantula and snakes! The 100mm gives almost the same on 1.6X cameras.
  8. I'd have to agree with Alan. I have the 100mm macro and a 20D, and it would be more difficult to use a longer focal length. For shooting jewelry and collectibles with a lighting tent/dome, the 100mm with crop factor is almost too much at times. The lens is optically sharp and not overly expensive. I have also used it on an EOS 3 film body and found it to be a very adequate focal length.
  9. Patrick, there's quite a lot to be said for sticking to L-series zooms (or, for the 20D, the EF-S 10~22 or 17~55/2.8, which are optically of equivalent quality but not as well-built). Primes are a different matter - there's optical excellence and perfectly acceptable build quality to be found among non-L primes. In particular, lenses like the 100/2.8USM or EF-S 60/2.8 integrate very comfortably into a high-end setup - I'm in just that position myself. As others have said, don't feel that you need to buy the 180/3.5 simply to be in keeping with your other lenses.

    You'll find any number of comments on this forum about the relative merits of different macro lenses. In brief, they are all optically excellent, but best-suited to different applications. What you choose depends on what your priority is, bearing in mind that the longer lenses are progressively more difficult to use, and that, contrary to what you will sometimes see suggested, there is no lighting problem with any of the lenses you are considering for use on a 20D. If you are new to macro work, which your question imples, I would suggest buying the 60/2.8 unless (a) you already known that insects are your main priority, or (b) you are about to move to FF, and in either of those cases, buy the 100/2.8USM. You'll soon learn whether you need a longer lens for macro work as well, but you're very unlikely to want it to replace what you buy now.
  10. I would go even further than Robin - if image quality is your top concern, then third party options offer the best results, and I would have no compunction about going that way (I have a Tamron 90).
  11. I also own the 100mm and 180mm lenses, and, well, what Alan said. The 100mm lens gets much more use than the 180mm lens....
  12. All macro lenses are optically excellent. However, if I were in the market for a dedicated macro lens, I'd get the Tamron 180/3.5 for it's build and optical quality, for it's long working distance (the longest of all lenses), for it's reasonable price (only 200$ more than the Canon 100/2.8 macro USM), for its reasonably fast AF (Unlike its equivalent Canon), for it's IF and for Tamron's excellent compatibility reputation.
    Happy shooting ,
  13. Both the 100mm and 180mm are first class lenses, the 60mm is very sharp but in addition to being a crop only lens in can not take a tripod ring, does not have a focus limiter and has a working distance that is too short for insects

    I use the 100mm and MP-E 65mm myself, but may one day get the 180mm. I chose the 100mm as my basic macro as the ideal length and wieght, it is also small and light enough to always have with me; I dount that would be the case with the 180mm. For info I also have the 200 f2.8L II which is very light and compact.

    Which is best depends on what you are shooting and how.

    I would say if you are shooting insects handheld the lighter wieght of the 100mm is key. The long working distance of the 180mm sounds like an advantage but this can work against you in dense undergrowth.

    The 180mm will work better for tripod based work where the wieght is not an issue. It might also be of benefit with very shy insects like dragonflies; however for these I use the 300mm f4L IS + tubes as the IS is a major advantage when working handheld in ambient light.

    Another point is the 180mm may be too long, requiring too much working distance for lower magnification things like flowers.

    The 180mm will take the canon teleconverters directly which is useful but doing high magnification work with very long lenses can make subject location difficult. The 100mm can be used with both the Canon converters if a 12mm tubes is placed between the converter and lens but this looses infinity focus; presumably many independent teleconverters could be used without the tube and so retain infinity focus.

    Another way to increase magnification is to use tubes, you will get more magnification for a given length of tubes with the 100mm, although this will reduce working distance.

    Finally considering the price difference between the two I would say you can probably aford both!
  14. Patrick,
    Just to add another variable, I highly recommend the versatile MP-E 65mm. Here is a link to a review:
  15. The MP-E 65/2.8 is undoubtedly excellent but to call it versatile?

    Happy shooting,
  16. I own the 180 3.5. As you noted, the working distance is a key factor. I use it primarily for
    floral studies right now and I sometimes couple it to the 1.4 extender, of course depth of
    field - even at F32 means little when you are set uo that tight. The lens is one of the best
    micro/macro's that I have used in over 40 years as a photography. Depending on what you
    are shooting, I would also suggest getting a Canon ring light set-up. They make two
    versions. By the way, it also makes a great general purpose telephoto and is especially good
    for tight portraits. Overa
  17. >> I own the 180 3.5.

    There are three of those :)

    Happy shooting,
  18. Not sure if someone mentioned getting extention tubes. They are pretty cheap and can be used on a variety of lenses to get you into MACRO territory.
  19. The double rebate grabbed me and thus I anticipate arrival of a 100mm Macro lens.
  20. I previously had a Canon 100mm Macro, but it was stolen. Just this past month, I was in the market for a new macro lens, and ended up going with the Tamron 180mm. I found a used one at KEH for not much more than the cost of a new Canon 100mm. I've got no complaints with the Tamron, with the exception of the autofocus being a bit noisier than I had expected.

Share This Page