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Canon Macro Lens


I recently posted about the canon MP-E 65 macro I have backed away from this lens to much for me. Thinking more about the canon 180 mm macro, I have a canon EFS 60 mm macro already, a canon 60 D, and a canon T3-I body would this be a better lens for me, and do I need the ring light, the single or the twin thanks for your help.



What is your 60 mm macro not doing for you?  Honestly you’re not going to see drastically different results by moving to another 1X macro lens with a different focal length.  I suspect lighting and/or technique is what is preventing you from getting the results that you want.  Honestly, the one lens that is going to have a significant impact in the final result is the MP-E 65.


The main Canon macro lenses (60, 100, 100L, 180L) all achieve a 1X magnification ratio, so there isn’t going to be a huge difference in the images that they can produce.  The main difference is the working distance, longer focal length gives you more room between you and your subject.  This can be good, and bad.  Which is better is entirely subjective.


The longer focal length will cut out more of the background (though in macro the bg is usually pure bokeh anyway), gives more room for lighting, it allows smaller apertures before diffraction becomes a problem, and of course it’s great when your subject can sting or bite.  On the flip side, longer FL means that camera shake will be more of an issue, and if you’re using a macro light setup that needs to be modified for the longer working distance.


I’m not going to nit pick the sharpness differences between these lenses, they’re all capable of producing sharp macro photos.


Physically, the 180 mm has a smaller max aperture (3.5 vs 2.8) and no image stabilization (vs 100L).  It's also known for its extremely slow focus.  And it's significantly more expensive.  For that money I’d rather have a 100L and pick up stabilization and use the rest towards a lighting setup, but that’s me.  And as I said above, it’s not really going to be much different from the 60 mm, since they’re both 1X.


"... I’d rather have a 100L and pick up stabilization ..."


This is the best answer and solution.

EOS 1DX and 1D Mk IV and less lenses then before!


The MP-E 65mm is a rather highly specialized macro lens offering considerably higher magnification than most and requiring some skill and patience to use well! It's an amazing lens, but I would never recommend it as a first macro lens or for general purpose macro shooting.


Much more versatile are the EF 50/2.5 Compact Macro, EF-S 60/2.8 USM, 100/2.8 USM, 100/2.8L IS USM, and 180/3.5L USM. Lots of very high quality lenses to choose among.


You already have the 60/2.8, which is a very good lens, though such a short focal length might put you too close to some subjects.


I would not recommend the 180mm for use on your 60D or T3i. That's a very long macro lens on a crop camera and once again somewhat specialized. It's going to need to be on a tripod a lot more than a shorter focal length, it's harder to get a steady shot plus you'll need to stop it down quite a bit because such a long macro renders super shallow depth of field. It's also slower focusing than the other macro lenses, which might make it less "dual purpose", less usable for non-macro purposes than some of the others. I have the 180mm, but mostly use it only for macro and only on full frame cameras, not on my crop cameras (different models, but same format as both your 60D and T3i).


There are times I want to use a really long focal length for macro/close-ups, and I find the EF 300/4 IS USM works well for that. It's the closest focusing of all Canon lenses longer than 200mm. Adding an extension tube or two to it makes it even closer focusing.  


I'd recommend one or the other of the two current Canon 100mm macro lenses. Both are excellent and quite capable. As far as the images are concerned, you'd have a hard time telling them apart.


The older EF 100/2.8 USM (not L or IS) is considerably less expensive and sort of a longer version of your 60/2.8, with a couple added features. I have this lens and it's probably my main user macro lens on both full frame and crop sensor cameras. If I could only have one macro lens, this would be the one I'd choose. Focus is accurate and fast for a macro lens. It's got USM and a focus limiter, both of which help. Another key consideration for me, it also can be optionally fitted with a tripod mounting ring. To me, that's an important and a handy accessory.


The EF 100L IS USM is the latest and greatest, adding stabilization and a slightly more sophisticated focus limiter. It also can be fitted with a tripod mounting ring, sold separately. Canon uses a special "hybrid" IS in this lens, which is likely more effective at macro magnifications than most forms of stabilization... However it's still going to be less effective at high magnifications than at non-macro distances. At 1:1, you might expect IS to give about one stop of assistance.... but focused at 16 or 20 feet or more, it might give three or fours stops worth. So if you plan to also use the lens as a moderate telephoto, for non-macro shooting a lot, the IS might worth the difference, which is about double the price of the non-IS 100mm lens.


Instead of repeating myself, please see Near the bottom of my response I discuss and show examples from the different flash options. I use all three, but probably a single "standard" flash most often, MT-24 Twin light second most often and up to about 2:1 magnification, and MR-14 Ring Lite almost exclusively for very high magnification shots with the MP-E 65mm.


Alan Myers

San Jose, Calif., USA
"Walk softly and carry a big lens."
GEAR: 5DII, 7D(x2), 50D(x3), some other cameras, various lenses & accessories







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