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Technique

Le présent article n'est pas disponible en Français
March 2010

Launched in October 2009, the EF100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM lens marked three important milestones for Canon. It was the first Canon macro lens to feature an Image Stabilizer; the first implementation of Canon’s newly developed Hybrid IS system specifically designed for macro shooting, and it was the lens on the production line when the 50 Millionth EF lens was produced. David Newton examines the strengths of the lens and talks to two photographers who have been shooting very different subjects with it...

© Ralf Cornesse

Stock and advertising photographer Ralf Cornesse.

The latest EF100mm Macro lens from Canon is designed to offer clear advantages over the previous EF100mm f/2.8 Macro USM lens – a lens that was regarded by many photographers as one of the finest lenses made by Canon, despite not being an L-series model. The new lens makes it into the L-series by incorporating, among other things, an Ultra-low Dispersion (UD) lens element to reduce chromatic aberrations when shooting at macro focus distances for even higher image quality with improved contrast and resolution.

The Hybrid Image Stabilization (IS) system in the lens has been developed to be of specific benefit not just in normal shooting but also in macro shooting, where the forces on the lens and requirements from an IS system are different.

A normal Image Stabilization system works by detecting and counteracting rotational motion – that is motion around a point. However, in macro shooting, the camera movement appears to be less rotational and more shift-based, as the whole camera appears to move along a plane rather than around a point. For this reason, the IS system for shooting macro subjects needs to be different. The Hybrid IS corrects for both rotational and shift based motion and offers up to four stops of IS ability in normal shooting, three stops at half-life size and two stops at life-size.

© Ralf Cornesse

Shot with the EOS 5D Mark II, with the EF100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM lens, the exposure was 1/160sec at f/4, ISO 100.

Being a macro lens, the EF100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM lens is able to magnify to full life-size shooting, where 1cm in real life will measure 1cm across on the film plane or digital sensor. Unlike the Canon MP-E65mm f/2.8 1-5x Macro lens, it is also able to focus at infinity. This makes it suitable not just for macro shooting, but also for any situation where a 100mm focal length would be useful – shooting portraits with a shallow depth-of-field, for example. Overall, despite being a ‘macro’ lens with a fixed focal length, it is an exceptionally versatile addition to the camera bag as the two photographers CPN has spoken to about using the lens have found out.

Ralf Cornesse

Ralf Cornesse is a stock and advertising photographer who is based in a converted barn studio located between Cologne and Trier in Germany. He uses the studio for his stock shoots as well as for advertising and pack shot photography for local industries in the area. Rather than true macro photography, Ralf uses the lens for close-ups and portraits. He is very keen on his EF100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM lens. For a portrait photographer, with other options like an EF85mm f/1.2L II USM or EF135mm f/2L USM, this may come as a surprise but Ralf has very clear reasons as to why this particular EF100mm macro lens is his favourite portrait lens.


© Ralf Cornesse

Shot with the EOS 5D Mark II, with the EF100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM lens, the exposure was 1/160sec at f/4, ISO 100.

He reveals: “I quite often shoot with flash. In fact, I usually set the flash at minimum power and then shoot wide open on the aperture to achieve a crisp shot with a shallow depth-of-field. I like to shoot wide open for the shallow depth-of-field - it gives me and more and more. I am moving towards prime lenses because of the beautiful bokeh they produce in the background.”

If you want to balance flash with ambient light, then shooting a slower shutter speeds is a real advantage and avoids having to flood the scene with light. Ralf says: “If I shoot at f/2.8, with my flash on minimum, I can get away with sharp images even when shooting between 1/25sec to 1/50sec. The Hybrid IS works really well, even in normal shooting as opposed to true macro work.”

He adds: “In the past I’d use the EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM but the f/2.8 aperture and improved IS system on the EF100mm lens means I get better looking, sharper results than I could before, and at slower shutter speeds, with shallower depth-of-field.”

Ralf concludes: “The lens has been very useful, because of its great open aperture quality at f/2.8, and the IS has enabled me to get great sharp images without a tripod.”

© Bas Meelker

Wildlife, macro and landscape photographer Bas Meelker.

Bas Meelker

Bas Meelker started out in photography in 2002. Initially it was a hobby that became a passion and then an obsession. In 2005 he became a full-time professional photographer. Based in the Netherlands Bas specialises in wildlife, macro and landscape photography. He regularly shoots for environmental organisations, travel agencies, advertising clients and image libraries, as well as giving seminars and workshops to other photographers on how to improve their photography.

When asked about the newest Canon macro lens, Bas admits: “I’m very positive about it! For several years now I’ve been hoping for a macro lens with an Image Stabilizer and this one is better than I imagined it could be. The new Hybrid IS system works very well, which is crucial for me – often in wildlife macro shooting you will be shooting hand-held and any camera shake can ruin a picture.”

© Bas Meelker

Moth orchid - shot with the EOS 5D Mark II, with the EF100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM lens, the exposure was 1/100sec at f/4, ISO rated at 1000.

He adds: “The IS system allows me to go down to even 1/40sec in macro shooting and still get sharp results. It’s also quiet. I’d been worried that an IS system in a macro lens might make some noise and scare small subjects away, but it seems not too. I can barely hear it when it’s working and I’ve not seen any subjects move away because of it.”

Obviously the Hybrid IS system isn’t the only feature of the lens as Bas acknowledges: “Optically it is excellent too. The older lens was great, but this is just brilliant. The sharpness and colour are fantastic. In fact, I think it’s one of the best Canon lenses I own.”

He reveals: “The lens feels lighter than the older model but it balances very well, even with the Canon MR-14EX ring flash that I often use for macro. In fact, this lens is always the first lens in my bag when I pack for a shoot.”

© Bas Meelker

Dryas julia - shot with the EOS 5D Mark II, with the EF100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM lens, the exposure was 1/250sec at f/3.2, ISO rated at 800.

The focus ring, another key point of contact between photographer and lens, also gets praise from Bas. He explains: “I find it very smooth. It doesn’t shake or jerk and I can move through the focus range quickly and easily. It makes working with the lens easier in day-to-day shooting.”

“Combined with any of my cameras (the EOS 5D Mark II, EOS 50D, or EOS 7D) it performs brilliantly and captures so much detail from my subjects. Sometimes this can even be a problem – I use it to shoot close-up portraits as well and some models have said it’s just too sharp as it shows all their blemishes!”

All in all, despite being a lens that's primarily aimed at macro shooters, as Bas and Ralf have demonstrated, the EF100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM lens will find a place in the armoury of many types of photographers. It’s lightweight, optically superb, quick to focus and the Hybrid Image Stabilization system to counteract rotational and shift camera shake forces really does work superbly across a wide range of shooting situations.