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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Canon 100mm f/2.8 Macro

I thought we'd take a moment to talk about specific lenses, and for the next week we'll be talking about the 100mm macro lens.  I get a lot of questions about it and a lot of folks interested in it. So I thought we'd take some time to discuss it, let you ask questions about it and see some examples of what it can do.

Let me first say, I'm going to the Click Away photography conference in Salt Lake City this weekend.  (Anyone else going and wanna meet up?  Comment here, and let's try to make it happen!)  I'm so so excited to go to meet several folks I've only met online, spend some time with photographers I know in person already, and learn from some amazing nationally acclaimed photographers from all over the world including Sue Bycee, Meg Bitton, Joy Prouty, Ashlee Ann Campbell... just to name a few!  Not that I'm name dropping or anything...  Oh what the heck!  I'm totally name dropping!!!!  Seriously, I get to learn from these amazing women!!!  How cool is that?!  Anywho, I'll be gone for a bit and no doubt catching up on a mountain of laundry when I return home.  So I thought this would be a good time to have a series of posts re the 100mm for a full week.

So let's talk about the 100mm macro. First off, my disclaimer... I'm FAR from an expert on lenses or macro photography or photography in general. This is just my plain ol' soccer mom experience with my 100mm lens.
The 100mm macro is NOT a lens to get first off.  It's fun!  It's a fabulous addition to your bag!  But it is not a good general all purpose lens!  I've heard of folks that use it for portraits, (although I think there are other portrait lenses out there than are better, like the 135mm and 85mm) so it can do that if you're willing to stand far enough back and or want to get close.  I do use it in portraits for some of the detail shots like little piggies or capturing eyelashes.  but I really don't use it for straight portraits.  Not that it can't be done.
But the 100mm macro's main use if for macro photography, ie getting close to little things.  The focusing distance (the closest you can get to something and still get your lens to focus is VERY small.  thus the reason is a macro lens!  And that enable me to get really close to something and still focus.
For Canon there is a high end version of this lens, the 100mm f/2.8 L IS that runs a little less than $1000, and then there's the one I have, the 100mm f/2.8 with no L and no IS, which Papa got me off Craig's List a few years ago for a screaming deal of $100.  I'm pretty sure it was heavily used and slightly abused.  That IS part (stands for image stabilization) that's a big deal!   I'll tell you with no experience with the high end L version of this lens, the cheaper one lacking the image stabilization is often a bear to focus, and I lose a lot of shots from focusing issues.  It's really sensitive to hand shake, not that I shake mind you, but any movement short of being on a tripod can knock off the focus.  so I often just ended up manually focusing.  In the long run, if you're gonna spend that type of money on a macro lens, I'd recommend saving a bit more and getting the L version and save yourself some sanity.  Never the less, if I take a lot of shot and am patient, I do get images that I'm happy with with the cheaper one.
There are cheaper off brands of this lens, but just because the name brands hold their value and are much easier to sell, I recommend the Brand names of Canon or Nikon.  Depending on how comfortable you are buying used, I do recommend looking into refurbished lenses though and that will save you some pennies.  But be sure to get them from a reputable source, like from Canon directly (refurbished lenses directly from Canon come with a guarantee) so if you have any issues with they, you can easily return them.  I've purchased refurbished lenses and equipment this way and been very happy with it. I'm sure Nikon offers something similar.
Like many things in photography, macro photography in general has a learning curve.  It's a whole different beast than portrait photography or just taking fun pics of your kids. So it's something that needs practice and patience and did I mention practice?  You'll need a firm grasp and depth of field and how it can be manipulated to get the pics you want and of course I always recommend that you be comfortable shooting in Manual mode to get the photos you have envisioned.  (My next "How to shoot in Manual" class won't be until the spring of 2015.  But if you're interested leave me your email and I'll put you on the interest list.)
One of the reasons that I do LOVE my macro lens is that it's my go-to lens when I bored or feeling particularity uninspired. Suddenly the world looks different in macro. Things that I never would have noticed before are amazing.  And my home and backyard are all I need to get tons of new photos from everyday things.  I've been in a macro mood for about a month now. some the pics you'll see this week  have been on Facebook or Instagram or on other posts.   But I want to give you a feel for what I use the 100mm macro for.
For the next week, I'll be posting more pics taken with my 100mm macro.  You'll see lots of wild flowers and the world around up close and personal.  And maybe this lens is something you'll want to add to your Christmas list!

So which one of the pics in this post speaks to you?  Do you have a favorite?  


  1. I was planning to go, but we are awaiting our TA any day now and I could not risk of it coming. Next year!
    I love my macro too. Favorite lens next to 135mm. I am only taking three lenses to China. I would love to take the whole camera bag, but with four year old twins and a 15 month year old, my back cannot afford it. I know I will take 16-35 and 50. I was asked by our agency to take lots of photos of kiddos in their partnership orphanage our daughter is in. I envision taking my macro to get shots of hands and feet and details of the little ones.

  2. Love my 60mm macro!! It gets me out of a creative rut daily. That and my Lensbaby.

  3. I love your macro work. The evergreen leaves are especially beautiful.
    I do not have a macro, but I would love one. I am still on a Rebel T1i. My lenses are 24mm 1.4L, 50mm 1.2L, and 70-200 2.8L. I mostly tack my 24mm on my camera and leave it there unless I am doing something special. It gives the perspective of a 35mm on a full frame. I know I should upgrade to a full frame 5D or 6D, but I am stubborn. I want to show that it is the glass and photographer, not the camera. A macro is next on my list. I rented one last weekend and I need it NOW.
    I hope you are having a lovely time in Salt Lake City!

    1. Thank you, Liz! We are having a wonderful time in UT and learning and being inspired LOTS!
      And I think that you are very smart for investing in fabulous lenses that will work for one day when or if you do upgrade your camera. You are SO right... it IS the photographer and not the camera!


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