Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM Lens Review

If you’re looking for a dedicated macro lens to use with a Canon DSLR, you’ve got a few choices. Within Canon’s own lineup, there are two great options: the EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro and the EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM. The “L” version is bigger, heavier, and more expensive, but also features image stabilization, a quiet USM focus motor, and improved performance.

Both lenses are perfect for close-up photography. The 100mm focal length gets in good and close, and the lens’s 1:1 magnification means that objects will be just as large on the image sensor as they are in real life (the definition of a true “macro” lens).

We put the 100mm f/2.8L through its paces in our lab to see if it’s worth the extra $300 over its non-L cousin. If you’re looking for a TL;DR summary, it’s this: This is the best macro lens for Canon DSLRs—especially if you like to shoot handheld. But if you want more detail, read on.

Who’s It For?

The L version of this lens is best suited to photographers who will use it in a professional capacity. The rugged build quality common to all L-series lenses will help it stand up to hard work in the field, and the extra weight may actually improve handling.

That said, you don’t need to be a pro to appreciate what this lens has to offer. Optical image stabilization, for instance, ups the 100mm f/2.8L’s versatility vs. its cheaper counterpart, allowing for handheld shooting with little worry of motion blur.


The trademark red ring marks the 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM as one of Canon’s pro-grade lenses.

The 100mm f/2.8L is a stellar macro lens, but it’s useful for more than that. It can also function quite well as a portrait lens in a pinch. It’s more expensive than wider aperture primes like the Canon EF 85mm f/1.8, but if you enjoy both portraiture and macro work, you can kill both birds with this one sub-$1,000 stone.

Look and Feel

Like other L-series glass, the EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM is an extremely well-built lens. Its focus ring has a pleasing level of resistance and a long enough throw that you can reliably make minute focus adjustments. That’s especially useful at macro working distances, where you’ll want incredibly precise control over the focal point.

Just behind the focus ring you’ll find a switch to engage or disengage the autofocus motor. Just below the AF/MF switch is the focus limiter.


There are plenty of physical switches on the body of the lens for quick adjustments.

You know the long focus throw I just mentioned? Well, it takes the AF system a while to search through the entire throw, which can be a real problem if you’re only using one end of the focus range. When you’re shooting insects, for instance, you can set the limiter to the 0.5-0.3m setting to keep it from trying to find bugs on the horizon. There’s a similar setting for distant subjects, or you can choose to give the AF system free reign.

Image stabilization is also useful for macro work. This was the first of Canon’s macro lenses to utilize its IS system, and it provides up to two stops of stabilization at macro shooting range. That’s essential for handheld work, where every little movement becomes extra evident.

Share on FacebookPin on PinterestTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedIn