Some time ago, I was very fortunate enough to be able to get a used copy of the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM lens for an extremely reasonable price and even though I wasn't financially stable, I bit the bullet and bought it anyway. After a couple of months feeling pinched and tight, I thought long and hard and decided to sell it. The deal I got was so good that I even made a profit. Now who said lenses don't make good investments? It's all about how savvy you are looking for good deals.
I had wanted to write a short review or series of thoughts regarding the 100mm macro L lens for a while but kept procrastinating on editing and getting all the photos organized, so here it finally is! As usual, if you're looking for a technical review you can follow this link to Ken Rockwell's in-depth review of the lens. In the few months that I was lucky enough to own this lens (probably the only L lens I can afford for many years to come), here are some thoughts:
- Build quality is great (weather sealed as well) but not as good as expected from an L lens, seeing as this 100mm macro is one of the more affordably priced lenses in the Canon's L lens line-up.
- All the reviewers commented that because the lens was made with plastic (higher quality plastic than say the nifty fifty), it was one of the lightest macro lenses around. While I agree that it was one of, if not the lightest lenses around, it was still pretty hefty and became one of the reasons why I hardly took it out with me.
- The image stabilization is a god send. This 100mm L lens is well known for having a superior IS system in comparison to other lenses. However, some would argue that a tripod is an absolute necessity when taking true macro photos, but I feel that having IS is useful when you're doing handheld photography, especially for such a telephoto focal length as 100mm.
- Sharpness and colour rendition is one of the best I've seen so far. When compared to photos taken with my non-L 35mm, 50mm and 85mm, the 100mm L has the best colour reproduction and sharpness overall. I guess Canon L lenses are not that expensive for no reason.
- While the autofocus system was lightning fast compared to the lower end lenses, one problem that I constantly struggled with was focusing on far objects. The focus would constantly hunt before falling on the right plane of focus. The problem with macro lenses is that when the focus hunts, it goes all the way from one end of the focusing scale to the other and that takes a lot of time since the scale is usually pretty wide.
- Widest aperture is f/2.8 so this lens isn't the most ideal for low-light performance. Some use this as a portrait lens, but if the widest aperture you can get to is f/2.8, you won't get as dreamy an effect as with an 85mm f/1.8 or 135mm f/2. However, I did use this lens for street photography one occasion and absolutely loved it.
Even though I loved this lens incredibly, I was using it too little and not using it for its intended purpose. I did take it one or two days solely for macro shooting and with the macro lens mounted on my camera, I found that I took more time to slow down and look at little things to look for something interesting to shoot. For example, I never noticed nor realized any bees or dragonflies or moths in Wilson's garden but on the day I did a test shoot, all three made an appearance. I suppose they had always been there and I just never realized.
When I look back at these photos, sometimes I feel like it was a silly decision to have sold the 100mm macro L, but I guess it would have been better for someone who would utilize it to it's full potential instead of being with me and being stuck in a cupboard for months on end. With the money from the 100mm, I bought a 50mm f/1.4 and 85mm f/1.8 instead so I got better value! But rest assured, once I save up I will buy the 100mm macro L back again someday. :)