"A macro lens is essential to capture insect photos like these"
If you shoot a Canon camera and want to capture extreme close up and true macro (i.e. 1:1) photos you need a specific macro lens. Whilst there are third party macro lenses available, such as those made by Sigma and Tamron, good enough to capture mediocre macro shots you need Canon specific macro lenses for the best shots.
Trust me, if you shoot a Canon camera you need a Canon macro lens to get the best macro photos. My first macro lens was a Tamron branded lens, and I thought it was great until a buddy loaned me a Canon macro lens. The images from the Canon macro lens were super sharp, bright, colourful and punchy (without being oversaturated) and top draw. The Canon macro lens blew my Tamron macro lens out of the water and made me realise I needed a Canon macro lens, which is what I ended up buying.
If you want a macro lens for your Canon camera there are three specific models I would seriously consider, including:-
Canon 60mm macro lens
With a 60mm fixed focal length the Canon 60mm macro lens is one of the “wider” macro lenses in the Canon line up, and it is the ideal macro lens for taking macro photos of still lives and stationery subjects.
It is worth pointing out that the working distance (i.e. distance between the end of the lens and the subject) isn’t that great which means lighting is often an issue, although this is easily overcome using a reflector, flash or ring light. The ring light I use with my 60mm macro lens is the Yongnuo YN14 (review here), and it is a very capable bit of kit that gives the Canon MR14EX ring flash a run for its money, and is a fraction of the cost. Yep, the Yongnuo YN14 is the best ringflash currently available.
If a 60mm focal length is all you need or you are on a budget the Canon 60mm f2.8 macro lens is going to be right up your street.
Canon 100mm macro lens
The Canon 100mm macro lens is ideal for those photographers who want a longer focal length macro lens, a bit more working distance and are on a budget.
The depth of field with this lens used wide open, i.e. at f2.8 is very shallow and you have to make sure you are bang on the money with your focal point, otherwise the image isn’t going to work. There is a learning curve in getting the best out of this lens, but it’s not too steep and once nailed this lens is a top performer.
This lens is super sharp and has awesome image quality. Colours are bright and vivid, without being over saturated and distortion is virtually non-existent. Where this lens falls below par is in its build quality. First off, I have to say the build quality is okay for indoor use and light outdoor work but if you want a lens you can use outdoors in all conditions, and a lens that is going to get a bit of abuse I recommend the 100mm L series macro lens.
As you’d expect this lens does cost more than the 60mm macro lens but it is not stupidly expensive and is within budget. With the Canon 100mm f2.8 you get a lot of lens for your money, and we all like a lot of bang for our buck, right.
Canon 100mm L series macro lens
Many photographers consider the Canon 100mm f2.8L IS macro lens the best Canon macro lens, even though it isn’t the flagship macro lens. The Canon 100mm L series macro lens is the 100mm version with some more bells and whistles.
This lens, like all Canon L series lenses, is made out of the best materials, meaning it is tough, durable and weather sealed – which is essential for outdoor macro photography. This lens also has image stabilisation which is useful for keeping camera shake at bay at slower shutter speeds. Canon claim it is 4 stop image stabilisation, although I don’t think this is quite right. I can consistently hit a 3 stop advantage, and sometimes 3.5 (although this is rare) but I have never managed 4 stops. Let’s not nit-pick over this – the image stabilisation is awesome and great for insect photography.
The image quality of the 100mm f2.8L IS macro lens is not noticeably better than the 100mm non L version, unless you go pixel peeping – and no one does that in the real world.
Canon’s 180mm macro lens is the flagship macro lens, however it is not Canon’s most popular lens. Nope, Canon’s most popular macro lens is the 100mm f2.8L IS lens and it is easy to see why. The 60mm macro lens and 100mm macro lens (the non-L series version) are both very good and capable lenses, but the L series lens is out in front because it is weather sealed, has image stabilisation (which is exceptionally useful for insect photography) and is also reasonably priced for an L series prime lens. In fact, it is the cheapest L series prime lens, and by quite a way.
What is the best macro lens?
All of the Canon macro lenses above are exceptionally good, and you won’t be disappointed with any of them, trust me. The best macro lens for your Canon camera depends on your specific circumstances and what you plan to do with it. If you only shoot still lives and can get away with a shorter focal length I recommend the 60mm f2.8 macro. What’s the point in spending more money when you don’t need to? If you need a longer macro lens and will be doing indoor work and light outdoor work the 100mm macro is perfect. If you plan to do a lot of outdoor work and need a tough lens, and also need image stabilisation the top end 100mm f2.8L IS lens is the lens for you.
The only macro lenses you need for your Canon camera:-
Keen photographer addicted to cameras, lenses and everything photography related. Feel free to follow me in my photography ramblings, and if you have any thoughts, comments, queries or anything else to add I would love to hear from you.