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Best Macro Lens for 40D

David Farris , Jan 03, 2010; 12:48 a.m.

Whats the best macro lens for the 40D? Im going to be taking pictures of texture and abstract subject matter.


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Nathan Gardner , Jan 03, 2010; 01:20 a.m.

100mm f/2.8 L IS macro or 65mm 1x-5x macro

You didn't mention budget. For cheaper, I'd say:
EF 100mm f/2.8 macro
EF-S 60mm f/2.8 macro
EF 50mm f/2.5 macro

The 100mm seems to be the macro of choice of the 3 above.
The 60mm is said to be great, but it's EF-S and won't work on full frame if you plan on making the leap soon. This one is a good portrait length and a lot of people double it as a portrait lens.
The 50mm is the cheapest of the 3 and takes beautiful photos, but has a slow AF and is only .5x lifesize magnifacation, which is still good especially on a crop sensor. This is the only one I have experience with, and while I love it, I would love to have the 100mm version, but I have other priorities.

Robin Sibson , Jan 03, 2010; 05:20 a.m.

For your needs a 100mm macro is probably inconveniently long, and certainly gains you nothing, and you'll presumably be using a tripod so IS is irrelevant. No need to spend what the 100/2.8L IS costs, by far your best bet is the excellent EF-S 60/2.8 at around half the price. That advice is based on having all the lenses mantioned by Nathan (although the 100/2.8 is being sold because I don't need it as well as the new IS version) and using them on both 1.6-factor and (except the EF-S, of course) on FF. The 50/2.5 is the cheapest solution, and is optically excellent, but if you need to go beyond ×0.5 you would need the Life Size Converter, which brings the total cost up to at least that of the 60/2.8.

Brett W. , Jan 03, 2010; 07:25 a.m.

I would go with the longer focal length macro lens - greater working distance, image resolution and the ability to use the lens for other situations

Manuel Barrera , Jan 03, 2010; 07:39 a.m.

If you are limiting yourself to the two subjects mentioned, then either the 100mm or the ef-s 60mm. If you will doing hand holding the new IS 100 mm macro.

Ed Okie , Jan 03, 2010; 07:51 a.m.

Though "best lens" is an oft-asked question it's only a portion of the equation - I'd be inclined to suggest maybe only one-third. Related equipment along with the biggest factor - the person holding the camera and how to use equipment - is the main aspect.
I've used the 100mm f/2.8 macro for years and have found it to be a stellar all-purpose macro lens. But more important is the equipment connected (and required to do macro work)... the tripod, the tripod head, and particularly quick-clamps and slider rails; none in that list are inexpensive... in total will cost 2-3X the price of the 100mm lens. But skimp on the related equipment side... and the lens itself, whatever is chosen, becomes a so-what issue.
Also, don't overlook some of the specialized software used to exploit macro shooting, the- huge -problem of extremely limited focus distance. "Layering" programs combined with layer-shooting software (composited into one final full-depth image) is the answer... not the assumed and oft-attempted application of numerically higher f/stops to achieve more depth of field. Helicon Focus Pro is one example, and an excellent product... but tech-support is somewhere between weak to non-existent; installation issues across multiple computers and somewhat quirky "limited licensing" methods leave much to be desired.
So as to the "best lens" question... it's actually a secondary issue.

Ed Okie , Jan 03, 2010; 08:09 a.m.

Canon's new 100mm macro with "IS" and alleged 4x f/stop (or shutter speed) gain is, according to testing data vastly inflated, to the point of being far more marketing hype. The claimed stability factor does -not- apply when working at macro-ranges... as it does at infinity. At best there's only a 1x stability gain in macro work - basically insignificant. Thinking that "the new IS lens"(+$600 over the "old" version) means that a tripod and related gear is unnecessary, that you can hand-hold all macro shots - you're vastly kidding yourself.

Also note that the new "deluxe red-ring" premium priced lens does NOT come with a tripod mounting bracket... an item that is vital and not cheap. Two-thumbs down to Canon on their salesmanship. A bit worse, the specialized one from Canon leaves much to be desired, it is poorly made.

Dan M , Jan 03, 2010; 09:50 a.m.

I shoot with both the EF-S 60mm and the EF 100mm L on a 50D. I think Robin is exactly right.

Assuming you are comparing the EF-S 60mm to the non-L EF 100mm, the advantages of the 60 are:
--shorter and lighter
--much easier to hand hold (because of focal length as well as length and weight)
--more magnification with a given length of extension tube
--a nice portrait length lens on your camera.

The advantages of the 100
--More reach, which is a big help if you are chasing things like bugs that want to get away
--more background blur (a matter of perspective, NOT depth of field)
--a nice mid-telephoto on your camera

I personally would not go with the 50 f/2.5. I had one but was frustrated by the lack of true macro (it is only 0.5x, as Robin said). I think it also lacks full time manual focusing. I sold mine and bought the EF-S 60mm to replace it.

If you are thinking of springing for the 100mm L: I disagree with Ed. Traditional IS offsets angular displacement and is of decreasing value as the subject gets closer. Hybrid IS, which this particular lens has, also offsets vertical motion parallel to the focal plane and is of INCREASING value as the subject gets closer. you can draw out the geometry to see this. My own experience is consistent with the tests I read before buying mine, which is that at 1:1, the hybrid IS is worth roughly 1.5 or 2 stops. However, it is a lot of extra $$, and given the subjects you intend to photograph, you will presumably be using a tripod, and IS is not useful for work with tripods.

If you check out the bugs and flowers on my site, http://dkoretz.smugmug.com/, most were taken with the EF-S 60mm macro, either with the 50D or an XTi. There are a few there taken with either the 50mm or 100mm. You can identify them from the information icon. Some are taken with extension tubes and are much higher magnification than you can get with these lenses alone.

Matthijs Claessen , Jan 03, 2010; 10:07 a.m.

Starting with the umbrella this gallery holds 30 pictures with the L macro. It should be perfect for your useage. (Unless you need to go far beyond 1:1 in which case there is only one choice, the über specialty 65mm lens.) I never used any of the other lenses suggested so maybe the EF-s 60mm is indeed better suited.

In none of the pictures a tripod was used.

I did rest the camera/lens combo on my left arm while shooting with my right. I did use studio flashes. Sometimes I used IA-Servo focus, sometimes manual, sometimes focus recompose.

Note: I never post my portraits online but I absolutely love this lens for portraiture. I prefer headshots, head&shoulder, tight portraits however. Those who prefer whole body or torso's would do better to choose a shorter lens.
Note 2: The OP never said anything about portraits.

JDM von Weinberg , Jan 03, 2010; 10:28 a.m.

You define the specific purposes the lens will serve pretty well. All the same, though, I'd agree that even with an APS-C body, the longer the better. The "best" price point for macro on the 40D has to be in the 90-100mm range. That should serve well for your "textures" and still give you room between the lens and the subject for imaginative lighting. I don't find my 90mm macro lens too long on a APS-C body at all. When you're going 1:1 you still don't have a lot of room between lens and subject on these, much less on a 50 or 60mm lens.

The new Canon L 100mm IS lens has to be something worth looking at. If you're going to be photographing with a tripod or copy stand, however, either the older 100mm without IS or a Tamron 90mm f/2.8 will serve just as well and cost much less.

If you were ever to be wanting to photograph living, moving things, then a 180mm macro lens would be "best." It couldn't hurt in the sort of thing you're interested in right now, but would probably not be cost efficient in that application.

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