I bought my Canon EF 100mm f/2 USM lens in 1996 because I needed a fast lens
for concert work; I couldn't afford any of the "L" series zooms. Years later, as
I look over the images it's produced, I can say that it's one of the finest
lenses I've ever used. [Image above: Chris Cornell himself. Canon A2, 1/90 at
f/2.0, Kodak E200.]
The Great Debate: the 100/2.0 or the 85/1.8?
I've done a modest amount of portrait work over the
years, and I've compared an 85/1.8 side by side with my 100/2.0. The 85/1.8 to my
eye captures too much proportion; the extra 15mm of the 100/2.0 flattens features
just right. Portraits with the 85 look too standard for my taste; the 100 manages
to make portraits interesting without that excessive 300/2.8 two-dimensionality
that's all the fashion these days.
Wide open at 2.0 the lens performs magnificently, tack sharp in the eyes (with
a soft tip of the nose, of course) up to 16x20. Edge to edge quality is better at
2.8, and at 4.0 the lens produces sharper Images than my 70-200/2.8L on the same
settings. Even if you're including a bit of the subject's shoulders in the Image,
you get terrific background blur at 2.8.
Did Somebody Say Concerts?
I once brought my camera bag to a concert I was going to review in the
unlikely event the promoter would let me shoot. He did, and to my greater
surprise I found the fastest film in my bag was 400. I pushed it to 1600 and
still was shooting 1/60 at f/2.0 with the lens. The results? Publishable quality
Images (i.e. they were bought by a national magazine). The lens' extra stop saved
the prints from contrast death, and the quality of the glass saved the images in
the first place. [To the right: Gavin Rossdale of Bush. Canon A2, 1/60 at f/4.0,
Fuji SG+ 800.]
The manual focus ring is big and rotates very smoothly. The USM is remarkable:
ultra-fast, super-quiet, and deadly accurate. I've caught many fast-moving rock
stars thanks to the USM. The lens is rugged. It goes to over 100 rock concerts
every year, and I can't remember how many times beer's been spilled on it. It
takes shoves, nudges, and knocks whenever I leave the barricade. It's still in
I highly recommend the dedicated hood: I've never had a
flare or vignetting problem, even with ever-changing stage lights. One of those
wonderful snap-on types, the ET-65 II hood is easily added and removed, not to
mention constructed of an almost indestructible plastic (it's saved my glass
countless times from the horrors mentioned above).
You can't go wrong with this lens. If you're trying to choose between this
lens and the 85/1.8, decide what kind of portraits you want: standard looking, or
a little more punchy. The subjects I shoot like creative Images, so I use the
I'm still using the same 100/2.0, and it's performing superbly. One event a
few months ago had such dim lighting conditions that I had to shoot nearly the
entire stage portion with the lens wide open. Again, excellent results.
The story about shooting under surprise circumstances occurred at a Michael
Hedges performance. Three weeks after I photographed him at that particular
concert, he was killed in a car accident. Considered by many (myself included) as
one of the greatest guitarists of all time, Hedges was a deeply spiritual man,
which makes his very early death all the more tragic. Having taken the photo to
the left with the 100/2.0, I dedicate this page to him. God bless you
Where to buy the Canon EF 100mm f/2 USM Telephoto Lens
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