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Macro lens suggestions for Canon please


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I have a Canon 70d and want to treat myself to a macro lens for Christmas. Can you please suggest some good ones to look at? I would prefer one that can also be used on a full frame camera down the track and that isn't too expensive!


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Fortunately, two of the three Canon Macro Lenses that come to mind are all full frame and one is for Crop Sensors. "...that isn't too expensive" is a relative statement. So we will need to talk budget. In addition, with macro photography, you are stopping down, usually between f/8 and f/11 due to the shallow DoF. Serious Macro Shooters are usually at f/16 and f/22. As you get closer to your subject, don't think you will be at f/2.8 that much. The reason that I mention this, is that a proper lighting setup is just as important as the lens. For now, we will keep things simple. Here are your choices:

Full Frame Macro



Crop Body Macro

Since you are interested in a Full Frame Macro Lens, we will be talking about the Canon 100mm Macro Lens, both the "L" and "Non-L" versions. What's the difference other than the price? Build quality, weather-sealing, image stabilization and you really see the difference in the fine-details when you pixel-peep. Now, the "Non-L" 100mm Macro is no slouch, but when compared to the "L" (Fully Professional) version, there is a difference. As I type this, the Canon 100mm L Macro is on sale at $799.99 (normally $899) and the Canon NON-L retails for $599, which is it's normal price. DigitalRev put out an EXCELLENT Video demonstrating the difference between the two, and I HIGHLY RECOMMEND GIVING IT A VIEW and come back. 

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Any lenses that have a "EF-S" are crop body lenses. Think of the "S" in the EF-S as the S in "Small," as in a crop sensor is smaller than a full frame. Any EF lenses, without the -S, are Full Frame Lenses.

So what would I personally purchase if I were you? The Canon 100mm f/2.8L Macro Lens. I'm a big proponent of "Buy it Right...Buy it Once" mentality. I was in your shoes, and opted for a used Nikon 60mm f/2.8 Macro Lens. While the lens is fine, it really sits in my bag unused the majority of the time. I really should have bought the Nikon 105VR, (Nikon equivalent to the 100mm L Macro,) especially since I'm shooting with a Full Frame camera now.

Why did I get the AF 60mm Macro? I was compensating for the Angle of View change that you get with the crop sensors, and I didn't have much money. $900 vs. $350 was a big deal at the time. But guess what? I have buyers remorse. I threw away $350 when it's said and done. Even if I sold the lens, I've still lost money.

In your case, the cheapest option, the EF-S 60mm Macro is a lens really meant for Crop Bodies. You are better off purchasing a 100mm Macro in the long term. Even if you have to save up and wait a little.

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Thanks for your advice. I've had a think and will probably end up getting the non-L 100mm lens because it fits my needs and budget. I totally get what you mean though about "buy it right, buy it once", so I'm going to ponder it for a bit longer before making a final decision. I'm only really intending to buy it as something fun to play with though, so I guess I'd be better off investing that much money into a portrait lens that I would use more often, rather than a macro...

At the moment, I only have my Canon 18-135mm kit lens, Canon 50mm 1.8 prime and Sigma Art 35mm 1.4. I primarily photograph my children/family and the odd landscape and find the Sigma Art is on my camera 99% of the time. Do you have any suggestions for a "must have" lens? I find the 35mm isn't wide enough on my crop sensor, but worry that going wider might not be so good for portraits. Again, I need a lens that will work on full frame when I next upgrade my body.

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A 35mm on a crop body acts more like a 50mm on a full frame body, so you would be looking at a lens in the 20-24mm range to get "wider." 

Must have lens? I would have to say a 70-200 f/2.8L IS II but that's not what you are asking for, LOL. However, that lens would have to be my #1 recommendation for any photographer, crop or full-frame body. To replace your 18-135, I'd recommend a 24-105 f/4 L. For something wider, perhaps a Canon 20mm f/2.8 or even a Sigma 24 1.4 ART lens? That will give you a "35mm look" on a crop body. 

You are right, the wider you go the more distortion you will have to deal with. The trick is to play to the lens' strengths and avoid it's weaknesses. You don't mount a 35mm lens and walk up to a subject a take their portrait 2-3 feet away from them. That's just silly and will produce unflattering portraits.

Traditionally, the 85-135 focal range is meant for portraits due to compression. Most will buy a Canon 85 1.8 and will be disappointed due to the severe chronic aberration that lens produces. (The purple fringes on things like trees against a bright sky.) A better lens would be the EF 100 f/2.0 lens. (Non-Macro). It has better compression and doesn't suffer from the CA like the 85 1.8 does. 1/3 of a stop difference isn't THAT big of a deal, the extra focal length makes up for it. Here is the lens I'm talking about:



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Another lens to consider, would be a Canon EF-S 17-55 f/2.8. It's the "24-70" for crop bodies. The downside is that it is a crop body lens only. For full frame cameras, the 24-70 f/2.8 version II or 24-105 f/4L is a better choice. It all depends on when you switch to full frame. If it's a few years away, the 17-55 is fairly inexpensive and will give you what you are looking for. 




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Another one to consider might be the Sigma 105mm f2.8 Macro

It was getting 5* reviews when it was going for £700, and now the price has dropped to £319 (UK price) - so if you're unsure if Macro is for you, could be an cheaper option to dip your toe in.  It works on both full frame and crop.


It also makes a nice portrait lens having the f2.8 to blur the background.

but having said all that, I too can't make my mind up... so am really interested in this thread !  :-)

I agree with the 'buy right, buy once' principle, so got my eye on either the 24-105 or the Tamron 24-70... but with the Tamron going for £800 I just need to convince the wife it's money well spent :-)

Hope it helps.

Edited by AWC
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If you do go the Sigma route, make sure you get the Sigma USB Dock that lets you update the firmware for the lenses. Personally, I am a OEM snob, though the Sigma ART line looks interesting. I would seriously lean towards a Canon 24-105L, at least for the possible re-sale value, if it ever got to that point. I don't care what you might think, you are not going to get anywhere close to what you paid for a Tamron lens. That £800 Tamron...maybe £300-£400 you get on the resale market. Maybe even less.

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