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Best Canon Macro Lenses
You may have tried to take macro pictures with your kit lens and have got passable results, but for truly spectacular macro photos, you need a dedicated macro lens. These give excellent close up focusing abilities, bringing the miniature world to life, and letting you access a whole new world of photography that is not visible to the unaided eye.
This article will cover the best Canon macro lens, along with a brief look at Canon extension tubes and macro lens converters, to see how they compare to dedicated close up lenses for Canon.
If you’re short on time, then take a look at the best macro lens for Canon below. Full reviews for every macro lens for Canon follow.
1. Best Macro Lens for Canon
Canon’s best macro lens is the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM Macro Lens, which has the benefit of image stabilization and excellent image quality.It is a must have Canon lens, and a contender for best prime lens for Canon. This lens is usable for both full frame Canon cameras and crop sensor (APS-C) cameras, and will have an even higher magnification when paired with a crop sensor.
If you have a crop sensor Canon camera (APS-C), you may want to consider the Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro USM Fixed Lens, which is specifically designed for crop sensor cameras. Please note that this lens will not work on a full frame camera.
If you are on a strict budget, then the Canon EF 50mm f/2.5 Compact Macro Lens would suit you very well. This is suitable for both full frame and crop sensor cameras, although due to the short focal length would be better suited to a crop sensor camera.
2. Quick Compare Canon Macro Lens
Although the best Canon lens for macro photography is the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM Macro Lens, there are plenty of other cheaper options which make good Canon macro lenses. You can compare the macro 60mm vs 100mm below, as well as taking a quick look at the individual specifications for each of the contenders for best macros lenses for Canon.
|Product||Average User Rating||Pros / Cons||Cost||Check Price|
|Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM Macro Lens ||4.9 / 5|| ||$$$$|
|Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro USM Fixed Lens ||4.6 / 5|| ||$$|
|Canon EF 50mm f/2.5 Compact Macro Lens ||4.5 / 5|| ||$|
|Canon EF-S 35mm f/2.8 Macro IS STM ||4.7 / 5|| ||$$|
|Canon MP-E 65mm f/2.8 1-5X Macro Lens ||4.6 / 5|| ||$$$$$|
|Irix 150mm f/2.8 Macro 1:1 Dragonfly Lens for Canon ||4.5 / 5|| ||$$$|
|Sigma 105mm F2.8 EX DG OS HSM Macro Lens ||4.4 / 5|| ||$$|
|Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM Fixed Lens ||4.7 / 5|| ||$|
|Tamron AF 90mm f/2.8 Di SP A/M 1:1 Macro Lens ||4.5 / 5|| ||$$|
|Canon 50mm f/2.8L Macro – Tilt-Shift DSLR Lens ||5 / 5|| ||$$$$$$|
3. Macro Lens Reviews for Canon
Below are the full macro lens reviews for Canon, in no particular order.Best Canon Macro Lens
- Fantastic image quality and bokeh
- 1x magnification
- 2 stops image stabilization at macro level
- Internal focusing
- Relatively expensive
The Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM Macro Lens is by far Canon’s most popular macro photography lens, and the one most commonly used by true macro photography enthusiasts. It gives 1x magnification, which is life-size, and image stabilization, which combined with the maximum aperture of f/2.8 means that you will rarely get shots ruined by camera blur.
The 100mm focal length is what I have found to be ideal when taking macro photos, as you don’t have to get too close to a subject – which could potentially scare it in the case of insects – but it is not so long that it becomes difficult to hand hold.
The 2.8 aperture means that the background will always be pleasantly out of focus in macro photos, and the bokeh, or shapes of any out of focus objects, is very well handled, making this the best bokeh lens Canon.
The image stabilization aims to give you up to the equivalent of 2 stops slower shutter speed without introducing camera blur. This works very well, even at maximum magnification. If you were to use this as a longer lens, the image stabilization would be even more effective.
Color reproduction through this lens is of the high level you would expect from Canon, with the 15 internal glass elements arranged into 12 groups, including an ultra-low dispersion element to prevent unwanted reflections within the lens and chromatic aberrations.
A great advantage of the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM Macro Lens is that the barrel does not change length during focusing, as it does with cheaper lenses. The glass elements move internally as you focus, meaning that any objects – like insects – that you are photographing just in front of the lens will not be pushed, or scared, away.
The focusing switch even includes three options to limit the auto focus system to different ranges, so that if you are shooting at the macro range, you can set the auto focus to only search from 0.3m – 0.5m in front of the lens. This means that the auto focus will be even quicker, as it has a shorter range to search.
The image quality is fantastic, even with the aperture wide open at 2.8. As you close the aperture down, it becomes even sharper, and the bokeh o the lens is perfect, with the smooth backgrounds you see in magazine-quality macro pictures.
As with other Canon L lenses, this comes with a lens hood to help you eliminate lens flare.
This is the top choice of macro lens for professional photographers, and although it is reasonably expensive, remains excellent value for money.
Best Crop Sensor Macro Lens Canon
- 96mm equivalent focal length on crop sensor camera
- 1x magnification
- Small and light
- Cannot be used on a full frame camera
- Bokeh not as good as the Canon L lenses
The Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro USM Fixed Lens gives a 1x magnification for crop sensor cameras, but the working area of this level of magnification is very small. Because of the shorter focal length, you would have to get closer to a subject in order to photograph it at 1x magnification. For flowers this would not be a problem, but in the case of insects, this may cause more trouble.
Although the image quality is generally high, the bokeh is not as high quality as on a Canon L lens, due to the 7 blade aperture. The more blades a lens has, the better the bokeh will be, but as this creates a more complex lens to build, higher blade numbers are saved for more expensive lenses. Nonetheless, you will find that bokeh is more than good enough for home use.
This lens has internal focusing, so it does not get longer during focusing, and this focusing is generally quiet and fast.
If you have a APS-C, crop sensor, camera, the Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro USM makes a very good first macro lens, as its features out-perform its price. If, on the other hand, you expect to be taking macro photos as a regular part of your photography, you may wish to consider one of the higher quality lenses.
Best Budget 50mm Canon Macro Lens
- Large f 2.5 max aperture
- Strong performer when used on a crop sensor (APS-C) camera
- Very cheap to buy as a used lens
- Only 0.5x max magnification
- Lens changes length during focusing
The Canon EF 50mm f/2.5 Compact Macro Lens fits both full frame and crop sensor cameras, but is perhaps most suited to use on a crop sensor camera, where the effective focal length would be increased.
As it stands, the 50mm focal length is a little short for any kind of macro photography that involves living creatures, like insects, as you would have to get very close to the insect. For flowers, jewelry, or any other kind of inanimate object, this lens would be fine.
The max magnification is only 0.5x, which means this isn’t a true macro lens as it is only able to shoot subjects at half life-size. There is an optional Life Size Converter EF available from Canon that converts this lens to be able to shoot at 1x magnification.
The one real selling point of this lens is the aperture of f2.5, which is slightly wider than the max apertures of other lenses reviewed here. This means that you could shoot at an even shallower depth of field, and would be able to reduce ISO and noise thanks to the extra light reaching the sensor.
The short focal length also means that camera blur caused by shaking from your hands is less likely to be an issue, which is fortunate as this lens does not have image stabilization.
If you are on a strict budget, this is the cheapest macro lens for Canon you will be able to buy.
Crop Sensor Canon Macro Lens with Ring Light
The Canon EF-S 35mm f/2.8 Macro IS STM is an excellent value crop sensor Canon lens that is only let down by the relatively short focal length. At 35mm, you will have to get very close to objects in order to get the required magnification, meaning this lens is not suitable for insect photography. It is also not possible to use this with full frame cameras.
Where this lens shines is in the image quality and added extras. The lens contains an aspherical element as part of the 10 elements arranged into 6 groups, which helps the lens to deliver outstanding image quality across the frame.
Although the aperture only contains 7 blades, bokeh is still very good due to the element design within the lens, and this produces really tack sharp images.
For added extras, the lens has image stabilization, which combined with the 2.8 max aperture and short focal length, means that it is possible to hand hold the camera even at very long shutter speeds without imparting any camera blur.
The most unusual feature of this lens is the built-in Macro Lite, two lights arranged in a ring around the front element of the lens. A switch on the lens turns these on, either individually or together, so that they provide soft light on whatever you are photographing, enabling you to reduce ISO and to get a much better picture.
Thanks to the Macro Lite feature and the short focal length, the Canon EF-S 35mm f/2.8 Macro IS STM is ideal if you are shooting jewelry, flowers, or other inanimate objects, and are using a crop sensor camera. If you want to shoot objects that move, you are better off looking for a longer focal length.
Best Extreme Macro Lens Canon
- From 1x to 5x magnification
- Highest magnification you will find in a macro lens
- Excellent optics
- Manual focus only
The Canon MP-E 65mm f/2.8 1-5X Macro Lens is an older lens suitable for both crop sensors and full frame Canon cameras. It does not have an auto focusing system like almost all recent lenses, although manual focusing is generally preferred for macro photography, unless you are using a high end camera body.
The stellar magnification possible of 5x makes this the best extreme macro lens Canon that you can buy, and the image quality remains excellent throughout.
The lens does increase in length as it is focused, making it difficult to use for most kinds of insect photography, although at 5x magnification, this lens would be difficult to hand-hold and still get a picture free of blur caused by your hands.
The lens is more suited to be used in a studio environment, on a tripod, where you can carefully compose an image. At maximum magnification, a grain of rice would fill a full frame camera’s sensor. This means that unless you are scrupulously careful about cleaning the object you are photographing, you are likely to see small specks of dirt and dust not visible to the unaided eye.
Still, if you take the time and have the patience to use this lens properly, you will be able to get truly extraordinary macro pictures.
Best Telephoto Macro Lens Canon
- 150mm focal length and f2.8 aperture
- Fully weather sealed
- 11 aperture blades
- Internal focusing
- Not produced by a well-known brand – long-term durability not clear
The Irix 150mm f/2.8 Macro 1:1 Dragonfly Lens for Canon is able to reach 1x magnification at a focal length of 150mm. This means that you can be relatively far away from a subject, yet still fill the frame with it, making this one of the best lenses for insect photography.
The weather sealed housing and detachable tripod ring make this suitable for use outdoors for long periods of time, although as the brand Irix is not well known, its difficult to ascertain the real world durability of this model over extended time periods.
The internal focusing system means the lens does not change length as it focuses, and the 11 aperture blades give outstanding, smooth bokeh.
The optics are generally excellent, though maybe not on a par with the Canon L series lenses, but any macro pictures are nonetheless tack sharp despite the long focal length. The lack of image stabilization means that you would usually be using this with a tripod, as otherwise the weight and bulk of the lens would be difficult to hand-hold effectively when shooting at high magnifications.
Given the relatively low price for the focal length, this would be the ideal choice for anyone seriously interested in insect macro photography.
Sigma Macro Lens Canon
- Very sharp images
- 1x magnification
- Optical stabilization
- Relatively heavy
- Image quality slightly below Canon L series lenses
The Sigma 105mm F2.8 EX DG OS HSM Macro Lens is capable of 1x magnification, like most of the lenses reviewed here today, but also comes with Sigma’s own optical stabilization, the equivalent of Canon’s image stabilization. This makes it possible to use this lens hand-held, particularly when combined with the maximum aperture of f2.8.
Clearly this lens is a direct competitor to the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM Macro Lens, as it has many of the same features. The strength of this Sigma lens is in price, as it is approximately half the price of the equivalent Canon lens.
In all other features, there is remarkable similarity to the Canon 100mm L lens, including a focus range delimiter, auto focus, optical stabilization, and the focal length itself.
Generally, these features are slightly behind the Canon 100mm L lens in terms of quality, although they all work well enough when considered in isolation. Auto focus is quiet and accurate, though maybe not as fast as in competitor lenses, and manual focusing is smooth and easy to use. The optics are very sharp, though perhaps not in the same league as the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM Macro Lens, which is the general verdict on this lens.
Cheapest Macro Lens for Canon
- Excellent budget macro lens for beginners
- Very good optics
- 1x magnification
- Excellent bokeh
- No image stabilization
- A little heavy and bulky
- Older lens
The Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM Fixed Lens does not come with image stabilization, despite having a focal length of 100mm. It is an older lens, and a forerunner to the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM Macro Lens, although at a fraction of the price. It can be difficult to find this lens ‘as new’ now, although there are plenty of used lenses sold online that are still in great condition.
The optics of this lens come very close to matching that of the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM Macro Lens, with minimal chromatic aberration thanks to the ultra-low dispersion element and Super Spectra element coating.
Where this lens falls away from the L series equivalent is in a lack of image stabilization, paired with a lack of weather sealing and slower auto focus. Although the auto focus system uses an Ultra Sonic Motor (USM) like the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM Macro Lens, and has internal focusing, I still found the speed of this system slow.
Nonetheless, as you can now find this ‘used’ for a relatively low price, if you are intending to largely use this lens on a tripod with manual focusing, you will see very little difference over the more expensive Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM Macro Lens.
Tamron Super Performance Series Lens
- 1x magnification and good optics
- Auto focus switch mechanism
- 6 year warranty
- Build quality lower than Canon lenses
- Auto focus can be slow
The Tamron AF 90mm f/2.8 Di SP A/M 1:1 Macro Lens is good optically, and has an innovative switch mechanism to control the auto focus and focus delimiter, but is somewhat let done by the build quality and slowness of the auto focus system.
This is one of the lightest macro lenses you will find around this focal length, at only 0.89lbs, compared with the Canon 100mm L lens weight of 1.38lbs. Part of this weight difference can be explained by the fact that this does not have optical stabilization, meaning that it is more suited to use on a tripod than hand-held, except for in the brightest light when the wide f2.8 aperture will prevent camera blur.
The bokeh is very smooth, and similar to that you will see on a comparable Canon lens, and the optics are generally good, with sharp macro abilities.
The lens is let down by the slowness of the auto focus system, which can hunt around before finding focus, although this can easily be overridden by the innovative auto focus switch mechanism, which operates by way of a twisting motion, rather than the regular back-and-forward switch you see on most lenses.
The 6 year warranty included with new lenses (but not used lenses) goes some way to assuaging the my feelings about the overall lower build quality, although actually completing the required warranty information can be rather onerous.
Best Tile Shift Macro Lens
- Superb image quality
- Tilt-Shift gives ultimate depth-of-field precision
- The best choice for professional macro photography
- Manual focus only
- Very expensive
- Not suited to beginners
The Canon 50mm f/2.8L Macro – Tilt-Shift DSLR Lens is a very expensive lens that delivers some of the best quality images you could hope to get. Although it is only able to get a maximum magnification of 0.5x, the tilt-shift capabilities raise this above a number of the other macro lenses, in my opinion.
Tilt-shift means that the lens elements can be twisted or tilted along two separate axes within the lens, giving total control of depth of field, and meaning that the lens can be used for macro photography with the aperture at the maximum of f2.8. In most others lenses, you would want to stop down to at least f8 in order to get a decent depth-of-field. Tilt-shift negates this need.
Because of the tilt-shift mechanism, there is no auto-focus, and the lens does require technical knowledge to operate effectively, meaning that it is not suited to beginners.
The short focal length means that you would have to get close to any objects that you photograph, and the tilt-shift mechanism can only really be used on a tripod, making this only suitable for studio work.
Nonetheless, image quality is fantastic. This is the ultimate lens if this is what you care most about.
4. Macro Extension Tubes for Canon
If you don’t want a dedicated macro lens, it’s possible to get a macro lens coverter for Canon, macro extension tubes, or macro lens adapters that attach to your existing lenses and give macro capabilities.
Note that these Canon macro lens converters do not offer the same quality as using a dedicated lens, but are much cheaper, so offer a excellent entry point for macro photography for beginners.
Macro Lens Converter Canon
A good example of a macro lens converter than you can buy for Canon is the Neewer 58MM 0.43x Professional HD Wide Angle Lens (Macro Portion).
This lens converter screws onto the end of one of your existing lenses and converts it into either a macro lens, or wide angle lens, depending on the which of the included attachments you leave on.
Most models of Canon lens converter will only work with lenses where the front element is 58mm in diameter, as these converters must screw onto the front of your lens, in the same way you might attach a UV filter. Also bear in mind that they will be of much lower image quality than a dedicated macro lens, and will reduce light getting to the sensor, requiring you to up the ISO. Still, these are very cheap when compared to standalone lenses.
Macro Extension Tubes for Canon
You can also buy macro extension tubes that attach to the base of your lens rather than the front, sitting between the lens and camera body. This has the advantage of working with all of your Canon lenses, as you do not need to worry about thread size of the front of the lens. A good example is the Neewer Metal Auto Focus AF Macro Extension Tube Set 13mm,21mm,31mm for Canon EF EF-S Lens DSLR Camera.
By pushing the lens further away from the camera, you can increase the apparent magnification of any lens. The advantage of an extension tube over a lens adapter, is that they do not contain any glass – they are simply spacers – so you do not degrade image quality as much as with the lens adapter.
The macro extension tubes shown above contain contacts so that the camera body can still control the aperture of the lens, and theoretically the auto focus, although you will find in most cases that it is much quicker to manually focus when using an extension tube.
My preference would be to choose a macro extension tube over a macro lens adapter if I could not afford a dedicated macro lens, due to the better image quality. This should really only be considered though, if you are just getting into macro photography, and are on a very strict budget.
5. What is a Macro Lens?
Following a strict, technical definition, a macro photography lens is any lens that can magnify an object at or above life size (1x magnification), onto your camera’s sensor. That means if you were using a full frame camera, with a 35mm sensor, and you photographed an object that was 35mm across, it would totally fill your camera’s sensor, and thus your picture.
Canon macro photography lenses are therefore aimed at photographers who want to take extreme close ups of objects, including flowers, coins, jewelry, insects, and much more. In macro photography, you are able to see the detail of objects that is not available to the unaided eye.
Macro lenses can be of any focal length, from wide angle to telephoto, although most macro lenses are also telephoto lenses. Telephoto lenses are those lenses with longer focal lengths (eg. 100mm). The advantage of having a telephoto macro lens is that you can be further from the object you are photographing while still achieving the life size, 1x, magnification. This is very advantageous for insect photography, although without image stabilization, it can be difficult to hold the lens still enough to avoid camera shake.
Most Canon macro lenses are also prime lenses, meaning they are of a fixed focal length, and not zoom lenses. This is preferable for maximum image quality.
6. Common Questions About Macro Lenses
What is the Best Macro Lens for a Canon DSLR?
The best macro lens for Canon’s full frame cameras is the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM Macro Lens. This has fantastic image quality, image stabilization, and fast and accurate auto focus. This can also be used on Canon crop sensor (APS-C) cameras, although for crop sensor cameras, the specially designed Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro USM Fixed Lens might make a better choice.
What is the Best Aperture for Macro Photography?
For shallow depth of field and maximum shutter speed, a wide open aperture of f/2.8 is ideal, but you will likely have to take multiple pictures and focus stack them later in Photoshop. To capture a reasonable depth of field in one photo, and to maximize image quality, you will need to be shooting at between f/8 and f/11.
What is the Best Budget Macro Lens for Canon?
The best budget macro lens for Canon is the Canon EF 50mm f/2.5 Compact Macro Lens, which can be found at a very low price as a used lens, but does not have full life size magnification. If you want the best budget true macro Canon lens, you should look to the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM Fixed Lens, which has 1x magnification and excellent image quality, although no image stabilization.
What is Better: Using Extension Tubes or a Dedicated Macro Lens?
Using a dedicated macro lens is always better than using extension tubes, although the cost is an order of magnitude higher. If you are just starting out in macro photography, or have a very strict budget, then extension tubes for macro, like the Neewer Metal Auto Focus AF Macro Extension Tube Set 13mm,21mm,31mm for Canon EF EF-S Lens DSLR Camera, make an excellent first purchase.