Possibly one of the most interesting subcategories in photography is macro photography. Focusing on capturing extreme close-up images of tiny subjects, macro photography opens our eyes to the many wonders that often pass us by without notice. These small things can look immensely more interesting through a macro lens, which makes it a truly captivating practice that many photographers enjoy exploring.
To be able to capture detailed macro images, it’s important to have the right equipment. Macro lenses are what some call a cross between a camera lens and a microscope, defining the fine line between art and science. Want to dive into the whimsical world of macro photography? Find the best macro lens for Canon cameras with our easy guide.
Finding the Right Macro Lens for Your Canon Camera
Macro lenses come in a variety of models and brands, and some might satisfy your preferences better than others. That said, it’s ideal that you take a look into the different factors that could have an effect on your user experience to help you get the best macro lens for Canon brand cameras.
- Aperture Size. The aperture of your lens can be best described as a hole at the center of the lens mechanism. This hole can be adjusted to be larger or smaller so that either more or less light enters the mechanism to reach the sensor of the lens.
To find out the aperture of your lens, check the f-number that’s usually indicated in the lens’s name. The larger the number, the smaller the size of the aperture, and ultimately, the less light it lets in.
- Aperture Shape. Aperture is important when buying macro lenses – or any lens for that matter – because it helps guarantee the quality of bokeh. The out of focus areas of your image is where bokeh occurs – defined as blurred out points of light in the background that add depth to an image. This helps better define the subject, drawing in more attention and highlighting greater detail.
Some lenses are fitted with aperture blades that feature a straight edge. These straight edges come together to form a pentagonal aperture shape which can produce very sharp images.
The problem with these however is that they can also sacrifice the quality of the out of focus areas. Round apertures are much better at producing high quality images with softly blurred out backgrounds which is much preferred for macro photography purposes.
- Focal Length. The last thing you should think of before buying a macro lens is the focal length. This tells you how “zoomed in” a picture will seem, giving a shallow depth of field which is particularly important in macro photography.
Macro lenses can have focal lengths as little as 50mm, or as much as 300mm. So there’s quite a wide range to consider. The main advantage of choosing lenses that have a larger focal length measurement is that they can produce more detailed subjects against an out of focus background.
While a 50mm macro lens can produce some good macro outcomes, it may not create the same shallow depth of field which higher focal length measurements can easily achieve. Nonetheless, tweaking a 50mm to meet these standards is very possible with the right experience and precision.
Read also: Best Canon Lenses
Top 5 Macro Lens for Canon
1. Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM Macro Lens
This lightweight, durable, and versatile macro lens by Canon that promises to help you produce detailed photos. With a focal length of 100mm, the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM Macro Lens creates beautiful depth and drama, producing clear cut contrast between focal points and your background. It’s also designed with Canon’s USM inner focusing system which promises quiet operation. This makes it easy to take pictures of small insects and critters without scaring them off with whirring aperture noises.
Powerful and efficient, the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM Macro Lens does come at a pretty steep price. But with the quality of images and superior detail it produces, it definitely is the best macro lens for Canon cameras if budget isn’t an issue.
- For multi-purpose use
- Produces very sharp images
- Very short minimum focus distance for 100mm
- 1:1 life size macro magnification
- A little heavier
- Slower to focus
2. Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM Lens
While some contest that 50mm isn’t enough to be considered macro, the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM Lens is a tough contender on the list that proves small doesn’t always mean weak. The lens can blow up images twice its actual size, providing some dramatic depth and detail that help it work as a worthy macro lens.
The EF 50mm f/1.8 STM prime lens also comes with an STM motor that promises almost silent operation, ideal for taking pictures of small creatures at close range. Finally, at just a fraction of the cost of other high end lenses, the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM Lens delivers great results that closely compete with other, more expensive options.
- Sharp with wide shots
- Silent focusing system
- Impressive focal length
- Fast aperture
- Some soft corners
- No image stabilization
3. Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro USM Fixed Lens
Our next pick, again, comes from the same brand. The EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro USM Fixed Lens is a top rated prime lens with a 60mm focal length – falling right at the foot of the macro lens spectrum. Much like the first lens discussed above, the EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro USM Fixed Lens features a USM inner focusing system that ensures silent operation to avoid disrupting small subjects like insects.
The only real letdown is the lens’s price. Despite being a great choice, it does cost a little more than other options that could offer the same or better results at a smaller price.
- Improved focus window
- Quiet and quick focusing
- Wide aperture
- 1:1 magnification ratio
- Minimum focus options
- Slight “focus hunting”
4. Sigma 105mm F2.8 EX DG OS HSM Macro Lens
Photographers searching for a lens with built-in stabilization will love the Sigma 105mm F2.8 EX DG OS HSM Macro Lens. It’s designed for a variety of formats and can easily be connected to your standard DSLR. There are a variety of conveniences this lens brings to the table for professionals and amateurs.
Taking sharper photos has never been simpler than with the help of this lens. It boasts a 1:1 reproduction ratio, allowing you to capture images closer to what they look like in real life. You’ll also find that the sharpness of the photos is remarkably impressive for freehand photography.
Another significant advantage of this device is that it features optical stabilization. The unique SIGMA OS optical stabilization is essential for reducing blurriness and movement, even with action shots. This lens is one of the best options for wildlife photography simply because of its stability.
With the help of low dispersion glass, the lens allows you to focus on correct chromatic aberrations with each shot. You’ll also find it offers impeccable macro shots, making it ideal for small, up-close objects.
By reducing the amount of scattered light, you’ll experience a vividity with your shots that you’ve never seen before. Softness is another crucial feature to consider when choosing high-quality lenses.
The Sigma 105mm F2.8 EX DG OS HSM Macro Lens features beautiful softness with the nine-blade circular diaphragm. You’ll also find improved optical quality compared to other models with the full aperture.
- Creates impossible vibrancy
- Impressive edge-to-edge sharpness
- 1:1 magnification
- Plenty of framing space
- Loud autofocus motor
- Incompatible with USB docks
5. Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6 DG Macro Telephoto Zoom Lens
Telephoto zoom lenses can completely transform the detail captures in your photos. The Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6 DG Macro Telephoto Zoom Lens is equipped with many specs to take your pictures to the next level. Its unique optimization makes it one of the best options for all DSLR cameras, most notably Canons.
One of the most significant advantages of this lens is its compactness, making it perfect for travel. You’ll be able to achieve macro images with ratios up to 1:2, which is ideal for food photography and other occasions.
Photographers will also have access to a 4:1 zoom ratio, making it ideal for portraits, zoo trips, and other family events. Ten total groups are built into the lens that features 14 separate elements that shine through in your photos.
One of the most impressive upgrades is the multi-lens coating, helping to reduce ghosting and glare with any lighting. You’ll also find that it performs impossibly well in low-light while at a distance and up close.
To ensure your camera is adequately protected, the manufacturer provides two separate lens caps. You’ll be able to affix a cap to the front of the lens as well as the rear when it’s in your camera bag. There’s also an integrated lens hood to help reduce flares and dust exposure as an added benefit.
With a minimum focus of 59” at all zoom settings, you’ll have plenty to take advantage of. You can quickly switch between traditional and macro photography, allowing 200 to 300mm focal lengths for up-close magnification. You’ll also find the focusing is seamless to use to your advantage, allowing you to switch from one subject to another seamlessly.
- Very sharp images
- Impressive macro feature
- Captures fine details
- Convenient zoom function
- Loud autofocus
- Heavier than expected
1. Are Macro Lenses Good for Portraits?
One of the best uses for macro lenses is portraits, as they capture fine details. You’ll find the incredible sharpness they offer is unlike any other type of lens, ensuring you showcase the genuine emotion of subjects. However, if you’re working with full-body portraits, a 50mm lens is a better alternative.
2. Are Macro Lenses Good for Video?
Macro lenses aren’t always recommended for video, depending on what you’re filming. It’s important to remember these lenses are designed for up-close shots rather than ones at a distance. With that said, if you’re filming close to the subject, it can offer incredible visuals but won’t be as beneficial for distance shots.