Week 2 - 100mm 2.8 Macro - Lens Challenge with Madeline Mulqueen

by Pearse Walshe
Week 2 - 100mm 2.8 Macro - Lens Challenge with Madeline Mulqueen

Next up for the Lens Challenge with Bermingham Cameras I’m shooting with a 100mm Macro. This lens a nice contrast to last week’s 50mm. I’ve been excited to test this lens out as it is a favourite for nature photographers the world over.

A macro lens allows you to take detailed close-up photos of smaller subjects such as flowers, insects and food etc. But they are also versatile lenses which give you the opportunity to highlight interesting details and textures of a subject that you wouldn’t normally get so close to.

I find while using the 100mm Macro lens, my eye is drawn to interesting patterns and shapes as opposed to the entire subject or landscape. I notice myself taking more time and becoming more observant of the details in my surroundings to find shots. Things I would normally have overlooked on a nature walk suddenly become objects of interest and curiosity. Be prepared to find yourself buried half way inside a ditch or a bush to examine the finer details of the natural environment!

Even though macro lenses are primarily used for close-up photography, they also make fantastic portrait lenses due to their ability to capture lots of detail in ultra sharp focus. Compared with the 50mm lens from last week’s entry, I notice the look of my portraits differs when it comes to finer details. The 100mm Macro shows me the finer details which the 50mm typically blends into the image, making it appear smoother. The texture of the subjects skin becomes a feature with the 100mm macro and draws your eye into a closer examination of the subject, rather than the 50mm which is perfect for capturing the subjects personality or emotion. This means the 100mm Macro and the 50mm lens are clearly two different tools for two different jobs. Not to mention the 50mm is generally a fraction of the price and a third the size! So for those looking to start snapping their first ever shots I would recommend starting with the 50mm.

Another feature of macro lenses are their fixed focal length. As readers of the previous entry will know, a fixed or ‘prime' lens gives you a wider aperture than a variable lens. The 100mm Macro reaches f2.8 at it’s widest which provides a beautiful shallow depth of field and allows for shooting in very low light. At minimum aperture the lens shoots at f32, which allows you to keep essentially everything in the frame in focus provided there are appropriate light conditions.

Many of the Canon EF 100mm Macro lenses have an image stabilisation or ‘IS’ feature to reduce camera shake and blurring when shooting objects with the lens handheld. However, as a general rule of thumb, I would recommend using a tripod or monopod to give you a better chance at capturing sharp images.

So to summarise the 100mm Macro Lens:

The Pros:

  • Ultra sharp detailed shots
  • Wide aperture for shallow depth of field and bokeh effects
  • Strong low light performance
  • Excellent for shooting close up photography AND portraits
The Cons
  • Heavy and bulky lens
  • Without the ‘IS’ feature sharp handheld photography takes practice
  • An expensive lens for beginners! So get saving!