What is the best macro lens for Canon? And how do you choose the perfect macro photography lens for your needs?
Picking the best Canon macro lens can be a struggle. But don’t worry.
In this article, I’ll share with you the 7 best macro lenses for Canon.
And you’ll come away knowing exactly which macro lens to purchase.
Let’s dive right in!
The Best Macro Lenses for Canon, Ranked
Here are the top Canon macro lenses available in 2020:
Now let’s take a closer look, starting with the best Canon macro lens:
These days, the Sigma 105mm f/2.8 OS Macro is my absolute favorite macro lens on the market, for a whole host of reasons.
For one, it’s extremely sharp, both wide-open and when stopped down. You’re also not going to have to worry much about chromatic aberration (which is a pet peeve of mine), and what little CA you do see can be easily corrected in Lightroom or Luminar.
I also consider the Sigma 105mm to be a great value lens, because it manages to offer up professional quality without really going over $500.
You get true 1:1 magnification, which is pretty much a requirement for serious macro photographers, and ensures you can get those stunning close-up shots you’ve always wanted.
And you get good build quality, combined with a nice manual focus ring for easy, precise manual focus (which is always important for macro photography!).
The Sigma 105mm does offer image stabilization, which is a big bonus in macro photography.
You’re often shooting at high magnifications, where camera shake is magnified and light is limited. Optical stabilization helps ensure you get sharp shots even at slower shutter speeds, plus it just provides peace of mind when the light gets low.
As far as the focal length goes, 105mm is in the sweet spot for flowers and macro details (leaves, stones, snow, and such). It’s a bit short for insects, so if that’s your primary goal then I’d recommend either the Canon 180mm or the Sigma 180mm, also on this list.
But if you’re looking for a lens that’s ultra-sharp, offers good ergonomics, and comes in at a bargain price, then the Sigma 105mm f/2.8 is the way to go.
Best For: High-quality macro photography at a great price
The Canon 60mm f/2.8 Macro is a shorter focal length macro lens–and with that comes a few problems (plus a few major benefits).
- 60mm is not nearly enough for insect photography. You’ll struggle to capture bug photos without scaring off your subject.
- The working distance at 1x is very small.
On the other hand, 60mm lenses like this one are short and light–perfect for traveling. Plus, 60mm is a useful focal length, period. You can easily use it for portraits or street photography.
(When you’re not using it to shoot macro, that is!)
Image quality is, like all other Canon macro lenses, stellar. While the bokeh quality isn’t what you’d get from a longer lens, you can still get some smooth backgrounds–especially at high magnifications.
Unfortunately, this lens doesn’t come with image stabilization. But at only 60mm, it’s still easy to handhold in low light.
Get this lens if you’re not sure about macro photography, but want to do a bit of experimenting in the genre. You can always convert it into a walkaround street or portrait lens!
Best For: Starting out in macro photography on a budget
The Canon 100mm f/2.8L IS Macro is an absolute powerhouse. There’s no other way to put it.
It’s incredible in every way–from its sharpness to its bokeh to its superb handling.
Let’s start with the image quality:
Incredible. This lens is tack sharp, even at f/2.8. Things only get better from there, becoming incredibly sharp at f/3.2 and beyond.
The bokeh is phenomenal. This lens produces my favorite bokeh of all time, no doubt about it. Backgrounds are smooth, creamy, and have that oh-so-chocolatey look that professional macro photographers love.
Handling is impressive. The lens feels solid, but it’s not heavy enough to become noticeable. Manual focusing is easy via the large focus ring. And build quality is very good.
One more great thing about this lens?
The image stabilization.
With IS switched on, you’ll feel confident handholding this lens at shutter speeds that you would never have considered previously. If you’re a macro photographer that likes to shoot without a tripod, this is invaluable.
The focal length is great for flowers and other still subjects. For insects, I’d go with something a little longer if you can afford it (like the Canon 180mm). You want all the reach (and working distance) you can get. But this lens could do some insect work in a pinch.
Best For: Gorgeous macro photography of still subjects
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Here’s the thing about a lens like the Canon 180mm f/3.5L Macro:
It’s a specialist’s lens. You don’t want to grab a piece of glass like this unless you really, really love shooting insects.
But if you are crazy about insect photography?
Then this is going to be the lens of your dreams.
At 180mm, this lens will get you all the reach you need for insect photography. You shouldn’t have any issues with, say, butterflies flying away or grasshoppers leaping into the brush.
The Canon 180mm macro is also very nicely built, and comes with a tripod mount attached. The manual focus ring is accurate and smooth.
And did I mention the superb image quality?
The colors and contrast this lens provides are stunning. The bokeh is like chocolate. And the Canon 180mm macro is sharp throughout all apertures.
There are two downsides to this lens:
First, autofocus speed is very slow. This isn’t a problem if you like to focus manually (as most macro photographers do). But for those of you who use autofocus now and again, you’re going to have to do a fair bit of waiting.
Second, this lens is both very long and very heavy. And it doesn’t come with image stabilization.
That means that handholding a setup with the Canon 180mm attached will be very, very difficult. Especially if you’re in the field for long periods of time.
And if you’re working in low light, handholding this lens will be next to impossible.
However, for photographers who love to photograph insects, this lens is definitely worth it.
Best For: Insect photographers seeking the absolute best image quality
If you’re looking to get started in macro photography but you don’t want to spend on a $400+ lens, then the Canon EF-S 35mm f/2.8 is a fantastic option.
The optics are stellar; you’ll be able to capture tack-sharp images of macro subjects, all the way up to 1:1 magnification. And this lens does offer image stabilization, so you won’t have to worry as much about camera shake at high magnifications (though you’ll still want to be careful about dropping the shutter speed down past 1/60s or so).
Personally, I’d like to see a slightly larger focus ring, but it should be fine for anyone not too picky. You’ll still be able to manual focus without much trouble, allowing you to get that precise point of focus that macro photography requires.
Plus, the small focus ring is somewhat expected on a lens this small; honestly, the 35mm f/2.8 is almost worth the price for the size alone. You could leave this little lens on your camera for casual shooting, or take it when traveling, and you’d hardly even know it was there.
Now, this is an EF-S lens, which means you won’t be able to use it on full-frame Canon cameras. But if you’re an APS-C shooter, it’ll work just fine, and you’ll be able to capture some truly stunning close-up images with ease.
The main drawback with the 35mm f/2.8 macro is the focal length. On an APS-C camera, it offers an equivalent of around 50mm, which is pretty short for macro photography, and isn’t going to offer you much distance between the lens and your subject at true macro magnifications–which can result in you casting shadows on your subject, or your lens hitting the subject in front of it.
In anticipation of the former problem, Canon added two lights to the front of the lens, which can be used to light your subject once light starts to become limited. But artificial light just doesn’t look the same as natural light, which is why that solution doesn’t totally satisfy me.
That said, this really is a nice piece of glass–small, sharp, and at a bargain price, so that if you’re looking to get started in macro photography, it’s a great buy.
Best For: Getting started in macro photography
The Lensbaby Velvet 85 is fast becoming a favorite lens of soft-focus macro photographers.
It’s not exactly a conventional lens, offering a retro, all-metal build, plus a dedicated aperture ring and zero manual focus capabilities.
But what it lacks in terms of technology it makes up for in terms of optics.
You see, Lensbaby Velvet lenses are known for creating a deliberate “glow” at wide apertures, which makes your subjects look like they’re lit by some sort of ghostly light. For photographers that are purists, this makes the lens completely unusable. But for photographers that aim to make their images as artistic as possible, having a Lensbaby Velvet on hand is a huge help.
Personally, I love the look a Lensbaby Velvet brings to the table, and I think the 85mm f/1.8 is the best of a very good bunch. The focal length is right where you want it for flower photography and other natural details–not so long that the lens becomes cumbersome, but not so short you struggle to get the necessary working distance.
One thing to bear in mind is that the Lensbaby Velvet lenses don’t offer true 1:1 macro magnification. Instead, you can push the Velvet 85 to 1:2, which is close, but not that close.
I’ll be up front about it: I wish the lens would reach 1:1 magnification. It’s not that I often shoot exactly at 1:1, but the difference between 1:1 and 1:2 is surprisingly big, and I’ll often do my macro photography somewhere between those magnifications.
That said, even 1:2 allows for close focusing, and I’ve been very happy with this lens when capturing abstract-type images of flowers and leaves.
What’s great about the Lensbaby Velvet 85 is that it offers an artistic glow at f/1.8 to around f/2.8, at which point it becomes very, very sharp (sharp enough to rival standard macro lenses). So if you’re the type of photographer who isn’t entirely committed to the Velvet look, don’t worry; you still have the option of shooting more conventional images!
Honestly, for under $500, I consider this lens to be a steal, especially given its potential for gorgeous artistic images. And you don’t have to use it solely for macro photography–you can capture all sorts of experimental shots of landscapes, portraits, and much more.
So if you’re willing to be a bit more unorthodox with your lens choice, the Lensbaby Velvet 85 is an excellent buy.
Best For: Artistic macro photography
If you’re looking to photograph insects, then the Sigma 180mm Macro is quite possibly the best lens for the job–assuming that you don’t mind the weight, and assuming that you can afford the nearly $2000 cost.
In many ways, the Sigma 180mm better than the Canon 180mm, except that it costs several hundred dollars more, and it’s hard to justify extra expenses when you get up into the price range.
Optically, the Sigma 180mm is excellent; it’s sharp at f/2.8, and it’s even sharper when stopped down to f/4, f/5.6, and beyond. You also have the addition of image stabilization, which the Canon 180mm lacks, and will make it far easier to handhold in the field without worrying about blur due to camera shake.
You also get the f/2.8 maximum aperture over the Canon 180mm (which tops out at f/3.5). This may not seem like much, but if you don’t mind the soft-focus effect, then every bit of extra light you can gather will count.
As for everything else, the Sigma 180mm is basically flawless:
It’s well-built, has a carefully-designed focus ring for working manually, and offers fast autofocus for tracking insects.
Of course, a lens this big is going to be heavy, and the Sigma 180mm macro is–but if you’re set on capturing spectacular photos of insects, and you’re willing to pay a premium, then the Sigma 180mm is the perfect choice.
Best For: Top-quality insect photography (especially fast-moving insects)
How to Pick the Best Canon Macro Lens?
If you want to capture stunning macro photos, then there are four basic qualities that you should look for in a macro lens.
- True macro magnification
- The perfect focal length
- Incredible image quality
- Good build quality and handling
First of all, the best macro lenses all have true macro magnification.
That is, you can magnify your subject–until it is life size on the camera sensor.
Second, you want to carefully consider the focal length of your macro lens.
Now, macro lenses come in three broad focal length ranges:
- Short: 40mm to 60mm
- Standard: 90mm to 105mm
- Long: 150mm to 200mm
If you’re looking to do more casual, walkaround macro photography, go with a short macro lens. These options are all light and easy to handhold. Unfortunately, the working distance is minimal at high magnifications. This makes shorter lenses unsuitable for insect photography.
(The working distance refers to the distance between the subject and the front of the lens. The longer the focal length, the greater the working distance.)
If you’re looking to do flower macro photography, go with a standard focal length macro. This will give you a bit of working distance, and you’ll be able to do some handholding.
If you’re looking to do insect macro photography, choose a long macro. You’ll need the increased working distance. After all, you don’t want to scare off the bugs!
Third, you should pay attention to the image quality.
For macro photography, this includes both sharpness and bokeh (the quality of the background blur). The best macro lenses for Canon are extremely sharp and have gorgeous bokeh.
Fourth, you should consider the build quality and the handling of the lens.
If you’re prone to dropping your equipment, or if you often shoot in extreme weather, you’re going to need a more rugged macro lens.
And, because macro photographers use manual focus so often, you want a lens that handles well.
Best Macro Lens for Canon: Next Steps
Hopefully, you now have a sense of the best Canon macro lens for your needs.
Each of these lenses offers amazing optics. And each of these lenses will get you incredible, professional-quality photos.
So choose based on which lens best suits your needs.
Do you want to shoot flowers? Go with a medium length lens.
Do you want to shoot insects? You need a longer macro.
And are you looking for a more flexible, travel-ready lens? Then a 60mm macro is perfect for you.
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