What is the best macro lens for Canon? And how do you choose the best macro photography lens for your needs?
Picking the perfect Canon macro lens can be a struggle. But don’t worry.
In this article, I’ll share with you the 5 best macro lenses for Canon.
You’ll come away knowing exactly which macro lens to purchase.
Let’s dive right in.
(For those of you who shoot Nikon, check out my guide: The Best Macro Lens for Nikon in 2019.)
How to Pick the Best Canon Macro Lens?
(For those of you who want to skip ahead to see the best macro lens you can buy, click here.)
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.
Which brings me to the number one pick for best Canon macro lens:
1. Canon 100mm f/2.8L IS Macro
The Canon 100mm f/2.8L IS Macro is a powerhouse. There’s no other way to say it.
It’s incredible in every way–from its image quality 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, I feel confident handholding this lens at shutter speeds that I would never have considered previously. And because I’m a macro photographer who loves to handhold, that makes this lens perfect for my needs.
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.
2. Tamron 90mm f/2.8 Macro
The Tamron 90mm f/2.8 Macro lens goes down in my book as the biggest ‘bang-for-your-buck’ that Tamron has to offer.
Yes, it’s a budget lens. Yes, the lens is a bit plasticky. And yes, it doesn’t come with image stabilization.
But the image quality?
This lens is ridiculously, amazingly sharp. Even at f/2.8, it produces professional quality photos. Stop down to f/4, and you’re going to be even more impressed. Yes, it is that good.
Now, budget lenses don’t often do well in the bokeh department. But I love the bokeh this lens produces.
It’s not as good as the Canon 100mm f/2.8L. But let’s face it: nothing is.
And the Tamron 90mm macro still produces creamy bokeh that would make any macro photographer drool.
This is a 90mm lens, which makes for a decent working distance. So this lens is perfect for shooting still subjects. Like the Canon 100mm, I’d say it’s a bit short for insects. And the lens doesn’t focus internally–which means that it extends as you move toward higher magnifications.
One last thing to note:
This lens is wonderfully light. Which means that it works great as a more casual option (and could potentially double as a crazy sharp portrait lens).
The bottom line?
If you’re on a budget, then get this lens. It’ll get you images that any professional would be proud of.
3. Canon 180mm f/3.5L Macro
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.
4. Sigma 150mm f/2.8 OS Macro
The Sigma 150mm f/2.8 OS Macro isn’t in the same league as the Canon 180mm f/3.5. But it’ll still get you beautiful macro photos–without breaking the bank.
The 150mm focal length puts this lens in the ‘specialty’ type of macro lens. You’re going to want to use this lens for insect photography, and probably nothing else.
(Though the flower photographers out there might appreciate the longer focal length when trying to create a more ‘compressed’ look.)
The Sigma is a bit of a compromise when it comes to size and weight. It’s neither light nor heavy. Fortunately, it does offer good build quality. And unlike its Canon competitor, the Sigma includes an optical stabilizer (Sigma’s term for built-in image stabilization).
Of course, the real question is whether the Sigma 150mm can capture beautiful photos. And in that department, the lens doesn’t disappoint.
Photos are crisp and clear, especially from f/4 on. At f/2.8, images are usable. And colors, contrast, and bokeh are good across the board. Though there is some vignetting, especially at f/2.8.
Autofocus is good. And the optical stabilizer does a good job, making this lens handholdable even in low light conditions.
If you’re looking for a longer macro lens but don’t want to spend on the Canon 180mm, then the Sigma 150mm OS is an excellent choice.
5. Canon 60mm f/2.8 Macro
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 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.
Now that you’ve finished this article…
…you should have a clear sense of the best Canon macro lens–and the best Canon macro lens for your needs.
The next step is to start taking stunning macro photos!
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