This is not intended to be an in depth review but the views of a working photographer on whether or not this lens delivers all it promises. If you would like to read a more detailed review go to www.dpreview.com Canon claim the new Hybrid Image Stabilizer provides 4 stops of correction during normal shooting distances reducing to 2 stops at lifesize (1/1) with the ability to correct for lens shift movement as well as angular movement.
I purchased the lens primarily for photographing butterfies and other small insects without the use of a tripod. My main macro lens is the Canon EF180mm f3.5L macro USM which I always use on Gitzo 2 series carbon fibre tripod and ball head. However on occassions you find your subject is in such an awkward location that shooting with the aid of a tripod is not possible. It was for situations like this and when I wanted to carry very little gear that I wanted the lens.
My first real test for my lens was not shooting small insects at the macro end but with a large woodland grouse called a Capercaillie in a pine forest in Scotland. These birds are normally quite wary of man but this was a rogue with no fear of man and quite prepared to attack you if you ventured too close, so I needed to be very mobile. With this in mind and the poor late afternoon light I decided to try out my new macro lens. During the short time I was with the bird I was able to take far more varied images (over 100) than would have been possible with a tripod. Shooting at iso 0800 to 1600 and shutter speeds of between 1/60 & 1/125 I was amazed to find that over 75% of my images were critically sharp. Of the remaining 25% many of these were clearly due to the birds movement. I feel my success rate was probably close to or on a par with what I would have achieved using a tripod but with far greater flexibility.
Capercaillie male displaying – Canon 5D MkII + 100mm f2.8L macro IS USM iso 800 1/60 @ f5.0
100% crop of above image
My next test was shooting at the macro end on a small butterfly (Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary) in poor light along a woodland ride. Using the 5D MkII I was shooting at iso 0800 to 1600 with shutter speeds of between 1/80 & 1/160. I know that some will be thinking that providing you have a shutter speed of 1/100 with a 100mm lens you should get sharp images. This rule does not apply when working with macro when you will need shutter speeds of 1/250 and above for consistant results especially at 1/1. Again I found that my success rate was close to what I would have expected had I been using a tripod and a remote shutter release but the added freedom of movement allowed me to capture images that would not have been possible when using a tripod.
Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary – Canon 5D MkII + EF100mm f2.8L macro IS USM iso 1600 1/125 @ f8
Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary – Canon 5D MkII + EF100mm f2.8L macro IS USM iso 1250 1/160 @ f9
100% crop of above
The above images were taken in less than ideal light to demonstrate just how effective the image stabalizer in this lens is and when used in good light images like the one below are very easy to achieve without the aid of a tripod.
In conclusion I would say the image stabalizer on this lens pretty much lives up to Canons claims and when you combine this with fast, quiet, accurate autofocus and super sharp optics you have a very impressive and versatile 100mm macro lens.
For some less approachable subjects the Canon 180mm f3.5L macro USM which takes extenders, you might consider to be a better option, but remember this combination in my opinion requires a tripod. However the 100mm macro when used with cameras with a crop sensor like the 1D Mk1V x1.3 or the 7D x1.6 both of which offer enough pixels, 16 & 18 million respectively, to allow you to crop heavily and still have a very usable file makes the 100mm macro a very lightweight and flexible option.
I am now quite happy to leave home with just my new 100mm macro and no tripod especially when I know that extra weight and limited manoeuvrability might cause me a problem.
If you are interested in purchasing the Canon EF100mm f2.8L macro IS USM lens take a look HERE at my Canon dealer of choice Park Cameras who have been my main suppliers of camera equipment for over 25 years.