Should I use a 100mm Macro lens as a portrait lens?

  • I am specifically considering using the Canon 100mm Macro as a portrait lens. If I want to have a macro in my bag, but not carry around a 70-200 2.8 due to weight, size, white color, or price if it is not purchased - is this a valid alternative?

    Is this lens a great macro lens, but an "OK" portrait lens? Or is the performance near or on par with the typical zoom lens offerings in this range(70-200).

    I understand that the 100mm Macro also has a newer more expensive L version offered. If that is much better suited to portrait work please include that in any responses.

    @mattdm - I agree it is similar, but the only answer given addressed the shortcomings of that particular Nikon lens and didn't really get into the detail on why or why not to use a Macro for portraits.

    I know — I'm not complaining, just adding the link for reference.

    You should really specify what sort of camera you have, the size of the sensor will affect responses. I have the 100mm L version (with IS) and I can recommend it in general, it's an amazing lens.

  • Matt Grum

    Matt Grum Correct answer

    10 years ago

    I've used the EF 100 f/2.8 and the EF 100 f/2.8L for portraits. I find the focal length ideal for full frame and APS-H (might be a bit long for APS-C unless you're doing tight headshots). I find I need to have a macro in my arsenal and working double duty as a short tele makes either 100 particularly useful.

    Stopped down in a studio setting both lenses are razor sharp and free from distortion. Here's the non L:

    actual pixels, Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro on 5D

    On FF you get images so sharp you could cut yourself on. I bought the L version to use as a long(ish) lens for events as IS enables me to get more ambient light into the shot, but it still excels in the studio:

    actual pixels, Canon 100mm f/2.8L IS Macro on 1D mkIV

    Bokeh on either lens is good in my opinion (I'll dig out a sample when I get the chance), though if you want to shoot portraits with great bokeh there are better lenses (85mm f/1.2L, 135 f/2.0L).

    Great examples Matt, thanks! The 85 f/1.2 is absolutely the bokeh standard, makes my eyes water every time I use it. This was exactly the answer I was looking for. If I need to have a macro with me, can it do double duty: YES.

    The 85 f/1.2 is definitely the low light king, however I think the 135 f/2.0 does as good bokeh, it in fact has almost the same maximum [apparent] physical aperture size 132/2 = 67.5mm as the 85, 85/1.2 = 71mm. On full frame it's great, and co-incidentally almost exactly the same field of view as the 85mm on APS-C (85 x 1.6 = 136)

License under CC-BY-SA with attribution

Content dated before 7/24/2021 11:53 AM