Gear: Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro Lens

The whole concept behind a documentary film is bringing the viewer as close as ever to any given subject. To be honest, I don’t know if you can get much closer than Canon’s EF 100mm f/2.8 macro lens… I don’t know if you can get a name much longer, either.

Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L MacroI close my eyes and see a tight shot of glaring eyes looking out over a a congested ice surface. I imagine sweat dripping off the end of the nose. I envision each individual stitch around the crest on a jersey. After all, each of these things are larger than life. The knuckle of a fighter, the boot of a footballer, the tape on a stick.

The biggest thing I fought with while shooting both All for One and Unfinished Business was the minimum focal distance of the lenses. I knew I wanted to go macro.

While shooting a recent project (more deets coming soon) I was probed and questioned about my rig by an inquiring mind. Although happy to answer, I’ll be honest it was getting a little weird. That all quickly changed when when he offered a pair of lenses to try out, one of them being Canon’s 100mm macro. He was so trusting that he actually walked away while I still had one on my camera, telling me just to throw it in his bag when I was done. Rad dude.

This is the first footage I shot. It’s short, but it was enough.

That’s all it took. I put it on order the following week.

Not a whole lot has been written on Canon’s short telephoto macro lens, and when people have tried they tell you little more than the spec sheet. It’s innards include 15 elements in 12 groupings. It has a minimum focal distance of just under a foot and offers Canon’s hybrid image stabilization technology, which has been a subject of debate since its release.

Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro - BeeSome tripod toting photographers scoff at the lens’ IS stating that for most ‘serious’ macro shooters the stabilization is irrelevant as little would dare shoot handheld. I can’t say that I completely disagree, but at the same time I can’t say they’ve ever taken advantage of the ESO 5D Mark II’s video capability. The image stabilization is a game changer as it compensates for any shake – whether handheld or tripod based. After all we’re not looking for a single frame here, but continuous motion. I have yet to operate the lens without the stabilization on, whether tilts, pans, dolly shots or handheld.

Now the element groupings give you a funky flare when operating uncovered. I can’t say I hate it, but it is a little different so keep an eye out for it. With the hood on, the lens’ minimum focal distance is about six inches off the end of the hood creating obvious difficulties when trying to get light between that and your subject. To combat this I picked up Lumahawk’s ring light. I tried a handful before deciding on Lumahawk’s – it wasn’t to hot, it wasn’t too cold.. it was just right.

I’m not an autofocus kinda guy. Never used it and don’t really plan to. From what I’ve discerned, the Mark II’s autofocus intelligence leaves much to be desired (something they worked heavily on ahead of the Mark III release). With that said, this particular macro lens offers Canon’s USM (ultrasonic motor) technology. Its incredibly quiet to the point where you could operate a camera mounted microphone without any of the whirring noises older lenses were known for.

Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro - ChainFor video work, the focus ring is a little touchy. It’s understandable given the fact that we’re trying to adjust for millimetres of difference. Slap the camera on a couple 15mm rods and connect the Cinevate Durus Follow Focus to the lens and it immediately offers more latitude to find your shallow focus and keep it despite minor movements by your subject.

For documentary shooters, you’re going to love this lens on set – an area in which you can have full control over the lighting. You’re probably going to want to crank the aperture to 32 (its smallest setting) to offer the deepest depth of field – something I don’t usually do with other lenses. This means you may want to heavily light your subject to counteract the amount lost with a small aperture.

This may come as obvious to most of you, but for the sake of sharing always remember that magnifying your subject also means magnifying your movements. You’ll notice in the video posted above that the pan across the back side of the field monitor is quite quick by my standards. Crank up your tension on your video head and use your thumbs on the head itself to slow down the camera movement. At least that’s my secret.

Big thanks to my friends at Henry’s for bringing this in for me. Nothing’s been the same since. I snapped this pic seconds after mounting the lens for the first time. The eye belongs to James, a rad dude who works at the Church Street location. Henry’s was cool enough to share the pic over their social channels, and for me its kinda neat to look at the first thing to be produced by the new piece of equipment.

Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro

Boom goes the dynamite. My world has changed. Stay tuned for some polished video out of this lens. I came up with a perfect use for this baby on my latest project.

-C-

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