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Author Topic: 100mm 2.8L Macro IS as a portrait lens  (Read 37935 times)

brad-man

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Re: 100mm 2.8L Macro IS as a portrait lens
« Reply #15 on: January 25, 2013, 05:10:34 PM »
I am going to purchase a prime lens in the 85-135mm range, mostly for portraits and indoor shots on my 6D.
I already have a 70-200mm 2.8 II, but I often don't want to lug all that weight around.

I've been leaning towards the 135L, but recently have been thinking about buying a 100L macro for roughly the same cost as the 135 and using it for portraits and tightly framed indoor shots.  The 100L's macro capability would just be a nice plus I probably wouldn't use that much.

My concern with the 100L macro for my intended use is that I've heard it is soft beyond 10-15 feet.  I certainly need a lens that is capable of sharp pictures at longer ranges than that.  Does anyone who has used this lens have any comments or experience to share?

Since portrait and general purpose shooting is my primary need, should I just skip the macro lens for now and pick up the 135L?  I imagine I'll own both lenses eventually, but it might be 6-12 months before my next lens purchase.

The 100mm macro has harsh bokeh past macro distance. It should never be chosen as a portrait lens.


Bull crappies. This is one of the most all around excellent lenses that Canon produces. It is great for everything from macro to portraits to general telephoto shots. It is a lightweight and weather sealed jack-of-all-trades lens. The only improvement that could possibly be made is for it to be an f/2. Feel free to post an example of this "harsh bokeh" and show me the error of my ways...

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Re: 100mm 2.8L Macro IS as a portrait lens
« Reply #15 on: January 25, 2013, 05:10:34 PM »

Zlatko

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Re: 100mm 2.8L Macro IS as a portrait lens
« Reply #16 on: January 25, 2013, 06:01:17 PM »
The 100mm macro has harsh bokeh past macro distance. It should never be chosen as a portrait lens.
Oh my goodness, the bokeh of the 100L macro lens is exceptionally good at portrait distances.  Canon must have had its top bokeh wizards working overtime on this lens, building in every last bit of bokeh magic that could be packed into a 100/2.8 lens.  For bokeh, it stands out as one of Canon's best.

TrumpetPower!

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Re: 100mm 2.8L Macro IS as a portrait lens
« Reply #17 on: January 25, 2013, 06:08:42 PM »
How can we set up a double blind test?

You wouldn't need a double blind test, just a test in which the viewer didn't know the lens.

Since it's portraiture we're discussing, I'd find a really good portrait photographer and her favorite model. Hand her one camera and the two lenses, and tell her to make a single portrait with each lens, and to make each portrait to the best of her abilities, but on the same set with the same lighting. Let the photographer critically pick the best composition, aperture, and whatever else, again, with the goal of maximizing the quality of each lens. She's probably going to pick different shooting positions and compositions for each lens; I know I would. Also have her do similar post-processing to each, but again maximizing quality for each file individually rather than slavishly insisting that the knobs must be spun synchronously.

Finally, hand the two (unlabeled) photos around for comparison.

I'm sure some will note that this is a much different protocol than the one I suggested for comparing sensor formats. That's because this is a subjective comparison of the subjective qualities of the two lenses, not an empirical analysis of one aspect of performance. The goal is to see both lenses at their best and do everything reasonable to make those lenses shine -- everything you'd normally do if you were simply using the lenses.

Maybe, for example, the one lens gives a bit more pop with a narrow depth of field, in which case the comparison is between a lens that produces the best image with a narrow depth of field and one that produces the best image with a bit wider plane of sharp focus. Maybe the one vignettes in a pleasing way and the other in a distracting way, so the comparison would be between lenses with different vignetting style. Whatever the case, showcase each lens at its best.

In addition to just the two final images for comparison, I'd also appreciate a review by the photographer explaining her experiences shooting each and why she gravitated to the usage she did for each lens.

Cheers,

b&

vlad

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Re: 100mm 2.8L Macro IS as a portrait lens
« Reply #18 on: January 25, 2013, 06:55:31 PM »
I bought the 100 Macro (USM) first, precisely for the versatility mentioned by others, but a couple years later ended up getting the 135L as well.  It's probably been said before, but it bears repeating - the macro lens is more versatile and is pretty good at portraits, but once you start using the 135 for portraits, it's hard to go back to the macro.  The 135 is great at f2, which along with the tele compression lets you achieve DOF and background separation that 100 @ 2.8 just can't do.  If you don't find yourself craving more background blur at portrait distances, then the macro will be great for you.  I'm not going to make a big deal about compression - sure, it helps, but it's not like you can't take a great portrait at 85mm...

ChilledXpress

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Re: 100mm 2.8L Macro IS as a portrait lens
« Reply #19 on: January 25, 2013, 07:07:50 PM »
I am going to purchase a prime lens in the 85-135mm range, mostly for portraits and indoor shots on my 6D.
I already have a 70-200mm 2.8 II, but I often don't want to lug all that weight around.

I've been leaning towards the 135L, but recently have been thinking about buying a 100L macro for roughly the same cost as the 135 and using it for portraits and tightly framed indoor shots.  The 100L's macro capability would just be a nice plus I probably wouldn't use that much.

My concern with the 100L macro for my intended use is that I've heard it is soft beyond 10-15 feet.  I certainly need a lens that is capable of sharp pictures at longer ranges than that.  Does anyone who has used this lens have any comments or experience to share?

Since portrait and general purpose shooting is my primary need, should I just skip the macro lens for now and pick up the 135L?  I imagine I'll own both lenses eventually, but it might be 6-12 months before my next lens purchase.

The 100mm macro has harsh bokeh past macro distance. It should never be chosen as a portrait lens.

I call pure bull-shite!!!! Either you've never used it or you don't know how to use it. Great bokeh and a good portrait lens, not the best but very good. Here are a few examples and a macro!!!!


BBQ marshmallows... YUMMM !!! by David KM, on Flickr

Golf shoes by David KM, on Flickr

Maui - Starfish, Culcita novaeguineae (cushion star fr. tropical N. Pacific) by David KM, on Flickr

Maui - Gardens by David KM, on Flickr
« Last Edit: January 25, 2013, 11:26:09 PM by ChilledXpress »

RLPhoto

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Re: 100mm 2.8L Macro IS as a portrait lens
« Reply #20 on: January 25, 2013, 07:27:30 PM »
Ok, so what are you trying to say? That there is no discernible difference between the 135L and 100L?

The vast majority of the time for the vast majority of users yes there is effectively no difference in "normal" portraits. I would be very interested to know the actual focal lengths of the two lenses when focused at, say, 10 feet.

They are both superb portrait lenses, the 135 for the longest time stood alone as an exceptional lens in that range, and for the performance a very good price, but the 100 IS macro added a very interesting alternative and I for one, when buying the macro, was well prepared to not like it and sell it on, but that didn't happen.

How can we set up a double blind test?

Don't waste your time. I've used both and chose the 135L on the extra compression and the stop of light and that was on just my 5Dc's green tinged screen. If your arguing that the 100L is a better portrait lens, your mistaken. Many already agreed to the 135Ls clear superiority in portraiture and that's what the OP is going to do mostly.

Normalnorm

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Re: 100mm 2.8L Macro IS as a portrait lens
« Reply #21 on: January 25, 2013, 08:16:06 PM »
I use the 100 Macro exclusively for portraiture in the studio. When outdoors I use my 70-200 2.8 for its versatility and the additional OOF I can achieve  at 200 mm at wider apertures.

That said I see two issues that occur between the lenses.
First is that the 100 has greater contrast and a touch better sharpness especially at large apertures. At f5.6 and smaller the difference is visible only in very large magnifications on screen.
The second is that achieving sharp focus at f2.8 is very difficult with the 70-200 at longer focal lengths. The 135 f2 would be even more difficult at f2.

I no longer use an aperture large than f3.5 because I need to deliver razor sharp results reliably. I do not want to be in the situation of having the best expression on a tight shot be soft where even Helen Keller can see it. At f3.5 and smaller I have a far greater success rate with no serious loss of bokeh.

In the studio I am often shooting at f8 so the speed of the undoubtedly excellent 135 f2 becomes meaningless.

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Re: 100mm 2.8L Macro IS as a portrait lens
« Reply #21 on: January 25, 2013, 08:16:06 PM »

TrumpetPower!

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Re: 100mm 2.8L Macro IS as a portrait lens
« Reply #22 on: January 25, 2013, 08:48:37 PM »
In the studio I am often shooting at f8 so the speed of the undoubtedly excellent 135 f2 becomes meaningless.

f/8 is an awesome aperture for studio portraiture, especially with flash. The whole face is in sharp focus, and the hair is just a bit soft but still clearly defined. Most people for most portraits want the whole face to be sharp.

Razor-thin depth of field can be a compelling special effect to direct attention to just a very small portion of the photo...but most portraits are about a person's face, not just the iris of one eye. I personally would never want to shoot portraiture with a razor-thin depth of field unless there was some sort of exceptional reason to do so, such as with a model with a peculiar and compelling eye color or to help cover up particularly bad complexion with a model who was self-conscious about it.

Cheers,

b&

steliosk

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Re: 100mm 2.8L Macro IS as a portrait lens
« Reply #23 on: January 25, 2013, 09:01:14 PM »
+1 for the 100 L macro
lighter, smaller, newer and has IS
awesome bokeh
permits shorter shooting distance.

Wanna sacrifice all that for 1 stop brighter lens which you won't practically use?
i don't know how sharp is the 135 at f/2 you'll probably use any of these lenses at f/4 minimum unless you really know what you're doing.

However the 100 L wide open is way too SHARP.

I own the 100 L macro
I bought it for portrait use and i love it.

here is a couple of samples with my 100 L

http://500px.com/photo/23665991
http://500px.com/photo/23486803
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RLPhoto

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Re: 100mm 2.8L Macro IS as a portrait lens
« Reply #24 on: January 25, 2013, 09:11:41 PM »

Don't waste your time. I've used both and chose the 135L on the extra compression and the stop of light and that was on just my 5Dc's green tinged screen. If your arguing that the 100L is a better portrait lens, your mistaken. Many already agreed to the 135Ls clear superiority in portraiture and that's what the OP is going to do mostly.

I have used the 135 too, indeed I still own the FD version of it. I am not arguing the 100 is a better portrait lens, what I am saying is for the vast majority of users most of the time they couldn't tell the difference between images from either, that is a very different position to assert. Throw in the macro ability, full weather sealing and the hybrid IS and for most people the 100 makes a "better" (more useful) lens.

Consider this, there is nothing that the 100mm macro can do for portraiture that cannot be done on 70-200LII, while the 135L gives me twice the light of either for effect or practical purposes.

The 100L is a fine macro lens, and my original comment said that it can be used as a portrait lens. I prefer the 135L.

bholliman

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Re: 100mm 2.8L Macro IS as a portrait lens
« Reply #25 on: January 25, 2013, 11:20:19 PM »
Thanks for the excellent responses and example photos.

I don't think I can make a bad decision here as both the 100L macro and 135L can take awesome portraits as illustrated by the samples and links provided.  This is going to be a tough call!
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TrumpetPower!

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Re: 100mm 2.8L Macro IS as a portrait lens
« Reply #26 on: January 26, 2013, 09:27:41 AM »
Thanks for the excellent responses and example photos.

I don't think I can make a bad decision here as both the 100L macro and 135L can take awesome portraits as illustrated by the samples and links provided.  This is going to be a tough call!

I just re-read your original post.

First, since you've got the 70-200 f/2.8 II, there are only a very few reasons you'd want anything else -- and image quality is not one of those reasons. Nothing is going to beat the IQ of that lens.

The 100L can do macro photography that the 70-200 can't.

The 135L is one stop faster than the 70-200. Big whoop. The 70-200 beats it in image quality, though the 135 is certainly no slouch.

Both are smaller and lighter -- and that's the reason you're indicating you're considering either.

So, here're my updated recommendations.

First, if macro photography is something you want to get into, the discussion is over: get the 100L.

But, if not, if macro is just a "well, I'd play with it if I had it" sort of thing, get some gaffer's tape and fix the 70-200 at 100mm. Shoot a full session with it, however you would if you had the 100L. Then do the same thing with the lens taped at 135mm. If you discover that you have a preference between the two focal lengths, that answers the question.

If your shooting doesn't reveal a strong favorite, run one of those EXIF analysis tools over the shots you've already taken with the 70-200 to see if a definite pattern emerges that way. I'd only recommend this after doing the gaffer's tape bit because this is an emotional decision as much as anything, and it could be that you want to use the one focal length but some sort of restriction forced you to use the other more.

If you still don't see a winner at that point...get the 135 f/2.8 with soft focus. It's very small, it's lightweight, it's cheap, it's pretty decent optically (though certainly not up to the standards of the 70-200 f/2.8 II!), and it's got a built-in soft focus filter for you to play with. Your primary expressed desire, after all, is for something small and lightweight when you don't want to haul around the big guns, and the 135SF fits the bill perfectly.

Also worth considering is its close cousin, the 100 f/2.0. It's even smaller and lighter than the 135 and one stop faster.

Cheers,

b&

RLPhoto

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Re: 100mm 2.8L Macro IS as a portrait lens
« Reply #27 on: January 26, 2013, 09:34:59 AM »
I love it when a user says "it's only one stop" while they forget its only one stop that separates the super-teles from L grade zooms. Infact, if its only one stop, why bother with f2.8? F/4 is good enough.

A stop is twice the light. Some want a a whole stop of ISO performance but put down a stop of advantage on a lens? I wish my paycheck was a stop better!

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Re: 100mm 2.8L Macro IS as a portrait lens
« Reply #27 on: January 26, 2013, 09:34:59 AM »

TrumpetPower!

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Re: 100mm 2.8L Macro IS as a portrait lens
« Reply #28 on: January 26, 2013, 10:55:36 AM »
I love it when a user says "it's only one stop" while they forget its only one stop that separates the super-teles from L grade zooms.

Eh, no. Not hardly. Not even close.

Except for the not-yet-available-for-sale 200-400, the fastest 400 you're going to get in a Canon zoom is f/5.6. The supertelephoto 400 is f/2.8. That's not only two stops of light, it's the difference between Group A autofocus (all points doing everything they can) and Group E autofocus (no dual-cross points, no high-precision points, cross points only in the center, mostly just horizontal-only points) with the 1Dx and 5DIII. Even the 24-105 f/4 has better autofocus performance than a zoom that reaches 400. Indeed, the 400 f/2.8 with a 1.4x teleconverter still has better autofocus than a zoom with 400mm -- and no zoom will cover 560 or autofocus worth a damn there if you somehow kludge it.

And context is key, too. Few people doing telephoto portraiture are doing so in conditions so dark that they're ISO-limited with a 5DIII or a 1Dx, with the rare exception of theatre and concert photographers. And DoF at standard portrait distances is already so insanely shallow at f/2.8 (let alone f/2) that most portrait photographers are going to be stopping down to at least f/4 if not f/8 to maintain sharpness of more than a single eyelash.

In contrast, typical shooting distances of a Great White are much longer. Typically, you're taking a whole-body portrait if not even a group shot, as opposed to a head shot. By the time (before, actually) the action is close enough for a head shot with a Great White, you're dropping it and picking up your second body with the 70-200. Depth of field is still shallow, but you've got more room to work with at those distances. That, and you need much faster shutter speeds than you do for portraiture or even the theatre or concert hall.

There's a reason why you'd always shoot a Great White wide open on the field and often wish it was even faster, but few successful studio portrait photographers are often pushing the aperture limits of their lenses.

Cheers,

b&

skitron

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Re: 100mm 2.8L Macro IS as a portrait lens
« Reply #29 on: January 26, 2013, 11:26:58 AM »
...it's the difference between Group A autofocus (all points doing everything they can) and Group E autofocus (no dual-cross points, no high-precision points, cross points only in the center, mostly just horizontal-only points) with the 1Dx and 5DIII.

Speaking of AF groups, the 100L is in goup C while the 135L is in group A, so that might be something to help OP decide as well.
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Re: 100mm 2.8L Macro IS as a portrait lens
« Reply #29 on: January 26, 2013, 11:26:58 AM »