I owned the Canon 100mm USM f/2.8 macro (non L) for about 7 years. It is a good lens, very sharp where it needs to be, great for macro use, and good balance of size/weight. Then about 2 years ago I bought the L version, and after owning both for several months, I sold my non-L on (as a 2nd hand). I only lost about $200 AUD for 7 years use, which I'm perfectly fine with.Cool! How does it compare to the non L version? I’ve heard people say its on par sharpness wise but contrast is better. I’d certainly appreciate the weather sealing though!
The 2 main reasons I upgraded to L are:
- more suitable as an event lens, for candids / portraits (to complement my 50mm f/1.8 STM). The non-L's AF is no where near as reliable for non-portrait work compared to the L. I can confirm this with 2 copies of the non-L, and using 4 different Canon DSLRs. AF is both faster and more accurate with the L. The L version AF locks on 90% of times at non-macro focal distances. The non-L got close about 70% of the time, but it was regularly not tack sharp, and would be quite off about 30% of the time. Image Stabilisation (IS) also helps for a lot of the event photography I do.
- Image Stabilisation (IS) is really handy for some macro images (either at, or close to 1:1 magnification). I use a tripod for most of my 'really serious' macro work, but at times there are close-up and macro photos I want to capture where a tripod won't work (or I don't have time / or I'm hiking). So the IS really does help in certain macro images quite a lot.
I use a (cheap, but very effective) filter mounted (screw-on) led macro light. Bought it for about $20 from Hong Kong/China years ago. As that came with various filter sizes, my macro light works just as well on both lenses.
Where Canon's non-L and L 100mm macro lenses were fairly similar are:
- sharpness and overall image quality (perhaps a touch more sharpness to the L at certain apertures),
- bokeh (though a bit better on the L),
- size and weight (no big difference, but I prefer the non-L - size/weight as it's smaller / slightly lighter)
- manual focus throw, from my experience, both work fairly similarly at macro levels
The non-L can be had very cheaply - on the 2nd hand market, and a few years ago, stock in stores. If either or both of the 2 reasons that I listed above are important to others, that may be motivation to upgrade. Weather sealing and build quality on the L is notably better, but the non-L isn't a slouch either. I've used it in various conditions, and it held up well, but yes, did end up showing the expected amount of wear and tear after almost a decade of quite regular use, but it wasn't much, as I'm careful with my gear.