I've read over a few of the macro posts on this site, and I'm very new to digital photography, so I have a few questions, and some may be overlapping. I have a Canon EOS Rebel T3, and I want to buy a macro lens. I want a 1:1 ratio, and so apparently my cheapest option for such lens is $574? Or actually there's this one for $449. My question is what's the difference between these 2? Is it only the 100mm and 60 mm difference? And what does that really mean? Does that mean that with the 100mm I can be farther away and take the macro shot?

This is a pretty big purchase, so I want to make sure if there's anything I should know about macro lenses before purchasing one. Honestly I dont know much about what aperture or ISO or about different lenses, I just like taking nice pictures, and I do plan on learning all the advanced stuff, but I really want to take macro shots.

4 Answers 4


It looks like the big difference between those two lenses is mainly the focal length. (Although the 100mm is a EF lens instead of an EF-S lens, which means if you ever went full frame, it would still work.) Yes, longer length gives you more working distance to the subject. For flower and stationary subjects, it may not matter. But if you're planning on doing insects or other skittish things, longer working distance is almost always better. You'll also get a bit different perspective between the two lenses, which may or may not be what you want.

There's also third party brands like the Sigma 105mm and the Tamron 90mm that are also options.

In terms of exposure stuff, here's a good place to start.

  • The Tamron one is on sale right now for $600 off? Is that thing really worth over $1000 usually? How do I know what the best option is out of the 3?
    – Snowman
    Jul 10, 2011 at 21:43
  • @mohabitar - the Tamron is 600 dollars of suggested retail price, but its pretty much always going to be like that. In terms of comparing lenses, I usually say lean towards the name brand (Canon in this case) UNLESS the particular 3rd party lens has a particularly awesome reputation. In this case, the Canon has much better autofocus (USM) which will be way more helpful when using the lens in a non macro capacity. I've not used all three, but sharpness wise, I've heard good things about the Tamron.
    – rfusca
    Jul 10, 2011 at 21:50
  • Thank you. As for the two Canon lenses, do you think the extra $100 is worth it? The 100mm one is a telephoto lens-does that mean it can be used in normal situations as well?
    – Snowman
    Jul 10, 2011 at 21:56
  • Yes, it can be used in normal situations. As far as which to get, I would get the 100mm (in fact the Nikon 105mm or other brand equivalent is next on my list), but I already have a 50mm lens so I wouldn't get another focal length so close. Many photographers like the additional working distance of the 100mm.
    – rfusca
    Jul 10, 2011 at 22:01
  • Also, the 100mm being EF rather than EF-S would mean that rather than a 1:1 on a crop sensor you'd actually get slightly closer macro for your money too... unless I'm mistaken?
    – Dreamager
    Jul 10, 2011 at 22:53

All macro lenses give you a 1:1 reproduction. That's what is meant by 'macro'.

The difference between a 60 and 100mm is the perspective of the shot and the subject distance. If you are shooting a skittish bug, you don't want to be in its face - here the 180mm would be great. I suggest at least 100mm for a macro, unless you have a good reason to go shorter.

I have used the canon 100 and sigma 150 macros. The Sigma is terrific and very good value. The Canon 180, for example, is ridiculously expensive. Good, but expensive.

Good AF is useful, but most of the time you'll be shooting on a tripod and stopped fully down to give you useable depth of field (e.g. the depth of field on the sigma 150 at 2.8 at close focus is microscopic...literally). You'll therefore be focusing manually.

  • 1
    I dont think all macro lenses give 1:1 reproduction, only true macro lenses do. Macro generally means ability to focus from close distance which allows higher magnification, ie .35X magnification can be used for flower and similar sized object macro but small insects and similar sized subjects often needs 1:1 reproduction or even higher. Jul 11, 2011 at 7:12
  • @ShutterBug is correct, the Canon EF 50mm f/2.5 'Macro' is an example of this, it only produces 1:2 images as explained here: the-digital-picture.com/Reviews/… Jul 11, 2011 at 10:02

I don't know that it's been mentioned, but the 60mm was made to replicate the field of view of the 100mm macro on a crop sensor. When you put a 100mm on a crop sensor, it becomes the equivalent of 160mm, while the 60mm becomes the equivalent of 96mm.

In ergonomic terms, the 100mm is rather heavy, especially when trying to hold very still to focus on a moving insect. If you plan to do any handheld macro work, the 60mm is a better bet.


The longer focal length will give more background blur. In this review, if you scroll down to the last part of the review, there is a comparison between a 60mm, a 100mm, and a 180mm shot of the same subject framed identically in all 3 shots, and you can see that there is a huge difference in the bokeh.


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