I'm looking to buy a macro lens but I'm unsure which one is best since the names are very similar.
Other than the price, what is the difference between the Canon EF 100mm F2.8 L Macro IS USM and Canon EF 100mm F2.8 USM Macro AF?
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The EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM offers the following in addition:
The remainder of the specifications are very similar. If you go to the USA site for Canon, you can have a look at the MTF charts. The higher grade optics give the L lens a better result.
I am trying to decide between these 2 lenses myself. They both suppose to deliver excellent image quality. I have not found anything that would indicate that the new L series lens is optically superior to the "non-L" old version.
The most notable differences seem to be:
Bokeh - the L series has 9 rounded aperture blades as oppose to the original version which has 8 non-rounded. This means that the L version will deliver better bokeh although the older version is still reportedly very good in this area.
Construction - the L series is much better. I had the opportunity to try it and it feels very good. However unlike other L series it is not made of metal but rather high quality plastic and aluminum. Still it feel solid and it is weather sealed.
Image stabilization - older version has none and the new L series has a very good one; No only a traditional IS but a hybrid IS which adds correction for shift movement to the conventional angular correction. This might be a non issue if you use a tripod but i imagine IS is a particularly useful feature in a macro lens.
The price difference is significant. The L series is pretty much double the price and the optical quality is said to be very comparable. The iriginal older version seems to be most often recommended for those who either want to try or are starting out in macro photography. If you already know you love macro and you might want to go with the L version because you know you will end up getting down the road anyway.