Top 6 Best Macro Lens for Canon (EF & EF-C)

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What is the best macro lens for Canon shooters? How about the best macro lens for shooters on a budget?

Best Macro Lens for Canon

These are common questions, and they’re what this article is all about. First, I’m going to explain all about macro lenses: what it means for a lens to be a ‘true macro,’ the best focal lengths for macro lenses, and whether you should pick a prime or a zoom lens.

Then I’m going to give you the best 6 macro lenses for Canon cameras. These will include lenses for every type of macro shooter, and include options for all sorts of budgets.

You’ll leave knowing exactly which macro lens is right for you.

Let’s dive right in.

Best Macro Lenses for Canon

  • Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro
  • Canon EF-S 35mm f/2.8 Macro
  • Canon 100mm f/2.8L IS Macro
  • Sigma 105mm f/2.8 EX DG Macro
  • Sigma 150mm f/2.8 APO OS Macro
  • Canon 180mm f/3.5L Macro
Canon EF-S 35mm f/2.8 Macro
BEST BUDGET EF-S MACRO LENS

Filter Diameter: 72mm, Mount: APS-C, Weight: 535g (18.9 oz), Size: 79 x 88.9mm

Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro
BEST EF-S MACRO LENS

Filter Diameter: 72mm, Mount: APS-C, Weight: 535g (18.9 oz), Size: 79 x 88.9mm

Canon 100mm f/2.8L IS Macro
BEST ALL AROUND MACRO LENS

Filter Diameter: 72mm, Mount: APS-C, Weight: 535g (18.9 oz), Size: 79 x 88.9mm

Sigma 105mm f/2.8 EX DG Macro
BEST BUDGET FF MACRO LENS

Filter Diameter: 72mm, Mount: APS-C, Weight: 535g (18.9 oz), Size: 79 x 88.9mm

Sigma 150mm f/2.8 APO OS Macro
BEST BUDGET TELEPHOTO MACRO LENS

Filter Diameter: 72mm, Mount: APS-C, Weight: 535g (18.9 oz), Size: 79 x 88.9mm

Canon 180mm f/3.5L Macro
BEST TELEPHOTO MACRO LENS

Filter Diameter: 72mm, Mount: APS-C, Weight: 535g (18.9 oz), Size: 79 x 88.9mm

What Is a Macro Lens?

Let’s start with a quick recap of the basics:

A macro lens produces close-up images of small subjects. If you want to photograph insects, flowers, tree bark, or grains of sand, you’ll want a macro lens.

Note that a lens’s macro capabilities have nothing to do with its focal length. Rather, macro capabilities have to do with a lens’s ability to focus close up. So you can shoot the center of a flower with a wide-angle or a telephoto lens – as long as they have close-focusing capabilities.

True Macro Lenses Versus Pretenders

Close-focusing capabilities are indicated with a magnification ratio, such as 1:4, 1:2, and 1:1. The larger the magnification ratio, the closer a lens can focus. In other words, a lens that can focus to 1:2 focuses closer than a 1:4 lens, and a lens that can focus to 1:1 focuses closer to both of them.

In fact, lenses that can focus to 1:1 have a special designation. They’re referred to as ‘true macro lenses.’

Why?

When a lens achieves a 1:1 magnification, it is producing an image on the camera sensor that is as large as the real life scene. A 35mm flower, when photographed on a 35mm sensor, will look life-size! And, of course, when the photo is blown up on the computer or in print, the 35mm flower will look huge.

What’s important is that you recognize that some lenses (those that can achieve 1:1 focusing) are true macro lenses. Other lenses are labeled ‘macro,’ but can’t actually reach 1:1. These are ‘pretender macro lenses.’ They tend to be macro zooms, rather than macro primes.

While pretender macro lenses can often focus close, they can’t focus as close as a macro lens. That’s why, if you want true macro magnifications, you’ve got to purchase a genuine macro lens. This is key if you plan to photograph ultra-tiny subjects, such as minute insects and tiny flowers.

On the other hand, if you simply want to focus closer than usual, you settle for a lens that focuses close. These are cheaper, generally speaking, and can make for a good bargain.

Focal Length and Macro Photography

When it comes to choosing a macro photography lens, one of the most important characteristics to consider is focal length.

You see, the shorter the macro lens, the shorter the working distance.

Now, working distance refers to the distance from the front of the lens to your subject. So a short macro lens (e.g., 60mm) requires you to get very close to your subject before you can achieve 1:1 magnification.

A long macro lens (e.g., 180mm) allows you to stay a good distance from your subject when shooting at 1:1 magnifications.

And there are medium-length macro lenses (e.g., 100mm) that having intermediate working distances.

So which macro lens should you choose? That depends on your subject.

If you plan to shoot insects, a small working distance will scare your subject away. You won’t have a chance to fire off any shots before your subject has crawled away. You’ll need a long macro lens to have a chance at getting good photos.

Related: Best Macro Lens Models for Nikon Cameras

If you plan to shoot flowers and plants, the working distance is less important. However, you want to be careful; too short a working distance, and you’ll end up shading your subject. I prefer focal lengths of at least 90mm for just this reason.

Understanding EF vs EF-S Mounts of Canon Cameras

Canon makes two important types of lenses: EF lenses and EF-S lenses.

The difference between the two is simple: EF lenses work on both full-frame and APS-C Canon cameras. EF-S lenses are made for APS-C cameras only.

Related: Best Wide Angle Lens Models doe Canon Cameras

Most macro lenses are EF, so you can use them on either type of camera. But an EF-S macro lens won’t fit on a full-frame camera; it simply won’t work. Note that EF lenses do tend to be significantly cheaper than their EF counterparts and can offer similar quality to a full-frame lens, so you may want to look at EF-S lenses (as long as you’re not planning on switching to a full-frame camera in the near future).

Is It Possible to Find Quality Macro Zoom Lenses?

Pretty much all true macro lenses are primes (in other words, they’re a single, fixed focal length). But there are also plenty of macro zooms. These aren’t true macro lenses, but they do allow you to get close to a subject, often up to around 1:2 magnification.

Unfortunately, macro zooms suffer from other problems, especially a lack of sharpness compared to prime macro lenses. So I’d recommend getting a macro prime, if possible.

The Best Macro Lenses for APS-C Cameras

Now that we’ve discussed the different factors that go into choosing a macro lens, let’s talk about the best lens for your needs.

Starting with the best macro lens if you shoot with an APS-C body:

Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro USM Fixed Lens for Canon SLR Cameras

1. Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro

The Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 is a high-performing true macro lens for a low price.

Hold it in your hand, and you’ll immediately notice the build quality. It’s surprisingly well put together for a bargain EF-S lens, even if it’s not ultra-rugged and weather-sealed.

Autofocus is speedy, though note that you shouldn’t use this function much as macro photography – subjects are almost always too close to get in focus quickly and reliably with an autofocus system.

Related: Selecting the Right Canon Lens for Landscapes

And optically, the 60mm macro is excellent. Macro lenses tend to be sharp, and this lens is no exception. It performs well at an f/2.8 aperture and only improves when stopped down.

The only drawback is the working distance, which is around 3.5 inches (9 cm). Not only is this too short for insect photography, but it’ll be tough to photograph objects without casting a shadow.

Due to the low price and the great optics, I recommend this 60mm macro for those looking to get started in macro photography. Just don’t expect everything to go smoothly all the time!

What I Like:

What I Don’t Like:

  • Cannot use this lens on full-frame cameras
  • Small working distance may be an obstruction

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Canon EF-S 35mm f/2.8 Macro IS STM

2. Canon EF-S 35mm f/2.8 Macro

The Canon 35mm f/2.8 macro is one of the only wide-angle macro lenses out there, for good reason: wide-angle lens have terrible working distances.

But while the 35mm f/2.8 macro does suffer from a limited working distance, it has other positives. For one, it’s quite sharp, both wide open and stopped down. It’s also small and light, offering some potential as a walkaround lens. It could double as a portrait or street photography lens, while also being used for the occasional macro photo.

If you like to handhold, you’ll also appreciate the IS, which is a lifesaver at times. While 35mm is small enough to allow for some serious handholding, the lower you can go, the better.

So grab this lens if you want something compact for walkaround macro photography.

What I Like:

  • Small, light lens for walkaround photos
  • Autofocus is quick and quiet
  • High-quality optics
  • Price is reasonable

What I Don’t Like:

  • Small working distance
  • Can only be used on APS-C cameras

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The Best Macro Lenses for Canon Full-Frame Cameras

If you’re a full-frame shooter, you have a lot of macro options to choose from.

But a few of them are pretty powerful:

Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM Macro Lens for Canon Digital SLR Cameras, Lens Only

3. Canon 100mm f/2.8L IS Macro

The Canon 100mm f/2.8L is the pride and joy of most Canon macro photographers. It’s sharp as a tack, offers great build quality, and produces amazing bokeh.

And did I mention that it’s a true macro lens?

I use it pretty regularly. You can capture extreme details, even at f/2.8. Stopped down, sharpness may improve slightly, but it’s hard to tell given the high initial performance.

The built-in image stabilization is a nice touch, especially for macro purposes. The greater the magnification, the more stable you need your setup to be if you want to prevent blur. With Canon’s IS, you can handhold down to shutter speeds of 1/80s at high magnifications.

Unfortunately, the Canon 100mm macro is also quite pricey. So I only recommend it if you’re very serious about your macro photography. If you’re still just getting into the genre, then I’d suggest other lenses on this list.

What I Like:

  • Incredibly sharp at all apertures
  • Creamy bokeh
  • Excellent build quality
  • Image stabilization is good for handheld macro photography

What I Don’t Like:

  • Price is higher than many are willing to pay
  • Lens is fairly long and bulky

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Sigma 105mm f/2.8 EX DG OS HSM Macro Lens for Canon EOS Cameras for Canon EF Mount + Accessories (International Model)

4. Sigma 105mm f/2.8 EX DG Macro

The Sigma 105mm f/2.8 is another true macro lens–but one for significantly less money (while still delivering high quality).

Where the Sigma 105mm especially shines is its build-quality: It’s made of metal, and feels like it could take a beating. The manual focus ring turns nicely and easily, which is perfect for focusing during macro shoots.

Image quality is good, as well. The Sigma 105mm is quite sharp, even along the sides and corners of the frame. The center is just astonishingly strong; you’re not going to want for sharp photos with the Sigma.

While the working distance on the Sigma 105mm isn’t huge, you can still shoot flowers and plants with it. Just don’t try it on insects, or you’ll have a bug exodus on your hands.

What I Like:

  • Tack-sharp in center and edges of the frame
  • Bargain price
  • Rugged build-quality
  • Good focal length for flower and plant macro photography

What I Don’t Like:

  • The Sigma 105mm is heavier than most walkaround lenses
  • Lens has slow autofocus

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Sigma 150mm f/2.8 EX DG HSM APO HSM IF Macro Lens for Canon SLR Cameras

5. Sigma 150mm f/2.8 APO OS Macro

  • Filter Diameter: 72mm
  • Mount: Canon EF
  • Weight: 895 g (31.6 oz)
  • Size: 79.6 x 137 mm (3.13 x 5.39 in)
  • Price: No products found.

The Sigma 150mm f/2.8 is no walkaround macro option. Instead, it’s for those who want to do serious photography of insects–those who need the longer focal length, and don’t mind the price.

The Sigma 150mm macro performs extraordinarily well, offering amazing sharpness throughout the frame. But you have to be able to keep it still to keep it sharp, and that’s a problem: The Sigma 150mm is huge and heavy, which is a lot to handle at macro magnifications.

Fortunately, the lens does come with a tripod collar. But for those who prefer to handhold, you’ll need to find ways to stabilize yourself.

Huge and heavy lenses do come with one positive: top-notch build quality. The Sigma 150mm is built like a tank, which is great for photographers who treat their equipment more roughly.

What I Like:

  • Unrivaled image quality
  • f/2.8 aperture good for low light photography
  • Stellar build quality
  • Great focal length for insects

What I Don’t Like:

  • Big and heavy
  • Autofocus is slow

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Canon EF 180mm f3.5L Macro USM AutoFocus Telephoto Lens for Canon SLR Cameras

6. Canon 180mm f/3.5L Macro

If the Canon 100mm f/2.8L is the perfect Canon macro lens for plants, then the Canon 180mm undoubtedly takes the prize for insects.

What makes it so great?

First of all, the 180mm focal length is perfect for insect photography. It’s not too long to be totally unwieldy, but not too short to be useless.

Like the other macro lenses on this list, the 180mm macro is tack-sharp across the board. And build-quality is high; the Canon 180mm macro is impressively rugged. It’s also quite heavy and large, which keeps it squarely in the arena of serious insect photographers.

The biggest tradeoff is price: For a lens this long and this sharp, you have to pay a lot. But for the most serious insect photographers, it’ll be worth it.

What I Like:

  • L-lens build quality
  • Stellar optics
  • Excellent focal length for capturing insects
  • f/3.5 is good focal length for low light

What I Don’t Like:

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