Canon 60mm f/2.8 USM Macro Review and Comparison to 100mm f/2.8 L IS and non-L

This is my written review for the Canon 60mm f/2.8 USM macro lens. I have also posted the video review below. I am going to talk about who the lens is for, the build quality and features, and the image quality, including several image examples. I will also be comparing this lens to Canon's 100mm f/2.8 USM and 100mm f/2.8 L IS USM, in terms of image quality and value.

Who is this lens for?

I want to start out this review with who I think this lens is for. This lens has the Canon EF-s designation, meaning that it can only be mounted to Canon’s smaller and less expensive crop sensor (APS-C) bodies like the t/t(X)i series, 70/80D series, and the 7D series. This means, if you ever want to upgrade to a full frame camera, you may want to consider some of the other options in Canon’s lens line up. The Canon 100mm f/2.8 USM macro lens and the 100mm f/2.8 L IS USM macro lens are great options that also give a true 1:1 reproduction ratio. While these options are initially more expensive, you will save money in the long run by spending a little more if you plan to upgrade to full frame, in which case you might end up buying twice to upgrade to a full frame lens. The 60mm macro is a great option If you plan to stay on Canon’s crop frame line up, especially if you prefer to have a more compact and lightweight lens. If weight is a large consideration for you, you may prefer to stick with the 60mm macro (11.8 ounces) to the 100mm f/2.8 (1.28 lbs) or the 100mm f/2.8 L (1.38 lbs). The 60mm macro comes in at around two inches shorter than both of the 100mm options. The dimensions are 2.87x2.75 inches for the 60mm macro, 3.1x4.7 inches for the 100mm macro, and 3.06x4.84 inches for the 100mm L macro.

Build quality and Features:

While this lens has a quite plastic exterior build, it is reminiscent to a lot of Canon’s L series lenses like the 24-70mm f/2.8 and the 50 and 85mm f/1.2 lenses. It has a plastic exterior, but with thicker and higher quality plastic than many of Canon's kit lenses that are paired with their crop sensor cameras. It is also tightly assembled like Canon’s L series lenses, and has a very nice build quality overall. When you lightly shake the lens nothing moves or rattles in the interior of the lens and it feels very sturdy. It has a relatively long focus throw, for an autofocus lens, of 135 degrees. This is nice for macro photography, where you will often be using manual focus to get precise focus on your subject. The focus ring is smooth, nicely dampened, and feels tightly assembled. Is also has full time manual focus override when the focus switch is set to AF. It has a metal lens mount, which is an upgrade from many of the kit lenses that you might already have with your crop sensor body.  It has no weather sealing or rear rubber gasket. This is no surprise, as this is the standard in this price range for Canon lenses. It has a 52mm front filter thread size, which is nice if you are going to be buying filters because they will be relatively inexpensive. It has a quiet, fast, and accurate USM autofocus motor. The autofocus motor is very accurate and even tracks moving subjects well, especially when focusing on objects that are further than a meter away. This lens is internal focusing, meaning that the front element does not extend and retract as you change your focus distance.

Image Quality:

This lens produces excellent image quality throughout the focusing range. It is a very versatile lens as well. At an equivalent of 96mm on a crop sensor camera, it is a very nice focal length for portraits and produces pleasing bokeh. I am going to go over a few images that I have taken to illustrate the image quality of this lens. All images were shot on a Canon 7d Mark II.

1/10, f/7.1, ISO 100  The plane of focus is very sharp in this orchid cactus picture. You can really see the detail in the water droplets. I have included a 100% crop below to illustrate the detail better.

1/10, f/7.1, ISO 100

The plane of focus is very sharp in this orchid cactus picture. You can really see the detail in the water droplets. I have included a 100% crop below to illustrate the detail better.

1/320, f/2.8, ISO 100  This image was shot at f/2.8, which will give you a good idea of the wide open image quality. As you can see, the image is very sharp on the eye and the transition to the out of focus areas is very smooth, producing bokeh that is very pleasing.   

1/320, f/2.8, ISO 100

This image was shot at f/2.8, which will give you a good idea of the wide open image quality. As you can see, the image is very sharp on the eye and the transition to the out of focus areas is very smooth, producing bokeh that is very pleasing.

 

1/320, f/3.5, ISO 100  This close-up portrait gives you an idea of just how shallow your depth of field is when you can focus as close as this. That is a tan brick wall that is a few feet away to the left and it just melts away into a very smooth background.

1/320, f/3.5, ISO 100

This close-up portrait gives you an idea of just how shallow your depth of field is when you can focus as close as this. That is a tan brick wall that is a few feet away to the left and it just melts away into a very smooth background.

1/400, f/4.5, ISO 100  This photo and the close crop below show the quality of the bokeh in a portrait that is a little further away. The bokeh is very pleasing and, again, there is a very nice transition from the areas that are in focus to the areas that are out of focus. You can also see how circular it is all the way out to the corners.

1/400, f/4.5, ISO 100

This photo and the close crop below show the quality of the bokeh in a portrait that is a little further away. The bokeh is very pleasing and, again, there is a very nice transition from the areas that are in focus to the areas that are out of focus. You can also see how circular it is all the way out to the corners.

1/250, f/4, ISO 200  This photograph gives us a good idea of the bokeh when the lens is stopped down to f/4. While you can start seeing the aperature blades affecting the shape of the bokeh a little bit, it still has a very circular shape. In the close up crop below, you can see the bokeh circles have a little bit of a hard edge in some of the highlight areas in the background. There are also some areas with a little bit of green chromatic aberration on the outside edges of the bokeh in the highlight areas.  

1/250, f/4, ISO 200

This photograph gives us a good idea of the bokeh when the lens is stopped down to f/4. While you can start seeing the aperature blades affecting the shape of the bokeh a little bit, it still has a very circular shape. In the close up crop below, you can see the bokeh circles have a little bit of a hard edge in some of the highlight areas in the background. There are also some areas with a little bit of green chromatic aberration on the outside edges of the bokeh in the highlight areas.  

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1/125, f/16, ISO 100  Here is a watch shot to demonstrate the close-up image quality of the lens. If you look at the close up crop below, you can see how much detail there is when focusing closely like this. When you are focusing this closely, you have such a shallow depth of field that you get a really nice out of focus background at f/16 and the whole subject is in sharp focus. The watch was on top of a c-ring, so it was a few inches above the surface of the background.

1/125, f/16, ISO 100

Here is a watch shot to demonstrate the close-up image quality of the lens. If you look at the close up crop below, you can see how much detail there is when focusing closely like this. When you are focusing this closely, you have such a shallow depth of field that you get a really nice out of focus background at f/16 and the whole subject is in sharp focus. The watch was on top of a c-ring, so it was a few inches above the surface of the background.

Sharpness and Feature Comparison:

I want to bring up the sharpness of this lens compared to the two Canon 100mm options I have previously mentioned. I have brought up all three lenses for comparison in DXO Mark and included a screenshot below. I mounted them all on a Canon 70D to give an even playing field, since the 60mm macro is a crop sensor lens. If we look at the sharpness score for the 60mm macro, we see that DXO Mark gives it a rating of 11 perceptual megapixels. The 100mm f/2.8 macro gets a rating of 12 perceptual megapixels, so you are not losing much in the way of sharpness by choosing the 60mm macro if you do not plan to upgrade to full frame. One advantage is that the 100mm f/2.8 USM macro has a focus limiting switch that allows you to choose between focusing from 0.31m-∞ or 0.48-∞. This will theoretically improve your autofocus speed by taking away part of the focusing range, thereby making the lens more decisive when focusing on subjects that are outside of the very close focusing range. I think the autofocus is so quick and decisive on the 60mm that you would not really notice the difference of having the focus limiting switch. The Canon 100mm f/2.8 L IS USM Macro lens gets a rating of 13 perceptual megapixels, so we are not seeing much of an improvement over the 60mm macro here either. The 100mm macro has a focus limiting switch with three options: 0.3-0.5m, 0.5m-∞, and full, meaning full range. This allows for even more precise focusing when you want to only focus on subjects that are very close or farther away than 0.5m. I do not find autofocus to be all that useful when focusing close up anyway, so I do not see this as a large benefit. I would still use manual focus with live view, on a tripod, in almost all macro cases with the L version. With such a small variance in sharpness between these three lenses, the 60mm macro could be a good option for you if you are concerned with size and weight, as I mentioned previously. It is also a good option if you never plan to upgrade to full frame and will be using this lens for a variety of things. I think it is more versatile at an effective 96mm on a crop sensor camera than the 100mm macro is at 160mm on a crop sensor body. That becomes a little long if you plan to use the lens for portraits, especially inside or in a small studio.

I have mounted the two full frame lenses on the 5DsR below to compare the sharpness on full frame bodies. There is still only a slight difference of 3 perceptual megapixels on a high resolution full frame body. In real world applications there is not going to be a discernible difference between the two. I have heard several professional photographers say they use the 100mm f/2.8 USM, love the lens, and see no reason to get the L version. I personally do not think the difference in sharpness between those two lenses is enough to justify the extra cost. I do not see image stabilization being a huge factor in macro photography either, because you will often be shooting on a tripod and you frequently have to have a shutter speed that is fast enough to stop subjects that are moving in the wind.

I have mounted the two full frame lenses on the 5DsR below to compare the sharpness on full frame bodies. There is still only a slight difference of 3 perceptual megapixels on a high resolution full frame body. In real world applications there is not going to be a discernible difference between the two. I have heard several professional photographers say they use the 100mm f/2.8 USM, love the lens, and see no reason to get the L version. I personally do not think the difference in sharpness between those two lenses is enough to justify the extra cost. I do not see image stabilization being a huge factor in macro photography either, because you will often be shooting on a tripod and you frequently have to have a shutter speed that is fast enough to stop subjects that are moving in the wind.

Focus Distance and Working Distance:

Another thing to consider when deciding what macro lens to buy is that your focal length is going to affect your working distance from your subject. The 60mm macro has a minimum focusing distance of 7.8 inches to get to 1:1, while the 100mm macro and 100mm L macro have a minimum focusing distance of one foot. This is important if you are going to be shooting things like live insects, where you might scare them away if you get too close. It is also important if you are going to be using extension tubes to get even closer than 1:1. With the 60mm macro you will have to get very close to your subject quickly when adding extension tubes.

Conclusion:

The overall build quality is great and holds up to the standards of many of Canon’s more expensive L series lenses. It focuses well and has a great manual focusing ring that is excellent for macro shooting where you will be shooting with manual focus regularly. The autofocus accuracy is great and it focuses quickly and quietly. It even tracks moving subjects well. It lacks a focus-limiting switch, which would help out close focusing if you plan to use autofocus. The image quality is excellent. The 60mm macro comes in at a nice price point at $469. It is a great budget lens for getting into macro photography and you would not take a huge loss, even if you ended up deciding to eventually upgrade to one of the full frame versions. It is frequently on instant rebates from Canon, so if it is off rebate and you are patient you will be able to get a discount on it. It is currently on an instant rebate for $399 on B&H at the time of this review.