5 Best Canon Macro lenses for Insects – A Complete Guide

Best Canon Macro lenses for Insects
Close Up photo of an insect – what a crazy photo 🙂

Close-up photography is also known by a rather counterintuitive name, macro photography. This name has caused a lot of confusion because the word macro refers to something that is large. The reason for choosing the word macro came from taking photos of small objects, then enlarging them to prints larger than (macro) the original subject. Regardless of the strange name, macro work essentially means photographing things that are tiny, but not microscopic and thus invisible to the naked eye. Special tools and techniques are required to do macro right. The most ordinary things can suddenly be transformed when viewed at a macrophotography scale. In this article, I will list all the crucial features we need to look for in a macro lens in order to get the best results. I will also provide some lens recommendations that I consider to be the best canon Macro lenses for insects.

These days many cameras have settings marked “macro.” Or they may have a setting marked with a flower icon, which means closeup work. Unfortunately, the majority of these lenses are not true macros at all, despite the misleading labeling.

The traditional definition of macro is a lens with a 1:1 magnification ratio. In other words, an object as small as the image area can be photographed. In the case of 35mm film or full-frame 35mm-equivalent digital, that means an object as small as 36 by 24 mm. Ordinary non-macro lenses might have a magnification of only 1:4, say, at the closest setting. This would mean the smallest object that could be photographed would be 144 by 96 mm in size. Not really that close up. True macro lenses have a number of features other than 1:1 that make them ideally suited to closeup photography including the following:

  • Unflinchingly high resolution. Macro lenses are often made with very sharp glass
  • Flat field reproduction – a flat object will be correctly in focus from the center of the frame to the edge. Many non-macro lenses lack this capability.
  • Distance scales that indicate the magnification ratio.
  • Focus limiters, or simple switches that allow an autofocus mechanism to focus across either the entire range or only the macro range. This is very important for macro work because you don’t want the camera wasting time trying to focus outside the macro range.
  • Long focus throws, making precise manual focus much easier
  • Ring flash mounts. Macro lenses often have to be positioned extremely close to their tiny subjects, which makes lighting very difficult. A ring flash, which is simply a flash unit with curved tubes that fits around the end of the lens barrel, is perfect for many types of close-up illumination.

Most of the macro lenses can also be used as regular lenses. They often make excellent portrait-length lenses. The only thing to note is that these lenses are very sharp and can sometimes reveal too much detail of a person’s face, exposing certain flaws we’d rather have blurred out.

There are three basic focal lengths for macro lenses on a full-frame camera:50mm, 100mm, and 180mm. Lenses that are 50mm are short macro lenses. They’re fine for static objects like postage stamps but aren’t very good for animate macro subjects, particularly skittish insects, since the lens has to be extremely close to the subject. This distance between the end of the lens and the subject is the working distance. Short working distances also make illumination difficult because light is often blocked by the lens itself.

Lenses that are 90, 100, and 105mm are normal macro lenses. This length is a good trade-off between cost and working distance. Most companies make macro lenses in this range. Lenses that are 180mm are telephoto macro. Ideal for photographing nervous dragonflies and other insects from afar, they offer a lot of working distance but are quite expensive. The long focal lengths also magnify camera motion, making them more difficult to use.

Image stabilizing can be very helpful when it comes to shooting insects. A number of lenses are available with special stabilizing systems optimized for short magnifications. In the following paragraphs, I will list true Macro lenses, that satisfy all or most of the needed features to take the best possible close-up photo of an insect.

What are the 5 Best Canon Macro lenses for Insects?

In this article, I will review 5 cameras that are very well suited for macro photography. For those of you who are shopping on a budget, I have selected 2 macro lenses that are the best bang for your buck. The 5th camera is a zoom lens and it is the most flexible, since it can go from 100-400 focal range, but as with all zoom lenses the price is quite steep. Here is a table where you can compare the lenses, below is a detailed description of each lens in the table.

Normal Macro - Recommended
Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM Macro Lens for Canon Digital SLR Cameras, Lens Only
Telephoto Macro
Canon EF 180mm f3.5L Macro USM AutoFocus Telephoto Lens for Canon SLR Cameras
Best Budget
Laowa 100mm f/2.8 2:1 Ultra Macro APO Lens for Canon EF
Tamron AFF017C700 SP 90mm F/2.8 Di VC USD 1:1 Macro for Canon Cameras (Black) - International Version
Zoom Lens
Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens, Lens Only
Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM Macro Lens for Canon Digital SLR Cameras, Lens Only
Canon EF 180mm f3.5L Macro USM AutoFocus Telephoto Lens for Canon SLR Cameras
Laowa 100mm f/2.8 2:1 Ultra Macro APO Lens for Canon EF
Tamron AFF017C700 SP 90mm F/2.8 Di VC USD 1:1 Macro for Canon Cameras (Black) - International Version
Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens, Lens Only
-
-
980 Reviews
66 Reviews
50 Reviews
349 Reviews
387 Reviews
$1,299.00
$748.00
$499.00
$830.00
$2,399.00
Normal Macro - Recommended
Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM Macro Lens for Canon Digital SLR Cameras, Lens Only
Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM Macro Lens for Canon Digital SLR Cameras, Lens Only
980 Reviews
$1,299.00
Telephoto Macro
Canon EF 180mm f3.5L Macro USM AutoFocus Telephoto Lens for Canon SLR Cameras
Canon EF 180mm f3.5L Macro USM AutoFocus Telephoto Lens for Canon SLR Cameras
66 Reviews
$748.00
Best Budget
Laowa 100mm f/2.8 2:1 Ultra Macro APO Lens for Canon EF
Laowa 100mm f/2.8 2:1 Ultra Macro APO Lens for Canon EF
50 Reviews
$499.00
Tamron AFF017C700 SP 90mm F/2.8 Di VC USD 1:1 Macro for Canon Cameras (Black) - International Version
Tamron AFF017C700 SP 90mm F/2.8 Di VC USD 1:1 Macro for Canon Cameras (Black) - International Version
-
349 Reviews
$830.00
Zoom Lens
Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens, Lens Only
Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens, Lens Only
-
387 Reviews
$2,399.00

Last update on 2021-09-08

You will not go wrong with this lens. The image quality is outstanding. The focus speed is super. As mentioned in the introduction, a good macro lens needs to have a true macro magnification ratio of 1:1, meaning the object you are photographing in real life is the same size as on your camera sensor. This lens has it! This versatile lens gives great results in portrait work and handheld movie-making, thanks to its ability to achieve a shallow depth of field with beautiful bokeh. It also comes along with built-in Hybrid Image Stabilization, which is also very important when taking close-up photos. On top of all of that, it has a nice lightweight design. This is the best normal macro lens!

Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM Macro Lens for Canon Digital SLR Cameras, Lens Only
980 Reviews
Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM Macro Lens for Canon Digital SLR Cameras, Lens Only
  • 100 millimeter focal length and 1:2.8 maximum aperture. The EF1.4X II; EF2X II extenders cannot be used with this lens. There are no compatible close-up lenses
  • Lens construction consists of 15 elements in 12 groups
  • 23.4-Degree diagonal angle of view
  • Inner focusing system with USM and full-time manual focus option. Closest focusing distance 0.99 feet; 0.3 meter (maximum close-up magnification: 1x)
  • 67 millimetre filter size. Filter Size: 58 millimetre. Lens hood: ET-73

Last update on 2021-09-08

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

This lens is a telephoto lens as it comes with a very high focal length of 180mm. The big advantage of this lens is not to scare the subject away because you do not have to get so close, 18 inches for this lens compared to the 12 for the 100mm. Therefore this lens can be used to take close-up photos of easily scared insects like fireflies flying around. This lens unfortunately does not come with image stabilization (IS), but that can easily be compensated by using a tripod. Most of the macro photography work is usually done statically from a tripod anyway. This lens is not as versatile as Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L and therefore can’t be used for portrait photography and alike. I would recommend this lens to photographers who want to expand their array of lenses with a lens dedicated to macro photography.

Sale
Canon EF 180mm f3.5L Macro USM AutoFocus Telephoto Lens for Canon SLR Cameras
66 Reviews
Canon EF 180mm f3.5L Macro USM AutoFocus Telephoto Lens for Canon SLR Cameras
  • 180mm macro lens with f/3.5 maximum aperture for Canon SLR cameras
  • 3 UD glass elements and internal floating system combine to minimize aberrations
  • Advanced ultra-sonic monitor (USM) for high-speed, quiet autofocusing
  • Focusing distance range of 1.57 feet to infinity; supports EF Extender 1.4x and 2x
  • Measures 3.2 inches in diameter and 7.3 inches long; weighs 2.4 pounds; 1-year warranty

Last update on 2021-09-08

Laowa 100mm f/2.8 2:1 Ultra Macro APO Lens for Canon – Best Budget Lens

This is a great option, for those of you on a budget. I love Laowa lenses because they are the only lenses that can go from infinity focus to 2x magnification. The capability to go to 2x magnification is excellent for taking close-up shots of insects, as it enables the camera to capture a small insect in the full-frame! This lens has a focal length of 100mm, which fits our criteria for a good macro lens and it can cover a full-frame sensor size. It is a very good lens optically as it is very very sharp – an important characteristic for getting as much detail out of your close-up shots. And don’t forget, this is a BUDGET lens! Wow! Highly recommended for those of you who are shopping on a budget, but want high value for your money.

Laowa 100mm f/2.8 2:1 Ultra Macro APO Lens for Canon EF
50 Reviews
Laowa 100mm f/2.8 2:1 Ultra Macro APO Lens for Canon EF
  • FOCUS: Laowa 100mm f/2.8 2:1 Ultra-Macro is the second 2:1 Macro lens from Laowa. 100mm is one of the most common focal lengths for macro photography usage. All of the 100mm macro lenses in the market can reproduce 1:1 magnification (life-size) images only
  • APERTURE: Maximum aperture of f/2.8, The Canon version of the Laowa 100mm Macro lens is equipped with an aperture control motor and CPU chip
  • TYPE: Laowa 100mm f/2.8 2:1 Ultra Macro APO is not only an exceptional macro lens. It can also focus to infinity and is a very decent telephoto portrait lens
  • MACRO: Despite the extended magnification range, the size of the Laowa 100mm is actually comparable to other macro lenses in the market
  • CONSTRUCTION: APO design reduces chromatic aberration to a minimum / 12 element in 10 group construction / 9 blade rounded diaphragm creates creamy bokeh

Last update on 2021-09-08

Tamron SP 90mm F/2.8 Di VC USD 1:1 Macro for Canon

Tamron SP 90mm F/2.8 is another great option for those of you who are shopping on a budget. The lens is very very sharp. The AF distance limiter works well and the VC Vibration Control optical stabilization system is very effective. One thing I would say stands out in this lens is its super “creamy” bokeh, which can be an attractive characteristic when it comes to macro photography.

Tamron AFF017C700 SP 90mm F/2.8 Di VC USD 1:1 Macro for Canon Cameras (Black) - International Version
349 Reviews
Tamron AFF017C700 SP 90mm F/2.8 Di VC USD 1:1 Macro for Canon Cameras (Black) - International Version
  • Ultrasonic Silent Drive (USD) high-torque motor ensures fast & accurate AF response
  • Three-coil electromagnetic VC image stabilization system provides a 3.5-stop advantage for significantly sharper images. Minimum Object Distance [m] : 0.30
  • XY-Shift compensation reinforces VC functionality, further improving image stabilization at any shooting distance
  • Moisture-proof and dust-resistant construction prevents intrusion of dust or water droplets
  • 1 x Tamron 90 mm VC Lens,Lens Hood,Rear cap,Instructions

Last update on 2021-09-08

Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens – Zoom Lens

And as for the last lens on our list, but definitely not the least is Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L. It is a zoom lens that comes with a whopping focal range from 100-400mm. This enables us to take amazing macro photos even if we are not very close to the subject. The lens is very good for capturing shots from a distance. The lens is not only good for macro photography but also for portrait, wildlife, and sports photography. The lens comes with image stabilization, enabling us to take very sharp photos without a need for a tripod. The lens is pretty heavy, weighing over 1kg. It is a perfect multipurpose lens due to its wide focal range. It is a bit pricier, but for those of you who want to have it all in one lens, this is definitely the lens to go for. Macro, portrait, wildlife, sport photography, you get it all with this lens.

Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens, Lens Only
387 Reviews
Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens, Lens Only
  • Compact, high performance L-series super-telephoto zoom makes it ideal for sports and wildlife photography
  • Rotation-type zoom ring allows for more precise composition and excellent balance when handholding
  • Improved zoom torque adjustment ring allows easy setting of zoom tension, Focal Length & Maximum Aperture:100-400mm 1:4.5-5.6, Closest Focusing Distance-3.2 ft. / 0.98m
  • New Air Sphere Coating (ASC) helps to significantly reduce backlit flaring and ghosting, Highly resistant to dust and water, and amazing durability enabling shooting even in harsh conditions
  • German (Publication Language)

Last update on 2021-09-08


Final Thoughts

All of the mentioned cameras are phenomenal for macro photography, but if I had to recommend one it would have to be Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM. If you are on a budget go for Laowa 100mm f/2.8 2:1 Ultra Macro APO, I’m sure it won’t disappoint! And for those of you who would like to have it all with one lens, macro, portrait, wildlife, sport photography, go for the zoom lens Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM.

I hope you found my guide useful and it will help you make the right decision also for yourself. Oh, and if you have a question you are welcome to comment below or contact me through the contact form. I am always happy to exchange experiences with my fellow photography enthusiasts. Wish you tons of great photos with your new lens 🙂.

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