Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro USM Lens Review

I have to admit, when the Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro USM Lens was announced, I was less than enthusiastic over a new short focal length macro lens compatible only with the EF-S lens mount Digital SLRs. But now that I've had a chance to use it, I think the EF-S 60mm Macro is a very nice lens.

Canon must believe that the 60 macro is very durable as they include only a piece of double-thick corrugated cardboard and a bubble wrap bag for padding in the box. And it does appear to be reasonably well built. The focus ring is relatively wide and smooth functioning. The lens is relatively small and quite light - it feels very nicely balanced on the Canon 350D/Digital Rebel XT. The design looks and feels modern.

Canon EF-S Macro Lens Size Comparison

Pictured above from left to right are the Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM Lens, Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro USM Lens, Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM Lens and Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 L USM Lens.

ModelWeightDimensions w/o HoodFilter
Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro USM Lens11.8 oz(335g)2.9 x 2.7"(73.0 x 70.0mm)52mm
Tamron SP 90mm f/2.8 Di Macro Lens14.3 oz(405g)2.8 x 3.8"(71.0 x 97.0mm)55mm
Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro Lens21.1 oz(600g)3.1 x 4.7"(79.0 x 119.0mm)58mm
Sigma 105mm f/2.8 EX DG Macro Lens15.8 oz(450g)2.9 x 3.7"(74.0 x 95.0mm)58mm
Sigma 150mm f/2.8 EX DG HSM Macro Lens32.0 oz(895g)3.1 x 5.4"(80.0 x 137.0mm)72mm
Canon EF 180mm f/3.5 L USM Macro Lens38.4 oz(1090g)3.2 x 7.3"(82.5 x 186.6mm)72mm
Sigma 180mm f/3.5 EX DG APO HSM Macro Lens33.6 oz(965g)3.2 x 7.1"(80.0 x 182.0mm)72mm
Tamron SP 180mm f/3.5 Di LD Macro Lens32.0 oz(921g)3.3 x 6.5"(84.0 x 165.0mm)72mm

Autofocus shows its technologically modern performance - it is fast, quiet and accurate. The EF-S 60mm Macro incorporates Canon's excellent USM (Ultrasonic Motor) with FTM (Full Time Manual) focusing. An internal focusing design is used. The lens does not change length while focusing nor does the front element rotate - a big plus when using the compatible Canon MR-14ex and Canon MT-24EX Macro Flashes.

Optically, the Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro USM Lens performs very well. It is very sharp wide open (even in the corners) and slightly sharper stopped down. It is at least as sharp as the EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM lens and the EF 180mm f/3.5 L USM lens. It is at least as sharp as the EF 50mm f/1.4 USM Lens at equivalent apertures.

Color and contrast are good, distortion is low and CA (Chromatic Aberration) is well controlled. Light fall-off is apparent at f/2.8, better at f/3.2 and basically gone at f/4 - The 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM Lens and EF 180mm f/3.5 L USM lens fare better in this regard.

ModelMFDMWDMM12mm ET25mm ET1.4x2x
Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro USM Lens7.9"(200mm)3.5"(90mm)1x1.28x1.61xNN
Tamron SP 90mm f/2.8 Di Macro Lens11.4"(290mm)3.9"(99mm)1xYY
Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro Lens12.0"(300mm)6.0"(150mm)1x1.19x1.39xNN
Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 L IS USM Macro Lens11.8"(300mm)5.9"(146mm)1x1.17x1.37xNN
Sigma 105mm f/2.8 EX DG Macro Lens12.2"(310m)4.8"(122mm)1xNN
Sigma 150mm f/2.8 EX DG HSM Macro Lens15.0"(380mm)7.6"(194mm)1xYY
Canon EF 180mm f/3.5 L USM Macro Lens19.2"(480mm)9.5"(240mm)1x1.09x1.21xYY
Sigma 180mm f/3.5 EX DG APO HSM Macro Lens18.0"(460mm)1xYY
Tamron SP 180mm f/3.5 Di LD Macro Lens18.5"(470mm)1xYY

Canon's true macro lenses (the 60 is one) yield a magnification of up to 1x or 1:1 which means the subject can appear lifesize on the sensor. The Canon MP-E 65mm Macro-only Lens is an exception as it goes from 1:1 to 5:1 (and I exempt it from further macro lens statements in this review). Lifesize on the sensor means output size is significantly larger than the sensor unless you are viewing it as a thumbnail or as a smaller-than-wallet-sized print.

Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro USM Lens Product Images

Select View:  MFD |    w/ Hood:  MFD |    Rotated        Compare >

Canon includes a magnification ratio scale in the 60mm Macro's ft/m distance window (if knowing the exact magnification is important to you). Something that is not as readily apparent is the loss of light at high magnification values. The EF-S 60mm Macro loses 1/2 stop at 1:5, 1 stop at 1:3, 1.5 stops at 1:1.5 and 2 stops at 1:1 (lifesize). You need a shutter speed twice as long for a 1 stop loss and four times longer with a 2 stop loss. The camera's autoexposure (or E-TTL if using a flash) will automatically compensate for this light loss. This loss of light is a common trait of macro lenses - not something unique about the EF-S 60mm Macro.

Another common macro lens attribute is the short DOF (Depth of Field) at 1:1 and near 1:1 magnification. Using a narrow aperture is the solution for getting the most DOF, but this generally requires a tripod (for stability during longer exposures) or a flash. Even though the 60 macro aperture stops down to f/32, I rarely use an aperture setting more narrow than f/16 as diffraction causes too much loss of sharpness. Settings of f/8 to f/16 are normal for macro photography. Visualize the flat plane of sharp focus as you frame your subject.

Need more magnification? The EF-S 60mm Macro is not compatible with Canon's extenders, but shows significant magnification increase with extension tubes. The EF-S 60mm Macro utilized with a 12mm extension tube will yield a magnification up to 1.28x and up to 1.61x with a 25mm extension tube.

Canon Macro Lenses Size Comparison

Pictured above from left to right are the EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro, EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM and EF 180mm f/3.5 L macro lenses.

So, which macro lens should you choose? Good question.

Choosing the right focal length is probably the first criteria. Longer focal length macro lenses generally give you more distance-to-subject working space for the same subject framing. Insects will not hang around long at the 60 macro's 3.5" or so (9cm) 1:1 minimum working distance (MWD). The EF 100mm Macro lens allows about 6" (15cm) and the 180 L allows about 9.5" (24cm) of working distance at 1:1 magnification.

The focal length also affects other macro photography aspects. Longer focal lengths require more distance to acquire the same subject framing. The result is a change of perspective - the telephotos compress/flatten the subject features more than short focal lengths. The wider angle of view of the short focal length macro lenses mean that more of the background will be in the picture - and that the background will be less-diffusely blurred. Picture what I am talking about ...

Focal Length Background Blur Comparison

The pictures above were taken with three macro lenses - the 180mm L, 100mm and 60mm. They are identically framed using the same aperture setting (f/16) and have identical subject to background distances. DOF (Depth of Field) is not different (same framing, same aperture = same DOF until closer to the hyper-focal distance), but perspective/compression and angle of view are very different. The 180mm lens shows only a small physical area of background subject that is compressed/enlarged to magnify the blur. Background subjects in the 60mm picture appear to be more in focus. They are not - they are just about as blurred, but they appear much smaller in the picture - and there are more of them because of the 60mm's angle of view. This gives a less diffuse looking background blur. If you are using a backdrop (such as rolled paper), the background blur aspect might not be important to you.

There are downsides to the longer focal length macro lenses. They are larger/heavier and require a faster shutter speed for handholding.

If you are looking for the ultimate nature macro shots, there is probably not a better choice than the Canon EF 180mm f/3.5 L USM lens. But, this is a relatively heavy and expensive lens that focuses slowly.

If you are looking for a great macro lens, the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro lens is a very good choice. It offers excellent optical performance and middle of the road focal length, working distance and size/weight. Price makes this lens a decent value. The 100mm focal length makes a decent tight portrait lens as well.

Back to the EF-S 60mm Macro - it would not be my first choice for a macro lens (aside from in-studio photography), but it makes a very good 60mm fixed focal length general use lens on an EF-S compatible Digital SLR Body. Since these bodies have a 1.6x FOVCF, the EF-S 60 will frame subjects similar to a 96mm lens on a full frame body.

Having macro capability in the Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro USM Lens is definitely a nice feature. If you are using a backdrop for a subject that does not run away, the EF-S 60 will do a great job. Product photography is one such use.

Full body down to head/shoulders portraits are a good use for the 60 macro. The 60mm f/2.8 is relatively fast compared to most consumer zooms (but slow compared to most fixed focal length lenses in the 35 to 85mm range). It is useful in lower light situations and will create a better background blur than most of the consumer zooms (shorter DOF).

Canon EF-S Lens Size Comparison

Pictured above from left to right are the EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 Lens, EF-S 60mm f/2.8 USM Lens, EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM Lens, EF-S 17-85mm f/4-5.6 IS USM Lens and EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens. The same lenses are pictured fully extended below.

Canon EF-S Lens Size Comparison - Lenses Fully Extended

The EF-S 60mm Macro uses relatively inexpensive/small 52mm filters. The lens comes with no Lens Hood (I suggest purchasing the ET-67B Lens Hood) and no lens pouch.

Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro USM Lens on Camera

Excellent sharpness and very good overall image quality in a nice package - the Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro USM Lens will have many happy owners.

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