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Canon EF 180mm f/3.5L Macro USM

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52 178057 Apr 22, 2014
Recommended By Average Price
96% of reviewers $1,218.60
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Another telephoto macro lens with a maximum magnification of 1x. Life-size close-ups can be taken from a farther distance without disturbing the subject (insects, etc.). The internal floating system minimizes fluctuations in aberrations caused by changes in the focusing distance. Optical performance is outstanding from 1x to infinity.

Focal Length & Maximum Aperture: 180mm 1:3.5
Lens Construction: 14 elements in 12 groups
Diagonal Angle of View: 13 30'
Focus Adjustment: Inner focusing system with USM
Closest Focusing Distance: 0.48m / 1.6 ft.
Filter Size: 72mm
Max. Diameter x Length, Weight: 3.2" x 7.3", 2.4 lbs. / 82.5 x 186.6mm, 1090g


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Registered: Mar 6, 2014
Location: United States
Posts: 41
Review Date: Apr 22, 2014 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Very nice Image quality and colors.Great construction.

The colors and image quality you get from this lens are amazing. IQ wise it's the best lens I have. Bokeh is amazing on it too! Easy to do macro on insects that I don't want to get really close to. Overall a great lens. I have used it to take pictures of people, but the IQ is so good you can see every imperfection on the skin. The AF is quick if you use the distance switch. Makes a BIG difference. Construction wise its very sturdy and well built. Its a bit heavy but that is not a problem. GREAT lens and totally worth it.

Apr 22, 2014
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Registered: Jan 4, 2006
Location: United Kingdom
Posts: 21
Review Date: May 1, 2013 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: A great lens. excellent quality, even the AF is quick. The telephoto aspet is a bonus too.
Only the cost but it is really worth it

I just got this and i am still experimenting but it is great.

Some people mentioned the weight of the lens but it is not that bad. If you can handle a EF70-200L IS you will have no problem. Anyway this is a macro lens so a tripod is in order.

Really high quality images and the extra working distance of the Tamron 90mm Di Macro i have is a real bonus.

You will need a 72c adaptor ring to use the MT-24EX it was 30 here in the UK so probabaly only $30 in America ;-)

May 1, 2013
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Registered: Dec 19, 2008
Location: China
Posts: 935
Review Date: Nov 22, 2010 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 9 

Pros: Super sharp and details, good color, perfect PQ
Cannot use this lens for taking protrait especially girls/women from 16 and up :-) because the PQ is really too sharp and details to show you everything!

Found the boken is also amazing when compare to other macro lens.

Nov 22, 2010
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Registered: Nov 25, 2003
Location: Netherlands
Posts: 409
Review Date: Jul 12, 2010 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Sharp wide open from corner to corner, Stopped down even sharper, lovely bokeh, blurred background, build like a tank, tripod ring included
Weight, price, (no IS...?)

This is a very, very good lens! It is one of the best lenses I ever owned. As a macro lens it produces stunning blurred backgrounds. It is very sharp from corner to corner wide open provided your subject is perfectly flat and parallel to the sensor. Stopped down it is as sharp as one can get, amazing!
It is also a very fine telelens, it is sharper than my 70-200 4.0L IS at 200mm esp. towards the corners.
This copy is the second one I own, I sold the first one a few years ago because it wasn't used that much that time and the AF was terrible slow. Looking back at the pictures I made with this lens I realized it was a mistake to sell the lens.
The new one is produced november 2009 so it is quite new, I don't know what Canon has done with this lens or the latest DSLR's but this copy is focussing as fast as all my other L lenses when used with the AF limiter set at 1.5m to infinity. Setting AF to full range, focussing at short distances, it is focussing a bit slower but AF is dead on (used with 550D and 5DmkII) Still this new copy is much, much faster than the old one.
This is a keeper for me and I will use it as a mediate tele lens as well.

Jul 12, 2010
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Registered: Sep 15, 2009
Location: United Kingdom
Posts: 805
Review Date: Sep 19, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: the best IQ of all my lenses, bomb proof build.
a bit heavy.

Common to all reports

This is my attempt to give something back to the forum members who have provided this wonderful resource. I found much here that helped with my lens selection. So over the last 1 to 2 years here is what I used all on a pair of 5D bodies. (My comments will be subjective and personal. I will try to avoid saying anything that cannot be read in the spec sheets).

17-40 L
24-105 L IS
70-200 f4 L IS
180 L Macro
400 f5.6 L
50 f1.8 mkII
Sigma 50 f2.8 Macro EX

180 L Macro
It will take me years to explore all that this wonderful lens is capable of. It takes my photography places I never dreamed of.

Used on a tripod for indoor flower shots - stack focus. Used on a monopod for outdoor flower and plant shots also stack focus. The results exactly mirror the quality of my input the lens always delivers If I let it!

IQ is the best of all my lenses fabulous! A tip for anyone who feels that their copy may not be sharp just take some normal telephoto shots stuff where the limited DOF of macro will not get in the way.

Sep 19, 2009
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Registered: Oct 18, 2006
Location: Portugal
Posts: 0
Review Date: Sep 17, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Sharp Sharp Sharp color contrast, my best prime

This is my best prime, is fast Af but to macro is not important.
I really recomend this.

Sep 17, 2009
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Registered: Aug 27, 2008
Location: United States
Posts: 162
Review Date: Apr 5, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,300.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Sharpness, detail, color -- why you buy a DSLR in the first place
Weight, cost, slow AF

At some point I'll post my photos from this lens as words can't describe the exciting quality it delivers. I have the 100mm f2.8 macro, which is a sharp, fun lens and great value. The 180mm macro blows way past that -- the ability to move back from the subject and still frame it well is great, and the results can be spectacular.

The biggest problems with the lens really are in its use: shooting macro close in with f3.5 produces a razor-thin area of focus, so depth of field is often too small to be usable. You must move out to f11 or so, in which case you have less light, a longer exposure and more chance of movement (you or your subject) blurring the shot.

That is a wonderful problem to have. It means you can find exactly what you want. Your limiting factor is your camera and your patience in using a tripod, flash and/or reflector to set up the shot. You get it right, and the lens delivers.

If you are "point-and-shoot", if the words "creamy bokeh" don't get you excited, if you don't really care about ultimate IQ then this lens is too expensive and too much work for you. The rest of you though know what I'm talking about, this lens will blow your mind. If you liked the 100mm, then you will love the 180mm.

Apr 5, 2009
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J. Allen
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Registered: Jun 1, 2005
Location: United States
Posts: 157
Review Date: Mar 18, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Amazingly sharp. I thought my 135L was sharp but the 180 is clearly better. Wonderful color rendition, clarity and bokeh.
Focusing can be a wild ride if you don't increase the minimum focus distance with from .48 to 1.5m or there's a large difference between where the lens is initially focused to where you want it to go. Focus on a flower 2 feet away and they try to go to someone 100 feet away with the lens set to .48m and fasten your seat belt to see what happens. Resetting to 1.5m minimum focus distance is key for longer work and improves focusing significantly. Focus is slow but not nearly as slow as I anticipated.

This is the perfect macro lens with a tripod or higher shutter speeds available using MT-24EX macro flash. Handheld using higher shutter speeds to minimize camera shake results in virtually no DoF at wider apertures and minimum focus distance but it's another world of photography. Focus ring is very accurate but remember with this focal length and close work your'e getting a razor thin DoF. At the minimum focus distance even at f/14 you've only got .1 inch of DoF on a 1.3 crop. Back up to 3 feet and you get 1/2 an inch, great for macro. Although it's long it's a great portrait lens with flash from 10 feet away. The lens of the eye and lashes are stunningly clear, just soften the skin and you've got fabulous glamor shots with about 3 inches of DoF at f/5.6. I love this lens and I'd like to have paid less but I don't think it's overpriced considering the build quality, image results and versatility beyond a macro lens.

Mar 18, 2009
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Registered: Jan 28, 2005
Location: United States
Posts: 277
Review Date: Mar 7, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $750.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: SHARP SHARP SHARP!!! Build like a tank.

100 USM macro used to be the sharpest lens I've owned in comparison with 35L/85L/135L, now this 180L is no less sharp than that. Color rendering is stunning. Build quality is the best in class. AF is reasonably fast even though this kind of lens is built to manual focus, and it is extremely accurate. The only complain is the price tag. Fortunately I got a very good deal of it.

Mar 7, 2009
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Registered: Aug 20, 2006
Location: United States
Posts: 1932
Review Date: Jan 25, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,300.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Extremely sharp, amazing color and contrast.

I received this lens and I can tell you its extremely sharp, easy to handhold, AMAZING color and contrast. I usually shoot it around f16. Amazing lens.

Jan 25, 2009
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Greg Futral
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Registered: Apr 1, 2006
Location: temp
Posts: 180
Review Date: Jun 24, 2008 Recommend? no | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 4 

Pros: Seemed sturdy
My copy was soft at F16

The camera shop I bought was kind enough to let me trade down to a 100 2.8, which I have been quite happy with. It is sharp at f11, and is easier to manage.

Jun 24, 2008
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Registered: Jul 28, 2007
Location: United States
Posts: 1076
Review Date: Mar 15, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,250.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Sharp, good color, great for longer reach macro, and built like a tank!
Cost and weight.

Built better than the Canon 100mm f/2.8 macro USM, every bit as good as the 100mm macro. Very sharp and good colors. This lens is a tank, but you will get more reach from it. Great lens, no issues here!

Sample Photos Shot with a Canon 30D


Mar 15, 2008
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Dr Jimson
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Registered: Mar 3, 2008
Location: United Kingdom
Posts: 80
Review Date: Mar 10, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Sharp,very good contrast.

Extremely good build quality although a bit heavy. Challenging to use hand held. The focal length is great for not scaring the bugs away but does result in a very shallow depth of field. The contrast and colour is superb. This lens does require perfect technique and is much more demanding than the Canon 100mm macro. When I first got this lens I thought it was a bit soft but I found this was just down to the way I was using it coupled with the incredibly shallow depth of field.
Focus stacking software reveals just how sharp this lens really is. I would recommend using at least a monopod and preferably a tripod.
Focus is very slow but I almost always use manual focus so this is not really an issue for me.
I am not sure the difference in image quality between this and the 100mm justifies the difference in cost.

Mar 10, 2008
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Registered: Jun 15, 2006
Location: Kuwait
Posts: 416
Review Date: Jan 3, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,250.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Sharp, amazing contrast, build quality, and perfect focal length for easy macros

worth every penny, It proved to be a perfect companion with MP-E 65mm, both will form a perfect set for macros.

Jan 3, 2008
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Registered: Sep 4, 2005
Location: United States
Posts: 671
Review Date: Dec 12, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Incredible colors, FANTASTIC sharpness, focus speed - especially for a macro!
None yet~

I recently sold my Sigma 150/2.8 Macro in order to move up to this lens. As I did my research, I began to wonder if it was a good move. After all, it's more than double the cost, one third the warranty and a stop slower.
I've read all the reviews from here, to Amazon to Photozone and elsewhere. Some folks make it seem like it's on a par with other macro lenses out there, while others seem to think it's the holy grail of macros.
If I may, a short recap of the Sigma: AWESOME bokeh, terrific image quality, high build quality. On the downside, it often hunted for AF. True, most macro shooters won't use AF in critical situations, but it is a negative.
Since many reviews seemed to indicate the Canon 180 was on a par with the Sigma, I was concerned I'd gain nothing and lose a stop of light.
OK, now I've had a chance to use the Canon. Folks, it's not a fair fight. The Canon is head and shoulders above the Sigma. It is everything an L series lens should be.
Excellent build quality. Incredible, simply incredible image quality. FAST AF! I don't know what the other folk are expecting, but my goodness! I was amazed at the AF speed! Now, does it compare to my 24-105? Not really. Does it beat the Sigma? Hands down! I'm quite certain it's quite adequate for all but the fastest of moving subjects. Locks on like a smart bomb and gives great shots.
This is my sharpest lens, by a measure. It is the holy grail of macros, period. If you're thinking of getting it - and you can - don't think about it anymore. You'll be amazed.

Dec 12, 2007
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Registered: Sep 13, 2007
Location: United States
Posts: 796
Review Date: Nov 16, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,239.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Crisp, detailed images from corner to corner and across the frame. Can be used as a weapon for self-defense, or to hammer nails around the house. Black.
Exposes the deficiencies of your other lenses.

Before purchasing this lens, I spelunked deep in to the darkest and remotest corner of the Interwebs. Gathering user data and information on this lens. After the spreadsheets were analyzed and the numbers crunched. The distributed super-computer cluster (DSSC) I employ for lens evaluation printed out a small piece of ticker tape that read "Purchase Reccommended." It was a go!

During the data collection phase however, some trends were observed.
Opinions. Consensus data that had developed around this lens. For instance. 'AF is very slow.' 'It's very heavy, must be used with a tripod.' 'Not a lens for sports, birds in flight...fast moving objects.'
I would like to address each of these topics.

-- AF is very slow

This lens is marketed as a 'macro' lens, yet it could easily be marketed as a '180mm telephoto lens (with 1:1 magnification)'. The important thing to remember with this lens is the focusing distance it must travel from macro world to the real world.
For instance, you're focused in on the left eyelid of a baby mosquito, and suddenly a bull elk with a huge rack comes walking out of the forest at 50 yards. You swing the camera towards the elk, with the shutter pushed down halfway to engage AF (now is a good time to have a smoke, or see what you brought for lunch). The AF will be quite slow, naturally.
Computers can't do everything for us folks. At times like these you actually have to do something (sorry), and grab the lens and move the focus in range of the elk. Once you're "in range" of subject, whether small or large, near or far. You will find the AF to be quite effective.
The 300 f/2.8 is notorious for it's AF abilities, but it also has a magnification of 1:7.7. If it was 1:1, it would, like the 180 have that much more distance to travel to get things right. It would probably still be fast as all heck, but you get the point (I hope). So move the focus with your hand (sorry again) for large changes in focusing distance, and you will increase the versatility of this lens by some exponential factor that could only be calculated by the DSSC.

-- This lens must be used on a tripod

There's some timeless wisdom to that statement. Every lens, can, or could, or could have at one time benefited from the use of a tripod (and mirror-lock, and remote release). The wisdom of the ages applies to the 180 macro as well. There's times though, when you need to be hand holding the sucka.
Hand holding the 180 is not only easy, it's fun! It should be encouraged.
The lens is quick on the draw. It's a minimalist design. There's an AF/MF switch, focus limiter switch and focus ring. No bells and whistles. Look
at the side of a 300 2.8, it looks the control center at NASA (don't get me wrong, I want one too).
Was it not Thoreau who said:

Simplicity. I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand; instead of a million count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumb nail.

Would Thoreau have used the 180 macro?

180 macro hand held

-- Not a lens for sports, or BIF...or...or...

(see section on AF)

Move the focus in to range if you have to, and use this lens for whatever action oriented pursuits you desire. Some commonly used lenses for sports and BIF are the 300 f/4.0, the 400 f/5.6, the 100-400, the 500 f/4.0. This lens has wider max. aperture than all the above. If the FL can accommodate your needs, and you can actually manipulate the focus ring with your own hand (I know, sorry). Then you have once again increased the versatility of this lens by some exponential factor that would require a Ph.D in mathematics to calculate.
When you turn on Monday Night Football, are you going to see the sidelines full of 180 macros? Maybe (ok you won't), but don't let the "Macro lens" moniker discourage you from the fact that you have one of the nicest telephoto lenses ever designed by Canon (with 1:1 magnification).

180 macro birds in flight:

As for image quality and build quality.
I haven't used other notoriously sharp lenses like the 200 f/1.8, or the 300 f/2.8. I do know that this is the sharpest lens I own, and is within the top tier (the MTF charts appear to bare this out as well).
Color, contrast and background blur meet all my expectations of how an "L" grade lens should perform.
I was very impressed with the build quality with this lens. I wanted to test it though. So I was able to gain access to the rooftop of a 4 story apartment building, where I proceeded to drop the lens from 48 feet on to a concrete sidewalk...hehe...really, it's built very well.

Nov 16, 2007
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Canon EF 180mm f/3.5L Macro USM

Buy from B&H Photo
Reviews Views Date of last review
52 178057 Apr 22, 2014
Recommended By Average Price
96% of reviewers $1,218.60
Build Quality Rating Price Rating Overall Rating

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