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Really disappointed in the RF 100mm f/2.8L Macro

  
 
Jman13
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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · Really disappointed in the RF 100mm f/2.8L Macro


So yesterday, I decided to consolidate my macro lenses, of which I have the RF 85mm f/2 and the Laowa 100mm f/2.8. I picked up the RF 100mm f/2.8L IS, and while I had read some reviews that mentioned some focus shift at certain distances, I also read tons of positive reviews. I should have paid closer attention to the reviews that went into focus shift.

I got the lens home, was super impressed by the sharpness, contrast and bokeh at f/2.8 for portraits. Macro stuff looked ok, but I was just messing around. Took some more shots, and started noticing that stopped down the center didn't seem quite as sharp as I was expecting given my experience with other macro lenses...and a little disappointing given the $1,400 price tag. Then I did some controlled tests.

The lens has no real visible focus shift when focusing at very close magnifications (1x, 1.4x, etc). It also doesn't really have a problem beyond about 8 feet. But in between, the focus shift is extremely noticeable, and rather pronounced, and for my uses (where a large portion of my work is in that 0.5x to 0.2x magnification, including medium format film scanning), it is just unacceptable. The focus shifts a bit at f/4, quite a lot at f/5.6 and a ton at f/8. Enough that stopped down head and shoulders portraits (like studio work) would have the eyes go out of focus. Mid-range macro work with large insects like butterflies and dragonflies would make it near impossible to hit precise focus when stopped down. Because RF lenses cannot focus when stopped down (either AF or manual), you have to 'guess' how far to manually focus in front of your subject to get perfect focus at f/8, which is sort of crazy.

So before I 100% decided to return the lens, I did controlled tests, which 100% confirmed the issue. See below for results. This is my Laowa 100mm on the left, with the RF 100mm macro on the right. Both were shot tripod mounted with flash on a self timer, so 100% no shake involved, and distance perfectly consistent. The dollar bill is at around a 45 degree angle to show distance shift. The RF 100 has a little bit more magnification at this exact focus distance, but it doesn't matter much. Focus was manually done on the eye in the dollar bill with 10x magnification, then left alone for each shot, f/2.8 through f/8 - notice how the Laowa just gets sharper and sharper, with more DOF, while the RF lens just shifts its focus further and further backward, leaving the eye out of focus. By f/8, the actual focus point is all the way at the right side of the crop (which at this distance is almost a full centimeter behind where the lens was focused).

The Digital Picture reached out to Canon, who confirmed this is a design decision, and fully expected behavior, not a problem with any lens copies. I am astounded they haven't released a firmware update that will compensate for the focus shift based on focus distance and selected aperture. It should not be that hard to implement. In the meantime, back it goes.

Here are 100% crops of the focus area between the two lens at those apertures..this is at about 2.5 feet distance: Right click and select 'open image in new tab' if FM is shrinking the image to fit the borders a bit.








May 19, 2022 at 08:35 AM
Peter Figen
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · Really disappointed in the RF 100mm f/2.8L Macro


If this is indeed, a feature and not a bug, then why waste another minute, other than getting your own personal confirmation from Canon. It's hard to believe they would make on purpose, a lens that is functionally unusable as you are describing. Have you tried talking to CPS? What do they say? There are a lot of good, even great macro lenses out there today. Maybe it pays to have different models suited to different uses. That's probably why I always seem to have about half a dozen laying around and another one being delivered on Friday.

Just out of curiosity, what happens when you manually focus while holding the depth of field button down so you're focusing at aperture. That to me, would be the final confirmation that something is amiss - y'know, if it's perfect that way.



May 19, 2022 at 09:37 AM
Jman13
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · Really disappointed in the RF 100mm f/2.8L Macro


Peter Figen wrote:
If this is indeed, a feature and not a bug, then why waste another minute, other than getting your own personal confirmation from Canon. It's hard to believe they would make on purpose, a lens that is functionally unusable as you are describing. Have you tried talking to CPS? What do they say? There are a lot of good, even great macro lenses out there today. Maybe it pays to have different models suited to different uses. That's probably why I always seem to have about half a dozen laying around and another one being delivered on Friday.
...Show more

For me, I'm not invested enough in the lens to bother doing interaction with Canon - it's been confirmed with three separate reviewers (The Digital Picture, Christopher Frost and Dustin Abbott). For me, I'm returning it, and either getting my 85 macro back, or getting the Sigma 70mm for my AF macro and keeping the Laowa for higher magnifications.

The Digital Picture's statement after consulting with Canon:
"The response from Canon's optical engineers was to confirm that, due to its 1.4x magnification (1.4:1 reproduction ratio) capability, a magnification far exceeding 1.0x, the RF 100mm F2.8 L Macro IS Lens's optical design exhibits some focus shift.

The focus shift is not sample dependent and is not related to the SA control ring. As focus shift is characteristic of this lens, no production changes to the lens or lens/camera firmware updates are anticipated. Correction, when necessary, is accomplished by focusing slightly in front of the subject. "


Just out of curiosity, what happens when you manually focus while holding the depth of field button down so you're focusing at aperture. That to me, would be the final confirmation that something is amiss - y'know, if it's perfect that way.


This is impossible, as the focus by wire will not allow the lens to focus while holding the depth of field button down. I have confirmed that manually moving focus ahead of the intended focus point and then taking the picture does result in perfect focus, but this is not really feasible in the field when shooting.

The reason I think that many people haven't noticed too much of an issue with it is that the lens is fine when focused very closely, at 1:1 and closer, and when using it for portraiture, many people will only shoot wide open, where it isn't an issue. But I agree, it's ridiculous for a lens of this price to have such a baked in flaw. Especially since it should be fixable with a firmware update.



May 19, 2022 at 09:43 AM
rscheffler
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · Really disappointed in the RF 100mm f/2.8L Macro


Jordan, thanks for providing your perspective on the problem. As a reliable reviewer here on FM it's good to get your take on it.

It really does sound like a firmware fix is required but I'm guessing to calculate the amount of focus shift for every distance and aperture combination is time consuming... Another option would be to redesign the RF manual focusing implementation to allow focus adjustment when DOF preview is active. Or provide an option to stop the lens down during AF. Or stop the lens down automatically and allow manual focusing. With enough pressure, maybe Canon will budge.

The only immediate workaround I could think of, for static subjects, would be use of a focusing rail. Stop the lens down and adjust the focusing rail. But obviously this is not a solution for non-static subjects.



May 19, 2022 at 09:49 AM
jcolwell
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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · Really disappointed in the RF 100mm f/2.8L Macro


It's nice to have the possibility of getting a FW fix. Resistance is futile.

It's also nice that it has a different optical design than my EF 100/2.8L IS Macro. I haven't tested my EF macro for focus shift, but I haven't had any issues with it. I use the EF L IS Macro as intended (for handheld macro), and also as backup-to and sometimes instead-of my EF 70-200/2.8L IS II, for people and PJ shots.



May 19, 2022 at 10:29 AM
LCPete
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p.1 #6 · p.1 #6 · Really disappointed in the RF 100mm f/2.8L Macro


I was tempted with the RF 100mm at the moment Iím using the EF version on my R5
It was the possibility of 1.4 magnification that was tempting, at the moment I use a Marumi achromat to get higher than 1:1
But as soon as I saw the reviews I changed my mind the focus shift makes it no go for what I do
I mainly shoot damselflies and butterflies at F5.6 to 7.1 and use autofocus and often use the R5 focus bracketing feature
Itís a real shame but the focus shift would mean that this lens wouldnít be suitable for what I do
Most people do manual focus with macro but I prefer to autofocus my main subjects are skittish and I often need to quickly get the shot before the insect flies off

Edited on May 25, 2022 at 12:36 AM · View previous versions



May 19, 2022 at 10:50 AM
AmbientMike
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p.1 #7 · p.1 #7 · Really disappointed in the RF 100mm f/2.8L Macro


Jman13 wrote:
So yesterday, I decided to consolidate my macro lenses, of which I have the RF 85mm f/2 and the Laowa 100mm f/2.8. I picked up the RF 100mm f/2.8L IS, and while I had read some reviews that mentioned some focus shift at certain distances, I also read tons of positive reviews. I should have paid closer attention to the reviews that went into focus shift.

I got the lens home, was super impressed by the sharpness, contrast and bokeh at f/2.8 for portraits. Macro stuff looked ok, but I was just messing around. Took some more shots, and started
...Show more


Wow. That's insane.

I've been getting 1.4x by using a 1.4 tc on my 180 Tamron. Got it in 2005. 1.4 magnification not a good reason imo




May 19, 2022 at 11:57 AM
jcolwell
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p.1 #8 · p.1 #8 · Really disappointed in the RF 100mm f/2.8L Macro


I'm using a 2xIII on Mamiya M645 A 120/4 Macro in the studio, ATM.


May 19, 2022 at 12:06 PM
Jman13
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p.1 #9 · p.1 #9 · Really disappointed in the RF 100mm f/2.8L Macro


Yeah, it's crazy. I've returned the lens and got my 85/2 Macro back that I had traded towards the L, and just ran the same tests through that lens that I had run the L through the previous night. The 85/2 exhibits exactly zero focus shift, and was dramatically sharper in the center of all tested frames. The L is a touch sharper at the corners when focus shift is properly accounted for, but it's a very mild difference. With the focus shift, it's very slightly in favor of the 85. Guess I'll keep my 85/2 for quite some time.

Below is a sample from the bookshelf shot I took just as a quick test originally with the 100L, which is what signaled to me that there was a potential issue. I then retook them more controlled, and got the same result each time...and then with the 85/2 a little bit ago, with the same framing. These are with flash, autofocused in the center. 100% crops:

Center:






And extreme lower left corner - interestingly enough, the focus shift on the 100L doesn't seem to be enough to pull the corners out of the depth of field. It's possible the corners have a higher effective aperture and greater depth of field, or that there's just a small amount of field curvature that means when focused correctly in the center, the corners are barely still in the DOF, but when focus shifted, they stay in the DOF. Don't know, but it's all four corners, and I was sure to be square to the target.









May 19, 2022 at 12:29 PM
Gochugogi
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p.1 #10 · p.1 #10 · Really disappointed in the RF 100mm f/2.8L Macro


Thanks for that! I struggled deciding between the RF 100mm f/2.8L IS and RF 85 2.0 a couple months back and bought the RF 85 2.0 since I mainly use .5X to .25X and infinity. Guess I dodged a bullet on that one and have been very happy with the RF 85 2.0.


May 19, 2022 at 01:12 PM
 


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Peter Figen
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p.1 #11 · p.1 #11 · Really disappointed in the RF 100mm f/2.8L Macro


It seems difficult to believe that, among so many of Canon's recent optical successes, something this egregious would be allowed to go to final production. Even if all you did were manually focused focus stacks, this lens is going to be problematic. And some optical engineer in Japan obviously knew about this feature, as it were and thought it was okay.


May 19, 2022 at 01:58 PM
Jman13
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p.1 #12 · p.1 #12 · Really disappointed in the RF 100mm f/2.8L Macro


Peter Figen wrote:
It seems difficult to believe that, among so many of Canon's recent optical successes, something this egregious would be allowed to go to final production. Even if all you did were manually focused focus stacks, this lens is going to be problematic. And some optical engineer in Japan obviously knew about this feature, as it were and thought it was okay.


I'm with you. I mean, it's possible that the degree of focus shift varies somewhat from lens to lens, but given that there are three reviews from reasonably well known reviewers, plus other mentions of it out there, plus Canon's engineers confirming it means that I doubt there's that much difference form copy to copy. It really baffles me. It's also really a shame, because if it didn't have this, it would be a near-perfect macro lens. Great magnification, exceptionally sharp, lovely rendering and absolutely gorgeous bokeh. AF is pretty quick too.



May 19, 2022 at 02:19 PM
Uarctos
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p.1 #13 · p.1 #13 · Really disappointed in the RF 100mm f/2.8L Macro


They did it with a far more expensive lens, the EF600mm f4. The IS was really bad, and they corect it partially with a firmware update.


May 19, 2022 at 03:58 PM
Jesse Evans
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p.1 #14 · p.1 #14 · Really disappointed in the RF 100mm f/2.8L Macro


I believe this issue could be greatly alleviate if canon were to enable Exposure + DOF simulation as an option for the live view on the R5 like they have on the R3.


May 19, 2022 at 04:23 PM
Jman13
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p.1 #15 · p.1 #15 · Really disappointed in the RF 100mm f/2.8L Macro




Jesse Evans wrote:
I believe this issue could be greatly alleviate if canon were to enable Exposure + DOF simulation as an option for the live view on the R5 like they have on the R3.


Absolutely. Allowing to focus stopped down would completely solve it.



May 19, 2022 at 04:36 PM
AmbientMike
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p.1 #16 · p.1 #16 · Really disappointed in the RF 100mm f/2.8L Macro


It's just more acceptable on a <$100 alt. I've found several alts, oem and 3rd party, that have this issue. It's annoying but one I paid $7. Granted it's on more expensive lenses too. But, you can stop those down to 5.6-8, focus at the shooting aperture, and it's no big deal really (f/16 still a problem, though. )

It seems pretty much impossible to deal with af lenses that have a focus shift, though. At least, I don't know of a solution I am completely comfortable with. And the more you stop down the more it is off, AFAIK, regardless of people saying it's OK at f/11. I doubt it.

Whatever people think of me shooting a Rebel, it's hard to get excited about ff given 24-70/4 & 100-400 II focus shift issues I've read about. And yes I've seen evidence nikon and Sony have issues on this too




May 19, 2022 at 05:23 PM
Jman13
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p.1 #17 · p.1 #17 · Really disappointed in the RF 100mm f/2.8L Macro


If it makes you feel better, this is the first lens I've ever purchased where it was a big enough problem to return. None of the other RF lenses I've owned or tried have had any issues whatsoever like this.


May 19, 2022 at 05:41 PM
Flowernut
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p.1 #18 · p.1 #18 · Really disappointed in the RF 100mm f/2.8L Macro


Scratch this one from my wish list. I don't need more than 1x. I don't want focus shift.


May 19, 2022 at 07:20 PM
LCPete
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p.1 #19 · p.1 #19 · Really disappointed in the RF 100mm f/2.8L Macro


Is the EF version still in production?
Iíve had mine since it first came out if anything happened to it I would get it repaired or buy another EF version not the RF one because of the focus shift a real shame because otherwise it would be the prefect macro lens



May 20, 2022 at 02:21 AM
Z250SA
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p.1 #20 · p.1 #20 · Really disappointed in the RF 100mm f/2.8L Macro


Well aware of the reviews and the issue with focus shift, I got the RF 100 Macro some weeks ago. Took it for a first real spin last week. I found it to be an extremely nice lens for my kind of shooting: opportunistic "Oooh, thats beautiful!! =D" kind of shooting. It was so fantastic to be able to go from infinity to 1.4x without any added fuss. It has always been off turning to fiddle with the extension tubes. And most importantly, Iīm doing a lot of focus stacking (which nullifies the shift issue) as I finally has a _real_ makro lens with AF, extending (but only optically ) to 1.4x, mostly at freehand at that.

BUT, and this is a big butt for the RF, for highprecision makro (but without focus stacking) I would use my ZF 100/2 Makro-Planar. Flat field, negligible distortion, nice IQ. Both lenses are remarkable performers, but incomplete, each one with its shortcomings as well as strengths. As always.



May 20, 2022 at 02:40 AM
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