After reading Drew Gardner’s excellent post about this lens, I thought I’d put a few words together on my own experience with it.
The first time I saw this lens was at a canon launch event, they were introducing it with a pile of other products, including the 7D so it kind of got lost in the melee. I had a quick look at it but quite frankly, I couldn't see why I'd want to pay extra for this lens compared to the original.
Many months later we finally got some stock and one went straight into the rental department. The next weekend I decided to try it out, along with a 1DMkiv. Not a normal combination by any means, a macro lens with a ‘sports’ body.
So, it turns out to be a sunny weekend and I wander around the garden taking snaps of flowers, very nice. I end up in the garage doing a bit of sweeping when I uncover a huge spider. Hmmm… It’s very dark in that corner, but what the hey, it’s a 1Dmkiv right, it shoots with no light, right?
Not really wanting to lay on the floor and go face to face with this thing, I stick the camera on live-view, zoom the screen in and hold the camera at arms length. I manually set the closest focus and walk the camera in until the eyes are in focus (you need the eyes in focus to connect emotionally with the subject, ha!) and press the shutter.
So, I’m in the dark, at arms length, about 3 cm from a spider, using live view. Not much chance of a good shot there then. Wrong! Sharp as a tack, blinking miracle.
The image stabilisation on this lens is amazing, no other word for it.
I ended up adding a flash with an Orbis ring flash attachment on it, leaning over the spider for some nice soft light, that also meant I could stop down to f7 or thereabouts for a bit of extra DOF.
Checkout the gallery on Flickr here.
A couple of weeks later I used the same combo whilest shooting some b-roll at a wedding. As a portrait lens this really excels. On the 1Dmkiv its a 130 f/2.8. It has a focus range switch that cuts the AF focus range down, avoiding hunting. You can set 0.3-0.5m, 0.5m-infinity or 0.3m-infinity. The far range is perfect for general shooting and allows this lens to focus really fast, much faster than you expect from a macro. Obviously, the amazing AF on the 1Dmkiv helps out here too. Compared to other 2.8 lenses you might use, the macro comes in really useful for detail shots, rings, cake, flowers etc. The semi abstract detail shots make great album backgrounds and DVD menu/credit backgrounds.
So, after using this lens a couple of times, I'm convinced, this is worth every penny over the old one. If I haven't convinced you, but you're curious, rent it for a weekend, you won't regret it.