Prime lenses are often known for their image quality and the EF 100mm f/2 USM is no exception. This was one of my first prime lenses and I was thoroughly impressed with its results. Colors look nice, and subjects are particularly very sharp.
At 100mm this fast telephoto lens is directly in the "portrait range" of focal lengths. It will get you in pretty close to your subject, enabling tight potraits. You can move in close for head & shoulders shots, or put some distance between you and the subject for upper-body portraits.
I also like telephoto lenses for landscape photos. Wide angles are popular in this genre, but telephoto compression can really make a landscape look fantastic. Here's a sunset over the mountains in upstate New York that I nabbed with the EF 100mm f/2 USM:
I say "nabbed" because this was not carefully shot with precise settings and a tripod, but rather it was a quick grab from the passenger seat of a car going 65 mph.
Fast f/2 Aperture
This is a fast lens that is capable of a wide f/2 maximum aperture. This makes it great for shooting in low light conditions such as gymnasiums and theaters, or on the street in the evening. The depth of field at f/2 is shallow and will give you a nice blurry background behind the subject. Here is a sample of its background-blurring capabilities:
The USM in its name stands for Ultrasonic Motor, which is Canon's high performance AF motor. The EF 100mm f/2 USM focuses fast! You will especially notice the focusing speed if you are stepping up from kit lenses -- when you hit the button the 100 f/2 really locks on quick.
The AF on this lens is also quiet. Unlike cheaper lenses such as the 50mm f/1.8 II which lacks USM and has a whine to its AF, the 100mm f/2 makes very little noise while locking onto the subject.
This lens is small and light. It is roughly the size of my hand and does not take up much real estate inside a camera bag. Since it is small in size and dark in color, you probably will not draw much attention shooting with it out in public. It's always nice to have a telephoto lens that doesn't scream "photographer here!"
Here is the EF 100mm f/2 mounted on both a small-sized Digital Rebel and a medium-sized EOS 5D:
This was one of my favorite lenses on both my Digital Rebel and 5D for a long time due to its wonderful image quality and the unique point of view you can get working with the 100mm focal length. I eventually upgraded to the 135mm f/2 L, which is a much more expensive, professional lens with more reach and a more rugged build quality. The two are very similar -- if you have had your eye on the 135mm but have a hard time justifying the price, the EF 100mm f/2 USM is a very good alternative. The EF 100mm f/2 USM is much cheaper than the 135L, but still has pleasing image quality, sharpness and fast autofocus.
Where to get it
- Canon EF 100mm f/2 USM at B&H
- Canon EF 100mm f/2 USM at Adorama
- Canon EF 100mm f/2 USM at Amazon.com
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