10 best macro lenses in 2015

Want to shoot close-ups with your Canon or Nikon DSLR? We pick the best lenses for the job

If you want to shoot ultra close up images, you need a macro lens. These can focus close enough to reproduce small objects at full life-size on your camera's image sensor. That means something as petite as a postage stamp could fill the entire frame of an APS-C-format sensor, and when you view the image on a computer monitor or in a big print the resulting level of detail can be astonishing. Macro lenses can focus at normal distances too, so they can be used as regular 'prime' lenses.

All these recommended Canon macro lenses are designed for full-frame sensors, so you can use them on APS-C format Canon DSLRs too, and you're free to base your choice on value, focal length, autofocus systems and whether or not they include image stabilization. It's useful in a macro lens, though ultra-close-ups are usually shot on a tripod anyway.

Best macro lenses for Canon DSLRs...

Sigma 105mm f 2 8 EX DG OS HSM Macro

1. Sigma 105mm f/2.8 EX DG OS HSM Macro for Canon

For the best image quality at a reasonable price, this lens is unbeatable

Type: prime lens | Sensor size: full frame | Maximum aperture: f/2.8 | Image stabiliser: 4 stops | Weather seals: No | Minimum focus distance: 31cm | Filter size: 62mm | Dimensions: 78 x 126mm | Weight: 725g

Handling, image quality, value
Highly effective stabiliser
No weather seals
Distance of focus ring from body

Often it takes something special to tempt photographers from their camera's own-brand lenses, and this Sigma goes all out for the win. Its pro-spec design includes fast and near silent ring-type ultrasonic autofocus and there's a highly effective four-stop optical stabiliser. Two SLD (Special Low Dispersion) elements help produce excellent sharpness, even at the widest aperture. Colour fringing is negligible, and distortion is essentially a non-issue. As well as being very quick, autofocusing is good at locking on to targets in all lighting conditions and there are three focus-limiting options. Sublime handling and Canon-rivalling build quality completes this terrific lens.

Tamron SP 90mm f 2 8 Di VC USD Macro

2. Tamron SP 90mm f/2.8 Di VC USD Macro for Canon

Sturdily built and feature-packed: this lens offers a lot for the money

Type: prime | Sensor size: full frame | Maximum aperture: f/2.8 | Image stabiliser: 4 stops | Weather seals: Yes | Minimum focus distance: 30cm | Filter size: 58mm | Dimensions: 76 x 123mm | Weight: 550g

Great image quality
High-end features, weather sealing
Not quite as sharp as the Sigma 105mm
Slightly pricier than the Sigma

The Sigma 105mm is undoubtedly the star of the show, but this Tamron comes a close second. It gives you a very effective VC (Vibration Compensation) stabilisation system, and there's super-fast ring-type ultrasonic autofocus paired with a three-position focus limiter switch. Along with its upmarket features the robust build quality includes a mounting plate weather seal – and this lens also delivers very good image quality. Tamron's new 'eBand' nano coating is applied to reduce ghosting and flare and we found little evidence of fringing. Sharpness is also excellent between f/4 and f/11, although it's less impressive wide open at f/2.8, where the Sigma 105mm is clearly superior.

Sigma 150mm f 2 8 EX DG OS HSM Macro

3. Sigma 150mm f/2.8 EX DG OS HSM Macro for Canon

Almost as impressive as Sigma's 105mm and with added focal length

Type: prime | Sensor size: full-frame | Maximum aperture: f/2.8 | Image stabiliser: 4 stops | Weather seals: No | Minimum focus distance: 38cm | Filter size: 72mm | Dimensions: 80 x 150mm | Weight: 1150g

Excellent image quality
Refined features
Comparatively heavy and expensive
Some AF hunting at close range

An upscaled version of the winning Sigma lens, the longer focal length of this lens increases the minimum focus distance from 31cm to 38cm, so it's an advantage when shooting timid bugs, and there's a reduced risk of casting a shadow over your subject when relying on ambient light from a source that's behind you. However, at 1.15kg this lens is over 50% heavier than its 105mm cousin, and it's also much heavier on your wallet. At least you get the same superb image quality with great sharpness throughout the aperture range and minimal colour fringing. Autofocus performance is also good, though we did find it a little fidgety in extreme close-up use.

Canon EF 100mm f 2 8 Macro USM

4. Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM

A capable own-brand rival to the third-party lenses

Type: prime | Sensor size: full frame | Maximum aperture: f/2.8 | Image stabiliser: No | Weather seals: No | Minimum focus distance: 31cm | Filter size: 58mm | Dimensions: 79 x 119mm | Weight: 600g

Sturdy build & fast autofocus
Very good overall image quality
Focus hunting at close range
No stabilisation or weather sealing

It's the top Canon lens in our list, yet this isn't the company's pro-spec 100mm L-series version. That's because we found this lens to even sharper between f/5.6 and f/16 and noticeably less prone to fringing, whilst producing very little barrel distortion. Build quality is also a match for the pricier f/2.8L, though you'll have to manage without weather seals. Canon markets this optic as 'a perfect portrait lens with additional macro capability'. As such it has quiet, ring-type ultrasonic autofocus which works well in general use. However the focus limiter switch can't lock out long range focusing when shooting close subjects, which can result in some frustrating focus hunting.

Canon EF 100mm f 2 8L Macro IS USM

5. Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM

Canon's range-topping macro lens offers superb sharpness, but at a price

Type: prime | Sensor size: full frame | Maximum aperture: f/2.8 | Image stabiliser: 4-stops | Weather seals: Yes | Minimum focus distance: 30cm | Filter size: 67mm | Dimensions: 78 x 123mm | Weight: 625g

High sharpness, low distortion
Hybrid image stabiliser
Relatively expensive
Noticeable color fringing

It's rare to find a Canon L-series (Luxury) lens beaten so convincingly by cheaper alternatives, but the build quality of this 100mm doesn't feel quite as solid as some of Canon's other premium lenses. Nevertheless, it does feature weather seals and super-fast ring-type ultrasonic autofocus, plus there's a three position focus limiter switch. A big selling point is the 'hybrid' stabiliser that was developed specially for this lens and corrects 'lens shift' movement as well as the usual angular vibration. Sharpness is impressive throughout the aperture range, but it produces considerably more fringing than the top four lenses, making the extra outlay tough to justify.