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See Canon's bokeh control lens in action! Bubble bokeh, anyone?

Canon bokeh control
(Image credit: Canon)

Canon's newest lens, the Canon RF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM, features a bokeh control ring – officially dubbed "SA Control", to manipulate the optic's spherical aberration. And now we've got our first look at what this effect actually looks like!

The Canon RF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM (opens in new tab) – despite other big bombshells like the new Canon EOS R3 (opens in new tab) and the pro Canon RF 400mm f/2.8L (opens in new tab) and Canon RF 600mm f/4L (opens in new tab) telephotos – was actually the most intriguing of Canon's announcements. 

• Read more: Best Canon RF lenses (opens in new tab)

It looks like one of the best macro lenses (opens in new tab) we've ever seen, not least because it's the world's first 1.4x magnification macro lens with autofocus – and it also tops out at a whopping 8 stops of image stabilization. 

What about that bokeh control feature, though? Does it look any good, and will you actually make use of it? Well, you can see the effect for yourself in the GIFs and still images below. 

For starters, here's how the SA Control affects the fore, mid and background when it comes to shooting portraiture:

(Image credit: Canon)

Top: -VE Middle: 0 position Bottom: +VE (Image credit: Canon)

The top image shows the RF 100mm's SA Control dialed all the way down to its most extreme "-" value. Here you can see that the dial applies a soft focus effect across all planes, with halation around points of contrast, creamy background bokeh, and more flared, bulbous 'bokeh balls' created from the points of light.

The middle image shows the SA Control at the "0" value – the middle setting where no effect is applied. Here you see the lens behaving like a standard 100mm f/2.8 portrait lens, with sharp midground details, pleasing background bokeh, and solid, rounded bokeh balls. The shifting of lens elements also creates a pushed-in, tighter composition. 

The bottom image is set at the highest "+" value, fully engaging the effect to the opposite extreme. Again a soft focus look is achieved, but instead of creaming the background bokeh it renders much noisier bokeh – and creates the kind of 'soap bubble bokeh' to the bokeh balls that is normally characteristic of vintage lenses. Again, the lens elements have shifted and made the composition even tighter still. 

(Image credit: Canon)

Left: -VE / Middle: 0 position / Bottom: +VE (Image credit: Canon)

You can see the effect again with these close-up shots of balls of twine; the first image shows the SA Control set at the "-" end, the second at "0" and the third at "+", showing the difference between the standard soft focus look, a non-manipulated 100mm look, and a soft focus look with soap bubble bokeh. 

The effect is similar to that seen in the Canon EF 135mm f/2.8 SoftFocus (opens in new tab), and might be a halfway house to the Defocus Smoothing rendering of the Canon RF 85mm f/1.2L USM DS (opens in new tab) portrait powerhouse (which is three times the price of the RF 100mm Macro). 

Suffice to say we're very excited about the new lens, not just for its headline macro capabilities but also its intriguing portrait properties too.

Pre-order the Canon RF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM from Adorama (US) (opens in new tab)
Pre-order the Canon RF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM from B&H (US) (opens in new tab)
Pre-order the Canon RF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM from Park (UK) (opens in new tab)
Pre-order the Canon RF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM from Wex (UK) (opens in new tab)
Pre-order the Canon RF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM from Ted's Cameras (AU) (opens in new tab)
Pre-order the Canon RF 100mm f.2.8L Macro IS USM from CameraPro (AU) (opens in new tab)

Read more: 

Canon RF 85mm f/1.2L USM DS review (opens in new tab)
Best Canon lenses (opens in new tab)
Best Canon cameras (opens in new tab)

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The editor of Digital Camera World, James has 21 years experience as a magazine and web journalist and started working in the photographic industry in 2014 (as an assistant to Damian McGillicuddy, who succeeded David Bailey as Principal Photographer for Olympus). In this time he shot for clients as diverse as Aston Martin Racing, Elinchrom and L'Oréal, in addition to shooting campaigns and product testing for Olympus, and providing training for professionals. This has led him to being a go-to expert for camera and lens reviews, photographic and lighting tutorials, as well as industry analysis, news and rumors for publications such as Digital Camera Magazine (opens in new tab)PhotoPlus: The Canon Magazine (opens in new tab)N-Photo: The Nikon Magazine (opens in new tab)Digital Photographer (opens in new tab) and Professional Imagemaker, as well as hosting workshops and demonstrations at The Photography Show (opens in new tab). An Olympus and Canon shooter, he has a wealth of knowledge on cameras of all makes – and a fondness for vintage lenses and instant cameras.