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Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM

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264 639469 Aug 21, 2014
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91% of reviewers $2,080.05
Build Quality Rating Price Rating Overall Rating
9.31
8.66
9.1
ef100_400l_1_

Specifications:
L-series super telephoto zoom lens equipped with an Image Stabilizer. The fluorite and Super UD-glass elements largely eliminate secondary spectrum. The floating system also ensures high picture quality at all focal lengths. The Image Stabilizer has two modes and it is compatible with Extenders 1.4x II and 2x II.


 


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Cemalina
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Registered: May 15, 2008
Location: Ireland
Posts: 0
Review Date: May 15, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Very, very sharp. Shot at 400mm handheld in local wildlife park & the results at all distances over 200mm compared to 70-300mm is usm were amazing! Should have bought this ages ago
Cons:
Heavy



May 15, 2008
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Ulan
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Registered: May 14, 2008
Location: Belgium
Posts: 133
Review Date: May 14, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: sharp pictures, good contrast,well built,excellent IS and fast AF, very useful focal range
Cons:
heavy, not tropicalised,expensive

I travelled with this lens to the coastal and amazonian part of Peru, to the Mayan Riviera in Mexico (visiting natural reserve of Punta Sur in Cozumel and Siaan Kan) , to the Zwin in Belgium. The lens resisted the humid weather, the sand of the beaches and the sea wind. I could obtain sharp pics of birds, crocodiles, mammals (especially at f/8, which means you need a good light). IS proved to be very helpful when I suddenly needed to take a photograph without having time to use a tripod or a monopode. With a monopode and IS off, I could get good pictures of birds (stalks, egrets,...). I like the colors and the contrast of the images obtained. AF was fast and acurate.

I had no problem to get used to push and pull system, except when switching to manual focus. The tigth/untight lock is sometimes annoying but one can adapt.

It is a heavy lens, but what else can you expect from a versatile lens with such a focal range ? It is expensive, but you pay quality and buid quality though I think Canon should have tropicalised the product.


May 14, 2008
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cookedart
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Registered: Apr 27, 2008
Location: United States
Posts: 2
Review Date: Apr 29, 2008 Recommend? no | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 8 

Pros: 400mm on a 1.6X crop is very dramatic, Image Stabilization, Build Quality, Silent USM AF.
Cons:
Weight, Size, AF Hunting in Low-Light, 1.8m minimum focus distance, push/pull/tension ring combo, price.

This review is based on a rented lens.

I used this lens primarily at the zoo, an obvious application of such a lens.

Straight up, I found the tension ring/push pull zoom combo hard to get used to, and definitely slow to use in a pinch. Typically you will use the ring to lock the zoom when carrying around the lens, and loosen the tension when you go to shoot - however, if you need to take a quick shot, the necessity to change the zoom tension to adjust the focal length can invariably make you miss the shot (unless the position that you lock your lens in is exactly the position that you need to shoot, which in my opinion is rare). Also, the potential of forgetting to tighten the tension ring will cause the lens to drop very quickly if put in a downward position - definitely something you don't want to happen to such an expensive lens. Also an annoyance was the fact that the tension ring sits flush with the focus ring - meaning that you're quite apt to accidently knock the focus around when adjusting the zoom tension. This comes into play often if you are finely adjusting focus thanks to full time manual focusing, hit the zoom tension by accident, which may cause the zoom to shift. At its tightest setting, it is very hard to unlock/loosen without using two hands. Understandable, since you dont want it over-easily unlocked, but it is definitely something that you have to get used to using. I find holding the focus ring with your middle and ring fingers and adjusting tension with your thumb will often get a good result - but the fact you have to develop a technique to use just this specific lens is a tad questionable.

For the application of a Zoo lens, this had particular trouble focusing through some glass and especially mesh. Of course this represents a difficult AF situation, but I was hoping that the lens would be able to behave better than it did in this regard. This also happens if you are shooting with foreground elements in the composition... focus will swim back and forth and not always lock on the subject you intend on.. you often need to specify an AF point in this case.

Keeping on the subject of AF, shooting indoors with this lens definitely caused the USM to swim back and forth, causing me to miss a shot here and there. It was silent, however.

For those shooting animals, I figure it's important to mention that focusing on darker subjects such as black panthers or gorillas confuses the focus plenty, it seems... the AF needs enough contrast to lock a focus on, so shooting such animals with AF can be problematic. Expect to use MF or AF with some manual focus adjustments.

I also found the minimum focus distance to be a tad long @ 1.8m... there were definitely times where a subject was closer than this and the lens was unable to lock focus. Extension tubes can be bought to aid this but I typically shoot natively with the lens.

For shooting animals, I found the 4.5-5.6 aperture a tad slow for moving subjects, with both the AF and the aperture often missing and losing out on many good shots. This was especially true indoors.

IS was a definite help.. I was able to often shoot at shutter speeds of 1/30 @ 400mm indoors and still get some shots in.

Wide open, the shots when the AF did lock were quite sharp. I did not have time to do any resolution chart testing, only real life shots, and was generally impressed by the sharpness. That being said, my shot ratio of hits was rather low because of the combination of problems listed above. My feeling is if you are shooting outside, with slower moving far-away subjects that are unobstructed, this would be an ideal lens. However, if the subjects start to move closer, if you're shooting through fences or glass, or are fast-moving, you're likely going to get a low hit ratio with this lens. Of course, the more you use it the more you can learn to expect what it will do, so my assumption is that this ratio would get better over time. But being an L Lens I am being extremely critical...

The overall image quality was quite good. Bokeh is definitely very pleasing, colors very neutral, contrasty, with an appropriate amount of saturation. Vignetting and CAs did not show up in my field pictures enough to really be a factor. I think it is important to note that owning mainly non-L Lenses, I was not especially blown away by the images taken with this L Lens (especially as much as I had come to expect).

A small niggle - I found the distance window almost obstructed by my built in flash... it is very close to the lens mount which definitely makes it harder to see.

Handholding the lens with the tripod mount is not recommended.. the distance between the lens and the mount is very small and getting your hand in a comfortable position is a tad difficult (but not impossible). In fact, the ideal spot to grip the lens is squarely where the tripod mount sits. Also, You also must remove the lens to remove the tripod mount. A minor nuisance, but a concern nonetheless.

The build quality is very good. Being built of an all-metal chassis definitely makes it make like it was built to last. The plastic lens hood definitely feels like it would not hold up to as much punishment as the lens would though...

The included lens case was more than adequate for carrying this lens around. It's too bad Canon does include all these accessories with their other non-L lenses.

Through all this, my overall impression is the 70-200 L lens is a much more versatile lens, especially with being able to combine this lens with 1.4 and 2x extenders. The usability of that lens seems to be much more typical and the f2.8 aperture with a slightly closer focusing distance means that this would probably be a much more used lens for me, of course, your mileage may vary.


Apr 29, 2008
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lextalionis
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Registered: Jul 28, 2007
Location: United States
Posts: 1076
Review Date: Apr 17, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,450.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Fast AF, IS and a real work-horse for outdoor long-range telephoto photography.
Cons:
No weather seals, and a wee-bit soft wide-open, prefer stopped down 2 stops.

If you can't be the "purist" photographer and drop even more money for an L 300mm or 400mm prime, then this is the next best thing hands down!

Fun lens! Here are some sample photos:
Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 L IS Lens photo samples.

-Roy


Apr 17, 2008
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Roberto Cruz
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Registered: Jun 7, 2007
Location: Mexico
Posts: 0
Review Date: Apr 17, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,310.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Very sharp wide open, typical L glass color and contrast. Image stabilization works very well especially when panning. This lens is fun to shoot with.
Cons:
Not too fond of the push pull zooming. This lens on a 40D is heavy but the results justify the pain.

I have owned this lens about 1 year and a few months. My first results were disappointing, then after learning how to use a 400mm lens my results became better and better. It takes patience and desire to master this lens.
My finest photographs have come from this lens. I print very large and it seems to me that printed images really show the quality of this lens.
I also had to post process differently, this lens takes USM very well.
The only real negative is the weight of this lens. The push pull zoom is strange but acceptable.
I look forward to events where I can use this lens, its just nice to have the range this lens offers.
Best money I have ever spent on a lens.


Apr 17, 2008
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Roy W
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Registered: Apr 15, 2008
Location: Spain
Posts: 2
Review Date: Apr 16, 2008 Recommend? | Price paid: Not Indicated

Pros: Fantastic colours and sharp throughout, at least on my copy
Cons:
Heavy after long periods

After 2 years use, I am very happy with this lens.

Apr 16, 2008
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Roy W
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Registered: Apr 15, 2008
Location: Spain
Posts: 2
Review Date: Apr 15, 2008 Recommend? | Price paid: Not Indicated

Pros: sharp throughout and fantastic colours
Cons:
None

Great lens in good light

Apr 15, 2008
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Roy W
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Registered: Apr 15, 2008
Location: Spain
Posts: 2
Review Date: Apr 15, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Sharp throughout the range, and at even at 400 f 5.6
Cons:
Weight, after holding for hours...nothing else!

I have been using this lens for 2 years, soccer, surfing, kiteboarding.

Fantastic colours and sharpness. However, I find this lens requires decent light to get the most from it. Luckily, I live in Fuerteventura where the sun shines every day :-)


Apr 15, 2008
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Liquidstone
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Registered: Jan 13, 2005
Location: Philippines
Posts: 1421
Review Date: Apr 8, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Sharpness even at 400 mm wide open, framing flexibility, IS, relatively affordable price.
Cons:
Flimsy hood design, and I prefer twist-type, rather than push-pull zooming.

I'm very lucky to have a prime-like copy of this popular telephoto zoom. Mine is as sharp at 400 mm wide open as my 400 5.6L.

Here's my user-review posted in our local bird photography forum:

http://birdphotoph.proboards107.com/index.cgi?board=review&action=display&thread=352&page=1



And here's how my 100-400 measures up to my 500 f4 IS:

http://birdphotoph.proboards107.com/index.cgi?board=review&action=display&thread=353


Romy Ocon


Apr 8, 2008
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hrs749
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Registered: Jun 16, 2006
Location: United States
Posts: 69
Review Date: Mar 31, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,210.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Very versatile, great build, surprisingly fast focus and excellent IQ.
Cons:
Early generation IS.

I bought this lens new in December. It has become my favorite lens. It has great range and the image quality is surprisingly good. It compares favorably with my 70-200f/L is. It focuses quickly and accurately in good light and even in marginal light the focus speed is reasonably fast. It is also built like a tank.
This is a terrific lens that has numerous uses. Highly recommended.


Mar 31, 2008
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natalia.atkins
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Registered: Mar 24, 2008
Location: Australia
Posts: 65
Review Date: Mar 27, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 8 

Pros: Zoom range, Nice build, IS, great `L' tone and colour
Cons:
My copy was soft wide open and at 400mm

I owned this impressive lens for a week, but decided to return it and use primes for now.

I enjoyed using the zoom immensely, but the pictures taken with it always left me a tad disappointed, even in great light and with minimal cropping. At 400mm, my copy was surprisingly soft at f/7.1, and unacceptably soft at f/5.6. So to me, it was a bit like owning another 70-300mm IS, with the same weaknesses regarding using it wide open at full zoom. The tone and colour was better, and the reach 100mm further, but I only felt confident in its performance using it stopped down and only partially zoomed (around 200-340mm).

In the mid range (around 200-260mm f/7.1) it was extremely sharp and gave excellent results if the subject filled the frame.

I have heard that there are very sharp copies of this lens `around', and that its best to test it prior to purchase. My copy was definately a `so-so' copy. I would buy it again for general use, but only if I could test it prior to purchase.

Here in Australia, the lens retails for $2550 new, so i feel that it is highly over-priced for the wide variations in quality between copies.







Mar 27, 2008
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Tony B
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Registered: May 14, 2005
Location: Australia
Posts: 819
Review Date: Mar 24, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 8 

Pros: IS,push-pull,versatility
Cons:
Hunts in poor light & busy backgrounds on 20D.

A sound all round performer in reasonable light. I purchased this lens for birding sold it & now have 400 f5.6 prime.In less than than perfect light my copy had difficulty locking on to small birds in trees on the 20D even after being sent in to Canon. A fellow shooter had 300IS f4 with 1.4 TC which had rattled off a few frames before I acquired focus. However I loved this lens for candids in India especially on the Ganges. Push pull zoom not an issue & neither was dust in the 12 months I had this lens. If a pro I would have one as part of my arsenal along with a 70-200 &/or 300 f4/2.8. As a hobbyist I prefer my 70-200 f2.8 & 400 prime. My only regret is that I did not give this lens a go when acquiring my 40D & prime as I sometimes wonder if it would have performed as well for me as it does for others.

Mar 24, 2008
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Brian Kersey
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Registered: Feb 12, 2007
Location: United States
Posts: 1261
Review Date: Mar 18, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,200.00 | Rating: 7 

Pros: Versatiity Affordable Nice Colors IS
Cons:
Sharpness of different copies vary Focusing speed not as fast as 400mm f/5.6

I bought my 100-400 lens used from uz2work here on the B&S forums last April. I must say that the biggest strength of this lens is the versatility and its ability to cover such a wide range of subjects. If you are on a budget and will only be able to afford one lens for wildlife or sports I would recommend this lens. But if you can afford more, I would recommend that you go with the 400mm f/5.6L plus whatever. The reason is that in my case, the 400 prime has been sharper across the board than the 100-400. Also, the prime has much better focus speed and tracking ability than the 100-400. My keeper rate for action photos has dramatically increased since I purchased the prime. The zoom is no slouch, but I just think that the prime is better. If you look at FM members like: Imagemaster, PixelPerfect, and Trenchmonkey, you can see the great images that this lens is capable of.
I have not looked back since I sold this lens for the prime, but I still will have my strong opinion that this is a good and solid lens capable of creating good images.


Mar 18, 2008
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SDK2005
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Registered: Jan 22, 2005
Location: United Kingdom
Posts: 0
Review Date: Mar 10, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 9 

Pros: Image Quality, IS, push-pull zoom design, weight and build quality.
Cons:
Adjusting the Manual Focus or Zoom Tightening ring moves them both together.

Having owned this lens for 4 years I thought I would post some of my comments.
I bought the lens to photograph wildlife and motorsport events and I'm very happy with the images I've taken with it.

For a zoom lens the image quality and sharpness is very good. At 400mm wide open (F5.6) it is a touch soft but nothing that a small amount of sharpening in an image editor can't fix.
Focus speed is pretty decent; I've managed to photograph Superbikes and Formula One with effective results on a Canon 20D. Colour and contrast are both excellent - images 'pop' out of the screen and photo prints.

A lot of people complain about the weight (1.3kg) but considering this is a 400mm zoom lens with IS it's actually not too bad. Similar lenses from Sigma weigh more, or the same but without their stabiliser system.

The Image Stabiliser system is great - watching it stabilise the image in the viewfinder is amazing. I've managed to shoot at 400mm with a shutter speed of 1/80 and 1/60 with useable results - awesome !.

I like the push-pull zoom design because it's much quicker to change focal length compared to a twist zoom. I also like the ability to lock the focal length in position - I sometimes accidentally move the twist zoom on other long telephoto lenses whilst supporting the lens and find myself shooting at 250mm rather than 300mm (for example).
The one downside to the zoom lock ring is that it is too close to the manual focus ring, so when you move one you move the other.

Build quality is very good. I look after my lenses but they are not pampered; the 100-400 has really stood up well to 4 years of heavy use. Its endured wet conditions and being left on the ground whilst I use other lenses etc.
One of area of weakness during my time with the lens was the IS system. After one year it failed causing lockup error 99's on the camera with the system enabled. Canon replaced the IS system under warranty (Replacement cost outside of warranty is 200) and since then it's not missed a beat.

I've just sold my 100-400 now for a Sigma 120-300 F2.8 because I want a faster lens with improved image quality. However I still highly recommend the 100-400L IS for handheld long telephoto photography.



View some example shots here : http://www.ph-digitalphotography-motorsports.com/canon100-400_photo-examples.html


Mar 10, 2008
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BillBrowning
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Registered: Oct 25, 2003
Location: United States
Posts: 51
Review Date: Dec 31, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,324.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Sharp wide open center and corner. If your copy is soft at all send it to Canon for a tune up while in warrenty. I have a 300 F4 and this 100-400 is sharper wide open. It just gets a little better stopped down.
Cons:
None. It is heavy but that is to be expected.

I said it all above, this is a great lens.

Dec 31, 2007
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Hendro Purnomo
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Registered: Dec 23, 2007
Location: Indonesia
Posts: 0
Review Date: Dec 25, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 9 

Pros: Very sharp, contrast, and good colour
Cons:
Push pull zooming system, no lock switch for push pull zooming, AF point not suitable for 2x TC

I sold my great Sigma 70-200 f/2.8, Tamron 11-18, and sharp Tamron 28-75 f/2.8 plus 400 US $ for getting this amazing sharp of Canon 100-400 L IS lens. I'm very happy with the result : very sharp, contrast, and good colour besides the zooming range.

In zooming range 400 mm, I tested with shooting a tower for distance about 1 km and compare with my Sigma 70-200 mm plus 2x TC. The result of this Canon lens is very amazing : very sharp and there is no CA detected. The Sigma 70-200 is great and amazing lens in 200 mm range but with 2x TC the CA was detected.

Combine 100-400 Canon lens with 2x TC is not good idea, the result is bad sharpness and rather blur colour, especially in low light. Sometimes I found that IS using is not better than without use it in sunny light.


Dec 25, 2007
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Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM

Buy from B&H Photo
Reviews Views Date of last review
264 639469 Aug 21, 2014
Recommended By Average Price
91% of reviewers $2,080.05
Build Quality Rating Price Rating Overall Rating
9.31
8.66
9.1
ef100_400l_1_


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