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

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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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Registered: Apr 6, 2005
Location: United Kingdom
Posts: 0
Review Date: Apr 6, 2005 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 8 

Pros: Wonderful focus, IS is perfect for wildlife
Better off attaching a vacuum cleaner to you camera and putting the other end in some dirt

Well if we lived in a dust free world with no gravity this lens is perfect. However it is enough to give some people arm ache, and when attached to a Canon 350D it makes up about 90% of the weight of the combined equipment.
I took out my 20D and this lens to shoot some wild birds. After returning home I took a couple of pictures of some pidgeons in flight. As I reviewed the photos on the camera I noticed the evil tell-tale signs - black dots in the sky!

Back home I took a test shot against a light box and loaded the picture into Photoshop and set the auto-levels. This is a good test to see what state your CCD is in. Holy *#@*!!! is all I can say!!! It looked like a photograhic negative of a star constellation!! Such a wide and long lens is basically a powerful vacuum cleaner when you zoom in and out.

The picture quality cannot be faulted, but in terms of your CCD you are going to be ordering lots of swabs and Eclipse from your dealer!

Apr 6, 2005
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Registered: Feb 15, 2005
Location: United States
Posts: 542
Review Date: Apr 6, 2005 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,200.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Everything...........WOWWWWWWW

Bought it at FM Buy & sell from first class seller!
I'm speechless... after three 400 5.6 primes this is the best of all.

Tack sharp wide open at 400mm, talk about candid shots.

I love it.

Apr 6, 2005
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Registered: Oct 12, 2002
Location: United States
Posts: 80
Review Date: Mar 31, 2005 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,350.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Versatility of zoom range, image stabilzation
Not as sharp at higher end as some alternatives; relatively slow max. aperature

This is an incredibly versatile lens, and while you do sacrifice some image quality in the 350mm-400mm range as compared to, say the 70-200 at the upper end of its range, it is still MORE than sharp enough for most uses. Excellent color reproduction, very good contrast, and the IS works wonders. The perfect zoom lens, a very, very good wildlife lens, and reasoable in-flight bird lens. Very good minimal focusing distance throughout the range; AF is very good, even in low light, if not as fast as some other "L" series lenses.

Yes, if money was no object, I'd have the 500 IS and the 300 f/2.8 IS and at TC...since money IS an object, this lens neatly fits the bill. Lens shade is not as big as a problem as some seem to think it is..at least for me. Tripod collar makes a nice finger loop when hand holding. Haven't tried it with the 1.4x TC yet, but intend to soon.

Excellent value in this lens; not cheap, I know, but a good lens for the range and versatility.

Mar 31, 2005
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Registered: Jan 31, 2004
Location: United States
Posts: 208
Review Date: Mar 25, 2005 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 7 

Pros: wide zoom range, IS, terrific optical quality from 100mm-about 275mm
not as good as the 300f4L or 400f5.6L at the long end, very heavy, f5.6

I marked it as recommended, but it's not clearly a lens I think everyone would like. First of all it's heavy, cumbersome, and
not at it's best where I would guess 90% of users would use it
90% of the time (at the long end).

The IS works great, and optically in the right conditions and focal length it's really terrific. If for example you shoot alot of large birds, especially in flight, you might really like this lens.

I'd recommend a 70-200f4L and 300f4L IS over this lens for around the same price. A little shorter range, but provides better optical quailty throughout, a constant f4 aperature and is much easier to use. I don't miss my 100-400LIS one bit.

Mar 25, 2005
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Registered: Jan 25, 2004
Location: United States
Posts: 9320
Review Date: Mar 13, 2005 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,100.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Sharpness, AF speed, Built quality, IS, Image quality

Images produced from this lens are stunningly sharp. This has been my lens of choice for bird photography. Granted that it's "not" as sharp as the 400 5.6L prime but it's dam* close with the bonus addition of the IS feature. I recently sold my copy to finance for the 600mm. I am now in the market to reacquire it. It's a perfect walk-around lens for nature hiker. Here are some shots taken at 400mm end wide open.




Mar 13, 2005
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Registered: Feb 8, 2005
Location: United States
Posts: 1
Review Date: Mar 3, 2005 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,400.00 | Rating: 8 

Pros: Sharp images, very good color rendition, IS works great, wide zoom range.
Push/pull zoom is unbearably awkward! Front heavy and unbalanced when fully zoomed out on a 10D. A slow F/5.6 aperture starting around 250mm. A bit soft wide-open @ 400mm, but not bad.

I primarily wanted this lens for bird photography, and I had just sold a Sigma 100-300mm F/4 to purchase the Canon 100-400 L. Although the Sigma produced excellent pictures, I usually hand-hold my camera and hike around searching for birds. Thus the addition of the IS function and prospect of a (slightly) lighter lens, were the reasons for selling the Sigma and buying the Canon.

After reading countless reviews of this lens, I believed I could get past the push/pull zoom. However in reality, I could not. When using it to photograph small birds, it was difficult to locate the bird in the viewfinder, then zoom in on them for the picture (my preferred method when using zooms on small birds). The required 'pushing' motion was simply too much to keep the subject in the viewfinder. As an alternative, I tried keeping the lens fully zoomed (or at least in the 300-400mm range) most of the time but found the lens to be quite unbalanced and awkward to carry around on my 10D. Although this may seem like a minor ‘nit’, I found this constraint inhibited my abilities to take photos the way I wanted to, and the lens just never felt “comfortable” to use as a result.

I love the flexibility of zoom lens, but when I went back and reviewed the 400+ bird pictures I had taken last year, I not surprisingly, found that 99% of them were taken at full zoom with my 100-300mm Sigma lens. That observation led me to realize that I should not settle for a lens I would rarely zoom, nor felt totally at ease using. Thus, I sold the 100-400 for Canon's 300 F/4 IS L. I find this lens to be a much better alternative for me because it is lighter, a full stop faster at 300mm, and much less awkward to use. Even when used with a 1.4X TC, the 300 L is lighter and feels much more balanced.

Although I parted with the 100-400 L, it did produce very good images. The IS function worked great and really added to the flexibility of the lens. As with most photographers, I suspect image quality is the number one priority of any lens we use. Although this is certainly the case with me, I found out how important the “usability” factor of a lens is too. I realize this is strictly a personal preference however, so given that recognition, I would still recommend this lens to others- it just didn't suit my needs or shooting technique.

Mar 3, 2005
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Registered: Feb 27, 2005
Location: United States
Posts: 8
Review Date: Feb 27, 2005 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,500.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Absolutly blown away by image quality ease of use and imaga stablization. With a little proctice the push pull is a wounderful feature.
Worried about dust that may be blown in to ccd by push pull.

I love this lens. For the money you cant beat it with a stick. I have been using it take pictures of Hawks both still and in flight. The focus is faster than some peole would lead you to believe. The push pull is a great feature. The image stabization is incredable. Again I love this lens. Good for all kinds of Bird Photography.

Feb 27, 2005
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Registered: Jun 4, 2004
Location: United States
Posts: 3733
Review Date: Feb 23, 2005 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,250.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Affordable way to get to 400mm, push pull design, wonderful bokeh, fast focusing, IS
push pull design, 5.6 aperture wide open at 400mm, no weather sealing (obviously with the push-pull design)

One word sums this lens up: Practice.

If you pick up this lens expecting to get sharp images at 400mm straight out of the box, don't bother, and pick up the 400/5.6L.

However, if you are patient and willing to understand the lens, and practice with it, you won't be disappointed. The flexibility it offers as a zoom can actually help you to become a better wildlife and/or bird photographer.

I've had some very good shots and some very bad shots with this lens. Ideally you need good lighting for this lens to really shine, but even in less than ideal light you may be capable of pulling off some good shots. I will forwarn though, that this lens really is not fast enough for flight action in less than ideal light.

The push-pull design is a double edged sword as it's prone to dust attraction (After using this lens on 4 outings, I can even see dust spots on the sensor at F8, which is not normal). However, the push-pull design allows you to help track birds in flight better, especially if you are new to aviary photography. I may be right or wrong in my method, but if I lose track of a bird, simply zoom out, recompose, focus, and then zoom back in. Whereas it might be easier for some to use a focusing ring, the push-pull design is something I have gotten used to and now like.

The only real negative thing, is it leaves you wanting more length, which can get quite pricey.

Feb 23, 2005
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Registered: Aug 14, 2004
Location: United Kingdom
Posts: 3706
Review Date: Feb 18, 2005 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 9 

Pros: Reach, Sharpness, Push/Pull, IS
Price, Slow appeture.

This was my first L zoom, and all others bought since have disappointed me, because I got such a great impression with this one.

My copy is sharp all the way from 100 to 400. Sold lots of shots taken with this baby. I have compared it to my 70-200L 2.8 IS, the 28-300 and 70-300DO and this is the sharpest of them all at mid f stops (i.e. f8 - f11) at mutual lengths (100-300).

It would be nice if it were a little smaller (for carrying around) hence I bought the 70-300DO, but the 100-400 is MUCH better than the 70-300DO.

It is easy to hand hold. I have hand held this lens for several soccer games, the whole 90 mins, no problems. The push pull is so intuitive. Contrary to popular myth, push/pull does not get any more dusty than twist zooms.

My only gripe is that the tripod collar does not come off while attached to the camera. I would have preferred it to have the same collar as the 28-300.

It works OK with the TC 1.4x on a 1 series body, but will not AF on the 300D (without taping the contacts). It also works with the TC 2x on a 1 series body, but in my experience, you better have it on a tripod.

If I could only buy one zoom lens - ever - this would be it.

Feb 18, 2005
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Registered: Nov 12, 2004
Location: N/A
Posts: 2
Review Date: Feb 4, 2005 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,399.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: IS, Zoom Range, Push/Pull Zoom, Sharp, Bokeh
A bit expensive, slow aperture

My wife got me this gem for my birthday.
I was initially thinking of the Sigma 50-500 "Bigma", and the 300f4L w/1.4x, the 400 5.6L or this lens. The 4005.6 was discarded due to lack of IS, 300f4 because I thought a zoom would be better for me at this range (for smaller zoos and such), and I heard mixed things about the Bigma, and it didn't have IS.

Concerns about 100-400 were image quality, slow aperture (compared to 300f4 prime), and possible balance issues when using push/pull zoom.

Well I settled on the 100-400, and man it doesn't disappoint! Very easy to hand-hold, I love the push/pull zoom, IS works wonderfully, seems quite sharp and contrasty, and the zoom range is just what I need (for now, hehe). I can't wait to take it to a zoo and spend more time with it. Looks like my new favorite lens, my other two lenses that I adore are the 17-40f4L and the 70-200f4L. The 17-40 is the sharpest of the 3, the 70-200 has the most pleasing image quality IMHO, but the 100-400 is only a hair (split hair at that) off. I might not have much more need for the 70-200 at this rate. Though it's VERY light and easy to use well.

These are my first pictures from it (so don't judge them as art or great examples of the lens):


Feb 4, 2005
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Registered: May 19, 2004
Location: United States
Posts: 547
Review Date: Jan 19, 2005 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,379.95 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Built like a tank, Color / Contrast, Push / Pull Zoom, Well ballanced, Sharp throughout the range.
Hooked me into L quality lenses!

This was my first L lens. I've had it for almost a year now and it has performed flawlessly. This shares about equal time on my camera with the 24-70L. The pictures I get from this lens continue to amaze me. With the IS, I can get sharp images from this lens even with slow shutter speeds. I now have 4 L lenses and this one is still my favorite.

Jan 19, 2005
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Registered: Jul 10, 2003
Location: United States
Posts: 9098
Review Date: Dec 12, 2004 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,399.00 | Rating: 8 

Pros: Sharp throughout most of the range for a zoom. Push-Pull is Great for fast zooming. Excellent "L" clor and contrast. Decent weight.
Older generation IS that has quirks and prone to failure. Not good bokeh under certain conditions. f5.6, TC not very useful on non-1 class cameras. Softer wide open @ 400mm.

I used this lens for over a year as a general wildlife walk around lens. It was always hand-held except for a few instances after the IS failed. I don't use it now because after Canon fixed the IS, the images were too soft.

I got lots of wonderful images from the lens that I couldn't have got dragging around and setting up a tripod through prairie grasslands, woodlands and forests.

The lens is a bit softer wide open at 400mm. I usually shot at 380 (thats where the mark on the barrel lines up with 400mm on the scale, which I got in a habit of setting the zoom to) and at f6.7 or above with good results. I am able to get pretty close to the birds I photograph so I frequently made use of the zoom function (e.g. to zoom out for a bird taking flight).

The push-pull is much better than the alternative of multiple ring twists - you can zoom in or out quite quickly. Since you also have one hand at the end of the barrel, the lens is well balanced throught the zooming.

The AF is not the quickest (say as compared to the 400/5.6) such that the number of flight shot keepers is less than faster AF lens (I have only compared to 400/5.6). It is a bit heavy to hand-hold for intensive flight shooting, but its pretty doable. I've used it full days to shoot eagles in flight, but my 400/5.6L does that job now - its much lighter and its AF is faster.

There have been quite a number of reports (including mine) of "Error 1" lockups with this lens that seem to be IS related. The lens has to be reseated to unlock the camera. My IS failed completely after 7 months, and I have seen numerous others with this problem as well, some not long after purchase.

This is a very good "starter" wildlife lens, you can do a lot with it. If mine were still working properly I would be using it along with my 400/5.6 and soon to be 500/f4. I got sharp pictures hand-held at low shutter speeds right out of the box with little experience with telephotos.

I can only give it a conditional recommendation because of the IS problems I and others have had, along with the slight softness wide open.

Here is a link to my 100-400 sampler gallery (mostly birds) , with some 100% crops at various focal lengths and aperatures.



Dec 12, 2004
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Registered: Sep 2, 2004
Location: United States
Posts: 746
Review Date: Dec 9, 2004 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,239.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Build Quality: Like a tank! AWESOME colors, clarity and zoom range. Love the unique 2-position IS switch. It really works! Finally: Comes with a nice lens case AND A LENS HOOD!!!!! And a tripod collar!! Yowza, Canon!!!!! USM / AF is positively spot-on with my 10D/20D. Nice, easy, rapid "zoom-tension" feature.
Price - to some degree. The rebate helped. Push-pull zoom isn't my favorite method but it *IS* quicker than a "twister". Is "compatible" with tele-extenders but won't AF at max zoom range with a tele-converter in place - even the 1.4X.

Big, fat and kinda slow. Big deal. So are all 3 of my cats.

This lens - if you can" tame" it - is simply great! Wish it weren't a push me-pull you zoom but .. it DOES allow me to zoom MUCH faster.

Folks, it *DO* capture beautiful images! Yep, it's an "L" lens!

Watch which position the IS switch is in .. and GO! Beautiful color, contrast and overall image quality. Mine auto-focuses like a rocket - dead-nuts on almost every time. Tack-sharp and looks good enough for post-processing even wide open. Other than the cost, no complaints.

Dec 9, 2004
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Registered: Dec 12, 2003
Location: United States
Posts: 2790
Review Date: Nov 30, 2004 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,409.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Sharp - Good weight & feel - Easy to zoom
If it looses subject it will hunt, it is not really a negative but a learning process.

Well you hear allot about how great it is to use IS and you think that it is the end all to all other lenses and in my opinion it is not totally.

What I have found is that it takes practice to use it properly.you just can't get sharp right out of the box.

Hand held, depends on you as to how far down you can go. I found that I could hold it down to 1/60 at 400 MM today but tomarrow its hard to hold it at 1/250. Everyday is a new challange with it. I mostly can hold it at 1/250 at 400mm with good results.

Flying objects or fast moving dogs is a learning process. There are two factors to consider. 1 - auto focus 2 - IS mode. I am not sure what is the best modes to use yet. On the 29th I used 2 different set ups.

IS Mode 1 for stationary objects and single shot focus, made me mess up a moving duck shot, but most were right on .

IS Mode 1 and Servo sometimes has tendency to hunt, and I have found that it is good for objects coming toward or away from you but hard to use with left to right subjects. Why, because if you are panning and your center focus point leaves your subject it gets confused and can't find focus until you get on an object and this is hard because your viewfinder is a blur. The jury is still out on the new AI focus mode ( this is single shot until the subject moves and it goes servo)

IS Mode 2, the panning mode. This worked pretty well in the servo mode because by now I was learning how to cope somewhat. Out of 6 shots airborn I got two great and 1 good and 3 blurs. Here I found that Servo would loose the subject but if it came in to the view finder it focued on them again. What is the solution, I guess know your subject and how the fly, there pattern, Geese fly in a circle, Gulls do not know where they are going. Most big Birds have a direction. So I have picked the Gull as my practice bird. I figure if I can get good shots of them the other will be great.

Now if you think your going to buy an IS and get sharp shots all the time, it will not happen, you will even get blur at 1/1000 if you do not use it right. Will it get you better shots then a none Is lens, for the most but a friendt Alice defies that with the biggest and heaviest lens on the
market.(go alice) a Bigma 50-500.The only big lens I tried is the Tamron 200-500 and the Canon performs 1000 times better.

Now the push pull: I have read countless personal reviews about it and all I can say is I do not agree, It' fantastic, easy to use and if your out at 400mm and you have to change Mm you can in an instant go from 400 to 100. With the twist lens you have to go 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 turns depending on the lens.I hear about dust being blown on the sensor, I can't see that happening. If it could then the ellements would get dirty inside and it would cost use three tims the lens cost to clean it. If the dirt is in the mirror, it might blow it into the sensor but if you keep your camera clean, that can't happen.

Conclusion. It is an awsome lens that is only 1 1/2 inces longer them my 70-200 and is easy to hold, even for it's weight. It takes getting used to but with practice I think it will produce great results.

If you want to see pics go to the last five pics at this site.

Nov 30, 2004
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Registered: Apr 26, 2004
Location: United States
Posts: 274
Review Date: Nov 9, 2004 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,409.00 | Rating: 8 

Pros: Sharp. IS is great, easy to hand-hold for action shots down to 1/125 s.
Getting used to slide zoom.

It has almost replaced my 70-200 f4 because of the IS. Great lens, not as sharp as the 70-200, nor as fast AF but the IS makes up for nearly two stops out at 400 mm. Still need to get close for good wildlife shots, so the 1.4x may be the next addition.
Check other reviews for optics on full frame cameras.


Nov 9, 2004
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Registered: Oct 12, 2004
Location: United States
Posts: 14879
Review Date: Nov 2, 2004 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,300.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Fantastic lens one of my favorites. It is big but light weight compared to the 50-500. I have taken some of the best shots I ever have with this lens great colors, contrast and sharp. I highly recommend I give it a 5 out of 5
None that I can think of

Nov 2, 2004
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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
261 663135 Aug 31, 2016
Recommended By Average Price
91% of reviewers $2,091.37
Build Quality Rating Price Rating Overall Rating

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