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

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91% of reviewers $2,091.37
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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: Jan 24, 2003
Location: United Kingdom
Posts: 20
Review Date: Oct 24, 2004 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $950.00 | Rating: 8 

Pros: Focusing speed, relatively light weight, sharpness
Build quality, IS bugs

A fantastic all-rounder for airshow photography, and pretty damn good for candid people photos too (lovely bokeh at 400mm!). Sharpness is excellent though it does fall off a bit above 300mm, and in low contrast conditions.

I like the push-pull zoom action, much faster than twist zooms; my copy has picked up only a little dust inside but in 18 months use at lots of outdoor venues I'd expect any lens to do this really.

The IS system works very well, but freaks out when pointed anywhere near the sun, necessitating turning the camera off, dismounting the lens, reattaching it and turning the camera back on. The lens hood acts like a sail in windy conditions but without it this lens is very prone to flare.

Build quality is a problem and I have heard of many people who've had the bearings in the tightening/focusing ring fail, which initially causes focusing difficulties and eventually grinds the zoom mechanism to an expensive and messy halt. For the price this is NOT the quality I expect from Canon - because yes, mine's done it now too.

At full UK RRP I don't think this lens is worth it. If you can negotiate a discount, however, then despite its faults its an excellent bit of kit.

(price paid is in UK )

Oct 24, 2004
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Registered: Oct 20, 2004
Location: Australia
Posts: 3
Review Date: Oct 20, 2004 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 6 

Pros: Extremely sharp lens. IS makes it all worthwhile.
Would prefer an extra stop or two.

I really don't mind the push/pull zoom action. I've used it over the years on a few lenses, for that reason it doesn't bother me. Love the sharp, contrasty images. I rarely lose a shot with this lens and use it often.

Overall it's an amazing lens.

Oct 20, 2004
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Registered: Sep 17, 2004
Location: Austria
Posts: 25
Review Date: Oct 14, 2004 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,500.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: sharp, good contrast, no vignetting. fast AF
relatively lightweight for this quality, but still quite heavy

well, this is an excellent lens if you are asking for brilliant, tack-sharp images. the bokeh is beautiful, the AF is fast and it is possible to shoot very long exposures without a tropod. most people say it's possible to go down to 1/125 at full zoom, i tried it at 1/8 (!) in the field and was very pleased. my little secret: if you have a dSLR, you can take as many shots as you like at no extra cost. I took a series of pictures at a mountain river and wanted the water to apppear motion-blurred with the rest of the image sharp and static. of the 8 (well, maybe some more:) exposures i took, 2 were exactly the way i expected. this could not have been done without the IS at about 300mm.
as can be expected from an L lens, images are sharp to the edge. there is virtually no vignetting or distortion, the colors are vivid and the contrast is fine. i got used to the push/pull design very quickly.

please bear in mind that this lens is quite heavy. it comes with it's own case and strap, but still it's everytime a decision to take it with you on a trip longer than an hour.
i bought it by weight: every gram a euro Smile

have fun,
bernhard peball

Oct 14, 2004
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Registered: Sep 28, 2004
Location: United States
Posts: 1263
Review Date: Oct 9, 2004 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 8 

Pros: Good Sharp Shots in the lower mm range
at 300-400 it is not a hand held lens question the push/pull lots of air movement and not even the "L" construction keeps the dust out if you're use the zoom in dusty enviroments Lens Hood another weak point

I would be very gentle with zooming this lens, unless you like cleaning your sensor

Oct 9, 2004
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Registered: Oct 7, 2003
Location: United States
Posts: 1308
Review Date: Sep 20, 2004 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,300.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Lightweight, flexible, IS, well built, and easy to use. A Super Sharp Zoom!
AF Performance lags behind some other "L" Zooms.

I added this lens to my collection as a portable alternative to the 500mm prime I usually lug around.

My first day out with this lens I was nothing short of stunned! It is so lightweight and easy to hand hold. It's sharpness is stunning.. coming very close to "L-Prime" territory.

EASE OF USE:I find this zoom very easy to use. The push pull turns out to be a very fast advantage over rotating zooms (I hated it for the first few hours) ...once you get used to it.

I wish Canon had looked closer at this lenses design when making the 70-200mm f/2.8 IS. On the 100-400mm the switches for AF, IS and focus limit etc.. are all well recessed into the body. They rarely get "turned off" On the 70-200mm for some reason Canon changed this and these switches are constantly being knocked into the wrong position.

This lens is very light. Lighter than the "Bigma" 50-500mm by a large margin, and lighter than the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 IS.

Focus Performance Here is the 100-40mm weak point. Yes,. as an "L" it is no slouch. But compared to other "L" zooms and Primes it is pretty slow. It is by far the worst L I have used when it comes to tracking a moving object on all three bodies I use regularly (1D MkII, 10D, and now 20D)

IMAGE QUALITY (See samples below) Simply stunning. I have a host of images from this lens now that I would easily confuse for images taken with the 500mm prime. If you have enough distance between your subject and a contrasting background you can acheive a sweet "fast prime" looking bokeh at f/5.6

CONCLUSION All in all a fantastic and supremely versatile lens. If you are interested in any out door long range shooting,. this should be the first Zoom you consider. Period.

Images taken on MkII

Images taken on 10D

Coming soon Images taken on 20D

Sep 20, 2004
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David W.
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Registered: Feb 19, 2004
Location: Canada
Posts: 8
Review Date: Sep 7, 2004 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $2,200.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: "L" glass, long zoom range, high quality, takes Canon extenders 1.4X and 2X. Push-pull zoom. (I don't mind this.)
Light colour draws attention. Large size at 400mm. Would like a built-in sliding lens hood.

I exchanged a 70-300 DO IS zoom for this one. Although the 70-300 DO is a good lens, I feel that for $400.00 more Canadian dollars I have better value and quality with the 100-400 L IS. I use a Canon 10D and Elan 7e.

Sep 7, 2004
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Registered: Sep 7, 2002
Location: United States
Posts: 672
Review Date: Sep 5, 2004 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,270.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: excellent range (100-400mm) good optical qualities - nice contrast and sharpness when stopped down 1 stop from wide-open
push-pull zoom - harder to control than a ring zoom. heavy...

I bought this lens to try out some nature photography. Together with the Canon 500D diopter lens, I have been able to get very pleasing (at least to me :D) closeup shots of butterflies, dragonflies and other insects. Magnification at 400mm is 0.93x, which is almost life-size. The Image Stabilizer works like a champ and is very useful even when shooting handheld at such (relatively) high magnifications. It is also a very good lens for zoo photography - 400mm is extremely useful for portraits of the larger zoo animals.

I was torn between the 300 F4 IS and the 100-400 IS initially. I figured that while the 300 F4 is optically superior, it is a prime and thus less flexible than a zoom. If you know what you're going to shoot and want the best optical quality, I would suggest the 300F4 and couple it with the 1.4x extender if necessary, but if you *need* the flexibility of a zoom and don't mind sacrificing a little for the image quality, then go for the 100-400 instead.

Sample photos with the 100-400 IS lens:
At 400mm:

At 150mm with 500D:

At 400mm with 500D (0.93x magnification):

Sep 5, 2004
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Registered: Mar 15, 2004
Location: United States
Posts: 3
Review Date: Aug 17, 2004 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,400.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Optical sharpness, wide zoom range, 77mm filter size. Quick AF.
Price. It be heavy!

I've had this lens for a tad over a month and so far I love it. While spending $1,400 for "yet another lens..." makes for some domestic tension, I wlll say that my wife has been very impressed with the photos I've produced with it. I have several other L series lenses and the 77mm filters I bought fit 'em all - that's nice. Yes, it is heavy, and not something you'll want on the camera ALL the time, unless you've got muscles like our CA governator. But, after all, it does have a wide zoom range and the IS works very well. Further, my experience has been that the AF is quite fast when using the lens on my 10D.

Two weekends ago we went camping up the CA coast at Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. We ran into several groups (herds?) of Roosevelt Elk and I was able to grab some very, very nice shots of them using it hand-held at 400mm on an overcast/foggy day - you don't want to approach those animals too close. We're heading up to Lassen Volcanic National Park this weekend and most definately will be taking this lens up to the top of Lassen Peak with me.

Bottom line - is it as good as several primes? Maybe, maybe not - but I have neither the money for them nor the room in my camera bag for them, so yes, I would recommend this lens.

Aug 17, 2004
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Registered: Jan 20, 2004
Location: United States
Posts: 6268
Review Date: Jun 25, 2004 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,300.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Very sharp, fast focus, Image Stabilization, light for its range.
Nothing to speak of.

This lens amazes me - its a little slow aperture-wise, but it can be shot wide open and still provide very crisp, contrasty, clean images. It focuses in a breeze, and I even acheived autofocus with my 10D pointing this lens at Jupiter in the night sky (setting up for some introductory astrophotography).

As for color abberation, there seems to be none - the deep sky images I took with this lens show no fringing and display the stars very cleanly - not as perfect as the Astro-Physics Telescope I had it piggybacked on, but still quite excellent.

In its more usual earthly use, the lens has proven to be a great tool for shooting birds and such, but it has also been quite useful for photographing flowers and insect activity as it has allowed me to get closeup shots without disturbing the insect's activities.

The Image Stabilization system works very well - I managed to get a well-detailed image of the last quarter of the moon early one morning handheld at 1/60 second while leaning against a post on my front porch.

If you want a zoom that provides great images, focuses fast and accurately, has image stabilization, and is reasonably light, this is a very good choice.

Jun 25, 2004
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Registered: Jun 23, 2004
Location: United States
Posts: 660
Review Date: Jun 23, 2004 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,299.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Absolutely excellent photo quility; Sharp images even at 400mm; Very strong build...too many to list!

I purchased this lens about a month ago and finally got to seriously use it at an NHRA drag racing event. Until then, I was just taking some sample photos here and there. I didn't know what to expect and I was afraid that some of the negative postings I have seen here would come up, but that was not the case. To sum it up, this lens performed excellently...period. I got sharp quality images even when fully extended. Yes it is heavy, but that is because it is built to last and of quality. If it were light and made of plastic, people would have listed that as a negative. And yes the push/pull zoom takes some getting used to, but that was not a big deal to me. It is expensive but so is everything that offers this type of performance. I use this lens on a Canon Digital Rebel and it is the perfect match. I am sure it will be just as great on any other Canon camera. When I got home from the event, I was amazed at the results I saw on my monitor. My fellow employees did not believe I took these pictures. All I can say to sum this up is buy this lens, you will not be disappointed!

Here are the photos I took that day.

Jun 23, 2004
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Registered: Apr 8, 2004
Location: United States
Posts: 97
Review Date: May 27, 2004 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,395.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Great flexibility due to the zoom range. IS is outstanding. Build quality is also outstanding.
Can't use IS on tripod

I shoot wildlife and find its versitility and IS to be just what I need. I carry the camera with this lens in my car where ever I travel. Contrary to what some others think, I like the push pull design. I find it fast. I also find this lens to be sharp. The zoom lock/tension ring is very helpful. This is the lens that is on my 10D 90% of the time. I have sold many images of flowers at the closest focus so the BG is blurred. Anyone who wants a sharp lens with outstanding versitility and the benefits of IS this lens sould be on your list.

May 27, 2004
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Johnny Bravo
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Registered: May 2, 2004
Location: United States
Posts: 8895
Review Date: May 10, 2004 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,200.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Flexibility--outstanding zoom range on a 10D, IS is excellent. Sharp optics at all focal lengths.
A bit heavy, but not bad.

My most used lens. Excellent in all respects. I'd like to find out where the 'dust' thing started...I wonder if that is more of an 'it might' rather than 'it does'. Worst case I'll get it cleaned if it ever becomes a problem and I'll STILL love this lens.

May 10, 2004
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Registered: Jan 10, 2004
Location: South Africa
Posts: 25
Review Date: May 4, 2004 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $2,500.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: IS, sharpness, flexibility 100~400mm - 160~640mm with a 10D/20D, ease of use. I like the push/pull zoom. Came with lens hood and decent case, tremendous ability in low light conditions - maybe the IS is worth between 1 and 2 f-stops, good feel in the hand, 77mm filter size is convenient. Easy on batteries. Price effective.
No AF with 1.4x II tele-convertor.

I rate it the BEST LENS currently made for photographing wildlife from a car or 4x4 in AFRICA'S GAME PARKS where leaving a vehicle is not permitted.

Incredibly good when hand held even at 640mm equivelent with Canon 10D or 20D. Sharp, clear images with true colour. By changing ISO rating I can use this lens in the very worst of light. I don't believe people who say the push/pull zoom is an issue or that dust is a problem - it might be if you do not look after your gear but assuming you do I don't see any problem. The lens is heavy but does not give a heavy feel when using it - on the contrary it feels lighter than it is and well balanced on a 10D or 20D with extra battery grip. This lens is particularly suited to people who lack a bit of steadiness like myself (injury) or plain old age.

The flexibility required makes using primes under these conditions a no-no unless you have lots of bodies (there is too much dust and you get no time to change lenses when photographing wildlife), not to mention lots of money also.

If I only had one lens this would be it. I cannot recommend it highly enough, GET YOURS NOW before Canon decide the price is too low!!!! Having tested this lens from a vehicle and on foot there is really no need for the tripod mount - mine has been removed permanently and stored away. This lens seems to be an oddity in the L range - very reasonably priced. SUPERB LENS - MY BEST BUY RATING - IT'S SO GOOD IT IS ALMOST UNBELIEVEABLE. It also works very well with my 1.4x II tele-convertor with bird shots with no apparent loss of sharpness.

Took lens to Kruger Park - used on birds and game. I have now decided to use this lens with the 1.4x II converter and this makes it an effective 224~896 lens with a 10D or 20D. A 2nd camera with a 28~300L IS lens (see my review) gives an effective total range from 44-896 on just 2 bodies with 2 lenses which means you never need miss a shot, keeps the dust out of lens changing and you then have the best of everything.

Wildlife does not pose and is difficult at best so this combination should prove ideal. The only improvement I would like would be to have AF with the 1.4x II tele-converter when used with this lens. Canon should change this. There is a way to overcome this by taping contacts, I will not do this.

PEOPLE moan about WEIGHT, and also say its not as sharp as PRIMES but FLEXIBILITY is what is needed for WILDLIFE and GOOD SHARP ZOOMS are the ONLY SOLUTION. Just remember to switch your vehicles engine OFF before you shoot. The IS does not like it RUNNING.

May 4, 2004
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Registered: Mar 15, 2004
Location: United States
Posts: 785
Review Date: Apr 27, 2004 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Build quality, optics, IS, versatility, relatively small size.
IS slows AF IMO.

I have grown to respect this lens in the 8 weeks I have owned it. I use it in all my wildlife shots. The weight is not too great IMO. I feel it can be a little soft at 400mm. Very sharp below that. Not on par with a prime L, but with much greated versatility IMO. I find the AF spot on, but IMO it seems a little slower than my non-IS lenses. Anyway, it's really not an issue for me. The optics in my copy are fine. Works very well with the 1.4x. The push-pull zoom is easy to adapt to.

Overall a superb value. Great quality, sharp images, IS, and versatility.

Life is Good.

Apr 27, 2004
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Registered: Mar 3, 2004
Location: United States
Posts: 11934
Review Date: Mar 3, 2004 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,300.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: relatively small compared to most Canon prime lenses, relatively inexpensive compared to other L lenses IS
none noted

It seems that people either love or hate this lens. I do nature photography, especially birds. I have a 500mm f4 IS, also, While that
lens gives great results, it is not exactly what I would call a "walking
around" lens. With my 100-400, I can handle it and hand hold it all
day long. I have manueverability, and I have the flexibility, if I need to
to shorten the lens. It has been the perfect lens for capturing eagles in flight at less than about 300 feet. Perhaps I just got a good one, but
I have found that my autofocus is relatively fast and razor sharp. The
autofocus does an excellent job of following a moving object. When I've taken bursts of 7or 8 pictures of the same bird, I've often gotten
6-8 razor sharp images. I find that I use the 500 mm only when I absolutely need the extra length and when I can use a tripod. With the
100-400, also, if I need just a bit more length, I've found that, by taping the contacts, I can use a 1.4x converter and still get the autofocus to
work quite well. On my lens, the IS works flawlessly. I would not consider using a lens of this size without the IS. It is the lens that is on my camera more than any
other, and I highly recommend it.

Mar 3, 2004
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Registered: Mar 18, 2002
Location: China
Posts: 306
Review Date: Feb 2, 2004 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,300.00 | Rating: 8 

Pros: Very sharp optics, well constructed and solid
Bulky, heavy, push-pull "dust sucker" zoom, awkward when zoomed to 400mm.

Contrary to what many people claim, my sample had excellent optics. I couldn't tell the difference between the shots taken on this lens and the shots taken using the 200/2.8 or 100/2 lenses. Contrast and color are superb. IS really works and has saved my a** many times. However I had to sell this and replaced it with a 70-200/4L.

The lens used to suck in a lot of dust and after a couple of years of use I was horrified at the junk inside it. I also found it very awkward to balance at 300-400mm since it extends way out. Due to its bulk and weight I usually left it at home and grabbed a 200/2.8, 100 or 50mm lens instead. In the end I sold it. My shoulder thanks me now Smile

Feb 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 667847 Aug 31, 2016
Recommended By Average Price
91% of reviewers $2,091.37
Build Quality Rating Price Rating Overall Rating

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