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

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Reviews Views Date of last review
259 644957 Aug 21, 2014
Recommended By Average Price
91% of reviewers $2,091.37
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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mkwhitley
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Registered: Mar 16, 2002
Location: United States
Posts: 196
Review Date: Mar 30, 2003 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,200.00 | Rating: 8 

 
Pros: Flexible zoom range, sharp, durability
Cons:
f5.6 max aperture, push pull zoom

Zoom lenses have long had a bad rap in the photography world. Admittingly, many zooms do suffer in sharpness and contrast when compared to their prime counterparts. The main draw advantage of zoom lenses of course is the flexibility inherent in their range of focal lengths. Many of the current “pro” level zooms are breaking new ground in terms of sharpness and image quality. One such lens that has received considerable attention is Canon’s EF 100-400L IS. With its wide zoom range and image stabilization capabilities this lens offers an enormous amount of flexibility in a relatively small package.

TECH SPECS

The EF 100-400L is one of Canon’s “L” (for Luxury) series of professional lenses. This means that it is features rugged construction, the highest quality optics, and the famous Canon white paint (reduces the heat absorption of the lens in the sun). The lens feels very sturdy and is built like a tank out of a metal material instead of the plastic materials found in the consumer level lenses. Depending on your past experience, this lens may seem obnoxiously large or quite small. Before I got my 500mm prime, I thought this lens was huge, but now it seems much smaller. Regardless, other people you run into in the field will think it is large. Be prepared for questions like “what magazine do you shoot for?” or “can you see Saturn with that thing?” The lens weighs in at 3.1lbs and features a push-pull zoom design that is about a foot or so long extended. The maximum aperture is f/4.5 at 100mm and f/5.6 at 400mm. The autofocus motor is a rear focusing USM type and has a minimum focusing distance of 5.9ft. Canon has incorporated their Image Stabilization system into this lens, providing a reported 2-3 stops of “hand-hold ability” (is that a word?) . The IS features two mode: mode 1 stabilizes in both the horizontal and vertical axis while mode 2 only stabilizes in the vertical axis and is thus designed for panning. The front lens element has threads to take a 77mm filter. The lens ships with both lens caps, and a nice rotating tripod collar.

IN THE FIELD

When I go afield, I take with me a tripod mounted Canon 500mm/F4.5 and bring the 100-400L in my front vest pocket (Campco vest)for those times when I need a little less focal length or when I want to handhold flight shots. The lens also is much more practical for events such as baseball games and zoo visits where the larger primes are too big. The lens does weight down the front of my vest a bit, but it is worth it to have this lens with me. Before I purchased the 500mm, I used this lens as my primary lens for birding and other nature shots.
The 100-400L performs well in the field and is very easy to use. The IS makes getting sharp handheld images at 400mm very simple, even in non-ideal lighting conditions. The autofocus (on my 1D) is fast, but not lightning fast. With the 1D’s autofocus system in AI Servo mode, the 100-400’s AF works very well for tracking birds or other animals on the move. The push-pull zoom design takes some getting used to and is not as convenient to use as a ring type zooming mechanism would be. Some users have suggested that the push-pull mechanism may suck dust into the lens and into the camera body, which is of particular concern to us dust conscious digital users. The lens features a ring which can be tightened to lock the zoom at a certain focal length or to increase the resistance to zooming.
I have used this lens extensively with Canon’s 1.4X teleconverter with excellent results. Due to the lenses already slow maximum aperture of f5.6 adding the teleconverter really requires decent light or faster film speed (or bumping up the ISO speed digitally) if you want to hand-hold the lens. I would recommend using the lens, especially with the TC, on a stable tripod with a solid head for maximum sharpness. Canon recommends turning the IS off when the lens is tripod mounted but I tend to leave it on except when I mount it on a very stable tripod. For a long time I used a Gitzo 1201 with a Kirk BH-3 and even with good technique there was some shake visible through the viewfinder. In that case, I would leave the IS on to minimize any effects from wind or lens vibration. With my Gitzo 1325 and Kirk BH-1, which is substantially more robust, I disable the IS. With the 1D/1V/EOS3, the 100-400 and 1.4X TC will autofocus, although only with the center focus point being active (which makes for much decreased AI servo tracking function).

THE IMAGE PUDDING, HOME OF THE PROOF

As with all lenses, the images that it produces are the key element. After making thousands of images with this lens, I still find myself impressed with the photographs it allows me to produce. Images are sharp, have good contrast, and great color. Bokeh (the out of focus background area) is smooth and uniform, just as it should be. The IS really does produce a noticeable difference in my percentage of sharp images. The lens is good wide open, with a small improvement noticeable by stopping down to f8 or above. With the TC, the loss of sharpness is almost imperceptible in real world situations, which is amazing for a zoom. In short, the image quality from this lens is deserving of the L designation.

THE BOTTOM LINE

The bottom line is this: if I could have only one lens in my bag, the Canon EF 100-400L IS would be that lens. The enormous flexibility offered by the 100-400mm zoom range and the image stabilization really make this lens a phenomenal tool for the nature photographer. Although there are less expensive and smaller alternatives (namely the 400/f5.6L), I feel that this is the ideal lens for the bird photographer interested in taking a shorter, hand-holdable lens into the field with the larger super-telephotos. In addition, it is a great option for the nature photographer that can’t justify the size or cost of the larger and much more expensive primes lenses. The great image quality, rugged build, and ease of use make this one of my favorite tools to use in the field.


Mar 30, 2003
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Andy Biggs
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Registered: Sep 16, 2002
Location: United States
Posts: 1627
Review Date: Mar 30, 2003 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,300.00 | Rating: 8 

 
Pros: Focal Length, Size
Cons:
Push/Pull design

This is a great lens on a D30/D60/10D, due to the focal length multiplier. I have captured some amazing shots with this lens, and has traveled with me around the globe. Images are a little soft wide open at 400mm, but still looks nice. Lens doesn't resolve enough on a 1Ds, however. Way too soft.

Mar 30, 2003
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GrizzlyMike
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Registered: Sep 23, 2002
Location: United States
Posts: 403
Review Date: Mar 29, 2003 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,400.00 | Rating: 6 

 
Pros: Higly versatile IS zoom
Cons:
A little slow, has dust issues, push-pull zoom

I have had a lot of mixed feelings about this lens. I originally purchased this lens with the Canon D30 a couple of years ago. It is capable of producing nice looking and detailed images. Very sharp up to roughly 300mm then the quality and detail falls off slightly. It is a great lens to have on a trip when you need telephoto and are limited in space. The results with the Canon 1.4x extender were mostly acceptable but with the 2X extender focusing was difficult manually and the results were quite lacking(perhaps this has more to do with my manual focusing ability.)

That being said it is also a bit too slow for a lot of wildlife work in less than optimal lighting. The push-pull zoom is annoying and allows dust to enter the lens.

I recently have sold this lens and purchased the older 300 F4.0 and then subseuqently the 300 F2.8 IS. The 300 F4 with a 1.4x adapter is significantly sharper than the 100-400 @400mm and has better color and contrast IMO.

It would be nice to see Canon come out with a faster zoom in this range - perhaps a 200-400 F4 IS version of this lens?


Mar 29, 2003
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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
259 644957 Aug 21, 2014
Recommended By Average Price
91% of reviewers $2,091.37
Build Quality Rating Price Rating Overall Rating
9.31
8.66
9.1
ef100_400l_1_


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