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

ef100_400l_1_
Review Date: Jul 31, 2009 Recommend? | Price paid: Not Indicated

Pros: sharp, versatile, build quality
Cons:
focus ring has a little too much slackness

I have now used this lens for over a year. Before buying it, I read many forum postings, reviews, discussions, and experience reports. Most were positive but some complained about various issues. Here is a list of my personal comments based on my experience but with special regard to these reoccurring issues.

1. Push-pull zoom: It does take some getting used to but is not an issue after that. In fact, if you use FTM regularly this is much better than a twist-zoom.

2. Any lens that changes length can potentially blow dust into the camera. Dust sealing is near perfect with this lens though and I haven't had any problems. I think changing lenses is more of a cause for dust entry than changing the focal length of a lens. And since this lens is so versatile, you will not change lenses all too often any more Wink. But still: a 70-200 2.8 IS has better dust sealing and doesnít change its length when zoomed. So, if thatís what you want and you donít need 400mm... But then, you wouldnít be reading this review... would you?

3. Mine is so sharp wide open at 400mm that it clearly outperforms the camera sensor's resolution (20D, 8MP, Bayer sensor). It is absolutely tack sharp at all settings. The only blur I ever got was due to camera shake. Probably, over the years, a perfect production process was developed here.

4. I don't think the lens is outdated. It is still the most versatile tele zoom offered by Canon and possibly some coatings and the IS system were updated in the meantime.

5. Maybe the IS system is not as good as the system in the 70-200 f4 IS but 3 f-stops is realistic here, too. Don't forget that this is a 400 mm lens. It is absolutely incredible what the IS can do.

6. Vignetting wide open: negligible on a 'crop' sensor.

7. Price: Sometimes you pay for what you get. The cheaper Sigmas were reported to have decentering issues, but quality control issues were reported for the Canon, too. I have had three Sigma lenses, two bad and one fairly good, two Tamron lenses, one mediocre and one very good indeed, and four Canon lenses, all of which were excellent. I decided never to buy a Sigma lens again. But please, do try this out yourself, many have had a different experience with Sigma.

8. The white finish may be too obtrusive for some people or some situations. I bought a lens coat that gives some protection, too.

My verdict: If you have been thinking about buying this lens, do it. There is no better choice IMHO and you won't regret it. Checking a lens' performance is easy nowadays and one should think that manufacturers cannot afford to produce bad copies. If you feel uneasy without checking (as I did), then do it. But don't forget to enjoy taking photos. And don't worry about the weight. It is well worth carrying. Every time I take it on a hike, I return with several stunning photos.


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

ef100_400l_1_
Review Date: Aug 11, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Sharp! Even wide open at f5.6. Versatility. Image stabilizer fast and responsive, works great. Built to last. AF very fast at 100mm (slower at 400). Very good close focus performance. Good deal for the price.
Cons:
None.

Before buying this lens I read many many forum postings, reviews, discussions and experience reports. Most were positive but some complained about various issues. Here is a list of my personal comments based on my experience with special regard to these reoccurring issues.

1. Push-pull zoom: It does take some getting used to but is not an issue after that. In fact if you use FTM regularly this is much better than a twist-zoom.
2. Any lens that changes length can potentially blow dust into the camera. Dust sealing is near perfect with this lens though and I haven't had any problems. Changing lenses often causes dust to enter the camera, not changing the focal length of this lens.
3. Mine is so sharp wide open at 400mm that it clearly outperforms the camera sensor's resolution (20D, 8MP, Bayer sensor). It is absolutely tack sharp at all settings. The only blurry I ever got was due to camera shake. I think Canon has, over the years, developed a perfect production process here.
4. I don't think the lens is outdated. It is still the most versatile telezoom offered by Canon (though the Sigmas offer similar focal lengths and OS), Canon may have brought their production process to perfection and possibly even updated some coatings and the IS system.
5. Maybe the IS system is not as good as the system in the 70-200 f4 IS but 3 f-stops is realistic here, too. Don't forget that this is a 400 mm lens. It is absolutely incredible what the IS can do.
6. Vignetting wide open: negligible on a 1.6 crop.
7. Price: You pay less than what you get with this one. The comparable but cheaper Sigmas all seem to perform worse from what I have heard.
8. The white finish may be too obtrusive for some. I bought a lens coat that gives some protection, too.

My verdict: If you have been thinking about buying this lens, do it. There is no better choice and you won't regret it. Checking a lens' performance is easy nowadays and manufacturers cannot afford to produce bad copies. If you feel uneasy without checking (as I did), then do it. But don't forget to enjoy taking photos. And don't worry about the weight. It is well worth carrying. Every time I take it on a hike, I return with several stunning photos.

Highly recommended.