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

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.
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 :