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

Review Date: Nov 29, 2005 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 9 

Pros: Build quality, sharp optics, colour rendition, IS, FTMF, tripod mount well placed, focus delimiter.
Slow aperture, slowish focussing at 300m and beyond, attracts dust, weight may be problematic, but it doesn't bother me.

This lens produces very sharp, high contrast results on an EOS 3 using Velvia. My copy has excellent optical quality - one can see all the hairs on a squirrel and a rabbit in great detail, tack sharp, even at f/5.6. Prints can be enlarged to 12 x 8 without degradation.

The build quality stands up to abuse - I advise one keeps the lens hood attached because of the risk the lens might be dropped face down. The lens hood is of average quality, and if you do drop it, it will break. But at least the lens will be safe.

I noticed after my first field trip, the lens built-up dust internally. This does not seem to degrade image quality, at the moment. I need to find some method of cleaning the internal structure, otherwise it's second-hand value could be reduced, in the unlikely event I should sell it.

The USM focussing is not fast enough for flight photography at longer focal lengths. Many frames are wasted attempting to track moving subjects. I use the central focussing point to avoid trouble at longer focal lengths.

Overall, in terms of optical and build quality, this lens measures up to the L series standards. The focussing is slowish, as is the aperture, but this is to be expected with a wide-range zoom. The image stabilizer is a boon, and permits speeds of 1/60th second handheld. Canon should have incorporated dust-proofing, which I believe is a feature on other L series lenses.

Well done, Canon, overall, for another fine addition to the L series. A practical and high quality tool for photographers requiring flexibility, sharp optics and maximised with the incorporation of an image stabilizer.