Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM
Lab Test Results
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(From Canon lens literature) 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.
April 2, 2008
by Andrew Alexander
The Canon 100-400mm ƒ/4.5-5.6 IS USM telephoto zoom lens was released in September 1998. The lens uses an older ''push-pull'' zoom design that extends the lens from its length of 189mm (7.4'') to almost 260mm (10.2'') when set to its most telephoto setting of 400mm. Incorporating both image stabilization and an ultra-sonic motor into the lens makes for a very compact and efficient package, weighing in at just 1,380g (just over 3 pounds).
The lens is fully compatible with full-frame sensors and film bodies, so there are no issues with vignetting. Canon digital SLR cameras with sub-frame sensors have a ''crop factor'' of 1.6x. Thus, for this particular lens, it will exhibit an effective focal length of 160mm to a whopping 640mm. It can also mount 1.4x and 2x extenders, meaning that you could see a potential of 1,280mm, if you're amenable to a maximum aperture of f/11 at that focal length.
This L-series lens isn't a ''constant'' lens, in that as you increase the focal length, both the maximum and minimum aperture sizes decrease. The following table reflects the change in aperture with focal length:
The Canon 100-400mm ƒ/4.5-5.6 is currently available with an average retail price of around $1,400. The lens takes 77mm filters, and an ET-83 lens hood is included.
The 100-400mm is quite sharp, however, it is not consistently sharp between focal lengths and apertures. Its best results are seen at either 100-135mm and ƒ/8, or 300mm and ƒ/11; some slight corner softness is introduced at 200mm, and 400mm is generally slightly less sharp across the whole frame. At ƒ/8-ƒ/11, we're picking hairs; sharpness doesn't exceed 2 blur units, which we consider to be extremely good performance.
As one of the less expensive ways to get to 400mm, it is compelling to think that this is one of the primary focal lengths for which the lens will be used. Maximum aperture is ƒ/5.6 for 400m, and when set to this aperture, blur is approaching 4 units in the bottom right, and 2 units in the top right. This improves but one unit when stopping down to ƒ/8 (but is still de-centered); at ƒ/11-ƒ/16, sharpness is flat at 2 units across the frame. Diffraction limiting sets in at the extremes, ƒ/32-40, where images are consistently soft regardless of the focal length.
The story on full-frame is equally compelling, and there aren't any surprising results, which is a testament to the lens' design. Some lenses perform very well on digital, where the sub-frame sensor is focusing on the sweet spot of the glass, but full-frame, the extreme edges of the glass show poor results for sharpness. This isn't the case here; corner sharpness is consistently good, even on full-frame.
All in all, excellent results, what we've come to expect from an L-series lens, with some exceptions worth noting.
The 100-400mm shows excellent resistance to chromatic aberration, with its ''worst'' results showing at 100mm on our EOS-20D: 3/100ths of a percent of frame height on average, and just over 6/100ths of a percent of frame height in the corners. Zooming in to 200-300mm and these results virtually disappear to almost negligible levels, however, they reappear by 400mm. Chromatic aberration is just slightly more prevalent at smaller apertures than larger ones.
On a full-frame body (in our case, the 5D), the results are slightly better, owing to the larger pixels on the full-frame sensor, but the trend is the same: very little to speak of at 200-300mm, and less than you would expect at 100mm or 400mm.
Mounted on a sub-frame sensor, corner darkening is very difficult to detect, at less than a quarter-stop when the aperture is set to its widest and the focal length is set to 100mm. Anything greater than this, and it is virtually undetectable.
On a full-frame sensor body (or a film body), corner darkness is present, but not extraordinary. At any aperture wider than ƒ/8 (ie., ƒ/4.5 or ƒ/5.6) and you're looking at anywhere from a quarter-stop to three-quarters of a stop of corner darkness. It's only by ƒ/11 that you get consistently less than one-quarter of a stop more darkness in the corners than in the center.
The 100-400mm ƒ/4.5-5.6 IS USM is optimized extremely well against distortion. On a subframe body like our 20D, distortion is statistically negligible at 100mm. As the focal length increases there is some slight pincushion distortion that doesn't exceed -0.2%, visible in the corners. This is matched by negligible barrel distortion on average throughout the image, though I think you would have to look extremely hard and close to see it.
As you might expect, mounting the lens on a full-frame body exaggerates distortion results, but still, distortion isn't remarkably severe. Distortion is still negligible at 100mm, and increases as the lens approaches 400mm, where pincushion distortion reaches -0.5% in the corners, and a generalized 0.2% barrel distortion is present in the image.
Considering the lens is an L-series with USM, we were left with the feeling that other USM-enabled lenses focus much faster. This may be a result of older technology, plus the sheer amount of glass that has to be moved. To increase focusing efficiency, the 100-400mm is equipped with a focus limiter, allowing you to set the focusing range from 1.8m to infinity, 6.5m to infinity, or the whole range (unlimited). The lens provides an option to disable autofocus (AF/MF switch). As a USM lens, autofocus is virtually silent, and you can override autofocus results at any time by just turning the focus ring.
This isn't a lens you'll turn to for dedicated macro work. With a close-focusing distance of 1.8m (5' 9'') and a magnification ratio of just 0.20x, there are better choices.
Build Quality and Handling
The story of our testing the 100-400mm is a story of sample variation. We went through four copies for evaluation, the first three showing problems which made our test results either impossible or questionable (for example, our first sample had extreme softness in the central region of the image, leading us to believe it had been damaged in shipping). The moral of the story is don't commit to a sale unless you have a chance to test the lens to establish its performance, as in addition to our experience, there are widespread reports of both excellent and poor samples of this lens on the market.
That said, we found this lens to be very solidly build, with a super-rugged feel. The image stabilization makes hand-holding very appealing, but at three pounds, it's obviously quite heavy and one could get tired quite quickly depending on your upper arm strength. This was one of the first, if not the very first, IS lenses from Canon, so its stabilization technology is older and therefore less effective than current models. Image stabilization must be set to either mode 1 and mode 2, and can be activated or deactivated via switches on the lens. Mode 1 is used for vertical and horizontal stabilization, while mode 2 is used solely for vertical stabilization (allowing you to track horizontally-moving subjects). We found we typically got 2-2.5 stops of improvement from it, and then had to put it down and shake out our wrists.
I actually quite like push-pull zoom lens designs, in that you have only one ring to grab: rotating it controls focus, and pushing or pulling it zooms the lens. It can take a little getting used to if this is the first time you've encountered this relatively rare design. As Dave says, "Some swear by it, some swear at it." My only problem with push-pull zoom designs is their tendency to creep. To prevent this, Canon has designed the lens with a ring that lets you adjust tension on the zoom collar. It can take a little fiddling to get it right: too much, and it's hard to zoom quickly; too little, and the zoom will creep. I didn't find it took too much fiddling though, and really liked the ability to adjust zoom tension this way.
As you might expect, attached filters don't rotate during focusing or zooming. The lens is equipped with a distance scale, and the focal lengths are marked along the barrel, visible as the zoom collar is extended.
One important note for digital shooters: the barrel of this zoom moves in and out a lot while zooming. When combined with its large diameter, this means there's a lot of air (and dust) moving in and out of the back part of the lens and the mirror box of the camera it's attached to. It's definitely not dust-sealed, so it may not be the best choice for digital shooters in the middle of a dust storm.
Canon EF 400mm ƒ/4 DO IS USM ~$5,200
This is the obvious comparable - does the prime version of this lens outshine the zoom version? At such a huge price differential, you would certainly think so, and field reports seem to agree. In addition to the price increase, it's a full pound heavier and much more bulky.
Sigma 80-400mm ƒ/4.5-5.6 EX DG OS APO ~$950
We haven't tested Sigma's competitor, but with a comparable range of focal lengths and image stabilization, the only thing missing is Sigma's HSM for silent focusing.
Sigma 120-400mm ƒ/4.5-5.6 DG OS HSM APO ~$?
One of Sigma's latest releases, it isn't yet (at time of writing) available for purchase and there is no pricing information, but it is much more directly comparable to the Canon 100-400mm, with both image stabilization and silent focusing (HSM).
Tokina 80-400mm ƒ/4.5-5.6 AT-X 840 AF D ~$600
An older and less expensive choice, the Tokina 80-400mm is screw-driven and isn't image-stabilized, but if you're after the focal range rather than technology, this is a lens to consider.
It's not surprising to hear people swear by this lens: in 1998, there wouldn't have been much else in the price range that would have been as sharp. The push-pull design doesn't appeal to everyone for a variety of reasons, but it's hard to deny the lens' obvious versatility. The only deciding factor in a purchase of this lens would be the quality of the sample you're considering, as we mentioned previously, this is a lens that seems to have a fairly high sample inconsistency, so you should try and make sure you can return the lens if you're not happy with the results you're getting. That said, if you can find a good copy, you shouldn't be disappointed.
The VFA target should give you a good idea of sharpness in the center and corners, as well as some idea of the extent of barrel or pincushion distortion and chromatic aberration, while the Still Life subject may help in judging contrast and color. We shoot both images using the default JPEG settings and manual white balance of our test bodies, so the images should be quite consistent from lens to lens.
As appropriate, we shoot these with both full-frame and sub-frame bodies, at a range of focal lengths, and at both maximum aperture and ƒ/8. For the ''VFA'' target (the viewfinder accuracy target from Imaging Resource), we also provide sample crops from the center and upper-left corner of each shot, so you can quickly get a sense of relative sharpness, without having to download and inspect the full-res images. To avoid space limitations with the layout of our review pages, indexes to the test shots launch in separate windows.
Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM
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Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM User Reviews
9 out of 10 points and recommended by LeeBabySimms (12 reviews)Great image quality and AF performance for outdoor sports. Delivers well on both full-frame and APS-C
Until the Mark II version came out, I rented this lens 2-3 a year for skiing assignments. It's a great outdoor sports zoom. The newer version's sharper with more bite, but I miss the push/pull design.reviewed March 9th, 2017
8 out of 10 points and recommended by patrickgracia (1 reviews)build quality, stabilization, versatility, colors contrast, decent sharpness(somewhat) slow focusing, awkward manual focus ring
This lens is used on a 7D.reviewed November 18th, 2015 (purchased for $1,067)
I moved from the 70-300L to this lens for extra reach. That is a great lens and if the focal length works for you, I'd actually recommend it over the 100-400, even though I think that it is overpriced and that it definitely should come with a tripod collar and nicer case for the price.
I have also owned the 400 f/5.6 before, but sold it when I bought my kayak since I wanted to shoot from the 'yak and figured IS would be a big advantage for that use.
As far as the 100-400 goes, it is a real work horse lens. I bought an older copy (UT) and was concerned at first that the rumors about copy variation would mean that I would have a soft lens. Luckily this turned out to be a false rumor (at least in my case). I did have to MA my lens to +7 though for optimum results.
The lens is sharp enough for my uses wide open, but does show some improvement stopped down. I like the fact that the MFD is much closer than the 400 prime since it makes the lens more versatile for closeups. Image stabilization is not as good as on the newer design, so I usually count on 2 stops compensation. I also wait for a couple of seconds for the IS to kick in, which seems to help. Colors and contrast are great. I have found the bokeh to be harsh sometimes in very busy backgrounds. The prime seems to be a little bit better in this area. The push/pull design makes the lens easy to transport but takes some getting used to. I usually either leave the tension ring all the way loose or cinch it down when I know I'll be shooting at 400mm. The manual focus ring is in an odd location next to the tension ring which I don't care for. Luckily I rarely use manual, so it's not a big deal. The autofocus is on the slow side for USM, but is usually fast enough. When shooting distant objects the focus limiter comes in handy.
My ratings on a scale of 1-10
Build Quality -9 Bokeh- 8
Focusing - 8 sharpness- 8.5
If you are expecting 70-200 II sharpness wide open then you will be disappointed. If you expect great results in a versatile package at a reasonable price, then you'll be very happy with this lens.
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9 out of 10 points and recommended by gunzorro (5 reviews)Great range and image qualityOlder IS
This lens is a great travel companion to the 24-105L IS. Just got it and used in Yosemite for some long shots, detail shots, and a nice vertical stitch pano of Bridalveil Fall. Very good IQ and fast AF. Very good color and sharpness. I like the push/pull zoom, and have the 28-300L IS as well (also used to own the 35-350L). Although I rate it a "9", I'm not being negative. I reserve 10 for near perfect lenses like the 100L macro and 24TSE II.reviewed April 4th, 2013 (purchased for $1,000)
9 out of 10 points and recommended by Jaylmac (1 reviews)Clear fully zoomedNot good for low light
In the L series, I only have experience with the 70-200 f2.8 and this 100-400 lens. I originally wanted the 70-200. My husband (thinking bigger numbers must be better) bought me the 100-400 instead for my birthday. This turned out to be a blessing rather than a mistake. My daughter plays softball, and I've taken some incredible shots of her and her teammates! The zoom is amazing! I can take very detailed pics of batters while I'm standing at the outfield fence! The 2 kinds of IS have been really helpful as well! I can track a runner on the bases without blurring my shots. Cons: It is VErY heavy at over 3 lbs. Get a monopod for sure. Also, once the light starts fading in the evening, this lens is useless for action shots. Would definitely recommend for daytime sports photography though.reviewed March 31st, 2012 (purchased for $1,550)
I've also used the lens to get some great shots of birds. It's a superb wildlife lens since you can zoom in and get your shots without getting too close.
I've even used this lens for a bit of portraiture. It worked well with a studio backdrop and light kit I recently bought. Of course, I had to get all the way across the large room to fit my subject. I can get good soft bokeh outside as long as I can put enough distance between subject and background.
Overall, I'm extremely happy with this lens. I AM however in the market for a good portrait lens to add to my arsenal.
8 out of 10 points and recommended by 30/90 (3 reviews)Surprisingly sharp at the long end, great contrast and color.I need more time with the lens....haven't found any negatives yet.
This is my 4th L Series lens and I am as pleased with this one as any I've purchased previously. Images are amazingly sharp at both extreme ends of the lens and wide open apertures. I'm still getting used to the mechanics of the lens, but I am amazed at the IS capabilities, sharpness of images, contrast and color. The lens provides reach that is beyond my L Series 70-200MM, but it is every bit as sharp.......and that's saying something.reviewed March 10th, 2012 (purchased for $1,430)
10 out of 10 points and recommended by cpe1991 (7 reviews)Good copies are excellent, marvellous lens for travel and hiking.Bad copies are soft
A re-evaluation after 3 months and more than 1000 bird photos. Initially, I was put off this lens because I had tested a new copy at a local shop, and it was soft. I then tested and bought a good copy. A 2010 used one came up for sale locally and I tested it in parallel with my 400 mm f/5.6 L prime. The zoom was just as sharp as the prime at f/5.6. So, I grabbed it and am delighted. Bird photography most often concentrates on the centre of the image at 400mm. The Canon mtf charts and SLRGear tests show that the 400mm prime and the 100-400mm L are about the same sharpness. The big advantages of the 100-400mm are that for a similar price you get a zoom and two good stops of IS. The guru Art Morris has now given up his favourite toy lens, the 400mm prime, for the zoom. Another advantage is that it slides down to a much smaller length for packing in a camera bag. The 100-400mm is now one of my favourites: I pack it for travel and also for going on hikes. The results are sufficiently sharp that many of my photos are good enough for birdpix.nl, a very picky site. For short walks and sitting in hides, I take my 300mm f/2.8 II with a 2xTC III , which is unbelievably sharp and more reliable precise autofocus.reviewed December 22nd, 2011 (purchased for $1,360)
3 out of 10 points and not recommended by skotak (1 reviews)I profited $100 by selling it back on eBaypoor image quality, bad autofocus
This lens is anything from being sharp at 400mm and auto focus is not very precise. I bought this lens for a trip to Costa Rica and many photos turned out unusable, and few are OK. To get this lens somewhat OK at 400mm range, you need to shoot at F8 or F11, because F5.6 is just too soft. I have done test with my Canon 70-400 F/4 L lens compared to 100-400mm lens, both shot at far end of zoom, and 70-200f/4 resulted in better sharpness at F4 at the same crop size! I don't need couple stops of stabilization, auto focus works properly, bokeh looks the same, I have flexibility with crop and I saved myself $1200 and my shoulders for carrying heavier lens. Sold my 100-400mm lens on eBay few days ago. I use 5D Mark II, but I believe crop sensor will have similar results. Hope this was helpful. I only wish I would do the same test before I left to Costa Rica. Darn it. ....and just to mention, I did compared this lens to my friends, just to make sure it wasn't a lemon from eBay.reviewed June 3rd, 2011 (purchased for $1,200)
8 out of 10 points and recommended by DaveJDSP (7 reviews)good long zoom range, useable image quality, ISneeds better image quality, especially for today's FF cameras, push-pull
Got a good one, first try. Unusual.reviewed July 17th, 2009 (purchased for $1,400)
Tested it rigorously. Amazingly good image quality, almost as good as the 70-200 2.8 IS. Based on what I've read, my copy is probably unususally good and better than the slrgear tested copy.
I prefer the brighter image of the 70-200 2.8, and its slightly better image quality and slightly quicker focusing. But my 100-400 is so much more versatile and so close in performance that I will probably rarely use my 70-200. I shoot stock landscapes and people.
Put a good copy of a 24-105 on one 5D body, and this 100-400 on another 5D body and you have almost everything covered with IS and very good image quality from 24-400mm with only 2 lenses. With the only downside being that both lenses are rather optically slow F4-5.6 for low-light situations.
I'd prefer twist zoom rather than push-pull, but it is not a deal-breaker.
Now Canon needs to get busy and update these two lenses to do justice to the 1Ds3 and 5D2 sensors.
One caveat. Canon ships lots of junk lenses. Assume you'll get a junk copy and allow about a month to return it 3 times till they fix it right or just give you a replacement good one. (see my 24-105 review)
10 out of 10 points and recommended by AljoschaNiko (3 reviews)Very sharp wide open from 100 to 250mm, very sharp at f/8 from 300mm and more, great build qualitySmoothen & tighten ring to lock zoom is a bit weird to use for the first time
When I touched this lens first (I have already a 70-200 2.8), I immediately knew: This is an L! The build quality is every time again so well build and so lovely. They have so good handling, though they are heavy (but I like heavy lenses :) ). I tested all the range from 100 to 400mm with every exposure, from wide open to f/11. I recognized sharpest results in the range of 100-250mm at f/8, but already wide open is very sharp and 100% useable. For best sharpness from around 250mm to 400mm I have to stop down to f/8 and 400mm shows also best sharpness at f/8! These results are from my exemplar and you maybe get other results. But if you stay at f/8, you should get very good results on every focal lengh. I love this lens and I highly recommend it for every one, who has the money and who want awesome quality, like known from the Canon L's!reviewed May 26th, 2009 (purchased for $1,637)
9 out of 10 points and recommended by zombii (1 reviews)Sharpness, flexibility, wide zoom range, build, color, contrastWeight, price, softness at f/22 and up
I read a lot of reviews of this lens before I decided to buy it. Typical criticisms were softness, slow AF, and the zoom mechanism. One of the things that became apparent after all those reviews was that it seemed that the newer copies were better. So despite the fact that I could have saved money by buying a used one on Ebay, I decided to buy a new one to insure I was getting a recent copy. What I got was one that was made in October of 2008. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was very sharp across the focal length range from wide open up through f/16. There is a very noticeable softness at f/22 and above but since I rarely use that aperture range, I'm not too concerned. Where it is sharp, it's only slightly softer than my 70-200mm f/4 IS and a 135mm f/2 which are both about as sharp as they get. As for the AF criticisms, this one is fast. The IS gives at least 2 f-stops, maybe 3. Maybe the biggest challenge to the IS is the weight of the lens. It's heavy. I'm sure if I use it regularly, I'll bulk up and it will be easier. :-) One thing I've already found out, it's not easy to hold steady in a strong wind.reviewed March 27th, 2009 (purchased for $1,465)
Despite all that, I really like it. I've already been able to catch birds in flight much better than I could with other lenses. Some people don't seem to like the push-pull and it clearly takes getting used to but I think it's faster than most twist zooms if you have to zoom very far, very fast. It also isn't hard to adjust the zoom tension so that it doesn't creep but is still reasonably easy to move. Having said that, if you know you're going to need to zoom fast, it's best to loosen it ahead of time. The adjustment works well though except for the often criticized conflict with the focus ring which is justified.
All in all it is a very flexible lens and I recommend that you try it if you're on the bubble as I was. I do recommend you get a recent copy whether new or used. The other big con is the price. Going rates for used ones do not justify getting an old one that isn't sharp. Except for the price, I would have given it a 10. Oh yes, don't drop it on your foot. ;-)
Here's a couple of uncropped examples:
10 out of 10 points and recommended by macman (4 reviews)V Sharp, Excellent Image Stabilisation, Very Well made, and a very useful zoom range.It is heavy, but managable.
When I first started checking the reviews of this lens I was a little worried as there were some reviews around on the net which said it was soft. Further investigation showed that these reviews were all quite old and were around the time the lens was first released. Narrowing it down to more recent reviews the opinions change and all seem to think this lens is excellent. I suppose that is one of the problems with the net, nothing gets updated.reviewed March 5th, 2009 (purchased for $1,344)
I have been most impressed with the performance of this lens and I am still knocked out by the image stabilization when I press the shutter.
I have taken what I think are some stunning photos with this lens, at what would have been ridiculous shutter speeds for the focal length. The extra magnification afforded by the APC sized sensor really helps when photographing subjects such as birds.
I am a very happy owner1
9 out of 10 points and recommended by franzoi (4 reviews)Construction, sharpness f/7-f/8, 400mmno
For me it is very professional and easy to use!!reviewed January 5th, 2009 (purchased for $1,571)
I had the new Sigma 120-400 but the canon is far superior in clarity, weight and construction.
The lens is metal but it is very light and handy.
the IS with 2 stop working very well, better than the 4 stop the Sigma. The best sharpness is a 400mm f / 8.
For first photo with Canon 100-400
9 out of 10 points and recommended by philpem (1 reviews)Image quality, build quality, versatilityIt's bloomin' heavy!
(Actual purchase price: 980 UK pounds)reviewed September 7th, 2008 (purchased for $1,729)
This is quite possibly one of the nicest lenses I've ever used on the Canon EOS system. I've been using it with a 40D body for about a month, and it's seen fairly light use, maybe about ~100 shots.
IQ is good at all apertures, but becomes razor sharp at f8 or so. The stabiliser is a fantastic addition, I've hand-held down to about 1/120 at 400mm with minimal loss of sharpness. Good contrast and colour tone, and no visible CA.
Despite its reputation as a dust-pump, I haven't noticed a significant amount of dust on the sensor. Certainly nothing big enough to show at less than f16. Auto-cleaning probably helps a lot with this. I am expecting to see some dust appear inside the lens within the next few years...
If you're going to put this on a 40D, consider a battery grip and hand strap (Canon HS-E1). The hand strap reduces the strain on your fingers a lot, especially with heavy lenses like the 100-400.
I originally bought this for the 2008 Sunderland Airshow (which got rained off, yay) but it's seen use at the 2008 Leeds Half Marathon, and also a little wildlife photography as well.
The downside? It's heavy, and the off-white casing makes you stand out in most crowds. Expect people to come up and ask you to take their photo (with a supertele?).
Last point (and it's a minor one), the shoulder strap included with the case is a joke. It can - and will - cut into your shoulder if you dare use it. Get a large-ish camera bag strap from your local photography shop, or cannibalise one from an old Lowepro or similar camera bag. For nearly £1000, you'd think they could do a little better than that...
Would I buy this lens again? A loud, resounding, heavily reverberated YES. This one is definitely on my "keeper" list. It doesn't get used as much as my 28-135IS (or even the EFS60 Macro), but it runs rings round the 70-300IS-USM.
8 out of 10 points and recommended by pagurus (1 reviews)well constructed,IS works fine, not too heavya bit soft images with jpegs but no problem with raws,rarely auto focus fails in low light conditions(especially inearly morning times)
In low light conditions i use this lens mounted on monopod manfrotto 682B with 322RC2 joystick without any problem.Also i use this lens with 1.4 Canon extender on monopod with manuel focus,in this case images are a bit soft but if you are a raw shooter like me, it is not a poblem...reviewed September 5th, 2008 (purchased for $3,419)
Price is too much for usa but as a Turkish,unfortunately this is so naturel in Turkey.Because of the extremelly high taxes.This is just the brutel way of collecting money from people by Turkish goverment..
2 out of 10 points and not recommended by Badmono (15 reviews)NoneAbysmal IQ - used by so called Pro's, HA HA
The worst Canon Lens I've ever Owned, even worse than the 18-55 'Standard lens that comes free with most Eos bodies.reviewed August 22nd, 2008
The only positive thing I have to say about this lens, is I managed to sell it easily on ebay and only lost £400UK pounds on the thing.
Buy a sigma 400mm prime for £90UK pounds on ebay if money is tight or a Canon400 F2,8 IS if you have plenty of the greenstuff, both of these lenses make the canon 100-400 zoom look abysmal in comparison for IQ, sharpness on this lens doesn't exist.
This is not a 'L' series lens but a 'HELL' series lens
Just avoid it at all costs
9 out of 10 points and recommended by Steve619m (1 reviews)Zoom Range, Clarity, IS, weighted balancePush-Pull Zoom
It's heavy, that goes without saying. However, you can feel it's quality and the weight actually helps with its weight - if that makes sense. It's like if it was to light it wouldn't be balanced in your hand that well. Haven't used it on a monopod, yet, but on a tripod it works okay. I'm sure that on a good tripod (not the piece of crap that I have currently) it works very well, because it works okay on my current tripod.reviewed December 21st, 2007 (purchased for $1,300)
I'm in Iraq now, which is why I don't have a "great" tripod, but when I get back I can't wait to use this lens on sports - especially baseball. This surely has the range that it would work well enough from the stands.
9 out of 10 points and recommended by owashi (4 reviews)Fast AF, great IQ, easy to take handheld shotsnot great in poor light, a touch heavy
I have this lens on loan for a few months and am dreading giving it back.reviewed December 15th, 2007
This is my first time using a L lens and my first 'serious' telephoto. I'm finding it takes great shots (by my own standards which may not be as high as others of course) and I'm using it for birds almost exclusively at 400mm. Even at shutter speeds of 1/80 I can get sharp images. I'm noticing much less time spent post processing my pictures too (especially color rendition and sharpness).
The only time it struggles is in very poor light, it may be better on a tripod or monpod in these situations.
I've never used a real top lens like the EF 300 F2.8 or EF 500 F4 but for a relative novice like me this lens is fantastic. For the more demanding experienced photographers it doubtless has its weak points but it is still good value at around $1500.
9 out of 10 points and recommended by frances (4 reviews)range and sharpnessheavy
I use this lens on a 20D. I bought it to go on safari aabout 18 months ago and I have to say it takes wonderfully sharp pictures, with good depth, color and contrast. The push pull is cumbersome at first, but I am used to it now. For me the focus ring is too close to the zoom tightening ring and in the excitement of the finding the target and locking on, I sometimes get confused and turn the wrong one, which wastes precious time. Still, when I manage to connect with the target, the images are sharp, contrasty and simply beautiful. Initially I bought the 28~300 and use it for about a year. I love that lens I was constantly comparing the 100~400 to it. The 28~300 takes sharper pictures so at first, I was a little disappointed in the 100~400, but this one can be used with the 1.4 extender beautifully on a tripod (it does lose AF abilities on the 20D) but it enables me to take great images of wildlife and birds that otherwisw would be out of reach. I am quite happt with this lens. I just wish it were lighter.reviewed September 24th, 2007 (purchased for $1,600)
9 out of 10 points and recommended by Ulan (3 reviews)Not too expensive for its potential and flexibility, IS for spanning, good IQ, good AFheavy, requires handling experience
I used this zoom in Peru last year. Thanks to it I managed to get good views of tiny mammals such as "viscachas" (a kind of chinchilla with rabbit ears), elusive animals such as vicuñas in the high mountains or rare river otters in the Tambopata, birds (scarlet macaws, paucas, tucan, and many others in the coastal reserve of Paracas). Also photographing interesting characters from a far distance.reviewed June 30th, 2007 (purchased for $1,900)
I agree, the zoom is not that easy to handle : it's heavy, push&pull is tiring and not always accurate at the right moment, you must not forget to switch the appropriate IS mode when necessary, and of course you draw attention on you as if you were a paparazzi (but that can be funny, no?). So it is a matter of experience to get the best of the lens. You have to choose an optimal aperture for the appropriate focal length, the ligthing conditions and the speed.
I had some blur when using my knee as a monopode while "shooting" animals, but I hadn't switched off the IS.
Contrast is very good, sharpness good.
Very good build quality, that's also why the zoom is heavy (well, not that too heavy either, you get used to it). Push&pull can be ackward but you also calibrate your own manipulations.
9 out of 10 points and recommended by fergusonjr (15 reviews)Extremely Versatile, great image qualityNot for low light conditions
This is one of the most versatile lenses I've used. I've used it with great success everywhere from zoos to airshows, and I couldn't be happier with it. The image quality is a great deal better than you might expect with such a long zoom. Very good.reviewed January 15th, 2007 (purchased for $1,400)
I'm not a huge fan of the push-pull zoom, but I have gotten quite used it.
I highly recommend this lens.
9 out of 10 points and recommended by adobo (17 reviews)I like the zoom range of this lens, for its intended purposesHeavy, Not that fond of push-pull design, older IS generation
A one well-built lens..reviewed January 9th, 2007 (purchased for $1,550)
Its white, has a red ring, built like a tank.. Aesthetically speaking, i'm impressed with this lens!
On the IQ, I have nothing new to report beyond what you can find online, But I would like to add that this lens performs well if you use it as it was intended..
First of all, given the aperture specifications, this is an outdoor lens! So normally, you would actually stop-down this lens..if you keep away from extremes then this lens performs well (sharpness-wise and contrast)
And c'mon, when using this on an outdoor even, you can almost expect a monopod to present to avoid from straining yourself carrying this HUGE lens..
So.. if i'll be fair to this lens... that 1.) its not designed for handhold ONLY 2.) that it really underperforms when wide open, plus given the fact that you can't fully set it manual because of non-constant apperture. Then it's one of the got-to-have glass in canon's arsenal!
Just try it!
9 out of 10 points and recommended by kzr63g (6 reviews)useful for wildlife picturesnot the sharpest but my lens is sharp
Semse there is variation in lens quality on this lense. My lense is sharp even at 400 mm but if you compare with a primary lense of same focal length this lense in not as good.reviewed January 9th, 2007 (purchased for $1,900)
With 1.4TC image quality decreases but still useful.
Do not use 2.0 TC.
On non Eos 1 cameras AF will not work with 1.4TC.
There is a work-around by putting tape on 3 pins on backside of lens. But with bad light the lens will start AF hunting...
Pump zoom. Many are afraid of dust entering thru the pump construction, but so far nothing on my lense (used 1 year).
IS works well.
9 out of 10 points and recommended by mebailey (21 reviews)Great focal range. IS. Resonably sharp. Rapid reliable focusing.Push-pull takes getting used to. Tightening ring always in the way. Not great for low light.
This is a good lens if you need this focal range. It is fairly sharp for a zoom even at 400. Mine is really sharp if I stop down to about f8. The 1.4X TC seems to degrade image significantly. The lens will get alot of attention (for better or worse). The IS works well.reviewed December 14th, 2006 (purchased for $1,400)
9 out of 10 points and recommended by mxwphoto (12 reviews)The most versatile long tele zoom there is!Gives your arm a workout, always room for more improvements.
It may not be the sharpest, fastest and lightest lens in Canon's line-up, but for the money, it packs quite a lot of bang. The IS helps substantiably while hand-held, a zoom of 1-400 is highly flexible, it does accept both Canon TCs (it's the 28-300 that can't) and will even AF if you tape down some pins, and is still light enough to use as a walk-around. Image quality won't be as razor sharp as primes but that's to be expected. The merits/demerits of push-pull design is highly subjective, but it does allow for fast zooming when needed. Friction ring takes some getting used to, just learn to not twist it while adjusting focus manually. Overall, the lens will take some getting used to at first and has a learning curve before one can capture great images but it's highly worth it!reviewed December 11th, 2006 (purchased for $1,320)
8 out of 10 points and recommended by henris (8 reviews)zoom range is flexible, IS, quality "L" constructiononly 2 stop IS, zoom nopt smooth after a while
I loved this lens! It got stolen last month, but was quickly becoming a favorite. Great for birding and wildlife. Ultimate zoo lens!reviewed November 25th, 2006 (purchased for $1,200)
Too slow for indoor shots.
9 out of 10 points and recommended by tkgross (3 reviews)Image Quality and extended range with ISPush Pull design
Very versatile. Good for bird flight photos. IS helps with slower aperture. Nice if you only want one lens for wildlife.reviewed November 19th, 2006 (purchased for $1,380)
Wish it were not push pull and would like to see the IS updated to most recent specs.
9 out of 10 points and recommended by David Hay (8 reviews)Solid build, good stabiliser, quality images.Heavy, push/pull zoom.
This is the first long-tele zoom I have used which doesn't fall off markedly at the longest zoom setting. I now use whatever focal length is needed to get the correct framing without worrying about the quality, although, with a 20D, I don't need to use the long end as much of the time.reviewed November 11th, 2006 (purchased for $1,900)
Good image stabiliser. I have got excellent shots of horses galloping past using the panning setting. Follow focus is fast and accurate. Pulling back the zoom as subjects approach is only easy if you adjust the friction control correctly, otherwise it can be jerky.
The lens is supplied with a hood, case and tripod mount.
I do find it heavy to hand-hold for a long time and the white colour and large size make it too conspicuous for candid photography.
10 out of 10 points and recommended by Ross T (4 reviews)Awesome Zoom Range with Image Stabilization...Very Sharp!!None
Just an Incredible Lens...Awesome Zoom Range with Image Stabilization...It's Great to be able to handhold a 400mm lens....Just use the Push-Pull Zoom Slowly so you don't suck dust into the lens.....Very Sharp... This is a GREAT LENS...You won't regret buying it....it allows you to do so many things!!reviewed October 13th, 2006
10 out of 10 points and recommended by SPBear (1 reviews)Light weight, valued usage with L qualitynothing
Not only this lens but all L lens has been made good as against dust and wet. I had no problem at all with Canon lens at my long experience. So I'd like to say this lens is not "Dust Trombone" at my usage least.reviewed June 14th, 2006 (purchased for $1,600)
I could take good picture in better quality by this lens more than FD 300mm f2.8 L with FD-EOS adapter. So I lost the mean to carry that big heavy lens. In the digital era, we are hitting turning point. At my opinion with experience, modern designed lenses in zoom are better than old designed single focus lenses. We can see it not only MTF graph but also on our pictures.
8 out of 10 points and recommended by twereliu (5 reviews)Good range, sharp out to around 300, 1.4x is ok but not outstandingSoft past 300, push pull isnt great, wouldnt suggest the 2x
For flexibility it's the best you can do for Canon.reviewed December 30th, 2005 (purchased for $1,200)
I would like to see them update the lens and make it as phenominal as the 70-200mm f/2.8 is, in my opinion most would pay to get a better zoom.
This lens is not that sharp past 300mm, shoot it side by side with a prime 400 and there is a very noticible difference.
Yes I know a prime fixed is n/times more expensive, but even so you can see softness in the image at full zoom, if you use a 20D not so much, but use it on a full sensor and its much more noticible.
1. Never turn on IS on a pod UNLESS the whole setup is vibrating from the wind.
2. Wouldnt suggest the 2x, the 1.4x is useable, but again degrades the.
Overall I give the whole setup an 8, it's as good as you can get in this category now, and overall it's pretty good and can be sharpned up post process and give pro results if care is taken, still if you really want wildlife tack sharp get a 500mm prime ($$$$)
8 out of 10 points and recommended by rcmarple (3 reviews)Beautiful imagesHeavy, doesn't work with Canon teleconverters
Stunning images and far superior to the previous Vivitar 100-400 cheap lens I used to have. It weighs a ton so it's not something I'd take on vacation with me unless I was on safari or something. You have to say also that the lens looks good and has great posing value! REMEMBER THAT THIS DOESN'T WORK WITH CANON TELECONVERTERS - I FOUND OUT THE HARD WAY.reviewed December 17th, 2005 (purchased for $2,127)
Down side yet again is the price we pay here in rip-off Britain...
10 out of 10 points and recommended by fstopjojo (8 reviews)Stellar image quality, Excellent resolving power and stunning contrast, "IS" is a tremendous boon, USM/FTM makes AF fast and silent, Solid "L" build, Takes 1.4xTC very well even wide openNot a fast aperture lens, Push-pull zoom takes getting used to, "Dust Trombone" nickname isn't reassuring, Could use the next generation IS unit
I've commented quite a bit here at my site:reviewed December 10th, 2005
10 out of 10 points and recommended by Mlr8081 (3 reviews)Amazing versatility and image qualitylens hood
I live a few miles from Yellowstone and have unbelievable opportunity to photograph large mammals. My primary lens has been the 400 f5.6L which I consider to be excellent. My problem with it has been that I frequently have too much lens as I am able to get quite close to wildlife. (The bighorn sheep will sometimes stick their heads into the car window to see whats going on durinhg the winter months when they become quite habituated to automobiles.reviewed December 9th, 2005 (purchased for $1,300)
I have read many reviews of this lens with the common theme being that it is not very sharp and the push pull method of changing focal length is flawed. A few weeks ago I had the chance to borrow a friends 100-400 at a captive raptor shoot at a local bird rehab center. He is a full time pro, and uses his lens extensivly and sells the images throough a stock agency. He was very surprised when I mentioned the many reviews blasting the image quality. I used his lens and my 400 prime on the same bird at the same time and later reviewed the images and printed many examples.
The image quality is superb. While the lens is listed at 400mm top end it is actually more like 370 in comparison to the 400. The images are tack sharp off a tripod with the IS off. Many images were shot later from a car window (using my own recently purchased copy) using IS and the image quality is superb. I did some experimentation and found that on a tripod with the ball head locked tight and the IS on the images were blurry. This should come as no surprise since the owners manual and the Canon website both state this fact.
I don't know where the poor reviews come from. I have had nothing but excellent images from all my Canon L lenses when I did my job as a photographer. IS is no substitute for technique, and I find it hard to believe that some people expect to be able to handhold a lens this large and always get acceptable results.
I believe this may be the most useful lens Canon makes for wildlife photography. I wish that I had purchased this lens years ago.
8 out of 10 points and not recommended by jyli19 (7 reviews)Useful focal length, excellent constructionLarge, heavy, not the sharpest option Canon provides
I couldn't get use to the push-pull zoom and the friction ring control always got into the way when attempting manual focus adjustments. Image quality not as sharp as the 70-200 zooms, 300mm and 400mm primes.reviewed November 3rd, 2005
On the other hand, a 2x tele-converter would give this lens the option of a 100-800mm reach, 160-1280mm on a 1.6x DSLR.