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EF 100-400mm L IS USM

From Opus

EF 100-400mm L IS USM
EF 100-400mm L IS USM

Focal Length 100mm - 400mm F# f4.5 - f5.6 Lens Construction 17 elements in 14 groups Closest Focusing 1.8m Filter Attachment Size 77mm Hood ET-83C Weight 1380g Max Dia. x Length 92 x 189mm

Content and images originally posted by Andy Bright


[edit] Reviews

[edit] nigelblake's review

I bought my 100-400mm when they first came out in late 1999, it has served me very well, suffering the cold of a Helsinki winter and the heat and dust of Botswana, South Africa, Morocco and Gambia, it has only failed me once and that was a result of a bit of a bash, Canon CPS replaced the AF module in 24 hours and its been just a good as ever since the repair.

Contrary to many of the worries that zoom lenses are a compromise, this is a pin sharp lens right through the focal length range, it is an ideal lens for grab shots due to its portability and superb balance. When used with a D60 or 10D it has the advantage of being a 160-640mm because of the 1.6x factor bought about by the smaller sensor size of these camera bodies, in my opinion this makes it the best lens available for flight shots.

The zoom action is smooth and has a lockable ring to fix it at a desired focal length, this is also handy to use for adjusting the �tension� of the zoom action.

The image stabiliser on it is quite fantastic; with practice it is possible to get pin sharp images at the 400mm end of its range whilst handholding at shutter speeds as low as 1/30th of a second. There are two modes, mode 1 for general use and mode 2 for panning, it is important to switch between the two as it does make a big difference. I have lost count of the times when this lens has got shots that any other non-stabilised lens would have struggled with!

The close focus is a very respectable 1.4 metres so the lens is ideal for butterflies and Dragonflies as well as birds. There is also a focus range limit switch, use this with flight shots of birds (or aircraft and motor sports0) and you will hardly miss a shot.

AF works very fast, and I can tell the difference between how it works with different bodies, on the 1Ds it is instantaneous even with a 1.4x converter, but it defaults to manual focus when using a 2x, the results however are still very sharp with either converter, on the D60 and 10D it is a little less accurate with converters.

The tripod-mounting ring rotates and can be removed; I also use it to mount a lamp on for night photography as I can set the lamp at 45 degrees, leaving clear space for a flashgun mounted on the camera to illuminate the subject unhindered.

I have used other manufacturers lenses of similar spec; none could quite match this one. I think this is the best lens in its class.

Currently about �1150-00 it might seem expensive, but a lens of this quality is an investment, you could get similar for a few hundred pounds less, but the guarantee of getting that unrepeatable shot right first time makes it sensible to get the best.

[edit] Pros

  • Lightweight
  • well balanced
  • and pin sharp

[edit] Cons

  • none

[edit] smitra's review

I have had this lens for less than two months, but used it quite a bit with my 10D body for everything from architectural detail to birds in flight. This lens, particularly in combination with a x1.6 factor body (10D or 300D) is a gem for wildlife and bird photographers. I have tested two copies of this lens and have found both to be very sharp. Others suggest that there is quite a bit of quality variation across samples.

Like many buyers, I read endless discussions on the web about the merits and demerits of this lens. It seems to divide opinion more than most other Canon high-end lenses, and so anyone interested in it is likely to find themselves more confused after reading all the advice. Briefly, the critics pick mostly on the following points:

1. Push-pull zoom: Many would have preferred to have a ring zoom mechanism rather than the trombone-style push-pull. I think the push-pull zoom is the right choice for a lens of such a large zoom range - with just a little practice it is possible to make rather quick changes in focal length. Spotted a cormorant skimming the water towards your boat? Flip IS to Mode 2 (panning), pull to the short end and get the bird into the frame, push out toward the long end while tracking the flight, and press the shutter when the frame is full. No other 35 mm lens on the planet can enable this sequence as well as this lens.

2. Too slow: Making this lens an f/4 would probably increase it's size my some amount, not to speak of what would happen if it were to be an f/2.8. As it is, it is compact for what it covers.

3. Push-pull zoom sucks in dust: Opinion seems to be divided on whether this is a particular problem with the push-pull design.

4. 70-200 f/2.8 with x2 extender would be better: An influential test by Michael Reichmann ( shows that this combo is actually not as sharp at 400 mm as the 100-400. If one is primarily interested in the range up to 200mm, and 200-400 is only for the occasional visit to the zoo or sports-field sidelines, then this option makes some sense.

5. Primes are sharper and faster: Of course, but they can't do what the 100-400 can.

At around �1160, this lens is a bargain.

[edit] Pros

  • zoom range
  • sharpness
  • image stabilization

[edit] TwoBoy's review

Based on Canon 10D and 20D use:

I rate this lens THE BEST THERE IS for wildlife and birds in Africa. Very sharp at all focal lengths even when fitted with the Canon 1.4X II converter but you lose AF with the converter. IS is so good it can be handheld at any focal length so I have removed the tripod ring - its just not needed if you have something to lean on.

Apart from being sharp colours are excellent, AF is fast and the lens seems very well balanced when fitted with the extra battery holder. Excellent AF in low light comes to mind. I like the push-pull with this lens - it is fast and smooth and you can adjust movement with a ring adjuster.

For people who speak out against this lens I ask you - 1. How many shots have you lost because you are not using a zoom 2. The so-called dust problem - mine is used in dirty dusty Africa with no problems 3. If primes are better - please explain to us all how you manage to get birds and animals to pose for you - we all need to know this 4. What is wrong with push-pull - it gives one the speed to frame any animal or bird fast and accurately

If I had only one lens this would be it. FABULOUS!!! And quite cheap for a Canon L series.


Updates: Its now a year gone by and I took the lens in to Canon to check it for dust or any other potential problem. No dust. No problems. Just perfect and this lens has worked really hard!

2 yers + now: No dust problems, very, very good lens.

[edit] Pros

  • Very sharp throughout range
  • Image Stabilization is excellent
  • packaged nicely with lens hood and decent bag

[edit] Cons

  • Tripod ring - lens has to be taken off camera to remove it

[edit] mjbmjbmjb's review

My favourite lens! I've taken maybe 8 000 photos with it over 2 years, in all sorts of conditions from in winter in the Alps, to dry dusty season in many parts of Africa, and in South America. It lives almost permanently on my 1Ds. Mixed results with the 1.4x Canon teleconverter, the image is noticeably softer, and the 2x converter subject to bad fringing. But at least autofocus workds with the 1.4x (not with the 2x) on the 1Ds. I sold the 2x converter - not sharp enough either. On my D60 the teleconverters do not autofocus with this lens, but less important to use these because of the 1.6 multiplier factor from the smaller sensor, giving 640mm equivalent. The results from this lens are sharp, bright, and always seem to come out better than you think. If they're not, it's my fault! Dust in the lens has never been an issue, but I got it cleaned by Canon UK this summer, and they reported there was a lot of red dust inside, but it wasn't visible in the optics. I would recommend taking it for cleaning occasionally if using in dusty conditions. I would truly recommend this lens. Canon L series lenses can't be beaten!!

[edit] Pros

  • Fast
  • very sharp
  • superb build

[edit] Cons

  • Manual focus with teleconveter very very sensitive

[edit] grizzly's review

I will probably never sell a photo to National Geographic but it works for me.

[edit] Pros

  • I have been using this lens for 2 years on the wet west coast of Canada
  • dragged it along the seaweed and sand
  • smacked it with a thousand branches
  • and yes it gets dust. But I use Visible Dust brushes and a blower
  • you have to clean every lens at some time.

[edit] Cons

  • None that are not obvious
  • costs too much
  • heavy
  • not a 2.8.But works well and the options are worse.

[edit] Simon S's review

There is no better zoom for the Canon than this one! Focus is fast(but not up to the L primes) and has a useful focus limit switch to prevent the lens focusing nearer than 6.5 meters. This speeds up the focus lock when the lens is trying to get a lock on a moving bird etc. For best results stopping down to f8-f11 seems to be the sweet spot but the difference is very small. Used at 100-300 mm the results are very sharp and great colour rendition. If used at the full 400mm the image becomes softer but under good lighting still produces very good results. Push pull zoom seems a bit odd at first and the locking ring to prevent zoom creep takes a bit of getting used to. Saying that this is one lens that will stay in my collection a long long time.

[edit] Pros

  • Great build. Image stabilizing is a must. Built like a Tank

[edit] Cons

  • Slightly soft at 400mm. Heavy. Attracts attention

[edit] garavin's review

Having shot over 10,000 images with this lens, nearly all of them birds in flight, I cannot think of a better lens for the purpose. Attached to a Canon 20D or other 1.6x crop camera it's the equivalent of a 640mm focal length at the long end. It's a bit slow, particularly at full zoom but the IS helps compensate and I've had no trouble getting handheld shots in a shadowy woodland at dusk with the lens set at 400mm with f/5.6 1/30 sec at ISO 1600. Initially the lens felt heavy and unwieldy but with the addition of a battery grip to my 20D the camera and lens balance very well, and the weight is more than an adequate trade-off for the flexibility and capability of this lens. The push-pull zoom design has come in for some criticism but I don't find it objectionable, and in fact I find that it is easier to rapidly change the zoom range to reframe a subject than with a twist zoom. If you're going to photograph birds on the wing with a Canon SLR, this is the lens to have.

[edit] Pros

  • Image stabilized
  • great contrast and sharpness
  • flexibility

[edit] Cons

  • relatively slow (f/4-5.6)
  • need to go to f/8- f/16 for sharpest images

[edit] Andy Bright's review

Review by tjsimonsen who posted in wrong place

A suberb all-round wildlife lens! While it is definitly not as sharp as a 400/5.6 prime at the long end wide open, it comes pretty close stopped down to f8. I personally do not think that the difference would be visible on even a large print - if you get a good copy of the zoom, that is! The short close-focus distance also makes it a good lens for lager insects - though it would be highly misleading to call it a hidden-macro! The IS is often very handy, but NOT a replacement for good lens-holding technique. The push-pull zoom mechanismn is not my cup of tea, but I have found it easier to use that I feared.

[edit] gene's review

This lens prefromed fairly well stopped down a little or at less than 400mm focal length. I got some good milage out of it. But the IS would lock the lens up infrequently, and finally the IS failed after 7 months. Cannon "fixed" it. They replace basically the front end of the camera and the image quality was wose and the IS clunky.

[edit] Pros

  • Zoom flexibility

[edit] Cons

  • heavy
  • prone to IS lockups
  • failure
  • soft wide open at 400mm

[edit] Keith Reeder's review

(Price is in UKP, not dollars)

Gene obviously had an unrepresentative sample...

To agree with the majority here, this lens really is as good as it gets for its intended purpose.

Sharpness, contrast, saturation - all of the IQ buttons in fact - are pressed by this lens, and I simply DO NOT GET bad pictures that I can blame on the lens. In fact I am routinely made to shake my head in surprise at how good this thing makes me look!


The IS is superb - I am a big fan of stabilisation - and I remain baffled by people who try to suggest that IS is somehow other than a good idea: anything that makes the shooting platform more stable HAS to be an advantage, and IS surely is that.

I have very usable pictures down to 1/15 thanks to IS...

Build quality is fine. I accept that the push-pull zoom is not for everyone, but it is easy enough to get used to.

The Dust Trombone allegation is unfounded in my opinion - and I routinely shoot on local beaches with very fine sand, in stiff winds, without any particular dust issues.

I have no problems either, with AF speed - even on flight shots.

Assuming that there is some validity to complaints that older 100-400mm lenses were subject to significant variation in quality control which could mean softness at 400mm, it seems safe to say that newer lenses are routinely fine - owners of new 100-400s seem to be very happy with how sharp their lenses are.

I know I am!

A highly recommended lens.

[edit] Pros

  • Sharp at all focal lengths
  • versatile
  • handles well
  • robust

[edit] Cons

  • None that could be addressed without making it into a different lens...

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