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ZEISS DTI thermal imaging cameras. For more discoveries at night, and during the day.

EF 100-400mm L IS USM

Lens, 100-400mm, Canon
Manufacturer
Canon

Reviews summary

13
 
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Overall rating
4.47 star(s) 17 ratings
Recommended
Yes
Price
0$
Pros
  • Image stabilisation, versatile zoom
Cons
Having owned his lens for about three months I was almost set to sell it on after obtaining consistently soft and very poor quality images. I had installed a quality Hoya pro 1 digital uv filter on the day I had purchased the lens to protect my investment. It turns out this was destroying image quality!!!! Having removed it the quality is superb and I am so pleased with this lens. Wide open at 400mm it's perfectly acceptable but with good light stopped down to f8 it's razor sharp!! I am beginning to wander if some of the negative comments on this lens, in particular the softness of its images are due to it not favouring the use of filters? With the filter removed my lens is literally transformed. If you are looking for a quality versatile lens with image stabilisation (which in my opinion is very effective) do not hesitate to buy this lens. I had a 400mm 5.6 l and I find the 100-400 far more suited to my needs. Due to the IS I find it excellent to use as a walk about lens and easy to handhold and a perfect companion for my canon 7d.
Recommended
No
Price
0$
Pros
  • Good IS , Light weight and fairly sharp
Cons
  • push/pull zoom , slightly soft at 400mm
I had this lens for about 1 year before i changed to a canon 400 F5.6 prime and i think the canon 400 F5.6 prime is a better lens. I use it for wildlife photography mainly birds and i think it is better because i find the images i get are sharper , the AF is noticebly faster and its a tad lighter. Although the 100-400 has IS i think the prime is better as i never used the IS so if you are thinking about getting one of the two lenes for wildlife photography i would go for the 400mm F5.6.
Recommended
Yes
Price
0$
Pros
  • Great size to drag around on hikes!
Cons
  • Haven't found any yet
I have had mine for three years now and always use it without a tripod to photograph birds. I have taken it on dusty safaris in Namibia, Kenya and India. Also in cold very wet conditions in Alaska and Canada with no problems.

I wouldn't consider going on a Wildlife holiday without it!
Recommended
Yes
Price
0$
Pros
  • zoom flexibility, sharp, solid build, handholdable, IS works well
Cons
  • not much but IS lock up every so often,
I've had this lens for 4 years now and it never failed once. The build quality is superb, it's been putting up with my heavy duty use and is working as good as new!! I've even dropped it on the floor once and it was fine!!I find this an excellent lens for birds and other wildlife photography.

I was also concerned about the push pull design sucking in dust but the problem never came. The push pull design makes it a very compact lens.

It is sharp all round, though I do notice a slight decrease in sharpness at 400mm f/5.6, but you will only notice when you view at 100%.

The AF is very good, accurate and pretty quick with both 20D & 50D I had.

IS is very good despite of the lock ups which occurs rarely. With a bit of practice, taking a photo at 1/30th handheld will not be a problem.

If you are looking for a flexible lens built to last, this is the lens for you!!
Recommended
Yes
Price
0$
Pros
  • solid reliable lens, IQ at 400mm, handholdable all day
Cons
  • slightly dated design, not so good in poor light
I picked this up secondhand about 10 months ago and would highly recommend it to anyone with a Canon DSLR. Has to be the ultimate affordable (just about) walkaround lens for the birder.

Canon's 2 other options in the same price range are no doubt excellent but for me although the 400L may be slightly sharper (according to stuff I've read on various forums) it has no IS (a dealbreaker for myself, don't know about others) and the 300L + 1.4 T/C doesn't have the flexibility of the 100-400L's zoom.

I've taken 000's of pictures on my 400D with this lens and am looking forward to taking 000's more with it when I get my 50D next year. Unless Canon bring out some new IS lens under $2000 I'll stick with it for a while yet. The immediate next steps up from this (the Sigma 500 F4.5 or the Canon 300 F2.8) are well out of my price range.
Recommended
Yes
Price
0$
Pros
  • push pull,zoom,sharp
Cons
  • heavy
I have had mine 2 years and find it sharp at all lengths even at 400mmf5.6 love it to bits its very rearly of my 20D unless i am doing macro got some getting used to about 6 months i found mune dosent like uv filters i put a expensive one on when i got it but found iq horrid took it of and never looked back highly reccommended
Recommended
Yes
Price
0$
Pros
  • IS is Ok, flexible, decent IQ
Cons
  • Over-rated, old design, average compared to 400mm & Sigma 100-300mm
Had two copies trying to find the magic so many talk about. Both pretty decent copies but results inconsistent compared to my ex 100-300mm 4.0 EX HSM and both copies of 400mm L I have owned. I just think it is an overhyped lens. I see the practical, all around benefits, I just wish it took better pictures. I would prefer a BIgma frankly: my ex copy was at least as good optically. Shame no IS.
Recommended
Yes
Price
1080$
Pros
  • Sharp at all focal lengths, versatile, handles well, robust
Cons
  • None that could be addressed without making it into a different lens...
(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.
Recommended
No
Price
1490$
Pros
  • Zoom flexibility
Cons
  • heavy, prone to IS lockups, failure, soft wide open at 400mm
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.
Recommended
Yes
Price
1250$
Pros
  • Image stabilized, great contrast and sharpness, flexibility
Cons
  • relatively slow (f/4-5.6), need to go to f/8- f/16 for sharpest images
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.
Recommended
Yes
Price
0$
Pros
Cons
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.
Recommended
Yes
Price
0$
Pros
  • Great build. Image stabilizing is a must. Built like a Tank
Cons
  • Slightly soft at 400mm. Heavy. Attracts attention
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.
Recommended
Yes
Price
2200$
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.
Cons
  • None that are not obvious,costs too much,heavy,not a 2.8.But works well and the options are worse.
I will probably never sell a photo to National Geographic but it works for me.
Recommended
Yes
Price
0$
Pros
  • Fast, very sharp, superb build
Cons
  • Manual focus with teleconveter very very sensitive
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!!
Recommended
Yes
Price
0$
Pros
  • Very sharp throughout range, Image Stabilization is excellent, packaged nicely with lens hood and decent bag
Cons
  • Tripod ring - lens has to be taken off camera to remove it
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.

BIRDS AND WILD ANIMALS DO NOT POSE FOR YOU - A VERY GOOD ZOOM LIKE THIS IS THE ONLY SOLUTION

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.
Recommended
Yes
Price
0$
Pros
  • zoom range, sharpness, image stabilization
Cons
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 (www.luminous-landscape.com) 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.
Recommended
Yes
Price
0$
Pros
  • Lightweight, well balanced, and pin sharp
Cons
  • none
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.
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