Canon 100-400 mm IS lens

Discussion in 'Canon' started by Rick Dowling, Oct 25, 2003.

  1. Rick Dowling

    Rick Dowling Guest

    I would like to hear pros and cons on this lens. Anyone using the Sigma
    lens? Any comparisons?

    Rick Dowling, Oct 25, 2003
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  2. Rick Dowling

    JD Guest

    The one big drawback for this lens is it's price. I think you'd be hard
    pushed to find anyone who could find anything else negative about it!.

    JD, Oct 25, 2003
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  3. You get what you pay for. It's nowhere near the quality of the primes that
    are several times as expensive, especially at 400mm. It's not that bad at
    shorter focal lengths, compared to the primes of standard quality. The L
    series primes are another story.

    For the price, it's probably as good as one could expect. The IS, when
    hand-held, does not allow the same quality image as can be obtained on a
    tripod, but the difference between the two is far less than hand-holding
    with and without the IS. I must say that I've gotten shots at 400mm that
    were sharp nearly to the grain of the film (Reala), using a tripod and MLU,
    although the tonal subtlety wasn't as good as one would expect of a prime.

    I guess the short version is: for the money, you get the ability to produce
    images of noticeably better quality than anything but the best examples of
    third party optics, because you're more apt to get really good quality from
    Canon than from (for this instance) Sigma. Notice that my standards in
    this description are very high, and that user technique makes a bigger
    difference than might seem reasonable. For most users, it'll probably be
    an amazing experience to hand-hold 400mm with IS, and get an image that
    doesn't fall apart at 8x to 10x enlargement. In that regard, it's the only
    game in town.

    I use mine with a doubler, and have hand-held 800mm that didn't fall apart
    at 8x (10x didn't look so good...), at shutter speeds of 1/30 to 1/60.
    There's a trick to it, though. Half press until the gyros are at full
    speed and the image movement slows down, and then get full press at exactly
    the moment the movement pauses.

    It's a tank. It's white and draws wannabees like flies. If you can live
    with all that, go for it.

    Bill Tallman
    William D. Tallman, Oct 25, 2003
  4. Rick Dowling

    Mark M Guest

    I have used and loved this lens since it was first released by Canon.
    For a zoom of this ratio and focal length, it is very sharp with good
    Handling is great once you get used to the push-pull zooming action. I have
    come to actually prefer this over turning-zoom grips, since it means you can
    zoom nearly instantly without changing your grip angle.

    The one down-side for me is that it is still only f5.6 as opposed to 4 or
    Of course it's price and size would be MUCH larger if it had the big ap, but
    at 400mm it leads one to use it for wildlife. Unfortunately, teh best time
    for wildlife is early morning or late afternoon--when light is more subdued.
    It's times like this when a big aperture would be great.

    That said, I've had tremendous satisfaction while using it. The IS is
    absolutely irreplacable, and allows successful/effective use in situations
    where ANY other lens (without IS) would simply fail to produce usable
    images. I'm talking about hanging out truck windows next to
    wild-life...where tripod or even monopod use is impossible for teh
    opprotunity shot.

    Also... If you have any incling of going with a Canon digital body, the IS
    becomes even more critical, since camera movement is even more a factor due
    to the 1.6 or 1.3 cropping factor with all but the 1Ds' full frame sensor.

    In my opinion, there is no other zoom that can compete with this lens when
    the full capabilities are recognised (including IS), and is well worth the

    The only other consideration you might make is the 70-200 2.8 L IS...which,
    if used with a digital SLR and a 1.4x actually surpasses 400mm enlargement,
    AND offers 2.8. I have both lenses, and am still waiting to try a 2x
    extender with my 70-200 to see how it compares with the straight 100-400. I
    can tell you that the 70-200 is a nearly unbelievable lens for clarity,
    sharpness, IS, AF (with it's 2.8) and all around incredible capabilities.
    My 70-200 now is my default telephoto when I'm carrying my 10D...rather than
    my 100-400.

    -Mark M
    Mark M, Oct 25, 2003
  5. Rick Dowling

    Dallas Guest

    I had one and sold it after using the 400mm f/2.8L.

    I just couldn't stand to think about how Canon could sell this lens for
    about 25% of the price of the 400mm, yet only provide about 5% of the
    image quality.

    That's not to say it is a poor lens, it's just not as good as it's made
    out to be, IMO. Personally I preferred using the 35-350mm and if I was
    ever in the market for something along those lines again, it would
    definitely find its way into my bag before the 100-400mm did.

    You would be a hell of a lot better off with a 70-200mm IS and a 2x
    Dallas, Oct 25, 2003
  6. Rick Dowling

    Mark M Guest

    Gee. Ya think that extra $5000 might have a bit to do with that?
    I used to like my Corvette until I drove a Ferrari.
    Corvettes suck now.
    Try hand-holding the 35-350 without IS in dim light.
    Got both, but haven't parted with the 100-400.
    If I had to choose between them, it would be the 70-200 IS 2.8 that stayed.
    Mark M, Oct 25, 2003
  7. Rick Dowling

    Alan Browne Guest

    Mark M wrote:

    Corvettes always sucked. "Grosse Corvette, 'ti quequette."

    'though I do confess a certain penchant for the '63, but that's looks,
    not drivin'.
    Alan Browne, Oct 25, 2003
  8. Rick Dowling

    Mark M Guest

    That's OK.
    I don't have a was just the first
    less-than-stellar-but-still-decent car that came to mind.

    I drive a Toyota Land Cruiser.
    By comparison...a Ferrari sucks when driving through the wilds of Alaska.

    IOW...To compare a $1400 lens unfavorably to a $7000 version is just silly.
    Mark M, Oct 25, 2003
  9. Silly ? Nah, just Usenet

    Tony Parkinson, Oct 25, 2003
  10. Rick Dowling

    Mark M Guest

    Mark M, Oct 25, 2003
  11. Rick Dowling

    Bill Hilton Guest

    I have this lens (100-400 IS) and also a couple others in the same proximate
    focal range, the 70-200 f/2.8 L, 300 f/4 L, 400 f/5.6 L (my wife's), and then
    something else entirely, the 500 f/4 L.

    I've used the 100-400 mainly in Alaska, where the wide focal range is very
    handy for shooting wildlife from a tour bus in Denali or a viewing platform in
    Katmai or a boat out of Seward. The IS feature is also very handy in most of
    these situations too. Often I'll have the 500 f/4 with a 1.4x on the tripod
    and use the 100-400 on a second body.

    So the wide focal range and IS make for a very handy lens. That's the good

    The bad news is that the optics aren't all that hot when shot wide open at
    longer focal lengths. It's apparently better than the Nikon 80-400 VR (the
    main competitor) but some of my shots in fairly dim light showed light fall-off
    at the edges, and a couple of times I've shot it at f/11 (in theory where it's
    optimal) from a tripod and still can't quite get the quality I'd hoped for when
    blowing the film up. It seems OK in bright light but a bit disappointing in
    dimmer light, at least to me.

    I think I'm spoiled by the high quality of the other "L" lenses I mentioned,
    the 300 f/4 and 500 f/4 in particular are exceptional and simply produce
    sharper, more contrasty images than the 100-400 at the long end. The 100-400
    quality isn't bad compared to the consumer grade lenses but it's not up to the
    high standards of the best fixed focal length "L" lenses either, which of
    course is to be expected with a 4:1 zoom ratio.

    If I have room for two lenses this size I've started taking the 70-200 f/2.8
    and the 300 f/4, but if I only have room for one (usually the case for Alaska,
    especially if we take the 6x7 too) then I just take the 100-400.

    One of my friends works for Lindblad Expleditions and uses this lens from a
    ship all over the world on their trips to Galapagos, Spitzbergen (Norway) for
    Polar bears, Alaska, Baja, Antarctica etc and he loves it. He's working on his
    fourth book right now so he knows his stuff.

    Another guy who likes it and has replaced his 400 f/5.6 L with it is Art
    Morris, the famous bird photographer. To read what Artie has to say check out
    these links ... Despite what he says in this
    second post he eventually replaced the 400 f/5.6 with the 100-400. He talks
    about the reasons behind this decision in one of his many Bulletins, found at
    the same site.

    So it's a mixed bag, the IS is very useful and the 100-400 focal range is
    handy, but the optics are a bit disappointing for a $1,500 lens. I think Roger
    Clark tested this one pretty throughly and, IIRC, said it wasn't really good
    until stopped down to f/11 ... but he's still using it too <g>.

    Bill Hilton, Oct 25, 2003
  12. Rick Dowling

    Alan Browne Guest

    ....what the hell else are we going to do ... try to understand Glans Travis?
    Alan Browne, Oct 25, 2003
  13. I had a '63.....Split rear window coupe.....It drove like a dream.....It was
    a bit heavy (2700 lbs with me in it, and a full tank of gas), but the split
    rear axel gave it supurb handling in the corners, and it could go from zero
    to 80mph in 7.5 seconds.......The only thing that makes present day cars
    better is the radial ply tire....In my lifetime, the single greatest
    advancement in automotive engineering has been the radial ply tire......
    William Graham, Oct 26, 2003
  14. Rick Dowling

    Simon Lee Guest

    Bill Hilton choreographed a chorus line of high-kicking electrons to
    spell out:
    Incidentally, what do you think of the 400 f/5.6L? Noting that of
    course how it is used would affect opinions also (Art Morris's views vs.
    Michael Reichmann's, for example...).
    Simon Lee, Oct 26, 2003
  15. Rick Dowling

    Dallas Guest

    Ferrari sucks. Now and forever.

    If I was going to drive a car that had a picture of a horse on it, I
    would choose either a Porsche or a Mustang. Ferraris are for blokes who
    wear gold medallions around their necks and don't know how to fasten

    Thank God the Italians don't make cameras...
    Dallas, Oct 26, 2003
  16. Rick Dowling

    Bill Hilton Guest

    Bill Hilton wrote ...
    I hadn't see Reichmann's review until your post but on reading it I agree
    completely with him that the 400 has better optics ( ). This is
    what you'd expect from the MTF charts and from a lens with a 4:1 zoom range.
    And it's what I saw when I tried to enlarge some landscape shots taken with the
    100-400 from a tripod.

    I don't use the 400 much since it's my wife's but I like it for flight shooting
    on birds the few times I've been allowed to play with it :). So I probably use
    it more like Art does than like Reichmann.

    Personally I wouldn't buy a long lens today that did NOT have IS though and
    that's the biggest flaw of the 400 f/5.6 to me. For how I would mostly use a
    lens in this range (film, not digital, and wildlife under less than ideal
    conditions) I think I'd lose as many shots with a non-IS lens as I would to
    weaker optics.

    I was surprised that Reichmann didn't like the idea of the 300 f/4 IS with the
    t/c. If I could fit two lenses in the bag (my bag is dominated by the 500 f/4
    L so there's not much room left) I'd take the 70-200 f/2.8 L and the 300 f/4 L
    with a 1.4x t/c to cover this range with higher optical quality than the
    100-400, but unfortunately for me I bought my 70-200 and 300 f/4 in the pre-IS

    Dunno ... I guess if you want a sharp light 400 mm lens that's not TOO
    expensive and you don't need a zoom or IS then it's a good choice <g>.

    Bill Hilton, Oct 26, 2003
  17. Rick Dowling

    Simon Lee Guest

    Bill Hilton choreographed a chorus line of high-kicking electrons to
    spell out:
    There's a few comments here and there from folks who liked their pre-
    IS 300 f/4Ls better than the new IS one, but you win some, you lose some...
    Thanks for the thoughts...
    I've got the 70-200 f/2.8 IS, and had the EF 2x II teleconverter on
    it for a little while. The converter was traded away when I got the 17-40
    f/4L for my 10D, but I regret that now and might get another one...
    Michael Reichmann also compared the 100-400 v. the 70-200 IS w/ 2x TC
    and found the 100-400 better wide open. Which is not hugely surprising,
    though the 70-200+2x combination is by no means *bad*. For the difference
    in price I will probably get the TC again and not bother with the 100-400.
    Well, unless in the future maybe it gets reworked and isn't a push-pull
    But I wouldn't mind a decent longer lens, for wildlife mainly and as
    an extra boost when I shoot air shows. As you mention, the 400 f/5.6 does
    not have IS, for about the same price the current 300 f/4 does, weighs
    less, and has a better max aperture (and the 10D's crop factor makes up for
    the focal length difference). It should be sharp *enough*...
    Anyway, I do not have the money to really seriously think about
    either of those right now, but I'm always wishing :)
    Simon Lee, Oct 26, 2003
  18. Rick Dowling

    Paul L Guest

    I just rented the 100-400 this weekend to try it out and it was great, although it was also my first experience with an L lens.

    Is the 70-200 as big as the 100-400? I can't tell by the pictures...
    Paul L, Oct 26, 2003
  19. Rick Dowling

    ThomasH Guest

    Than you should take a look at the comparative tests of 100-400 IS
    with 70-200 and 2x converter at Luminous Landscapes. At least with
    the previous 2x converter the 70-200 was worse at the long end.

    Since the 400 f/2.8 is out of my league, I cannot judge how much
    worse the 100-100 is. I can compare it to my Nikkor 80-200f/2.8ED
    with the 2x converter. The 100-400 is simply better, sharper, good
    contrast. And the IS drastically increased the number of sharp
    images taken at the long end. I believe that you get a lot of
    good glass for the money. I hate though the shift design with the
    "tighten" ring, which either requires wrestling to un-tight, or
    does not provide any fluid creep. I also dislike the switches,
    which might be switched as you grab the lens. A nasty case is
    is if the min. focus switch happen to be on 6.5m setting and
    you lose a shot!

    ThomasH, Oct 27, 2003
  20. The 70-200 is within millimeters of the same size as the 100-400 unextended.

    Skip Middleton

    I just rented the 100-400 this weekend to try it out and it was great,
    although it was also my first experience with an L lens.

    Is the 70-200 as big as the 100-400? I can't tell by the pictures...
    Skip Middleton, Oct 27, 2003
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