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

Mini Review

Back in 2006 and on and off for the next 4 years I had the opportunity to work in Uganda and discovered the joys and trials of wildlife photography. Back then the longest lens I owned was the EF 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 DO IS USM and whilst this was a very compact zoom and great for holiday shots of the kids, it proved to far too soft for wildlife shots, even on my EOS 5D Mark-I. The long lenses I aspired to own, the 400mm, 500mm or 600mm primes were way beyond my budget, so I bought a EF 100-400mm f4.5-5.6L IS USM on eBay for just over £800.

I’d read plenty of reviews of the EF 100-400mm f4.5-5.6L IS USM before making my purchase, so was well aware that many did not like the push-pull zoom, however, I have never found this to be a problem and quickly got used to it. The lens sat well on my 5D mark-I and later the mark-II, and over the next few yerars I honed my wildlife shooting technique with this combination and eventually achieved many images that I was very pleased with.

The f/4.5-5.6 aperture range is obviously a limitation, especially at the long end, but as cameras have improved considerably in high ISO performance over the years this has become less of an issue. Auto-focus is not the fastest by a long shot, but the IS is good and generally worth 2-3 stops. Under the right conditions, and with good technique, the images I achieved using the EOS 5D mark-I were pretty dam sharp. However, stepping up to the 21.1 MP of the 5D mark-II, the lens begins to show some of it’s limitations in resolving with images appearing somewhat softer.

Some websites claim that you can use either a 1.4 II or a 2x II converter with the EF 100-400m f4.5-5.6L lens, but if you do autofocus won’t work. Some listed a technique where you can cover some of the electrical pins in the lens mount to trick the autofocus into working. I tried this, but autofocus was so slow it wasn’t worth it.

The lens is robust and well built, and the only problem I found is that the Zoom touch adjustment ring would seldom lock the zoom in the retracted position so when ether around your neck or when carrying the camera the zoom would gradually creep into the fully zoomed position. On whole then lens still handles well, and if you’re using it on an 18MP camera or less should be capable of some very good images.

It still commands I pretty high price, but with rumours of an impending replacement it may soon prove to be bargain.

Online Reviews



Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM

This EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM Lens from Canon offers high resolution, superb contrast, neutral colour balance, and Canon’s original built-in Optical Image Stabilization for compensation against blur caused by camera movement.

High zoom magnification is achieved by means of a 6-group configuration with 5 movable groups. Fluorite and Super UD glass reduce secondary spectrum for superb colon rendition. Autofocus is fast and silent with Canon’s ring Ultrasonic Autofocus Motor (USM), and AF speed is further enhanced through an advanced, lightweight rear focusing design that incorporates a floating element for consistent image quality at all focusing distances from 5.9′ to infinity.

This dual-mode image stabilizer is suitable for panning shots as well as stationary subjects. With full-time manual focus, one-touch zooming with a wide grip, a focus range limiter and a special ring that permits adjustment of zooming tension, this is a lens that’s extremely easy to use, and ideal for a wide variety of applications including nature, wildlife, sports, and documentary photography.

A removable, rotatable tripod collar is included and the front filter thread diameter is 77mm.

  • Floating internal lens element & rear-group focusing
  • Fluorite & ultra-low dispersion lens elements
  • Two-mode optical image stabilization provides shake compensation when shooting stationary subject and when panning to follow moving subjects.
  • An ultrasonic autofocus motor provides fast, smooth and silent autofocus.
  • A focus range limiter lets you set the range of focus distance which enables shorter focusing times. The two ranges are 5.9′ to infinity and 21.3′ to infinity.
  • Removable, rotatable tripod collar

Focal Length & Maximum Aperture 100-400mm 1:4.5-5.6
Lens Construction 17 elements in 14 groups
Diagonal Angle of View 24° – 6° 10′
Focus Adjustment Rear focusing system with USM
Closest Focusing Distance 1.8m/ 5.9 ft.
Zoom System Linear extension Type
Filter Size 77mm
Max. Diameter x Length, Weight 3.6″ x 7.4″, 3.1 lbs. / 92mm x 189mm, 1,380g


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