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on 8 August 2007
Its a great lens, the IQ is excellent for a zoom with this sort of range and the build quality is just what you'd expect for this sort of money and 'L' series. Ok, the IQ is not as good as the Canon 400mm primes, but you can take this out for a walk, and it zooms :-)

The trombone zoom is easy to use even if you're used to the 'normal' twist zoom. It's supposed to be something of a dust pump and to deposit dust on the sensor, but so far I've had no problems. Focussing is generally quick and there's little or no 'hunting' for a correct focus, particularly if you have the minimum focus distance buttons set to help the lens.

The IS is effective, but as it's first generation, there's only two stops available and you need to switch it off if you're using a tripod. You can switch it for panning shots. After a couple of afternoons out with the lens I think I can say it also eats the battery on my 400D so I make sure I've got a spare if I think I'm going to be using it a lot.

The f4.5 min aperture means you're probably going to be using it with ISO 400 on anything but the brightest day if you want to keep the shutter speed up for hand held shots or moving targets.

It's heavy. Not too heavy to prevent me from taking it out for two or three hours walk or using it hand held without too much problem, but it might be a good idea to try holding something of similar weight if you've got doubts.

It's quite long. Stood on its nose I can just fit it into the Lowepro Nova4 bag I use. If your bag isn't as high, you might have problems.

There's a 'friction' ring for adjusting the stiffness of the zooming action and you can move it from no resistance at all to completely locked. This ring sits next to the focus ring and there's always the change you'll turn this instead of the focus, but as I'm almost always using AF it's not been a problem to date. I always make sure I've got the lens locked when I put it in my bag, but I've had a number of occasions where it unlocked itself and has fully extended as I've removed it from the bag.

Then carrying case is solid and actually quite useful. It has a shoulder strap and a loop for stringing it through a belt and will take both lens and lens hood. The lens hood is, well, a lens hood.

In terms of design it's not the newest, and there may be room for improvement, but it's difficult to find another (Canon fit) zoom lens of this range and quality even at around £1000.
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on 25 August 2006
I have had mine for about 8 months and have taken about 300 shots with it.

It has in every way surpassed my expectations for image quality on my Canon EOS 5D. Sharpness and contrast is really stunning, this is the best long focus zoom I have ever owned. For example I shot some seascapes across the bay from Westward Ho in Devon. The Saunton Sands hotel is over 5 miles away. It is possible to count the window panes on that building and to determine the gender of persons in the car park of the hotel. Close up it has given superb nature shots of butterflies and flower blossoms near to its closest focus of 1.8 metres. It is also an excellent portrait lens giving sharp images and pleasantly out of focus backgrounds.

The Image Stabilisation feature allows use at full focal length at slow shutter speeds. I used 60th second with success which would be a tripod only speed with an ordinary lens.

So what are the drawbacks. Well it cost over £1000 and it is a heavy item to carry around. Nonetheless I took it with me in a rucksack on a recent tour of Ireland and used it for about 15% of my shots.

If I lost it I would definitely buy another
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on 30 June 2012
Well on opening the box I was greeted with a fine quality zip up case and lurking inside was something resembling a rocket launcher! On lifting the lens out I knew straight away this is quality. I immediately put it on my trusty Canon 550d and zoomed to 400mm. OH MY GOD this is huge and with the lens hood (supplied) this becomes a monster. I took some pictures of birds from 30 feet away in my garden and it filled the frame. This just oozes quality and no doubt will get some looks as it is the White colour that instantly says. BIG Canon. The focusing is fast and silent. It can be hand held although heavy as the image stabiliser works well.
This is going to be a fun lens to be out with although after a few hours the old neck may get sore.
Ths is seriously one big Mamma of a lens but if you take the L lens plunge then go for it. Treat it well and it will last a lifetime. BE WARNED don't scrimp on cheap filters. I put a 77mm Pro Hoya V filter on it. This lens is very striking and already I love it.
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on 6 October 2007
I really like this lens.

When you look at Canon's range of super tele lenses (zooms and fixed focals) the options are fairly limited unless you have seriously deep pockets and can afford one of their top of the range fixed focal length tele lenses for the ultimate in image quality. For the rest of us mere mortals there are lenses like the 100-400 IS L (it's still hardly cheap though!!).

The lens offers a 2 stop image stabilizer which whilst not as effective as some other lenses which offer up to 4-stops of stabilisation is definitely welcome as trying to get clear shots with a 400mm zoom is a challenge no matter what and I'll take any aid I can! The IS has 2 modes, one for panning and one for all-round stabilisation.

The lens is VERY well built. It's heavy and feels very substantial, you will know about it after a day lugging it around in your kit bag. It's white too and when fully extended with the hood on you will not go unnoticed. To counter the weight of the lens it comes with a collar so that when you put your lens/camera combo on a tripod it's the lens taking the weight and not the camera body and lens mount. The lens does not zoom with a 'normal' ring type control, what you do is push/pull the lens to the required focal length. It's quick but probably less accurate than a ring type control. I can't mark the lens down for this because I reckon this design choice has been made to keep costs down and to make a zoom of this range affordable to people like me! There is a collar on the lens that can be adjusted so the push/pull action becomes harder or easier - useful to avoid the lens creeping if you're pointing it straight up or down for example. Some folks seem to think this kind of push pull design sucks dust into the lens and camera body - I've had no problems so far so can't say either way for sure. Others have claimed it can get too loose and on tilting the camera down the lens has smacked against the stops. Again, even on its loosest setting my lens eases itself down to the stop. With a bit of practice you'll get used to it and either love it or loathe it. Hand held use is interesting... ;)

AF is good in good light as ever, very quick and accurate. There's a mode switch on the lens to limit the AF mechanism to distances of 6.5m or more to speed up the focusing. Handy if you're not going to be getting close. In close focus mode the lens can get down to 1.8m.

Image quality is good. For the money I don't think you'll get much better. Things get noticeably sharper when you stop down and examine the images at 100% crop but wide open it's perfectly usable and I don't think this will be an issue unless you're thinking of enlargements. If you want the best this lens can produce stop it down a bit and use a tripod if you can. Obviously this will limit its use somewhat to days where you have a lot of light or when actually freezing action is not of prime concern. I hooked this up to my 1.4 extender one time and I think the max aperture at 400mm was F8! Since I only wanted to take a few shots of the moon to see how much detail I could resolve this wasn't an issue but I couldn't recommend this combo for general use. The shots weren't too bad though!

My 70-200 F4 L IS definitely beats this lens in edge sharpness (not a huge gulf but noticeable) but again, for most situations it will go unnoticed unless you're enlarging things a fair bit (A4+). Sharpness in the middle of the frame is comparable to my eyes. Bokeh is lovely and smooth. Colour rendition and contrast are also very good.

Here's how I summed up this lens when I went for it: It has the versatility of a 100-400mm range so covers a lot of ground, it has IS and the `L' designation so is of stellar build quality. Living with it I wish it had a fixed max aperture of f4 through its range, as it is it's equipped with f4.5 (max f5.6 at some point just after 250mm through 400mm) and had better IS.

All zooms are born inherently compromised but this one makes a good case for itself. With a bit of thought you will get a lot out of this lens.

It comes with a decent bag with a strap and hood and takes 77mm filters.

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on 25 May 2012
Context: I use this lens exclusively with an EOS7D. It was my last lens purchase, the rest of the family being 16-35mm f2.8L, 24-70 f2.8L, 70-200mm f2.8L.

Build quality, design and most of the ergonomics (operations) with this lens are superb, and just what you would expect from Canon L-Series Glass. One weak spot is the switch to flip Auto-Focus on/off, which can be fiddly to engage without removing camera from eye and looking at the lens barrel. You'll get it with practice, but slightly larger switches with a way to differentiate them at a tactile level would make a big difference...

In terms of size, weight and basic operation, it is similar in many respects to the 70-200mm f2.8, except for the trombone zoom. In practice this is not an issue, and the latter feature quickly becomes a pleasure to use. There are no surprises here [save maybe pleasant ones] for anyone familiar with other Canon lenses.

Everything gets interesting when we get to image quality, where IMHO my views differ from other posters. My experiences [after several thousand exposures with both this and the 70-200] are that they are very different lenses for very different purposes. This lens is great for creative portraiture; for shooting flora and fauna in ways that lets you bring in the subject. It can be good for close-up architecture and structural photography, where you want to focus on shapes, textures or details and move away from big canvas or traditional landscape shots.

However, it's weakness appears to be anything moving... There are several reasons for this:

1. The auto-focus is seriously slow in comparison with any USM lens. Unless you're shooting snails, don't be surprised if your subject can out-pace the auto-focus...
2. The 77mm [dia] primary lens - which works fine at 70-200mm - just isn't enough on a 100-400mm lens. It simply doesn't let enough light in. Can we have 82mm minimum please?
3. The aperture diaphragm operation is subjectively a *lot* slower than the 70-200mm f2.8L, so tracking a fast-moving subject across a light/dark background is an exercise in random chance...

The fact that you get f4.5-f5.6 says it all... it's just not quite fast enough, optically, to compete with the 70-200mm smaller sibling.

Using this lens with wildlife photography - particularly raptors [owls, hawks, buzzards, etc and at falconry demonstrations] I find that it just can't provide clear, crisp images in the way that the 70-200 does - to the extent that with hindsight I would probably have been better off with the 70-200 and the x2 converter. The slower optics - smaller aperture - means that you'll get longer exposure times that may result in motion blur.

So, scores well for pulling in static images at a distance, but not for anything involving moving targets, you're better off with the 70-200mm f2.8L and Photoshop's crop tool, or, if you can afford it, one of the longer Canon L Series Prime lenses... One caveat I'll offer to the above review... by current standards the 7Ds auto-focus system is very primitive, with a small number of auto-focus points to work with. It's possible that if you have a 5D Mk III or the 1DX, you'll get better results with moving subjects.

Summary: very good at what it does well, but sadly more of a niche lens that you would expect from a 100-400mm telephoto...

Update: (March 2013) A recent posting at the 'Canon Rumors' web site contained a story about the relationship between the batteries that Canon cameras use, and the speed and accuracy of lens auto-focus. To put it in a simple statement: Canon lenses work best with cameras equipped with big, hefty batteries - in other words their full-frame DSLRs. I thought this might be a useful edition to my review, and wanted to suggest that any potential buyer out there who owns a full frame Canon (5D, 6D, 1D, 1DS or 1DX) may expect to get substantially different results from use of this lens than I have experienced with my EOS 7D. In my original review I commented on the relatively sluggish performance of this lens compared with the 70-200 f2.8L - now I think I understand why this is the case. Hope this addenda helps.
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on 18 November 2009
For starters I echo most of what other reviewers have said. I bought the Canon 40D + EF-S 17-85 IS USM as a kit and then the 100-400mm zoom primarily for nature photography (birds, butterflies, etc to fungi). Along with spare batteries, memory cards, wireless controller (WR-100) and SLR zoom gorilla pod which make up my normal kit, I also carry binoculars so all this weight requires some forethought about the duration of the photographic day out. Having annoyed several well-known photographic retailers by trying various bags and cases with either the same or similar kit together with a trawl of reviews on the interweb, I finally settled on the Slingshot 300 all weather. This allows me to keep the body on the 100-400mm zoom in the main central chamber with the hood inverted and, as the name of the bag suggests, to move the case around to the front (on its single strap) and quickly remove the kit from the side of the bag. I can recommend the bag with one exeption - that the weight is mainly on one shoulder unless the waist band is used correctly. Back to the lens - I always use the strap when shooting hand-held. As others have said, the IQ is very good for an "L" lens. I have had no problem with getting sharp images (even of Birds in flight) from the 400mm end although there is debate about the "Sunday afternoon"-made lenses. I nearly always take hand-held shots when walking (birds don't wait for you in general) as the IS is pretty good (you can hear the systems working hard at times). In a hide, I generally set it up on the gorillapod-zoom which is more than adequate to support the weight with the wireless release and then switch off the stabilizer. The AF is reasonable but depending on how much time I have for a shot I will probably tweak it manually. I can honestly say that the "pump" of the zoom which supposedly is a dust invitation has not been an issue. The camera does it's auto vibration at power on and off and I also utilise a rocket blower (at home!). Before any use I bought a Hama UV filter to protect the front optics (especially useful where salt water is being blown about at the coast). Having used the 400mm prime lens also, I can recommend the 100-400mm zoom, if the weight isn't a deterrent, for it's adaptability - even used it to photograph fungi in extremely low light conditions - as the "cheaper" end of the professional lens series. I see more and more bird photographers utilising this lens with a variety of Canon camera bodies and most will give it high marks ... perhaps given that the next bigger/better zoom/prime is way pricier!
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on 13 September 2013
I have been using a Canon 70-300mm EF lens with a Canon 7D for a few months & have been very pleased with the results. However, there have been occasions when I would have benefitted from a lens with more reach - e.g. photographing a sparrowhawk or house martins high above.
I therefore looked at two 400mm lenses as additional firepower - the Canon 400mm prime lens & this zoom. I read various reviews, including ones in a recent edition of a Canon dedicated magazine & decided on the zoom largely because the prime does not have IS & I shoot handheld most of the time.
The lens arrived today, complete with a very substantial carry case, lens hood & tripod mount. Yes, it does weigh in the same as a couple of bags of sugar, but I have not found this to be a problem (the 70-300mm weighs in at 1.6kg, so I guess I'm used to the weight by now).
A jay very obligingly visited our oak tree & I took some cracking shots of the bird's acrobatics to get at the acorns. The clarity of the shots is superb even taking account of the overcast weather conditions at the time.
The 'trombone' zoom adjustment is a little strange at first but I don't think it's going to be a problem for me. The only thing to be aware of is that the lens can slide on its own if the grip is set to smooth - it just takes time to get used to.
Hopefully tomorrow will be a dry day & I can get out to play some more!
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VINE VOICEon 29 July 2010
Having now used this lens for nearly 6 months I am able to review it and do it justice, but in the 1st few weeks I was wondering if I had made a serious financial mistake. In terms of quality, at this price range you are getting exactly what you pay for .. its well constructed, well designed with controls in logical positions and compact enough to not need a sepearate case if you have a decent sized camera bag. It comes with its own case which can be attached to the included strap or worn on a belt but to be honest mine sits in a cupboard gathering dust as it lives permanently fitted to my 30D. A decent and necessary lens hood is included, ensure you use it whenever possible as it helps with ensuring good contrast and reducing glare ( as i found out when i left it behind one occasion ) The tripod / monopod ring is another necessary + as when fully extended if the camera was mounted on its own fixing point with thia lens there would be an awful lot of "pull" on the screw thread, risking damaging the camera.

1st thing I did was fit a 77mm UV filter to lessen the chance of damaging the front element ( not somthing that would be cheap to replace ) and this has had the added benefit of protecting the front lens body edge from minor knocks and scuffs .. at £22 it was a good investment.

I mainly shoot motorsport and wildlife and 400mm is really the minimum focal length I can get away with but here is the 1st, and only real issue I have with the lens ... if the sun goes in you can struggle with getting the necessary shutter speed you want without increasing your ISO to a point that can be noticable in your images. With a telephoto lens there will always be compromises and this, I feel is the lenses main one. Sunshine, snow, anywhere with bright or strong light is fantastic .. just pray for it to be constant or move to sunnier climes. If your happy to push your ISO all the time then this lens will not give you any real problems, and its pros may well out way its cons, especially as when you consider a prime 400mm will set you back in excess of £4500 ! If you are happy to shoot at less than 400mm for a majority of the time, then it may well also suit you but you may want to consider the Canon EF 70-200mm F/4.0 L IS USM Lens .. approx £250 difference but this can be used to buy a 1.4 or 2.0 teleconverter for when you really need the extra length.

As for issues with "dust sucking" because of the push/pull zoom mechanism I havent had any issues .. and thats with a lot of outdoor use in dusty, urban and field locations. The push/pull can take some getting used to but its really not an issue, just try it out before you buy.

In conclusion, think what you want your main lense to do for you, how you are going to use it for a majority of the time and the results you want / need and buy it if its right for you .. but think long and hard before committing your hard earned cash .. I love my lense now, but it was touch and go at the start ! P.S .. Sigma make a good range of Telephoto lenses too ... why not compare them .. ?
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on 18 January 2012
This beast has been around for years now and is probably next in line for an upgrade, but nonetheless it still sets a pretty formidable benchmark for zoom lenses in this focal length range.
Bearing the off-white finish, red ring and heavy duty build quality of Canon's legendary "L" series long lenses (with a price tag to match), it's serious professional-grade kit, so there's no point moaning about the weight and price after you've bought the specs on the Canon website first or if you buy second hand, try before you buy.

Yes, a list price of £1,940 (Canon Website) is crazy, but you'll pick one of these up for a lot less if you shop around (with care) on Amazon, or buy used. Of course, you'll save a packet and the build quality comes into its own if you do buy second hand, but be prepared to allow for £180 for a service at a Canon Service Centre, as the bearings on the zoom mechanism can seize if they're not kept lubricated. IS assemblies can fail too, and like any lens they can benefit from recalibration occasionally, but on the whole you can rest assured these tools will work in extreme conditions and last forever, not like some cheaper non-Canon alternatives.
The lens comes complete with front and rear caps, tripod collar, a dedicated hood and a superb zipper case, although I doubt you'll ever use the latter. It may come in handy for carrying a baguette on one of your adventures though.
This lens differs from most of its peers in that it relies on a push-pull or "trombone" method of getting from 100 to 400mm, with a collar to make this smooth or tight depending on your preference. But fear not...this won't suck dust in like a vacuum cleaner, despite what you read in some reviews. OK, if you're paranoid you may see some dust in there (particularly if you buy used), but you can rest assured this won't degrade image quality or manifest itself as black spots on you prints (that will be dust on the sensor).
Anyway, all zoom lenses were made like this years ago, and we didn't whinge then, did we?

There are a range of reasons why you might buy this type of lens (wildlife, sports, journalism, spying), but I bought mine mostly for compression of perspective in landscape and environmental photography, and in this respect it does tick all the boxes for me. I have used it to photograph wildlife too, and it performs perfectly well in this respect, but it is a big, heavy lens that benefits from the use of a tripod if its dull and you don't like increasing the ISO on the camera. The image stabilisation is 2-stage, can be switched on or off, and gives you a good 2, or even 3 stops advantage. I've found the auto focus with a 5D MkII to be almost silent and very reliable.

So it's expensive, big, heavy, and built like a tank. But is it sharp?
Like any zoom (whatever the price) it is, of course, a compromise. Using this lens at f/5.6 at 400mm will show its limitations, but it will still resolve more detail than any comparable optic. I've heard there can be differences between individual examples too (clearly Canon is no different to any manufacturer in that respect). But my own experience with this lens leaves me in no doubt that it has the potential for producing some of the sharpest, brightest, long telephoto zoom images you'll see.
Have a look at the latest Veolia Wildlife Photographer of the Year awards, and in particular the stunning Portfolio that clinched the Wildlife Photojournalist award for Daniel Beltra. Several of these images were taken with a 100-400, from a moving aircraft. I'll bet the prints in the travelling exhibition are just as sharp as the ones in the book, too.

The sweet spot on my example (rendering optimum edge-to-edge sharpness) seems to be around f/8 to f/11, but it produces very acceptable results at wider apertures, if less impressive in the frame corners. I would avoid f/22 to f/32 though, as diffraction will degrade image quality like it does with any lens. Shorter focal lengths have the edge on the longer ones, which is no surprise with any long zoom. Contrast and colour stays very good, if a little "warm" (just like other "L" series lenses).

So, if you have the money and crave another "L" series lens, you shouldn't be disappointed. Your investment won't lose much value either, as a buoyant used market for this lens would appear to confirm. It isn't a "perfect" lens (hence 4 stars), but it's probably the best you'll get in this focal range.
Finally, think VERY hard before you screw ANY filters on the front, particularly if you need to wring the best out of this lens...see my response to the 2-star "review" from RHS.

UPDATE; Today (22/1/12) I visited the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition in Bristol, and I can confirm that the enlargements from Daniel Beltra's images are indeed pin-sharp.
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on 28 December 2011
The Canon EF 100-400mm f4.5-5.6L IS USM Telephoto Zoom Lens for Canon SLR Cameras has a very good power to weight ratio. I mean the focal lengths, the aperture, its weight and the cost make for a very fine lens.
I bought mine 8 years ago for photographing large animals. Tigers, lions and game animals. They need a lens that can be focused and zoomed quickly. I use auto focus with the stabilizers and manually zoom. It has never let me down.
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