The Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II has definitely been a long time coming. Other manufacturers have been producing their own long zooms with top-notch features, so Canon had to get it right for this widely used lens. On the surface, everything points to top-quality features, upgraded image stabilization, Canon’s L-series quality, and a focal range to cover most bases.
With this in mind, let’s dive into the lens and see how the quality has been upped, along with the added features.
Having a focal range going from 100-400mm gives a lot of scope for what this lens can be used for. At the widest focal length, the lens can be used for some great portrait shots. At the longest length, applications include wildlife, events, sports, and even close-up landscapes. With such a wide focal length range, the possibilities are endless.
One thing to initially bear in mind is that the quoted aperture range of f/4.5-5.6 is variable, which means as you zoom in the maximum aperture is reduced. It may not be the widest out there, but with the addition of the image stabilization, the lens can go to reasonable levels of low light. This setup also allows for a more compact design.
As for build quality, the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II is built like a tank and shows its long-term engineering cycle. The push/pull zoom of the last lens has been replaced by a standard zoom ring. Between the focus and zoom rings is also a Zoom Touch Adjustment Ring which sets the amount of friction when zooming. This ring makes up for the lack of a zoom lock switch.
The lens is also weather-sealed to keep out the majority of dust and moisture. It’s a heavy lens, weighing in at 1570g, but no surprise there with the amount of glass inside. To counter this, there is a tripod ring which is nonremovable, but you can remove the foot.
Upfront, there is a substantially sized ET-83D Lens Hood, which has to be removed when changing filters, but there’s a nice little window in the hood for adjusting once attached. One thing that has stayed the same is the 77mm filter thread size, which is common for Canon’s L-series lenses.
Glasswise, the lens comprises of 21 lens elements in 16 groups. One fluorite element, one super UD element, and a new Air Sphere Coating (ASC) at the front. Inside is a nine-blade circular type aperture for rounded highlights.
A two-position focus limiter switch is added to the rest of the recessed switches, along with the simple distance scale.
The image stabilization system now comprises of three modes. Mode one is the standard generic setting for stationary objects. Mode two is set up for panning when capturing a subject. Think of this as one axis, where things only move in one direction. Mode three is also for panning motion but only applies when the shutter releases and only so at right angles. In many cases mode three will cover what’s needed for action shots.
Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II in Use
The first version of the 100-400mm lens was a great all-rounder. So, it’s expected with so much development time, this new version would bring a lot to the table.
There are no complaints with the sharpness of the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II, even when wide open. Stopping down makes for only small differences to the resolution and contrast levels and although vignetting is very minimal, stopping down reduces any that is apparent.
With this lens on a crop sensor camera body, vignetting is almost non-existent due to the outer image circle not being used. As for chromatic aberration, the effects are small at 100 millimeters and hardly noticeable at 400mm. Luckily, this can be remedied in any case by software.
This lens focuses internally and uses Canon’s fast Ultrasonic Motor. If you want to go manual, the focus ring is very smooth with plenty of width for any occasion. A nice addition over the old lens is the minimum focus distance, much improved down to 980mm. Although this isn’t a macro lens, it’s quite well adept at filling the frame with small subjects.
As for barrel distortion, there is a small amount at its widest setting, with only a small amount of pin cushioning in the rest of the focal range. As for pleasing background blur and highlights, the lens renders everything very smoothly with nice rounded circles for the highlights. The nine-blade aperture is also quite well adept at producing 18 point styles on command.
In total, there are absolutely no complaints with the image quality from this lens. Extremely sharp images with a great degree of pleasing contrast. It may not be the best operator in very low light conditions, but for everything else, it’s a great all-rounder.
How Does It Compare?
As with any new lens, the old version becomes cheaper and more accessible. However, the new lens provides many advantages, more significantly, in image quality. The image stabilization has also been increased from two to four stops and the rotational zoom ring may also appeal.
The Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 ISL USM is a great lens, with worthy image quality. It’s lighter, smaller and cheaper, but doesn’t have the same focal length stretch. The Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS II USM is a highly regarded lens, which has the obvious advantage of going much wider. It will need an extender to reach the same focal lengths, but if you don’t need the extra provided by the 100-400mm, then you can’t go wrong with the 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS II USM.
The Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM has a focal length overlap, but there’s a huge price difference here. This lens falls into the serious end of the market and works well in low light, but the large price difference may negate the small increase in image quality.
|Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II||Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS|
|Glass||21 lens elements/16 groups||25 lens elements/20 groups|
As what should be obvious by now, the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II is a fantastic lens which can produce high-quality images and is useful in many situations. Coupled with great image stabilization, fast autofocus, and top-level build quality, you can’t go wrong with this lens for long focal lengths and a large variety of applications.