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The Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM is famous successor to the not so famous version 1 of the same lens. The predecessor was not appreciated much due to its push-and-pull zooming mechanism. Canon listened to their fans and came out with the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens with the more popular rotate-to-zoom mechanism. Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM offers professional grade build quality, quick, accurate and super-silent AF, very effective image stabilization and extremely impressive wide open image quality over the entire and quite useful 100-400mm telephoto focal length range. Too good to be true? Well to be honest this lens too comes with its own Achilles heel. It is quite heavy and very pricey. But then that is exactly why it is a “Pro” lens. It delivers like a Pro. Certainly one of the best lenses i have ever used.

canon_9524b002_ef_100_400mm_f_4_5_5_6l_is_1092632The first question that comes to my mind is that why did it take Canon more than a decade to come up with Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM since its version I was launched way back in the early 2000s. Maybe Canon got complacent for the 100-400mm range as there was no competition. But in the recent past we saw the likes of Tamron and Sigma come up with their 150-600mm lenses and capture a large chunk of this super telephoto market and that is when Canon came up with Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM and showed all the 3rd party manufacturers who the boss is. Yes, this lens is THAT good.

 

Focal Length / Focal Length Range – Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM

The focal length or focal length range of a lens is one of the highest criterion for lens selection. The focal length is the one which determines a combination of perspective and framing. With a range of 100-400mm this lens covers a lot of ground (ofcourse, less than the 150-600mm ones, but nonetheless.)

d3s_1699-rear-1200The wide end of the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM has an amazing portrait photography capability as illustrated by the 100mm f/4.5 image shown here.

Parents who are constants running behind their kids to click them on beaches and parks can also take a breather and click them from far away without any issues with the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM.

But to be very honest, this focal length satiates your quench for wildlife photography like nothing else can. I was a bit unlucky to have a bad smog cover over Delhi when this lens was sent to me. It didn’t help that the Zoo and sanctuaries around Delhi were closed due to a bird flu epidemic. So I managed to get only a couple of wildlife pictures while testing.

canon-100-400-2This lens also finds itself useful in sports photography as with its awesome 3-step IS one can easily capture perfectly sharp action pictures.

Long focal lengths also help in Landscape photography by making even the most boring sunset quite interesting.

If you love going to Air shows, you’d enjoy using this lens like none other. Similarly a trip to the zoo or an exotic safari would simply be not the same without this lens. Canon has very intelligently chosen a useful focal length such that the lens is not restricted to extremities only.

Those photographers who are using an ASP-C/1.6x FOVCF sensor format DSLR will see an angle of view similar to a full-frame-mounted 160-640mm lens while using the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens. Many would prefer to fix this lens on the Canon 7DII for wildlife trips due to this reason.

Max Aperture – Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM

Generally speaking, creating a zoom lens with long telephoto focal lengths generally means that one has to compromise in max aperture opening and lens size/weight/cost.

canon-100-400-15It can be a challenge to capture fast action in low light conditions like indoors or post sunset, using f/4.5-5.6 lens. But, f/4.5-5.6 is quite fine for shooting action under reasonable light levels, like fine daylight or cloudy conditions. If the objects arent moving too fast you can crank up the ISO and shoot away. I took this lens along to the Rashtriya Sanskriti Mahotsava being held in IGNCA, Delhi. I will attach some of the great shots I was able to take with this lens in low light condition, handheld. Really, the size and weight if this lens is white overwhelming and i expected to see a lot of shakes while I shot traditional dancers moving swiftly on the stage but the IS on the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM blew me away. The Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM allows for 3 step IS control. It is simply the best IS implementation I have seen on a Canon lens, alongside the fabled 70-200 f/2.8.

canon-100-400-3As indicated by the aperture specification range (f/4.5-5.6), this is a variable max aperture lens. This means that as you zoom to a longer focal length, the max aperture available is reduced. This is one of the reasons why a Pro photographer would choose to go with a fixed 400mm lens instead of a variable one as that would give an extra stop or two when it comes to aperture.

The 100-400 II’s specific max aperture step down focal lengths are shown in the chart below, as compared to some of the other Canon lenses:

Model f/4.0 f/4.5 f/5.0 f/5.6 f/6.3
Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM Lens 55-63mm 64-99mm 100-154mm 155-250mm
Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS II Lens 55-73mm 74-95mm 96-153mm 154-250mm
Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 ISL USM Lens 70-103mm 104-154mm 155-228mm 229-300mm
Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM Lens 70-84mm 85-134mm 135-224mm 225-300mm
Canon EF 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 DO IS USM Lens 70-94mm 95-184mm 185-300mm
Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM Lens 100-129mm 130-259mm 260-400mm
Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM 100-134mm 135-311mm 312-400mm
Nikon 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G AF-S VR Lens 80-134mm 135-249mm 250-400mm
Sigma 150-500mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Lens 150-173mm 174-312mm 313-500mm
Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD Lens 150-225mm 226-427mm 428-600mm

What strikes me as interesting and quite very positive is that the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM holds a wider aperture deeper into the focal length range than any other lens.

Image Stabilization – Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM

The Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens comes with a best-available-at-review-time 4-stop-rated image stabilizer system from Canon.

So the IS on this lens is a 3 step IS mechanism. Mode 1 is the standard IS mode and is designed for use with stationary/inanimate subjects. This doesn’t just help in getting a sharp picture but also is helpful for obtaining ideal subject framing while handheld shooting with this lens. A stabilized image also aids in auto focus accuracy.

Mode 2 IS is best suited for panning with a subject. In this mode, only 1 axis of stabilization is provided. What this does is to provide a linearly-moving subject to be tracked. Think bicycles, bikes, and race cars etc.

Canon’s newest IS mode is the designed-for-tracking-action Mode 3 IS. While using Mode 3, IS is active and ready for use the moment the shutter releases, but actual stabilization is not in effect until that precise time. (Get it?)

In simple words, the view that you see through the viewfinder is not stabilized just yet, and you are able to follow your erratically-moving subjects without having to fight against IS designed to prevent you from doing exactly that. IS Mode 3 on the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM is designed to detect panning motion and  will only apply stabilization at 90 degrees to the direction of the detected movement. Quite technical, but then remember this lens is an L series lens, quite Pro in itself.

canon-100-400-16The IS goes into action when the shutter release is half-press. Some clicking can be heard when IS starts and again when it stops. If you are shooting in extremely quiet environments, whirring can be heard too. The IS sound is much less comapred to most other lenses but if you are shooting video then expect the in-camera mic to pick up IS noise from this lens during video recording.

Pleasantly enough the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM auto-senses a tripod in use. Canon recommends turning IS off while mounted on a tripod to save some battery but not when you are clicking using a monopod.

At 400mm on the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM, I am easily getting almost 100% sharp results at 1/20 second exposures. That means it can be equated to an easy 4 1/3 stops of assistance. Keeper rates at 1/13s and 1/10s are quite impressive.

img_9719-copyIf you are going to use this lens for concert photography or maybe click some wildlife pictures, the IS on this lens will make a huge difference.

Image Quality – Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM

The Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM was planned to perform significantly better than its previous version. Even if one were to use 1.4x or 2x extenders with the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM they would be pleasantly surprised to see better MTF charts than the version I without the extenders. So if you still have the older sibling lyring around, this is surely a worthy upgrade to consider.

canon-100-400-14I am also to understand that the new Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens design includes one fluorite element and one super UD element. These promise superior overall image quality and much less lens flare.

canon-100-400-17Canon has also told me that something called as Air Sphere Coating (ASC) had been introduced on this lens. To quote them: “The new Air Sphere Coating has been developed by Canon to minimize reflections and flare. It consists of tiny nano particles of air trapped in a film above the conventional multi-layer coatings. These Air Sphere particles form a super low reflective coating on the surface of the lens element to reduce reflection and act as a ‘crash mat’ to reduce the speed that light travels through the layer so there is not such a large change in speed when the light enters through the glass of the lens element. The major cause of reflections is the sudden change in the speed of light as it passes from air to glass, and this new technology prevents the cause of visible ghosting and flare.”

canon-100-400-12Even with the lens directly pointed towards the sun or while having the bright sun in a corner I found no lens flaring. That was one of my “awe” moments with this lens.

Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM has its front and rear lens surfaces fluorine coated to reduce water droplet, dust and fingerprint adhesion and to ease the cleaning effort required. This coating is for real and a noticeable difference can be seen.

canon-100-400-11To put in words, the sharpness of a lens can be quite challengeing but to be completely honest, the sharpness this lens can achieve is simply.. excellent! It is extremely sharp across the whole full frame image circle even at wide open apertures.

Coming to vignetting, even the great Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM is not free of this issue. Unlike most lenses the vignetting can not be attributed to an exact aperture value or focal length. While using the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM on the wide side of the focal length, about 1 stop of peripheral shading can be seen when a wide open aperture is used. I have to mention that this shading is “barely” there and one really has to look for vignetting to spot it on this lens. But as one starts to start zooming in it becomes a tad more prominent. Around 1.2 stops on 200mm and 1.6 stops on 300-400mm. Stopping down one stop removes almost half the vignetting and one stop down further completely removes it.

canon-100-400-4Another advantage of using this lens with APS-C format DSLRs is that they do not use the outer portion of the glass and hence completely avoid peripheral shading with this lens. This, irrespective of aperture and focal length used.

Coming to Chromatic Aberration, the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM outperforms most lenses again. While using FF camera I could make out a little CA in the extreme corners of the lens but nothing worth fretting over. This is extremely impressive of a zoom lens. Again, if you are using an APS-C camera then you can expect to get CA-less pictures.

canon-100-400-5Finally coming to distortion, slight barrel distortion can be seen from 135-400mm and slight pin cushion distortion is present from 100-135mm. But this is quite withing acceptable limits and can easily be corrected using Canon’s own software.

canon-100-400-1It is quite obvious that a lens with the focal lengths of Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM will produce a strong background blur but with its 9-blade circular type aperture, this lens delivers a beautiful, soft quality to that blurred background.

Focusing – Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM

Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM was released with the latest CPU installed and the latest AF algorithms applied. But it is the completely new inner-focusing system has been implemented in this lens that takes the cake.

canon-100-400-9AF accuracy is very important for a lens to realize its full image quality capability. You would hardly ever find yourself going for manual focus on such a large and heavy lens. The auto focus speed on the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM is extremely fast and one can’t help but notice how less (comparatively) sound the lens makes while focusing.

The Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM focuses internally and also has FTM (Full Time Manual) functionality. The front element does not rotate, so you can easily use circular polarizer filters.

A 2-position focus limiter switch is provided on the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM, allowing focusing distances to be limited to a specific distance range (3m – infinity)– or to be unlimited (Full range). One might ask why the lens can not be kept on unlimited all the time. That is because if your object is between 3m-10-15mts, choosing 3m-infinity will help reduce the focusing time alot.

The Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens’ manual focus ring is amply-sized, properly damped, and has the lens diameter transition occurring in the middle of it. Thi makes it very easy to use it even in the dark. The focus ring is very smooth.

A huge focus-related improvement the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM enjoys over its predecessor is it’s shorter MFD (Minimum Focus Distance) and the increased MM (Maximum Magnification) specifications.

Model MFD MM
Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM Lens 33.5″ (850mm) 0.31x
Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS II USM Lens 47.2″ (1200mm) 0.21x
Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM Lens 47.2″ (1200mm) 0.21x
Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM Lens 59.1″ (1500mm) 0.25x
Canon EF 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 DO IS USM Lens 55.1″ (1400mm) 0.25x
Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens 38.4″ (980mm) 0.31x
Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM Lens 70.9″ (1800mm) 0.20x
Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Ext 1.4x Lens 78.7″ (2000mm) 0.15, 0.21x
Canon EF 300mm f/4L IS USM Lens 59.1″ (1500mm) 0.24x
Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM Lens 137.8″ (3500mm) 0.12x
Canon EF 400mm f/4 DO IS II USM Lens 129.9″ (3300mm) 0.13x
Nikon 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G AF-S VR Lens 68.9″ (1750mm) 0.20x
Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD Lens 106.3″ (2700mm) 0.20x

Build Quality & Features – Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM

Simply put, the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM is a newer Canon L Series Lens which is targeted at photography enthusiasts and professionals who mostly shoot outdoors. The Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM has top noch build quality, and I wouldn’t have expected anything less from Canon. Needless to say the lens has premium and touch build. It is by far the most heavily engineered lens I have come across.

canon-ef-100-400mm-l-is-ii-lens-top-viewThe Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM comes with a much needed improvement as far as its exterior design is concerned. The lens design is quite attractive and the lens itself is very comfortable to use and carry.

I am not a fan of a rear-positioned focus ring, but with a lens this heavy and large, considering the center of gravity the focus ring feels rightly placed. Even while clicking fast paced wildlife clicks one just cant miss the large zoom ring or the close-to-camera focus ring and that is a great thing considering that one does not want to take their eyes away from the viewfinder the same way a person does not look down while changing gears when driving.

canon-100-400-10The big change from the older 100-400mm L lens is that the push-pull zoom design has been (finally!)replaced by a much needed standard rotational zoom ring.  So Canon does listen to its fans. Personally I was not a fan of the push pull system as most lenses come with the rotational one and in the heat of the moment it is easy to forget that you are carrying the former and miss a precious shot.

The Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM also comes with a special ring which reads “smooth-tight”. This ring that be used to modify the zooming motion according to need. On smoother side the lens rotates fairly easily while on the tighter side it takes quite some effort to rotate it all the way. Keeping the lens on the tight side while not using it also helps deter creep or gravity zooming. This is similar to Sigma providing for a “Lock” on their 150-600mm lens.

Frankly, I have not seen this feature on any telephoto zoom lens before. This is a great feature to get the right amount og rotation resistance.

The Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM is obvioulsy designed for outdoor use, hence it features a weather sealed design. This lens is not entirely waterproof, but it is built to be used in dusty and wet conditions.

canon-100-400-8The Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM comes with its own mount. For lenses of these size and mass it is always advisable to use the mount on the lens with your tripod or monopod instead of the mount on the camera. This makes the while arrangement stability and also the heavy weight of the lens is not coming onto the mount of your camera. This mount can be removed by rotating the wheel built in it, in case you want to click handheld.

canon-100-400-7As is common for a L lens, the lenshood is included and is quite large. What makes it special is that the hood contains a small shutter window which can be used to turn around a filter (polariseing or variable ND) while the hood is fastened to the lens. This is a great feature and it makes me happy that Canon thought about it.

The ET-83D hood on the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM comes with a standard release button (instead of being a friction-fit design). The hood feels like the most flimsy part of the whole Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM package but I feel Canon might have not opted for a metal hood considering the sheer weight of this lens.

canon-100-400-6Most photographers will be happy to hear that the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM retains the 77mm filter thread size. This filter size is very common. A common size allows for the sharing of filters for a more economical solution to filter woes.

Canon lenses of this size (and price) and quality come with a nice padded andzippered case and so does the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM with a Canon Lens Case LZ1326 included in the box.

Price – Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM

Canon mostly is in the habit of launching successors to popular lenses at higher prices, sometimes even double the price. The Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM is no different. While it’s predecessor is retailing close to Rs 1 lakh, the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM retails for around Rs 1.5lakh on most online portals like Amazon India and Flipkart.

By now you already know that the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM is by no means an economical lens. It is the top notch lens in all aspects and demands the premium price for the same reason. Many would ask if the price is justified, to that I will say just one thing. In the field of photography we have a sayinbg, you get what you pay for, and that holds true for the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM. This is one lens I would personally buy and use for the next 2 decades.

Summary – Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM

Ever so often in the life of a photographer, a lens comes along that really grabs your attention The Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM is one such lens. This lens features as a star performer in an elite class of zoom lenses, capable of shooting exceptionally good images at all available aperture and focal length settings.

canon-100-400-13The build quality is great, the focusing and AF is top notch, the IS and image quality are prime like and everything else about this lens is near perfect. The Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM has, in this short while, become one of my favorite and most-used lenses. I highly recommend this lens.

REVIEW OVERVIEW
Build Quality
9.5
Features
10
Ease of use
10
Image Quality
10
Value for money
9.5
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When not geeking over tech related stuff, found trekking in the mountains with his trusted Canon by his side.

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