The Canon 100–400mm f/4.5 – 5.6l is ii lens is the best value Canon l lens ever. Okay, it isn’t the fastest Canon l lens and it requires a fair amount of light in order to keep the shutter speeds up without having to bump the ISO, but given the price tag you get an awful lot of lens for a (relatively) small amount of money.
The Canon 100-400mm is the “budget” Canon l lens (I use this phrase loosely because it is still expensive) professional grade lens and it is simply awesome. The build quality, like of all the Canon l series lenses, is second to none and it is tough, durable, weather sealed and rugged enough to throw whatever you want at it. I can only describe this lens as bullet proof.
The image quality of the Canon 100-400mm is awesome and it is sharp throughout the entire focal range. From 100mm at the wide end to 400mm at the long end, the Canon 100-400mm lens gives excellent sharpness from the centre of the frame to the edges. The colours are accurate, bright and vivid without being oversaturated, and since this is a tele lens the bokeh, i.e. out of focus background is exaggerated at the longer focal lengths which separates the subject from the background.
Unlike many other Canon l series lenses the Canon 100–400mm has a push/pull zoom function as opposed to a twist action. Some people argue that the push/pull motion acts like a vacuum and sucks in dust, however I have never experienced this. I have owned a Canon 100-400mm for just over 5 years now (the mark I and the mark ii) and I have used them in a variety of locations and conditions (including at the beach, in a desert, in the rainforest and up in mountain ranges to name a few) and I have never had either Canon 100-400mm suck in any dust, and neither have I ever had to send the lens away to be taken apart and cleaned.
The Canon 100-400mm push/pull zoom does take a bit of getting used to, however it doesn’t take too long to become second nature. I actually prefer the push/pull zoom and I find faster and more intuitive than the twist zooms. It’s just a shame this isn’t incorporated in to all Canon l series lenses.
As previously mentioned, the Canon 100-400mm is a slow lens but then again given the price, you can’t really complain. Fast lenses of focal lengths over 300mm are thousands of bucks, and that is for fixed focal length primes lenses that are cheaper to make than zooms. If the Canon 100-400mm was a fast lens it would cost several thousand bucks, which would be way out of my budget. Even though the Canon 100-400mm struggles in low light you can of course overcome this by pushing the ISO, and also using the 4 stop IS which is very good.
Overall the Canon 100-400mm lens is an excellent piece of glass and one I can’t recommend enough. On the face of it this lens may seem specialised and best suited to one or two situations, however it is versatile and you can use in a lot of situations including:-
Sports photography, and motor sport photography in particular, was the main reason I purchased the Canon 100-400mm, and when I go to sporting events this lens is on my camera 99% of the time.
When taking photos at sporting events I like to get frame filling shots of the action, and being set so far back from what is going on the only way to do this is to use a super tele lens and the Canon 100-400mm is perfect for this.
There are some sports photographers who prefer to use prime super tele lenses, and before I bought this lens I did indeed hire a Canon 400mm prime lens however I wasn’t a great fan. Sure, the 400mm has a fixed f4.5 maximum widest aperture, so it is faster than the Canon 100-400mm set at 400mm, however the 400mm prime lens wasn’t versatile enough for my needs.
With the Canon 100-400mm I can pull back for wider shots to capture more of the action or I can zoom right in nice and close. Yep, this is a versatile lens that gives a lot more choice rather than shooting at one focal length and then having to crop the photo for composition in photo editing software.
In order to capture photos of wild animals you have to be stealth like and the chances of getting close to the animal to take a shot is remote, unless they have been “tamed” through lots of human interaction.
Wildlife photography generally means being a long way from the subject, and in these circumstances the only way to get a frame filling shot is to use a super tele lens with a long focal length and zoom in nice and tight, and the Canon 100-400mm lens allows for this.
On those rare occasions where you can get close to the animals you can zoom out to the 100mm widest setting to make sure the whole of the subject is in frame. Now if you had a 400mm prime lens this would not be possible and the only way you’d get the subject entirely in frame is to move away from the animal yourself.
Many bird photographers swear the best affordable birding lens is Canon’s 400mm prime lens, however I would have to disagree. The Canon 100-400mm lens is more versatile and allows for a greater range of images, and is simply easier to use to capture great bird shots.
If you are worried the image quality of the Canon 100-400mm is less than that of the 400mm prime there is no need to be since, whilst the 400mm prime does have slightly better image quality the difference is so slight the only way you would tell the difference is to go pixel peeping on the computer, and who does that?
Believe it or not the Canon 100-400mm lens is an awesome tool for taking shots of dragonflies, and butterflies too. Whilst you won’t get true macro shots of these creatures, you obviously need a dedicated macro lens for that, you will be able to get some pretty close up photos.
As much as I love macro photos of dragonflies and butterflies there are times when I prefer to capture a close up photo of the entire creature rather than a macro image of just a part of it, and with the Canon 100-400mm lens I can do this.
My success rate taking photos of dragonflies and butterflies is higher with the Canon 100-400mm lens than it is my Canon 100mm macro lens, and the reason why is because I can stand a good distance from the dragonflies and butterflies and use the zoom to get in nice and close and take a frame filling photo. With the macro lens I have to get closer to the dragonflies and butterflies, and a lot of the time this spooks them and they fly off.
Take everywhere lens
The Canon 100-400mm is a very versatile lens and I make sure I carry it wherever I go. Okay, compared to other Canon l series lenses it is a bit of a beast and quite heavy, but it really isn’t that bad to carry around all day. My canon 100-400mm has enabled me to capture many photos that I would have missed had I not had it on me.
For example, whilst on a landscape photography trip I managed to capture a photo of a sea eagle up in the highlands swooping down and taking a fish out of the loch. Had I not had my Canon 100-400mm lens with me that day I would never have got that shot as I would have had to rely on my wide angle 16mm – 35mm, and would have never got a decent shot.
Links to other Canon lens reviews
The lens above is just one that I own and use for my photography. I, like all photographers carry many different lenses around with me and other lenses that I use include the following:-
Canon lens review - 100mm f2.8L IS macro
Whilst it is possible to do macro photography on a budget and use close up filters, reversing rings or extension tubes if you want to capture the highest quality macro photos you need a designated macro lens.
Having used a Canon macro 100mm f2.8 in the past I was impressed with it but once the 100mm f2.8L IS lens was released I simply had to have one. This lens is absolutely awesome and not only can it record levels of detail you can’t see with the naked eye, it is tack sharp and it also has image stabilisation to enable sharp hand held shots at slower shutter speeds.
For an honest and unbiased review of the Canon 100mm f2.8L IS macro lens (yes I had to part with my own hard earned cash and buy it myself and wasn’t lucky enough to get given one to road test for free) and to see what it can do you may wish to take a look at this article. If you want a macro lens forget about the rest and go for this, I can guarantee you won’t be disappointed.
Canon lens review – 24mm -70mm f2.8L
The 24mm – 70mm focal range is useful for many things including landscapes, portraits, seascapes, travel and for general walkabout photography, and if there is one zoom lens every photographer should have in their lens bag it is a 24-70 zoom.
I originally bought the 24-70 for portraits because I had read about (and seen) the high image quality and the smooth and creamy bokeh. It wasn’t until after I had the lens for a few weeks that I realised just how versatile it is, and I now use it for many different types of photo. The Canon 24-70 f2.8L lens is my workhorse and a lens I couldn’t live without and if you haven’t got a 24-70 lens I have to ask the question “why not?”
For a quick and honest review of the Canon 24-70 f2.8L lens (once again, it is a lens I had to buy myself and didn’t get gifted one to road test and report on) this article is something you should read.
Canon lens reviews - 50mm f1.8 “Nifty Fifty”
I only use Canon L series lenses these days, and upgraded from all my other non- L series lenses however I did keep my Canon 50mm f1.8, and couldn’t bear to part with it.
I bought the 50mm f1.8 as the first upgrade to my kit lens, and whilst it look and feels more like a toy than a serious piece of photography equipment it is a top performer and I have managed to get some cracking images using it.
I bought the f1.8 because the f1.2L is (in my opinion) way too expensive and I couldn’t justify the high price tag. Sure I would love an f1.2 lens but I am not prepared to pay that much for it. I chose the f1.8 over the f1.4 because, whilst the 1.8 is a little slower, the image quality of the 1.4 wide open isn’t that good and at f1.8 the 1.8 and the 1.4 are identical. The 1.4 is better built but the 1.8 is far better value for money.
For an honest and unbiased review of the Canon 50mm f1.8 lens take a look at this article. This is one lens you really do need, even if you are like me and only shoot L series lenses.
Canon lens review - 70-200 f2.8L IS
Every photographer needs a standard zoom in their kit bag and a 70-200 fits the bill perfectly. The Canon 70-200 f2.8L IS lens is Canon’s flagship 70-200 zoom (it is also available in f4L, f4L IS and f2.8L versions, which are obviously cheaper) and quite rightly so.
This 70-200 is a top quality lens and is the choice of many professionals. Okay, it is expensive but then you do get what you pay for. With a maximum f2.8 aperture this zoom lens is ideal in all conditions (both indoor and outdoor as well as in good light and low light) so you will never struggle again.
For an honest and unbiased review of the 70-200 f2.8L IS lens (this is a lens I wish I was given for free to test out and report on – unfortunately I had to part with my own money, although I am so glad I did) you need to take a look at this article.
Canon lens review - 16-35 f4L IS
If you are serious about landscapes, cityscapes, seascapes and interiors you need a wide angle lens and the Canon 16-35 f4L IS should be top of your list. I chose the f4L IS over the f2.8L because the image quality of the f4L is better, the f4L is smaller, lighter and more manageable, the f4L has image stabilisation and the f4L is cheaper (you get a lot more bang for your buck).
The Canon 16-35 f4L is an awesome lens. The image quality is second to none and since it is built like a tank (i.e. very tough and durable) it is more than capable of being able to deal with whatever weather conditions Mother Nature throws at it.
For an honest and unbiased review of the 16-35 f4L IS lens from a long term user (once again, I was not blessed by any camera store for a free lens to put through its paces and report on) this article may be something you want to take a look at.
Keen photographer addicted to cameras, lenses and everything photography related. Feel free to follow me in my photography ramblings, and if you have any thoughts, comments, queries or anything else to add I would love to hear from you.