Canon EF 100-400mm f4.5-5.6L IS USM lens review: Still a good all-round choice

By Kevin Carter - Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Lens Review
Introduction | Canon EF 100-400mm f4.5-5.6L IS USM mounted on Canon EOS 6D: Good image quality | Canon EF 100-400mm f4-5.6L IS USM vs. EF 70-300mm f4-5.6L IS USM | Canon EF 100-400mm f4-5.6L IS USM vs. Sigma 50-500mm f4-6.3 APO EX DG HSM vs. Sigma 50-500mm f4.5-6.3 APO DG OS HSM | Canon EF 100-400mm f4-5.6L IS USM vs. Canon EF 200-400mm f4L IS USM Extender 1.4x | Conclusion
Canon EF 100-400mm f4.5-5.6L IS USM lens review: Still a good all-round choice

A favorite of wildlife and action photographers, Canon’s EF100-400mm f4.5-5.6L IS USM is a well-specified and versatile model. However, as it approaches sixteen years in production, is it still capable of competing with more modern offerings? Read on to find out.

Before last year’s introduction of the Canon EF200-400mm f4L IS USM x1.4 Extender this model was the only telephoto zoom in the range with a focal length over 300mm. Introduced in 1998 this L-series lens was made to a high specification that still stands today. As well as a two-stop image stabilizer the EF100-400mm f4.5-5.6L IS USM has a fast, quiet ultrasonic AF motor. Like all Canon L-series lenses, it’s made to a high standard but it doesn’t feature environmental sealing – though just how effective that is in zoom is It also has a push-pull zoom mechanism (with a collar for adjusting resistance), which although once common is unusual today.

The optical construction is impressive, consisting of 17 elements arranged in 14 groups and includes fluorite and super low-dispersion glass elements to reduce chromatic aberration. It has a ‘floating’ system for improved image quality and close range, and a minimum focusing distance of 5.9 ft. (1.8m) and a maximum magnification of 1:5. With a 77mm filter attachment thread and measuring 7.4 x 3.6” (189 x 92mm) it’s compact (at least at 100mm), and at 48 oz (1,380g) it’s of reasonable weight (in fact slightly lighter than the firm’s EF70-200mm f2.8 IS II USM).

Please note that we’ve yet to complete our assessment of the promising new SP 150-600mm f5-6.3 Di VC USD from Tamron, which was unveiled in November last year at $1,999 (though already available at around $999). However, our review will be posted soon.

Canon EF 100-400mm f4.5-5.6L IS USM mounted on Canon EOS 6D: Good image quality

Canon EF 100-400mm f4-5.6L IS USM vs. EF 70-300mm f4-5.6L IS USM

Canon EF 100-400mm f4-5.6L IS USM vs. Sigma 50-500mm f4-6.3 APO EX DG HSM vs. Sigma 50-500mm f4.5-6.3 APO DG OS HSM

Canon EF 100-400mm f4-5.6L IS USM vs. Canon EF 200-400mm f4L IS USM Extender 1.4

Conclusion