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on December 5, 2006
If the answer is "Yes!" then buy with confidence. This lens dominates its niche. It delivers on its promises and is one of the classic white L lenses.

I got this lens to supplement the 28-135 IS, but I've ended up rarely using it. In fact, Ive decided that there may be a better choice for many photogs.

First let me begin by stating the obvious. Most images taken with this lens here and on online galleries like photosig or photo*net are taken at 400mm. Duh! I was hunting last weekend and took this lens along shooting animal pics from a blind. I set it to 400 and left it there. For wildlife and landscape shooters in particular, if the lens is going to be used at 400mm practically all the time, I think a better choice might be the 400mm 5.6 prime- costs hundreds less and sharper to boot. Going a step further, one sucessful wildlife photog I know recommends that if you are thinking about shooting wildlife other than birds, forego 400mm(prime or zoom)and get the 300mm F4 prime. His opinion: the larger size of most mammals offsets the loss of that last 100mm, yet is sharper, has lower light perfomance for the times of day when most mammals start moving, and yes, less money.

On the other hand, if your passion is shooting animals in a zoo, maybe this lens is for you. Dont have to worry about dawn or dusk shots and the range of the zoom might come in handy.

Sports shooters might actually benefit from the zoom's ability to adjust to capture unpredictable shots, but unless youre right on the sideline I still suspect it will be left at 400 most of the time, so ditto the prime. Ive read that 5.6 can be a bit slow for for fast shutter speeds in anything but optimum light. Of course, the next step up, the 400mm F4 is over five grand, so 5.6 is the practial limit for most average consumers.

In either case, you will be able to substantially reduce this handicap IF you have a sensor that takes good pics at ISOs of 800 or above. Thats not every camera.

I put the lens on my 30D to check the aperture progression for you techies out there. The lens shows F4.5 100~135mm, F5.0 ~135~270mm, and F5.6 thereafter.

People and portraits? Thats where it gets trickier. I can see using 400mm compression for compositional reasons in an environmental portrait, but how much is that market segment? 100mm isnt a bad length for people pics, but doing long-distance photojournalistic stuff had me feeling like I was Magnum PI on a stakeout.

If you're like me and the majority of your work involves people and portraits, the 70-200 2.8 (even non IS) is a much better choice for around the same money. I would have gotten 100x the use out of it over the past year.

I bought this one before I really had the need for it, thinking I would expand my horizons, and it just never happened.

But this lens does shine with its strengths. IS allows you to handhold 400mm pics with greater success than the non-IS prime. I dont do weddings but I can imagine IS allowing this lens as a supplement when a photog is stuck at the back of a church during the ceremony... as long as the lights arent too low.

Right after I got it I was in DC and snapped a few pics of George Bush at the Capitol. Im nobody special and couldnt get any closer than the "Nobody Special" section...not close! This lens got usable pics that I could have cropped way down and still had good resolution close-ups. One of those pics is posted in the customer images here.

Other benefits? The push-pull design allows almost instant adjustments. Because it compresses, its easer to carry than the prime (length- and size-wise, not weight). And, in spite of the fact that I use it far less than I imagined, I have no plans to get rid of the thing.

So the question boils down to whether you really need the zoom, the IS, and the ranges of this lens at the higher price than the prime. Wildlife/landscape photogs that use tripods? Maybe not. Sports shooters with monopods? Maybe. People shooters like me? I've learned almost never, unless I someday find myself a private detective or a voyeur.

That said, if you weigh your wants and this lens still tugs at your heart, dont hesitate to buy it. It delivers performance and value...within specific parameters.
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on November 28, 2005
Reviews of this lens on the web are mixed with some showing soft results, particularly at 400mm. This is likely due to wide variations in sample lenses. I decided to take a chance and seem to have gotten lucky. My copy, just received from Amazon (Build date of Oct 2005) produces fantastically crisp and contrasty images on my 20D at ALL focal lengths from 100 to 400. It's almost magical. The images are much sharper using the same f-stops than those from a 70-200 f2.8IS lens at 100-150mm and virtually the same at 200mm. Even wide-open at 400mm this lens is quite sharp. At 400mm, I've compared to a very nice Canon 400mm f5.6L prime lens, with and without 1.4X teleconverter. The images have virtually the same extreme sharpness and contrast if the zoom is stopped down just one one-third stop (e.g. zoom at 6.3, prime at 5.6). With the 1.4X TC both lenses had to be manually focused but produced outstanding clarity with NO perceivable loss in quality. The focus is swift and true and the IS on this lens really works (and does not hum like that on the 70-200 f2.8IS) allowing handheld shots at 1/100 sec at 400mm. It may be that Canon has quietly improved this lens since recent reviews seem to be much more positive than those from a few years ago. Some folks don't like the push-pull zoom but it works great for me and allows very fast composition of scenes. The lens is about the same size as the 70-200 f2.8 IS but seems lighter and better balanced. Given the razor sharpness of its images and 100-400mm range, this seems like the perfect single lens solution for nature and bird photography. However, it is big and white so it may not be the best for candid people photography.
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on June 29, 2008
First, I just want to say... I waited most of my life to get to the point where I could take professional quality pictures. Now that I am there, it is indeed everything I wanted it to be. I'm loving this. :-)

This lens came to me because I accidentally dropped my 75mm-300mm non-IS non USM lens in the Gulf of Mexico while shooting the sunset at Lover's Key State Park, Florida. Some would argue that I probably did this on purpose just because I was sick of the poor quality of that lens, and although I do share your sentiments, I assure I did NOT do that on purpose. It *was* funny in its own way, but after realizing just how much damage was done to the internals and realizing I'd have to replace it, I was in fact quite horrified. I will quickly say this for that lens - it CAN yield good pictures, IF you know how to work it. Keep your aperture around F13 and stick to bright light, and it will produce...

BUT

It is NOT a pro lens, and it will NEVER be a pro lens. I took over a week to convince myself to put down the huge money for this "L" telephoto lens, and it took me about that long again before I was sure I'd done the right thing. I am sure now, more or less, but the painful expense still haunts me. That's one thing you have to get over if you want to take exceptional pictures - good images do in fact require good optics, and good optics COST. That's how it is currently, and you have to deal with it or do without. The plus side is the resale value on an L lens is HIGH if you treat it right, so if one day you need your money back out of it, you can get most of it back just fine.

When I finally got my new lens, I was immediately shocked by the size and weight. Unless you've seen or held one before, you're going to be intimidated. Honestly though, on my first long outing, I came to find that it is NOT that bad, honestly. Make sure that your shoulder strap is wide, and you won't be bothered by it that much. I keep my camera crossed over to my other shoulder like an ammo belt, and the camera and lens lay nicely against my hip, even when I am walking fast. I can very quickly grab the camera, slide it up to my eye, hit the power slider, and shoot within seconds. The birdies never see it coming, pow.

Now, I should add here that my combo is a Canon Digital Rebel XT and of course my new 100mm - 400mm L F5.6 IS USM.

The first time I shot at all with this, I was disappointed and worried that I made a big mistake. Yes, I was making a mistake, but not in the purchase, just with what to expect from the lens' behavior compared to the 75-300mm that predeceased it. This is NOT that lens by any stretch, and the major differences combined with a mild concussion from a whoops at my workplace led me to bad assumptions and generally poor thinking on how to use it for a given scene.

1) Aperture on this lens does not behave like aperture on that 75-300. With that cheaper lens, aperture has a dramatic effect on sharpness. Not nearly as much with this lens.

2) The extra focal length means that any motion in the image can create blur if your shutter isn't fast enough. Make sure you've got lots of light if you are shooting moving objects.

3) IS only corrects for camera shake, NOT for subject motion. Don't go into a dimly lit scene expecting IS to save you with moving things in the frame, it won't work. Open the aperture as far as you dare, keep your ISO fairly high, kick the IS on to reduce your own movements, and then just take a LOT of shots. Not understanding or appreciating this simple fact of photography cost me a lot of good shots that first time out, and today when I go back I will definitely be better prepared.

4) Learn to treat the lens as if it is the main component of the camera. Don't go trying to attach/remove/adjust the lens as if the camera is your anchor... Believe me, this thing makes my Rebel XT feel like a toy, and if you misjudge the weight of this lens, it could slip out of your hand and really embarrass you. Respect the lens, definitely. No, I have NOT dropped my lens yet... are you kidding??? $1400!!

Now that that is all out of the way, let me tell you why I will die before I ever let my new lens go:

The images, omg... I never knew I could take such amazing pictures with my Rebel XT and honestly now I know I won't replace the camera body with anything better until the shutter dies in it. After I got my head better around shutter speed and lighting, the good images were simply incredibly good. Even with a Bower 2x Teleconverter, the better images are way better than even the 75mm-300mm could do. It's the contrast, color depth, and sharpness... this is a professional level lens and my God does it show, and I don't have to stop down to F13 to get good sharpness. :-)

The IS is a wonderful tool, believe me. If you can get your subject to hold still, and you have reasonably stable hands, you can pull off great pictures at 1/30th of a second shutter time. I'm serious. It's more in what is moving in your scene than how steady you are, so long as you don't try for senselessly long exposure times. I love the IS and I am SO glad I held out for a lens that has it.

The USM autofocus is just... wow... After so long of shooting with a lens with no USM, this is like having my cake with a double shot of apricot brandy with a little umbrella in it. When I go shooting at the beach, I am there primarily to shoot the wildlife (sea birds). When I'd shoot a bird in flight, I would take many exposures in hopes that one would turn out and be a good shot. This time out, I did that same thing with the new lens and I was amazed to find that I was getting intact sets of images of each bird I did this with. One or two of the first shots would be a touch out, maybe, but several would be in sharp focus. The AF keeps up fine with moving targets, and this is something totally new to me. The focus motor is fast, silent, and tack accurate, MILES beyond the old cheapie I sank in the ocean. Detect a bit of sarcasm there? :-)

The zoom range leaves a hole for me between my kit 18mm-55mm lens (yes I know, I have a crap lens for wide angle... you can help me fund another L-glass lens any time you like), but honestly I haven't missed it yet. I adore the long focal length of this lens and if there's a softness to the 400mm end then I haven't really seen it yet. In fact, I'm looking at a test shot I took today using the 2x extender and the new lens for a combined FL of 800mm... scary huh... and I am seeing great sharpness, surprisingly enough. Had the target been out of the shadows and in the sun, I'd say I could have pulled off a really good picture from it. Not bad for a 300' distant shot of a cute girl in a strongly shadowed stairwell at combined 800mm, 1/800th of a second (F8.0!) exposure time FREE HANDED. It's amazing what you can do with this lens when you really try.

So... I've babbled enough, although I could go on all day. Here's the pros and cons.

Pros:

Very solidly built, feels like a tank shell.
Amazing image quality
Fast USM focus
IS is GREAT when thought out beforehand
Manual focus ring is right there when you need it
Sliding focus rather than rotating is actually quite nice
Tension ring for focus is a great touch
Very nice very solid tripod ring with bearings! How cool is that?
VERY nice carry case... they really did do a nice thing with that.

Cons:

Heavy... wow heavy. Weighs like a tank shell too... But, it's a PRO lens, what do you want?

Ok so it IS white... actually beige white, mine is. Believe me, if you still care about the color a week after using it heavily, you are spoiled and should shoot with an old Digital Rebel 300D plus 18-55mm kit lens ONLY until you regain your sense of perspective. It took me ONE DAY to forgive it for being white. ;-)

It's BIG. Its so big that you will likely have to reconsider your entire outfit and how you carry everything around in the field. I find personally that the size of the thing is actually a bigger deal to me than the weight, surprisingly enough. If you have a Rebel XT or similar, the camera does look a little silly stuck to it, but here again WHO CARES... the images omg!!

Sometimes you can forget that you are balancing the lens with a hand under the focuser, and accidentally knock your shot out of focus. Also, since the focus and zoom tension rings move as one, it's easy enough to de-tense the zoom while focusing. It's a learning process, and not all that terrible really.

Canon, honestly... almost $1400US for a lens and no UV filter for the front. Maybe this is me being nitpicky but really... what would it cost them to provide you this very basic protection for your very expensive lens? Just be sure not to forget to get one... and make sure you remember this is 77MM threading, not 58 or anything else!

One last comment:

If you are like I was, and struggling to make a tough decision... perhaps this will help. This is a Black Oystercatcher on the beach at Lover's Key, shot at full 400mm from about 40+ feet or so away in terrible light and free handed - no tripod. Note the tiny water droplets on the feathers. Before I got this lens, I would have told you I wish I could do pictures like this one. Now I not only can, I AM. :-)

ISO 200, F5.6, 400mm FL, 1/640 sec.

[...]
Make like N**e and just do it! :-)

Edit: Update Jan 7, 2012 - Some months back, a strange thing happened to my lens. At least I thought it was strange until I read others' comments about the very same thing happening to them. The tension ring began to bind on me, making tensing the zoom difficult to impossible to do right. Then it happened - tiny bearings began to fall out. I tried to fix the problem myself but it proved to be way beyond my abilities. I ended up removing all the bearings, which of course defeated the tension ring entirely. To fix this would be very expensive, so I just go around with it as is. I still love my "secret weapon" gigantic tank-shell L-glass lens, how could I not, but I am less than impressed with the fact that this is a KNOWN problem with these lenses and Canon apparently couldn't see this coming enough to jump on the problem quickly so that it would fade into myth and people like me would have been spared the horror of over a hundred tiny ball bearings falling out of the lens. Long and short of it? GREAT lens... not so great job on the tension ring mechanism! I would expect better from $1400+ worth of optical hardware.

Another Edit: Update March 6, 2013 - I decided to blow a lot of money and get myself a Canon T2i to replace my Rebel XT that shot the picture of the Oyster Catcher in this review. Thus is how I discovered the difference between 8 megapixels and 18. With the 8 megapixel sensor of the Canon Rebel XT, my photos with this beast of a lens were always very sharp unless I messed up the focus, and I never questioned just how sharp the lens actually was. With the much larger 18 megapixel sensor of the T2i, all of a sudden I'm looking at my pictures and thinking, "What the hell! None of these are razor sharp! Is my lens dying?!" Only recently did the epiphany hit me and I realized that what I was seeing was the greater resolution of the camera sensor exposing my weaknesses in fine focus. Oh... ok... so that's what reality is like? I never knew because I never had such resolution. I'm pleased to say that I still love my lens, and I had better for all the money I put into it, but reality is reality and with a much larger resolution to work with, you simply HAVE to experiment with your camera settings or get over it and accept some soft edges. I took a LOT of pictures last month, at the beach and other places, and I learned firsthand that aperture is everything. Keep it wide open to grab light, and you pay with loss of sharpness and a razor thin depth of field will drive you crazy at times. Keep your aperture tight, and you maximize your sharpness but you lose a lot of light. Sounds like it sucks, right? Well, yes, it does... but it's reality and it's part of real photography. In a lot of ways, this revelation has been very good for me and has added considerably to the richness of the hobby.

[...]

FL:400mm, ISO:1600, F-Stop:F/10, Shutter Speed:1/3200 second. In retrospect I should have shot at a slower shutter speed with 800 ISO for less noise. It's still not a bad shot. :-)

NR417
1212 comments241 of 260 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
VINE VOICEon May 13, 2007
Good points about this lens:

1) It is the cheapest long lens with image stabilization you can get.

2) It is flexible (100-400mm zoom range)

3) Image quality of a good copy is superb on a cropped frame digital camera such as the Digital Rebel series. A good copy is decent on a full-frame camera.

4) It is light enough to carry, and you CAN use it handheld in reasonably bright light. Image quality from a tripod is better, of course.

Bad points about the lens:

1) It seems to have variable image quality between different copies. Some copies aren't as good as mine is (believe me, I don't say that about all my lenses!). My suspicion is that newer copies are on average better than old ones. Check out whichever copy you get while you can still return it.

2) Image quality drops a bit on a full-frame camera if you don't stop down at least one stop (to f/8 or f/11) and preferably back off slightly from 400mm to 370 or so. Image quality from 100mm to 250mm is as good as my prime lenses in that range.

3) It's a reasonably portable lens for it's focal length, but the size and white color will still draw unwanted attention from civilians, who will all ask if you work for National Geographic.

4) The "trombone" style of changing focal length is a bit gawky, and more important it does draw dust inside the lens. My copy (4 years old) has speckles of dust all over the INSIDE of the front element, unlike any other lens I own.

5) The image stabilization doesn't function reliably on a tripod. Canon recommends you turn of stabilization in that situation (and you'll get a better-quality image off a tripod for sure).
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on March 2, 2007
I spent several months debating on which lens to get. I was looking at the Canon 70-300mm, the Canon 70-200 f/4, Canon 70-200 f/2.8 IS, and the Canon 100-400 f/4-5.6 USM IS.

I have a tenancy of having buyer's remorse. I tend to want something other then what I bought. Most people looking at buying an "L" are experienced amateurs or professionals, so most should know that every Canon lens comes with a compromise. You can never have it all.

This lens is not flawless but the results make up for some of the quirks. For one this lens is heavy. It is like having a boat anchor hanging from your neck. Another quirk is the zoom. The barrel extends out to basically double the overall lens length. It makes you feel like you are private investigator spying on people and attracts that type of attention.

Now some people have complained that their copy was soft at the full 400mm. However I must have got a good copy as my lens is extremely sharp all the way from 100-400mm.

Another thing to keep in mind; this is an outdoor lens especially with the f/4-5.6 stops. Low light shooting can be done but you will need a strong heavy-duty tripod to support the weight of the lens. It could be used for portraits but that really isn't the intention of this lens. The IS does help some, but shooting under a 300 shutter speed hand held is hard to get clear photos because of the weight and the length of the lens. Also I feel the auto focus is slow. The USM is quiet. The IS activating is loud. And the last quirk is a 1.8-meter (5'11") minimum focal length.

The reach of the lens is deceiving. When looking through the viewfinder on the camera it doesn't feel like it has that much reach. However after taking the shot and then reviewing it later on the computer you see that 400mm is more then you thought at the time of the shot. You will see amazing detail.

Bottom line, this lens is excellent. I would highly recommend. The sharpness, clarity, and reach of the lens make it worth the money, and minor quirks.

This is truly one of the few products I have bought and haven't even had 1 second of buyer's remorse.

I use this lens on a Canon 30D
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VINE VOICEon November 2, 2008
Verdict:

If you need 100-400mm on a Canon EOS camera, buy it! This is your best bet!!

If you need 300mm or 400mm and are on a budget, buy it!

If you need a Zoo or air show lens this is it, buy it!

You won't be disappointed!!

4-27-2009 I just got back from photographing the World Premiere of X-Men Origins: Wolverine and once again the 100-400 IS L lens was awesome. I ended up mainly using two lenses the Canon 24-70 F/2.8 L zoom and Canon 100-400 IS L zoom lens with most photos taken with the 100-400. When you have only one chance to get Hugh Jackman riding by on his Harley you want to make sure you have reliable quick focusing equipment. Plus a lot of times you just can't get any closer to the action like at a World Movie Premiere, it's times like that when you absolutly need a zoom and the 100-400 IS L is one of the best! [...]
01-03-09 Canon 5D Mark II Update:

Canon 100-400 F/4.5 - F/5.6 IS L lens. This is the second most used lens in my 5D Mark II arsenal. This lens was my biggest surprise and is not only tied for second place with the Canon 135mm F/2 for sharpness but is amazingly sharp wide open. It's a monster of clarity at F/7.1 like it never was on my Canon 40D. It also becomes useable on the 5D Mark II in wider shot situations where on the 40D it was only usable as a longer lens. Sporting the longest zoom range of any Canon zoom this lens has to be without doubt the finest Zoo lens ever made. You can frame almost any animal in almost any exhibit perfectly. This is also my lens of choice for taking photos of people at events and aircraft at air shows with the 5D Mark II and is the King of versatility on a full-framed sensor camera. This is my sharpest and clearest zoom lens by a long shot (no pun intended. It's as close to the you are there feeling of the 85mm F/1.2 lI lens as any zoom lens I have.

After an extensive battery of tests both hand held and tripod mounted I have come to the following shocking conclusions.

The Canon 100-400 L zoom is almost as sharp at F/8 as my Canon 85mm F/1.2 at F4 and that's saying something!!!

Slightly sharper at F/8 as my Canon 70-200 F/2.8 and that's saying something to!!!

I may have a very sharp copy and I hear there are soft copies out there. Make sure and buy yours here at Amazon.com where you can return the lens if its not as sharp as you thought.

Pros:

Super Sharp!
Very versatile!
Great Contrast
Good bang for the buck
100-400mm SWEET!
This is the perfect Zoo lens
This is the perfect Air Show Zoo lens
This is the perfect Renaissance Festival lens
Attracts a lot of attention, you will be asked if you are a pro
Image stabilizer lets you get away with crazy like shutter speeds
Sweet Bokeh at subject filling close range and at all ranges on full frame sensor camera
Raw photos respond well to sharpening and contrast / colors in Canon Digital Photo professional

Cons:

Can be heavy for the uninitiated!
Does draw dust into your camera when zoomed!
Old style image stabilizer must turn off on tripod
Zoom locking ring is attached to the manual focus ring.
No weather proofing, a strange thing for an out door lens
Attracts a lot of attention, you will be asked if you are a pro
Pulls dust into lens around the zoom ring when zooming in and out
Slow auto focus compared to other L lens, slower then all of them except my Canon 85mm F/1.2 L II
Strange black hole if you take a photo when jerking the lens to track a bird
Lens sometimes seems to slow cameras response when taking a photo
On cropped sensor cameras only strange variable looking Bokeh at some distances especially when stopped down and in sunlight with contrasting lines like branches. Wonder bokeh no full frame camera (5D Mark II)

I gave it only 4 Stars because of the crazy way the zoom friction and manual focus rings are together and lack of weather sealing and variable Bokeh. It takes a dedicated photographer familiar with the lens to get consistent because of the variable Bokeh. Separate the manual focus and zoom friction rings, give it weather sealing, updated IS and great Bokeh at all settings and ranges and I would have given it 5 stars!

Introduction:

Longer range and versatility that's what I needed for my Canon 40D. What good is a prime if you don't get the shot at all? I mean I love my Canon 135mm F/2 it has the best Bokeh in the world along with my 85mm F/1.2 but it's a little short for birding even on a 40D and after renting a Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS you know what the meaning of heavy (8.5 pounds) and specialized mean.

Plus there's nothing like having a zoom, take time to change out that lens during a renaissance festival and you just may miss a once in a lifetime shot.

My 70-200 F/2.8 L is a great lens but the zoom range is way too short at times like these. I want something with much more zoom capability.

I wanted something I could take to the zoo and gets shots both near and far and the same at air shows and the renaissance festival and maybe even a football or soccer game or rodeo and all without a time consuming dust introducing lens change. At the festival you can go from a knight and damsel group portrait shot to a close up of a bird of prey flying by in a second and without changing lens. At an air show you can be shooting the crowd waiting in line to board a C5 Galaxy cargo plane and in the same minute swing up and get an F-16 cockpit shot as it roars by. On a cropped camera you are at 640mm and into serious birding territory on a full framed hey you still have 100-400.

First shots:

OK, I must have gotten a really good sample because after sharpening the Raw files in Canon Digital Photo Professional (DPP) this lens is sharp at all zooms and very sharp indeed stopped down to 7.1 between 300 and 375mm. No complaints there that's for sure!! It's very close to my Canon 70-200mm F/2.8 in it's sweet spot.

Zoos:

WOW!!! I visited the Phoenix Zoo this last Saturday with my Canon 40D and this new Canon 100-400 IS L zoom and all I can think of is wow!! Where have you been all of my life? With a zoom range of 160 to 640mm when mounted on my Canon 40D you can't go wrong. And with the image stabilizer IS you can literaly stick this camera in auto ISO and walk through the entire zoo with just one lens and get great closeup shots of everything. Need a portrait of that Tiger while he's walking the back wall as far away as he can get? No problem, zoom out to 400mm which equals 640mm, here kitty kitty kitty. And how about the Flamingo's right up next to the fence and you want the whole group, just zoom back to 100mm and bingo!

I wonder why I hadn't purchased this lens from the start. No dust educing, time eating lens changes required, just go through every exhibit with the one lens picking off animals one by one or in groups. It's like shooting fish in a barrel, yeee haaaa!!!

Notes:

Seems sharpest at 375mm and F/7.1 and F/8
Variable Bokeh, can be the best or worst depending on use (see Bokeh below)
Air (and dust) seems to enter and exit around zoom ring as you zoom (NOT into and out of the camera sensor as some would have you believe).

Review:

This lens takes some getting used to, it's different: longer, more complicated, push pull zoom and IS make it a little more complicated then the other lenses I have.

The first few shots I took with it were rather disappointing but then I started finding the groove for this long-range photographic weapon and when used in that scope you can score some really fantastic jaw dropping photos.

Overall my Canon 70-200 F/2.8 seems to make a slightly more pleasing photo at times and at other times the 100-400 does. The 70-200 as more consistently pleasing Bokeh. But the 100-400 200mm longer. The physical size when the 100-400 is at 100mm is very close indeed and the weight feels close to the same in the hand with the 70-200 feeling slightly lighter.

The strange thing I find too is the zoom locking ring and manual focus ring are attached to each other and change position as you zoom in and out. This makes for a little confusion when reaching for it at first as you never know where it is when quickly reaching for it while keeping your eyes in the viewfinder. That and if it's tight at all you have to take both hands to release the tension and move the zoom where you want.

The Groove:

Make sure you have the IS in the ON position
Shoot with plenty of light and hold her steady
Shoot between 300mm and 375mm at F/7.1 or F/8
Make sure focus limiter switch is in the correct position
Shoot in Raw and process in Digital Photo Professional (DPP)
Don't be afraid to push the sharpness and color way up in DPP as needed
Practice Practice Practice if you are shooting digital then you can practice plenty.

Image Stabilizer (IS):

I have taken HAND HELD SHOTS at 1/10s and 1/6s even zoomed out to 400mm of the neighbors house and car down the street and they came out so well you can read the license plate! I set my 40D to 3200 ISO and wide open aperture then simply propped my elbows on top of the trash can and took some night shots to see what this lens could do. I couldn't do it every shot only about 1 out of 5 to get my breathing and the timing of the shot right but the fact that I could pull these shots off at all is incredible!!!

To get consistent shots I in better lighting conditions I have found with my elbows propped I can consistently pull off 1/30 second at 400mm which works out to 640mm on a 40D! With un-propped arms I could pull of 1/60 second at 400mm. This alone should be a good reason to buy this lens.

Bokeh:

On full frame cameras like the Canon 5D Mark II the Bokeh is great. At close range it's almost as good as any lens I have. Well except for maybe the Canon 85mm F/1.2 II L. But over all it's great.

But, if you are using this lens on a cropped sensor then be sure to read the next paragraph.

How could one lens have such fantastic Bokeh in one shot and such strange horrible Bokeh in the next? Up close with frame filling subjects near wide open aperture the Bokeh is a dream, but shoot at further distances with a cropped sensor camera like a Rebel or Canon 40D/50D etc with branches as a background stopped down so you can see some detail there are weird lines around each item. Shooting aircraft or birds in flight this is no problem as the background is just sky, but distant birds in trees with some leaves and limbs out of focus and the photos can look very strange.

Lens Vignetting (Light Fall-off)

Light fall off in the corner of your photos or vignetting is no longer a problem for any Canon lens on the newer Canon Digital Cameras like the Canon Rebel XTi, XSi, 40D/50D, 5D Mark II as the Vignetting can be corrected automatically in-camera and with Raw photos in Digital Photo Professional (DPP). You can even adjust the amount of correction to your photos as needed with Raw photos in DPP, sweet!!!

In flight tips:

Shooting in-flight birds and planes with this lens then follow these tips.

Shoot in bright light
Set minimum focus switch to 6.5 meters
Turn Off IS if you have enough light, the auto focus seems a little faster without it
Set Auto Focus Mode to AI Servo and Drive mode to maximum frames per second
Set exposure compensation to +2/3 stop especially for darker birds or bird will be underexposed
Make sure shutter speed will be at least 1/500s or faster set aperture and or ISO as needed I usually end up on Auto ISO on my 40D
Pre-focus on something similar to the distance of the target bird or plane
Pull zoom back to 100mm to ease acquirement of target bird then zoom as needed towards 400mm while tracking
Start shooting as soon as a decent focus and composition of the bird is acquired (DON'T wait for the perfect composition)
If needed try looking over the top of the camera and down the top of the lens barrel and try to acquire the bird first then look through the lens.
Once acquired hold down the shutter and keep firing off photos as you never know which shot will be a keeper.

Push / Pull Zoom

This is a love / hate affair because I love the way I can quickly zoom from 100 - 400mm very rapidly, but...

The friction ring to adjust the tension of zooming is attached to the manual focus ring. This means you can't simply reach forward and grasp the friction ring and adjust it with one hand. No you must hold the lens with two hands one holding the focus ring and the other the friction ring and then adjust.

The friction ring and manual focus rings both move back and forth with the front part of the lens when you zoom. What this means is when you are in the heat of battle you can't always reach forward by feel and do a manual focus as the distance out on the zoom where the focus ring is located is highly variable.

I don't know if it's possible but if it were I would have Canon redesign the zoom ring and the focus ring separate. This would allow me to reach up and adjust the friction ring by touch without having to hold the manual focus ring to keep both from just turning. And to adjust the manual focus without tightening up or loosing the friction ring.

Anyway the whole process takes a little while to get used to especially for those of use coming from say a 70-200 F/2.8 zoom where I can always just adjust the zoom of the lens a little with no thought and without taking my eyes off the subject from the viewfinder.

Uses:

Any outdoor photography where you need a wide focal range in a really short amount of time and can't always get really close to your subject but need a close up of it. Zoo's, Air Shows, Renaissance Festivals, Rodeos, Football, Baseball, Soccer I can think of lot's of tests in the coming weeks for this lens and I intend to hit every one of them.

Verdict:

If you need a zoom with more reach then your 70-200 then this is your best option. Try it and you just might like it.

Updates:

As usual I will be coming back to this post and giving updates on my use of this lens. I have Canon a 5D Mark II on order and will update with how this lens works on a full frame body. Should be a whole another world.

11-04-2008 Update:

I have found that by taking the tripod mount off the lens is much more comfortable to hold and you can get to the zoom friction lock ring and the manual focus ring much easier. The IS on this lens makes a tripod an option not mandatory and when out photographing wild life hand holding is much easier.

11-05-2008 Update:

I put all my longer lenses up against the Canon 100-400 in a battery of tests both hand held and tripod mounted and was amazed at the results. At F/8 where it's sharpest Zoomed to 135mm and 200mm it's as sharp as my Canon 135mm F/2 prime and my Canon 70-200 F/2.8 zoom. And it has better contrast then the 135mm F/2. Both the 135mm and 70-200 have better Bokeh though but I was surprised how useful the 100-400 with IS can be in low light as long as the subject is motionless. I have found with practice and bracing I can consistently get good sharp photos at 400mm at 1/30 second and have scored a few shots as slow as 1/6 second by bracing both elbows putting the camera on high speed and shooting 6 shot bursts. One or two of the middle shots are always sharp. Simply amazing!! So if anyone is telling you this lens is worthless on a darker day or at sunrise or sunset they just don't know this lens. I have found even getting pretty sloppy you can get consistent shots at 400mm at 1/200 second. Next earl morning shoot at the bird sanctuary this 100-400 is the lens I am bringing.

11-07-2008 Update:

I have found that you can actually rotate the tripod mount up 180 degrees so that it is facing upward and out of your way but still have it on the lens. Could be handy if you want to have the mount with you but not in the way when using the lens.

11-12-2008 Update:

The more I use this lens and get used to it the more I love it. I can't see myself without it now. I am totally used to the push / pull zoom and now actually like it better.

12-2-2008 Update:

Found this interesting information and thought I would pass along.

The Canon 100-400mm F/4.5-5.6 L IS also has fluorite and Super UD-glass. Fluorite has very low dispersion so the 100-400 exhibits less chromatic aberration than if it were made of ordinary glass. The fluorite lens element aligns the points of focus of the three primary spectral colors of red, green and blue to meet at one point for ideal correction of chromatic aberration. Also included is UD-glass, which is a special type of optical glass whose properties nearly match those of Fluorite.

Bottom line on the fluorite and Super UD-glass, you get the best possible image even though you get a huge 100-400mm zoom range!

1-30-2009 Update:
I just bought a new Zoo membership and took my daughter with me on my second visit to the zoo. She brought another lens along and quickly wanted to borrow the 100-400. There was no going back she didn't want to give it back and clicked off one perfect photo after another including the Male Baboon photo I posted with the photos here. I am so sold. Can hardly wait to try this lens at the Renaissance festival next weekend.

5-26-2009 100-400 update: So I came back from the Riparian Bird Preserve yesterday where it was rather dusty and I noticed that my sensor and mirror box were full of dust. I decided to do a test on my 100-400 lens and sure enough it does pump dust into the camera body.

If you turn the zoom friction ring all the way loose and zoom in and out with the bottom end cap off there is no resistance. If you put the bottom end cap on tightly and zoom you can feel resistance. Then if you loosen the end cap just a little you can actually feel air being sucked in and out around the end cap as you zoom in and out.

Thank God for my FIrefly digital sensor cleaning system! Be forewarned if you own this lens you will need to take care in dusty environments.

6-27-2009

Still very in love with this lens. You can see a lot the photos I have taken with it at a web site called flickr. They won't allow me to put a link here anymore but you can go to flickr and search for my name Grant Brummett then look through the photos. I used this lens for the majority of the photos in my Wolverine X-Men movie premiere set.

Lenses I currently own:

Canon EF-S 17-55 F/2.8 IS Ultra sharp, great colors, great low light, poor zoom action
Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 Rebel XTi Kit lens Muddy, slow, pile of junk
Canon EF 17-40mm f/4 L Fantastic colors, sharp zoomed 17 to 24mm, ultra smooth zoom action, light weight
Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L Fantastic colors and contrast, sharp zoomed 40 to 70mm, zoom a little stiff at first, heavy, repair prone!
Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II Good budget portrait lens, light weight, disposable, sharp from F/2.5
Canon EF 85mm F/1.2 L II The best portrait lens for female and children clients, buttery smooth Bokeh, heavy and expensive it shares sharpness with 135mm
Canon EF 135mm F/2.0 L The best portrait lens for males and tied with Canon 85mm F 1/.2 for sharpest lens I own, buttery smooth Bokeh
Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L fantastic colors, sharp for a zoom, very versatile ego boosting and attention getting and heavy! My favorite zoom lens!!!
Canon EF 100-400mm f4.5-5.6L great IS, super colors, sharp for a zoom, extremely versatile, variable Bokeh, even more ego boosting and attention getting when extended and 400mm reach, will pump dust into your camera body.

My next lens purchase I'm saving for right now: _Canon EF 300mm F/2.8 IS L the finest lens ever
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2525 comments84 of 91 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on January 20, 2007
This is my 3rd Canon L series lens, after the 24-70mm f/2.8 and the 70-200mm f/2.8 IS. While those lenses are faster and better for general work, I would not trade this lens for any other when it comes to sports and wildlife photography. For the price you just cannot beat this lens. I may drool over a 600mm f/4 or a 400mm f/2.8, those lenses cost 4 to 6 times as much money and are not at all portable. This lens is hand-holdable (though I strongly suggest a monopod), and has the benefit of being a zoom lens, so you dont have to switch cameras to go between moderatly close and far away shots. I use it for football, soccer, and baseball and softball, and it is more than adequate for my needs. Maybe someday when I land that Sports Illustrated gig I will want to go bigger, but for now this is perfect.
0Comment32 of 32 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
VINE VOICEon April 28, 2006
If you use this lens on a 1.6X camera body such as the XT, 20D, or 30D you end up with a 160-640mm equivalent which is an impressive range by any standard. You can also add the 1.4X TC for a 896mm upper limit or the 2X TC for an amazing 1280mm. Of course this comes at a price, and I'm not just talking money. You will have to use a tripod, cable release, and mirror lockup a lot of the time when using such long focal lengths. Plus this thing is very heavy and very large and people will take notice. So if stealth photography is your goal, go with something like the 70-300 DO.

That being said, this is an amazing lens, admittedly a little slow near the long end, but to get down to f/4 would have most likely doubled or tripled the price and weight, so it seems like an acceptable trade-off.

If you want sharp pictures, an amazing zoom range, and a good workout, but don't mind being the center of attention, this is the lens for you.
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11 comment51 of 54 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on December 24, 2005
This lens is super-sharp, colors come out vibrant, it has two IS modes, and is push/pull (some people don't like that, but your zooms are super-fast). This is probably the best Canon telephoto lens in terms of focal range. One bit of warning; it's not only fairly large and made of metal (not plastic), but it's kind of heavy -- while it doesn't weigh 50 pounds, be aware that it's NOT light. Carrying it around when attached to the camera, you carry the equipment by the lens, not the body.
0Comment40 of 42 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on April 2, 2007
I have used several lenses to photographic my children's soccer games. Even though I have gotten quite good at swapping out lenses depending on the distance to the action, it is a pain and I have missed many an important shot. This lens covers it all! It is well worth the investment. The push-pull zoom makes cropping even the fastest action simple and fast. The stabilizer, and its two modes, work perfectly and do a fantastic job making even fast, clear, handheld shots possible. The two focusing ranges allow the auto-focus to work fast and keep action sports shots in focus no matter how quickly the subjects change range.

!!!BEWARE!!! I almost bought unnecessary, duplicate accessories! This lens comes with the lens hood (ET-83C) and lens case (LZ1324) INCLUDED! I could not find that fact anywhere on the provided specifications. As a matter of fact, the site offers these products as added purchases. Save your money and the return hassle. This lens comes complete. Add a UV or haze filter to protect your front glass and the Canon Monopod 100 and you have the perfect sports photography combination. This set up will have you competing with Sports Illustrated!
11 comment32 of 33 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse

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