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Best Alternative to Canon 100-400mm L IS


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Philip Wilson , Oct 20, 2008; 06:12 p.m.

Depends on the camera (Full frame or APS-C) and what you shoot. I shoot a lot of ski racing so I tried a friends 100-400 but was disappointed. The lens is slow to focus (especially when tracking) and does not give very fast shutter speeds. I was also not very impressed by it's edge of frame performance. Thus I bought the 70-200 F2.8 (non-IS to save money) and 1.4x and 2x convertors. the 2x convertor is not worth the money as it is a poor performer but the 1.4x is good on the 70-200. I think that indoor sports may also be a problem as i have a son who plays ice hockey and find F2.8 to be marginal as I can't get better than 1/125 of a second. In general for ice hockey I use an old canon FD with a 85mm F1.2 or 135mm F2 for this purpose (although I miss AF). i still shoot film and will only move to Digital when I get a 5D Mark II later this year. I suspect that the APS-C will help the edge performance (we have a Digital rebel that produces OK pictures with a very poor lens that is unacceptable on my 1Vs). Having an ability to work above 400ISO will also help the digital case (this is one of the reasons I am getting the new 5D). A friend of mine has the 1D Mark IIN and he has both the 100-400 and 70-200 and a rarely see him use the 100-400. I would also be careful of non-Canon lenses if you plan to keep the camera. they are not as compatible as the Canon lenses - for example my Sigma 14mm EOS lens will not work on digital cameras but works on all film EOS cameras whereas Cannon lenses of the same (pre-digital) vintage will work on all EOS cameras. The lens physically fits the Digital camera but the camera will not function.

Len Kocurek , Oct 20, 2008; 09:49 p.m.

Is the push pull zoom a problem when you have the lens mounted on a tripod?

Dan Hall , Oct 21, 2008; 03:51 p.m.

No problem with the push/pull on a tripod. Some undue criticism to the push/pull if you ask me. I love it. It is easy to acquire wildlife then zoom in and get the shot while keeping them in the frame the whole time. Very easy to master.

Len Kocurek , Oct 21, 2008; 09:16 p.m.

Thanks Dan, I actually put my hands on a 100-400 today and now I understand how it works and how it mounts on a tripod. Actually, I think the push/pull system is great. That 100-400 is now residing on my 5D.

Dan Hall , Oct 22, 2008; 10:35 a.m.

Congratulations man. I am sure you will enjoy that lens. When you look at the versatility and focal range of that lens, I consider it a true value. Below are some images from mine. Many are heavily cropped but still fairly sharp. The wildlife images were from Alaska in May. On a boat bobbing around in the ocean and hand held. I would have never got these shots without the 100-400. Keep in mind that I am a beginner with poor post processing skills:) But these images will give you an idea of what the 100-400 will do.

Alaska wildlife




Full moon (click all sizes and open full screen image)


Sailboats on Nantucket


Lance McVay , Oct 22, 2008; 03:45 p.m.

I love my 100-400. It's an outstanding lens.

Lance McVay , Oct 22, 2008; 03:49 p.m.

This summer, out on my friend's boat, it was wonderful for whales. He had a 300 IS and had to use two cameras to capture wider shots, but I could just zoom. The push-pull hate, I just don't get it.

Dan Hall , Oct 23, 2008; 10:55 a.m.

Nice shots Lance.

Keith Reeder , Oct 23, 2008; 02:10 p.m.

"However, the 100-400 has a relatively large telephoto magnification range and a twist zoom would be impractical"

Someone needs to tell Sigma (maker of a 50-500mm and a 80-400mm OS), Nikon (80-400mm VR) and Tokina (80-400mm) that - they all have twist zooms.

Geoff Mower , Oct 23, 2008; 06:41 p.m.

"Someone needs to tell Sigma (maker of a 50-500mm and a 80-400mm OS), Nikon (80-400mm VR) and Tokina (80-400mm) that - they all have twist zooms."

Fair enough. I haven't used any of these for comparison. The Canon shifts a lot of glass a long way when it zooms, and to do this with a twist would require either a fairly large angle of rotation, or a lot of torque. Maybe the other lenses have a different (?newer, ? ?better) design.

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