Canon 100-400mm L IS II
Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM (metal 77mm filter thread, 54.7 oz./1,550g without tripod foot, 57.0 oz./1,616g with foot, 2.75'/0.84m close focus, about $2,049). enlarge. I got mine at Adorama; I'd also get it at Amazon, at B&H or at Crutchfield.support is when you use those or these links to approved sources when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live — but I receive nothing for my efforts if you take the chance of buying elsewhere. Never buy at retail because Canon doesn't seal its boxes, so you can't tell if a lens is used, damaged, a defective return or missing accessories. Thanks! Ken.
Original version Canon 100-400mm L IS review.
Sample Images top
My stabilized 100-400mm lens lets me hand-hold it at 1/8 of a second, so I can capture blurry water motion without having to lug around a tripod. The Canon 100~400mm L IS II is state of the art and better than any other general purpose telephoto lens.
I love that I can hand-hold my stabilized 100-400mm lens at slow enough speeds to let me stop down in shade without needing a tripod!
Katie plays tennis, 11 October 2016. (Canon 1DX Mk II, Canon 100-400mm L IS II at 200mm, f/5.6 at 1/1,000 at Auto ISO 1,250, Perfectly Clear.) bigger or original file (image size M1, JPG quality 1) to explore on your computer (mobile devices rarely display the full resolution properly.)
Valley Floor Fog, October 2015, 8:18 A.M. Canon 5DS R, Canon 100~400mm L IS II at 400mm, f/5.6 hand-held at 1/80 at Auto ISO 320, Perfectly Clear. bigger or full 50 MP (20MB JPG) file to explore on your computer (mobile devices rarely can display this resolution properly).
Man, this is a sharp lens and camera, and the stabilization is so good that I can shoot in dim dawn light at 400mm and not need a tripod.
My new Canon 100-400mm IS L II just changed the game in professional telephoto zooms, replacing all 70-200mm lenses that used to be popular for decades because:
1.) The new 100-400 focusses so close that it replaces both my macro and any 70-200mm! It focuses closer than any 70-200mm or 80-200mm lens. No longer are we stepping back just so we can get focus!
While rated to 3.3 feet/1 meter, my 100-400mm actually focuses to 78 cm (31" or 2.55 feet) from the sensor at most focal lengths and to 90 cm (35" or 2.95 feet) from the sensor at 400mm. No LEICA telephoto can focus this close, nor can any 70-200mm lens focus this close — and this lens goes to 400mm!
That's from the sensor (back of the camera); it actually focuses to 54 cm (20") from the front of the lens at 100mm and 57 cm (23") from the front of the lens at 400mm!
Because it focuses so close, for many people like myself, this new 100-400 replaces our old 70-200 zoom and our macro! The reach to 400mm is far more useful than the little bit of range lost at 70mm, and being able to focus so close lets us photograph far more different subjects.
2.) This 100-400 gives much better perspective at its longer focal lengths than shooting with a dedicated 100mm macro. It shoots down to about 1/3 life size, and does it with plenty of room between you and your subject — better than the 100mm f/2.8 IS L.
3.) It's ultra-sharp, especially at 400mm, but we expected that. It's so good that you don't need a lens profile for image correction — but you can use one if you like.
4.) Part of the reason it's so sharp is that has a Fluorite element. To get a Fluorite element in a Nikon lens, you have to spend over $10,000 for this kind of sharpness.
5.) It focuses almost instantly, even at 400mm and even if it's way out of focus when we start autofocus. This is quite a surprise; every other ultra-tele is slower, while this new lens just snaps silently from one subject to the next.
6.) Even more astounding, autofocus is almost instantaneous even with my Canon EF Extender 1.4x II!
7.) Unlike Nikon's mostly plastic 80-400 VR G, this Canon L lens is made almost entirely out of metal. This lens also focuses twice as close and costs much less than Nikon's. Ha!
8.) This huge zoom zooms easily and precisely without creep, even pointed up or down. If it does start to creep; there is a variable zoom drag setting ring right next to the zoom ring!
9.) It's got a real metal 77mm filter thread, not a plastic one or an oddball 82mm filter thread like too many of Canon's mechanically downgraded but optically superb L lenses today like the 24-70mm f/2.8 L II.
This Canon 100-400 II is an extraordinary lens. Images are astounding, but you won't fully appreciate the feel, instant autofocus and smooth zooming until you get your own.
This is a newer version of the classic Canon 100-400mm L IS, which has been a staple of professional nature and wildlife photographers since it was introduced in 1998.
This new 2014 lens updates the old lens from a push-pull to a rotary zoom, adds much closer focussing and greatly improves its Image Stabilization.
Its image stabilization lets us shoot at 400mm hand-held in almost any light at low ISOs.
Like most Canon pro lenses, the 100-400mm's autofocus is fast and silent, and you may grab the focus ring at any time for instant manual override.
It's a tough all-metal, fast-focusing super zoom that's the same size and weight as the 70-200mm f/2.8 lenses. While 70-200mm f/2.8 lenses are for indoor sports or use with 35mm film, this new 100-400mm is far superior for nature, wildlife, portraits, daytime sports and landscapes, and anywhere you need the reach. Its performance is far better than adding a converter to a 70-200mm lens, and its zoom range is broader, too.
This 100-400 is one of Canon's Best Lenses.
This is a full-frame lens, so it works on all formats.
Full frame lenses are at their best on full-frame, which is how I will be reviewing it.
You can make the usual inferences when used on smaller sensors.
This works perfectly with every Canon EOS camera ever made, meaning every Canon DSLR and every Canon autofocus film camera made since 1987.
Canon EF 100-400mm L IS II. bigger.
Canon calls this the Canon Zoom Lens EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 L IS II USM.
EF: Electronic Focus. All modern Canon lenses focus with a motor in the lens.
L: Expensive as L.
IS: Image Stabilization so we don't need a tripod.
II: Second version of the original Canon 100-400mm L IS.
USM: UltraSonic focus Motor. The focus motor is silent.
Glass, Fluorite, Super UD Glass and the Image Stabilizer section.
21 elements in 16 groups.
One Fluorite element.
One Super UD element.
Internal focus, nothing moves externally as focussed.
Fluorine coatings on outer surfaces to repel water, dirt and fingerprints.
"Air Sphere Coatings" inside, which are the same as Nikon's Nano coating, which are all variable index-of-refraction coatings that work better than multicoating. Each works by mixing submicroscopic nanobubbles of air and coating material in varying concentrations. Since the air pockets (named "spheres" by the marketing department) are much smaller than wavelengths of light, it makes the coating look like its solid and simply varying its index of refraction in a continuous fashion to gently bend the light into the glass with next to nothing reflecting off.
Canon 100-400 IS II at 400mm. enlarge.
Front, Canon 100-400mm IS II at 400mm at f/5.6. bigger.
9 rounded blades.
Round to f/11.
Nonagonal from f/16.
Stops down to f/32-40.
Close Focus top
3.2 feet (1 m), rated.
78 cm actual (31" or 2.55 feet) at most focal lengths, 90 cm (35" or 2.95 feet) at 400mm.
Working Distance (front of lens to subject) top
54 cm (20") at 100mm.
57 cm (23") at 400mm.
Maximum Reproduction Ratio top
1:3.2 (0.31x), rated.
Minimum Subject Field top
3.0 x 4.5 inches, rated.
77 x 115 mm, rated.
Focal Length top
Angles of View top
24º - 6.1º diagonal.
20º - 5.1º horizontal.
14º - 3.5º vertical.
Maximum Aperture top
Canon ET-83D hood. enlarge.
The plastic bayonet ET-83D hood is included.
It has a hole with a little slide, here shown half open, to make it easier to adjust polarizers.
Tripod Collar & Foot top
The collar is permanently attached, however the foot comes off.
Zippered and velcro closing padded LZ1326 case included.
This is a very useful sturdy padded case. You can use the double-handled zipper for solid closing, and once open, there's velcro on the top for shot-to-shot open and closing. Bravo!
3.7" (94 mm) diameter x 7.6" (193 mm), when set to 100mm.
Gets much longer when set to 400mm.
56.998 oz. (1,615.8 g) with tripod foot.
54.680 oz. (1,550.1 g) without foot.
57.9 oz. (1,640 g) with foot.
55.4 oz. (1,570 g), foot removed.
11 November 2014.
For December 2014.
Shipping Since top
Canon Model Number top
Canon Product Code top
9524B002 (9522B001 in Japan).
JAN Code top
Tripod Collar with removable foot.
Price, USA top
$2,049, January 2017.
$1,899, December 2016.
$1,999, October 2016.
$2,100, January 2016.
$2,200, August 2015.
$2,200, at introduction in November 2014.
300,000 yen, January 2015.
The Canon 100-400mm II is fantastic. It feels great, and the images are superb — even without a lens profile.
It's ultra-sharp as was its predecessor, but what really stands out are its insanely fast and close autofocus, even with a 1.4x teleconverter.
Like many close-focussing telephoto zooms, it isn't really 400mm at close distances due to an optical trick. It is 400mm at long distances where we need it.
AF is fast, silent and accurate.
Autofocus is essentially instantaneous, even from very close to very far.
It's the fastest focusing telephoto I've ever used!
Just grab the focus ring anytime for instant manual-focus override.
To lock it into manual mode, move the switch on the lens.
Bokeh, the quality of out-of-focus areas as opposed to the degree of defocus, is great.
Backgrounds get very soft and never distract. That's why long teles lenses are a top pro choice for portrait lenses.
Here are full-frame samples shot wide open from headshot distance. Click any to enlarge:
The color balance of this 100-400 seems the same as my other Canon EF lenses. No news here.
The Canon 100-400 II has little to no visible distortion.
In the lab, it has moderate barrel distortion at 100mm, none at 135m and moderate pincushion distortion from 200 to 400mm.
For more critical use, use these values in Photoshop's Lens Distortion tool to remove the distortion. These aren't facts or specifications, they are the results of my research that requires hours of photography and calculations on the resulting data.
© 2015 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.
Canon EF 100-400mm II at 180mm. bigger.
Ergonomics are great. This big, fat lens handles super fast.
Zooming is a dream; just turn the ring and it moves smoothly, even if pointed up or down. It won't creep, even if pointed straight up or down!
The only thing that feels slightly weird is how the focus ring changes diameter towards the rear of the lens.
Falloff is negligible, even without a profile.
I've greatly exaggerated the falloff by shooting a flat gray target and presenting it against a gray background:
There's no problem with vignetting even with a stack of several filters.
There's no need for thin filters; regular thick and rotating filters work great.
Focus breathing (the image changing size as focused) is mostly of interest to cinematographers who don't want the image changing size ("breathing") as the lens is focused among different subjects.
There is only the slightest bit of breathing. The image gets a little bit smaller as focussed more closely.
There's no problem with flare or ghosts.
Only if you really push it and use a filter might you get a slight green blob in the darkest part of the image, but you're never going to see this in actual use.
Image Stabilization works great; much better than in the previous 100-400mm.
Here's a hand-held shot at 1/15:
I get consistently sharp shots at 400mm at 1/15. It doesn't get better than this.
In this shot, the reason it's this soft is because diffraction is dulling it at f/22.
There are nearly no color fringes, even without a lens profile. There's none at 400mm, and only the slightest green-magenta at the 100mm end.
This is excellent performance; no profile needed.
With a profile, these will go away completely.
Macro gets close. Here's what you get on full-frame at three feet (1m) at 400mm. The dark corners at the top aren't vignetting; they're the ends of my table:
If this is about 6" (15cm) on your screen, printing the complete image at this same high magnification would result in a 20 x 20" (50 x 75 cm) print!
If this is about 12" (30cm) on your screen, printing the complete image at this same high magnification would result in a 40 x 60" (100 x 150 cm) print!
This is super-sharp, and this is wide-open at f/5.6. Stop down and it ought to get even better. What look like chromatic problems are actually caused by the plastic watch crystal, and what looks like noise is the surface of the 60-year-old wristwatch.
Also here we are seeing the vapor-thin depth of field we always get at macro distances with every lens. Only parts of the watch face are in focus; the hands are closer and out of focus!
Maximum and Minimum Apertures top
Rear, Canon 100-400 II. enlarge.
The Canon 100-400 II is mostly metal. It's a real pro lens.
Painted on the (plastic) front extension of the zoom ring, forward of the red L ring.
Feel like metal.
Zoom Stiffness Control Ring
Metal, rubber covered.
Metal and plastic.
Bottom part is removable.
Rear Barrel (section with switches and focus distance window)
Moisture seal at mount
Engraved into metal lens barrel near mount.
Filled with black paint.
Noises When Shaken
Very mild clunking.
Image sharpness depends more on you than your lens, and lens sharpness doesn't mean much to good photographers. It's the least skilled hobbyists who waste the most time blaming fuzzy pictures on their lenses, while real shooters know that few photos ever use all the sharpness of which their lenses are capable due to subject motion and the fact that real subjects are rarely perfectly flat.
This Canon 100-400 is extremely sharp throughout all of the full frame image at every setting. If you're not getting sharp images, you're doing something wrong.
It's super-sharp wide open, and diffraction will dull the image at the smallest apertures.
Even better than sharp, it's sharp even with teleconverters. I shoot it with the 1.4x, and it's great. You can see that Canon has even published MTF curves with the 1.4x and 2x extenders:
Canon's specified MTF curves:
Best-case sunstar, f/36 at 1/15 hand-held at 227mm. bigger.
With its 9-bladed rounded diaphragm, this Canon 100-400mm L IS doesn't usually make sunstars.
The diaphragm becomes straight-sided from about f/16, but we need to stop down to f/36 to get much of anything. The good news is that IS lets us hand-hold at f/36 quite well.
Performance is excellent with the Canon EF Extender 1.4× II. It's sharp, and focuses extremely well. Since it's only f/8, only the center AF area in my 5D Mk III and 7D Mk II work, but boy do they work well! Neither will let me select any of the other AF points.
Stone. Canon 5D Mk III at ISO 100, Canon 100-400mm IS L II with Canon EF Extender 1.4x II, 560mm at f/8 (wide open) at 1/400 hand-held, Perfectly Clear V2, no lens profile used. bigger or full-Resolution.
There is no autofocus with my Canon EF Extender 2× II because the combination becomes f/11. Everything else works great and of course manual focus, IS and Live View work great, but I haven't shot any samples.
Zooming is a breeze. It's smooth, well-spaced, precise and fast.
There is a drag control, marked SMOOTH—TIGHT so you can make it as easy or stiff as you like. I leave mine at SMOOTH for easy zooming, but it will extend towards 400mm as I walk around with a camera and this lens pointing down around my neck.
My 100-400 II holds focus very well as zoomed. Don't ever get one at retail because Canon does not seal its boxes, so you have no way of knowing if you're getting someone else's return or one that was dropped. They have to be well adjusted for the focus to hold as you zoom.
The original Canon 100-400mm L IS also has superb optics, but is a push-pull zoom. This new -II lens adds much closer and faster focusing, much better image stabilization and updates to a rotary zoom ring. This II lens has extremely fast autofocus, and it's still fast even with a 1.4x extender.
This new lens also has dirt and fingerprint resistant fluorine coatings on the outside, and "Air Sphere Coatings" on the inside to reduce flare. The new hood also has a hole to make it easier to adjust polarizers.
Close focus alone is enough reason to prefer this new lens, and improved stabilization is also very welcome. The original Canon 100-400mm L IS was among Canon's first lenses with stabilization, and while stunning in the 1990s, is nowhere near as good as Canon's newer lenses. The improved IS of this new lens is also a huge reason to get it for us who hand-hold everything; the old lens was only sharp down to 1/60 hand-held at 400mm and this new lens is hand-holdable much slower.
The original Canon 100-400mm L IS costs much less today new or used, and also has superb optics. If you use this lens often you'll prefer this newer lens for its closer and faster focus, zoom ring and improved IS to allow hand-holding at much slower speeds, but if all you want are superb long-range optics, either is wonderful. See also Is It Worth It.
Teleconverters and Tele-Extenders
See my Teleconverters section above.
Canon 100-400 II. enlarge.
Controls, Canon 100-400 II. bigger.
Zoom Drag Control (SMOOTH — TIGHT)
The SMOOTH — TIGHT control sets the zoom drag.
I leave mine at SMOOTH, which means loose.
If your lens flops out on you while carried around your neck, set it more towards TIGHT. Unlike amateur lenses with locks, you're never locked into one setting if a photo opportunity
appears and you're set to TIGHT. It's stiffer in TIGHT, not locked.
Use the FULL setting.
If you're shooting far-away objects and are having a problem with the lens getting confused and trying to focus on close objects, the 3m - ∞ setting will prevent the lens from trying to focus any closer than 10 feet (3 meters).
AF - MF
Use AF, in which setting you may grab the ring for instant manual override.
The MF setting is only for if you want to lock-out autofocus.
I'd leave it ON all the time, except for time exposures on a tripod.
MODE 1 is normal.
MODE 2 is for panning.
MODE 3 is the same as MODE 1, but only active while exposing; it won't stabilize the viewfinder image.
If you want the best possible protective filter, the 77mm Hoya HD2 Protector is ultra multicoated, repels dirt and fingerprints and made of shatter resistant glass.
If I was working in nasty, dirty areas and don't want to spring for the HD2 filter, I'd use an uncoated 77mm Tiffen UV filter instead. Plain glass (uncoated) filters are much easier to clean, but more prone to ghosting.
I would leave the hood at home.
This is the lens for professional hand-held general-purpose nature and wildlife shooting. If you're taking an African safari, this is your lens. It's also wonderful for portraits, with a long zoom range that will blow-out backgrounds better at 400mm at f/5.6 than a 200mm will at f/2.8 (focal length is far more important to selective focus than aperture).
This is a better lens than any 70-200 for nature and landscape work because it now focuses even closer and faster than the 70-200s. We lose very little on the short end, and gain double on the long end. Since you probably have a zoom that goes to 70 or 105mm anyway, you don't need the 70-100mm range of the 70-200, and everyone will use the 200-400mm extra range of this 100-400mm lens.
Get a 70-200mm if you're shooting action in low light, but with the super high ISOs of digital, my 70-200 just got booted out of my bag in exchange for this lens. I will use the extra 200-400mm range of this lens, and don't need the 70-100mm range of the 70-200. See also Assembling a System.
The only reason for the old f/2.8 lenses is for shooting indoor sports. Otherwise, the added reach and closer focus of this new lens replaces the 70-200. Especially for portraits, the 400mm end gives even softer backgrounds than a 200mm f/2.8.
If you think you want one, get it. You'll LOVE it! I have a friend who's owned one of the original versions for years leading safaris in Africa, and we have his images on our walls. They look fantastic! This new lens makes it even easier to get great results.
If you find my work helpful, my biggest source of support for this ad-free website is when you use those or any of these links when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live. It helps me keep adding to this free website when you get your things through these links to approved sources — but I receive nothing for these efforts if you take the chance of buying elsewhere.
Thanks for your support!
© Ken Rockwell. All rights reserved. Tous droits réservés.
Help me help you top
I support my growing family through this website, as crazy as it might seem.
The biggest help is when you use any of these links when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live. It costs you nothing, and is this site's, and thus my family's, biggest source of support. These places have the best prices and service, which is why I've used them since before this website existed. I recommend them all personally.
If you find this page as helpful as a book you might have had to buy or a workshop you may have had to take, feel free to help me continue helping everyone.
As this page is copyrighted and formally registered, it is unlawful to make copies, especially in the form of printouts for personal use. If you wish to make a printout for personal use, you are granted one-time permission only if you PayPal me $5.00 per printout or part thereof. Thank you!
Thanks for reading!
01 September 2017, 27 October 2016, 11 November 2014, 20 December 2014