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Old 12-10-2011, 05:24 PM
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Question re Canon TP lenses

Hi All,

to the piccie taking experts amongst us, I have another fairly straight forward question to those with the 'knowledge'...

Chris (hotspur) has the Canon EF 400mm 5.6L USM lens and obviously knows how to use it. Am i right in thinking that theoretically the more expensive EF 100-400 f4.5-5.6L IS USM lens can do all that Chris's lens can do, and more.

I'm not talking about skill levels here, - just the theory. I'm trying to understand all the jargon, and work out how it all hangs together. It seems to me the zoom model could be a bit more versatile, plus you get IS which for handheld pics must be invaluable surely?

Any thoughts anyone?
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Old 12-10-2011, 07:00 PM
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The 100-400 is a zoom while the 400 is a prime and the conventional wisdom is that primes are usually considered to be optically better than zooms.
In practice with these particular lenses there's very little difference ... so in this case you would be pretty much correct in thinking that the 100-400 zoom can do everything that the 400mm prime can do and more.

The same doesn't necessarily hold true for cheap zooms versus cheap primes. One of Canon's cheapest lenses ... the 50mm f/1.8 ... is optically excellent. It's miles ahead of any of the budget "superzooms".

I own the 100-400L and have used the 400 f/5.6L and I prefer the zoom, mainly because of (as you've noted) the added versatility of being able to zoom and the fact that it has image stabilisation where the prime doesn't.

Here a picture taken with the 100-400 ...

http://www.flickr.com/photos/andy_keir/2031055421/

Last edited by AndyK; 12-10-2011 at 07:29 PM. Reason: My keyboard's faulty - it can't spell
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Old 12-10-2011, 07:23 PM
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The 100-400mm f/4.5-f/5.6L IS USM is a remarkable, remarkable lens.

I have shots taken with it using the Extender 1.4x II, and, even then, at 560mm at f/8, handheld, the images are nothing short of sublime.

The zoom has incredible natural contrast, colour saturation and pin sharp image quality, that you don't really need to do much to the image in post, other than the standard RAW sharpening.

The only two downsides to the zoom is that it is very heavy (I think of this as a minor issue) and that it is a push-pull system -- it has external moving parts, which can act is a dust collector. Still, it is weather sealed. If my 5D Mark II and 17-40mm f/4L USM can withstand being dumped by water from a waterfall 160m high, then, the 100-400mm f/4.5-f/5.6L IS USM can withstand anything.

H
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Old 12-10-2011, 08:18 PM
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F..f..f...far out Andy,

that is an incredible image. So crystal clear with the focus on the bird, and the background so out of focus in contrast. It's a gem. And thanks so much for the detailed response too.

As you'll may have gathered, I'm trying to build up a picture of what's possible and at what cost, as well as what the possible rewards are, in terms of remuneration and artistic satisfaction.

Thanks again


Quote:
Originally Posted by AndyK View Post
The 100-400 is a zoom while the 400 is a prime and the conventional wisdom is that primes are usually considered to be optically better than zooms.
In practice with these particular lenses there's very little difference ... so in this case you would be pretty much correct in thinking that the 100-400 zoom can do everything that the 400mm prime can do and more.

The same doesn't necessarily hold true for cheap zooms versus cheap primes. One of Canon's cheapest lenses ... the 50mm f/1.8 ... is optically excellent. It's miles ahead of any of the budget "superzooms".

I own the 100-400L and have used the 400 f/5.6L and I prefer the zoom, mainly because of (as you've noted) the added versatility of being able to zoom and the fact that it has image stabilisation where the prime doesn't.

Here a picture taken with the 100-400 ...

http://www.flickr.com/photos/andy_keir/2031055421/
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Old 12-10-2011, 08:21 PM
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Hi H,

thanks to you also for that detailed and very informative reply.

If I do get either of these lenses, I'll have to follow real quick with an improvement to my 400D, - thinking maybe the 60D.

All the best

Quote:
Originally Posted by Octane View Post
The 100-400mm f/4.5-f/5.6L IS USM is a remarkable, remarkable lens.

I have shots taken with it using the Extender 1.4x II, and, even then, at 560mm at f/8, handheld, the images are nothing short of sublime.

The zoom has incredible natural contrast, colour saturation and pin sharp image quality, that you don't really need to do much to the image in post, other than the standard RAW sharpening.

The only two downsides to the zoom is that it is very heavy (I think of this as a minor issue) and that it is a push-pull system -- it has external moving parts, which can act is a dust collector. Still, it is weather sealed. If my 5D Mark II and 17-40mm f/4L USM can withstand being dumped by water from a waterfall 160m high, then, the 100-400mm f/4.5-f/5.6L IS USM can withstand anything.

H
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Old 12-10-2011, 08:29 PM
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Yes Paul, as Mister Octane says, it is a remarkable lens ... and thanks for you kind remarks ...
Optically you would get pretty much identical results with the 400mm prime but the zoom gives you the option of zooming out a bit if you're too close.
When I used the 400mm prime hand-held I found I needed plenty of light in order to get short exposure times. The IS in the zoom makes it a bit more forgiving in that respect.

Don't stress too much about camera bodies. They are after all just a light-proof box. Sure some have a few more bells and whistles but the best investment you can make is in good glass. It took me a long time and a fair amount of wasted money to reach that conclusion!

Also, consider going along to a local camera club meeting. I learned more in a short time at our local club than I ever did from books or the Internet.

Here's another pic with the 100-400 ...

http://www.flickr.com/photos/andy_keir/2031056165/

Last edited by AndyK; 12-10-2011 at 08:35 PM. Reason: I'm chronically undecided
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Old 12-10-2011, 08:53 PM
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Would your hypothetical purchase be strictly for astro use, or daytime as well?

The others have pointed out the many strengths of the 100-400... I guess I'll play devil's advocate and point out a few potential weaknesses I have a bunch of Canon zooms and primes (from 14 mm to 200 mm), but I haven't used the 100-400 or 400/5.6 specifically. I have noticed that the zooms fare a fair bit worse than the primes in terms of image quality (sharpness, chromatic aberrations, flare/ghosting) on stars - but it's nowhere near as noticeable for terrestrial work.

A quick look at The-Digital-Picture.com's database shows that the 100-400 is quite impressive wide open in the centre at 400 mm, but the corners are pretty average (as expected) on a full-frame camera. Probably not a concern if you're on a crop camera.

http://www.the-digital-picture.com/R...mp=7&APIComp=0

Here's the flare comparison. Again, it's more of an issue for full frame than crop bodies.

http://www.the-digital-picture.com/R...mp=7&APIComp=1

IS is super useful on telephoto lenses. The 100-400 is a relatively old model (1998), so the IS is an early generation - only 2 stops worth of compensation (the newest lenses are 4 or more), and no panning mode. Not a deal breaker at all, but it's worth being aware of.

Have you considered the new 70-300L?

If it were me, I'd probably choose the 100-400 for its versatility and IS if it wasn't primarily going to be used for astro work.

Last edited by naskies; 12-10-2011 at 09:07 PM. Reason: corrected a factual error
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Old 12-10-2011, 09:04 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by naskies View Post
... I could be wrong, but I don't think there's a zoom locking nut on there? ...
The 100-400 has a very effective zoom locking ring and there's no risk of the zoom moving once locked.
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Old 12-10-2011, 09:08 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AndyK View Post
The 100-400 has a very effective zoom locking ring and there's no risk of the zoom moving once locked.
Good to know, thanks!
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Old 12-10-2011, 09:47 PM
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Andy,

thanks so much for this extra information. I probably will join a camera club, as I'm better at face-to-face than studying books anyway.

The polar bear is a beauty isn't he? I've been to SD Zoo too, saw the PBs, though didn't get as close as this - even through glass. Spectacular zoo though hey! The safari park was very worthwhile too.

Anyhow, thanks for the tips Andy




Quote:
Originally Posted by AndyK View Post
Yes Paul, as Mister Octane says, it is a remarkable lens ... and thanks for you kind remarks ...
Optically you would get pretty much identical results with the 400mm prime but the zoom gives you the option of zooming out a bit if you're too close.
When I used the 400mm prime hand-held I found I needed plenty of light in order to get short exposure times. The IS in the zoom makes it a bit more forgiving in that respect.

Don't stress too much about camera bodies. They are after all just a light-proof box. Sure some have a few more bells and whistles but the best investment you can make is in good glass. It took me a long time and a fair amount of wasted money to reach that conclusion!

Also, consider going along to a local camera club meeting. I learned more in a short time at our local club than I ever did from books or the Internet.

Here's another pic with the 100-400 ...

http://www.flickr.com/photos/andy_keir/2031056165/
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Old 12-10-2011, 10:01 PM
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Hi Dave,

thanks for your detailed reply, - though I have to say it sounds very much like you're light years ahead of where I am photographically

My hypo purchase would primarily be for daytime terrestrial use, but I did think it might be nice to dabble at night too. I don't want to mislead you (or anyone), and just as I'm a novice at daytime pics, so too I am a complete beginner at astro. I understand the terms because I've been reading what you guys have to say on here for yonks. But am only just starting to want to put it into practice.

You make an interesting point re the age of the design of the IS feature on the 100-400. Is there a more recent version of essentially the same lens that you know of? Or does it not really make that much difference?

The zoom feature compromising clarity, as you say, shouldn't really surprise us. How many times have we read on here to stay away from zoom binoculars for the same reason. I do make the assumption that this is a reasonable comparison. If it's not, just put it down to my noobness

Your last paragraph about "two stops worth etc etc" was a bit over my head, and with regard to the panning also. But all in good time.

Thanks for all your tips and advice Dave


Quote:
Originally Posted by naskies View Post
Would your hypothetical purchase be strictly for astro use, or daytime as well?

The others have pointed out the many strengths of the 100-400... I guess I'll play devil's advocate and point out a few potential weaknesses I have a bunch of Canon zooms and primes (from 14 mm to 200 mm), but I haven't used the 100-400 or 400/5.6 specifically. I have noticed that the zooms fare a fair bit worse than the primes in terms of image quality (sharpness, chromatic aberrations, flare/ghosting) on stars - but it's nowhere near as noticeable for terrestrial work.

A quick look at The-Digital-Picture.com's database shows that the 100-400 is quite impressive wide open in the centre at 400 mm, but the corners are pretty average (as expected) on a full-frame camera. Probably not a concern if you're on a crop camera.

http://www.the-digital-picture.com/R...mp=7&APIComp=0

Here's the flare comparison. Again, it's more of an issue for full frame than crop bodies.

http://www.the-digital-picture.com/R...mp=7&APIComp=1

IS is super useful on telephoto lenses. The 100-400 is a relatively old model (1998), so the IS is an early generation - only 2 stops worth of compensation (the newest lenses are 4 or more), and no panning mode. Not a deal breaker at all, but it's worth being aware of.

Have you considered the new 70-300L?

If it were me, I'd probably choose the 100-400 for its versatility and IS if it wasn't primarily going to be used for astro work.
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Old 12-10-2011, 11:09 PM
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Seriously, the 100-400mm f/4.5-f/5.6L is sharp both at the 100mm and 400mm ends, wide open at both f/4.5 and at f/5.6. It is a cracker.

2 stops of IS means, that if a decent/sharp exposure was normally taken at 1/100s, then, with image stabilisation, you can get the same (theoretical) sharpness by shooting at 1/25s (1/100s -> 1/50s -> 1/25s).

Panning means that you can move the lens left to right (or up and down) and it will stabilise in the one axis. Think of photographing Tour de France cyclists -- they remain sharp, but, the background is smeared.

The IS available nowadays can give you up to four stops of handholdability (so, using the example above: 1/100s shot with same theoretical sharpness can be taken at 1/6s [1/100s -> 1/50s -> 1/25s -> 1/13s -> 1/6s]). The 100mm f/2.8L II macro has hybrid IS, which gives you up/down and rotational image stabilisation.

H

Last edited by Octane; 13-10-2011 at 11:56 AM. Reason: s/sharpenss/sharpness
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Old 13-10-2011, 02:13 AM
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H,
Thanks for those easy to understand explanations. It's all coming together nicely - thanks to you guys. All the best.
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Old 13-10-2011, 03:17 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PCH View Post
thanks for your detailed reply, - though I have to say it sounds very much like you're light years ahead of where I am photographically
No worries, I've played with and own lots of Canon lenses

Don't worry about the jargon - a lot of is really just comparing a lens that performs at 99.0% of "perfect" versus another that is 99.5% perfect. Either way, they're all great lenses capable of great photos.

Quote:
You make an interesting point re the age of the design of the IS feature on the 100-400. Is there a more recent version of essentially the same lens that you know of? Or does it not really make that much difference?
Yep, the Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM Telephoto Lens (note the L designation) is the modern day replacement for the 100-400: it gives a 112-480 mm full-frame equivalent on a crop camera.

It's a lot sharper than the 100-400 as you can see from the following link. If you move your mouse repeatedly on and off the images of the funny lines - it lets you judge the relative sharpness of the two lenses.

http://www.the-digital-picture.com/R...mp=5&APIComp=1

Flare and ghosting have also substantially improved in the 70-300 (important if you shoot things like sunsets). Easier to see than to explain:

http://www.the-digital-picture.com/R...mp=0&APIComp=1

The 70-300 is also cheaper than the 100-400 brand new, about 25% lighter, and physically about 5 cm shorter. (Warning: there are two versions of the 70-300s... you want the white "L" version.)

Bottom line: if you know you're going to be shooting at 400 mm a LOT (e.g. bird photography) or you get an awesome second hand deal, I'd go with the 100-400 or 400 f/5.6. All other cases... go with the 70-300L.


PS: here are a couple of examples of how insanely good some of Canon's most recent lenses are. The sunset was part of a time lapse, shot with the 70-200 f/2.8 IS II - straight out of camera aside from white balance + cropping. The moon was a 100% crop (i.e. each pixel you see is one pixel from the captured image) with the 200 mm f/2 - with a massively scaled down telescope image for comparison. Amazing!
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Last edited by naskies; 13-10-2011 at 03:31 AM.
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Old 13-10-2011, 07:40 AM
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Quote:
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... the Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM Telephoto Lens (note the L designation) is the modern day replacement for the 100-400 ...
I'm not sure I entirely agree with that statement.

The word "replacement" suggests "instead of" while the reality is "as well as".
There's no denying the 100-400 has been around for a while, (the mark of a successful product perhaps?) but both the new 70-300L and the older 100-400L are current lenses.
The 100-400 still holds a secure position in Canon's lineup and remains their longest zoom.
I'm sure Canon will update the 100-400 at some point but I'm equally sure there would be widespread disappointment if a 400mm zoom was "replaced" with a shorter 300mm.
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Old 13-10-2011, 07:44 AM
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I have the 100-400 too, but have been contemplating swapping to the 400 prime for my own reasons. It is hard to let go of the versatility of the zoom, though. The autofocus on the 400 is very fast, one of Canon's fastest and sharpest, noticeably faster than the 100-400.

Another consideration for me is the bokeh of the 100-400 is a little funky/odd for some reason. I'm on my iPad at the moment so can't post an image for example, but I definitely don't find it as appealing as the primes. Minor nitpick perhaps.

For the 100-400 is the versatlilty and compactness. Fits in bag quite well, less room than 400 prime too.

Sounds like I'm flip-flopping, doesn't it. I am, sorry. Been tossing up this decision for years, but every time I stick with the 100-400. Bottom line is that you'd be equally happy with either purchase. Perhaps another consideration for you would be what other lenses you have in the 100-300 range? If not much, go zoom?
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Old 13-10-2011, 01:34 PM
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Hi Guys,

some very interesting comments and observatgions.

@naskies(Dave) - some extremely insightful information there Dave. Thanks so much, and the website you make use of seems incredibly useful in helping to assess the various lenses. I didn't even know it existed before now. Very informative, - thanks a million.

@AndyK - good point. Even with my limited knowledge, I was thinking there'd have to be a very good reason to replace a 400 max zoom with a 300 max. But as you explain, it's an as-well-as, not a replacement. I like the idea of the improvements mentioned though.

@Troy - is the autofocus slower to the point of being a nuisance? And to answer your last question, the only lenses I have at all are the ones that came with the camera, - ie the 18-55mm and the 75-300mm, both of which are possibly not fantastic quality, nor fast AF.

Thanks again guys. I'm really enjoying the amount of information that's coming out of this thread
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Old 13-10-2011, 01:52 PM
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In comparison to your kit lenses, the L-series lenses (the wider the aperture, the better) focus lightning fast. Particularly when you have a full frame body; you can exploit the centre cross-type f/2.8 focus point (with AF point expansion).

H
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Old 13-10-2011, 01:56 PM
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Yes, as H said. The 100-400 AF is no slouch, definitely not a nuisance. But I whacked Dennis' 400L on my camera during one of our macro get-togethers, and the AF was noticeably faster. That's all I'm saying. More than likely it will not be an issue. I reckon it would be for things like birds in flight and the tracking focus modes.

I didn't mean to bring it up to turn you off the 100-400. It's a great lens. Just wanted to add some hands-on experience and alternate thoughts to your research

As I said above, you will be equally happy I'm sure with either purchase. In your case, I'd be inclined to go with the 100-400 I reckon.
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Old 13-10-2011, 03:46 PM
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@H - You've helped so much already H, but care to explain what ... "Particularly when you have a full frame body; you can exploit the centre cross-type f/2.8 focus point (with AF point expansion)"... means please?

@Troy - thanks Troy. Yes I did understand your observations thanks. I just wanted to check that the focus speed of the zoom didn't become an annoyance to you after having sampled the faster focus of the prime lens.

Thanks again guys
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