In April 2015 I published here at Pro Video Coalition a review of the Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM I had just bought to replace my older version of the same focal length. I mentioned at the time the reasons why I liked the new lens. It seems I am not alone thinking it is a fantastic zoom for a lot of things.
I wrote then that “there are many reasons to buy the new lens: better Image Stabilization, better technology, a zoom design that appeals to many, although I am not sure, now, the “pump” system from the old is not somehow better for fast action photography. Time will tell. But for me there is one very important reason to buy this lens: it halves the distance I can work from my subject. Yes, Canon managed to make the new 100-400mm focus at 98 cm instead of 180 cm, meaning subjects with this lens become about 50% bigger on my image. No other lens in the market offers this. The magnification of 0,31x achieved takes us into the realm of “close up” photography, and that’s an extra bonus for my flower photography. Meaning I now can focus at 98 cm with a lens that on my APS-C sensor works like a 160-640mm. GREAT!
So, there you’ve my reasons. I am still not sure the new zoom adjust system is better than the old, but regarding the rest, I am completely convinced. And DPReview, that just tested the lens, is also saying that this is a lens “it has been worth waiting for, now with unrivalled all-round telezoom versatility. It rates best in class for sharpness, AF performance, image stabilization, close focusing and build quality. Canon has done a very thorough job and it’s still good value, too.”
DPReview does say more: “It should be clear by now that we rather liked the Canon 100-400mm F4.5-5.6L IS USM Mark II and it’s hard to see how, realistically, it might be further improved in any meaningful way – at least not without a big increase in size, weight, and cost. As it stands, Canon has struck a very good balance of performance vs. features vs. price, in a supremely usable package. It’s been on sale for a few months now, and feedback from the forums suggests that users agree that this new telezoom is really quite special.”
Now that I’ve had more time to use the lens with different bodies, including a EOS 5D RS, I am completely convinced that this is a “must buy” for Canon photographers and, let me say videographers, if you need a long lens for your work. I’ve used it for some work and even with Dual Pixel AF for movies this lens, not being a STM, works fine. Years ago George Lepp, a popular photographer and someone whose work I admire, said that the original 100-400mm zoom from Canon was the best choice for nature photographers, something I completely agree with and to which I’ll add my own experience in two fields: flower close-ups and airplanes are great subjects to use this lens.
After the new version of the lens was launched, George Lepp tested it and wrote this: “I found that the new EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L was sharper than the original, a little in the center and a lot out to the edges at all f/stops and focal lengths. Those that say there is little difference from the original don’t have 15 years experience with the first lens and haven’t been making large prints from the new lens. The MK II 100-400mm is far quicker on the autofocus, especially on the EOS 7D MK II and the zoom’s rotating collar is more precise.” And added “this is the best nature middle range telephoto combination I have ever worked with in speed, autofocus, and sharpness. This isn’t a spec review, it’s a field use with results review.”
Testing the Dual Pixel AF with the EF 100-400mm zoom (above)
Apparently he is not alone praising the new lens. Bryan Carnathan wrote this: “Ever so often, a lens comes along that really grabs your attention. This is one of them. The Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM is in an elite class of zoom lenses, capable of producing prime-grade image quality at all available aperture and focal length settings. Put a very useful focal length range into a ruggedly-built, pro-grade lens with fast and accurate AF, very effective image stabilization and very impressive image quality and it is destined to be a very popular model. The 100-400 L II has quickly become one of my favorite and most-used lenses. I highly recommend this one.“
The opinions expressed by these photographers should help you define which lens to go after, if you use Canon’s DSLRs and want a long lens to carry around. Nothing beats the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM and that’s the reason why DPReview gave it a Gold Award.