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Review Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM

Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM
My Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM for Insurance purposes.

On March 20, I purchased the new Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens.

I did a great deal of research be the purchase, and sweated how I was going to pay for much a lens.

Then there was the justification, and knowledge that it will probably not be replaced in the Canon lineup for at least 10 years (in theory, based on the 14 year lifespan of the previous model), and it’s safe to assume that the actual camera/sensor will only get better, and my current camera bodies are on the low-end…

Anyhow, I got it!

Four monthly later, I thought I would add my thoughts into the mix.

Amazon Review

Shortly after receiving the Len, I wrote a Review on Amazon – “Hate It! – Going to Cost me More Money!“, which was not well received, because I was a little too sarcastic…

Guess I was still a little upset after my last attempt to buy something from Canon direct… another story…

But at the same time there are points that are valid, and I will add to them in this post.

As one of the commentators suggested, I was mocking the cost of the lens, which was out of the price range of most buyers.

I agree, this lens, on a pure cost alone, is well beyond most camera owner’s budgets, but as I pointed out, I have owned Canon for nearly 40 years (film and digital); it was part of a ‘mid-life crisis’ purchase and my first L-series lens. I had ‘earned’ it, damn it!

Continuing, I said that I also opening a new insurance rider with this particular lens in mind, which adds to the cost.

As mentioned, I have been using and collecting cameras for over 40 years, starting with my first camera, a Canonet from the early 1960s.

At this point, I have six camera bodies and over a dozen different lens, filters, tripods, etc., so I was more than a little surprised when putting an insurance list together, to see how much I have invested over the years, with the 100-400mm being the single biggest line item.

I did NOT take the lens out of the box until I notified my insurance company!

One point to my Amazon Review Subject line contention. (1-0)

The next was filters.

I have several 58mm and 72mm glass filters, but the 100-400mm being 77mm. I needed to buy at least a Circular Polarizer Filter, and again in reading reviews, as some stated, ‘if you are going to spend this much money, are you really going to put cheap glass in front’, plus the lens hood is special designed with this type of filter in mind!

I will also have to upgrade my square 85mm filters to 100mm, but I should have invested in a 100mm system to begin with. My bad.

Another point to my Amazon Review Subject line contention. (2-0)

As I started to review my first images in Adobe Lightroom, using the 100-400mm on my T5i (700D), I did notice ‘things’ did appear to be crisper, and the first image I pulled up, I did say ‘Holy Sh1t!”, but since then, not in all cases.

I’ve shot in direct over-head sun, 1/1000+ at f8+ where it should be sharp, but found some softness, and other times, and I’ve gotten down to 1/30 full open aperture, and razor crisp – all hand-held!

With some of the close-up testing that I’ve done, I am seeing some fraying on some edges, that does not appear to be chromatic aberrations that I am accustomed to seeing.

I am getting the distinct feeling that the sensor (APS-C) is having problems with the resolution detail.

I bought this lens, with the knowledge that it will probably not be replaced in the Canon lineup for at least 10 years (in theory, based on the 14 year lifespan of the previous model), and it’s safe to assume that the actual camera/sensor will only get better, and my current camera bodies are on the low-end…

I will not really see the beauty of this lens without a serious upgrade to a full frame sensor camera body, or put another way, future purchase, future cost.

Point 3 for my Amazon Review Subject hypothesis.

After 4 months of Ownership

Now that I have used the 100-400mm on my T5i (700D) for the past 4 plus months, I wanted to do a follow-up Review, and change the Amazon Review from a 1 Star rating.

Auto-Focus & Ring Placement

In my original commentary on Amazon, I talked about the Auto-Focus (AF) being very fast, but I have also noticed that in fast close-up situations, it can fail very quickly while trying to track/pan with the subject, small insects in my case, carpenter bees.

During the early spring, they fight/protect their nests at high-speed dive bombing attacks, so trying to focus quickly can be difficult at best.

Okay, just switch to manual focus, and focus across on the plane.

No problem, for a shot or two.

For me, the problem is the placement of the Focusing ring, it is the inner most ring, right next to the body.

I have big hands and fingers, so while I am trying to focus, I can not easily steady the lens, the balance is off.

Not that it is going to make any difference, but I would have preferred the Focusing ring closer to the front of the lens to help with stability, with the Zoom ring in the middle and the Zoom touch adjustment ring in the rear.

By the way, I’m not a big fan of the Zoom touch adjustment ring.

Seems like too much real estate on the barrel for too little function, for me.

Lens Envy

I shot event photography, and the range on the 100-400mm is great!

But at the same time, it attracts attention.

I don’t mind, occasionally chatting with folks at an event, but how many times do you really want to hear “That is a big lens!” or “I have Lens Envy”.

This being my first off-white, L-series lens, I guess it might come with the territory…

Conclusions, so far…

The easiest answer is Yes, if you can afford it.

As I have hopefully illustrated, there can be more expenditures beyond the base price, and depending on how you have purchased your older equipment, the amount will be a variable.

My two biggest mistakes up front –

1) I should have had insurance earlier. Thankfully, in 35+ years, I have only ‘killed’ one camera (Canon A-1 (film)) and one Lens (70-300mm f4-5.6). I’ve been VERY lucky!

2) Filters – When I was looking into square filter systems, I thought long and hard about 85mm vs 100mm filter systems, and finally bought a 85mm system, and now I’m kicking myself…

Looking into the future, I can’t wait to pay off this puppy and get a new camera body!

Would I buy this lens again?

I hope not…

I LOVE the one I got!

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Lens Hoods

One of my biggest gripes, when it comes to Canon cameras, is that they charge you extra for lens hoods, which are incredibly marked up in price.

What really set me off recently, was when I replaced my 70-300mm USM IS  with a 75-300mm III.  I thought the lens hoods and filters would be the same.

I was only half right. My filters are fine, but it appears I have to buy a completely new lens hood for my new lens instead of being able to use the old one.

To be technical, the 70-300mm IS USM requires a ET-65B lens hood, which can be purchased through Canon at $55.00 USD.

Canon ET-65B Lens Hood
Canon ET-65B Lens Hood

On the other hand, my new 70-300mm III requires a ET-60 lens hood, which is a little cheaper at $29.00 USD.

Canon ET-60 Lens Hood
Canon ET-60 Lens Hood

Now I am no expert, but there does appear to be a slight difference in the tapering of the hood, but $26.00 worth?

It just seems a little bit extreme not to have a tad bit more compatibility during engineering. I still do not understand how these black cylinders of plastic cost so much and are not included with the purchase of a lens worth several hundred dollars.

Needless to say, I’m off to Amazon to purchase a Fotodiox ET-60 lens hood for $6.95 USD, and with the money I saved, I can start thinking about another lens and hood!

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Camera Hardware Personal Photo Journal Photography Projects Reviews

The cameras in my life…

It is another rainy day here in Chester County, so I decided to catch-up on an old mental project – Start to photograph my photography collect (cameras, trays, etc.).

Why not, I have been working on getting the studio back in order, so…

as you can see, I have used a few different ones over the years!

Now all I have to do, is add some story text to each camera…

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Camera Equipment

Hard time focusing… Replacement Focus Screens for your Digital Camera

I have been meaning to write this blog entry for some time now, but as I am waiting for my bread’s second to rise…

As many of you know, I have been involved with Photography for over 35 years now, and I started with a simple Canon Canonet rangefinder from my dad, which Canon introduced in early 1961.

At some point in the late 1970’s, my Dad purchased a Canon AE-1, which was the family’s first Single-Lens Reflex (SLR) camera, and slowly, I was allowed to use the camera, which opened up new avenues in terms of different lens, the elimination of parallax errors and easier and more accurate focusing.

The summer after graduating high school (St. Andrew’s School, Middletown, DE), I worked as a Life Guard, and used the money that I earned, to finally purchase my first Camera, a Canon A-1!

I had allot of fun with that camera! It went every where with me, including Ithaca college.

In the Fall of 1983, during a Photography Field Trip to Watkins Glen, I was jumping around the base of one of the Falls, when the neck strap broke, and I watched my camera slowly sink to the bottom of the river.

I was heart broken…

Fast forward to early 1984, I had left Ithaca, and was working a Freelance Photography Assistant in the Philadelphia area, and during this time, I got to work with allot of different camera, and learned what I liked and did not like, and finally earned enough money to buy a replacement.

So what did I buy?

This time, I went for the top, and got a Canon F-1!

Now I was able to really play!

Lens, Motor drives and even drop-in replaceable Focus screens!

Needless to say, I was VERY happy!

Some more fast forwarding…

One of my first jobs after college, I worked for Kodak, and during this time, I was introduced to one of the first digital cameras, which was still a prototype, and a major issue, was the “Depth of Field” when using a flash, or should I say there was none!

In the fall of 2003, just before the birth of my daughter, Madison, we bought our first digital camera, a Canon PowerShoot A70, which was mostly used to capture the first moments of Parenthood, but quickly lead to the desire for something closer to a traditional film based camera.

Finally, in the Fall of 2007, I purchased a Canon EOS Rebel XTi!

Once again I was very happy, and was burning through allot of “film”!

As I used the camera more and more, one of the first things that was beginning to drive me nuts, was the Auto Focus.

In a majority of the times, it was fine, but as I got into certain situations, the Auto Focus could easily be fooled.

One can switch to Manual Focus, but without the “split screen” focus, it is nearly impossible to really be sure that your subject is actually in focus.

This past summer, I was involved with a Flickr Forum discussion on the lack of being able to really use the manual focus on today’s camera, when a fellow Forum Member, asked if I was aware of KatzEye Optics’ replaceable focus screens.

After reading their website, I am very intrigued, but at the same time, very cautious.

These screens are nothing like the drop-ins that I have on my F-1, but are ‘semi-permanent’ replacements for your camera, which one can do themselves, but personally, when I do decide to make the switch, I am going to pay the extra cost to have them do it for me.

The bottom line is, there is an alternative to what is available, and I just wanted to let other folks know about the possibilities.

If have already make the conversion, I would really like to hear what you have to say, so please post a comment or send me an email with your experience!

– Andrew
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