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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!

- Andrew
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Using Lightroom to buy a Lens

I’ve been thinking about buying a new lens for several years now, and I can never figure out what I want to get.

At the moment, I only carry three lenses:

I lost my EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM last spring, when it decided to go for a swim, and picked up the 75-300mm as a quick replacement.

I must say there is a noticeable difference between those two lenses.

Anyhow…

In my effort to figure out what Lens I wanted to purchase next, I needed to assess my style of photography, again.

In my film camera days, I carried 5-6  fixed length lenses, but in the digital age, I’ve gone down to three.

Mentally I had an idea, but I had no data to back up my real work environment.

Or so I thought…

While in Adobe Lightroom, I realized I could use the EXIF data contained in the metadata of each file – Lens and Focal Lengths!

This is a very fascinating look, at all of one’s images, over 31,000 in this one catalog!

Using Lightroom and the embedded EXIF metadata information, I could clearly see:

Most Used Lens

  • 18mm-55mm –  8168 images (25.79%)
  • 28-135mm –  16332 images (51.56%)
  • 70-300mm –  3798 images (11.99%)
  • 75-300mm –  1996 images (6.30%)

Most Used Focal Lengths

  • 18mm – 4258 images (13.44%)
  • 28mm – 4363 images (13.78%)
  • 70mm – 1339 images (4.23%)
  • 135mm – 2626 images (8.29%)
  • 300mm – 1888 images (5.96%)

Needless to say, sorting by every focal length alone is a large grouping, but in my case, I looked for any Focal Length over 1000 images or spikes.

Oddly, there is no spike around 55mm (473 images), which suggests that I never really used the 18mm-55mm all the way zoomed in.

Here is an exercise: What if your Lens happens to cross over in their Focal Length?

In this case, simply isolate/select a given Lens and Record the Focal Length numbers, which can reveal which Lens you actually used for a similar situation, and Thumbnails, just below.  It’s a great way to remind you of what you did!

I wish there was a way to export the data and bring it into a spread sheet for my geeky fun! (Note to Self…)

In my case, it turns out to be the Canon EF 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM, which is now verified with actual Lens data.

That did not surprise me in the least, but which side of the Lens should I consider for my next Lens?

Clearly, my next largest ranges are 18mm (13.44%) and 28mm (13.78%) — about 27.22% of the images.

At the same time do I look at the 70-300mm range, which is 18.29%, because I a shot 70mm+ 18.46% of the time?

If this confuses you, don’t worry, because the more you dig into the data, the worse it becomes!

Try some of these!

  • Sort by Year – See how your Capture needs have changed
  • Sort by Body – Most used combinations to compare results

The list goes on.

I just wanted to highlight another aspect of Adobe Lightroom that might help you in your decision-making.

Now if you have any ideas on what I should do about my Lens dilemma, please let me know via email.

Update(s) –

07/17/2015 – In my morning reading, I ran into this site lightroomdashboard.com, in which you upload your Lightroom catalog file (.lrcat), and it will visualize your shooting habits. With a backup of my live catalog (1.27 GBs), I tried the “Drag-n-Drop” interface, and Chrome crashes. There is a Note that says they are aware of issues with 2+ GBs LR Catalogs. I would not be surprised their server(s) are being hit hard today. Need to check later.

>>> “Commenting Off” because of Spammers – send email! <<<

- Andrew
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