Canon EF 100-400mm L IS II USM review - Best Bird Photography Tours | Florida & Alaska

Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 L IS II USM review for Bird & Wildlife Photography

The Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens has been one of the most highly anticipated lens in the past 5 years. This lens offers very much sought after focal lenght range among wildlife and bird photographers. Especially when coupled with a 1.6x crop factor such as the Canon EOS 7d mark II, the effective focal range becomes 160mm-560mm, which gives a very nice reach at a light weight for bird photographers. The ability to autofocus at f/8 when coupled with a 1.4x Extender III while in use with the latest Canon camera bodies is certainly attractive. The combination Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM with Canon EOS 7d mark II and 1.4x extender leverages a 224-784mm effective focal range. Not too shabby!!

Given the attractive price (for a high end pro lens) and the overall performance, this lens will become very popular and will fit within many bird photographers' budget. See below how the new Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens fits in the Canon EF pro lenses lineup:

LensWeightMin. focus distanceMagnificationDimensions w/o hoodFilterYear
Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS II3.29 lbs (1.47kg)3.94 ft (1.5m)0.21x3.4x7.8" (86x197mm)77mm2010
Canon 100-400mm f/5.6 L IS3.04 lbs (1.36kg)5.9 ft (1.8m)0.20x3.6x7.4" (92x189mm)77mm1998
Canon 100-400mm f/5.6 L IS II3.62 lbs (1.64kg)3.2 ft (0.98m)0.31x3.7x7.6" (94x193mm)77mm2015
Canon 300mm f/4 L IS2.63 lbs (1.19kg)3.94 ft (1.5m)0.24x3.5x8.7" (90x221mm)77mm1997
Canon 300mm f/2.8 L IS II5.19 lbs (2.35kg)6.56 ft (2m)0.18x5.0x9.8" (128x248mm)52mm drop-in2011
Canon 400mm f/5.6 L2.76 lbs (1.25kg)11.48 ft (3.5m)0.12x3.5x10.1" (90x257mm)77mm1993

Image Quality

One of the most noticeable improvements of the new Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens ought to be the image quality. Contrast and definition are top notch and make this lens a serious choice for pro bird and wildlife photographers. Since the lens is very sharp and strongly built, it allows the use of extenders while maintaining pretty good image quality. The latter helps increase focal range considerably! See below the MTF charts to see how sharp the new Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM actually is:

Canonef100_400_45_56l_isii_usm_tele_mtf
Canonef100_400_45_56l_isii_usm_ext14_t_mtf

Thick lines are for contrast and thin lines are for resolution. Black lines are for aperture wide open and blue lines for f/8. Those are quite high peforming charts for this price range. Very interestingly, the combination with the 1.4x Extender III looks almost as good!

Autofocus Speed

This is the second most noticeable improvement, and a very important one!! Action photographer will really appreciate the auto-focus speed, which gets pretty close to the higher end and much more expensive prime lenses. Again, the very good auto-focus speed allows to retain a very workable auto-focus speed while adding extenders. This opens a new World of possibilites for many bird photographers!

Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 L IS II USM versus Sigma 150-600mm and Tamron 150-600mm

Both the Sigma 150-600mm f5-6.3 DG OS and the Tamron SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC are findings many new owners given the low prices for this popular focal range. The Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens is a bit more expensive, but is better across the board: better image quality, lower f stop at f/5.6 versus f/6.3 and better auto-focus speed. To me, this is a no contest and while the new Tamron and Sigma lenses perform decently well, the Canon is a notch above naked and comparable to better with a 1.4x extender.

Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 L IS II USM versus Canon 200-400mm f/4 L IS II USM with internal extender

The Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM fits right within the focal range of the Canon EF 200-400mm f/4 L IS II USM. While the latter has a very slightly better image quality, auto-focus speeds are very comparable. The Canon EF 200-400mm f/4 L IS II USM has the advantage of being a f/4 lens, which can be combined with both the internal 1.4x extender and an additional external 1.4x Extender III, leveraging more reach at a maximum 392-784mm with a full frame body or 627-1254mm with a crop factor. In the end, I find that the much lighter weight of the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM is a clear advantage and I prefer to work with my beloved Canon EF 600mm f/4 IS II USM when it comes to very long reach.

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