May 2015 - Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 L IS II USM Lens Review - Four Oaks Photography

May  10, 2018

Three years later and this lens is still performing every bit as well when it was brand new.  

Excellent image quality, easy handling coupled with close focusing ability all make this the perfect "long" zoom for me.

Below are two images taken within a few minutes of each other.  Both were at 400mm zoom but the tiny crab was at closest focusing distance and the pelican was far away.  (both are approximately 40% crops)

This illustrates the versatility of this lens. 

Hermit Crab

Brown Pelican

May 18, 2015

The long anticipated replacement to the original Canon 100-400 L lens finally became available towards the end of 2014. This is about 15 years after the launch of the original 100-400 lens!

Is the new version a worthy successor to the original? And how does it compare to the competition?

This mini review of the new Canon 100-400 L IS II is not technically inclined but based on real life usage. There are no charts etc. Only my personal experience and comments as well as sample images.

I will also compare the new Canon 100-400 L IS II to the Tamron SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD.

First Impression

Quality!!! Handling this lens immediately gives one the impression of excellent build quality. The lens has no "play" when zoomed, the lens hood attaches is a positive way, the buttons all feel solid and Canon supply a very nice protective case.

The lens hood also has a opening which allows one to adjust a polarising filter without removing the hood - simple but neat feature. The lens is also weather sealed.


Compared to the Tamron 150-600mm it is considerably smaller and easier to carry. The trade-off is the maximum zoom of 400mm which is perhaps too short for some situations when photographing birds or small wildlife. However, I find it easy to use for long periods of time without getting overly tired.

Also it fits into my Lowepro Flipside 400 camera bag without a problem. The IS works extremely well. Hand held at 400mm and 1/100th second produces consistently sharp images. At this shutter speed the only blur is because of subject movement.

I prefer the new twist action to zoom over the old push pull method. Not that I ever minded the push pull action. Some will also argue that twist action is better because it doesn't suck dust into the lens.

Closest Focusing Distance (perhaps the best feature of the lens!)

The lens can focus at a closest distance of about 0,98m (98cm). This is compared to 1,8m for the original Canon 100-400 and 2,7m for the Tamron 150-600mm. This ability to focus so close opens up a lot of new opportunities. The lens almost operates as a macro lens when focused at it's closest. The image below was shot in a small aviary. I was just over a meter away from the small quail. With the original Canon 100-400 or the Tamron 150-600 I would not have been able to get this shot due to limited space in the aviary. Also, getting closer to the subject means the frame is better filled and less cropping is necessary. And depth of field gets narrower as one gets closer to the subject - the result is beautiful blurred backgrounds.

Blue Quail Bird, f5.6, 1/250th sec, 300mm

Blue Quail Bird

Field Usage

After one month and about 500 shots later I can only say I like almost everything about this lens.

Image quality is brilliant, handling is excellent, the IS works extremely well and Bokeh is beautiful.

Below are some sample images taken with the Canon 100-400 IS L MkII. These images were shot in RAW have been processed in Lightroom - mainly to boost the contrast a little.

King Vulture - f10, 1/250th sec, 400mm

African Elephant - f6.3, 1/800th sec, 312mm

African Elephant Male

Green Iguana Lizard - f9, 1/160th sec, 241mm

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