Canon recently released the successor to their venerable 100-400mm telephoto zoom lens, the new EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II lens. I have relied on the older model for some time now… but my copy of the new lens arrived a few days ago. Now that I have used it for a day of wildlife and landscape photography I would like to share some first impressions
First, a few technical details. The new lens covers essentially the same range as the older model — a focal length range of 100mm to 400mm and a variable aperture range of f/4.5 (at 100mm) to f/5.6 (at 400mm). Both lenses use a zoom mechanism that extends at longer focal lengths. However, there are some technical differences:
The lens it replaces has been a very valuable “go to” lens for many photographers who wanted more reach, a reasonably small package, good optical quality, and the flexibility of a zoom. I’ve been an enthusiastic user of the older version for some time now.
Recently Canon has updated or augmented their lens line-up to improve the offerings in certain categories. For example, earlier this year they introduced their ultra wide angle zooms by adding a new EF 16-35mm f/4L ISlens. That lens has been a real success, not only adding image stabilization to lenses in this class for the first time, but also providing excellent resolution across the frame — more so than either of the lenses that many photographers used before it was introduced.
For some time, many have felt that there was a lot of potential for updating the 100-400. Although it is good performer in many ways, there has been room for improvement. More modern IS systems can provide up to 4 stops of stabilization, while the older lens only provides perhaps two. The older lens has good image quality, but it could be better in keeping with more recent lenses from Canon. In fact, rumors about the introduction of the updated 100-400mm zoom have been floating around for years.
We don’t know what the optical performance of the new lens will be yet. As I write this I have seen no real reviews. (I have seen some “reviews” that are mostly lists of specifications and speculation.) When we do see them, it will not surprise me at all if this lens provides valuable improvements in the same way that the 16-35mm f/4 has. Here is some of what we do know from Canon specifications:
Rather than the “push-pull” design of the earlier lens, this one has a more familiar rotation ring to change the focal length.
As was the case with the older model, the front of the lens extends as you zoom. This means that the lens is more compact when packed.
Image stabilization has been updated to provide up to four stops of stabilization — especially important with longer focal length lenses.
Other features include 9 blade diaphragm, the familiar 77mm filter thread diameter, and more.
The list price of the lens is $2,199. That may seem like a lot of money, but if it provides the sort of image quality we all expect it is actually a rather good deal for a lens with these capabilities.
Update: I have now had a chance to look at the MTF charts for the new lens (available at the Canon web site) and they suggest that the new zoom should be a very good performer in terms of image quality. The chart suggests better image quality than the existing 100-400 (which is quite decent) and the 400mm f/5.6 prime.
I expect that this lens will be in short supply at first — for the usual reasons related to any new product introduction, but also because of a pent-up interest in the update. The lens has been announced but is not yet available — though you may preorder it if you want to be first to get one.
As for me, there is a very good chance that I will get a copy of this lens before too long. In fact, I’m leaning more and more towards placing a pre-order — something that I rarely do.
Three of the four lenses that I’m selling have now found new homes, but the Canon EF 24mm f/1.4 L II prime is still available.
Canon EF 24mm f/1.4 L II – This is the newest version of Canon’s wide-angle, large-aperture 24mm prime lens know for its excellent image quality and performance at large apertures. This lens is in essentially “like new” condition — no scratches or blemishes, as it was purchased for a particular project and only used minimally for that purpose. Lens, caps, hood, pouch, original box. Reduced to $1300.
Canon EF 135mm f/2 L – The Canon 135mm f/2 is classic Canon lens and highly regarded for image quality and its ability to produce narrow depth of field and smooth bokeh. This lens is in excellent “near mint” condition — no scratches or blemishes. Lens, caps, hood, pouch, original box. $875. – SOLD
Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 – This is one of Canon’s best non-L lenses, and many regard it as a worthy (and much less expensive!) alternative to the excellent 85mm L. It is in excellent condition — no scratches or blemishes. Lens, caps, 3rd party hood*, original box. $300. (Canon does not include a hood with this lens.) –SOLD
Canon EF 17-40mm f/4 L – This is a fine workhorse landscape lens, and it is a core lens in the kit of many Canon landscape photographers. The lens is in excellent condition, with some cosmetic blemishes on the lens hood. Lens, caps, hood, original box. $610. –SOLD
I prefer an in-person sale to someone in the San Francisco Bay Area, but I may consider other arrangements. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
* The process for getting the listed “final costs” above requires several steps. First, use the links to go to the B&H page where you’ll see the regular list price. Add the item to your cart and a new, lower price will appear. Then make sure to download the Canon mail-in rebate form, read the terms, and then fill it out carefully and mail it after you receive your lens.
I just received word that the price on the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS II has been reduced significantly for a limited time by the combination of a sale price, a rebate offer, and a “4% reward” program at site sponsor B&H. These factors reduce your final cost for this $2500 list price lens to $1899 – before the “4% reward” kicks in, and that should be worth another $75+ or so.
Since this is a “hidden” deal, there are a few instructions to follow:
Add it to your cart and the price at checkout will be $2199.
A $300 cash-back rebate offer reduces your cost to $1899 – be sure to get the rebate form from the order page.
B&H offers and additional “4% reward” that you can use for other purchases at B&H.
If this is a lens that you have been considering, this might be a great time to pick one up! (Update: B&H sent me an email on the morning of Thursday, 11/14 to say that this is a limited offer and that it ends very soon… so don’t wait too long!)
(In another forum someone asked a question – actually, more like posed a challenge – related to how much usable detail and quality could be extracted from a raw file that contained areas of very low luminosity, as could happen with a badly underexposed image or with an image of a scene with a very large dynamic range. Since I went to the work of responding and illustrating my response, I figured that I might as well share it here, too. With minor revisions, here it is.)
First, I actually have a “real” version of this photograph in which highlights were slightly blown, but which I preferred to use since I could bring them back in post and get a bit more shadow detail to start with. (It looks a bit bright to me as an on-screen jpg, but it makes a fine print.) That photograph ended up looking like this:
This photograph and the other I’ll move to below were both shot from a tripod with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II at ISO 100 using the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS at f/16. While the “keeper” used for the photograph above had a 1/4 second exposure, the example I’ll use below was shot at 1/30 second.
The exposure challenge in this scene was the very large dynamic range between the bright spot of sky at the head of the canyon and the much darker colorful foliage in relatively deep shadow in the foreground. Exposing for optimal quality in the foreground would completely blow out the sky, while exposing for the sky would necessarily grossly underexpose the foreground.
I originally thought that I might like to have four bracketed exposures in case that would let me produce a better final image via layer blending, but it turned out to be unnecessary and the final image (as shown above) has a single source file with no blending. However, this means that I still happen to have one very badly underexposed (by three stops) version at 1/30 second which I’ll use here as the starting point for what I plan to illustrate in this post. Follow along with me and see what I can do with the very underexposed version of the file… Continue reading Post-Processing: A Shadow Recovery Example→