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


Just acquired an EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM lens.  Is there anyone in this Canon community that can offer any dos or don'ts about this lens.  Any information would be helpful.  Thanks.



I'll assume you mean the push pull version but in general this applies to both it & the new one. Use mode 1 IS for stationary subjects & mode 2 for panning. Use the limiter switch to speed up AF response on things that are further away & REMEMBER to re set when shooting things inside the far setting's range limit the switch controls. If you haven't used a long lens before keep shutter speeds high until you develop good technique. 

If it is the push pull version don't overtighten the ring that locks / applies the tension to the zoom barrel.

"A skill is developed through constant practice with a passion to improve, not bought."

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"I've heard this lens referred to as an "air-pump" before, due to internal volume of air moved while zooming."


All zoom lenses "zoom".  It doesn't matter if you twist it or you push/pull it.  Air has to go in and go out.  The 'air pump' nickname was probably put on by a keyboard jockey more than a guy that really uses the lens and actually takes pictures.


I don't know, but I doubt there ar different versions of the lens but it is certainly true you can get better copies and not so 'better' copies.  But this is true of all lenses as they have manufacturing tolerance just like most items.


You know the new Sigma 150-600mm Sport, everybody is raving about, is push/pull or twist on the same lens. Hmmmmm....?

EOS 1DX and 1D Mk IV and less lenses then before!

A friend demonstrated the new 100-400 using push pull too. Didn't seem to take much effort but until I get to play with one (someone elses) I'm still very happy with what I have. ANY lens which changes length to zoom or focus has to move air in & out. They aren't vacuum sealed.

"A skill is developed through constant practice with a passion to improve, not bought."

I too have seen tests on the new Sigma, and I think there is more in the aftermarket that may have just come out.  There is a lot of positive talk about them, sadly I'm sort of always committed (justified or not) to brand name. 

The sigma has my interest but it's 50% heavier than the 28-300 L IS & that's a mighty heavy lens after 6 hours on the flight line. I have to be able to hand hold PLUS survive the day.

"A skill is developed through constant practice with a passion to improve, not bought."


Brand new member tonight, hello everybody.

Just bought a Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM Lens (not a II) from 42nd St Photo (yeah, NOW I know, big mistake buying from them). I have been incredibly dissapointed with the lens' inability to produce sharp images thru my SL1.  I am an amateur photographer who was looking for a lens to handle high school outdoor sports and wildlife.


At first, I shot all in RAW for greater editing ability, but read some posts (other forums) that explained why RAW might look softer. (I hate the word "soft!"  Nothing soft about's just not the sharp, crisp image I expected for $1250.)


Now I shoot in jpg.  Yes, a little better comparing the two, unedited formats, but my kit zoom produces far sharper images.  My subjective test jpg to jpg was to hit just the first level of zoom with Windows built-in photo editor (200%?).  I expected an enlargement of superb quality with the 100-400.


I've gone into the camera and upped sharpness from 0 to 7 (max).  I have no idea if that should have done anything or not.


I've read some users raving over this lens.  I wish I could.  That was a huge chunk of change out of my budget.  I'd sell it back for half of what I paid.


Any ideas on what I might be doing to not get great IQ?

Too many variables to just pick one that will cure your problems. 200% for 1 is wrong & will pretty much always look soft or fuzzy. Long lenses have a learning curve because everything is magnified that much more. What shutter speeds are you using? Until you get your technique mastered you need higher shutter speeds & you want to avoid shooting wide open too. 

"A skill is developed through constant practice with a passion to improve, not bought."

Thanks for the reply.

200% was a guess. It's the first level of enlargement when clicking "zoom" in the Windows software. Now that I think about it, being the first level with a slider that'll go a lot farther to the right, it's probably more like 25%.

For many shots, I used the SL1's sport setting. It fired the shutter at 1/1000 or faster. No shots were taken full out zoom; most 100-200. f stops 5.0 and 5.6.

Those F stops are the wide open f stop for that zoom length. That means you have a very shallow depth of field (area front to rear that's in focus) The closer you are to the target the shallower that zone becomes. I've shot tens of thousands of action photos with ver 1 of the 100-400 and at lower than desirable shutter speeds but as I have said there is a learning curve.

"A skill is developed through constant practice with a passion to improve, not bought."

A couple of things. Raw does not save the sharpness setting. Does not use it at all. So setting it to 7 or whatever has no effect. The reason some folks mistakenly say jpg are sharper is they are processed so the 7 setting will effect them. Raw must be processed in post editing.


Next the biggest issue with soft pictures with a tele is mis-focus.  The lens focused on something you didn't intend.


Also, not being able to hold the tele motionless while shooting.  Even IS has its limit to how much it can help. A SS of 1/500 should probably be the minimum for this lens. And, 1/1000 and up is even better.


Lastly almost no lens made is at its best wide open, low f-number.  Try keeping the big zoom in the f8 range.


If you would post a few samples of what you are concerned about it might help diagnose just what the issue is.

EOS 1DX and 1D Mk IV and less lenses then before!

Coming late to this party, but just wanted to say my experience is similar to ebiggs' with the 100-400mm f4.505.6L IS USM. I bought a used copy about three months ago and use it with my 80d, primarily for wildlife and outdoor high school sports. IT is a GREAT lens. The push pull zoom takes some getting used to, but now I actually find it just as fast if not faster than a twist zoom. With the 80d, this lens is tack sharp at f8 at all focal lengths, it's reasonably sharp wide open but gets a little soft at the long end of the zoom range.  The real trick with this lens is learning how to hold it to minimize shake - when you're zoomed in to 350-400mm, even a small tremor is magnified in your image results. Using a high shutter speed helps a lot (for sports I typically shoot at 1/2000 or 1/2500), but have to watch to make sure ISO doesnt get too high or your image will be noisy. In sunny settings, stopped down to f8 or so, I've found this to be a spectacularly sharp lens, and a bargain, as I got a barely used copy for about a third of what the Mark II version goes for.