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Is the Canon 100-400mm a sharp enough lens?


Hello everyone,


My name is Jake Miille and I am photographer in California. I use a Canon Rebel XSi (Hoping to upgrade to a Canon 7D Mark ii if it comes out in January) as well as a Canon 10-22mm and a 24-105L. I shoot mainly railroads throughout the Western US and sometime 105mm just doesn't cut it. I have been hoping to upgrade my telephoto lens (I do have a kit 55-250 but it's... you know) for awhile. I have seen a few options and I was hoping I could get some of your opinions/advice.


The Canon 100-400 looks like a nice lens and I'm really excited about the coverage it could get me. I am not too worried about the limited aperture because railroad scenes are usually shot on f/7.1 or higher. I have heard the push/pull system can be weird but I have no doubt that I could get use to it. My one concern with this lens is the sharpness and quality. I have heard it is not the sharpest L lens out there and I was wondering how that would affect my photos. I'm a little torn/confused because the lens is Canon L series, but people have discussed it as being a little soft. Does anyone out there have experience with this lens? Is it sharp enough? Will it be worth the money?


If you wouldn't recommend the 100-400, what do you think about the 70-300L? If those two lenses are equal in quality, the 100-400 would give me a better range. Is the 70-300 actually a sharper lens?


Thanks for the help.


Well I'm happy to report that MY 100-400 L IS does much better, but that might be because it's newer than those used in the tests & reflects improvements in Canon quality control. IF you take the time to read & think about the claims the LL test was done (it's not dated but it looks like 2002) using a 1Ds which fits that time frame (I used to shoot one years ago) & the Naturescapes test was done (according to the article's date) in 2008. That test was done using a 1Ds2 which just happens to be one of the cameras I've been using for the last 4 + years and which has produced countless sharp images of radio control aircraft in flight as well as a few full scale aircraft when my 100-400 is mounted on it.







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

The site with the 400 compared to the 100-400 has another review comparing the 70-200, with a 2X, and the 100-400 and the images from the 100-400 look a lot better than the ones shown on that link.   As someone else stated what year of lens is that?  From what I've read there has been an improvement in the lenses as far as compatibility with the newer cameras that have come out over the past few years. One review stated that after getting the software fix for the 100-400 the pictures were much better.   And, I'd take the results shown in the images people have posted on here over a laboratory test with limited, cropped, and macros. 


As a few people have mentioned on here technique is everything.  Someone with good technique can take some amazing photos with lenses that many people may complain about.  I see, and have taken, some great pictures with the 18-55 kit lens yet so many people rip on it. 


I intend on making this lens my next purchase after seeing the great pictures on here and the flickr site.

As I mentioned before, I had the 400mm prime and sold it for a 100-400mm.

I never rely on what the pixel picker’s say. I go by what I actually see in my and other real world photographs. The photos of the RC airplanes ia a very good example.

This is my rationale. Even though I use the 100-400m at the long end most of the time, yes I admit it is at 400mm more than 100mm. But the fact, it can be used at 100mm if a photographer wants is more than valuable and justifiable.

In my bird pictures it was hard to tell if the lens used was the prime or the zoom. Plus both are a fairly slow f5.6 at 400mm. So unless you are making very large enlargements I think it a wash and go for the extra versatility of the zoom.

The last time I used my 100-400mm was in the sound both at the back of the auditorium shooting the musical on stage. It was very nice to have that 100mm capability along with 400mm!


Take the pixel pickers with a grain of salt.

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


Of course, there are a lot of lenses that would not look all that great when shooting test patterns, or brick walls, or the like, but which would still give real-world results that are good enough for regular uses.


Canon 5d mk 4, Canon 6D, EF 70-200mm L f/2.8 IS mk2; EF 16-35 f/2.8 L mk. III; Sigma 35mm f/1.4 "Art" EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro; EF 85mm f/1.8; EF 1.4x extender mk. 3; EF 24-105 f/4 L; EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS; 3x Phottix Mitros+ speedlites

Why do so many people say "FER-tographer"? Do they take "fertographs"?