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New 100-400 mm or 400 mm f/5.6


My combo is a 60D and 100-400 mm zoom (original version), which I am enjoying a lot.  It has been to Africa twice, and now I use it regularly to photograph local birds, especially BIF.  At the moment I am pondering whether to add the 400 mm f/5.6 lens, or to simply replace my zoom with the new one.     While I realize the prime 400 mm has no IS, I read that (and it sounds correct) that the lack of IS is not really an issue with the shutter speeds used with BIF (always above 1/1000 sec, usually higher for me).


I'd appreciate hearing from users experienced with the new 100-400 mm zoom, as well as the well-regarded 400 mm f/5.6.  Thank you for your feedback.






I understand that the EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM is supposed to have better IQ than the original, and that the prime still has a slight edge over the newer lens.  I love the new 100-400mm because of its' size, which is nearly identical to the EF 70-200mm f/2.8L lenses.


If you are satisfied with 400mm of reach, and want an improvement in IQ over your current lens, then the newer zoom or prime may serve you well. 


But, what about more reach, instead of an updated 400mm lens?  Most birders always seem to be looking for more reach.  "You can never have too much focal length when shooting wildlife."  That's what I always hear.  Canon has a hole in their lineup, compared to other manufacturers, but they will supposedly fill it soon.  But, with what?


Meanwhile, if you're looking to drop the ducats on the newer 100-400 by Canon, consider the Sigma 150-600mm lenses.  Tamron makes a version of one, too.  I preferred the Sigma because of the Sigma Dock, so that I can tune the lens and/or update the firmware.  BTW, is a 1.4 extender a viable option for you?

"The right mouse button is your friend."

IF you can handle a bit more weight & give up the 50 mm between 100-150 mm then you should also look into the Sigma 150-600 C. I bought one in the spring to test at full scale air shows and at radio control flying events & it has surpased my highest hopes at both. Up till this season my 100-400 has been my long lens & I haven't used it once this season. (and it's sharp & I prefer the push / pull over a twist zoom). This is a sample from Sat's Fun Fly.




And this is a full scale shot from June.



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


Advices on lenses are always tough.  There are no right or wrong answers and they are often highly subjective.  Only you can make the call.


I own neither the original 100-400mm nor the II version.  I did brief use both from friends and they seem pretty great.  If you read the reviews and via the is almost universal that people rant and rave about the version II.  Many abandoned their 100-400 version I, Sigma or Tamron 150-600mm lenses, claiming that the version II is superior even with the 1.4X attached.


I own the 400mm f/5.6L and have very good success with it.  I'm one of those who used to think one can't live without IS but have since been convinced that IS is nothing but hype, especially when you are not shooting at abnormally low shutter speeds.  Due to reach, I also got myself a Tamron 150-600mm lens.  On the Tamron, I find that IS is actually detrimental for moving birds. I always turn IS off on that lens.


Between the two lens above, I like the 400mm f/5.6L better but the capability to zoom is really I'm keeping both lenses.  If I didn't get a Tamron already, I'd probably get a 100-400mm version II but it's not enough to get rid of one and get the other.


I have a lot of pictures taken with the 400mm f/5.6L and the Tamron 150-600 lenses on Flickr.  There I'm known as Tongho58. Search for that and go to my albums for the two lenses.  Make up your mind whether the pictures are any better than your 100-400mm version I.



Diverhank's photos on Flickr



Now for the straight skinny of it. Smiley Happy


ef 400mm f5.6 will have the best IQ. IS is not that important.  Remember there was a time when no lens had it.  Guess what we got along just fine.  It is also the lightest.  This is a fantastic lens which really has no peers.


The twins from Sigma and Tamron are so close in IQ as to not be an issue.  I have both.  I use both!  The upside of the Tamron is weather sealing.  None for the Siggy "C".  The upside for the Sigma "C" is the dock. None for the Tamron.  Maybe a none issue as mine has never suffered form not having it.  But I have updated my Siggy "C" a couple times.


The new ef 100-400mil is somewhere in the middle.  Plus it gives up 200mm in focal length. You never have enough focal length.  Never!  Its IQ is better than number 1 but no better than the 'twins'.  I decided not to buy one after trying one out.


My personal recommendation is to go with one of the twins (150-600mm).  Choose which ever one suits your fancy,  But it is hard to not like the ef 400mm f5.6L.  It just works.

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Waddizzle, cicopo, diverhank, ebiggs1,


Thank you all for your thoughtful comments, and the experience you shared.  I am seeing that photography is more than just taking photos; it is also experimenting with new "stuff".  As someone who wants to stay with Canon, I plan to rent the two lenses--the 100-400 II and te 400 f/5.6--and do a side-side comparison with my older 100-400.  And a little later on (but not too late, I am in my 70s) I will upgrade to the 7D II body.


As Waddizzle says, we can never have enough magnification (f.l.), but I want to combine hiking with this hobby, and so have no plans for a tripod.  Even the 100-400 gets heavy when you are waiting for a bird (yesterday it was more than 5 minutes!), so 400 mm is probably my maximum.  


When we get through with some house projects and I have the data from the lens camparison, I will post my thoughts here.




" I am in my 70s"  


Join the club!  Smiley Happy  Just so you know all three of the lenses I mentioned are very close in their specs.  Especially their IQ.  Even their weight is similar with the new 100-400 about 3/4 of a poind lighter.  Not really a big deal.  They really are a "your choice" proposition.  In my case the extra focal length of 200mm is well worth the slight weight disadvantage of the Siggy C or Tamron.  You can't go wrong with either or any of them.


But if weight is a concern, you want the ef 400mm f5.6L.  It is clearly lighter by around 2 pounds from the others. Add to that it has the better IQ and your choice is made.  I love mine.


I might throw out one more option that hasen't been mentioned which is the ef 300mm f4L USM IS.  Yes, I know it is only 300 mm but hold on. It handles the excellent ef 1.4x tele converter very well.  That translates to a 420mm tele with IS !  Weight wise, it is in the same ballpark.  Win, win, win as you get 420mm with IS and with the same f5.6 aperture.

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