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Canon 400 f5.6/ or 100-400IS

Discussion in 'Canon Conflab' started by Mike1, May 16, 2006.

  1. Mike1

    Mike1 Active Member

    I have the 70-300IS lens + a Tamron 1.4x converter.Do you think I should go for the Canon 400 f5.6 prime or the 100-400IS zoom. I would like to use one of these lenses for wildlife photography. I have a Canon 30D. Regards, Mike.
  2. Les_McLean

    Les_McLean Well-Known Member

  3. Benchista

    Benchista Which Tyler

    Well - if you can cope with always carrying the 100-400, dump the 70-300 and get it. Or you could get the 400 in addition to the 70-300 and only carry it when you need it. That's all quite apart from the optical quality arguments, of course. Don't know which I would do! :eek:
  4. AGW

    AGW Well-Known Member

    I wanted a 400 but ended up going for the 100-400 largely due to the availability problems. It is a useful lens but I still have my doubts. I think the ideal solution would be for Canon to update the 400 to a 400is. I suppose it is possible that they might do this for Photokina, they seem to have been adding IS to all their long lenes and the 400 is just about the only one left.

  5. Bawbee

    Bawbee Well-Known Member


    That surprises me as I thought the 400 f/5.6 was IS enabled, is it only the 400 f/2.8 that has IS?
  6. ElectricPics

    ElectricPics Well-Known Member

    I looked at both and ended up with the 100-400. It's a slight technical compromise on image quality which I think is more than compensated for by the IS, and you can easily handhold on a low shutter whereas the prime needs the faster shutter or support. That said, the 100-400 isn't particularly suited to heavy use or adverse conditions and the prime would be a better choice for those situations.
  7. AGW

    AGW Well-Known Member

    Well there is also the 400do lens that is IS. I think the 400 5.6 and the 200 2.8 are the only telephotos that are not IS (not sure about the 1200!...but who cares!)

  8. El_Sid

    El_Sid Well-Known Member

    Somehow I doubt the 1200mm is suitable for handholding by anyone weaker than a weightlifting champion.................. :D
  9. Mike1

    Mike1 Active Member

    Mabye I should hold off until Photokina, Would very much like a 400 prime with IS. The 400 DO IS is out of my price range. My 70-300 IS is a great little lens for the money and easy for travel.But at the age of 65 and hands a bit unsteady I feel I need IS. Thanks for the replies. Mike.
  10. ElectricPics

    ElectricPics Well-Known Member

    Me too, and if/when it happens my 100-400 will be getting flogged to subsidise the new lens. IMHO the 400 DO is too expensive for a lens that isn't particularly outstanding, it's not an "L" lens despite being grey and the only thing it's got going for it is its size and weight.
  11. TerryS

    TerryS Well-Known Member

    Mike, deciding between the 400mm f5.6 L and the 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 IS L is difficult since their strengths and weaknesses are very different. I have had the 100-400mm for a few years and really love this lens (even with its push-pull zoom, which some people hate). However, a few months ago I bought a used 400mm f5.6 to complement the 100-400mm.

    My main motivation for getting the prime was for use with a 1.4x teleconverter to give me a little extra reach since I reasoned that the image quality of the prime should hold up better than that of the zoom when used with a converter, especially wide-open which will often be the case since the combination of either lens plus 1.4x converter will have an aperture of f8 even wide-open. In addition, at the time I was using a Canon 10D body for which the auto-focus failed miserably with the 100-400mm plus Canon 1.4x converter (with the end three electrical pins taped to retain AF activation at f8), and I was told that the 400mm prime plus converter maintained auto-focus much better, which is indeed true.

    More recently I have replaced the 10D with a 30D, but unfortunately, for one reason or another, I have not had time to properly test and compare the image quality and autofocus speed of the 100-400mm zoom and 400mm prime, each with and without a taped Canon 1.4x converter or a Tamron 1.4x converter (another recent acquisition, which does not need taping in order to retain AF activation and which delivers much faster AF than does the Canon converter).

    Consequently, my current thoughts on these two lenses is that the 'killer' advantage of the 100-400mm zoom is its versatility (due to its wider focal length range and often invaluable image stabilisation). The 400mm prime probably has slightly better image quality (especially at f5.6), but in my opinion the difference is not huge, and the prime is a little lighter and smaller (compared to the zoom when extended to 400mm, although the zoom is shorter for transporting, when it is at 100mm). In addition, the prime has slightly faster AF, although again the difference is not huge, and the prime does AF better than the zoom when used with a taped 1.4x teleconverter on a non 1-series Canon DSLR body.

    One other thing, you mention the Canon 70-300mm IS lens - I used to own one of these (the old version, not the new one which came out last year) but found it very soft at 300mm. Therefore I replaced it with the 100-400mm IS L, which is altogether a much better lens (producing far sharper images), but of course the 100-400mm not only costs more but is far larger and heavier.

    Perhaps in the next few days I may find the opportunity to more thoroughly test these two lenses plus teleconverters with the 30D body.

  12. Benchista

    Benchista Which Tyler

    Ah, but there is a substantial difference between the old 75-300 IS and the new 70-300 IS. It's still softer at 300 than at the wider end, but much less so than the old end, and is very good indeed at 70-200. Not an all-round substitute for the 100-400, but a remarkably good lens nonetheless.
  13. TerryS

    TerryS Well-Known Member

    Ah, you are correct - I did a quick check and my old lens was the EF 75-300mm f4-5.6 IS USM (which was Canon's first image stabilised SLR lens). I hadn't noticed that with its replacement launched last year Canon had reduced the wide end of the zoom by 5mm to give a 70-300mm range.

    Pleased to hear that the new lens is sharper at the telephoto end - I hope that Canon have also made improvements to reduce zoom creep, since the old 75-300mm suffered dreadfully in this respect.

  14. Benchista

    Benchista Which Tyler

    Not beyond adding a zoom lock, no. But it's a very good compromise overall of low bulk/weight and decent quality, so i can forgive it much - it's a lens I had been waiting for for a long time.
  15. Mike1

    Mike1 Active Member

    Thanks very much everyone. I have the Canon 400L prime and the 100-400 IS coming into Jessops at Norwich soon and can then try them out to see which suits me. I think with a little bit of handshake. It might finish up with the 100-400IS and sell my 70-300 IS, thats unless a cheap 500IS comes my way, but Christmas is a long way off.(Lol). Regards to all. Mike.
  16. Lounge Lizard

    Lounge Lizard Well-Known Member

    I had a 100-400 once and wasn't overly impressed with it. Somewhere (maybe it was EOS Magazine) there was a comparative review of the 100-400, 400 and other lenses with Extenders. The prime was easily the best of the lot in terms of quality. If I wanted a really long lens again, I'd go for a prime though it would probably be the 300/f4L IS and I'd use the 1.4x Extender if I wanted even more reach - a slight compromise on quality for practicality.
  17. TerryS

    TerryS Well-Known Member

    Mike, another significant difference between these two lenses, which may or may not be important to you depending on your usage, is the closest focusing distance and maximum magnification. The 100-400mm zoom has a closest focusing distance and maximum magnification of 1.8m and 0.2x (at 400mm) respectively, whereas the corresponding values for the 400mm prime are 3.5m and 0.12x. In practice this difference can be critical - 3.5m can seem quite a long way! For example, the zoom is better than the prime for photographing butterflies, dragonflies and the like.

    Consequently, if you want a 'walk-around' lens for general wildlife then I would say that the zoom is the better choice, due to its greater versatility (focal length range, image stabilisation and closest focusing distance), however if you have more specialist needs, such as birds in flight or distant wildlife that requires the addition of a teleconverter, then the prime is probably the better choice.

    I am surprised that David wasn't overly impressed with his 100-400mm since the image quality of this lens has always impressed me, even when wide open at 400mm. I don't know if this difference of opinion is due to variations in the quality of individual lenses or what, but I certainly like my 100-400.

  18. Lounge Lizard

    Lounge Lizard Well-Known Member

    For an L lens, the optical quality falls far short of my f2.8L and f4L 70-200 lenses and my 28-70/f2.8. In fact, all that bulk and weight didn't buy me much. Maybe I had a bad sample but the mediocre performance for an expensive L lens and the annoying trombone action made me want to part with it.
  19. Mike1

    Mike1 Active Member

    Yes, thanks for that Terry.I see on the forums that some lenses are not as sharp as others and have been taken back as much as 3 or 4 times until a sharp copy was obtained. With that sort of money involved I need to get it right,nothing worse than spending a large sum of cash and the lens is not as good as you thought it would be. Also I see there have been some problems with the bearings within the locking ring of the 100-400 IS. Many thanks again for the advice. (By the way David are you able to advise me why when I put in a camera sale ad, it get`s removed,) Thanks Mike.
  20. Benchista

    Benchista Which Tyler

    I can answer you that - before this thread, you only had 3 posts outside the "Sales/Wanted" forum, which is restricted to "regular contributors only. That is, 'members who actively participate in the forum as a whole'" - see here for the full rules for that particular area.

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