Review: Canon EF 100-400 f/4.5-5.6L IS USM Telephoto Zoom Lens

Written by:

Concentration - MotoGP Indianapolis 2011

The Short Review: DEAR LORD I LOVE THIS LENS. I am going to buy it at my earliest opportunity. It went immediately on my wish list.

The Somewhat Longer Review:

The Canon EF 100-400mm f4.5-5.6L IS USM Telephoto Zoom Lens is an excellent lens for photographing action taking place in bright sunlight. Due to its aperture I wouldn’t use it for indoor sports or low light situations, but if you’re photographing wildlife or sports in bright outdoor ambient light, this is most certainly the lens for you.

I rented this lens from the good folks at Pro Photo Rental for my trip to the Indianapolis MotoGP weekend last August. I knew I would be outdoors all weekend long, trying to capture in-motion shots of motorcyclists traveling at speeds exceeding 100 miles per hour, and often close to two hundred. The focal range was exactly what I needed – whether I was trackside a mere 50 feet from the riders, or up in the stands over 400 feet away. I actually toyed with the idea of taking my Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L II IS USM Telephoto Zoom Lens, but since I was already packing my Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens I figured I had my focal lengths covered. As it was, I barely used the wide-angle lens and never missed the 70-200.

The lens features two image stabilizer modes – mode one compensates for horizontal and vertical vibration, while mode two is specifically helpful during panning shots when mono-directional stabilization is required. There are also two focal range settings – mode one is used for subjects within 1.5 meters, and mode two is used for distant subjects up to infinity.

The lens is a push-pull zoom, which was a bit tricky to get used to. I imagine the intent is to set it at a specific focal length and leave it there, rather than adjust the focal length while in action. The push-pull functionality itself took some effort, at least in the copy I used. It’s possible to adjust the tension on the push-pull so that it moves more easily, but I can see where the tension would be useful to keep the lens at a specific focal length so that it doesn’t slip when pointing the lens upward or downward.

The sharpness that this lens delivers is absolutely excellent. Take this shot below. Click on it to zoom all the way in to its original size, and just observe how incredibly tack sharp the details of the rider came out (it looks even better in Lightroom):


This lens is NOT light. Weighing three pounds, if you add that to a larger body (as in my 7D) and a battery grip, you’re really going to want a tripod or monopod. I had neither during the race, so I skipped the grip and just kept extra batteries in my pocket. It was still quite heavy, so I found myself grateful to share the photographic responsibilities with my husband (who kept saying, “Are you done? Is it my turn now?”).

I was EXTREMELY pleased with the motion blur this lens captured. I shot in aperture priority all day, between f/8.0 and f/12.0, and got consistently tack-sharp subjects with great motion blur around the wheels and the passing landscape and ground. Check this one out – the subject has just enough blur to be aesthetically pleasing, but the ground is fantastically blurred, and the wheels seem to glow:

Casey Stoner

So! To summarize, I was extremely pleased with the results of this lens. I would highly recommend that you add it to your arsenal – I had SO MUCH FUN with this lens that I can’t wait to get my own copy!

The Digital Picture has a great in-depth review of this lens, if you’d like more technical details.

Photo credits (all): Tiffany Joyce

*The Author received complimentary rentals in exchange for mentioning the Provider’s products and/or services on this website. Such compensation received did not and will never influence the content, topics or posts made on this website. We will only endorse products or services that we believe, based on our expertise, are worthy of such endorsement.

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  • Florante

    Hi Tifanny! It’s Florante from GearBundles. Nice
    post – can we feature it on

    our Canon Ef page? Drop me an email at