Sunday, May 20, 2007
Canon 100-400mm. L Lens
As I commented previously, I rented this lens for the trip, feeling (accurately as it turned out) that a lens which gave me 400 mm. with image stabilization would be really useful.
In practice, the lens turned out to be a great disappointment. It's quite possible that some of my frustration was due to trying to shoot from moving, vibrating ships at the full 400 mm. but checking the images it's clear that this particular example was extremely and unuseably fuzzy near wide open contrary to reviews I had checked and that while at f11 it's resolution is acceptable - it's hardly wonderful. Even then images require substantial sharpening (up to 2 pixels wide which is twice as much as I ever normally use).
The images above were shot at 400 mm. and show 100% crops with no sharpening, at 6.3 and f 10, the slowest shutter speed 1/500 which should be adequate even without IS which was in fact used in both shots. I'm pretty sure the problems relate to the lens and not my hand holding as the results are very consistent across all the images.
The lens had a tendency to back focus which rendered near images hopelessly out of focus.
Edges are poor.
Unfortunately none of the images I made with this lens will make acceptable large prints (17X22) and many won't even make an 8X10 - very disappointing. Whether I'd have been better to use a 2X extender with my 70-200 is something I don't know the answer to. If I can stop down to f11, the results are marginal - bottom line, unless I hand pick a copy of this lens - it is unuseable.
Of interest is that this finding coincides with that of Michael Reichmann and disagrees with a number of other reviewers, suggesting sample variation is a major factor - I'd be very suspicious of any used lens on the basis that if it were one of the good copies, the owner would not likely be getting rid of it.
Needed really is an IS version of the 400 mm. f 5.6. I do have a 300 L but not the IS version - in hind sight I might have been best to sell my non IS and invest in the IS version and shoot with the 1.4 extender - of course I have not tested this.
the vast majority of the images I shot with this lens were in fact shot at full 400 mm. and I probably didn't really need the zoom.
Recommendation: if you consider this lens, test carefully before committing your hard earned money. Questions arise like has quality control improved (ie. are newer lenses more likely to be good ones) and how many old lenses are you likely to have to go through to get a good one - if it's 2 or 3, it might still be practical, but if it's 5 or more, well forget it.
Bottom line: I will be looking for a better alternative.