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Ambassadors Programme

Explorer

Andy Rouse

Dec02

The new EF100-400mm lens: so sharp it cut my head off!

By Andy Rouse, Tuesday December 02, 2014
Taken with a pre-production EF100-400mm lens at ISO 800. A lovely original shot on the left, taken at 400mm with the EOS 7D Mark II, with a 100 percent crop on the head on the right. So sharp! Check out the bokeh too – a lovely long lens effect.

Taken with a pre-production EF100-400mm lens at ISO 800. A lovely original shot on the left, taken at 400mm with the EOS 7D Mark II, with a 100 percent crop on the head on the right. So sharp! Check out the bokeh too – a lovely long lens effect. © Andy Rouse

I know what you are thinking. "You lucky so and so!" And you would be right; I consider myself very lucky to get my hands on the much awaited EF100-400mm zoom ahead of most. Now you might think it strange that a professional wildlife photographer favours a zoom, in a genre that is dominated by fixed 500 and 600mm lenses. Well I have always been a maverick like that and my favoured lens has now changed to the EF200-400mm f/4L IS USM EXTENDER 1.4x as I need the flexibility a zoom provides. Arguments about quality of zooms versus fixed lenses have never bothered me as all these high spec lenses are good enough for what I need. It's the flexibility that scores big time for me; the ability to frame an image as I want it or keep an animal in the frame when it insists on coming closer to check me out.

So why would I want the new EF100-400mm then? Simply for those occasions when hand-holding the heavier 200-400mm lens or carrying it up the side of a mountain makes its use less appealing. Travel is also getting difficult too; last year I took the 600mm and 200-400mm to India and I will never travel with that much glass again! So I was interested to read about this new version of the 100-400mm and here are some results from the one day of testing I was lucky enough to get...

First impressions are that the lens is very like the EF70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM. Gone is the much maligned trombone zoom in favour of a twist zoom, although the lens barrel does extend at the end of the zoom range but without any effect on stability. Optically? Wowsers! I tried it on the EOS 7D Mark II and it's so sharp it cut my head off! That will teach me to be more careful around it in future... It is absolutely razor sharp and all of the portraits I took that afternoon were just as I wanted them to be: very, very sharp indeed! I pushed the lens a lot, shooting at the 400mm range, which on the EOS 7D Mark II is an effective 640mm. I only shot portraits that day, so the real action test will come when I get one for some aircraft or running otters, as predictably I will need to push this lens to the limit...

So from my one day of testing I was very very impressed; so much so that I have ordered one. It gave me razor sharp results, sharp enough for the most demanding of professional clients, and was a delight to use as it's so light and compact compared to my beloved 200-400mm zoom. I cannot wait to start using it in anger.

Taken with a pre-production EF100-400mm lens at ISO 800. Again, maximum sharpness from the lens combined with the AF tracking on the EOS 7D Mark II gives a razor sharp otter image. These guys rarely stop moving so this kind of picture is tough to get. Great bokeh once again.

Taken with a pre-production EF100-400mm lens at ISO 800. Again, maximum sharpness from the lens combined with the AF tracking on the EOS 7D Mark II gives a razor sharp otter image. These guys rarely stop moving so this kind of picture is tough to get. Great bokeh once again. © Andy Rouse

Taken with a pre-production EF100-400mm lens at ISO 800. An image where the zoom always wins over the fixed lens, allowing maximum creativity with the framing to give a very commercial composition.

Taken with a pre-production EF100-400mm lens at ISO 800. An image where the zoom always wins over the fixed lens, allowing maximum creativity with the framing to give a very commercial composition. © Andy Rouse