300 f/4 IS w/1.4x OR 100-400 IS ?

Discussion in 'Canon EOS' started by dan_elkins, Nov 14, 2011.

  1. I am seeking experienced user feedback about the FOCUS performance and IQ comparison between the EF 300mm f/4 IS with a 1.4x ext. and the EF 100-400mm L straight up. I am going to buy one of these lenses to be used mostly for Bird/Wildlife and would like to get the best performer in AF and IQ at their perspective longest focal range (420 & 400). My #1 interest is IQ as I can work with whatever the AF has to offer. Much thanks!
  2. If you're going to be stuck at 400, you'll get the best bang for the buck with the 400/5.6.
    If you're going with a zoom, I'd go with the 70-300L over the 100-400. It focuses faster.
    I sold my 300/4 to fund the 70-300L. No regrets.
  3. im not expert but from what I have heard here and elsewhere is that if you are using a monopod /tripod and need the longest focal length, you might as well consider the 400 f5.6 L. it does not have IS but its the sharpest of the 3 they say and much AF much faster.
  4. Dan, unfortunately I can't help you with hands on experience as I don't use converters. That said, I believe the use of a converter on the 300F4 would slow it's focus noticeably-to the point that the 100-400 Zoom would be a more flexible and better overall choice. IQ, from what imagery I've seen posted, would be slightly better with the 100-400 zoom than that particular prime +converter. (As long as you get a zoom that was produced more recently, the early releases seemed to have issues @400 whereas the newer ones don't).
    Christian- I have both the 300F4 IS and the 400F5.6- I believe the reason that the 400 seems to focus MUCH faster is that it doesn't have IS. When I use the 300F4 with the IS turned off, it focuses noticeably faster than when it's turned on. I havn't done, nor do I plan to do any extensive testing wrt this, just offering an observance and possible reason for the difference.
    Eric, interesting swap. May I ask what your primary use is? I'd love to have the flexibility of the 100-300 zoom, but giving up an extra stop at the long end (and increased DoF) would limit it's use fairly often. I don't get as much use out of my 400 F5.6 as I'd like for that very reason.
  5. I don't know which has better IQ (I don't have the zoom), but using the 1.4x on my 300 f/4 slows the AF down considerably. I'd either get the 400 prime or go for the convenience of the zoom.
  6. For 400mm use get a 400mm lens. The 300 F4 is a great lens but the 1.4x slows AF down and degrades image quality to
    the 100-400 level. If you shoot 300 more than 400 then the 300 F4 is hard to beat and is clearly better than the 100-400.
    So for 400mm get a 400mm lens, for versatility get the 100-400 and if you use 300mm a lot get the 300 F4 IS. In terms of
    IQ the 300 is the best until you add the 1.4x - the 300 is a really good and relatively compact and inexpensive lens. But it
    is only a 300. Play with these test crops to compare the lenses
  7. I have the 300 f4 IS L with the 1.4 Tele-converter. It is a sharp, reasonably light weight combination. I bought the 300 because it was recommended in this forum. However, I was missing some shots, because sometimes my target was so close it more than filled the frame. I bought a used 100-400 IS L. It is more versatile than the 300 + 1.4, but it is definitely not as sharp. I have used both lenses hand held and with a tripod. If I could only have one or the other I would take the 300 +1.4
  8. I've used both -- I own the 100-400 and my son owns the 300/4 + 1.4.
    The 300/4 + 1.4 combo is quite a bit sharper than the 100-400 at 400. It also may be faster, though I'm not positive on this.
    The 100-400 adds flexibility and is quite sharp at mid ranges but isn't stunning at 400.
    My son, by the way, is a regularly published bird photographer; the 300/4 + 1.4 combo is his go-to glass for most situations.
  9. What body are you using? I know that as I've moved from a T2i to 40D to 7D for sports actions I've discovered that lenses whose AF performance annoyed me have suddenly gotten a lot better with the better AF systems.
  10. I have a 100-400 and a 300 2.8 IS and a 1.4 and a 2x TC. I've used a 300 f4 +/- 1.4 TC and a 400 5.6. All of them are very capable of producing stellar shots. All of them have strengths and weaknesses..... when you nail focus and exposure with that great subject and a perfect background and do the right thing with post processing.... no one will be able to tell what lens you did or didn't use.
    In medicine.. docs are referred to as "lumpers" and "splitters".... the lumpers are more practical and look at the big picture... the splitters wallow in the minutia and know lots of details. I think this applies to photography... I'm a lumper.....I print my own images so for me that is the output... there is the final judgement...that said...
    On a 17 X22 matted and framed with proper glass and viewed at an appropriate distance no one will ever be able to see a difference in a 300 f4 with a 1.4 vs 100-400.
    Every single lens is a compromise. If you can handle them all you are really going to like the way one feels and maybe not so much another. I do not like the 400 5.6 because handheld I can see all my camera shake.... has nothing to do with the final product when using the right shutter speed... I just didn't like it.
    The 100-400L usually will loose the IQ battle especially when evaluated by splitters. It has taken me several years to appreciate the strengths of this lens. It is clearly the most versatile.... Although no one ever brings up this lens in portrait discussions at 100mm it does a fine job... also great for pano's.... I can carry it around collapsed to 100 and without a lens hood and almost be inconspicuous whereas my 300 2.8 with the lens hood on is a monster.
    When I wanted something more than the 100-400L I considered all that you considered and decided the only way to get significantly better IQ was to take the leap to a 300 or 400 2.8 and I went with the 300 2.8 IS due to size weight and price considerations.
    There is no right answer to be found here.... shoot with the lenses.. rent them... borrow them... buy one used from a reputable dealer and you can likely sell it for what you paid...
    I check here everyday to see if there is a deal on something I really want...
    So in summary.... you asked a very specific question: Focus and IQ 300 f4 + 1/4TC vs. 100-400L... I'd say flip a coin or rent them both and do the proper side by side comparison. Have fun!
    Here is one of my favorite shots with a 300 f4 with a 1.4 TC.
  11. I have both the 300/4+1.4X and the 100-400. They are both excellent and both produce very usable results.
    I like the 300/4 because it's very light and very sharp and also easy to use hand held. I don't find adding the 1.4X degrades the image quality or focus speed to an unacceptable degree. I use the 300/4+1.4X combination for relatively static sports, such as cricket and for birds.
    The 100-400 is the lens I use most commercially, for polo. I also use the lens for rugby. The only real problem with it is the minimum focus distance. At 6.5 m setting, players can move into that range very quickly and it's very difficult to change the range when tracking. Set to the short range of 1.8 m hunting and slow focus is a real problem for subjects some distance away. The push-pull focus rather than the usual twist focus takes a little getting used to.
    I have no experience with the 400/5.6, but the other two each have merits that would put it on your shopping list.
  12. If you're using it for birds and wildlife I highly recommend the 100-400L. I normally shoot mine at the long end but, having the push/pull zoom is invaluable when locating and tracking flying birds. There are also many times that I am able to get close enough that I need less than 300mm so a fixed focal length lens of 300mm or 400mm would be to limiting. I think that too many people get caught up in nit picking IQ when there are so many more variables such as the conditions shot in, ISO, exposure, user ability and experience, etc... that will ultimately have more influence over IQ than the lens itself.
  13. In terms of IQ, it is a push. The 100-400 should be a tad sharper than the 300/4 with the 1.4x II (don't know about the III) but really the two are so close that there is no difference in practice.
    AF performance with the 100-400 will be a bit faster, though not noticeably so. The 300/4 has an advantage in the IS department, but the 100-400 should be more than adequate. The 300/4 wins in the minimum focus distance department, which is something that you may or may not care about. The 300/4 should be a bit more reliable in inclement weather, but once you add the extender, that is another set of contacts to get wet/dirty so I don't know if there is much of an advantage there.
    Skip the 400/5.6 that others have suggested. Under real-life conditions, unless you are willing to use mirror lock-up, tripod, and a remote release (and you have the appropriate technique to make it all work), the 300/4+1.4x or 100-400 will both produce much better images simply due to the fact that they are stabilized. Sure, the 400/5.6 is the sharpest of the bunch in theory... but only in theory.
    Personally, unless you already have the 100-200mm range covered with something you like to use, you should definitely get the 100-400. Sure, most bird work will be at the long end, but nature has a way of surprising you sometimes, and the flexibility of a zoom comes in quite handy.
  14. I suggest the 400mm 5.6. I have had this lens for 2 years and have NEVER had the need to use mirror lock up, tripod or a remote, as a recent post stated. This lens will deliver the sharpest IQ of the lenses you are considering. The 300mm f/4 would be my second choice. This lens has worked well for me with the 1.4 extender. The results are quite nice, but short of the 400mm 5.6. Consider the zoom only if you will be needing to use the full 100mm to 400mm range. If your main consideration is the 300mm to 400mm range, get one of the primes.
  15. Jack, then you are either only shooting in bright conditions or are simply not getting the most out of this lens. The 400/5.6 will deliver the best results at higher shutter speeds, but once shutter speeds drop, residual vibrations from you and the mirror simply ensure that stabilized lenses will deliver better results unless you work very hard at things. If you don't believe me, take out a test chart and try for yourself as I think you will be very surprised at how much your IQ drops off with your shutter speeds.
    However, my suspicion is that since you have managed to never use a tripod (much less MLU or a remote release), you are simply only shooting under very bright conditions. While this is fine and good for you, this may or may not be what the OP intends to do and he should be aware of this very real limitation of all non-stabilized lenses. Personally, I find myself shooting at lower EVs all of the time, and here stabilization presents a decided and measurable advantage. I've verified this myself time and time again in the field (due to inadvertent switching of the IS systems on my various teles) and under controlled conditions with a test chart.
  16. Shutter speed is indeed critical at these focal lengths, whether hand held or on the tripod. I suggest considering ISO 800 and even ISO 1600 to get the SS up over 1/1000-sec. I hand hold my 500mm for 99% of my shots now and have a higher keeper ratio than when I was using a heavy tripod and gimbal for 99% of my shots. Raising SS was the key. My default ISO is 800 and I pull it down when I'm in direct, bright sun, which is seldom.
  17. Randall:
    Eric, interesting swap. May I ask what your primary use is?​
    It's a general catch-all zoom for me. I have two zooms: 24-105 and 70-300. The 70-300 makes a nice walkabout telephoto zoom. It weighs slightly less than the 300/4, and is 2-3 inches shorter (in the shorted position.) I've used the 70-300L to shoot my niece's soccer game when we were traveling and I was traveling lightly.
    I had a 300/4 IS. I was very happy with it, both "bare" and with a 1.4x extender. (The 2x extender didn't provide any image quality advantages over shooting with the 1.4x and then cropping.)
    I bought a 300/2.8 IS. I was (and am) ecstatic with it, to the point where I no longer used my 300/4. I read several reviews raving about the 70-300L, so I decided to sell equipment I no longer used to get something I would. The 70-300L is extremely fast to acquire focus. Almost on par with the 300/2.8. Much faster than the 300/4. Much faster than a friend's 100-400.
  18. All extenders (teleconverts) eat light and slow auto focus. I have used several brands, and all give less than expected results in image quality. I only use them when the subject is out of reach of my longest lens and It’s the choice of a fair quality photo or none at all. If you are using IS it will slow down auto focus even more. I usually shoot from a tripod when using extenders so I turn off the IS anyway. My 100-400mm is sharp throughout its range. If someone finds IQ or focus falling off they probably should have the lens recalibrated by Canon. I shoot small birds in dim jungle light with my 100-400 with no problems. I also own Canon L prime lenses, they are crisp but lack the usability of the zooms, so they usually stay at home, this stuff is heavy to carry around you know. I don’t believe the speed of any lens is as important as the speed of the brain using it. Feel free to visit my gallery and look at the bird photos, most of them have been shot with the 100-400mm.
  19. Don:
    If you are using IS it will slow down auto focus even more.​
    I'm not sure about that. The following is from Chuck Westfall:
    Q. I am about to buy a new Canon 70-200mm lens (either f/2.8 or f/4) and am trying to decide if I should buy the lens with IS. I have taken thousands of alpine ski race pictures with the 70-200mm f/4 without IS (using 20D and now 50D cameras). I am usually shooting with shutter speeds of 1/250 to 1/1000 depending on how much light I have. I also often pan the racers at two or three gates and with this high shutter speed I am wondering if I should even use the IS feature. Can you comment on whether using IS would be beneficial for this high-speed sports photography?
    A. You would be better off with the IS version for skiing photos, for a reason that might not be obvious at first glance. Although chances are good that you'll be using a shutter speed so fast that the IS system has no effect, use of IS will present a steadier image to the camera's AF detection system. Thus, if you're using predictive focus, the IS system may provide better data for the AF system to base its calculations on. However, if you're just zone focusing manually and waiting for the subject to pass through the area you've preselected, then you might as well shut off the IS function and save some battery power.
  20. Thanks everyone for your feedback on my post, there are many good pieces of advice and ideas. I think I should have been more detailed in my post but didn't want to make too a long story. But, that said, I have experience shooting birds before digital was around and familiar with technique and fast changing situations. I have been using a 70-300 on a 7d with good result, but want more. I would buy a 400/2.8 if I (my wife) could justify the cost for a hobby. So I am mainly interested in the 400mm IS range of lens. As I mentioned in the original post that IQ at 400mm is primary (I am looking to better my 70-300 which these two lenses should). I also know that unexpected things can happen and zooms cover most of those but I have a zoom but mainly interested in 400mm IS. I use a rock solid tripod when I feel like carrying it and since IQ is my goal I only bump ISO when I have to. Bird and wildlife was a hobby 15-20 years back and I am in a position to get back into it and the 400mm is my start.
  21. Bought the 100-400. Tried several. Never got sharp enough results.​
    Yeah... About that:
    And so on... And on, and on...
    Only ever needed one 100-400mm since 2006, as well. There's a lot to be said for getting a piece of kit and sticking with it long enough to learn how to get the best out of it.
    All of these are with the 7D incidentally, Dan - all handheld. Oh, and the crow image had a 1.5x Kenko TC in the mix too. And the seals were shot from a boat bouncing around on the North Sea off the north east coast of England.
  22. Great samples Keith. I know what you mean about learning your gear.
  23. Once I bought the 100-400 I don't think I ever used the 300mm f4L (w or w/o tc1.4) again. That said I've used the 400mm f4.0 DO lens recently and was amazed at how sharp, fast and light it is. What a marvel. But, I realize that's for another discussion, not this one. Good luck with your decision.
  24. f72


    the 1-4 is one of the best tele zoom lenses i have used you can read this review: http://www.the-digital-picture.com/Reviews/Canon-EF-100-400mm-f-4.5-5.6-L-IS-USM-Lens-Review.aspx
  25. Keith and Dan: Just a point of clarification: Keith: Glad you got a sharp copy. A former associate that I used to shoot with, has a decent copy as well. After several purchases from a couple of different vendors, I gave up trying to find one as sharp as his. I just borrow his when I need that zoom range. And IF Canon sells a new one I will try again. Don't assume someone posting here is a newbie because they have a different experience than you.
    As many others have said elsewhere, rent the combo of lenses you wish to purchase before you buy. Decide for yourself.

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