Best Alternative to Canon 100-400mm L IS

Discussion in 'Canon EOS' started by chinmaya, Oct 17, 2008.

  1. Considering the contrast, and sharpness of Canon 100-400mm L IS, which alternative lens/lens-combo would you buy?
  2. That's a hard question. The combination of zoom-range, price, image-quality, stabilization, and size in the 100-400mm IS is nearly unique.

    I'd consider the Sigma 150-500mm OS as very similar (although probably a bit lower IQ).

    In the purely alternative range, a 70-200mm zoom combined with the 300mm f/5.6 and 400mm f/5.6 primes would be similar in range and aperture; the combo would be much larger and heavier. You would miss IS on the 300mm.
  3. I am using this set up as a close alternative. A Canon 70-200mm F4 L is usm with a Canon 1.4x TC II teleconverter.
    I use a Canon 40D camera with a crop factor of, figuring in the 1.6 crop factor and the 1.4 tc that brings me out to
    448mm length. 70-200mm x 1.6=112-320mm then add 1.4x = a 156-448mm lens. Now you have a 156-448mm F/5.6
    Still not quite as long as a 100-400 on a 1.3 crop camera that = 130-520mm or a 1.6 crop camera
    A lot less expensive AND a lot lighter to carry around. I can see no difference in IQ myself.
    This is not my "opinion", I have this set up and use it. Prints to 8x10 larget so far show me no loss of IQ.
    For "birding" I don't even try to use a 500 or 600mm lens - I use a scope with T-2 adapter, etc... Digiscope set up which
    is way way less expensive.
    Best Wishes, Harold
  4. Opps - my bad. There is no 300mm f/5.6. The one I was thinking of was the 300mm f/4 IS. It's the 400mm f/5.6 that doesn't have IS...
  5. How about the Nikon 80-400mm?

    Seriously though, I hate the 100-400 because I can't stand push/pull zooms. I went for the 70-200 f2.8 IS combined
    with the 300mm f4 IS and a 1.4x teleconverter. I know it's an expensive way of avoiding the 100-400 but there's far
    more speed, versatility and image quality this way. If I were to do it again I would choose the 70-200 f4 IS instead of
    the f2.8.
  6. Jamie Robertson, "How about the Nikon 80-400mm?"

    One thing: "screw drive focusing".

    If Nikon came out with an 80-400mm AF-S VR that would be killer! (IMHO)
  7. Geoff, I was just joking my friend ;-)

    Screw drive focusing.... eeeh, YUK!
  8. Jamie Robertson, "Geoff, I was just joking my friend ;-) - Screw drive focusing.... eeeh, YUK!"

    D'oh! I missed the "Seriously though" ...

    Strangely enough, when I was in my short flirtation with Nikon gear, I considered getting the 80-400mm VR. Many
    of my colleagues thought if would focus "fast enough", but there were enough dissenters that I opted for an
    alternative... I was torn because I was having pretty good success with the screw-drive 80-200mm f/2.8...

    OTOH, I know some Canophiles who have seriously considered getting a Nikon body just to have the 200-400mm f/4
    AF-S VR...
  9. stb


    Would I dare mentionning the Olympus 50-200/2.8-3.5 SWD? In the tests it wipes the floor with the Canon 100-
  10. "In the tests it wipes the floor with the Canon 100- 400."

    Not from 201mm to 400mm, it doesn't.

    Apples and oranges.
  11. the sigma 80-400 OS has been getting get reviews...lots of folks like it and it's 500 cheaper than the canon...
    the guy that said the 70-200 f4 with 1.4 was close because of the 1.6 on his camera fails to think that the 100-400 gets the same 1.6 and is then a 640 at 5.6....
  12. stb


    "Not from 201mm to 400mm, it doesn't."

    The Olympus 50-200mm on a 4/3 camera is equivalent in field of view to a 100-400mm on a 5D. And it does wipe the floor
    with it all along the zoom range.
  13. This may not answer the question. I wish Canon had the 200-400/4 comparable to the Nikon's.
    In its absence, maybe the Nikkor 200-400/4 VR,
  14. It seems you are skeptical of the 100-400. As mentioned above, it fills a gap in the lens line up that really has no equal. I would suggest you rent it. It is an amazing lens. I suspect many of the negative post you read about it are from people who don't even own it. As for the push/pull zoom, I love it. Very easy to acquire moving wildlife and such with it at 150 mm or so, then quickly zoom in to 350 mm or so and get the shot. So easy to catch a moving subject with this lens. If your interest in wildlife photography and you don't have $4,000+ to spend, the choice is pretty clear. I suspect if you rent one and give it a try, you may agree. An amazing lens. Below is a link to some images I took in Alaska in May. I got my first dslr about 11 months ago and consider myself a beginner. They were all taken hand held from a moving/bobbing boat in the ocean. Most are heavily cropped as well. When the link opens, click slideshow in the upper right.
  15. I love my 100-400mm IS. It's on my camera almost all the time!
  16. There are rumors of an updated 100-400 being redesigned. It is so slow, but it is actually pretty sharp for such a long ranged zoom. From what I've read and heard, strictly specualation, it will be faster auto focusing and F4 instead of F5.6.

    This doesn't really answer your question but if you aren't in a rush maybe wait a few months and see if Canon announces something.
  17. What's so bad about the 100-400? I have one, while I don't use it as a 'walk around lens' when I want teh reach it's had to beat. It's sharp and contrasty although it is a bit heavy.

    Ed K.
  18. Joseph, the 80-400 OS Sigma is apparently out of production. However, I find these lenses, which look promising:

    Sigma 150-500mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM
    Sigma APO 120-400mm F4.5-5.6 DG OS HSM

    Anyone know where I can find any good reviews of these lenses?
  19. I don't own it yet, but it's the next lens on my "Must Have" list. I have read every post like this I have come across over the last 2 years, and after much comparison it always is the one that ends up back on the top of my list.
  20. @ Sarah

    If you do a Google search for that Sigma lens you will get a bunch of pro and amateur reviews. They mostly end with a summary that states the Sigma's Auto Focus is slower and the IQ less than the Canon 100-400.
  21. Only one that comes to mind is the Sigma 120-300mm 2.8. I chose it over the 100-400L, its sharper and built like a tank,
    not to mention its a 2.8. (the only complaint I hear about the 120-300 is its not as sharp as the Canon 300mm 2.8, but then
    again its a zoom and its $1100 cheaper too). I use the 85L and the Sig 120-300 for all my shoots.
  22. i screwed up - i meant the 120 - 400
  23. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    > Considering the contrast, and sharpness of Canon 100-400mm L IS, which alternative lens/lens-combo would you buy < (and to keep IS).

    1. EF70 to 200F2.8L IS USM + EF 300F4L IS + x1.4MkII

    or (more money)

    2. EF70 to 200F2.8L IS USM + EF 300F2.8L IS + x1.4MkII

  24. A number of professional equestrian photographers use the 100-400 and get commercially viable results from them.

    I've got that range covered with a 70-200, a 300/4 IS and a 1.4x. I'm very happy with the results I get and the kit has been built up over time, so the considerably greater expense wasn't all shelled out at one time. The 100-400 covers the range without the need for lens changes and weighes a lot less than the combination of lenses, especially if the 70-200 is the 2.8 IS.

    I've tried out the 100-400 and was moderately pleased with the results, but I'm not wholly convinced I would want to buy one.

    My 2p.
  25. Another vote for this combination:

    EF70 to 200F2.8L IS USM + EF 300F4L IS + x1.4MkII
  26. Chinmaya Sn,
    I'm not sure why you put the question.
    I own the 100-400 L USM IS and love it.
    Nothing compaires with this one, except for combo's.
    And I prefer 1 instead of combo's, 'cause changing lenses is always a risk (time, dirt, accidents), brings more weight and will cost more.
    IMO adding 1.4 converters is not increasing quality and speed and even AF might become problematic.
    However, Sigma 120-300mm 2.8 + 1.4 TC would be my alternative if I had to get an alternative.
  27. if you are thinking Nikon and you have a lot of money then the 200-400 f4 VR is the lens to get.
  28. [[There are rumors of an updated 100-400 being redesigned. It is so slow, but it is actually pretty sharp for such a long
    ranged zoom. From what I've read and heard, strictly specualation, it will be faster auto focusing and F4 instead of F5.6.]]

    As good as an f/4 version sounds, that would translate into a much larger and much more expensive lens. (Nikon's 200-
    400 f/4 sells for over $5,000.) There may well be room for that in the lineup, but I hope they'd still keep the 5.6 version
    around for those wanting a lighter lens or lacking the huge budget.
  29. I'm pretty happy with my 100-400mm.

    It's the lens to carry when you can't use a tripod in places like Galapagos:

    Darn good for outdoor sports, too, when you want to move around and not be tethered to a 400/2.8.
  30. Sigmas new 120-400 os afs is a great lens works fine hand held, i just picked one up for my D300 $809.00
  31. I have used the 100-400 and although it is not the lens for me (I hate push/pull zooms) I think it gets too much criticism. As others say, for it's price and versatility it is a brilliant lens. If you can live with push/pull zooming them get one.
  32. This is a good average lens. It is not a low light, fast moving, point and click lens. In good daylight, this lens just rocks! Very sharp, wonderfully contrasty. Canon 100-400mm L IS a very versatile lens. You can use this lens for just about anything, it's not as sharp as prime lenses, but it comes very close.
  33. I also own the 100-400. I took it and the 70-200 f/4L on a trip to Zambia. I probably shot 95% of my photos with the 100-400. Everything from handheld in good light to 3200 ASA on long exposures resting (with a beanbag screwed on the lens) on the side rail of the Range Rover at night. Loved it. It is an incredible lens in my opinion.
  34. For the full focal length range I think it is the best choice.

    That said... Because of my personal shooting style and the impact it has on budgetary concerns, I have three lenses covering that range. I use my 100/2.8 USM Macro for most situations in which I need a 100mm lens. My 100-300/5.6L gets *occasional* use when I occasionally need something in that range. My 400/5.6L takes up the long end of that range. The 100 and 400 get pretty frequent use, but for various reasons I generally don't fine myself reaching for the 100-300. Part of that is the lens itself, which is slow and slow focusing, but most of it is just me.
  35. There is no comparable alternative to the EF 100-400 L IS, and I'm considering picking one up myself. What reservations do you have about it? If it's just the cost, I'd save your pennies.
  36. The correct answer to your question is to have a variety of lenses. Usually the 300f4 and 1.4 extender.
    With so many people asking about how good the lens was I did a post:

    I still have the 100-400 and have enjoyed playing around with it, Its a fantastic lens. However I feel that in low light conditions it really isnt the right lens. Regretfully here you need a 400 f2.8L lens and that requires lots of money. Sigma's 120-300 f2.8 is still a very viable alternative with a sigma 1.4 extender.

    To all those people who dont get the point of a push/pull zoom, allow me to explain.
    Being human the vast majority of us only have two hands. With a moving subject you need to simultaneously be able to hold the camera and take the picture with hand 1, Zoom with hand 2, and if you are using an extender of are overriding the focus you will need to be doing this as well.

    Try using a 2x extender on the 70-200 f2.8 with anything other than a 1D (or EOS 3) camera and taking a picture of a subject approaching you when you have to zoom and focus at the same time, you will realise why twist zooms are a crap system, and why a Pushpull zoom enabling you to zoom and focus with one hand is a great thing
    you are one of those lucky people with three arms and hands

    Cheers G
  37. The best alternative to a Canon 100-400mm L IS is a used Canon 100-400mm L IS! I paid about $900 for mine on eBay, and at that price I feel it has no equal!
  38. Wonderful images Brent.
  39. I wouldn't necesssarily want all my zooms to be push-pull types.

    However, the 100-400 has a relatively large telephoto magnification range and a twist zoom would be impractical. Being able to change focal length rapidly without losing a stable grip on the lens is one big advantage of the push-pull type.

    While an f/4 version (100-400 or 200-400) would be an amazing lens, I don't think I would want to either pay for it or carry it around! (While we're dreaming, what about a 100-400 f/4 DO IS? I might carry that, but who would buy me one?)
  40. The Sigma 100-300 f/4 works for me, with a 1.4 attached to it, I have 140-420 at constant f/5.6
  41. Depends on the camera (Full frame or APS-C) and what you shoot. I shoot a lot of ski racing so I tried a friends 100-400 but was disappointed. The lens is slow to focus (especially when tracking) and does not give very fast shutter speeds. I was also not very impressed by it's edge of frame performance. Thus I bought the 70-200 F2.8 (non-IS to save money) and 1.4x and 2x convertors. the 2x convertor is not worth the money as it is a poor performer but the 1.4x is good on the 70-200. I think that indoor sports may also be a problem as i have a son who plays ice hockey and find F2.8 to be marginal as I can't get better than 1/125 of a second. In general for ice hockey I use an old canon FD with a 85mm F1.2 or 135mm F2 for this purpose (although I miss AF). i still shoot film and will only move to Digital when I get a 5D Mark II later this year. I suspect that the APS-C will help the edge performance (we have a Digital rebel that produces OK pictures with a very poor lens that is unacceptable on my 1Vs). Having an ability to work above 400ISO will also help the digital case (this is one of the reasons I am getting the new 5D). A friend of mine has the 1D Mark IIN and he has both the 100-400 and 70-200 and a rarely see him use the 100-400. I would also be careful of non-Canon lenses if you plan to keep the camera. they are not as compatible as the Canon lenses - for example my Sigma 14mm EOS lens will not work on digital cameras but works on all film EOS cameras whereas Cannon lenses of the same (pre-digital) vintage will work on all EOS cameras. The lens physically fits the Digital camera but the camera will not function.
  42. Is the push pull zoom a problem when you have the lens mounted on a tripod?
  43. No problem with the push/pull on a tripod. Some undue criticism to the push/pull if you ask me. I love it. It is easy to acquire wildlife then zoom in and get the shot while keeping them in the frame the whole time. Very easy to master.
  44. Thanks Dan, I actually put my hands on a 100-400 today and now I understand how it works and how it mounts on a tripod. Actually, I think the push/pull system is great. That 100-400 is now residing on my 5D.
  45. Congratulations man. I am sure you will enjoy that lens. When you look at the versatility and focal range of that lens, I consider it a true value. Below are some images from mine. Many are heavily cropped but still fairly sharp. The wildlife images were from Alaska in May. On a boat bobbing around in the ocean and hand held. I would have never got these shots without the 100-400. Keep in mind that I am a beginner with poor post processing skills:) But these images will give you an idea of what the 100-400 will do.

    Alaska wildlife


    Full moon (click all sizes and open full screen image)

    Sailboats on Nantucket
  46. I love my 100-400. It's an outstanding lens.
  47. This summer, out on my friend's boat, it was wonderful for whales. He had a 300 IS and had to use two cameras to capture wider shots, but I could just zoom. The push-pull hate, I just don't get it.
  48. Nice shots Lance.
  49. "However, the 100-400 has a relatively large telephoto magnification range and a twist zoom would be impractical"

    Someone needs to tell Sigma (maker of a 50-500mm and a 80-400mm OS), Nikon (80-400mm VR) and Tokina (80-400mm) that - they all have twist zooms.
  50. "Someone needs to tell Sigma (maker of a 50-500mm and a 80-400mm OS), Nikon (80-400mm VR) and Tokina (80-400mm)
    that - they all have twist zooms."

    Fair enough. I haven't used any of these for comparison. The Canon shifts a lot of glass a long way when it
    zooms, and to do this with a twist would require either a fairly large angle of rotation, or a lot of torque.
    Maybe the other lenses have a different (?newer, ? ?better) design.
  51. Canon’s mythical 200-400 f4 IS seems like an ideal replacement of the ageing 100-400 L zoom. If Canon’s brings one out, it will no doubt be similar to Nikon’s lens specifications which weighs 3.27kg, 36cm long and cost approx AUD$9,500. Compared this with Canon’s 1.36kg, 19cm long and cost only AUD $2,000.

    I am sure it will be better lens at 400mm but depending on what you do with the your photos, is it $7,500 better? Whist the 100-400 is not the perfect lens, one can't deny that it is real good value.
  52. I read somewhere (Canon Rumors?) that the replacement for the current 100-400 will be a 4 - 5.6 compared to the present 4.5 - 5.6. There was no mention of a straight 4. A nice drream perhaps, but out of my budget.
  53. Hi Geoff,

    I owned and used the Sigma 80-400mm OS during my Noink days, and - I have to say - that the focus ring was
    butter-smooth (*too* smooth, probably - it needed a dedicated button to lock the lens in place to stop it from
    unwinding as I was walking!) and took very little effort to adjust.

    You'd be right to suspect however, that you'd need treble-jointed wrists to get from 80mm to 400mm quickly in one


    Mind you, the truth is I never needed to do that so quickly that the twist-zoom approach became a liability.

    Bottom line - it's incredibly easy to get used to either zoom approach - as long as you're *prepared to*.
  54. "I am sure it will be better lens at 400mm"

    Maybe, Terry - but I've seen *any number* of images taken with the Nikon 200-400mm that aren't in the same league as what I've been able to do with my humble 100-400mm!

  55. I have tried the Sigma and the Tamron and will tell you that, after purchasing the Canon, there is not 'best alternative'. For what it is, which on my 20d is 160-560 L IS lens, is.... great. I use it for trips and, now, mostly, for my sons sports events. This gets you close and yet allows you to very quickly pan back when the action comes towards you. I think that it is just as easy as a twist system once you get used to it. And just being able to slap on one lens and know that I can get action, with one camera, both on the near and far sides of the field, takes a lot of stress out of parental picture taking. I have taken this lens whale watching, hiking, golfing and having the added reach and the L quality lens is above reproach. If you need it, take along a monopod and then you are ready to rock all day.


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