Finally! The Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens Announced!

Finally! The Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens Announced!

Eleven years ago, if you’d asked me which was my favourite lens, without hesitation I would have told you the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L lens. It was versatile, with a huge zoom range, and light—a very hand-holdable lens. But that was back when cameras had 6 megapixels, and weren’t very demanding on our glass.

Then, the pixel count started increasing, and by 2006, as our cameras passed around 10 megapixels, we out-resolved the 100-400mm. It became soft, first at the long end, anything over 300mm, then as we hit 12 and higher megapixels, it pretty much became unusable. I eventually sold mine in 2008, but I’ve missed this lens dearly since.

Well, it looks like I am set to fall in love all over again, as Canon have just announced the 100-400mm Mark II lens! My order is in, and I’m now waiting impatiently for the end of December for my Christmas present!

You can order yours too from B&H here -> Note that this is an affiliate link, so you will be supporting the Podcast by clicking through. Thank you!

Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens

Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens

Canon’s Description

A long-reaching telephoto zoom characterized by a sophisticated optical design and advanced image stabilization technologies, the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens is part of the esteemed L-series developed for full-frame EOS DSLRs. One fluorite element and one Super UD element have been incorporated into the lens’ constriction, and both help to reduce aberrations and distortions throughout the zoom range in order to deliver notable clarity, image sharpness, and faithful color reproduction. An Air Sphere Coating has also been applied to lens elements in order to reduce lens flare and ghosting for more contrast-rich imagery. Benefitting the optical components of the lens, a four-stop effective Optical Image Stabilizer helps to minimize the appearance of camera shake and can be dedicated to different styles of shooting. Furthermore, a redeveloped rotation-type zoom ring pairs with an internal focusing mechanism, and an Ultrasonic Motor, to deliver quick and intuitive handling to benefit handheld shooting. Positioned as a versatile option for sports and wildlife photographers, this lens’ list of attributes make it a viable telephoto zoom for a variety of shooting applications.

Housed within a weather-resistant barrel, this lens also features fluorine coatings on the front and rear elements for protection against fingerprints and smudges from affecting image quality. Zoom control is complemented by a dedicated tension ring for adjusting zoom torque. Additionally, other refined design elements include a tripod collar that can be attached or detached with the lens mounted to the camera and an included lens hood that permits easy control over specialty filters with the hood in place.

  • IMG_437728Telephoto zoom 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 lens is compatible with full-frame EOS DSLRs, as well as APS-C sized sensors where it will provide a 35mm-equivalent focal length of 160-640mm.
  • One fluorite element and one Super UD (Ultra Low Dispersion) element help to correct chromatic aberrations throughout the zoom range for a high degree of sharpness, clarity, and color accuracy.
  • An Air Sphere Coating (ASC) has been applied to lens elements to reduce backlit flaring and ghosting for maintained light transmission and high contrast in strong lighting conditions.
  • An Optical Image Stabilizer helps to minimize the appearance of camera shake by up to four shutter speed stops to better enable working in low-light conditions and with slower shutter speeds. Additionally, three dedicated image stabilization modes are available-Standard, Panning, and During Exposure Only-and can be selectively employed to suit a variety of types of shooting.
  • An Ultrasonic Motor (USM), along with an internal focusing system, high-speed CPU, and optimized AF algorithms, are employed to deliver fast, precise, and near-silent autofocus performance.
  • The rotation-type zoom ring offers precise adjustment between zoom positions, especially when shooting handheld, and a zoom torque adjustment ring enables easy setting of the zoom tension for personalized control.
  • A weather-resistant design protects the lens from dust and moisture to enable its use in inclement conditions. Additionally, fluorine coatings have also been applied to the front and rear lens elements for further protection against fingerprints and smudging.
  • Nine rounded diaphragm blades contribute to a pleasing out of focus quality that benefits the use of shallow depth of field and selective focus techniques.
  • A redeveloped tripod collar can be attached or detached from the lens without having to remove the lens from the camera.
  • The included ET-83D lens hood incorporates a side window for easier adjustment of rotating filters with the hood in place.


Once again, you can get your Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens from B&H with this link!

What About my 200-400mm!?

I know that some of you will be wondering what this means for my 200-400mm, of which I speak so highly. Well, that is not going anywhere. The ability to just flick in that 1.4X extender, increasing the range to 560mm is priceless, and the sharpness is second to none. Better than most prime lenses.

But, it’s heavy, and really not that hand-holdable for any length of time. Two hours on a boat shooting Sea Eagles is about as much as is possible, and even that’s with lots of rests. With the 100-400mm, you can simply keep the camera to your eye for longer. It will be my lens of choice for wildlife while hand-holding, and I’ll still use the 200-400mm whenever I need that bit of extra reach, or when I can use a tripod.


Podcast 253 : Q&A #12 – What Tripod? What Walk Around Lens?

Podcast 253 : Q&A #12 – What Tripod? What Walk Around Lens?

In this post/podcast episode, I’m going to answer three questions from listener Paul Posey, from Louisville, Kentucky, (which coincidentally is the home of our friends over at Outdoor Photo Gear). Thanks very much for your questions Paul, and it looks like you sent the questions via the MBP Podcast Companion iPhone app, so thanks very much for picking that up too! You can get your copy of the app here, or by searching for MBP in the iTunes Store, and filtering under Apps.

First up, Paul asks “What tripod do you use in most of your work and why?”

Gitzo – Simply the Best

My Gitzo Tripod in Action

My Gitzo Tripod in Action

For a number of years now, I’ve only used Gitzo’s carbon fiber tripods, because I find them to provide support for heavy equipment and long lenses, despite them being relatively light because of the carbon fiber construction. They aren’t cheap, and I do think that there may well be some good alternatives on the market now too, but first let’s look at what I use. I actually have three Gitzo tripods, one is a very tall, old three series tripod, before the 6X range was introduced. 6X design basically stops the leg segments from turning when you loosen the locking nuts to adjust the height.

I also have a very large 5 series Gitzo that I use for video, but my main tripod is a GT3540L, but I don’t want anyone to get hung up on the numbers here, because this may well not be the optimal tripod for you. Also, Gitzo revs the last numerical digit when they release an updated version of each tripod, so the GT3540L is no longer available. So, instead of giving you model numbers, I’m going to discuss some of the options that you need to consider when buying a tripod. What I also suggest is that you take a look at the Gitzo Products Configurator, that can be found on the top page at Unfortunately, at the moment this seems to be broken, so I wasn’t able to reference the configurator in preparation for this Podcast. Hopefully it will be back up before you try to use it yourself. Anyway, here are the things to bear in mind when you start to select options for your tripod.

For your main, everyday use tripod, select something that will get your viewfinder at least to eye level, when the tripod is fully extended, but without using the center column. The sizes are available on the Web site, but you will need to look at the height of your tripod head, and the distance from the bottom of your camera to the viewfinder, but generally you can just add around 20cm to the height of the tripod, and that will get you close. The objective here is to stop you from having to stoop when you are framing your shots. There is nothing worse than bending over to compose your photographs, because you didn’t want to pay the cost of a tripod large enough to enable you to avoid doing this. You’ll soon find yourself not using the tripod at all, and that means the entire price of the tripod was a waste.

I say that you need the height to be “at least” to your eye level, because I actually like to try to get around a foot or so above my eye level, for a couple of reasons. The first one being that if you are shooting up at something, it makes it much more comfortable if you can increase the tripod height to a point that you can look up into the camera. You can get around this to a degree with an angle finder, and Liveview also helps, but still, getting the camera up high really helps here. Also, in deep snow, unless you put shoes on your tripod legs, which are available, the tripod will often sink into the snow, and you end up having to stoop again. The same can happen on soft sand to a degree, so again, having a foot or so leeway can help you to maintain the ability to compose your shots at eye level.

I should point out that although I talk about getting the viewfinder to eye-level, I do not propose that you shoot everything from eye level. Getting down low and shooting from other perspectives is important, but you don’t want to have to do this from necessity, because your tripod is too short.

I always go for the carbon fiber option, but the Basalt series is also a very good second choice, if the price of the carbon fiber range is a factor for you. It’s slightly heavier I believe, but still provides very rigid support for your gear, which leads us to another factor to bear in mind, which is the total weight of the equipment that you will be mounting on the tripod. You’ll need to weigh or calculate the weight of the heaviest equipment you intend to use. If you need the tripod to support a pro body with a 500mm lens for example, you’ll need to make sure that the tripod you select is rated for the total weight of these two pieces of gear, and then some, so that you can add a strobe or other equipment if necessary. I’ve used heavy equipment on tripods that were not rated that high, and it gets shaky, and results in blurry images.

If you want your tripod to collapse down small enough to be able to carry on to a plane, you’ll probably want to go for four segment legs, as opposed to three. Even then, if length is an issue, I suggest you check with the airline that you use most often to see what the maximum length of your baggage can be, and ensure that the collapsed tripod is inside this. I actually have to take the ball-head off of my tripod to get it on as a carry on, because it’s very close to the limit.

You’ll also want to keep the minimum shooting height in mind, if you like to get down nice and low for example. You’ll want the legs to open up really wide, and have the ability to remove the center column, to mount your camera at pretty much ground level. Also, being able to mount the camera upside down underneath the tripod can be a good way to get down really low, for a low perspective, or for macro shots of very small flowers etc. There are also other things such as off-center ball-head mounting, and leveling center columns, that you might want to consider if you shoot in rough terrain where the ground can sometimes be very uneven. There are a multitude of things to keep in mind, and I haven’t covered them all here, so I really do suggest you take a look at the Gitzo Web site, and see what would best match your needs.

I did mention that there are other options, and to my mind, the only other tripods that I would consider at the moment are the new range from Really Right Stuff and Induro. Really Right Stuff create incredibly well engineered equipment, and I’ve heard that their tripods live up to their incredibly high standards too. The problem is that they are a three section design right now, and they are too long to carry onto an aircraft, at least here in Japan. I do ship my longer tripods, but I like to be able to carry my main tripod on with me, so that kind of rules these out for me. Induro have a pretty impressive range out already, to say they haven’t been in this market very long, and they are certainly worth looking into as well. Some of their line is good for carry on, and the price point is more attractive than some of the Gitzo range. I haven’t actually used Induro products yet though, so I can’t vouch for them personally.

What Walkabout Lens and Why?

So, moving on, Paul’s second question what “What walk around lens do you use and why?”

This is a tough one, because I rarely just walk around, with just one lens. If I can realistically only take one lens with me, and I don’t have a specific objective that would require say a longer focal length, I will generally reach for the 24-70mm F2.8 L lens, or a 50mm lens. I love prime lenses, and I in fact only own three zoom lenses. But zoom lenses offer a lot of versatility, and the quality of modern zoom lenses is so good that you really don’t have to worry about the trade of in image quality any more.

Generally though, if I’m looking to keep my options open, and don’t have a specific subject in mind, I’ll pack two more lenses, even if I’m just going on walkabout. On the wide end, I’ll take either the 16-35mm F2.8 II L lens, or the 14mm F2.8 L lens. Again, the 16-35mm is a very versatile lens, but the 14mm is a great lens, and that extra 2mm really does seem to make a difference when you need to go really wide.

I generally will also take a 70-200mm F2.8 lens with me as well. In practice, I actually use the 70-200mm much more than the mid-range 24-70mm, but that is because I don’t really do much street photography, where I’m just walking around with one or two lenses looking for opportunities. My photography is generally targeted, with a specific location and subject, or range of subjects in mind. I usually take much more kit out with me too, but on occasion, I will take limited gear with me, if I don’t so much have a certain type of photograph in mind, or I do intend to do a spot of out of character street photography.

Old Bike, Old Shop

Old Bike, Old Shop

Of course, the 50mm focal length is something that many associate with street photography, and I have owned a 50mm F1.4 lens for some ten years now, and although these are pretty cheap, I even paid about half the cost of the lens to get mine renovated last year, and had the auto-focus fixed too, as it had broken. I also rebought the legendary 50mm F1.2 L lens, that I

originally bought and then sent back straight away on confirming that the focus mechanism is unstable when shooting close to the minimum focus distance with this lens. It’s just too good a lens to leave out of my kit bag though, and so I bought another one with the money that I got for my old 70-200mm lens earlier this year.

As I’m sure you’ve heard, many people think of it as a bit of a creative exercise to venture out with just a 50mm lens, and I support that theory. There is certainly something about the 50mm focal length, and I find myself shooting differently, and looking for different subject matter when I am out with a 50mm. Take this image for example, of an old bike outside an old shop. When I shot this, I was on a day out shopping with my wife. We were going to a part of town that we don’t visit often, so my curiosity was peeked. This is actually a good example of when I might take just a camera with one lens, and I sometimes make that the 50mm. Another reason people like the 50mm is because it has a perspective similar to that of the human eye, which makes images shot with a 50mm lens very natural.

Hotel Doorman

Hotel Doorman

Of course, the 50mm lens is also considered a very nice focal length for somewhat intimate portraits, like this one of a Hotel Doorman that I photographed in India. Not my best portrait, but I like the gentle expression on this gentleman’s face, so I thought I’d include this one too. 85mm of course is often considered a good portrait lens, and if I was going out to only shoot portraits, I might just take that lens, as I did once during a walk in a market in India, but again, I’m just adding more options here in response to a question about which one lens I would take out as my walkabout lens.

I guess this kind of proves the point that it really does depend on my objectives. Given the choice, I would also have at least two or three lenses with me, but when I do limit myself to one, it’s usually either the 50mm, or the 24-70mm F2.8. Outside of my own current line-up, I should certainly also mention the 24-105mm F4 L lens as a good walk about lens. I actually sold my old 24-105mm F4 lens to by the shorter 24-70mm, because I wanted the wider aperture, but if that isn’t a problem for you, the 24-105mm is a very versatile and incredibly sharp lens that I can certainly recommend. I got the below shot of my niece on her wedding day with the 24-105mm that is still one of my favorite candid portrait shots.

Lia on Her Wedding Day

Lia on Her Wedding Day

Anyway, hopefully you get the picture on the single walkabout lens. It’s certainly not an easy choice, and hopefully you will not be restricted to own just one lens.

The 100-400mm Versatile “Canon”

So, finally, Paul’s third question is “Have you used the Canon 100-400 lens?”

Oh yes! I should say though, that I have mixed feelings about the Canon 100-400mm lens. I saw from a follow up email from Paul though, that he is shooting with a film camera, in which case, by all means go for it if you are considering this lens. Even if you are shooting digital, you may not have to rule this lens out. Let me explain…

The 100-400mm can be hit and miss on image quality. It’s generally a little bit soft, if you are using high-resolution cameras like the Canon EOS 5D Mark II, at 21 mega pixels. These cameras basically out resolve the lens. This means that if you view images shot with the 100-400mm at 100%, you’ll see that the image is not all that sharp. Of course though, just because you create images at higher resolution doesn’t really mean the lens is any less sharp than it was with say a 12 mega pixel camera, but you can see that the quality is lacking with a higher resolution body.

I personally want my images to be as sharp as they possibly can be, and for me, if I find that the resolution of my current camera is out-resolving a particular lens, I start to avoid using that lens. Foolish? Maybe, but I can’t help it. I spend a lot of time and effort making images, and I want them to be the best that they can be. I also want to know that I can print my images out very large, and still be happy with the sharpness, and I give myself more options by shooting the sharpest possible base images.

If however, you are happy to know that you can easily make up to say 13×19″ prints that are probably going to look as good from the 100-400mm whether they are shot with on a 21 mega pixel camera or a 12 mega pixel camera, and you don’t foresee wanting to print really large at any point, then the versatility of the 100-400mm lens is second to none. I have to admit, I really do miss being able to go from 100-400mm with one air pumping swoosh of that lens.

One other thing to note about the 100-400mm, and this is where it gets a bit hit-and-miss, is that sharpness drops off as you get close to the 400mm focal length. I have some 200 images on my Web site that I shot with my old 100-400mm lens, and the ones shot around the middle of the focal length range are by far sharper than the ones shot at 400mm. This image of a Shoebill Stork for example is tack sharp, shot at 330mm.

Shoebill Stork

Shoebill Stork

In summary, if you want versatility over image quality at the long end, and you aren’t worried about really large prints, then the 100-400mm lens is an amazing lens, well worth the money. Before springing for this lens though, do note that there have been rumors of Canon bringing out a version II of this lens for a while now. It would certainly make sense, as they are going through their range of lenses, updating them all with improved resolution to match the resolving power of the modern DSLRs. The 100-400mm is a workhorse lens for many wildlife and sports photographers, so it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see an update of this lens in the relatively near future.

Podcast show-notes:

Music from Music Alley:


Download the Enhanced Podcast M4A files directly.

A Tribute to a Lens Gone By (Podcast 147)

A Tribute to a Lens Gone By (Podcast 147)

I’m feeling saddened, as I have just sold my old faithful 100-400mm L lens, alongside my 24-105mm F4 lens to pay for a 24-70mm F2.8 L lens. On the evening of the day before I sold them, I got the two lenses out of my gear cabinet, and took the protector filters off, and gave them a bit of a blow, to remove the few specs of dust on there. Although I didn’t really get that attached to my 24-105mm F4 lens, I was really saddened at the thought of saying goodbye to my 100-400mm. Today I’m going to reflect on this lens a little, because as you’ll hear, it really changed my photography. You’ll probably think I’m just a big softy as I get into this, but you’d be right, so I won’t make any excuses.

I was really attached to my 100-400mm. I bought it exactly 5 years ago, in July 2003, and it was my first white lens. It was only my second L lens, with the 17-35mm F2.8 L lens being my first. (Jees, have I pumped some money into Canon since then!) My only other lens at the time was a Canon EF 28-135mm F3.5-5.6 IS, standard zoom. Although there have been a few quantum leaps since as well, the 100-400mm lens was probably the lens that changed my photography more than any other. Until I bought this lens I’d been struggling to find my genre. I didn’t really know what I wanted to shoot. I’d always been interested in Nature and shot Landscapes when I could and had grabbed the odd bird shot, but I couldn’t get out to locations with truly beautifully scenery or real wildlife here in Japan. I was shooting around town and trying my hand at lots of stuff, and I’d always thought that Wildlife and Nature photography was more of an elitist type of photography, and that I would never have the equipment or mobility to really focus on it. The 100-400mm changed all that though. I bought it for my first trip to Hokkaido in August 2003. This trip itself was another pivotal point in my photographic life, as I started shooting nature shots that I never thought possible until then. Today we’re going to take a look at a few images that really stand out in my memory of this lens, kind of as a tribute to it, as it passes into the hands of another.

Kushiro Fawn

Kushiro Fawn

On that first trip, literally the morning after we arrived there, we got up before sun-up and made our way out to the Kushiro Marshlands. There was a wooden plank way, a kind of board walk I guess, that takes you into the marshes, and we were heading towards that, when we came across a deer with her fawn. I shot the fawn at 275mm with the 100-400mm lens, and we can see that photo in my online gallery and in the Enhanced Podcast if you are listening in iTunes or on an iPod. Let’s take a look at image number 156, in which we can see the fawn. If you are listening while looking at my photos on the Web site, you can type this number into the field where it says “Go To Photo” under the Podcast menu, or go to the Podcasts page and locate this episode in the list. There are thumbnails to each photo we’ll talk about there. Now, this photo is not great. It isn’t as sharp as I’d have liked, but still, this image changed me. I recall the excitement as I crept forward a little more, hoping not to scare the fawn away. I crouched down to eye level, partly again trying not to scare the animal, but also to get a better angle on the subject, instead of looking down on it. The next few steps did indeed scare the fawn off, but I’d got a shot or two that I could work with. I was hoping for shots like this when I bought the 100-400mm lens, but it was so exciting to actually be out there at 5:30AM, in the cold misty morning, shooting nature photographs.

At the time, my portable storage had no image viewer, and I didn’t have enough cards to store the whole week’s images, so I could only check the image on the LCD of my 10D for that day. It would be a week before I’d really see if this was a good shot or not, and as I say, it was not as sharp as I’d hoped, but a week later I was so happy that I’d got this shot. It was all just such an exciting time in so many ways.

The following year, in February of 2004, I took the lens back to Hokkaido, this time in the thick of winter, which was again, a first for my photography. I was on a Photography Tour with Japanese Photography Yoshiaki Kobayashi, who I’ve mentioned a number of times over the years. Of course, I’d used the 100-400mm in the six months between the last shot and the next, but image number 267, from this second visit to Hokkaido was another memorable image in my photographic evolution. I’d captured three Steller’s Sea Eagles sitting on the ice floe just looked so comical. Like three old guys complaining talking about someone as they watch them in the distance. Strangely, looking back at the EXIF data, this shot was also made at 275mm, which seems to be a nice focal length for this lens. I can also see from this shot that although I’d thought to up the ISO to 400, I was shooting hand-held at 1/30th of a second here, so I was relying pretty heavily on the lens’ image stabilization system.

Sea Eagles' Conversation #1

Sea Eagles’ Conversation #1

During a visit to Florida in March of 2004, I shot image number 350, which is another very memorable shot with this lens for me. I was on an one day eco safari into the Everglades, and was shooting from a converted school bus with no windows as this big alligator charged the bus. I had never realized until this point that alligators can actually stand up on all fours, and run pretty fast, looking more like a large nasty dog than an alligator, with their legs pointing almost straight down, instead of out to the sides, with their belly in contact with the ground. I remember tracking this guy as he got closer, and then filling the frame with his eye as he stopped his charge and looked up at us, as if to say “so that wasn’t scary enough for you!?”.

Alligators Eye #2

Alligators Eye #2

Gear Down - Approaching Runway...

Gear Down – Approaching Runway…

In the September of 2004 I shot image number 465. I called this shot “Gear Down – Approaching Runway…”. It always seems to me as though this butterfly was literally approaching a runway, maybe that orange cosmos flower, looking much like a big jumbo jet, as he entered the depth of field of the 100-400mm lens. This again was an amazing shot for me at the time, and still is in many respects. The face and front legs of the butterfly are the only parts of it that are in focus, and the wings are blurred through both motion and the fact that they are outside of the depth-of-field, which I found pretty cool. This was just such a difficult shot to pull off though, and I’d be lying if I said that I planned this. I’d just been shooting these butterflies as they flew around the cosmos flower patch, and although I’d been tracking in with this guy, the way it turned out was as much luck as it was judgment.

On the second of January in 2005, I shot image number 566. This hawk had just been fed some meat at a falconry display in a park here in Tokyo, and I got close enough with the 100-400mm to fill the frame with his head and shoulders for this wonderful portrait. I was shooting with the 20D now, with all the previous shots made with the 10D. I was at ISO 200 for this shot with the shutter speed set to 1/1250 of a second. This is actually as sharp as tacks, even though I was shooting at full stretch with the lens set to 400mm. This happened every so often, and following some resent tests to see if this lens really was soft at the extremes, I think that most of the bad press that this lens gets, including some of my own from time to time, may more from bad stabilization techniques than it is from the lens itself. It was always hit and miss though, so I also wonder if there were some loose elements inside, which made the lens soft for some shots, and sharp for others. I never really could figure it out, and although I’m confident of my own stabilization and holding techniques, the results with this lens were always unpredictable, which is one of the reasons it kind of fell out of favor. Still, I don’t want to bad mouth it too much today, because I’m still a little sad about its passing from my hands to another’s.

Bloody Beak

Bloody Beak

In March 2005, I shot the image that I spoke about in the very first episode of this Podcast, which is image number 595. Another incredibly sharp image, despite being shot at 400mm, in which we again get in nice and close to the head and part of the wings of a flamingo in the Ueno Zoo here in Tokyo. These are just a few of the nature photos that stick out in my mind over the first few years of owning this lens. Although this last one was shot in a zoo, still, as you’ll have seen, this lens enabled me to really start shooting nature, in ways that had simply not been possible to me until this time.

The Pink Flamingo's Stare [C]

The Pink Flamingo’s Stare [C]

The lens was not only used for wildlife though. Some of you will remember image number 827, which I shot at sunset having almost lost hope that the sun or Mount Fuji would show themselves of this day, and yet I was presented with one of the most spectacular scenes I’ve ever witnessed in my life. This was shot at 135mm, so I would definitely have used the 70-200mm if I owned it at this time, but as I didn’t, the 100-400mm was used for this sort of work as well for quite some time.

Drama through a Letterbox

Drama through a Letterbox

It also isn’t just about birds either. I have a wonderfully crisp memory of time I shot image number 927. I was just sitting in the cold snow, with the 100-400mm, watching this young mail deer just a few feet in front of me, again in Hokkaido, this time in February 2006. I can almost smell the cold and wood of the trees as I recall this precious though relatively short time while I snapped off a few frames of this deer in the snow. All great memories and none of the shots we have looked at so far would have been possible without the 100-400mm. You are probably asking yourself why I sold the lens if I have so many fond memories of using it. Here’s the thing though. From this lenses perspective, I made the fatal mistake of buying a 70-200mm F2.8 lens, in July of 2006, five months after this Hokkaido trip. From that point on, the 100-400mm lenses days were numbered. The 70-200mm F2.8 lens was probably responsible for changing the quality of my Nature and Landscape photography to almost as large a degree as the 100-400mm did for changing the direction of my photography, but that’s a different story. The problem now was that as much as I loved the 100-400mm lens, I rarely took it out for the two years following my buying the 70-200mm F2.8 lens, to the present day.

Ezo Deer in His "Element"

Ezo Deer in His “Element”

The last time I used the 100-400mm was in my December 2006 trip to Hokkaido. Although I now owned the 70-200mm, the versatility of the 100-400mm cannot be denied. Being able to just push that lens barrel forward and with a suck of air go from 100-400mm in a fraction of a second will always be something that I’ll miss. I have shot so many shots of the Japanese Red-Crowned Cranes with this lens that I really cannot choose a favorite, so I thought we’d look at one last shot from this lens, from the last day that I really used it, which is image number 1288. On the last day of my December 2006 trip to Hokkaido the weather cleared, and I got a number of nice shots of the cranes just flying across a beautiful clear blue sky. This is a shot from that batch. I shot this at 200mm, but really, the beauty of this lens is being able to just swoop through such a long range to grab shots with such a wide range of focal lengths.

Red-Crowned Crane (Tsurui #56)

Red-Crowned Crane (Tsurui #56)

Having become so attached to using the 70-200mm F2.8, coupled with the 1.4X extender when necessary, and also now having the 300mm F2.8, another dream lens of mine, which becomes a 420mm F4 lens with the 1.4X extender, I decided not to take the 100-400mm on our January trip to Hokkaido this year. Sure, the new lenses take more messing around, either changing out the lenses or putting on and taking off the Extender, but the image quality is there for all of my shots. That unpredictable softness of the 100-400mm, that you never quite know when it would show up and ruin your shots, made the new combinations so much better, even though I might miss the odd shot through not having the focal length range. The final nail in the coffin for the 100-400mm was that I didn’t really miss it in Hokkaido this year. I literally hadn’t used the lens apart from one week in Hokkaido at the end of 2006, so I just saw no reason to hold on to it any longer.

I thank the 100-400mm for showing me the direction in which I was to take my photography. There have been other quantum leaps, as I develop my style, and explore other possibilities, and I have to say that I still don’t agree with the people that say the equipment is unimportant. Equipment can and has for me, very often opens doors to new areas of photography that would not have been realized without it. I’m not going to get into this today, as there is a whole podcast on that right there. I just wanted today, to recognize how much this lens did for me, and I hope I haven’t bored you in doing so. Call me a big softy, but I was literally very close to tears as I held the lens for the last time having taken off the UV filter, and blown the dust off the front element for the last time. I really hope that the person that picks up my lens from the store I sold it too learns to love it as much as I did.

A little bit sentimental, but I really felt that I owed it to this lens to say something as it passed from my hands to another user. At least we have a second hand market for camera gear. I wouldn’t have liked to let this lens go without knowing that someone else would continue to use it after me. Anyway, that’s it for this week. You have a great week, whatever you’re up to. Bye bye.

Show Notes

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