EF 100-400 IS vs 100-300 5.6L vs 70-200 4L

greenspun.com : LUSENET : Canon EOS FAQ forum : One Thread

What should I go for?

I have a budget that is around the two cheaper lenses I am considering, but could go for the 100-400 IS at a push (plus if I buy it my wife will murder me if she ever found how much it cost me!).

I already have a 28-105 USM II, but now need a excellent long telephoto zoom. I tried out a Sigma 135-400 APO, but sharpness and speed of AF were terrible.

I need a lens that will be great for motorsports and nature photography, so I guess this rules out the 70-200?

Does anyone have experience of these lenses that can help me decide?

-- Sam Hassall (samhassall@aol.com), September 03, 2001


I have used both of the more recent lenses you mention (ie not the 100-300 F5.6L). Since you are unhappy with the focus speed of the sigma, the 100-300 F5.6 wouldn't be suitable either, because it uses the old AFD motor, not a USM.

Also, I suspect that the 70-200 F4L isn't going to be long enough for the purposes that you mention. I personally like that lens a great deal (I have just had some extremely pleasing results back from it), and it works well with the 1.4X TC as well. However, the 2x TC will loose AF with most bodies, and also F8 is a very slow lens.

So, I think your best choice would be the more expensive 100-400 IS. It's a fine lens optically, as well as in its build. However, it is heavy, and much of the weight is in the zooming section of the lens (ie the front), making it quite a strain to handle for long periods. As you say your interests are motorsport and nature, I think that the longer length and IS of the 100-400 are very much worthwhile. Since your budget is limited, you can't go the route I have, which is to get the 70-200 F4L, 300 F4L IS and the 1.4x TC. However, that is 4 different combinations to cover the same range as the 100-400, so you'd save on a lot of lens switching whilst loosing a little (but really not much...so little that it's insignificant to most people) optical quality.

All the L series lenses you mention will be very much better than the sigma you mention in the optical quality stakes. Like I said, my conclusion would be that the 100-400 IS most closely suits your needs.

-- Isaac Sibson (isibson@hotmail.com), September 03, 2001.

I concur with Isaac, but might also suggest the 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM + 1.4 TC (if your wife's going to murder you and all) :-)

You might also look for used 70-200mm f/2.8L USM's (non-IS) when the IS versions are more available. Quite a few might suddenly become available. :-) They'd be faster than the 70-200mm f/4L, and less expensive than the 100-400mm IS. Also, as a two-ring zoom (rather than a push-pull like the 100-400), it will be ergonomically easier to use for longer periods. Oh, yeah...one more plus -- it would be a decent 100-280mm f/4 with a 1.4 TC, and a still very usable 140-400mm f/5.6 with a 2x TC. That would be a good option for motorsports & nature, would it not?

-- Hung James Wasson (HJWasson@aol.com), September 03, 2001.

I own both the 100-400L IS and 70-200 2.8L lenses. The 70-200 is a much sharper, faster, and faster focusing lens. It also produces pictures having much better contrast. I find that the 100- 400 is good for motorsports, where the focus is not on the eyes of the subject, but the 70-200 (coupled to a 1.4 teleconveter) will blow the doors off of the 100-400 for sharpness of facial features (either nature or people). The IS on the 100-400 is nice, but clearly not indispensible. If you can afford to buy the 100-400, I would consider buying a 70-200 2.8L and a Canon 1.4x teleconverter (should be around the same total price). BTW...your wife will not murder you if you remember the rule of thirds...LOL... as far as she knows, the item costs 1/3 of what you actually paid for it.

-- Arnie Milowsky (arniemly@earthlink.net), September 04, 2001.

Thanks for all your recommendations. I am no going to have to put some serious thought into this (as if I wasn't going to before!). I am certain that I won't go for the 100-300L, too old and slow. Now it's a two way decision rather than a three way. I have to discount the 70-200 2.8L as that costs 1300 plus 280 for the 2X convertor, way more than the 100-400L IS, which costs 1250 all in.

Or should I go for a third party lens at my original budget of 500- 600, which puts me in Sigma EX, Tokina Pro, Tamron SP territory? That way I may only lose a limb rather that my life? ; )

Love your new use for the rule of thirds Arnie!

-- Sam Hassall (samhassall@aol.com), September 04, 2001.

For what it's worth, you'll have a much easier time finding a 70-200 in great condition used than a 100-400IS. The former is now frequently selling used at photo.net for under $1000US (650GBP?) and I would guess that will only continue with the intro of the new IS. 100-400's just aren't very common on the used market (yet) and when they are available they often sell for close to new (grey-market) prices.

Btw, word on the street is that the 1.4MkII TC is optically identical to the MkI, so there too you could save money by buying used as some photographers rush to buy the new model.

-- John (WhitmanDesign@aol.com), September 04, 2001.

I'd forget the zooms and go for a 300/4L (with or without IS). Very sharp, fairly fast, great AF and you can always add a 1.4x if you need more reach.

Zooms are nice, but cost you in terms of speed, sharpness and $$ once you get into the telephoto range. The 70-200 is great, but too short for a lot of sports and nature work.

There's also the 75-300/4-5.6 which isn't razor sharp at 300mm but is fairly inexpensive, has IS for handholding and is sharp enough for many uses. I wouldn't try to make posters from images shot wide open at 300mm, but for 5x7 or even 8x10 prints it's not as bad as many people (most of whom haven't ever used it) say it is.

-- Bob Atkins (bobatkins@hotmail.com), September 04, 2001.

Hey folks,

I've been following quite a few threads today, and I was wondering what the story is with the EF 28-200mm f/3.5-5.6 How does it handle at the extremes?

Thanks for your time!


-- Loree (harvy@fone.net), September 04, 2001.

The 28-200?!!!! Not in the same league!!! I am becoming unhappy with the performance of my 24-85USM in comparison to the L series lenses being mentioned here (and my own 70-200 F4L, 300 F4L IS, 1.4X TC).

As for third party lenses....I'll refrain from ranting on about them, but believe me, an L series will be cheaper in the long run. It will last longer, in terms of its build, its optical quality (ie you won't start to itch to get something better) and most of all you won't outgrow it as a photographer.

I wouldn't be happy with 70-200 F2.8L + 2x TC as a 140-400, as mentioned above. The 2x is known not to be brilliant, and the 100-400 would be better. The primes would of course deliver better results than the zoom, but I think, given the (assumed...please correct if wrong) amateur status of Sam, I doubt the difference would be critical.

-- Isaac Sibson (isibson@hotmail.com), September 04, 2001.

OK, so my choices are now:

100-400 IS L 70-200 f4L 75-300 IS (No FTM and a rotating lens)

Another option would be a 100-300 4.5-5.6 (FTM and non-rotating lens).

I have heard good reports about the 100-300 4.5-5.6, although it is an old lens, launched in 1990, so maybe it's due for replacement. Can any shed any light on this?

In doing this I could buy a nice 50mm 1.4 EF with the money I will save.

What d'you all think?

-- Sam Hassall (samhassall@aol.com), September 06, 2001.

Or get purist.......

Sell my 28-105 USM II and buy:

(All EF) 28mm f2.8, 50mm f1.8, 135 f2.8, plus third party 2x convertor to make an occaisional 270mm f5.6, until I can buy the 100- 400 IS L, plus an extension tube for macro work to go with any of them.

Oh, and a nice new gadget bag!

I presume that I will obtain much sharper images than using the 28- 105 and 100-300 USM zooms, and will only have to carry one extra lens?

-- Sam Hassall (samhassall@aol.com), September 06, 2001.

As the 70-200mm focal range might be too short for the types of photography you enjoy (as Bob Atkins suggests), that would leave the expensive but far better 100-400mm f/5.6L IS USM vs the less expensive 75-300mm f/5-5.6 IS micro-USM (or the 100-300mm USM).

I've no experience with the 100-300mm, so I can't suggest anything there.

To help you out with the other two, here's a summary:

100-400mm f/5.6L IS USM Cons:

  • 3 times more expensive than the 75-300mm f/4-5.6
  • It's a big lens (no, really...especially zoomed out to 400mm)
  • Heavy Pros:
  • 100mm greater focal length coverage (valuable for both motorsports & nature photography)
  • More features: FTM (Full Time Manual over-ride), Mode 2 Image Stabilization allows panning (very important for bikes & birds! ;-), Non-rotating front barrel (good for using polarizers, graduated filters [if you care])
  • Better optics (the fluorite & super UD glass make a big difference) & better design
  • Built to professional standards (longer life & greater reliability)
  • Compatible with Canon's 1.4x & 2x TC's
  • Ring type USM motor and internal-rear focusing is far faster than the 75-300's micro-USM
  • 75-300mm f/5-5.6 IS USM Cons:

  • Micro-USM motor is not as fast or as quiet as the Ring-USM. It does not allow for Full Time Manual focus override (except on the 50mm f/1.4 USM -- go figure)
  • Front of lens rotates (annoying with polarizers & graduated filters [again, if you care])
  • Optics are not as good (what do you expect? :-)
  • Build quality typical for this price level (primarily poly- carbonate lens housing & mechanism materials)
  • Focal range not as great (300mm vs 400mm)
  • Will not accept Canon TC's
  • Pros:
  • Under $500 US cost
  • Light weight & compact size
  • It seems to me to be a fairly clear choice -- get the 100-400mm if you can afford it. Otherwise, the choice is less clear. go for the 75- 300 if you want IS. The 100-300 f/4.5-5.6 is $190 less than the 75- 300 IS, and has ring-USM (with FTM) -- but you don't gain any aperture speed & lose IS. It should focus faster than the 75-300 (slightly), and you could pick up another lens with the cost savings.

    Does this help at all?

    -- Hung James Wasson (HJWasson@aol.com), September 06, 2001.

    My apologies -- I refered to the 75-300 a couple of times as a f/5- 5.6, when it is in fact an f/4-5.6 (I wish we had the ability to edit our own posts, or had a confirmation screen like photo.net)!

    -- Hung James Wasson (HJWasson@aol.com), September 06, 2001.

    Seems to me that you're considering that tentative first step into the L series, Sam. Now you're coming up with alternatives that won't hurt in the wallet quite as much, but then, as I said before, won't last as long. The step into L series is well worthwhile, but as I discovered (to my financial cost), there's no going back. You'll start to see faults in lenses you were happy with before, and want to have more L series lenses. :-).

    My father has a 28-105 USM and 100-400 L IS and he is very happy with that combo. He also has the 100-300 USM you mention, and that is a perfectly reasonable lens, as long as you remember that it is a consumer lens, and not up to the L series.

    My initial recommendation stands. Go for the 100-400 IS, I doubt you'll regret it.

    -- Isaac Sibson (isibson@hotmail.com), September 06, 2001.

    Dear all,

    Thankyou for all your advice, I went for Bob's suggestion in the end, and avoided a potential breakout of war with my wife.

    I bought the IS 75-300. Although it is not an L lens, and doesn't have total battleship build quality, it does suit my needs for now, plus is only cost me 320 with a Canon 100 rebate.

    Rest assured, I will pursue L series ownership in the future. At present, if I am being honest with myself, I don't feel that I am advanced enough as an amateur yet.

    Thanks again.


    -- Sam Hassall (samhassall@aol.com), September 10, 2001.

    Hope you have fun with it, and get some good shots Sam!

    A word of advice, which I have already said in another thread on this forum: If you wish to take any panned shots, you MUST disable the stabiliser, otherwise the shots WILL be blurred. The 75-300 IS does not have mode 2 stabilisation, so you have to make do with none at all for panning.

    The concensus seems to be that if you have a dual mode IS lens (ie all IS lenses except for the 28-135 and 75-300) mode 2 should be your default setting, as it works for both static and moving subjects, and only switch to mode 1 when you have time and are sure you're shooting static. I certainly find that works for me, with my 300 F4L IS (420 F5.6 IS with 1.4X TC).

    -- Isaac Sibson (isibson@hotmail.com), September 10, 2001.


    Good call, keeping the domestic peace & all! :-)

    -- Hung James Wasson (HJWasson@aol.com), September 10, 2001.

    Have had many problems with aftermarket lenses. Anywhere from total failure on film cameras to a software "lock-up" on the digital bodies. The 70-200 2.8 Canon USM is a remarkable piece of equipment. I cannot imagine a lens with better color and resoulution. My compliments to Canon's designers.

    -- Chip Peterson (chipfoto@oneota.net), September 13, 2001.

    Sam, I just bought a EF 100-400 IS and I love it. Personaly I can not tell any difference in sharpness as with the 70-200 f 2.8 Exept at the 100mm end, which I hardly use . The Quality of the 70-200 F 2.8 & the F 4 are about the same. Iwould say it depends a lot on what kind of photography you like as to how much focal length you need. I do a lot of candid portraits, so I prefer the 100-400. Just remember a portrait shot with a 100mm is usually about (3 Ft) around 1 meter. 6 or 7 ft with 200mm and about 12-15 ft with 400mm. By the way I had a 28-105, but I wasn't happy with the sharpness. Traded for a 28-135 IS, much better. The 100 -400 is verry expensive but, its better than buying a focal length that's not long enough plus a converter, and then having to sell them at a loss and then buying another one. A 200mm with a1.4X is only 270mm. If this enough focal length then go fo the 70-200 F2.8 Don't use a 2X converter, you won't be happy with the results.

    -- Tom Gibson (sgibson1575@earthlink.net), October 05, 2001.

    Moderation questions? read the FAQ