The original Canon 100-400 lens polarized people’s opinions, it wasn’t all that sharp, and the push-pull zoom design was something you either loved or hated. I never felt the inclination to own that lens, but when the redesigned version came out, I jumped on it right away after selling my 70-300 L IS. This MKII version has a regular zoom ring on it to adjust focal length, and let me tell you, it doesn’t matter what focal length you use, it’s TACK sharp. I’ve compared it side-by-side with my 200-400 and they are on a par with each other in terms of image quality. That’s incredible when you consider that the 200-400 is a lens that sells for way more than $10,000! I really couldn’t believe my eyes when I first tested it. On a crop body like the 7D Mark II, this makes a brilliant sports and wildlife photography lens which is how I usually use it. On a full frame camera, 400mm typically isn’t enough reach for wildlife, but I do use it for event and sports. One of the other surprises for me was how well this lens works with the 1.4x extender. It’s more than useable if you aren’t shooting erratically moving subjects. This does give you a 560mm f/8 lens, so you’ll need to have a camera that can focus with an f/8 minimum, and then most cameras will limit the number of available focus points, but in a pinch, it works. Pair this with a 24-70 f/2.8 and there’s very few situations you won’t be ready for.
Now here’s an interesting lens in the Canon EF lineup! This is easily in the top-3 sharpest lenses I’ve every used. Sharper than some $10,000+ lenses! Considering it’s usually under the $1000 mark, that’s pretty impressive. The image stabilization also has an extra axis on it which helps to counteract up/down shift movement during hand-held macro shooting – a feature that’s unique to this particular lens. Not only is this a wonderful macro lens, but it’s also a great portrait lens! The f/2.8 aperture @100mm gives a very shallow depth of field when you fill the frame with a head and shoulders portrait, or something tighter.
The fun thing about macro lenses is that it really inspires people to see things differently. Whenever I get the macro lenses out while I’m teaching photography, I see people’s eye light up as they suddenly find all the amazing images to take that were right there all along. It helps you to see things differently and whilst it’s popular to say “the gear doesn’t matter”, in some cases like this, that’t clearly not that case. A macro lens can unlock a whole new world and allow you to create images that otherwise wouldn’t be possible.
Gone But Not Forgotten
I no longer own the items that are listed below this part of the guide. Rather than deleting them entirely, I thought it would be useful to keep them here. Many of these items are still available from retailers, and all are available from the usual second hand markets like eBay and Craigslist. Just because I've gotten rid of it doesn't make it a bad piece of kit, usually it just means that I wore it out and when it was replaced, it was simply replaced with something newer. Technology marches ever onwards!
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