December 17 2014,
Canon EF 100-400 f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM First Impressions Review
I received my 100-400mm MkII this morning on a gray dismal day, but was anxious to get out with it and I had time, so I put it on the 1D4 for familiarity, pocketed the 1.4x II just in case, and off to the beach I went.
AutoFocus: Let's start with one of the most important factors for a lens in this category.
At the risk of being too enthusiastic I must say that This lens is the fastest most accurately focusing lens I have had opportunity to shoot.*
In many situations, it is the fastest, going from infinity to near.
It is also very accurate, giving me more keepers than the previous version or any previous zoom I have used.
With birds in flight it is a monster, amazing. and yet, there is something missing. When I shoot with the 500mm Prime, one of it's abilities that I simply can not explain is it's profound need to always achieve focus on the subjects eye. I don't understand why this happens so effortlessly, but it does. Even with it's much narrower DOF, it appears to pull this off better than the new 100-400mm.
I can not quantify this. It really is like magic on the 500mm, but I have round the world photos that show this. With the 100-400mm I am more likely to get a wing tip or body part.
On the 1D4 and 5D3 side by side it has mopped the floor with the otherwise amazing 200mm f/2L! Quicker, quieter, and more confident. In fact the assertion with which this lens snaps into correct focus is absolutely unequaled. Dead silent, it is a quick "snick" sound then it's in focus. I've never seen anything like it. Going from near infinity on a distant house peak to the tree 3 feet in front of me offers ZERO hunt, just the brief blur as it travels from all the way out to nearly all the way in and solid perfectly accurate lock.
It is absolutely faster than the 400mm f/5.6L prime.
It also bested the 200mm f/2 indoors in low light for af speed and lack of hunting on both 1D4 and 5D3.
I am quite sure that when I do the side by side, it will be faster than the 500mm f/4L IS (v I)
Folks, I did not believe it was possible for a zoom to focus so fast and confidently. Canon has really made some significant improvements with the MkII designs.
Tracking on the 7D2: I a lot of time with this combo and find I get near 100% results in many difficult birding situations.
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1.4X T-Con: I tried out the 1.4x MkII when the light was good and the AF did not seem to slow or lose accuracy. This is better than the results I get from any other zoom I have tried, besting the 70-200mm f/2.8L IS (VI) and better than most primes.
UPDATE: With the 5D4 or other most modern Canon AF system and the MkIII 1.4x T-Con the results are amazing. F8 focus on all AF points.
Minimum Focus Distance: At approx 3" 6" it is nearly half what the MKI gave us with it's already impressive and useful 6 foot MFD. Compare it to the 400mm f/5.6L prime and it's a shocking upgrade for those that are not always shooting things at long distances. This feature literally multiplies the magnification (and overall flexibility) of this lens over it's predecessors.
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Image Stabilization: Once again, it appears to be the best I have had opportunity to use. It is fast to engage and quieter than any other IS system I have used, besting the 500mm f/4L IS, and 200mm f/2L IS handily. I was shooting @ f/16 to get 1/10th of a second shots hand held and was rewarded with dead on sharp images. This IS system will be a lifesaver. Clearly one of the best implementations available and LIGHT YEARS ahead of the 1st Generation IS that is installed in the older MkI 100-400mm.
Well frankly again I am amazed. I have not had opportunity to use the new MkII 70-200mm, or the 70-300mm L, but I have seen images and heard a lot of good things. Clearly this lens is in that class of new "primelike" zooms. It is a significant improvement over the VI 100-400mm and any other zoom I have shot with other than ones costing much more.
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For the pixel junkies, here are some 100% crops and a link to what I have uploaded so far.
(NOTE: The un-cropped images I have uploaded were in camera small jpegs from the 1D4. The crops are taken from RAW files with everything zeros to default using Capture 1 v7)