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Thread: Canon 100-400L series F4-5.6 Zoom

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    Member Wat's Avatar
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    Canon 100-400L series F4-5.6 Zoom

    Just bought a 100-400 and took some shots at the airshow last weekend. Not really impressed with it as the shots seem a little soft and grainy. Both these shots were at iso 100 and F5.6. Just wondering if anybody else has had any issues with this lens or is it just me not used to using it. Any feedback or tips would be great. Cheers Wayne
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    I toyed with the idea of purchasing this lens or a prime, I went the prime. Had read so many average reports on this lens. BUT, in saying that, it can't be all bad, as it has been in this guise for years, and has been one of Canons biggest selling lens.

    But here is a great example of what the lens on a Canon 40D can achieve.

    Have you looked in the Transport Forum, as there a quite a few Canon users that post plane shots with this lens?

    If anyone is looking for the EXIF.

    Top shot = F5.6 1/1600 ISO 100 400mm EOS 550D
    Second shot = F5.6 1/320 ISO 100 260mm EOS 550D
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    I have this lens and would agree that it is a tad soft. I don't mind too much as I always sharpen my images in post. Which mode were you using for image stabilisation?

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    I have had 100/400 Canon lens for few years now. I now have a Canon 7d I use to have a 40D until it died I mainly shoot birds and found mostly iso 320 F 6.3 with about 300/350 mm shots give me the best results While at Avalon I was experimenting with F stops but havent worked out what was best yet Still learning . Most of my sky shots had a lot of noise in them even though I was using an iso of 100 cyril
    Last edited by headoff4; 07-03-2013 at 11:33am.

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    Thanks Roosta, I had a look at that shot looked pretty good. Maybe just a bit more practice is needed

    - - - Updated - - -

    I was using mode 1

    - - - Updated - - -

    Yes headoff4 the noise was worrying me more than the softness which I can easily attribute to inexperience. Thanks for the comment

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    Quote Originally Posted by Wat View Post
    Thanks Roosta, I had a look at that shot looked pretty good. Maybe just a bit more practice is needed

    - - - Updated - - -

    I was using mode 1

    - - - Updated - - -

    Yes headoff4 the noise was worrying me more than the softness which I can easily attribute to inexperience. Thanks for the comment
    Mate, I'm going through the same thing with my new 300mm prime. Stick at it mate, you'll get there. All about trial and error. Once you've got a base line setup, you can make small adjustments to suit..

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    At these long lengths, steadiness is paramount.
    It's very easy when hand holding the 100-400, especially when you've got it pulled all the way out, to have just a slight movement of the camera as you hit the shutter.
    You should aim to hold your left hand under the lens for support, turn your body sideways and twist at the hips and bring your elbows in and squeeze the trigger when you are breathing in.

    If you shoot in RAW, I would also suggest using the Clarity slider and do some sharpening and noise reduction in RAW too.

    I love my 100-400, but you need to either use it on a good tripod, or be able to hold it really steady to get great shots.
    All my photos are taken with recycled pixels.
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    Thanks for the advice everyone

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    can't remember Tannin's Avatar
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    Hi Wat. Do not worry! The 100-400 is not soft, let alone "grainy". A lens cannot be "grainy", that is a film or camera function.

    Nor is it difficult to use. In fact, it is probably the easiest 400mm class lens you can buy as it is fairly light, physically very small, and above all is image stabilised. However, all longer lenses require care and practice for best results. It is important to keep the shutter speed up (IS or no IS, it still matters) and perhaps even more important to nail the focus. With moving aircraft (same as birds in flight) focus errors are the main cause of softness, and even with a pro level camera you won't always be able to get exact focus as you want it. The key is to help the focus system as much as you can - obviously by holding the camera steady and giving it as much time as you can, but also by stopping down a bit to increase your depth of field. This will help you two different ways:

    (1) a soft look to a picture taken with a long focal length is very often simply depth of field - at (e.g.) 400mm and f/5.6, the DOF is very shallow, far shallower than you are used to with a more moderate focal length - and you need to be very selective about what part of the subject you focus on. With a bird, you generally focus on the eye and hope the viewer won't notice that the wing and the tail are OOF. With aircraft, good luck finding the eye!

    (2) it is unreasonable to expect the AF system to nail a flight shot precisely every time. It WILL make mistakes - with good kit like yours, small mistakes, but at 400mm (or even 200) a small mistake is still noticably OOF. The answer is to stop down. F/8 as a minimum, but go for f/11 every time if you have light enough to get the shutter speed you need. At f/5.6, you will seldom have enough DOF for a perfectly focused shot, never mind one that is marginally out. At f/11 (even f/8 if you are stuck) you will get a far higher percentage of keepers, and your best shots will be sharper still.

    Bear it in mind that there is no real, practical quality difference between ISO 100 and ISO 200. Stop down a bit, go to 200 ISO at least (400 is more the norm for flight shots) and enjoy your excellent new lens.
    Tony

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    Thanks for that very useful reply Tannin. More practice it is!

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    I have this lens for thee years now and am pleased with it - even after the "tightening ring" gave up - wear and tear which is fairly costly to repair and does not affect the IQ.
    I do a fair bit of surf shooting with it and also birds. I shoot RAW and do some sharpening in PP - usually cropping to get a better shot out of the RAW.
    If interested have a look at my surf shots.

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    Just about all of my shots are with this lens, I love it. It does take some practice to get the best out of the lend and camera you are using though. Be patient and shoot shoot shoot!
    Adam
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    I had this lens and the key to sharp shots, I found, was (a) never use it wide open; and (b) never use it fully extended. I'd go to 400 then dial back a tad. This wisdom came from the canon forum and I achieved a lot of very sharp surf shots using it.

    And I used to always use a monopod and shoot at a nice fast shutter speed (over 1/1000 if at long zoom end). If the conditions were very gloomy, the lens wasn't much good.
    Last edited by Analog6; 22-03-2013 at 6:34am.
    Odille

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    Henk I was thinking of buying this lens but I have heard about the tightening ring loosing its ball bearings , if this is happening shouldn't it be a recall issue ? I would like to purchase this lens but not if it falls apart !
    And have you had a lot of dust get in the lens because I would like to do motocross shots with it but im worried as its a very dusty environment ?

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    I am not sure the tightening ring got ball bearings. It works with some textile fabric and I have seen black pieces of that coming away from the barrel. I cannot tighten the lens any longer but it is still usable although I have to be aware of zoom creep. It happened after the warranty expired and I bought the lens before the consumer protection laws became effective - otherwise I would have challenged Canon to repair it for free. When you buy this lens now and it would happen to you, you might be able to get Canon to repair it under the consumer law protection.
    Also it may have been a result of my own laziness: not fully untightening the lens before zooming and trying to extend the barrel while still tightened too much... you know what happens when you are in a hurry....

    I do not have any dust in the lens I am aware of and have been using it on the beach and in other dusty environments. I know the nick name is "dust pump" but I think that is a misnomer.

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    thanks for the reply Henk , that puts my mind at ease a bit ! I think I will buy this lens once I have enough funds as a lot of people enjoy owning one and it seems like a good lens for the money !

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    This lens is too good to be called 'soft'. At any setting.

    Your first handheld shots of fast moving subjects are hardly a fair test of lens sharpness. Try a few tripod shots of static subjects at f5.6, with MF and AF, just for peace of mind.

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    Hi Graham,

    Here are 2 motorsport examples I have using this lens from last year, both are handheld although I was sitting in the ground. I enjoyed using it but you do need to keep shutter speeds up when handholding. As for the dust well I guess it's a problem with all gear in rally or motorcross environments but I don't think it's particularly any worse than any zoom.



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    Thanks for the reply WARUS , those shots look very sharp considering the subjects are moving quiet fast !
    I think the purchase of this lens is on the cards when the wallet allows ! I am wondering the best way of ensuring I get a lens with good IQ when I buy one and the best way to test it ?
    My last question is if the camera store would willingly replace the lens if sharpness is in question ?

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