Guest post by Justin McKee
As a user of Canon equipment, I am positively giddy about the camera company’s latest update to an old favorite.
Canon has labeled 2014 the “year of the lens,” and it certainly has been an exciting year.
Canon has released a new 16-35mm f/4 L IS lens with Image Stabilization technology; hence, the IS at the end of the name. The “L” stands for Luxury — Canon’s way of saying it’s a prime-time piece of glass.
They’ve also released an updated 24-105mm f/4 lens with STM, a type of autofocus mechanism that uses a stepping motor to limit autofocus noise without losing speed or function — this is valuable to video lovers.
Canon is soon to release an 11-24mm f/4 L as well …
That’s all well and good, but none of those really piqued my interest like the updated version Canon’s 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 L IS USM II.
Let me break down that name for you. It’s a little complicated.
Obviously, the Canon 100-400mm part makes sense. This thing has killer zoom. The millimeter focal length measurement is the distance between the first piece of glass on the lens to the sensor in the DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex).
f/4.5-5.6 refers to the aperture. This is a variable aperture lens, meaning that when you’re at 100mm, the maximum aperture of the lens (how wide the aperture is inside; see my aperture post by clicking here) is f/4.5. When you zoom the lens out to 400mm the aperture then automatically narrows to f/5.6.
This physical change in the lens’ size while zooming is unavoidable with how it’s constructed, therefore the aperture has to change throughout the zoom range because the distance that light has to travel through the lens is longer. I hope that makes sense. It’s much easier to understand when you’re holding a lens like this.
Alright, the last parts of the lens’ name are just as important as the first. The “L,” as discussed earlier, stands for Luxury; the IS stands for Image Stabilization; USM stands for Ultrasonic Motor — a type of AF (auto focus) motor; and lastly, the II at the end is … well, two. This is the version two variation of this type of lens.
I rented the first version of this lens a few years ago and it was fan-freakin’-tastic.
I could take photographs of the moon and actually see the craters on the surface in spectacular detail. It was like a miniature telescope.
It’s no secret that photographing wildlife is a huge thing for me, and a lens with this focal range is unbelievably useful. Getting close to wildlife isn’t always an option. An animal that is close is either reeeeally curious or reeeeally in front of your car.
I prefer the former.
I currently have a 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS USM II (typing that out is like playing twister with my fingers — you get the acronyms; I’ll skip them from now on), and 200mm isn’t quite enough for most ventures out into the wild. Purchasing an extender for a lens like this one is always a good option, but there is a slight drop in image quality.
It’s usually just better to purchase a lens with the native focal lengths built into the lens by the manufacturer. Just like the Canon 100-400mm.
While the old lens was simply fantastic — and still is, honestly — it’s been due for an upgrade for upwards of 10 or more years.
Canon photographers like myself have waited forever for this lens, and it’s been released just in time as well.
Other camera companies such as Sigma and Tamron have developed lenses that have even greater range (150-600mm, anyone?) and Canon’s fallen behind because of it.
Sigma and Tamron’s versions of this type of lens are formidable competition too. They have weather sealing, great glass and a focal length range that is even further than Canon’s.
So why am I so giddy about the Canon? Why don’t I just purchase the just-as-capable and cheaper Sigma and Tamron equivalents of this lens?
Well, I totally could and that would be fine. However, there are two reasons I would wait for the Canon.
One being brand loyalty. I like the direction Canon is headed for the most part. Canon cameras have great video features and, while the image quality of a Canon camera is arguably a touch worse (emphasis on arguably) than the Nikon or Pentax versions, Canon’s got fantastic versatility and quality control over their lens lineup.
It’s just good, and the price point is great.
The second reason is that third party lenses have a higher chance of not always working with Canon or Nikon equipment than the brand name equivalent. Don’t get me wrong, they’re great lenses, but quality control is a thing for me. I want my equipment to work the first time around and not have any issues.
So yes, brand name actually matters to a degree in the photography world. This stuff is expensive, and for a good reason.
So, I’m going to be keeping my eyes peeled on image quality comparisons for the Canon 100-400mm II as more is released.
If this lens isn’t up to par to the other two, I’ll simply save some cash and buy one of those.
But I doubt that will happen.
Regardless, as a wildlife and sports shooting enthusiast, good things are happening in the world of photography.
Keep an eye on my blog. As soon as this lens becomes available I may just do a review of it.
Justin McKee is a small-town photographer with big ideas living in Michigan. In addition to portraits, wedding photography and video, he also enjoys wildlife photography. He always seeks to learn more about his craft.