Ophrys Photography

Wildlife photography by John Devries, Kent UK. Inspirational images from nature.
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Canon 100-400 f4.5-5.6L IS mkii optical comparisons
Part 2

Comparison with the 70-200 f2.8L IS mk ii

The 70-200 mkii has received a lot praise for its image quality. The previous 100-400 could not compete with it for sharpness and resoloving power.

I thought it would be interesting to test both these lenses at 200mm which should put the 100-400 into its sweet spot in the middle of its zoom range and push the 70-200 at its upper limit. However, having a maximum aperture of f2.8 the shorter lens will have the benefit of being stopped down two stops when tested at f5.6 and the 100-400 will be used at maximum aperture in order to compare it. I couldn't wait to see the results.

The tests were performed from the same tripod position as the previous 400mm tests in exactly the same manner. This was a wicked test of resolving power as the target seemed very small at 200mm focal length.

Starting image at 200mm and 4.5m distance (sharpened):

200mm starting image

70-200 at 200mm f5.6
70-200 at 200mm f5.6 at 100% (unsharpened image)

100-400 f5.6 at 200mm
100-400 at 200mm f5.6 at 100% (unsharpened image)

100-400 sharpened
100-400 sharpened

70-200 sharpened

This result came as quite a shock. There is absolutely no difference between the two lenses when compared at 200mm and f5.6. Nada !

It will be interesting to carry out more comparisons at different focal lengths between these two. The 70-200 is a very sharp lens, but here is the new 100-400 matching it.

The 70-200 has the benefit of being two stops faster than the 100-400 but only goes to half the focal length. The 70-200 will carry on shooting in lower light and can blur the background nicely thanks to that wide maximum aperture. However, the 100-400 can fight back in that it has double the focal length and can also blur the background nicely thanks to double the focal length of the 70-200.

It will be interesting to see how much use my 70-200 gets now as the 100-400mm is a far more useful range for me but I will miss the two extra stops of light it offers.


How good is the 100-400 for close up work ?

The new 100-400 lens has the ability to focus down to about 3 feet at the 400mm end of its zoom range. This makes it really useful for butterflies, moths and dragonflies etc in the field as they often don't allow a very close approach and 400mm allows some working distance, particularly with a full frame camera. Also it is nice to be able to use the long focal length to isolate the subject from the background.

I wanted to try the 100-400 in the role of a big macro lens, so here is a set specimen of an eyed hawk moth at the closest focusing distance that the lens permitted at 400mm:

eyed hawk whole
Set specimen of an eyed hawk moth (sharpened)

100% crop (sharpened)


I can see that the lens will be very useful in this capacity. It is truly a jack of all trades !