Canon EF 100 400 IS L first impressions

I received my Canon EF 100-400 IS L f/4.5 f/5.6 two days ago, it is my 2nd L series lens after my beloved Canon EF 24-70 L f/2.8. Unfortunately I didn’t have the time to extensively test it yet, I will hopefully have a better chance to test drive it tomorrow in that rugby match I’m shooting. However here are my first impressions.

1) How does it feel?
Honestly it feels heavy. Maybe at the start it is easy to handle but after some times your hands can get really tired and that’s were the Image StabilizerIS becomes really handy. Another solution for that problem? well I also added to my equipment a Manfrotto 479 monopod and I’m quite happy with the combo so far.
2) My thoughts about Image Stabilizer
This is my first IS lens but I am pretty amazed with the results. I was able to get sharp shots hand held at 400mm with shutter speeds of 1/125 and with monopod down to 1/80 seconds. I have to pin point here that I don’t have the steadiest arms in the world.
3) What about the push pull design?
Well I might be able to better answer this after tomorrow’s match, but so far I didn’t find any problems with the push/pull zoom design, it really felt intuitive for me.
4) Is it sharp?
I have read a log about the 100-400 being soft wide open so I don’t know if I have a good copy or the new ones shipping have improved, but mine is really sharp even at 400mm wide open. I did a test against a friend’s Canon EF 70-200 2.8L IS both at 200mm f/5 on tripod and mirror lockup, it is practically impossible to notice any difference between the two pictures, so I can say I’m quite happy with its sharpness.
5) Image Quality and teleconverter
I have a cheap 1.5x kenko and I tried it with the Canon EF 100-400 L IS and I can say that, for what I need, the image quality in the center is still great, it does degrade slightly on the borders, but again, nothing dramatic at all, pictures are well usable. However stacking two 1.5x kenkos gave barely usable image quality results, I don’t think I will be using that, cropping is a better option.
6) Focusing speed and teleconverter
The good thing about my cheap teleconverter is that it doesn’t communicate the new aperture to the cameraof course you could always tape your teleconverter to have the same results as described here so auto focus will still be enabled on my Canon EOS 30D. Focusing speed is slower but still pretty good in good light conditions, however in a dimmed environment, the focus will tend to haunt for sometimes before it locks.I only use the central focus point.
7) Is there anything i didn’t like?
I think yes 2 things even, the first is that after pixel peeping tests, I have noticed that if the IS is turned on while the Canon EF 100-400 is secured on a tripod, the picture will tend to somehow blurry.
The second is that I can’t put the my camera/lens combo on my tripod while the grip is attached, I have the manfrotto 322RC2 ballhead, I have to either secure the lens on the tripod first and then attach the Canon EOS 30D + Grip, or remove the grip.

All in all, in the short time I have owned that lens I can loudly say I’m not sorry for what I’ve paid for it. Fast, sharp, stabilized and versatile what more could I ask for?

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