Canon EF 100mm-400mm f4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens review

I never planned on owning a 3.62 lbs./1640g lens, but the Canon EF 100mm-400mm f4.5-5.6L IS II USM is an amazing lens, situationally.  wolfFor me, the lens serves two purposes. Taking photos of birds in my backyard and going to the zoo.  If you are going for an ultralight setup this would be about the last lens you should consider buying.

It’s pretty much like carrying a brick around; my arm and neck hurt after four hours of lugging the lens around, but I ended up never taking it off the camera, because it’s a near perfect zoo lens. Ultimately, it’s lighter and less obtrusive than carrying a tripod and a lighter telephoto lens.foxxyThe biggest highlight of the lens, to me, is image stabilization mode three.  The image stabilization activates only when you engage the shutter; I’ve never had a reason to use mode one or two so far. I’ve even been able to handhold it at 1/6 of a second and still get a sharp image. giraffeUnless you are going to a zoo or on a safari, I don’t see a really good reason to travel with this lens. And on a safari, I’d probably rent a faster lens with longer reach.thinkgorillaThe f5.6 on the zoom end generally means you will have to raise your ISO to compensate. But, the noisy photo below still shows the detail still captured in this close crop. The mode three IS also allows you to leave the ISO low on some shots and instead just lower your shutter speed; just make sure the subject isn’t moving.redpandawmFor anyone who had the previous version, gone are the original version’s lack of sharpness and the push-pull zoom. It still has a lens barrel that extends with the ring zoom and some people may be concerned about dust getting inside the weather-sealing.zebragiraffeThe Canon EF 100mm-400mm f4.5-5.6L IS II USM is an extremely flexible lens and if you enjoy shooting wildlife it’s a great choice. It’s not really an ultralight choice, but if you need the versatility this lens offers for wildlife, it allows you to leave the tripod at home.

No egrets, no regrets and the Canon EF 100-300 f5.6L

While vacationing on the Colorado River, I was told of a lovely white egret. I thought to myself, “This will be a great test for the Canon 100-300 F5.6L.”

It’s a 30-years-old lens. It was one of the first two L lens for the Canon EF lens mount. It didn’t get the standard L series weather sealing. It was pretty much the same lens as the EF 100-300 F5.6 only it had a red ring around the lens. Canon also upgraded the lens elements for the L model. It had synthetic fluorite lens elements in the first lens group and ultra-low dispersion elements in the 2nd group.

100-300

It’s hard to find one that hasn’t been abused during the past 30 years, most have some scratches, and the push-pull zoom design weakens over time and you tend to get barrel creep so if you are shooting at an angle; the lens will zoom-in or zoom-out depending if you have it tilted up or down. Some sound like they are dying as they try to seek auto-focus. I looked at two or three of them and walked away, actually I might have ran away because I didn’t want to catch whatever lens fungus was growing in them.

Then, I saw one for really cheap on eBay. At the price it went for I figured even if it’s as bad as the others, it’s still a decent price. I was shocked when I got it. The rubber ring had some oxidization, but the lens elements were clean and clear, it came with the hood, and the barrel was tight. It was like I had bought a goat to clear the blackberry bushes from my yard and instead they sent me a goat unicorn. One thing to note: unicorns and Canon 100-300 F5.6L lenses do not have Lightroom correction profiles. But it’s not a huge deal because the lens has the least distortion of any lens I own. Since it’s a full frame lens, you won’t get much vignetting on a crop sensor. But the AF speed is horrendous, and if the light is bad, it will search and search and search.

This egret was the bane of my existence the week I spent there. He loved to hide under an outcropping to bask in the early morning sun. I couldn’t approach him from the sides since the outcropping as surrounded by water and it was an overhang he would hide under. I’d sneak up on him, and away he would fly. Then he would go hide in a cove I couldn’t reach. We played that game every morning for three days, then he decided to find somewhere else to get his morning sun.

noegret

Bird in flight, not sure it’s a bird in tight focus thought

So I was a bit sad I didn’t get the picture of the egret’s face. On the last night, we headed out to dinner at one of the floating bars on the river on a friend’s boat. I took a few picture of the bars with the Canon 100-300 f5.6L. At 695 grams, it’s not too lightweight. But for a telephoto zoom with L glass it’s a good balance.

roadrunner.jpg

My son says they have the best french fries on the river, everyone else got fish tacos.

The sun was just starting to set as the boat went around the last bend headed back to home. Just as I was finishing putting all my gear back into my bag, someone started tugging on my arm and pointing wildly. I looked up from closing my bag and there the bird was resting on the bank. I reopened the bag and put the adapter on the Canon M5 then attached the lens, knowing the egret was going to fly away while I was playing with my gear. But finally, it was all assembled and I dialed in the settings. The AF locked onto the bird, and I took two shots as the boat passed him.

egret

I’m not happy about the leaves behind his head, but at least he gave me a side shot of his face and that golden light is fairly decent. But I was happy with the quality of the picture. The details in the rocks, the feathers in the shadows show up, the AF worked. I was happy I had a set of lenses that let me cover just about any situation in my bag.

Would I recommend a Canon 100-300 F5.6L to someone? With the caveat the AF is slow, it doesn’t like to AF in low light, and the barrel sliding around might drive you crazy. For less than $300, it’s an incredible set of optics. For more than $300, you can probably do better.

As for the moral, sometimes when things look like they are over, they aren’t. You can apply that to both the Egret and the Canon 100-300 F5.6L.

USS Iowa BB-61

If I had a dream job it would be as an investigative reporter/photographer. I wouldn’t cover current events; no, I would cover news stories 20 years after they had occurred and try to find out what we got right and what we got wrong. It would be to remind people of the names of the Challenger and Columbia astronauts, to recall mistakes, and to celebrate the sacrifices and triumphs of events and to look at how they have changed the world or one person. It would also be for a major publisher so I wasn’t afraid of being sued for libel.

iowa side

USS Iowa BB 61 panoramic

News reporting is hard work, finding two reliable sources to corroborate a story can be a fairly monumental task, especially under a deadline. All too often you are not reporting the truth, but a viewpoint. You go in with a preconceived notion, or your source is promoting their own agenda.

iowa forward guns

Turrets #1 and #2 on the USS Iowa

With print journalism’s slow death, and smaller newspaper budgets, investigative journalism has mostly disappeared. We tend to get sound bites and copies of press releases as our news. Being unbiased in reporting is nearly impossible, even watching football the announcers always seem to favor the other team.

cafeteria

Crew mess hall

17-year-old me recalls turning on the news in mid-April of 1989 and hearing about a massive explosion in the number two turret of the USS Iowa. Forty-seven crew members lost their lives in a training accident. An open breach caused five powder bags to exploded inside the number 2 turret center gun crumpling the bulkhead doors and killing everyone in the turret’s upper levels, 12 men in the lower turret survived when their blast doors held.

Over the next five weeks it turned from an accident into an alleged act of sabotage. And then the news cycle ended.  The Navy had named a crew member for planting a explosive timer into one of the powder bags. I went to college, the Gulf War started and I forgot about the tragedy on the USS Iowa. Instead we heard about the USS Missouri and Wisconsin firing nearly 1200 shells into Iraq and watched a new reporter on CNN named Wolf Blitzer report the nightly war status.

damaged hatch

Damaged hatch cover from Turret 2

Meanwhile, a second investigation and a congressional inquiry into the Iowa were initiated. Almost a year and a half later in October of 1991, the explosion was ruled an accident.

Two officers had convinced the captain that Naval Sea Systems Command (NavSea) had authorized gun testing using experimental loads. It was later revealed the contact at NavSea didn’t have the authority to allow such testing.

The crew had been testing the 16 inch guns using 40 years old powder. It had been adjusted to correct for the difference in burn times due to age and improper storage. Their testing was to see if they could increase the ship’s firing range. The bags stated not for use with the 2700 lbs shells they were firing. The bags were intended for the lighter high-explosive shells weighing 1900 lbs. In initial tests they they recorded the longest shots fired from a battleship.

iowa room

In an earlier test a bag had start smoldering as it was loaded into the gun but they closed the breach in time and the gun only misfired, lightly damaging the ship. In later drop testing of these bags, using the same load as the Iowa the entire test setup was destroyed in an explosion.

Also, as the ship was returning to port after the explosion the captain instructed the crew to throw damaged parts overboard and repaint the interior of the damaged turret. This matter greatly complicated the investigations.

turret 2 motor

As a result of this testing and additional investigation, the accused crew-member was cleared, the Navy offered its regrets to the family, and the cause was determined to be an accidental explosion. No senior officers were officially reprimanded or reduced in rank. The best friend of the sailor they had named as the saboteur was denied re-enlistment likely due to his vocal objection to the initial report. In a Washington Post article in 2001 the captain was quoted as saying, “Only God knows what really happened in that turret. We’re never really going to know for sure.”

The USS Iowa was decommissioned the year following the explosion and the turret was never put back into service. She is currently a museum ship in Los Angeles, CA.

iowa bathtube

President Roosevelt took a bath here

The USS Iowa is a ship rich in history. She took part in many battles and shore bombardments in WWII and the Korean War. She served as Admiral Willis Lee’s and Admiral Halsey’s flagship. She has carried presidents Roosevelt and Reagan.

iowa bakery

USS Iowa Bakery

My family went on the tour several weeks ago, it was a great experience. And it’s a great way to pay your respects to the 47 sailors who died serving their country.

However, she is in dire need of new decking.

For more information about the explosion aboard the Iowa there are two books A Glimpse of Hell : The Explosion on the U. S. S. Iowa and It’s Cover-up by Charles C Thompson II and Explosion Aboard the Iowa by Richard L Schwoebel. There is also a movie called A Glimpse of Hell.

All photo’s were taken with my Canon M5 and Canon EF-M 15-45 f 3.5-6.3 IS.

American Burro

I’m probably gonna have Lenny Kravitz’s cover of The Guess Who’s song American Woman stuck in my head all night after writing that title.

I certainly couldn’t keep this one from hanging around my door. Tom Petty’s American Girl would probably rhyme better and burros certainly know how to take it easy.

burro-hitchhiker

This burro was walking along a 55 mph highway on the side of the Colorado River, I stopped to take their picture and they fearlessly crossed the road. I am going to guess he or she has been given a lot of food from passersby previously.

nosey-burro

It was fairly entertaining when the whole herd surrounded the truck I had borrowed and I’m pretty sure they were shaking me down for food. I think they could tell right away I wasn’t going to give them any because they wandered away after a couple minutes. I didn’t want to feed them and encourage them to get hit by cars. If you do want to feed burros, a trip to Oatman, Az would be my suggestion.

american-burro

I think I might have accidentally made a political statement with that last picture with donkeys, cloudy skies, setting sun and an American flag.

burro-face

All shots were taken with either a Canon EF-M 22mm f2 (review) or a Canon EF 100-300 L 5.6 (No link because eBay is about the only place to get one of these ancient beauties).

The only shot where I was worried was the next one. The mama herded me away right after I took the shot.

mom-and-burro

My family also hiked a couple miles out to a really cool rock art area. There were probably 20-30 rock circles each with a different center art. Normally it probably isn’t quite so green.

donk-ring

 

Canon EFM 15-45 f3.5-6.3 review

When Gene Siskel reviewed Attack of the Clones he gave it a 2/4 and mocked the romantic dialog, “I don’t like sand. It’s coarse and rough and irritating and it gets everywhere. Not like here. Here everything is soft and smooth.”

When he was asked what the greatest film of all time was, he answered, “Citizen Kane…That’s the official answer.”

15-45-lens

Canon EF-M 15-45 f3.5-6.3

Unfortunately, the Canon EF-M 15-45 f3.5-6.3 is not the Citizen Kane of lenses, The Canon EF-M 15-45 f3.5-6.3 is a lot more like Attack of the Clones. I’m not going to search for the Blu-ray copy I received as a gift, but if it’s on TV, I might sit down and watch it. Sure, the dialog and acting can be stiff. Some of the scenes look like a cheap sets with expensive CGI backgrounds. But on the other hand, you have Yoda’s fight scene with Count Dooku. Overall, it makes for a very average film.

img_0256

Telephone Utility pole shot with Canon EF-M 15-45

It’s not a terribly fast lens at f3.5, of course it’s even worse zoomed at f6.3. The image stabilization helps a bit, but unless it’s a sunny day you will be shooting pretty close to open or at a high ISO leading to distortion/pincushioning, vigneting or lots of noise. Most of these can be fixed in Lightroom or Photoshop, but getting a blurred image because your subject moves while you are shooting at 1/15 of a second due a lack of light makes it stay in the bag more than it should. Sharpness also doesn’t seem to be it’s strong point as you might be able to see in the next image or by looking at the utility pole above.

15-45-hillside

Canon EF-M 15-45

Even stopped it down, at the zoom end it’s still softer than I would like. However, my macro shots with it seem to usually turn out, it might still be soft, it’s just taking up the whole sensor so it’s not as noticeable.

Below are two comparison shots, the first with the Canon EF-M 15-45 f3.5-6.3, the second with the Canon EF-M 22mm f2 (review link). These are direct from camera with only cropping and lens adjustment done in Lightroom. The 15-45 was set to 21mm. If you look closely at the nearer middle support, you can see the bullet holes from when the bridge was strafed in WWII.

15-45mm-london-bridge

15-45mm

22mm-london-bridge

22mm

If you compare the railings near the top you can see a bit of softness and lack of detail in the 15-45mm vs. the 22mm. At this end of the zoom, it compares very well to the 22mm.

I had anticipated using the lens for video work with it’s built in IS and nearly silent stepper motor, but I’d have to use a selfie stick (adding more weight) to get the lens back far enough so I wasn’t just a massive head filling the frame. Walking around in the woods with a selfie stick seems like a good way to smack my camera into a tree.

One nice feature is the lens can retract bringing the front element to a fairly compact 4 cm/1.75 inches. It has a plastic body and a plastic mount,  weighing in at 130 grams. Mounted to the camera it doesn’t fit into my coat pocket nearly as nicely as the Canon EF-M 22mm f2. So it stays in the bag or in another pocket unmounted a majority of the time.

One other important factor to consider is the lens is really a 24-72mm lens due to the 1.6x effect from the camera’s APS-C sensor; which is actually a really useful range for traveling if you can only take one lens. But it doesn’t hit the sweet spot for portraits or really go wide enough for small crowded rooms. I would venture to guess it was a lens designed by marketing so it wouldn’t sabotage the Canon EF-M 11-22mm f/4-5.6 and also be a more  affordable kit lens then the Canon EF-M 18-150mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM.

If you have infinite money, I’d suggest you buy a Sony a7R II and a lot of Zeiss prime lenses and carefully select which ones you need for each trip. Also, please buy me one for recommending it to you.

If you don’t have ten thousand dollars burning a hole in your pocket, you could buy a Canon M5 with the 15-45 kit. Perhaps, later on get a Canon EF-M 11-22mm f/4-5.6 and/or Canon EF-M 22mm f2. The 15-45 is the affordable jumping in kit lens, it covers a nice range, it has some softness issues but it’s small and light and it has good color and little lens ghosting. I wouldn’t plan on making posters with the any of the zoomed images, but for viewing on a 1980×1024 computer or tv screen, it will make a nice image.

Now that I think about it, maybe the Canon EF-M 15-45 f3.5-6.3 it isn’t Attack of the Clones – Maybe it’s The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, Siskel gave that film 3 stars. Nah, overall, it’s a very average lens, but zoomed…here everything is soft and smooth.

Desert in bloom

If you are not in the American Southwest right now, you are missing a once or twice in a lifetime photo opportunity. Rainfall the past several weeks has turned the desert from a martian training ground into a brain bewildering rocky green landscape.

img_0530

I’ve visited Palm Springs and Lake Havasu several times the past few years and was looking forward to hiking some trails in the area and capturing some burro pictures. Instead it became an opportunity to take photos of amazing blooms of desert flowers and cacti.

img_0603

I imagine it’s only going to get better this week and next as more and more flowers begin to open. It was totally offsetting to have my feet sink into damp soil instead of sending up small dust clouds with each step.

img_0620

I brought an ancient Canon 100-300 f5.6L lens for taking long shots, I only carried it when I knew something would be in the distance. The majority of the shots were with my Canon EFM 15-45 f3.5-6.3 and Canon EFM 22mm F2 lenses, which fit into my travel pack while hiking.

img_0574

I really wish I could have stayed for another week to see the cacti blooming and even more flowers to fill the landscape.

img_0579

Canon EF-M 22mm f2

streetbrid

In 2014 Chevrolet released a rear wheel drive, four door sedan; it looked like a family car; it looked like a Malibu. It was anything but. The Chevrolet SS packed a 6.2L V8, and could leap from 0-60 in 4.5 seconds. It instantly became one of the best sleeper cars of all time. You could pull up next to a sports car and innocently ask, “Hey, wanna race?” All the while, knowing not only were you going to win, you were going to leave them in your dust. It was made to crush the fantasies of men in their midlife crisis, and then make them question their manhood. The Canon EF-M 22mm f2 is a lens designed for making people with their huge expensive L glass question if they are overcompensating.

The Canon EF 50mm f1.8 or “nifty fifty” is probably Canon’s most famous sleeper lens. Much like the nifty fifty, the Canon EF-M 22mm f2 is a tiny lens that looks like a low budget lens – unfortunately, it’s not quite as affordable as the Canon EF 50mm. And much like the Chevrolet SS and the nifty fifty, this lens is a sleeper.

While the Chevrolet SS sported a magnesium tubular frame, a huge engine and flappy paddle shifters, the Canon EF-M 22mm f2 isn’t hiding quite as much under the lens hood. The plastic body sounds hollow and the front element is only about 12.5 mm; however, it does have a metal mounting ring so I don’t fear swapping it on or off my camera body. It focuses quickly and silently thanks to its stepper motor. Oddly, it’s the only Canon EF-M lens not to have built in image stabilization. But with the f2 speeds you don’t miss IS too much.

As you begin proofing photos taken with this lens on a computer screen, you find yourself thrown back into your chair like you stomped on the Chevrolet SS’s gas pedal. Colors pop vibrantly. There is very little chromatic aberration and as you can see in the above photo it’s incredibly sharp even at it’s widest aperture. Opened up the lens has a nice round bokeh thanks to its 7 blades. With the f2 aperture you can play around with the depth of field and blur the foreground and background making your subject stand out. In the bird photo above I was pretty close to it’s minimum focusing distance of 6 inches or 15 cm. I have not had any lens flare issues. You might have to up your ISO settings for night time photography.  Currently, this is the fastest EF-M lens, unless you buy an adapter to use faster EF or third party lenses, it’s the best choice for shooting at night.

22mmf2

It weighs a mere 105 gram and that alone would guarantee a permanent spot in my travel bag if it wasn’t on my camera 80% of the time.  I really like just how small this combination is with a Canon M body, I can easily put it in my coat pocket and always be ready to capture whatever happens around me.

If there is one lens you need to get with the EOS M line, it’s this one.