Camera Accessories

Canon's 100-400mm replacement lens finally arrives

After 16 years, the versatile but elderly telephoto zoom now has a successor. The new 100-400mm lens has better optics and image stabilization, along with a higher price.

Canon's new EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM upgrades a 16-year-old design with a similar zoom range.
Canon's new EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM upgrades a 16-year-old design with a similar zoom range. Canon USA

With third-party lensmaker rivals bearing down, Canon has replaced its aging 100-400mm telephoto zoom lens with a completely new design.

The Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM has the same focal length and aperture range as its 16-year-old predecessor, but it's got an entirely new collection of lens elements, more effective image stabilization, the new Air Sphere Coating (ASC) to cut down on flare when shooting toward bright lights, a closer close-focus distance and better optical performance, Canon said Monday. The 100-400mm replacement had been expected.

The lens is due to ship in December for $2,199 in the US, with UK and Australian prices yet to be announced. The US price converts to around £1,390 or AU$2,560, but expect final local prices to vary considerably.

Canon lowered prices for many of its professional-grade L-series lens prices in recent months in the US, but the new 100-400mm is substantially more expensive than its $1,700 predecessor.

Canon faces significant competition in the area. Sigma and Tamron both introduced 150-600mm lenses in 2014 that offer an even longer focal-length range, though they're slower, with an f6.3 aperture at 600mm.

The new model does away with the older model's push-pull design, in which the zoom was controlled by manually tugging the end of the lens barrel out or in. The new model's zoom is controlled by a broad rotating zoom ring instead.

Another big difference is in image stabilization, which counteracts camera and lens shake. It's particularly important with telephoto lenses. The earlier 100-400mm model offered only 1.5 stops of improvement, but the new model rises to Canon's modern 4-stop improvement, the company said.

That means a photographer who could shoot handheld at 1/500 sec. before now could get steady shots at 1/30 sec. Real-world results may vary, of course, and photographers still have to worry about moving subjects, but the modern image stabilization is a major boon for handheld shooting.

As with Canon's new L-series lenses, the new 100-400mm is sealed to handle wet weather and dust.

The lens has 21 elements, including one fluorite crystal and one ultra-low dispersion glass element for curtailing chromatic aberration, in six groups. Its close-focus distance is 3.2 feet (98cm). It measures 3.7 inches in diameter by 7.6 inches long (9.4 by 19.3cm). It weighs 3.62 lbs (1.64kg), including a removable tripod mount.