Canon has released an update to its 16-year-old 100-400mm lens. The Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II is introduced, alleviating the push-pull zoom design and offering an updated USM auto focus system, new 4-stop image stabilization and much decreased minimum focus distance.
Naturally, an announcement of this kind is going to be more exciting for photographers than us filmmakers. However, the 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II holds some features that will be relevant for video.
Users outside of Dual Pixel AF enabled cameras won’t benefit from the updated USM auto focus system, which includes more update to date firmware and AF algorithms to increase auto focus speed. The new 4-stop Image Stabilization will be an improvement, but its inclusion of a Mode 3 (that activates only at the point of a half pressed shutter) will likely be of little use to more video orientated users.
The choice to revert back to a rotational zoom ring will be warmly welcome by filmmakers, and many photographers also. The design waves goodbye to the fidgety (yet rapid) push/pull zoom design, whilst retaining a collar to increase/decrease the tension of the zoom ring.
The 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II maximum aperture remains untouched, but an improved 9-bladed rounded diaphragm will ensure smoother out of focus areas and construction sees a change with 21 elements in 16 groups, one of which a fluorite element and another a super UD element to help with reduction of backlit flaring and ghosting.
The 77mm thread size remains the same, and the 100-400mm II will also grow in physical size as it extends through the zoom range. A new hood design has been included however, with a trap door near the base to assist with circular polariser adjustment and also compatible variable NDs (compatible NDs being the kind that have the same size element for both the front and rear lenses).
A specification that may be overlooked is the decrease in minimum focus distance (MFD). At 38.4″/97cm, the 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II is nearly half that of the mark I. This is exceptionally close for a lens of this kind; to put things into perspective this is the same territory as a typical 85mm prime lens (the Canon 85mm f/1.2L II for example has a MFD of 37.4″).
Put that in partnership with the surprisingly high maximum magnification (MM) of 0.31x, the 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II has great potentially for rendering small subjects much larger in frame, a great asset for wildlife filmmaking or any other genre where you want to draw your audience in to a small or further away subject.
So, why would filmmakers want this lens? The size, weight and price have all increased with what seem some purely photography-targeted updates. Despite the increase in size and weight make no mistake, this lens is compact for its quality and focal length.
Yes, the variable aperture is less desirable than a constant equivalent, but this compromise reduces its size and cost by over half (just check out the 200-400mm f/4L IS, over 2kg heavier and over $9500 more expensive).
At 3.5 x 7.8″ & 3.28 lb (1.49 kg) the 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II is merely a slightly over weight 70-200mm F/2.8L IS II, making it a carry around lens.
Coupled with an extender (the 100-400mm II is compatible with both Canon EF 1.4x III and EF 2x III Extenders) and a super35mm sensor platform you can reach some impressive focal lengths for such a small package. The 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II is indeed a gateway telephoto lens, at $2199,00 it’s consider very affordable for long range L series glass.