View Full Version : Brand new 100-400L woes.

2006-06-30, 08:32 PM
Well, as everyone who was at the June 11 meet knows, my 300D decided to die on me right in the middle of it. Got that replaced with a shiny new 30D which is one heck of a fine piece of machinery.

At the same time, I decided to change the purchase of a 24-70L to a 100-400L instead. Figure I'm going to head up to NYC more often now, and I can pull off some wicked angles of departures at PHL. So my dad (also an aviation photographer as some of you know) decides to get one too.

So yesterday me and my buddy Ed head out to PHL. I quikcly realised upon reviewing the photos that everything above 250 to 300mm is unbeleivably soft. Just absolutely horrible. So today me and my dad go out to PHL. We both shoot with the 100-400 all day. Now both of us are sitting here lamenting over absolutely horrible photos.

Now, since I know the great majority of the Canon users in NYC seem to wield 100-400s, I figured this is the best place to go for advice. Is the 100-400 really that bad of a lens? Everything I've read owners are raving about the thing. Ok, so maybe One can get a bad lens, but is it possible to get two bad lenses? Am I expecting too much from it? I would hope not considering it carries a $1400 price tag with it. I mean I had a $180 75-300 that was soft above 200mm, but this is far worse and its L glass!

Thanks in advance for the help.

Joe Wagner

PS: My signature would apparently not apply if one was using my 100-400 to shoot the photo. :D

2006-06-30, 08:48 PM
The 100-400 is a fantastic lens, it really only gets soft up towards 400mm. What settings and conditions were you shooting in? If the light was poor your shots are going to be soft regardless of what lens your using. Also did you have the IS on? The IS helps to reduce vibrations therefor improving the picture quality. Worst comes to worst send it in for repair.

2006-06-30, 09:05 PM
Light conditions were about as good as they get at PHL today. Mostly sunny (except for the occasional fair weather cumulus puff), low humidity and therefore little haze.

IS is always on with me, as it is on my 702-00 2.8 IS as well. Since I'm getting used to the 30D and heard it tends to over-expose, I was shooting F 7.1 and 1/640th. I also tried F8 and 1/500th but that had no effect at all. I normally try to keep F8 always, but went with the higher shutter and F 7.1 on the assumption I was suffering motion blur (not likely with a relatively high shtter and IS anyway).

I should note my 70-200 2.8 IS has never given me a single problem and has performed magnificintly. I shot a few shots today with it and they came out great as usual. It still is my primary lens for railroad photography where the 100-400 is a bit too much lens.


2006-06-30, 09:14 PM
I pretty mcuh agree with Tommy as far as 100-400 performance.

There is the slight chance that you got a lemon. You might want to take advantage of your having just bought it and swap for for another at the camera store quickly.

2006-06-30, 09:22 PM

I thought I had a lemon as well. But my father and I both got a 100-400, and both show the same results. Now of course we could have both gotten lemons as well, but the odds of that are pretty small I would assume.

We got them from B&H and they have a 14-day return policy so that's an option til about next Friday.

I may post a couple sample images tomorrow unedited and cropped to show just how bad they are.


2006-06-30, 09:29 PM
Yeah, post some images.

Honestly, I experienced some soft images as well, but I always attributed it to the angle of the aircraft coming in.

I also had some issues because I had shined the lens into the sun and it affected the IS.

I had a couple issues when I first got my camera and lens that I don't seem to have right now.

I'm babbling. I'm tired. lol. But show me some sample images and we'lll take it from there. :)

2006-07-01, 02:03 PM
I pretty mcuh agree with Tommy as far as 100-400 performance.

There is the slight chance that you got a lemon. You might want to take advantage of your having just bought it and swap for for another at the camera store quickly.

I can agree with that.
Granted I'm sporting a Nikon D200, that just went back to them, for service.

Cameras today are a technological wonder and marriage of sensitive electronics and mechanical hardware.

Take a peek at http://www.sportshooters.com, where pros post.
I gather on average at any given time any of them have half of everything getting repaired and shooting with the rest. Most seem to have at least double the gear for this reason.

Its part of the sport. No worries.

2006-07-01, 02:45 PM
Ok, here are a few sample photos I shot yesterday. Focal length is in the top left corner of each photo. If you're really intrested in details, the EXIF info should still be attached to the photo. These are all un-edited, just cropped but not resized.









2006-07-01, 03:07 PM
Your DL 757 is the sharpest one in that batch..

Keep in mind your shooting in some crappy conditions.
Very hazy and the sun is very high.

We are all shooting one of the most difficult subjects.
Your shooting through a "fluid mass", all that air between you and the plane. Humidity, smog, dust and the wind that carries all of this has a way of showing up in your pics.

What are your shutter speeds? All your other shots are blurry, not just soft. Plus you can see the underexposed area under the USair shot too, thanks to the lack of lighting.

I would go out shooting in better conditions, exam the shooting data and results before sending your gear in.

PHL Approach
2006-07-01, 03:25 PM
We shot the day before he took the shots above and it was worse as far as haze and lighting goes. My shots came out great and his shots on the 2.8 came out great as well. We shoot in conditions like that often, light haze etc.. With much more success. Joe, like I told you last night (as Phil) also mentioned. It's ironic that your father and you both got bad ones... I guess all there is to say is that you both got sucker punched. I shot with Justin's for about 5 days and can attest that it's a great lens.

2006-07-01, 04:01 PM
I want clarify that I am by no means a "n00b" when it comes to aviation photography. I've been in this hobby for 6 years with various equipment ranging from crappy 2.1 MP Point and Shoot now to a 30D. I'm not trying to be a smart ass but you don't have to give me the old "shoot in better conditions" speech the n00bs get.

I also own a 70-200 F2.8L IS, which is a fantastic lens. I get nothing but fantastic shots with, even in horrible weather conditions. I also shoot trains as well with Ed, and can make an Acela moving at 125 MPH look like its parked (aside from the nice blurry background of course).

As Ed said we shot on Thursday as well, and conditions then were far worse. High Humidity and lots of haze with visibility hanging around 7 miles. Friday (when my sample shots were taken) was much cooler and low humidity thanks to some Thunderstorms the night before. Summer lighting may not be the best I've been shooting at PHL for those 6 years and I know the angles and times there like the back of my hand. Conditions yesterday were about as good as they get in the summer, and I've never had problems in varrying weather as my 339 photos on A.net will atest (and we all love to complain about them and their standards).

I'm just shocked at the results from this lens. I shot with a highly flawed and cheap $180 75-300 on my 300D 2 years ago and got better results. I also realized there was some motion blur. I can't understand how I can blur a shot like the UPS 757 (170mm) at 1/640 and F 7.1. I've shot sunset shots at far lower F stops and shutter and gotten excellent results on my other glass.

Just a few of my favorite shots from over the years:


And finally, no sunlight to speak of, F4 and about 1/125 on a crappy lens:

Also, low light conditions of some railroad action. F3.2 and 1/250th at 400ISO.

http://www.cityscenes.net/Rail/9518_UP8 ... e_Q301.jpg (http://www.cityscenes.net/Rail/9518_UP8343_SD70ACe_Q301.jpg)

Again, I'm not trying to sound like an ass but since most of you haven't known me for long you may be underestimating my experience in the field.


2006-07-01, 06:15 PM
Take it back and exchange it for a new one... if that one is no good just eaither suck it up or get your money back. Might aswell utilize there return policy!

2006-07-01, 09:50 PM
Def take that back!!!! There is something seriously wrong with that lens. That's beyond soft. If you exchange it I'd try the new one out in the story before you leave.

2006-07-02, 12:27 PM
It looks like more motion blur on a few of those shots more than soft.

My 2 cents


2006-07-02, 05:35 PM
I wouldn't call that motion blur, with the IS on and those lighting conditions you should not experience that much softness. The one picture at 180mm should be razor sharp.

2006-07-02, 06:17 PM
I'm not trying to be a smart ass but you don't have to give me the old "shoot in better conditions" speech the n00conversation get.

"Now Luke, what we have here is a failure to communicate"

Joking aside, perhaps this is just one example of how a post can't properly relay a persons tone and attitude, unlike conversation can.

I was in no way trying to give you a condescending comment, but can only attest how many times I go to a favorite spot to shoot and some days are spot on and others can be a real crap shoot.

Welcome to the gang.

2006-07-02, 07:45 PM
Definite motion blur on these two:



One other can be viewed either as soft or slight motion blur.


Steven Holzinger
2006-07-02, 09:00 PM
How does one solve the problem of motion blur? I seem to have that problem with my little point & shoot every now and then...and getting a DSLR is out of the question. :-)

Matt Molnar
2006-07-02, 09:29 PM
That looks almost like digital distortion.

2006-07-04, 04:37 PM
As an update to my little problem. The lenses are going back to B&H tomorrow via UPS. They've agreed to send out replacements same day they get the two faulty ones in.

On the topic of motion blur, I also realized right away some were clearly blurred, including the UPS. Maybe I lost my footing mid-shot on those (all those departure shots were taken from PHL's own "Gravel Lot", which as you can guess is full of loose gravel with lots of depressions and puddles). I figured I should have been relatively safe from motion blur shooting at 1/500 or better, plus having the benefit of IS. Go figure.

On the other hand there's a shot like the DL 757. A whole 180mm and its really soft, but in this case not suffering from motion blur.

Oh well, we'll see what the replacements look like.

2006-07-05, 07:36 PM
eh, just get 1.4x and/or 2x for your 70-200 instead imo. The 70-200 both versions are just awesome. Not like the 100-400 is bad, I just personally dont like the push/pull mechanism

PHL Approach
2006-07-06, 12:11 PM
He does have a 1.4, barely uses it. I've used it a few times myself. The ratio of soft shots with that thing on is horrible. It's a 200 dollar POS is all I have to say about it.

2006-07-06, 07:31 PM
He does have a 1.4, barely uses it. I've used it a few times myself. The ratio of soft shots with that thing on is horrible. It's a 200 dollar POS is all I have to say about it.
really? hmmm. I have a 1.4x on my 70-200 f/4 and it works very well without a noticeable drop in quality. The 2x is pretty noticeable though