Which Super-telephoto Lens Best Fits With the Canon 100-400mm II? « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Which Super-telephoto Lens Best Fits With the Canon 100-400mm II?

What’s Up?

I woke very early and well before the alarm to pack for my nonstop flight from San Diego to Orlando. I am at the gate as I begin this blog post. If all goes well, right-hand man Jim Litzenberg should be picking me up at MCO at about 6:30pm Sunday evening.

Thanks for all of the congratulatory comments on the San Diego exhibit both here on the blog and on Facebook; they made my special day even more special. a

The Streak

In spite of having been buried by travel, teaching, the exhibit, and several major writing projects for the last two months, today’s blog post marks 75 days in a row with a new educational blog post. Please remember to use our B&H links for your major gear purchases.


This image was created at Salisbury Plain on South Georgia on our last day of landings on the memorable 2015 Cheesemans’ South Georgia Expedition with the Induro GIT 304L tripod/Mongoose M3.6-mounted Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens, the Canon Extender EF 1.4X III (at 560mm), and the rugged Canon EOS-1D X. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1/3 stop: 1/200 sec. at f/16. AWB.

Center AF point (Manual selection)/AI Servo/Rear Focus AF as framed was active at the moment of exposure. Click here to see the latest version of the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to see a larger version.

King Penguin neck abstract

Image Design Answer

In the blog post here, I asked if folks liked the photo-bombing penguin in the lower left corner. Most did not. I must admit that I did not like it much at first but over time it grew on me.

The 100-400 II

Most of you know how much I love this great lens. See lots more on that below. Many folks have been asking “Which super-tele best fits with the new 1-4? Read on to learn my thoughts.

Which Super-telephoto Lens Best Fits With the Canon EF 100-400mmL IS II lens?

I have received more than a few e-mails recently from folks who already own the 100-400II and wish to enter the world of super-telephoto photography. One such e-mail from retired Tennessee State Senator Doug along with my reply should help most folks in the same boat make this difficult decision.

AM: Hi Doug, It is good to hear from you. Love your closing, “Reformed Senator and struggling photographer.”


DJ: I recently found your blog and videos. Great resource. I really appreciate your willingness to share knowledge.

AM: Thanks. That has been my specialty for a while. πŸ™‚

DJ: You have motivated me to venture into bird and travel photography in my new retirement. I do have a 600mm non-IS; it is very old and very heavy but sharp.

AM: Been there, done that πŸ™‚


This image was created at La Jolla, CA on the last morning of the hugely successful 2016 San Diego IPT with the Induro GIT 304L/Mongoose M3.6-mounted Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM lens, the Canon Extender EF 2X III, and the Canon EOS 5DS R. ISO 400: 1/640 sec. at f/11. AWB.

Center AF point (by necessity)/AI Servo Expand/Rear Focus AF as originally framed was active at the moment of exposure. This is a very, very, small crop from the left and the top. Click here to see the latest version of the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to see the incredible fine feather detail in a larger version.

Brown Pelican bill pouch detail

The 500 II

The 500 II gives me 1000mm of full frame reach with the 2X TC and 700 with the 1.4X; a perfect fit for the 100-400 II unless you need the reach of the 600 II plus TCs…

The e-mail conversation continued…

DJ: I have planned to purchase two new lenses and have narrowed the search down to three. The new 100-400II L IS the Canon EF 400mm f/4 DO IS II USM lens, and the Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM lens

AM: Assuming that you have ruled out the 600 II as too bulky and too heavy, your choice is an easy one: go with the 100-400mm II and the 500 II. They were both in my gear bag for San Diego and will be for the Greece trip as well. Note, however, that when I am traveling to places where weight is somewhat of a premium and the birds are tame, I will opt for the 100-400II/400 DO II/combo in part because I am so proficient with the 2X III TC and the Canon EF 400 DO II; folks like me who can consistently make sharp images with an f/4 lens and the 2X III TC will then have a nice 100-400 and 560/800 combo to work with.

DJ: It’s a big decision and I would value your opinion.

AM: Understood and it was wise of you to ask me.

DJ: Which combo would you recommend for wildlife and travel?

AM: See above.

I have always wanted the Canon EF 400mm f/4 DO IS II lens but the new 100-400 a seems to be such a versatile lens.

AM: It is an amazingly versatile lens and I absolutely love the close focus as well as its amazing sharpness and 4-stop Image Stabilization system. Understand that the 400mm DO II somewhat counterfeits the 100-400 unless–as noted above–you are skilled at making sharp images with the 400mm f/4 DO IS II and the 2X III TC. Of note is the fact that the 1-4 II is so versatile that many have gone away from the 200-400 with internal Extender. That one still remains at the top of the list for Africa in part because of its versatility and in part because the built-in TC is a big plus in extremely dusty environments.


This image was created at the highlands of Puerto Ayora at 8:55am on July 21, Day 8 of the 2015 Galapagos Photo Cruise. I used the tripod-mounted Canon EF 400mm f/4 DO IS II USM lens with the Canon Extender EF 1.4X III and the Canon EOS-1D X. ISO 800: Evaluative metering at zero: 1/500 sec. at f/10 in Av mode.

Center AF point/Spot AF/Shutter Button AI Servo AF was active at the moment of exposure as is pretty much mandatory with moving subjects. The selected bird’s folded wing as originally framed. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Image #1: Galapagos White-cheeked Pintail displaying male

The 400 DO II

When working with tame birds or when I wish to travel light, the 400 DO II serves as my big super-telephoto lens, most often on a tripod with the 2X III TC.

The e-mail conversation continued…

DJ: Would the portability of the 400mm DO II make it a better choice than a 500mm II IS? BTW, I will purchase these through your web site.

AM: As above, only in very certain circumstances; I routinely travel to places like the Southern Ocean and the Galapagos with 400 DO II/100-400II combo. On some of those trips the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS lens comes along for the ride. That old favorite was very useful in several low light situations in San Diego.

DJ: I shoot a 7D2 and a 5DSR.

AM: Good luck πŸ™‚ This will probably shock the world but I may be selling all of my camera bodies and going only with 5DS Rs… Thanks to dear friends Patrick Sparkman it will soon–via a coming blog post–be easy to see and absolutely clear how much better the 5DS R is than anything that Canon offers at present.

DJ: I am planning to book a trip with you this year. I am going to Kenya and France this year with a fellow Tennessean, Jim Zuckerman. I too bought a 5DSR. Seeing your images, I feel it was a good decision–Jim is not so sure. Large, super high-res monitors are coming.

AM: Jim is somewhat of a friend and someone who has my great respect. My 5DS R images look mighty fine on my Macbook Pro with Retina Display. I will ask a favor: when the 5DSR Image Quality Superiority blog post is published, please send a link to Jim.

To simplify your shopping, here are my affiliate links for the two lenses discussed above:

Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM Lens

Canon EF 400mm f/4 DO IS II USM Lens

Please let me know if you have any additional questions. If you want to chat further about your gear choices give me a buzz at home at 863-692-2806 next week. I will be home late Sunday.

Please let me know if you need any additional product specific links and please shoot me your B&H receipt when you are done shopping.

later and love and be sure to subscribe to the blog.


The 600 II

I continue to own and use the Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM lens when I need every bit of reach, when I can easily get the lens to a given location, and when I do not have to walk long distances.

The 600 II is numero uno when working from my car off a BLUBB. I ship it to Bosque every year so that I can use it to photograph single cranes and single geese in flight. I managed to get it to Japan on my last trip there and to the UK as well for the puffins in flight. It is, however, a bear to travel with.

The 100-400II

Right now, the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens just might be my favorite-ever Canon lens. As regular readers know, and as above, I love it for it amazing close focus (.98 meters!) as well as for its superb sharpness and its 4-stop Image Stabilization system. Not to mention its great versatility and focal length range as well as its light weight and hand holdability. If you photograph birds, wildlife, or nature and do not own this great lens, you should!

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To show your appreciation for my continuing efforts here, we ask, as always, that you get in the habit of using my B&H affiliate links on the right side of the blog for all of your photo and electronics purchases. Please check the availability of all photographic accessories in the BIRDS AS ART Online Store, especially the Mongoose M3.6 tripod heads, Gitzo tripods, Wimberley heads and plates, LensCoats and accessories, and the like. We sell only what I have used, have tested, and can depend on. We will not sell you junk. We know what you need to make creating great images easy and fun. And we are always glad to answer your gear questions via e-mail. I just learned that my account was suspended during my absence; it should be up and running by Monday at the latest.

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In all blog posts and Bulletins, feel free to e-mail or to leave a comment regarding any typos or errors. Just be right πŸ™‚

25 comments to Which Super-telephoto Lens Best Fits With the Canon 100-400mm II?

  • Good morning Guru. Hope you are fine. Writing to you after a long time.

    IMO, 7D II + EF 400mm f/5.6L USM + Extender 1.4 III = 896mm reach retaining AF at f/8 seems to be the best combo for an enthusiast Bird Photographer.

    May I request your kind opinion?


  • avatar graham hedrick

    Are you really getting rid of all cameras and keeping the 5DS R?

  • avatar Graham hedrick

    You are really selling all your bodies and going soley with the 5ds r? No joke??

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      That is my plan at this moment. I will probably keep one 1D X just because. And my Kolari Vision converted 5D II. a

      • avatar graham hedrick

        Art, that is quite a bold move. However, knowing you, I am not surprised. I would have thought you would have upgraded to a 1Dx replacement.

  • avatar Ward Mitchell

    A lot of excitement here when the man is setting the pace for others to follow. I too will wait with baited breath to see what comes of all this body talk and what is best. Sounds like my 7d is going the way of the edsel.

  • Artie,

    I recently upgraded to the 100-400 IS II (after selling my old 100-400 through your site, thanks again for providing this service), and want to upgrade either my EF 1.4x II or EF 2X II tlele to the III version. With the old 100-400, I used only the 1.4x as thought the 2X was not as sharp. It sound like you are using the 2X III with the 100-400 IS II. Is this what you would recommend over the 1.4x III? I shoot a lot of cranes and the next big trip will be to Mongolia, with lots of distant vistas.

    So glad San Diego went well! Look forward to getting the CD and maybe getting down to the exhibit.


    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Hi Susan,

      Thanks on all counts. I was pretty sure that I knew the answer to your TC question but checked with Chuck Westfall to be sure. I was right.

      There is no need to upgrade from the 1.4X II to the 1.4X III if you will be using it only with the 100-400. Folks with Series II super-telephotos however are advised to upgrade as the series III TCs are better able to communicate with the camera’s AF system than the older TCs.

      In addition, the 1.4X II and 1.4X III are pretty much equally sharp. The only difference is a minor one: better weather sealing on the newer version. artie

      ps: I was a bit confused by some of what you wrote but I think that I got the drift.

  • avatar John Koeniger

    Own the 5DS r and 7D 11- have found the 5DS r addictive as well. John K

  • … but you could also keep a 7D II for really fast action when needed.

    Alex – a 7D II user πŸ˜‰

  • avatar Ron May

    Art, FYI for your friend DJ, I used the 100-400 II with the 1.4X III on my 1D X at the last Bosque IPT and I am suitably impressed with the overall quality of the images that I got. I will be taking this combination to Botswana this fall as well.

    If you go for the 5DS R units, how will this change your storage requirements for your images? The files from these guys must be huge.

  • avatar Mike Moore

    While I have been blown away by the depth of detail in your 5DSR images, for those of us that cannot justify the cost or carry the weight, I am equally blown away by what my combo of the 7DII, 1.4X III and 100-400 mkII can do for the price. Amazing autofocus, tack sharp photos (when I do everything right!), blistering burst speed and coverage of an effective 160-900 mm focal length that focuses to 3 ft. All hand holdable and easily carried on a Black Rapid type strap. Never before has so much power been placed in the hands of people who can only afford a (relatively) modest investment in their equipment. It is truly a golden age of digital photography!

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      I agree but only 100%. I have said it often: the 7D II is the greatest-ever digital camera body value. And this too: in the right hands, the 7D II/100-400 II combo is deadly, especially when the sun is out. a

      ps: I just order a second 5DS R. They are light πŸ™‚

      • avatar Mike Moore

        And your favorite “internet experts” labelled the 7D mk II a disappointing upgrade. Yes, if you only read spec sheets. What really impresses me about Canon is that they do not seem to engineer just to the spec sheet, but continue to make less visible engineering improvements that make it easier to take great photographs. The 7DII almost feels like a living organism in my hand that often anticipates and out thinks me!

        I really look forward to drooling over you 5DSR images. I have a new Dell 4K laptop that really makes them sing.

  • avatar Alan Lillich

    I think another aspect to the lens choices are bodies. I was really happy last week in San Diego keeping a 100-400 on a 5D III, and a 400 DO on a 7D II. I did not even take my tripod out of the car. I do not disagree with any of what was said above, just offering another anecdote.

  • avatar David Policansky

    Hi, Artie. Thanks for this great educational blog. One other thing I love about the 1-4 II that the old 1-4 didn’t have in my hands is its lightning-fast and accurate autofocus. It’s at least as good as your (and my) old favorite “toy lens,” the 400 f/5.6L, which I was so fond of that I can’t bear to part with it even though I haven’t used it in more than a year.

  • avatar Michael Hankes

    Hey Art,

    After using the 5DSR, how does it compare to the 1Dx? Is the resolution advantage that the 5DSR brings outweighing the performance you get from the 1Dx?


    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      The files from the 5DS R are so good that I am ordering a second 5DS R and selling my 1D X and all the rest. I will need to live with the slower frame rate but my style does not include holding down the shutter button so that should not hurt too bad πŸ™‚ a

      ps: if you order one please use my B&H affiliate link πŸ™‚