2017-06-09

Andy Rouse's Essential Lens - the Canon EF 100-400mm

Sometimes, tools-of-the-trade become more than mere objects to us photographers and we develop a bond with these inanimate objects. One such tool for pro wildlife and aviation photographer Andy Rouse is his trusty Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens. In this article, Rouse tells us why he finds this lens in particular to be so indispensable. 

I’m sitting here in the one A/C compartment of the express train from New Delhi to Sawai Madhopur.

Now that’s one helluva start to any article! It’s the jumping off point for Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve, home to my beloved tigress’s Noor and Arrowhead and my home for the next three weeks. I’ve got two client tours here plus some days at the start to make a short film on my tiger photography for our YouTube channel.


I’m sat around the baggage and right against my leg is my camera rucksack. Inside is the most indispensable piece of kit that I have and I’m almost shocked to say it. No it’s not my 500mm or my Canon EOS 1DX Mark II, EOS 5D Mark IV, not my Kylie Minogue colouring set either, but my Canon EF 100-400mm lens.

Now don’t fall off your seat; it’s my go-to lens these days for so much of my photography. I never thought I would be saying this as I hated version one of this lens more than I hate Spurs. I never really got on with it as I could never trust it to focus on anything backlit, hated the push/pull barrel and could not even think of anything in low light. So I adapted and used the EF 70-200mm 2.8L IS lens with a 1.4x converter to make the extra distance. But I still needed the magic EF 400mm f/2.8L as it’s the perfect distance for a general walk around wildlife lens; actually it’s the perfect distance for so many genres of photography.


I was overjoyed when the Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS came along, as that gave me such flexibility, and I was honoured to be one of the first photographers in Europe that Canon trusted to use it. I’ve used it on so many trips now and it’s great, but increasingly I’ve been looking for something lighter and easier to travel with. Plus when I’m strapped into an airplane I needed something smaller and easier to handle. Then along came the 100-400mm Mark II, and after a bit of persuasion I agreed to give it a go.

That was then and it has never been out of my bag since. On tigers it’s probably used for 75% of my shots, for more general wildlife it’s around 50% and for aviation around 75% too. I should state at this point that for ground to air aviation you need a 600mm or much greater to get anything worthwhile, which is why I’m doing air to air where the planes come close!


The 100-400mm Mark II goes on every workshop and every trip - it’s the one piece of kit I just cannot be without. If it breaks because I do my usual habit of dropping it, I’d be lost.

Of course, I’m a full frame shooter but if you’ve got a cropped sensor body like the Canon EOS 80D / EOS 7D Mark II then the 100-400mm lens really comes into it’s own, becoming an effective 150-600mm lens.

That’s a powerful walkabout lens. It takes a converter too; but to get the full benefit of Canon AF you need to have it attached to the EOS 1DX Mark II or the EOS 5D Mark IV. We've been testing this a lot lately for those trips when it’s impractical to take the big, heavy 500mm lens.


I can say hand on heart that I’ve not had any issues with my Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens. It performs great whenever I ask it to. In low light, in back-light, in strong light, in atmospheric light, in all weathers - it just keep working and keep delivering.

Notice I haven’t mentioned quality; well I don’t really need to as it’s great and it’s as simple at that. I really think that buying it is a no-brainer as it just works, pure and simple, and I use it in my professional life without even a second thought. It’s a top piece of kit!


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Canon EOS 1DX Mark II - Andy Rouse's First Impressions


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