Friday, September 3, 2010

Are The 100-400L's Days Numbered?

Is this dinosaur soon to go extinct?

Last week, Canon launched a new dSLR and a bunch of new glass. Of all the lenses, the 70-300 f4-5.6L IS seemed like a completely boneheaded move, especially considering its $1,500 price tag. Why so dumb? A few points to ponder.

The new 70-300 f4-5.6 L IS costs $1,500. For a few hundred more, you can get the Mark I version of the 70-200 2.8L IS lens, which offers a two f-stops advantage in light-gathering power plus was a stable of pros/serious amateurs for its entire production run. Still want long? Then add the 1.4 teleconverter for a 100-280 f4L IS. Point 2: 300 is nice, but wouldn't 400 be better? Well, by spending a little more, you can land the Canon 100-400L IS which, although the same speed, adds 100mm extra reach on the long end (which, in telephotos, is what people really want). Want to spend less but still want a weather-sealed, stabilized L? Then there's the 70-200 f4L IS, which is widely regarded to be Canon's best zoom.
Needless to say, the new lens has a lot of competition just in the Canon stable alone. So what was Canon thinking in releasing such a lens?

How about killing the 100-400L?

While it is still a popular lens, the 100-400L is getting pretty long in the tooth, even for a pro-grade zoom. Introduced way back in 1998, the lens appears even more dated than it is thanks to the old-fashioned slide zoom, which, in the age of electrically charged CMOS sensors, has earned the lens the undesirable nickname of "the dust trombone." Besides this, the lens doesn't exactly have a reputation for top-notch optical performance on the long end, either.

With a new 70-300L soon to hit the market, a 100-400L refresh is looking likely.

Obviously, the telephoto zoom market is very crowded even within Canon's own lineup. As it is now, the 70-300L seems like a really dumb decision given the competition on both focal and price range. However, with a new ultra-long zoom, the new 70-300 may find itself a nice niche in camp Canon.

So what may the new ultra-long Canon zoom look like?

First up, forget the slide zoom, it's ancient history. Let this old technology rest among the dust that it so loves to pull into the camera. The next long Canon will be a twist style zoom. As for focal length/ratio,. that's a hard call. Currently, Nikon has a ridiculously high-priced 200-400f4 zoom. If Canon were to go that route, say a 100-400 f4, the lens would jump out of the average Joe's price range, not good for wide-ranging appeal. What I foresee for a 100-400L replacement is this: something with expanded focal range, say, a 150-500 f4-5.6L IS, instead. That way, the price won't go through the roof and Canon will have a nice lineup of sub $2,500 telephoto zoom L lenses: the 70-200 family, the 70-300, and then the theoretical 150-500.

However, only time will tell if this comes true.

Tokina 28-70 2.8 Review Update:
I've said it before, but yes, it's now right around the corner. I had to reshoot some of the test and product images after (I guess) accidently deleting them in my CD burning madness. Look for the full review Monday or Tuesday. Who knows, this may be the most in-depth review of this lens anywhere on the web!

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