Canon 100-400 L doesn't like filters

Started Jul 24, 2011 | Discussions
tsp1965 New Member • Posts: 6
Canon 100-400 L doesn't like filters

Hi

I've had a Canon 100-400 L for a year or so and love except that it goes all soft-focus on me as soon as I put a filter on it. No filter, it's pin sharp. Put even a Hoya Pro 1 UV filter on it and the results are dreadful, literally unusable. The first filter I put on it was one I bought on eBay and it turned out to be a fake, so I thought a genuine one would fix the problem, but it doesn't.

I can't find any reference on the web to others having this problem - has anyone here had it?

Yes, I can not use filters, but with a $1500 lens I want something on there to prevent accidental damage.

The photography I do is mainly airshows and motor sports. A couple of weeks back I went to the British Grand Prix. On day one I had it set to stabiliser mode 2 and with a filter and the results were awful. For day two, having looked at my shots, I took the filter off and turned off the stabiliser and everything was good. I thought it must have been the stabiliser, but this weekend I went to a classic event and all my pics were soft, but I had put the filter back on.

I have attached a sample bad image. As you can see, it is a weird effect, almost like soft focus (rather than motion blur) and every shot is affected. It is worst when the cars are coming towards you - photos panning sideways on are not so bad. If it was technique I'd expect some good and some bad, but as I have been successfully doing shots like these for years, I don't think technique is to blame.

It is very strange, can anyone offer guidance please?

Regards

TP

OP tsp1965 New Member • Posts: 6
Re: Canon 100-400 L doesn't like filters

Looking further at the shots, all those shot at 400 with the filter are awful, those at 300 or less are better. I can't see why that would make any difference, though?

andy792 Regular Member • Posts: 479
Re: Canon 100-400 L doesn't like filters

tsp1965 wrote:

The first filter I put on it was one I bought on eBay and it turned out to be a fake, so I thought a genuine one would fix the problem, but it doesn't.

What is the 2nd filter you are using? How can you be sure it is genuine?

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OP tsp1965 New Member • Posts: 6
Re: Canon 100-400 L doesn't like filters

Hi

Thanks for the reply.

I bought the second from a reputable retailer not off eBay, and I found a web site which explained how to tell the difference between the common fakes and the genuine (from the print on the filter and the packaging). It appears to be genuine, although I guess it might not be. I threw the fake away.

The issue with front on vs side on is actually entirely down to focal length, with the side on shots being at 300 or less. The lower the focal length, the better the performance although in no case does it approach the quality I normally get without.

OP tsp1965 New Member • Posts: 6
Re: Canon 100-400 L doesn't like filters

Sorry, you asked what it was. It is a Hoya Pro1 Digital UV.

andy792 Regular Member • Posts: 479
Re: Canon 100-400 L doesn't like filters

What is the brand? Is it Hoya? They fake everything nowadays... The only way to be sure is to buy from the official distributor. Even brick and mortar street shops may sell fake. I use only B+W and buy from B&H or Amazon directly. Never had any problems.

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OP tsp1965 New Member • Posts: 6
Re: Canon 100-400 L doesn't like filters

It's Hoya. I am pretty sure I bought it from amazon.

andy792 Regular Member • Posts: 479
Re: Canon 100-400 L doesn't like filters

I think you need to need to find out the exact reason of soft pictures. A good quality filter cannot degrade IQ like that. Period. So it could be either a bad quality filter, not necessarily fake, or focusing issues. What I would do:

1. Run tests and compare pictures side-by-sides (tripod, different lighting and different FD). If the problem is caused by the filter, you will definitively see IQ degrading on some pictures. A simple test to make sure it is really UV filter - check it against some UV source you can find.

2. If the filter is OK, check your focus and servo settings.

BTW, purchasing from Amazon doesn't protect you from fakes, unless you buy it directly from Amazon and not from other sellers listed on Amazon.

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andy792 Regular Member • Posts: 479
Re: Canon 100-400 L doesn't like filters

One more thing: it looks as a slight front-focusing issue. Take a look at the small stones between the car and the grass. Maybe it is just for my eyes...

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mickdeblood Regular Member • Posts: 105
Re: Canon 100-400 L doesn't like filters

my 300ml f4 doesn't like filters ever, soft as with a filter and sharp as without, the 70-200 is great filter or not, i just live with it and don't use filters

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photonius Veteran Member • Posts: 6,895
Re: Canon 100-400 L doesn't like filters

tsp1965 wrote:

Hi

I've had a Canon 100-400 L for a year or so and love except that it goes all soft-focus on me as soon as I put a filter on it. No filter, it's pin sharp. Put even a Hoya Pro 1 UV filter on it and the results are dreadful, literally unusable. The first filter I put on it was one I bought on eBay and it turned out to be a fake, so I thought a genuine one would fix the problem, but it doesn't.

I can't find any reference on the web to others having this problem - has anyone here had it?

Yes, I can not use filters, but with a $1500 lens I want something on there to prevent accidental damage.

The photography I do is mainly airshows and motor sports. A couple of weeks back I went to the British Grand Prix. On day one I had it set to stabiliser mode 2 and with a filter and the results were awful. For day two, having looked at my shots, I took the filter off and turned off the stabiliser and everything was good. I thought it must have been the stabiliser, but this weekend I went to a classic event and all my pics were soft, but I had put the filter back on.

I have attached a sample bad image. As you can see, it is a weird effect, almost like soft focus (rather than motion blur) and every shot is affected. It is worst when the cars are coming towards you - photos panning sideways on are not so bad. If it was technique I'd expect some good and some bad, but as I have been successfully doing shots like these for years, I don't think technique is to blame.

It is very strange, can anyone offer guidance please?

Actually, there have been quite a number of reports that (some) filters wreak havoc in particular with the 100-400 L. It's not clear why. Effects described range from bad bokeh, focus shifts, worse AF performance, and softness with bad filters.

Seems the B+W MRC might be the best bet, if you do really need a filter for the 100-400. Most would say don't use a filter at all.
Overall, one can expect filters to behave worse with longer focal lengths.

Regards

TP

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OP tsp1965 New Member • Posts: 6
Re: Canon 100-400 L doesn't like filters

Thanks for all the replies.

I'm a bit reassured to know that it is not an unknown problem with this lens. As I am 99% sure that the filter is not a fake, I think I am going to just have to not use filters.

The_cheshirecat Senior Member • Posts: 1,169
Re: Canon 100-400 L doesn't like filters

OK, so I am one of those who says never use a filter unless someone is slinging mud or sand, using your lens as the bulls eye. My choice in this area has changed over the years, but I do appreciate and accept those who find comfort in always having a protective filter on their lenses.

There has been reported this same phenomenon, inaccurate and soft focus, just by using a filter (good or otherwise). And they have have reported even the best filters affect the accuracy of the AF, at least in some situations.

Another consideration is the direction the subject is traveling, with respect to the camera and lighting. Panning is frequently more reliable when traveling across the field of view, than when moving toward the camera. This is contrary to your experience which may indicate lighting may be aggrevating the impact of the filter's effect on the AF.

I agree with another poster who suggested controlled tests, with and without the filter. This will help determine for yourself if filters provide an advantage or disadvantage. It will be what you observe and your criteria which will be what eventually matters.

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prvrt Regular Member • Posts: 212
Re: Canon 100-400 L doesn't like filters

I have the same issue. I bought my 100-400L about a year and a half ago from B&H along with a Hoya filter. After a few days of soft pictures, I took the filter off and noticed a vast improvement of the focus. I have never put the filter back on. No problems with my 15-85 or 70-300, but my 100-400 does not like filters.
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R2D2 Forum Pro • Posts: 23,243
Agree with the 'Cat

tsp1965 wrote:

I've had a Canon 100-400 L for a year or so and love except that it goes all soft-focus on me as soon as I put a filter on it.

Yup, over the years, there have been many posts regarding poor AF and poor IQ when a filter has been attached to the 100-400 (the lower the quality filter, the worse the problems, and even the highest quality filters have not been exempt).

IME the 100-400 needs a LOT of contrast to AF at the highest level (slightly soft copies even moreso), and shooting "naked" is absolutely De Rigueur. Again, IMHO.

In the sample you posted, not only is the image a bit front-focused (and soft overall), but there is definitely some veiling glare evident, which is often exacerbated by the additional glass/air surfaces of a flat filter (esp as highlights start to get overloaded).

Optically I think you'll have much better luck removing the filter, and then just point the lens away from the direction of any flying stones.

Best of luck!
R2

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bhollis
bhollis Veteran Member • Posts: 3,900
Re: Canon 100-400 L doesn't like filters

I keep a B+W MRC UV filter on my 100-400L all the time and haven't had any problems.

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Andrew_WOT Contributing Member • Posts: 521
Re: Canon 100-400 L doesn't like filters

There were quite a few reports on 100-400L Hoya filter combination problems.
Stick with B+W, maxsaver.net has a best price on them.

bhollis wrote:

I keep a B+W MRC UV filter on my 100-400L all the time and haven't had any problems.

Mark B.
Mark B. Forum Pro • Posts: 28,180
Re: Canon 100-400 L doesn't like filters

tsp1965 wrote:

It's Hoya. I am pretty sure I bought it from amazon.

Was it directly from Amazon, or one of their Marketplace sellers?

Travelshooter Veteran Member • Posts: 3,408
Re: Canon 100-400 L doesn't like filters

I use a B+W MRC UV filter on everything I have and have never had a problem. Had blowing sands in Eqypt ruin one, but that was much better than the lens coatings.

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Marc de Vries Contributing Member • Posts: 856
Re: Canon 100-400 L doesn't like filters

I've heard people on this forum claim that replacing the front element of the 100-400L is about the same price as a B+W MRC filter...

But I have no personal experience with that.

I have also used a B+W MRC filter on the 100-400 and had no issues with sharpness.

But I did see that it affected bokeh a little. (The worst case scenario got a little worse)

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