I don't think there is a photographer that shoots any sort of wildlife whether as their primary passion or just recreationally that doesn't want more reach. When it comes to wildlife photography, you just can't get close enough. And that is certainly the case for me even though my wildlife shooting is pretty tame compared to a lot of the really great contributors on this site.

To date, my wildlife setup consists of my Canon 70-200 F4L IS which is a very sharp zoom with the added benefit of being relatively compact and pretty light. I'll add the Canon 1.4X telextender to this lens and it gives me a 98-280 F5.6 IS lens with adequate reach and yet a portability that I as a 66-year old guy who's had 5 knee operations really appreciates smile. But as much as I like this set-up and how it works with my Canon 7D, I've lusted for more reach. And so, with a little time this Fall, I rented the Canon 100-400 F4.5-5.6L IS USM to test drive shooting the things I typically shoot both in terms of wildlife, semi-macro, and dog show ring candids -- that latter category being one in which I make my professional living.

The lens arrived on Monday and I immediately went into the back yard to shoot a few of the subjects I typically shoot with my regular setup. Butterflies.

And flowers.

OK, not exactly wildlife but at least parts of the natural environment smile.

On Thursday, we had a visit from friends and Steve is also an avid photographer so I let him shoot my regular setup and I took the 100-400 and we spent a few hours at Orlando Wetlands Park on the last day it was open for this season. I shot stationary birds like this Tri-Colored Heron.

And this Great Blue Heron.

As well as birds in flight like this Great White Heron.

And this Turkey Vulture.

And toward the end of our visit, we came upon this slithery little critter: a Pygmy Rattlesnake. Sometimes having 400 mm distance between you and your subject is a really good thing smile.

On Friday, Steve and I visited Leu Botanical Gardens here in Orlando and I was able to capture semi-macro shots of flowers like these roses in their second bloom of the season.

And butterflies like this Monarch.

On Saturday, we drove to Ocala (about an hour from Orlando) to shoot some client dogs showing in the Conformation ring there. This is Cali (GCH Loral's Valley Girl) showing in Best of Breed on her way to winning Best of Breed and 4th place in the Group.

And later, I used the 100-400 to shoot this head & shoulders portrait of Chase (GCH Avatar Summer Storm Chaser RN).

Today, I took the lens out in the yard for one last shoot using it and my 1.4X telextender to create a 140-560 F5.6-8 behemoth. That combination does not autofocus on my 7D (it would on a !D Series body) but at least the IS does work so I tried the combination hand-held. And managed to get these two shots.

I really do not advise the use of the combination hand-held. You have to both hold that lens and focus with your left hand and it's very heavy and kind of unwieldy. Plus, a 560mm lens has a depth of focus that is razor thin and hand-holding gives you very little margin for error. If I ever use that combination again, I'll put it on a very sturdy tripod.

So, what is my conclusion about how that lens will fit my shooting habits? It's a lens that was introduced in 1998 and one of the first IS lenses from Canon. It's still a competent producer of sharp images with good contrast and color. The IS is good for at least 2 stops of hand-holdability. The push/pull zoom action is not as counter-intuitive as you might think and it actually works quite well. And, the bottom line, it can be had for around $1,000 in excellent condition in the used market. To me, it's one of the great values in a quality lens that is built like a battleship and takes pictures as good as any lens in that focal length -- for a zoom. No, it is not as sharp as the Canon EF 400mm f/2.8 L IS II USM. Nor does it cost $11,000!! So, yes I'll be getting one. Now to come up with a good business case to convince Linda how it will pay for itself over time. Glad I got those dog show shots on Saturday grin.