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mschance | profile | all galleries >> Galleries >> The Canon EF400mm f/2.8L IS mark II lens: First Images tree view | thumbnails | slideshow

The Canon EF400mm f/2.8L IS mark II lens: First Images

The Canon EF400mm f/2.8L IS II lens could very well be considered an All In One, a Swiss Army Knife, of Super Tele lenses.

My usual birding setup for the past few years is the 7D with the 400mm f/5.6L. Now that I have more time and freedom to step up this activity, I wanted to venture into the 1D series camera/Super-telephoto lens arena. I purchased the 1DX, it being the only 1 series model in Canon's current and near future lineup.

The 500mm and 600mm versions of the 400mm lens at this time is in such short supply that the availability is almost non existent. I gave up on the 600mm for which I was wait listed and purchased the 400mm based upon Canon's official specifications and customer reviews. So far, mating it with the Canon 1DX, I am immensely pleased with its incisive ability to acquire accurate focus with the lens. Canon's published MTF characteristics of the 400mm f/2.8 lens, with and without either of the mark III tele-extenders attached, exceed that of the older but still venerable bare EF400mm f/5.6L which was my primary birding lens. This is also borne out in the (so far) few times that I used the lens in the field.

It has the fastest aperture for a Super tele and the combinations with the extenders enable focal lengths between 400mm (at f/2.8) and 800mm (at f/5.6). With the new 1DX firmware one could theoretically stack the converters to enable 1120mm (at f/8) but, unfortunately, Canon seems to have designed the converters so that the hole in front of either of the converters is just a little small to accept the protrusion on the back. Indeed, Canon does not recommend stacking the converters. The excellent performance of present Mark III converters could perhaps lead one to believe that Canon could engineer and market a comparable 2.8X converter. This may of course affect the sale strategy of the lenses.

Although not as light as the 500mm it is hand holdable, a tad lighter than the 600mm (although not with the 1.4x tele converter attached) and lighter than the 800mm even with the 2x converter attached.

The 400mm holds the advantage in the Minimum Focus Distance (MFD) category since this is unaffected by the use of tele-converters: 8.9 feet for the 400mm for all focal lengths, versus 12.1 feet for the 500mm, 18 feet for the 600mm, and 19.7 feet for the 800mm. Even the MFD of the 400mm f/5.6L is a long 11.5 feet.

The AF accuracy and speed so far seem exceptionally good when coupled to the 1DX, with and without the converters attached. I haven't yet had the opportunity for tracking small fast birds coming toward the camera at near distances for a real acid test, but the results so far is at least as good as or much better than I had with the 400mm f/5.6L.

The smoothly rotating tripod collar provides the degree of freedom that's missing from typical gimbal mounts, provided one can forgive the otherwise useful detents that's new to the lens. This is useful when the tripod doesn't sit level on the ground.

The innovative setup latch on the CB Gimbal mount, which prevents the lens from flopping forward or backward facilitates swapping the tele-converters on and off the lens. No need to tighten any of the knobs on the mount. It also helps to keep the lens in place when toting the tripod camera around.

These are the initial sets of images taken with the 400mm f/2.8L IS Mark II lens over the short two weeks or so that I had the lens. The camera was the Canon 1DX except for one single image of a perched Kingfisher which was taken with the Canon 7D for a cursory comparison. The AF response for moving targets with the 7D remains to be tested. An 'un-rumored' upgraded 7D would make this real interesting.

Canon's extenders, the 1.4X and 2.0X, (both Mark III versions) were used for most of the shots. In the field the closest I could get to most of the perched birds and some BIF's was about 200 feet so significant crops were called for in those shots. Some of the BIF shots were naturally closer if the birds accommodated. The Kingfisher, Osprey and Hawk kept their distance.

I don't have much experience with the other super telephotos except seldomly through the CPS loaner program. If and when the 500mm II and 600mm II lenses become available, I'd be hard pressed to decide which to purchase, if any, to complement the 400mm since the latter is so versatile. Perhaps the 500mm would be the less redundant choice because of the lower heft and better weight distribution - both prerequisites for bare handing.

It's logical to accept that a bare lens should be superior to a converter assisted one. Nevertheless the 400 with the converters provide viable compact option for simulating the longer bare lenses.

In the main part of this gallery are a menagerie of images. The sub galleries are more organized and contain some BIF images of large slow birds (Pelican and Canada Geese) as well as a few of a Kingfisher. Some flight shots of an Osprey are in the Osprey sub gallery. Feather details of Hummingbirds at close focus (~ 10 feet) are shown in the Hummingbird sub gallery. Note that neither of the other telephotos can focus this close without extension tubes.

The EXIF information for all the images can be seen with an optional click, as well as the recommended viewing of their original uploaded sizes.
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The Setup - 1
The Setup - 1
The Setup - 2
The Setup - 2
Sub Gallery: Kingfishers
:: Sub Gallery: Kingfishers ::
Sub Gallery: Hummingbirds
:: Sub Gallery: Hummingbirds ::
Sub Gallery: Ospreys
:: Sub Gallery: Ospreys ::
Sub Gallery: Canada Geese
:: Sub Gallery: Canada Geese ::
Sub Gallery: Pelicans
:: Sub Gallery: Pelicans ::
Sub Gallery: Red-shouldered Hawk
:: Sub Gallery: Red-shouldered Hawk ::
Sub Gallery: Egrets
:: Sub Gallery: Egrets ::
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