Canon EF 400mm f5.6L prime

  • mossie
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7 years 6 months ago #25948 by mossie
mossie created the topic: Canon EF 400mm f5.6L prime

After humming and haa-ing about what is the best canon lens to buy in my budget, and from all the forumites who have said that you got to “go big or go home”, and that there is no second best to good quality glass. I saved and finally ordered the Canon EF 400mm f5.6 L series. On the basis that 400mm is about the minimum you can get away with for birding, and the 400mm prime is supposed to be one of the optically best lenses in this range (except for the f2.8, which have arrived in droves to follow the Soccer). I worked on the premise that the more features you have e.g. zoom, and IS, the more there is to distract from the optical quality. I have done a little testing, and can report on the following.

Build. I now know why they make a fuss about L series quality. They are built like a tank and make the camera body feel like a toy. When asked if I was carrying any dangerous objects in my hand luggage, either sharp objects or something that can be used as a club, I had to lie. I had this vision of running down the isle, beating hijackers over the head and halting their bid to take over the plane using nothing but my lens. Apparently champagne bottles work just as well.

400mm prime. Do I miss the zoom. Not yet, I have yet to find myself in a situation photographing birds, where 400mm is too much. I have once had an issue when the 3.5m minimum focus distance was a problem, but it is not that often that the birds sit at the table having lunch with you.

Autofocus. Oh wow. I got my three year old to sprint towards me, so that I could see if I could track her and shoot continuously. All the pictures where sharp! I have not been able to do this with a consumer lens, not even with a 1 year old crawling! Can’t wait to try this on Birds in Flight.

Sharpness. This is where I discovered a problem. 400mm is a difficult focal length to work with. To hold the camera still at this focal length, is lot like shooting a rifle, and you have to be so conscious about holding the lens dead still. You have to continuously pump up the iso to try to get a decent shutter speed to stop the movement, the moment the light is not perfect. This is not an easy lens to shoot handheld. When you do control the movement, the results are quite good. Below are a few samples, taken on a 350D

Laughing dove (shot handheld at F5.6 iso 400 at 1/250)

Full moon F10 iso 100 1/400sec (cropped)

House sparrow

I would be interested to compare the optical clarity with other lenses in this class, to see if I am missing out on something.


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  • Doug
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7 years 6 months ago #25977 by Doug
Doug replied the topic: Re: Canon EF 400mm f5.6L prime
What an awesome lens!!!

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