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  Reviews by: richardm  

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Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS USM

Review Date: Oct 13, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $6,000.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Fast AF, F2.8, Sharp wide open.
Heavy is the biggest complaint. And it is. One thing I find irritating are the buttons, because of weight if you are handholding you can accidently change setting causing issues with focus (AF limiter switch) or turning off IS. Canon should have a button to lock all your setting and that button be behind a door or cover that cannot be accidently changed. IS takes a short time to spin up (a little less than a second as with all the IS/VR systems I have used). You must give it time or the shot can be ruined, makes it difficult to shoot instantly, depress the shutter halfway and hold it if there is potential of a shot (this is more important for sports)

Very nice lens, fast AF, 2.8 helps in low light situations. I had my choice to buy a new pro camera or this lens. I needed the reach more than anything so I got this lens and very glad I did. Every review I read stated you had to have a tripod and a Wimberly sidekick or equiv. I do not shoot birds (or at least not yet) so I have only used the side kick a few times because of the combined weigth of all the gear and having to toting it all to a location.

1. I like to shoot sports and ALWAYS hand hold. (I am 45 and a big guy and can lug this thing around and handhold for a 3 hour race, I do get too tired and can make it to the end but let it hang around my neck during downtimes. If you are a woman, a slight man, handholding this lens is not for you as it will give a strong guy a hefty workout.

2. In the statium shots below I always use IS and almost always F2.8 to help with handshake. When you get tired, you have to have IS to help get the shot otherwise it is a blurry mess.

3. This lens is very sharp wide open at f2.8 and will not disappoint.

4. I have a Kenko 1.4 300 Pro converter that works perfectly, only slightly degrades the image. Downside when handholding because the number of sharp keepers goes down, this is due to my handshake I believe. I use it rarely but on the rare occasion I used it a tripod it worked well. I can see slight image degregation at 100 percent crops. Could be the converter but I think most people are not as critical as I am and if the image is resized at all you probably would not be able to tell.

I have included some images below that were all taken with rebelxt. I want to get a new camera but I do like the weight of the rebel. I hope to get a FF, and possibly get a 5d3 for lighter weight if it includes AF performance similar to a D700, if not I will wait for a used 1Ds2 and deal with the extra weight.

Daylight shots.

Low light, indoor, stadium is really where this lens shines. These were taken from the stands since I do not warrant a pit pass to get onto the track. The rebelxt is old and performs poorly with a lot of noise at ISO800 or above which these pics were taken at. Its AF is also poor especially in low light which results in lower number of keepers. Until Canon can produce a resonably priced FF camera (like the 5d2) that has AF near that of the D700 (which it is not and IMHO not much better than the rebel) that performs well at high ISO (like the 5d2 does) I will not be getting another Canon camera as the one I have works well

The lens can give almost a 3d effect..

All in all I say this is a great lens. I have tried some of Canon lighter weight 400mm but they are not 2.8 which is something I wanted. There are stadiums I have shot at that the lighting was so bad even F2.8 ISO1600 would produce images racked with motion blur that made almost all of the images unusable. Maybe someday cameras will hold good color and low noise at even higher ISOs but even then 2.8 allows more isolation of subject from background so for me, I would have not made a different choice after owning this lens for well over a year.

I shoot Nikon as well, I considered the Nikon version of this lens but at the time it was $1700 more expensive. There is so little difference in IQ, build quality that could cause me to justify the extra expense. I would recommend this one for sports. If you are going to shoot outdoors and or don't need F2.8 Canons 500mm would be a better choice if you are going to handhold.