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Canon EF 400mm f2.8 L IS II USM advice (1 Viewer)

George London

Well-known member
Hello Birdforum!

I am new to this forum, so apologies if i have missed any previous discussion on the Canon EF 400mm f2.8 L IS II USM lens but i can't seem to find anything. There are a couple of reviews on the internet but not a huge amount from what i've found.

I have an EOS 1D mk IV, Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS, 1.4x and 2x mk III teleconverters. Would like to invest in a serious fixed lens. I am very much veering towards the 400 II f2.8, but can anyone advise/compare the 500mm f4/600mm f4/800mm f5.6.

Number 1 priority is max aperture and image quality, followed closely by max focal length, followed by weight/size.

I wander a lot and ideally would like to be able to just about hand hold, often take photos of birds quite far away and end up cropping in aperture too.

I am not an expert (as you've probably already worked out!), but intuitively lean towards the 400 given what i've gleaned on internet in the context of the above priorities. Given the fact that whenever i so much as glimpse the price tag I feel phsically sick any and all views/disagreements on how i can ensure i get this right would be much appreciated!!

Many thanks indeed, George
 

GYRob

Well-known member
Hi George
as you have the 100/400 do you find it long enough for what you shoot ? if yes then the 400f2.8 may be long enough for you If no that means you will always need a tc on it this will slightly degrade IQ and also slow AF too .
If this is the case then 500 or 600 may be best .
Rob.
 

George London

Well-known member
Thanks very much both for your help...

Rob, no, 400 isn't enough, but figured the 400 would be the only one I cld consider hand holding (with a teleconverter)? Would this be possible or is it basically a situation of above 400 you simply need a tripod?

Has anyone experience of hand holding the mk II 500 or 600? I reckon i'm about 60% handheld, and this probably won't change. I like to keep moving and find the tripod such a bore to lug around with camera attached and often end up missing the shot. Just been looking at more reviews and even more confused!

Thanks again, George
 

stuartelsom

Well-known member
I hand hold a MkIV and 300mm f/2.8 IS with either of the converters @ a total of c3.7Kg. That's plenty heavy enough for me to have on my shoulder all day. By my calculations a MKIV with a 400 f/2.8 II comes out at over 5Kg and would be difficult to handhold for longer than a few minutes, by which time you would probably lose stability as your arms would become very tired.

If you want good hands on reviews of the big Canon tele's then I highly recommend Bryan Canarthan's website the-digital-picture

Hope this helps

Stu
 
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HokkaidoStu

occasional moderator
Staff member
Supporter
Rob, no, 400 isn't enough, but figured the 400 would be the only one I cld consider hand holding (with a teleconverter)?

The 400 f2.8 is I think heavier than the 500 f4 (and maybe the 600 f4 too).

A friend has the old 500 f4 (heavier than the upcoming one) and he uses it handheld almost all the time.
 

mikenott

Flawed but improving!
For me, there are three main dimensions to your decision: reach, F stop and weight/handholding. I am ignoring IQ as all the lens I talk about are top end Canon's and are more likley to be affected by user factors than intrinsic IQ parameters. Others may disagree, but tht's my starting point.

Looking at the prime NEW 400-800 lenses in terms of weight they are (in ounces I am afraid!):

800 f5.6 158
600 f4 isii 138
500 f4 isii 112
400 f2.8 136

So the 400 2.8 is about the same weight as the 600 f4. Both are at my personal limits for hand holding (see below). The 500 f4 is lighter and would be "easier" to hand hold.

On top of this you need to add on extenders (1.4xiii = 8oz; 2xiii = 11.5) and your camera body weight.

The ability to hand hold a camera depends on three things: weight (taking into account principle of moments), time and your physique. Having covered weight, you then need to decide how long you will be hand holding. I used to hand hold my old 500 f4 with a 7D for about 30 seconds before my arms felt like they were dropping off. The guy I sold it too uses it for longer (but he used to be a hod carrier on a building site!) but even then not for more than a minute.

The point about the principle of moments is that the balance between the camera body + extender + slim part of the lens weight before the foot (the normal balancing point) and the weight of the big and heavy lens after the foot can make it seem more or less heavy. You really have to physically handle your ideal exact combination to know what it will fell like and compared to other combinations. The combination of weight and moments also affects the luggability factor if you are planning to carry it by hand, so make an allowance for that.

I have a similar dilemma in deciding between the new 500 isii (lighter, more luggable) and the new 600 isii (heavier, less luggable) with my iDiv + 2xiii extender (needed in the UK because quite a few birds are a long way away but not all, before the 28mm wide angle owners have a go!). I keep flipping between the two, but will only decide when I (finally) get my hands on them to compare.

Good luck with your choice.
 

GYRob

Well-known member
THE 400f2.8 does weigh more than the 500 f4 and 600f4 - i can hold the 500f4+tc with a 1d mk3 up to my eye for 55 sec thats well long enough to take a shot .

I went for the 500f4 because you can hand hold it .
Rob.
 

George London

Well-known member
Many thank everyone for such helpful input. I have embraced windows xl (not something i am naturally inclined to do!) to compare the three lenses with and without teleconverters... Reach, max aperture and weight.

Understand this is a very blunt instrument for comparing but looking at it in these simple terms the 400 ONLY wins on max aperture. Notwithstanding the helpful 'principle of moments' commentary which I hadn't considered nor would have (so thank you!) it would seem the 500 is the one, as Rob went for. Am I stupid for thinking the 400 must be better if it's heavier, or is it only heavier for the extra f stop.

I think the one outstanding question is how much slower Af is with the teleconverters...

400 with 1.4 f4, f5.6 with x2
500 with 1.4 f5.6, f8 with x2

Perhaps only I can answer this, but does the extra f stop with the 400mm outweigh the extra 200mm of reach when the x2 is attached to the 500mm.

I have the perfect solution! Get all three... In my dreams!!
 

GYRob

Well-known member
its the extra f stop .
on the 500f4 I think AF IS SLOWED BY 25% with the 1.4 and up to 50%/60% with the 2x iq is great with the 1.4 not so good with the 2x
its all a compromise there will indeed be times when the 400 will outweigh the extra 200mm but i think there will be more times it will work the other way Reach is almost always needed here in the UK .its no good haveing f2.8 if you only have a small image of the bird that 200mm will give you aprox 25% more pixcels to play with. time to go birding :)
Rob.
 

mikenott

Flawed but improving!
its the extra f stop .
on the 500f4 I think AF IS SLOWED BY 25% with the 1.4 and up to 50%/60% with the 2x iq is great with the 1.4 not so good with the 2x
its all a compromise there will indeed be times when the 400 will outweigh the extra 200mm but i think there will be more times it will work the other way Reach is almost always needed here in the UK .its no good haveing f2.8 if you only have a small image of the bird that 200mm will give you aprox 25% more pixcels to play with. time to go birding :)
Rob.

Totally agree with you on the light/aperture/extender requirements in the UK! Something I think many of our USA friends don't have to face so regularly :egghead:

Do the timings you quote refer to the new or old 500 f4? Reason I ask is that the new isii versions (I am told) combined with the new 1.4x/2x iii extenders are specifically designed to increase AF speed?

This may be heresy, but is the IQ loss that much higher on the (new Mkiii) extenders and really noticeable vs the benefits of reach? The original poster has a 1DMk9v which allows the 500 or 600 to be used with the 2x as an option. I also have a 1Div and the 1.4x and 2x Mkiii's sitting waiting for the new lens.

I suppose it is all "technical" rather than "experience" thinking at this stage -if only Canon would actually release some of the new isii lenses then things will become clearer (sic!). They are supposed to be shipped from 25 May but I have not yet seen a single hands on review of the production versions and the launch is only seven weeks away!

Michael.
 

GYRob

Well-known member
Totally agree with you on the light/aperture/extender requirements in the UK! Something I think many of our USA friends don't have to face so regularly :egghead:

Do the timings you quote refer to the new or old 500 f4? Reason I ask is that the new isii versions (I am told) combined with the new 1.4x/2x iii extenders are specifically designed to increase AF speed?

This may be heresy, but is the IQ loss that much higher on the (new Mkiii) extenders and really noticeable vs the benefits of reach? The original poster has a 1DMk9v which allows the 500 or 600 to be used with the 2x as an option. I also have a 1Div and the 1.4x and 2x Mkiii's sitting waiting for the new lens.

I suppose it is all "technical" rather than "experience" thinking at this stage -if only Canon would actually release some of the new isii lenses then things will become clearer (sic!). They are supposed to be shipped from 25 May but I have not yet seen a single hands on review of the production versions and the launch is only seven weeks away!

Michael.

My Timeings are for the mk2 lens and tc -yes the new lens should be better and faster but at the moment no one really knows .
Rob.
 

George London

Well-known member
We've been so lucky with the weather in the last few weekends but after five saturdays in a row I still fail to break my Lesser SW jinx!

Sounds like you all may well know this already, but in jacobs oxford st this evening they said timing wise it's perfect storm. I knew about Tohoku but he added that Olympic years were shocking as all the media agencies snap up the long lenses (which i imagine they do quite easily given the immense free advertising opportunities).

Thank you once again for all your advice - very thought provoking on practical application once the box is open and I can't change my mind! I've decided if the 500mm feels well balanced on the camera I go for that.

I use a manfrotto joystick head on the tripod but know that can't hold the additional weight. Would anyone disagree buying the seemingly v popular 'gimbal head' - lesser known decent value brands or wimberley? Could i put it on the joystick on a monopod?

Really appreciate you help, hopefully one day i will be able to pass on some tips!
 

Tarsiger

Well-known member
Although I don't have one, the Manfrotto MN393 long lens support seems to be popular judging by the number of people I see with them, normally supporting 500/600mm lenses on a monopod.
Russ
 

mikenott

Flawed but improving!
I have a Jobu Black Widow. Canadian, but with a UK agent from whom I have bought spares (strong winds in Shetland!) with excellent service. Can highly recommend, but there are alternatives - not least from a responder to your post :) To be honest, it comes down to how much you are prepared to pay and whether it feels/looks right for you.
 

mikenott

Flawed but improving!
I am now the proud owner of a Lensmaster RH1! Only problem is that i won't be able to use it until I get a new lens!

And did the Canon guy at Jacobs give any idea of when the new 500/600 would be REALISTICALLY available. May 25th often quoted. Issue is that the current 500/600 sell for approx 25% below RRP - but I do not know how long it takes to get down there after launch! That would be nearly £3k on the 600......
 

Pigeon_Pete

Well-known member
Hi George, have you considered the 300mm f 2.8 MK11 and MK III 1.4 / 2x TC ? Pin sharp and easily hand held for several minutes ...
 

RoyH

Well-known member
Hi George, there was a member selling a 400 f2.8 a couple of weeks ago, looked like a tidy lens. I can tell you they are big and heavy I saw a photographer at Cadwell last year, I asked, is that a 600, he said No 400 f2.8..what a piece of kit but that one had been really knocked about, think one of the riders had towed it around the track a few times seeing all those chips to the body. cheers, Roy.
 

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