|Tin Man Lee
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| p.1 #1 · First hour with Canon 200-400: Review and some Great horned owl pics |
Just want to share with you my first impression of the Canon 200-400 F4 after using it for an hour with a great horned owl. Not sure if I should post this in the gear section or the wildlife section.
By the way, this is a wild great horned owl (not baited, not captive, not called in, not setup) I have been photographing in the last few days near a soccer field.
Photos taken by Canon 1DX, Canon 200-400 F4, f5.6 at 560mm, 1/800s, ISO from 3200 to 6400, handheld
Note: It’s a very very rough writeup and probably mostly inaccurate as its all based on my feeling. Just my impression from the first brief shootout. So please bear with me.
The first thing I looked at:
The first thing I looked at when I opened the lens case… is not the lens itself (what?), but the now world famous… LEVER for the built-in 1.4X teleconverter. All my focus was on there. I couldn’t stop looking at it, touching it, trying to flip it up and down repeatedly and gently. It’s a special feeling—something seems to be floating inside, that inertia, the lever is so light yet you definitely feel the firm elements inside… Ah I digress. But I totally agree with Andy Rouse’s review on this--- that lever IS a turn-on.
The lens looks petite--- as the first thing I compare with is the 600II that I use all the time. And "she" looks beautiful. As from the reviews of Andy Rouse and Artie Morris (by the way, for expert reviews, please look at theirs by googling their name plus the canon 200-400 keywords. For layman review and for some fun and crazy reading take a look at mine because its just my random thought, the first things that came to my mind), they pointed out that the lens “feels” lighter than the 500II if I remembered correctly, so I expected it to be as light as feather, (as I tried handholding the 500II a few times and it felt just a bit heavier than feather). When I tried to hold this 200-400, surprise! I actually feel that it’s quite heavy. For a second I almost had the crazy thought that geez, it felt heavier than my 600. Just for a second. I feel that the 600II feels light because I expect that the huge lens is supposed to be very heavy but relatively it feels a lot lighter with its size. Don’t get me wrong, the 200-400 is definitely lighter and much easier to handhold for longer period of time. But I guess I was expecting too much.
The diameter of the lens is a lot smaller than the 600. I haven’t tried, but I hope both lenses can fit together side by side in my Gura gear Bataflae 32L backpack.
So I spent an hour with her (the lens) trying to photograph a wild great horned owl I have been visiting the last few days. I photographed this owl using the 600 II the last few times so my comparison will be mainly with that lens.
I aimed at the owl up in the tree and took a few quick shots. I reviewed them in the camera LCD and the owl --- appeared a lot smaller than those with my 600. OH WAIT! Guess what, I got too excited and completely forgot that it’s a zoom lens. I set it at 200mm and forgot to zoom in. I guess I am too adapted to the prime superteles with no zoom. Ah the new luxury of zoom.
I usually rest the lens foot on my palm when handholding the 600, so I used the same method for the 200-400. I feel a little bit hard to rotate the zoom ring while handholding it this way. The zoom ring was quite tight—definitely tighter than the 85 1.2 but maybe even tighter than the 70-200 II. I have pretty long fingers and I can rotate the zoom ring with two fingers without any problems. But I did feel a bit difficult. I remember Artie Morris mentioned that he handhold the lens near the front and not the lens foot. But Jim Neiger mentioned that holding the lens at the lens foot allow one to tug in the the elbow towards one's body for more stabilization. hmm...
Because of the tight zoom ring, I later found myself mostly shooting with the 400mm end. Maybe it would be a different case for bigger size wildlife.
Real time zooming when the wildlife is moving may be challenging. But since I was photographing owls it’s easy to understand I was at 400mm f4 or 560mm f5.6.
So as the sun is setting, the owl gets more active and started to fly to some lower branches that are more photographable. And the testing of the lens begins.
And there comes the luxurious dilemma which never happened before. It was already quite dark. I can use the 400mm without the teleconverter and use f/4, but the owl looks smaller in the viewfinder. If I walk closer, I may spook the owl. Now if I flip the internal teleconverter on, it becomes 560mm f5.6, much bigger owl in the viewfinder but I have to use one stop slower shutter speed or higher ISO. You may say that this dilemma happened with external teleconverter too. But before, using the external teleconverter, its not as easy to change it on the fly. Now with this new cool function, it's just a flip away. And it’s a lot of decision to be made, so in a short time, I was sweating like crazy trying to decide. It's too difficult a decision for me... But what am I complaining! Its super cool.
The AF is phenomenal. I feel that “she” can track the owl in flight as fast as the 600 II. I haven’t looked at the photos in detail yet but on the LCD its dead on. Please see my owl in flight pic I posted afterwards.
The sharpness is also stunning. It's definitely on par with the 600 II. Both are razor sharp. But I don't know, its a different kind of sharp... they just looked different.
It’s a lot easier to maneuver when I shoot vertical. The 600 is much “thicker”. I shoot vertical a lot with the owl because of their body shape.
After a period of handholding the lens (well today I was focusing on getting flight shot so I didn’t bring the tripod, and who knew the owl perched most of the time unlike the day before), I have to admit it makes a huge difference versus handholding the 600. 200-400 is like a toy compared to the size of the 600.
When the owl pooped and lowered his body, I could handhold the lens up for quite a period of time to wait for him to take flight. If I was handholding the 600II, I would probably have given up, or building an excessive amount of lactic acid in my arm that I couldn’t use my right hand to have dinner afterwards.
I am loving this lens.
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This in flight shot was at 400mm at f/4, ISO 3200, 1/1000s