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Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM

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115 268806 Nov 23, 2012
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95% of reviewers $1,058.82
Build Quality Rating Price Rating Overall Rating
9.74
9.53
9.5
ef400mmf_56_1_

Specifications:
This high-performance lens was designed with portability and handling ease in mind. One super UD-glass element, whose characteristics are similar to fluorite, and one UD-glass element result in sharp pictures from corner-to-corner. The lens also has a built-in hood and a detachable tripod mount.


 


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wfr2
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Registered: May 14, 2003
Location: United States
Posts: 1321
Review Date: Nov 1, 2007 Recommend? no | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 7 

Pros: sharp, neat built in hood, compact (but long)
Cons:
It would be sooooo much better with IS

It is sharp but I find this lens to be frustrating. It may be politically incorrect to criticize this lens but it feels like an antique. 400mm demands IS. I bought it for use when I cannot lug my 500mmf4 around. I just do not understand why Canon has not updated this lens. It should be shorter and really needs IS.

Nov 1, 2007
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blue_streak
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Registered: Jan 25, 2007
Location: Canada
Posts: 35
Review Date: Oct 22, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: IQ, Build, Razor Sharp
Cons:
People with P&S cameras ask "What is that thing is for???" "Can I look?"

I have had this lens for a year and I really enjoy the pictures that I can generate with it. Funny thing, I sold my 70-200mm F/4 IS to a colleague of mine and after some further discussions about my 400mm 5.6L, he wanted to purchase it as well, sight unseen. I had it in the vehicle with me the next day and was going to sell it but when I started to ponder life without it I had to tell him it was off the market. No problem parting with the 70-200 F/4 IS, but this one feels like family. It is that good. Fun to use on a monopod and I love the reach.

Might sound insane, but on a tripod I have had some really nice shots turn out (of very very stationary objects) with a 2X and using the ďLive ViewĒ function on the 40D to assist with manual focusing. That is a 1,280 zoom!

Think I saw some footprints on the moonÖ..

Simply a Great Lens.




Oct 22, 2007
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aladyforty
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Registered: Feb 3, 2006
Location: Australia
Posts: 1716
Review Date: Oct 6, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Very sharp and fast focusing lens, light enought to handhold, Built in hood
Cons:
No IS but I have never had an IS lens so not an issue for me

Iíve had this lens a couple of weeks now and Iím finding it producing beautiful shots, very contrasty and sharp. I had spent a lot of time researching the lens and was torn between this and the 100-400 L. Was told by many that I need IS but Iíve never used it so wont miss it. Handholding is not that hard, but keep the shutter speed up. I shoot mainly at higher ISOs when handholding and that negates the need of a tripod or monopod. It sits well on the monopod when I use it and I like that the tripod mount can be removed while attached to the camera. The built in hood is great and offers great protection to the glass. I have not found the F 5.6 of any disadvantage at all.

If you mainly shoot at 400m as I do for birds it is a great lens to add to your collection. Iím still yet to shoot many birds in flight but Iím told it is tops for that job.


Oct 6, 2007
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Leon V
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Registered: Sep 3, 2007
Location: United Kingdom
Posts: 0
Review Date: Sep 3, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Light weight Compact lens size Extremly fast autofocus Sharp images wide open, awesome f/7.1-f/18 Great contrast Practicle filter thread size USM, fulltime manual focus Built in lens hood Detachable tripod mount
Cons:
No image stabilizer ???

Currently own Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L USM, amazingly sharp lens, fast autofocus. I required more reach for birding, 200mm just wasn't enough, and from what I had seen, a 2x converter was as good as going off and buying a cheapo mirror lens, or even upsizing in photoshop!

This 400mm lens is lighter and thinner than my 70-200, which makes it so much easier to hand hold. Due to the double focal length compared to a 70-200 at full zoom, any movement is magnified. I can still shoot handheld at 1/250 with 50% success! No image stabilizer!

The autofocus outpaces the 70-200, although the f/5.6 minimum apperture means that a little hunting is sometimes a problem in shadows. Fulltime manual focus sorts this out, as one can tweak, then snap the auto for accuracy, if required.

Optical sharpness is fabulous. Compared to a "re-adjusted" Tamron 200-500mm, which was previoulsy unusable from the factory, the Canon wins contrast and sharpness. At f/8-11 the Tamron is at its sharpest at 400mm, the Canon compares wide open. Stopping down to f/7.1 on the Canon, ultimate sharpness and contrast is achieved, and continues through f/18 or so, just depth of field increases.

The detachable tripod mount is a useful tool. The 70-200 f/2.8 doesn't have this, where the f/4 does I believe. It just allows much easier connection to a monopod or such, and also allows it to be reversed for comfort. I reverse the tripod mount, so the foot faces the camera, and turn this to a 90* angle. This rests in my hand very comfortably and aids stability.

I find this lens an absolute joy to use handheld, on a fixed monopod, on a monopod with tilt head and with a monopod over the shoulder technique. I can't be damned with a tripod, too big and too much weight to take on a hike. I don't find f/5.6 a problem with images, as frequently, 400mm does not give much deth of field at anything below 20ft. I tend to be at f/7.1 and above, and with a decent Canon d-SLR, ISO 800 is no problem.

Hope that helps


Sep 3, 2007
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breenj
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Registered: Sep 24, 2005
Location: Marshall Islands
Posts: 318
Review Date: Jun 24, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Sharpness, color, light weight, fast AF, built-in hood
Cons:
None really - you already know that it is f/5.6 and doesn't have IS - everything it claims to have or do, it does very well.

I use this on a 30D (1.6x crop)
I just sold this when I got a 500mm, and I already am thinking I might regret it. Considering the size and weight, and the sharpness at this focal length, it is a great lens.
Sharp even wide open, with only a little improvement seen (to incredibly sharp) stopping down. This was sharper than my 300f/4 IS, which is no slouch.



Jun 24, 2007
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Jay Taft
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Registered: Dec 28, 2004
Location: United States
Posts: 712
Review Date: Jun 23, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Sharp at f/5.6, light enough to hand-hold, built-in hood, solid construction, fairly quick focus, focus range selector switch.
Cons:
None really for the quality to price ratio. If I had to identify one characteristic it would be the minimum focus distance which is about 11 feet. But even this is not much of a problem.

The lens is very impressive for the price. After using a 70-200 f/4 L IS for birds in flight, I decided I needed something longer. Because the shutter speed needs to be very short for animals in motion anyway, and the light needs to bright, I thought the 400 f/5.6 could work for my style of photography.

The 400 f/5.6 exceeds my expectations. It also works well for stationary subjects when hand-held or on a tripod. A neoprene camouflage cover set protects the lens when steadying it against trees and rocks. (Bought both the lens and cover set here on FM.)

Highly recommended for day-time situations. Works well with a Canon 1.4x TC, although I find I don't need to use a TC very often.

As the reviewer below suggests, this lens is helps one learn good long lens technique. I become more proficient each time I use this lens, and the images it produces are superb when it is used correctly.


Jun 23, 2007
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aladyforty
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Registered: Feb 3, 2006
Location: Australia
Posts: 1716
Review Date: Jun 9, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated

Pros:
Cons:

I find all the reviews here very helpful (apart from a few that it seems they have to realise that if one buys this lens they should deal with its light limitations)

It has swayed me towards the 400 prime as opposed to the 100-400. I look forward to any more reviews leading up to me purchasing it


Jun 9, 2007
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davidearls
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Registered: Mar 9, 2006
Location: United States
Posts: 3507
Review Date: May 10, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $975.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Sharpness, contrast, focus speed
Cons:
single thread hole in tripod foot

One of the great steals in Canon's L-glass line-up. IQ has been noted over and over, and for under $1,000 used, nothing I've seen is better.

There are two ways to look at anything, and my view of the lack of image stabilization (IS) on this lens is that it's a positive. One thing I notice about the big-name pros who preach IS is that they all developed their techniques on non-IS lenses. They're better photographers with IS, but they all learned without it.

This is in some ways a "student's lens" in that it returns images that are only as good as your technique. There is a direct correlation between the quality of your images and the improvement in your technique. If learning hand-held is your thing, you would develop some amazing HH technique with this lens. I don't shoot HH, but shooting without motion from a stable platform means more than just "bolting it down." This lens doesn't require a $500+ tripod and a $400 Wimberley. Mine's rock-steady on a Bogen 3021 or Gitzo 2220, but it wasn't when I bought it, or so I thought.

"Slow" shutter speed? Again, you need to learn to shoot at "slow" shutter speeds. If you're shooting wildlife, you need to study your subject and learn to anticipate your shot. I frequently shoot at f8 or even f11 with this lens, and stopping it down almost eliminates the need for sharpening in post processing. Using fill flash means learning another valuable technique.

I've owned this lens for over a year, and it's helped me become a better photographer. This lens reports exactly how good your technique is with every exposure.

My only suggestion for an improvement would be to extend the tripod foot and add a second screw mount. 400mm exerts a lot of leverage against a single mounting screw, and my lens has always had a tendency to twist on the tripod (not during a shot).

If you're a grade-B western cowboy shooter, kicking the doors open with your guns blazing, well, this probably isn't the lens for you. If you're serious photographer who wants to advance your technique, this is a great lens, and one that will leave you with with many, many memorable reminders of your learning days.


May 10, 2007
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timbop
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Registered: Dec 29, 2005
Location: United States
Posts: 6316
Review Date: May 4, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $900.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Phenominal lens - excellent sharpness, AF, and in a lightweight package
Cons:
nothing

This is absolutely a fantastic piece of hardware. It is well on its way to replacing my 70-200/2.8L as my favorite lens (until night soccer season at least). When you buy it, you know the specs - it doesn't have IS or a very wide aperture. Who cares - the images it captures are stunning and the price makes it a bargain. It is absolutely tack sharp with beautiful colors and contrast wide open. The AF is incredibly fast, and it takes a 1.4TC like a dream. My 20D needs a bright sunny day to AF with the TC, but the images even with the cheap tamron TC are extremely good. A little extra sharpening, and you won't know the TC was there. It is easy to handhold because it is very light weight - my tripod + ballhead weight more than the 20D with this baby mounted. I prefer to shoot on a tripod, though - you are guaranteed sharp shots when using good lens technique.

I was concerned not having the zoom for larger critters, but I have not had any trouble with being too close. At normal distances wildlife will grant you, the focal length is not too much. I guess in a zoo or safari jeep the fixed length might be a problem at times, but for ordinary nature shooters it is fine. Combined with my 70-200 (and forthcoming 1dm2) I have no need for a long zoom like the 100-400.


May 4, 2007
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genefixer
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Registered: Jan 22, 2007
Location: United States
Posts: 6419
Review Date: Apr 23, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,050.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: relatively compact, sharpest image imaginable for the price. built in lens hood mostly a plus. can be a bit sticky at first but seems to loosen up
Cons:
wish it were IS but it would be more $$$.

I bought this lens and the EF 300mm f/4L IS at the same time and tested them side by side using the Canon 1.4X ext II on the 300. I compared shots taken handheld with the 300 vs on a tripod. The rest tests were the shots taken on a tripod at various f stops in several light conditions and several subjects including the neighbors brick wall across the street, a full moon etc. The 400 won clearly for sharpness and contrast. I decided that my 70-200 f/4L IS with the extender would get me up to near 300 and that the 400 would take over from there. Even with the IS feature if the 400 had it I doubt that I would handhold it much.

See the bird pictures including images of the Quetzal and hummingbirds at : http://www.pbase.com/generepair/costarica07

you will be able to tell which were taken with the 400.

Get it!


Apr 23, 2007
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Andrew Welsh
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Registered: Jan 19, 2007
Location: United States
Posts: 4958
Review Date: Apr 4, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $950.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Relative low cost gives you optical performance on par with $8,000+ USD 600mm/f4 lens
Cons:
For astrophotography, the star diffraction pattern at f/5.6 is "chunky". Much nicer and symmetric at f/8. This is a higly specialized nit however

I did a review in the FM forums here before I realized I could post one here. I am using a 1.6x crop factor camera (Rebel XT)

In essence, this is a superb lens all around. The "US Treasury Department MTF Resolution Chart" (i.e. a $20 bill) tests bear out the fact that this is an outstandingly sharp lens edge to edge. In the most demanding-of-your-optics photography, astrophotography, this lens shines on par with far more expensive APO telescopes. And it autofocuses on bright stars using the Rebel XT. I can only imagine a 1D MkII strapped to this guy focusing on the dimmest of stars...

Fast focus, sharp images, blah blah I can't say anthing else here that hasn't been said. From an astrophotography angle, this lens will make an excellent open cluster / widefield nebula / large galaxy lens. Targets like the Plieades, North America Nebula, Andromeda Galaxy are perfect. And in the astro-world, f/5.6 is actually rather fast when compared to many scopes being f/10 or more.

I found the f/5.6 star diffraction spikes to be slightly asymmetrical, just not to my taste. Here's an example:
<img src=http://www.welsh-house.net/contests/400mm-f56-star-test.jpg>

Stopping down to f/8 (where the lens is sharpest anyway) the diffraction pattern is much nicer:
<img src=http://www.welsh-house.net/contests/400mm-f8-star-test.jpg>

As you can see this is an outstanding lens for the price!


Apr 4, 2007
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RyanCurtis
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Registered: Mar 22, 2006
Location: United States
Posts: 171
Review Date: Mar 18, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $900.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Fast, sharp, great quality, not as expensive.
Cons:
Non



Mar 18, 2007
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fstopper
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Registered: Feb 9, 2006
Location: United States
Posts: 207
Review Date: Feb 16, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Everything People said about this lens in reviews or articles is 110% true and factual. If you want to start getting great shots without spending a lot more money this is your best bet. If you want to use a 1.4 TC there is ample info on the internet to let you know what you need. I get great results with the Canon 1.4. I am glad I got this lens.
Cons:
None



Feb 16, 2007
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Dan Doucette
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Registered: Nov 2, 2006
Location: Canada
Posts: 27
Review Date: Feb 15, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,100.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Image quality (impressive contrast, sharpness, and colors), affordable price, solid build, relatively lightweight (portable/hand-holdable), fast auto focus, built in lens shade, easily removable tripod collar
Cons:
Only f/5.6, no IS, minimum focus distance, not weather sealed (but improving any of these aspects would probably make the price skyrocket and it would no longer be such an affordable L telephoto)

I don't do much wildlife, bird, or sports photography, so I don't often need a telephoto lens longer than 200mm. However, there are always times when something longer comes in handy, especially when using the full frame 5D that does not offer any crop factor.

I needed a long lens that was affordable (no sense spending tons on a lens that would see limited use), would be light/small enough to carry (in anticipation of those times when it would be useful), and that could offer good image quality.

Initially I wavered between the 400mm f/5.6 and the 300mm f/4 IS. In the end, I decided that I could add a 1.4x extender to my 70-200 f/2.8 IS to effectively get a 280mm f/4 IS with acceptable image quality. Therefore the 400 f/5.6 seemed to be a better solution for me. In hind sight I believe it was. (The 70-200 with a 2x extender offered poorer image quality than I was willing to accept).

As it turned out, the 400L offered exceptional image quality and build quality. The colors are great, the sharpness is fantastic, (great wide open, and improving only marginally as stopped down), and the contrast is amazing. The overall image quality is very high (it sometimes surprises me). This lens is extremely well built and offers very fast/accurate auto focus. I like that the tripod collar can be removed without taking the lens off the camera. The built in lens shade (very convenient) offers great protection from the elements and flare is rarely a problem.

I have used this lens in many challenging situations where only a lens as long as the 400 would have gotten the shot. It has proven indispensable on several occasions.

The lens is not weather sealed, (which would be useful for a lens that will see mostly outdoor use), but so far this has not been a problem for me, even when using it in rain or on boats at sea. Some people may find the minimum focus distance to be too great (I have on occasion) but usually this is not a major issue either.

This lens offers acceptable image quality when used with a 1.4x extender. (You lose auto focus with the Canon 1.4x extender and a 5D, but can regain limited auto focus operation by covering the three contact pins on the left side, when the front of the extender is facing you, with tape). With the extender your maximum aperture becomes f/8, so you'll need good light.

Sure I would like IS in an f/5.6 lens (it would be very useful), and/or a faster aperture, but these features would drive the price higher, and because I only use this lens for specialized occasions, I would not want to have a more expensive lens sitting around unused so often. But if there were an IS version, and the price was not too much higher, I might think about upgrading.

The lack of IS or a faster aperture can be overcome by boosting your ISO. With the 5D I can use ISO 800 and 1600 with confidence, knowing that image quality is usually very good at these settings, with relatively low noise.

Overall, I am extremely satisfied with this lens. In spite of it's limitations, it offers many strengths. It's a real bargain as far as telephoto lenses go. You can get amazing results when proper telephoto shooting technique is used. Although it sees only limited use with me, the results speak for themselves. This has become an important lens for me when 200mm is just not long enough.

-Dan Doucette
www.infotography.com


Feb 15, 2007
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copeg
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Registered: Jan 16, 2007
Location: United States
Posts: 170
Review Date: Jan 16, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Price, sharpness, contrast
Cons:
None for the price

To sum it up - this lens is fantastic. Incredibly sharp and it yields incredible results. For birding and wildlife I considered this lens or the 300mm f4.0 (I didn't consider the 100-400 for other reasons). I played around with the 300mm and I liked the 400mm lens so much more. Ok, at f5.6 it ain't the fastest on the planet, but you are getting a very sharp 400mm L-series prime lens at a great price. No complaints from me...

Jan 16, 2007
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Nickerjo
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Registered: May 28, 2006
Location: United States
Posts: 133
Review Date: Jan 7, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 9 

Pros: If you handle it correctly it is great - color, saturation, focus sharpness and price.
Cons:
For the price paid - nothing

Most negative comments relate to needing good light etc - Well, it is a 5.6 - Hopefully, if you are going to spend the fairly good sum that this lens requires, you are already familiar with the light range capability of a 5.6. If that range isn't satisfactory Canon has some superb faster glass but also at a much higher price.

I love mine - Just waiting for my photography skills to allow me use it to it's true capability.



Jan 7, 2007
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†††



Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM

Buy from B&H Photo
Reviews Views Date of last review
115 268806 Nov 23, 2012
Recommended By Average Price
95% of reviewers $1,058.82
Build Quality Rating Price Rating Overall Rating
9.74
9.53
9.5
ef400mmf_56_1_


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