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Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM

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118 281064 Jun 10, 2015
Recommended By Average Price
95% of reviewers $1,071.57
Build Quality Rating Price Rating Overall Rating
9.74
9.55
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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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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John Abbey
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Registered: Jan 6, 2007
Location: United States
Posts: 0
Review Date: Jan 6, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,100.00 | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: The lens gives very sharp images and is lightweight for a 400mm lens.
Cons:
5.6 may be too slow for some people, lack of IS.

I sold this lens to finance the Canon EF 100-400mm L lens, but wish I still had it. I sold the 400 5.6 because I needed the image stabilizer and the versatility of the zoom. If you like to use a tripod or have very steady arms, the 400mm prime is a great lens that produces outstanding images. The 400mm 5.6 prime is quite a bit sharper than my new 100-400 zoom lens. The lens is also not very heavy and has a very nice built in lens hood.

Here are some moon pictures I shot with it:

http://www.johnsfilm.com/html/9-2-06.html


Jan 6, 2007
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Leviathor
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Registered: Dec 19, 2005
Location: United States
Posts: 195
Review Date: Dec 4, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Sharp, sharp, sharp! Quiet, fast focusing. Handling.
Cons:
No IS. f/5.6. Teleconverter inconveniences.

This lens does require a fair amount of light and thoughtful technique, but its results are excellent, especially considering the saved greenbacks compared to anything in the same range with a bigger aperture.

Handling is amazing on a 20D, the lens has that wonderful feel of balance--that confidence-inducing feel. With a good amount of available light, this lens won't disappoint. I love using this outdoors for wildlife, but have no experience shooting sports; I could imagine that ample light would give great stop-action results, but night games or indoor lighting probably wouldn't give sufficient results without a high ISO sacrifice.

IQ is great. Images are sharp and colorful. Given close proximity and/or sufficient subject-background separation, the bokeh is complimentary in aiding subject "pop!"

http://www.flickr.com/photos/leviathor/216304760/

The reach of the 400 is great (20D body). If you own a zoom or a bag of primes in the neighborhood of 100-200, the 400 prime will please far more than the 100-400L. I have never found the gap between 200 and 400 to be a hindrance, ymmv.

A neutral point is the minimum focusing distance is mildly far, which reduces magnification, but speeds autofocus.

The only disappointments I can think of are the slow aperture, the lack of autofocus with teleconverters, and the lack of. IS is the biggest issue, but also a price point. Canon would probably sell a ton of these if they had IS, but the lens would cost half-again as much. Forced manual focusing with the teleconverters is a pain, and the extra stops of light are pretty valuable with f/5.6 at the wide end sans TC. Again, sufficient light would cures the light issue, so TC inconveniences and IS considerations are the negative points to consider.

For the price, this is probably the best super telephoto on the market.


Dec 4, 2006
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alfieri
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Registered: Feb 25, 2006
Location: United States
Posts: 178
Review Date: Dec 3, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,060.00 | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: very sharp at f/5.6; amazing value in this price range; very lightweight
Cons:
would like IS; would like f/4 for nearly same weight and price (if possible)

sample images and ramblings are here:

http://www.alfieri.smugmug.com/gallery/1655672


Dec 3, 2006
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CountryBob
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Registered: Oct 3, 2006
Location: Australia
Posts: 244
Review Date: Nov 19, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Sharp images.......very sharp, fast AF, light in weight and affordable.
Cons:
None really.

I have had this lens for nearly a month now and have taken quite a few "birding" shots with good results. In the beginning I procrastinated on whether to get the 100-400 or this lens and in the end I bought the 400. Well I am very happy I did.
I was attracted to the 100-400 due to its good reputation and versatility, but the image quality from the 400 prime was just that bit better and it won me over.
The lens works great on a sunny day or when using a tripod. Yes I would prefer that it had IS and was a bit faster, but I would have a lot slimmer wallet if it did.
All in all I am very happy and recommend the lens to anyone considering it.


Nov 19, 2006
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Thomas Ware
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Registered: Nov 17, 2006
Location: Finland
Posts: 0
Review Date: Nov 17, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Sharp even wide open, colour, weight
Cons:
None for the price

I use this lens for birds in flight and comparable situations. For the price, this lens is excellent. Apparently it does not matter if this lens is stopped down or not. In any case, the results are excellent. In my opinion, stopping the lens down does only affect the DOF. Even wide open the lens is sharp. With 20/30D, i suppose that this lens is the most excellent "budget" nature photography kit. Do not know, however, so far I have won two regional nature photography competitions with this lens and 20D.

Nov 17, 2006
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sigbusyff
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Registered: Oct 21, 2005
Location: United Kingdom
Posts: 3
Review Date: Oct 26, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Very sharp, light, fast AF.
Cons:
None.

This is a fantastically sharp lens, even wide open. In fact, I can't tell a difference in sharpness when stopping down, so in practise, I don't bother. Worth remembering that f/5.6 doesn't give an awful lot of depth-of-field at 400mm, though.

The lens has a number of neat touches - in particular, the integral, metal hood, and the tripod ring which you can take off without removing the lens from the camera. AF is very quick - noticeably quicker than my 70-200mm f/2.8L.

Of course, it doesn't have a fast maximum aperture and it doesn't have IS; but on a sunny day, you can handhold it and it's light enough for you to do that all day. Highly recommended.


Oct 26, 2006
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Ross T.
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Registered: Dec 14, 2005
Location: United States
Posts: 191
Review Date: Oct 11, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Light...Super SHARP!!!
Cons:
None

I've had mine for over 10 yrs now....Love it....SO SHARP.....Light weight....Hoping Canon comes out with an Image Stabilized Version though.....But this is a GREAT LENS!!! :^)

Oct 11, 2006
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isogood
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Registered: Sep 19, 2005
Location: France
Posts: 405
Review Date: Jun 12, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: sharpness, great natural colors and saturation, light but solid, fast AF, good hood, tripod collar, beautiful look.
Cons:
Bokeh of a 5.6 (don't dream for 2.8 bokeh...), no autofocus with 1,4 X

I work with this lens since 9 months now, on a 20D, and always very satisfied.
I shot most often sports outside, like golf, often under the sun, so I got no problem with the slow 5.6 aperture, even used with the 1,4x extender.
With the 1,4X the autofocus doesn't work on the 20D, but it is not a big problem.
The lens is beautiful, a pleasure to watch and hold, nice piece of glass...

I use it always on a monopod, and get pictures often very sharp. I don't like to shot handhold with a 400 (really a 560...) Shutter speed is always over 800, often at ISO 200.

If I compare with my Canon 100-400 IS (I have sell it), I can say that the difference in terms of image quality is very important at 400 mm. The prime surclasses the zomm in sharpness, color rendition, contrast and saturation. The image is clearly better.
(But I have to say honestly that the 100-400 is very good in the range 100-300)

I shoot most often at 400 mm, because on golf tournaments, I must stay maximum far away the players, not to disturb them vith CLICKS !
I have also with this prime, a slighly better and faster autofocus, essential for sports.

I have tried also a 80-400 Sigma, but was not satisfied at all, with the color rendition and the curious focusing...

So the choice between this lens and the zoom was very quickly done.
Only problem, I have not the comfort of a zoom, and must anticipate the placement before shooting, or move back quickly with my legs...

A perfect lens in this range of price for outside sunny shots, as sports or animals.

some samples on my Pbase gallery

http://www.pbase.com/isogood/canon_400_l_56

Patrick


Jun 12, 2006
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daktarz
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Registered: Jul 18, 2005
Location: United States
Posts: 7
Review Date: Jun 8, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Relatively lightweight and has excellent balance (with 30D). Quick and quiet AF. Sharp, sharp, sharp images, excellent color.
Cons:
Minor nit is the placement of the manual/auto focus button. Not as bad as on the 200 f2.8 but I'd still prefer it be lower down on the barrel. Not enough of a concern to alter the 10 to a 9.

OUCH! These pictures are sharp! Recently purchased it for birding and it is just amazing. I'd been using the 200 f2.8 with a 1.4x extender (which is quite excellent) but this gives me more reach and actually feels a bit more comfortable, strange to say. I was a bit surprised that AF didn't work with the 1.4x but I guess I shouldn't have been if I'd been paying attention at Canon school. However, AF with 400 and MF with 560 will still be more than good enough to keep me very happy.

Jun 8, 2006
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F6F-5
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Registered: May 23, 2006
Location: Brazil
Posts: 0
Review Date: May 23, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1.06 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Light, USM is amazingly fast, sharpness, contrast
Cons:
None until now

I have bought this lens a forthnight ago with the intention of replacing my Sigma 50-500EX, whose sharpness I was no longer satisfied with. After a few months of research, coupled with my experience shooting airshows, I felt I needed a long prime to obtain a level of sharpness and contrast I could live with. I thought about the 100-400L and the 300 4L + 1.4x converter, but these were all compromises. The 100-400L, which Iīve used in the past, is not sharp at 400mm. And the 300 with the converter isnīt as sharp or fast to focus. So I went and bought the 400 5.6L.

Am I happy? You bet I am. If youīre shooting airshows in the US, for example, 400mm is the range most displays will fall into. Rarely youīll need to change your lens. And the 400mm is so light (compared o the Sigma, at least), itīs a joy to use it all day. Of course itīs not as fast as many would like, and it doesnīt have IS, but Iīm a daylight shooter. F/5.6 means a shutter speed, using ISO 200, of 1/2000 or faster. Add the 1.4x converter (a Canon, in my case), and you have a 560mm F/8 which will beat a 100-400L anyday without one! AF? I use the tape trick, so itīs no problem, although the AF will hunt sometimes.

And the quality of my shots now is much improved. Compare them with anybody using a 500mm 4.0 and you will hardly see any difference, except the subject will be a little further away. I know - Iīve done that already.

Highly recommended if you like airshows.


May 23, 2006
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clivemilk
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Registered: Nov 30, 2005
Location: China
Posts: 14
Review Date: May 9, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,083.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: light, fast focus, very sharp at wide open(F5.6) and even with 1.4x(F8)
Cons:
F5.6

Just bought it two days ago but i can feel it is completely upgraded from my perivous combo 300 4L IS + 1.4x or 400 4 DO IS (this one is bad copy, produce at 2002).

In compare with 300 4L IS + 1.4x,
I can keep more flying shoot and thanks for the focus limiter (8.5m to infinity) it really helpful to reduce the focusing time.
And the contrast and sharpness are much higher than 300 combo.

In compare with 400 4 DO IS,
I can suffer from low contrast image but can't withstand non sharpness, may be i get a earlier BAD copy (produce at 2002).
400 5.6L is win in all aspect.

I don't feel it is difficult to handheld and the balance is just fit for my 20D. May be i already used to 400 4 DO IS. I very happy with this len at all.



May 9, 2006
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coburnd
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Registered: Mar 31, 2006
Location: United States
Posts: 28
Review Date: Mar 31, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: Very Sharp, Lightweight-great for handheld shooting under optimal lighting conditions, Awesome contrast and color rendition. Awesome price.
Cons:
F/5.6 is slow. Not a great choice for indoor stop-motion/sports photography.

Great for outdoor wildlife photography. Great hand-held telephoto lens under good lighting conditions. I use this lens on a tri-pod with a remote shutter-release under low-light conditions and it works great as long as your subject isn't moving.

View Samples
http://www.danielwcoburn.com
http://www.pbase.com/danielwcoburn/the_silver_portfolio


Mar 31, 2006
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mickahael
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Registered: Mar 24, 2006
Location: United Kingdom
Posts: 0
Review Date: Mar 24, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Portable.Great bulid quality. Lightening fast. Razor sharp. Easy handhold lens.
Cons:
None

When you get this lens, remove the tripod bush and put it back in the box. You won't be needing it. This is just a brilliant lens to leave on your camera body and have slung over your shoulder when you are out birding. When the opportunity presents itself ie: nice light, obliging bird, close fly by, just point and shoot away.
In other words the perfect travelling companion. By the way it doesn't have IS.....who needs it !!


Mar 24, 2006
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Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM

Buy from B&H Photo
Reviews Views Date of last review
118 281064 Jun 10, 2015
Recommended By Average Price
95% of reviewers $1,071.57
Build Quality Rating Price Rating Overall Rating
9.74
9.55
9.5
ef400mmf_56_1_


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