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Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS USM

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86 209266 Apr 24, 2012
Recommended By Average Price
97% of reviewers $5,514.13
Build Quality Rating Price Rating Overall Rating
9.91
8.75
9.9
ef500mmf_4_1_

Specifications:
Next-generation super telephoto L-series lens with an Image Stabilizer, it's one of the world's best lenses for wildlife and nature photography. The optical system is newly designed with a maximum aperture of f/4. One fluorite element and two UD-glass elements effectively correct aberrations resulting in sharp and excellent delineation.


 


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Bruce n Philly
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Registered: Oct 17, 2010
Location: United States
Posts: 164
Review Date: Apr 24, 2012 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: Sharp, what I wanted
Cons:
Tricky to manual focus, small movements in ring equal too much focus change.

I am an amateur not a pro. So some rookie usage issues that you may find helpful. In short, I love this lens and it is great for bird photography. First, I was surprised by how color pops - didn't expect that. I can not hand hold this but I need a tripod - I find this barely tolerable to carry with a carbon fiber tripod and Wimberly II gimbal head through the woods. Not easy.

Big Tip: Won't do AI Servo on my 5D MkII unless I turn off image stabilization, then works great. Everything works better with this lens and body when I turn image stabilization off.

I purchased used and had some issues, read about it and how i resolved them along with some pics at my blog for amateurs:

http://travelthroughpictures.com/photo-items/500mm/



Apr 24, 2012
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huskymike
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Registered: Oct 25, 2008
Location: Canada
Posts: 0
Review Date: Oct 9, 2011 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $6,700.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Sharp, sharp, sharp.
Cons:
Cost and weight of course.

Fantastic lens, takes a little while to get used to the weight. I am using it with the 5D2 and find the images are usually bordering on exceptional, all I could ask from a lens.

Oct 9, 2011
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FindingNature
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Registered: Sep 4, 2011
Location: France
Posts: 3
Review Date: Sep 4, 2011 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $5,000.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Amazing image quality, Really useful IS, Good with teleconverters, Shallow Depth of field
Cons:
Price, weight.

Buying a 500mm is always a commitment, weather you are a professional or not. You really got to need the extra 100mm for deciding to go for the 500mm instead of a considerably cheaper 100-400. However, once you get it, you realized why prime telephotos are so unique.
1) Image quality: You will be amazed by the difference between a 500mm and a 100-400 or even a 400f/4 + extender.
2) Depth of field: f/4 at 500mm produces a very shallow depth of field, it enables you to reveal your subject on a complete blurry background.
3) IS: we have been able to use it handheld in quite a few situations where something happened and we weren't quite ready (tripod) and it worked flawlessly.
4) Weight: The reason why we went for the 500mm instead of the 600mm is clearly weight. The 500mm is (at least for me) clearly manageable for a hike on our shoulders (or backpack) but the 600mm is not. Even if the difference between those two lenses is not that huge, it DOES makes a difference.
5) Weather sealing: rain ? who cares ? just focus on the subject, the lens is taking care of the rest.
6) Good with TC: we are using it 80% of the time with a X1.4 II and it works very well. We do loose a bit of sharpness (despite what some people are saying), it is noticeable but the result is still really clean.

We use this lens with a GITZO 3540 tripod, a Markins M20 ballhead and a Wimberley Sidekick, only for wildlife phography.

If you want to see real situation samples, check :
http://www.finding-nature.com
And join us on Facebook!
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Finding-Nature/206803999379616

The Finding Nature Team.


Sep 4, 2011
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gpchase
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Registered: Jan 3, 2011
Location: Canada
Posts: 789
Review Date: Aug 30, 2011 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $6,700.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Images are crisp with fantastic color. A very sharp lens.Outstanding build quality as with all Canon big whites. A good investment likely to hold it's value if not increase.
Cons:
Some may consider costly but I'd say you get what you pay for and this holds true for this fine piece.

This is another fine piece from Canon. It fits well with my 200mm f2L and 300mm f2.8L. I find it very manageable to handhold and well balanced on my 1DMKIV.

Aug 30, 2011
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winnipeg40d
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Registered: Jul 3, 2008
Location: Canada
Posts: 31
Review Date: Jul 9, 2011 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Sharpness, IS is great, range. Works well with 1.4 extender.
Cons:
Spoiled for only big L lenses now :)

Finally was able to find a clean used one for sale locally and grabbed it up right away.

Absolutely love it. Super sharp, able to get great shots even handheld. Took my pictures to a new level.


Jul 9, 2011
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mabidally
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Registered: May 10, 2006
Location: Sri Lanka
Posts: 3855
Review Date: Jun 18, 2011 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Absolutle brilliant lens, tack sharp, excellent IS really allows slower shutter speeds, great vibrance.
Cons:
None

Having used this for a couple of years for wildlife photography it is really brilliant.

Jun 18, 2011
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J.D.
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Registered: Nov 30, 2003
Location: Australia
Posts: 2190
Review Date: Apr 23, 2011 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Optical performance, IS performance, weight for focal length, AF performance, performance with 1.4 converter.
Cons:
Cost, weight, foot flex, focus ring a bit rough in manual mode, hood design.

Seems almost pointless to criticise this lens for cost and weight: it goes with the territory. Price-wise, you get what you pay for and it is still generally cheaper than a Nikon. Weight is not exceptional either but it is something people need to be aware of if they are stepping up from say a 70-200 or even a 200mm f/2.

Flare resistance is outstanding and this lens out performs my EF 300mm f/2.8L at all apertures above f/4 in backlit situations. IS performance is so good I can hand hold it in still conditions at 1/500 without too much difficulty.

Canon's hood designs have never been a strong point, although they seem better than the telescopic Nikon equivalent.

Performance with 1.4x TC is virtually indistinguishable from normal, even wide open.

More reach than a 300mm and lighter than either the 400mm f/2.8L IS or 600mm f/4L IS, this has been described as the sweet spot for cost/weight/performance and I, for one, agree.


Apr 23, 2011
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PetKal
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Registered: Sep 6, 2007
Location: Canada
Posts: 24079
Review Date: Apr 12, 2011 Recommend? | Price paid: $6,500.00

 
Pros: Evrything about is good to excellent
Cons:
None really. If it was 2 lb lighter it would be absolutely perfect.

I am on my third copy, and it's as good as the previous two.
The lens represents a happy optimum between nominal aperture, FL, AF speed and size/weight. Excellent IQ in all its aspects.
Handholdable in moderation for a person of average strength, although I wish its weight was more like the old 500 f/4.5L.


Apr 12, 2011
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exphose
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Registered: Oct 27, 2004
Location: United States
Posts: 60
Review Date: Feb 21, 2011 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $5,000.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Sharp, Fast AF, Great Contrast, Best SuperTele to actually hike with,
Cons:
IS is a little old, It's a little heavier than I'd like and is pretty spendy.

I used to feel that my 135 F2 L was my sharpest and best lens, and I'm starting to think that the 500 beats it. It's more likely to have atmospheric effects affect the image than the 135 but that's just physics... With a clear day it looks like you walked up a lot closer and took the shot with the 135.

I handhold it just fine and for walking around prefer to use it without a monopod. When light gets low or I'm setting up in one spot I'll break out the tripod with gimble style mount and it's so much better than a monopod when shutter speeds get low anyways.

I thought I would only use it for birds and wildlife but it's actually becoming a favorite for some landscape shots as well... When you see a nice scene but it's off in the distance or across a valley, the 500 really brings it in and you can get angles that hiking closer would lose. The isolation and flatness it can bring has a very nice style for some images.

You can see some sample shots in my review gallery here:

http://russell.exphose.com/canon500f4

The only think you'll regret is not buying it sooner and that you feel the need to use it all the time since you spent so much on it. Smile


Feb 21, 2011
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Todd Klassy
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Registered: Sep 27, 2010
Location: United States
Posts: 290
Review Date: Oct 6, 2010 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $5,200.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Beautiful images, VERY sharp, wonderful colors and contrast, and size much more manageable than the EF 600mm f/4L IS USM.
Cons:
Wish Canon offered a f/2.8 version. And the hood mounting mechanism is a tad cumbersome; it really should be designed to go on easier and not have a knob sticking out, but those are MINOR complaints.

What an amazing lens! The Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS USM is in a league all by itself. A favorite among sports and wildlife photographers alike, the image quality of photographs taken with this lens is absolutely superb. With some practice anyone can take some truly wonderful photographs with this lens.

One of the nice features about this lens is that it is 'relatively' portable. In other words, it is not as huge as some of the other super telephoto lenses. One can actually hand-hold it if necessary, but more importantly, it is easy to maneuver on the sidelines when attached to a mono-pod. Also, it is equally easy to maneuver when affixed to a Wimberly head when on a tripod. Also, when coupled with a EF 1.4X Extender image quality is still very good.

I have used this lens for some time now, and it is well worth the price tag in almost every regard.

There has been some talk about replacing, but optically, I don't see how much image quality can improve, unless Canon's future wildlife and sports camera(s) (i.e. 1D line) intend to have a much larger sensor, which may necessitate better optics. Otherwise, with a 1D Mark III or IV, this lens really shines.

Here are some examples of photographs I have taken with this lens when attached to my Canon EOS 1D Mark III:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/latitudes/3522774236/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/latitudes/4029202040/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/latitudes/2969299276/

Oh, and these lenses retain their value quite nicely...provided you take good care of it.


Oct 6, 2010
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Pixel Perfect
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Registered: Aug 15, 2004
Location: Australia
Posts: 19792
Review Date: Jun 3, 2010 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $5,000.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Outstanding sharpness, even wide open, beautiful colour and contrast, fast AF and relatively portable
Cons:
None really, but it would be nice if mfd were smaller and a lens this long needs better IS. Price is high, but the results soon have you forgetting this.

This really is an outstanding lens in all ways. The IQ is superb, with rich colour and good contrast as well as being extremely sharp. On my copy, it is still tack sharp wide open when a 1.4x TC is attached. Even with a 1.4x and 2x attached the IQ is very good. It is partly due to it's excellent performance with a 1.4x TC that I have not considered the 800 f/5.6L IS (the main reason is price).

I use this lens extensively for birding and I find that it can be hand held for extended periods (provided you rest you arms between shots) which makes it about the best all round wildlife lens, taking reach, weight and cost into account. The 600L IS is much heavier and hand holding is not really an option, and the 800L IS is also heavier, but much more expensive. Having said that I still use the lens more often on a tripod with gimbal or monopod.

In short this lens is just a joy to use and until you use a supertele, you don't realize what you are missing.


Jun 3, 2010
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dustnet
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Registered: Jul 30, 2008
Location: United States
Posts: 20
Review Date: May 19, 2010 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $5,800.00 | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: Amazing image quality, Really useful IS, Good with teleconverters, Shallow Depth of field
Cons:
Price, weight.

Buying a 500mm is always a commitment, weather you are a professional or not. You really got to need the extra 100mm for deciding to go for the 500mm instead of a considerably cheaper 100-400. However, once you get it, you realized why prime telephotos are so unique.
1) Image quality: You will be amazed by the difference between a 500mm and a 100-400 or even a 400f/4 + extender.
2) Depth of field: f/4 at 500mm produces a very shallow depth of field, it enables you to reveal your subject on a complete blurry background.
3) IS: I've been able to use it handheld in quite a few situations where something happened and I wasn't quite ready (tripod) and it worked flawlessly.
4) Weight: The reason why I went for the 500mm instead of the 600mm is clearly weight. The 500mm is (at least for me) clearly manageable for a hike on my shoulder (or backpack) but the 600mm is not. Even if the difference between those two lenses is not that huge, it DOES makes a difference.
5) Weather sealing: rain ? who cares ? just focus on the subject, the lens is taking care of the rest.
6) Good with TC: I'm using it 80% of the time with a X1.4 II and it works very well. We do loose a bit of sharpness (despite some people are saying), it is noticeable but the result is still really clean.

I use this lens with a GITZO 3540 tripod, a Markins M20 ballhead and a Wimberley Sidekick, only for wildlife phography.

A picture worth a million words ? check my website for samples: www.emmanuelrondeau.com


May 19, 2010
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Conrad Tan
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Registered: Dec 8, 2007
Location: United States
Posts: 28399
Review Date: May 11, 2010 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $6,140.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Outstanding color, contrast, and image quality. Second to none at this focal length! NO noticable degradation in IQ with the 1.4TC attached! Amazing!
Cons:
Fairly heavy, a lot of momentum for swinging around for in-flight shots. A sturdy monopod is highly recommended.

I have been shooting with the 400mm f/5.6 for a couple of years now, and every expectation I had for this 500mm was met and exceeded. Not the best tool for in-flight shooting as it has much more trouble acquiring AF than my old 400mm for some reason, but if shooting static objects, there is no better tool for the job! Worth every penny!

May 11, 2010
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canedje
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Registered: Sep 30, 2008
Location: Netherlands
Posts: 134
Review Date: Dec 22, 2009 Recommend? | Price paid: Not Indicated

 
Pros: Every shot is a winner! Fast, Sharp, and realy Sharp! Perfect IS
Cons:
None, okay, you have to pay for it!

My passion is nature photography.

I'm using this lens now for more than a year. Mostly with the 1,4 TC.

I'm in love. What a perfect lens. Every shot is a keeper.
It's on my body for about 99%.

If you want quality, please buy it. You will not be disapointed!
Every positive thing they say about it, is true.

Watch for pics on this site: www.natuurshot.nl
On this photoforum you see most of the pics taken with this lens, by other photographers and me (In Dutch)


Dec 22, 2009
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PetKal
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Registered: Sep 6, 2007
Location: Canada
Posts: 24079
Review Date: Nov 27, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $5,800.00 | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: IQ is top notch, AF drive speed, while not exceptional, is adequate.
Cons:
Heavy and clumsy for extended handholding. Expensive like most good productes by Canon.

I got my 2nd 500 f/4 lens a couple of months ago because that's the longest & fastest supertelephoto lens available that I can still use hand-held in moderation.

The lens IQ is beyond reproach......at least as good as that of 300 f/2.8 IS.
AF drive speed is moderately fast. Quite a bit better than my 500 f/4.5L, but not as good as 300 f/2.8 IS. However, to me that is of secondary importance because the lens will not be used for fast action photography.

IMO the lens is really meant to be used on a pod, Walking around with 500 f/4 in my arms and shooting extensively gets to be quite onerous very quickly. In situations where neither IS nor f/4 aperture would benefit my pictures, I tend to reach for 500 f/4.5L lens because of its much lower weight and very similar IQ.

It is easy to see the direction in which Canon will improve this lens: trim some weight off, provide with the current generation IS and speed up the AF drive. Unfortunately those upgrades will likely result in a further major price increase on top of an already very expensive lens. That's the reason I decided to get the current generation 500 f/4 now which I could still somehow justify despite my limited use of it.


Nov 27, 2009
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Breitling65
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Registered: May 31, 2006
Location: United States
Posts: 5221
Review Date: Nov 4, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: Quick AF, works with both tc's 2 and 1.4 fine, not very heavy and I could handhold for several seconds.
Cons:
Cost, some IQ degradation with tc, not as superb IS as on latest Canon lenses

If you need long telephoto for birding or sports this is your lens. However I would suggest to get this lens before 300mm F2.8L IS otherwise you will be disappointed in IQ comparison Smile It is great in IQ lens but 300 is way better optics. You would need 1.4tc for sure, 2x works ok on mk III. In general also need bunch of other things like lenscoat, replacement cap & foot or plate, gimbal would be best, good heavy duty tripod and monopod. It adds lots of fun for birding, very noticeable by people since long and white.
I put 9 since it is for sure not best lens in my bag but I would say next after 300 F2.8L IS.


Nov 4, 2009
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Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS USM

Buy from B&H Photo
Reviews Views Date of last review
86 209266 Apr 24, 2012
Recommended By Average Price
97% of reviewers $5,514.13
Build Quality Rating Price Rating Overall Rating
9.91
8.75
9.9
ef500mmf_4_1_


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