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Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS USM

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37 210286 Jan 26, 2013
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95% of reviewers $6,486.36
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Super telephoto L-series lens with an Image Stabilizer for use in track and field sports as well as low-light nature and wildlife photography. The fluorite element and two UD-glass elements result in high resolution and high contrast. The ring USM and an improved AF drive algorithm make the AF speed the fastest in the world when used with the EOS-1v and EOS-3. This lens has the same AF stop and focus preset features as the EF 300mm f/2.8L IS USM.


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Registered: Oct 21, 2011
Location: United States
Posts: 312
Review Date: Jan 26, 2013 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $5,800.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Fast AF, Crazy Sharp, Works Everytime

Love this lens. I picked it up when the Mark II was in production. Having saved thousands, I finally felt like it was worth it from the cost to benefit standpoint. I don't do a lot of sports, but 10 years from now when I have kids running around on the field, this lens will be used non-stop.

For now, depending on the situation, I use it for extreme portraiture and even break it out at weddings every once and a while. I set it up to capture the first kiss from a distance, and fire it remotely with my radiopoppers. It allows me to get that tight shot without the minister/preacher in the background, while I grab the wide angle from really close.

Overall, this lens is a gem. If you can find the Mark I with IS for around the $5k price point, I would pick it up. The build quality is sure to last and the picture difference between it and the II is hardly noticeable. It is heavy, but thats just understood when shooting 400/2.8

Jan 26, 2013
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Registered: Feb 13, 2010
Location: Netherlands
Posts: 32
Review Date: Nov 13, 2011 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Very fast, robust, weather proof, highest IQ possible.
Very big, very heavy, the heavyness makes it a bit vulnarable in use.

This lens I used some time for bird photography. When I switched form a 50D to 1D it became to short in reach. With the 2x extender it was OK but images became to fuzzy. I sold it and went to 600mm from Nikon.

For everything you need this length it is amazing!

Nov 13, 2011
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John Shultz
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Registered: Sep 18, 2006
Location: United States
Posts: 252
Review Date: Aug 28, 2011 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $7,000.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Massive subject separation from background. Incredible all around performance not really achievable with any other lens (except the 600f4).
Heavy, expensive, cumbersome

I would just like to add that I am one of those people that uses this lens primarily for something other than sports or wildlife. The front element diameter is second only to the 600f4 in canons line up and makes this an incredible tool for so many other things where light gathering is key. I have some astronomy uses where this really shines including distant video applications, planetary, and star field imaging. I also really find that candid or city/location shooting can benefit from the incredible oof areas where you want to isolate your subject at great distance. It is so bulky though that while you may think you can hand hold it at first you really can't. Plan to invest an extra $1k in the necessary support gear and gimble heads! With the release of the new genII lenses I do not plan to upgrade. Optically this is already such a fantastic performer I don't see much room for improvement outside of weight.

Aug 28, 2011
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Buy and Sell: On

Registered: Sep 6, 2007
Location: Canada
Posts: 28505
Review Date: Apr 12, 2011 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $7,200.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: It's all super
None of any significance.

All I wanna say here is that....

(1) 400 f/2.8 IS is probably the best performing telephoto lens by Canon.
(2) The lens is quite heavy indeed, however, it is not intended to be used hand-held at all.

Apr 12, 2011
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Registered: Dec 7, 2009
Location: United States
Posts: 322
Review Date: Aug 21, 2010 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Sharp, fast, rugged
Very very heavy

This lens is so sharp it till cut your fingers if you're not careful. Focus ring very smooth. Build quality is as good as "L" lenses will get. AF is very fast and this lens is still sharp from corner to corner when set wide open. IS is not as great as the newer lenses but at f/2.8 my shutter speeds are always fast enough to turn off IS.

However at 11+ pounds plus a 1D body, this thing is heavy! I the weight is a problem I suggest the 300 f/2.8 IS with a 1.4x when you need the extra reach.

Aug 21, 2010
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Registered: Jul 23, 2010
Location: Portugal
Posts: 7
Review Date: Jul 24, 2010 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $5,000.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Very Sharp, Very Fast, saturation and contrast.

This is one of the nicest pieces of equipment that i have ever used!!! A must have for Sport!!!

Have a look at this sample Surf picture:


All other aspects are written in the last reviews on this lens.


Jul 24, 2010
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Chris Walker
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Registered: Mar 29, 2007
Location: Switzerland
Posts: 0
Review Date: Feb 28, 2010 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Fast AF, f/2.8, crisp Bokeh, splendid colors, contrast
None. I already knew about price an weight and the must of a monopod

This is a lens, I dreamed a long time for. I read all reviews about this lens and I knew, this was the one for my needs. In Switzerland, you pay a hell of a price (regular price in the store CH 14'000).

This lens has the same quality like the 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS has.
Crisp images, very sharp, beautiful Bokeh and splendid colors.

I made some pictures at a famous horse race "White Turf" in St. Moritz with the 1d mark IV and when I saw the results, I could not trust my eyes! It fulfilled every demands on quality, a photographer may have.

Have a look at this sample pictures:

You can download this pictures at a resolution of 3072 x 2048 pixels to analyze the image quality. They came out of the camera without any corrections.

All other aspects are written in the last 31 reviews on this lens.

Feb 28, 2010
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[ X ]

Registered: Oct 7, 2004
Location: United States
Posts: 81
Review Date: Jan 3, 2010 Recommend? | Price paid: $7,500.00

Pros: I have owned this lens for over 3 years and have to admit it's the sharpest 400 mm lens wide open at 2.8. I consider this lens #1 with the Canon 85 1.2 Mark II following short behind.
no cons

Hands down the best supertelephoto lens out there!!!

Jan 3, 2010
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Philip Mc
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Registered: Feb 27, 2007
Location: Ireland
Posts: 122
Review Date: Nov 30, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Super fast focus-Sharp wide open-fantastic with 2x extender appears to loose very little if any IQ
Cost and weight are negatives but it was fully expected and ye get what ye pay for!!!!

This is a lens I lusted after for a long time, I thought long and hard about which one of the Canon supers would be the most suitable to my needs. This lens has not disappointed in any way! For field sports it excels....great focal length combined with super fast focus, IS, sharpness and of course fast 2.8 aperture. For portraits it is wonderful the bokeh is gorgeous. For wildlife on its own or with the Canon 2x extender it is simply amazing!! With the 2x extender there is some auto focus slowness but this is to be expected but what I didnít expect is the outstanding image quality using it with the extender you really need to look at the exif to spot when it has been used! Overall it is a beautiful quality lens that excels at all you but it to work at.....buy it and you will not regret it.

Nov 30, 2009
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Stephen Byard
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Registered: Sep 4, 2006
Location: United Kingdom
Posts: 2
Review Date: Nov 13, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Amazing IQ, Sharp, Fast focusing - works great with the 2xTC, focus preset
Weight and cost - but you knew that on the way in, right?

I was very lucky. A sports photographer had acquired a decent copy, but preferred his 300 f2.8, so put it on eBay. I snapped it up without a second thought.

Although a bit long for some field sports, it is an ideal nature lens. Coupled with the 2xTC, my first outing caught some decent, sharp, and colourful red grouse.


I use the Wimberley Mk II gimbal, which balances the lens perfectly, and i can set the tripod up in the car, then just sit and wait. Yet to try the bean-bag and hand-held approach.

AF is fine on a 1Ds Mk III (even using the 2xTC), as is MF using live-view and 10x magnification.

The cost of this lens was less of an issue (buying secondhand), but the weight is something you need to be aware of. Not tried it on my monopod yet - the Wimberley makes it so lazy to use, I'll probably just stick with that

Bokeh is good, and the hard case supplied is fine - although I can't close the top with the wimberley plate fitted

A lens to cherrish

Nov 13, 2009
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Registered: Oct 17, 2002
Location: United States
Posts: 3
Review Date: Oct 13, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $6,000.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Fast AF, F2.8, Sharp wide open.
Heavy is the biggest complaint. And it is. One thing I find irritating are the buttons, because of weight if you are handholding you can accidently change setting causing issues with focus (AF limiter switch) or turning off IS. Canon should have a button to lock all your setting and that button be behind a door or cover that cannot be accidently changed. IS takes a short time to spin up (a little less than a second as with all the IS/VR systems I have used). You must give it time or the shot can be ruined, makes it difficult to shoot instantly, depress the shutter halfway and hold it if there is potential of a shot (this is more important for sports)

Very nice lens, fast AF, 2.8 helps in low light situations. I had my choice to buy a new pro camera or this lens. I needed the reach more than anything so I got this lens and very glad I did. Every review I read stated you had to have a tripod and a Wimberly sidekick or equiv. I do not shoot birds (or at least not yet) so I have only used the side kick a few times because of the combined weigth of all the gear and having to toting it all to a location.

1. I like to shoot sports and ALWAYS hand hold. (I am 45 and a big guy and can lug this thing around and handhold for a 3 hour race, I do get too tired and can make it to the end but let it hang around my neck during downtimes. If you are a woman, a slight man, handholding this lens is not for you as it will give a strong guy a hefty workout.

2. In the statium shots below I always use IS and almost always F2.8 to help with handshake. When you get tired, you have to have IS to help get the shot otherwise it is a blurry mess.

3. This lens is very sharp wide open at f2.8 and will not disappoint.

4. I have a Kenko 1.4 300 Pro converter that works perfectly, only slightly degrades the image. Downside when handholding because the number of sharp keepers goes down, this is due to my handshake I believe. I use it rarely but on the rare occasion I used it a tripod it worked well. I can see slight image degregation at 100 percent crops. Could be the converter but I think most people are not as critical as I am and if the image is resized at all you probably would not be able to tell.

I have included some images below that were all taken with rebelxt. I want to get a new camera but I do like the weight of the rebel. I hope to get a FF, and possibly get a 5d3 for lighter weight if it includes AF performance similar to a D700, if not I will wait for a used 1Ds2 and deal with the extra weight.

Daylight shots.

Low light, indoor, stadium is really where this lens shines. These were taken from the stands since I do not warrant a pit pass to get onto the track. The rebelxt is old and performs poorly with a lot of noise at ISO800 or above which these pics were taken at. Its AF is also poor especially in low light which results in lower number of keepers. Until Canon can produce a resonably priced FF camera (like the 5d2) that has AF near that of the D700 (which it is not and IMHO not much better than the rebel) that performs well at high ISO (like the 5d2 does) I will not be getting another Canon camera as the one I have works well http://www.mxphotos.net/album/displayimage.php?album=10&pos=3

The lens can give almost a 3d effect..


All in all I say this is a great lens. I have tried some of Canon lighter weight 400mm but they are not 2.8 which is something I wanted. There are stadiums I have shot at that the lighting was so bad even F2.8 ISO1600 would produce images racked with motion blur that made almost all of the images unusable. Maybe someday cameras will hold good color and low noise at even higher ISOs but even then 2.8 allows more isolation of subject from background so for me, I would have not made a different choice after owning this lens for well over a year.

I shoot Nikon as well, I considered the Nikon version of this lens but at the time it was $1700 more expensive. There is so little difference in IQ, build quality that could cause me to justify the extra expense. I would recommend this one for sports. If you are going to shoot outdoors and or don't need F2.8 Canons 500mm would be a better choice if you are going to handhold.

Oct 13, 2009
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Registered: Jan 13, 2005
Location: Philippines
Posts: 2051
Review Date: Jul 31, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Amazing AF speed, glorious contrast and bokeh, and sharp wide open even with a 2x TC.
None. Weight and cost were known variables prior to my purchase.

Just got the 400 2.8 IS for low light work, and I've started exploring its strengths and weaknesses. So far I like its performance - amazing AF speed and bokeh, sharp wide open even with a 2x TC. Here are a few test shots with the lens on the 5D2 - http://www.pbase.com/liquidstone/400_28lis

Jul 31, 2009
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Registered: Oct 20, 2004
Location: United States
Posts: 151
Review Date: Jun 26, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $6,800.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: STUNNING Image Quality, Super Fast Focus, Built Like A Tank,
A Bit Of A Workout To Carry.

As good as it gets in my opinion. This is the best lens I have ever used and it is the crown jewel of my lens collection. It handles both the 1.4 and the 2X converters without any significant loss of quality, almost like THIS was the lens they were made to be used on and every other lens is a compromise. Focus accuracy is spot on. The image quality this lens can produce on my 5D MkII is STUNNING!

For my Birthday my Wife gave me a large check and said this is for that lens you have been dreaming about but will never buy on your own, so now go buy it. I LOVE her VERY much!

Invest in a good mono-pod and a Gitzo Carbon Fiber tripod. I use a RRS Ball Head and a Wimberly Side Kick and the low profile replacement foot. This combination works great for me. When I use the mono-pod (with a RRS Mono-Pod Head) from a fixed location I bring a brand new Home Depot style bucket with me to set the lens down in. I see a lot of guys just set it down on the lens hood on the bare ground but I hate to do that with a lens this expensive. I set it down on the lens hood but inside the clean bucket. It also protects the lens if you knock it over. Obviously if you are hiking you don't bring a bucket but most people will not want to hike with THIS lens.

I find this a versatile lens to own when combined with the two tele-converters. It gives me a 400 f2.8, a 560 f4, and a 800 f5.6. and they all autofocus. The Bokeh this lens produces is so creamy smooth it needs to be seen to believed. The ability to isolate your subjects with this lens is unparalleled.

I could not be any happier with this lens. I don't believe there is a better quality lens made today. If you don't mind the weight get this lens. You will NOT be sorry.

Jun 26, 2009
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Registered: Jun 24, 2004
Location: United States
Posts: 234
Review Date: May 25, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Unbelievable images at f2.8, fast and silent autofocus, built like a tank.
Expensive as hell and a real chore to carry even short distances (heavy).

This is one of the nicest pieces of equipment (photography or otherwise) I have ever used. I rented this lens for Commissioning Week 2009 at the U.S. Naval Academy and it was worth every penny. The images it produced were simply stunning. Razor sharp images at f2.8, the quietest and fastest autofocus I've ever worked with and unbelievable build quality.

One complaint: This lens is an absolute beast to carry, even toted over your shoulder on a monopod (which is a must). Handheld is a near impossibility (at least for me). I found I was really glad to be finished shooting when I was using this lens. It was like "whew, glad to put that thing back in its case."

Also, you'll get a lot of attention from people at events with this lens. One lady told me she thought I had a missile launcher. If you're the shy type, be aware that you'll get a lot of questions. It's presence commands a lot of attention.

If I had the money, I wouldn't even flinch on this one. For now, I'll rent it as I need it.

May 25, 2009
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Registered: Mar 9, 2009
Location: United Kingdom
Posts: 0
Review Date: Mar 10, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Super fast focus - Crisp Bokeh - Drop dead georgeous to look at - takes world class images.
The Envy of other photographers who don't own one, I often wish it was an F2

IMO - the best lens Canon makes - everthing about this lens is killer - it makes the 500 & 600 F4's focussing seem slow in comparison, even when fitted with 1.4x convertor IQ and Sharpness are sublime.
Not as difficult to use as most people make out. Easiest way is to use a monopod, though I often use it handheld with great results. 'IS' works well.
Attracts a lot of attention from the know all 'experts' who after asking what it is, condemn it for being too heavy - HAHA they just show you how ignorant they are, These experts normally have a 100-400 or 70-200 zoom attached to their Cam, not much else to say about them really, the soft focus zoom says it all!!!!
Women like it too, surprisingly one of the best intro's into your choice of female company available - must be the lens diameter:-)
How would I improve it - only one way to improve the best simply make it into an F2 lens - the extra stop I could really use - come on Canon you can do it!!

Mar 10, 2009
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Registered: Feb 24, 2009
Location: Canada
Posts: 0
Review Date: Feb 24, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Remarkable sharpness, saturation and contrast. Really, really fast AF.
Really, none. It's a big, heavy expensive hunk of glass that does what no other lens can do. Takes a bit of getting used to, but what lens doesn't?

I wanted long glass for shooting World Cup Nordic Combined, Soccer, Football, and other sports for newspaper and magazine distribution. So speed and image quality both matter to me.

This lens, stuck on my 1D III, gives me the best kit for any long lens sports shooting job, allowing for fast shutter in most conditions without boosting ISO inordinately. Will take a 1.4X very nicely, too.

As far as image quality goes, compared to any other lens, this prime at this length simply cannot be beat. You really have to shoot one of these things to appreciate them. Both the 300mm and the 400mm version of the Canon 2.8 L IS prime lens totally kick it.

The AF is has a reputation for speed, and justifiably so. Nature and bird shooters as well as sports photogs will really love the AF response, and the ability to acquire subject almost instantly.

This is a top end bit of gear, very expensive, but I really look forward to shooting it every chance I get. A real pleasure to work with.

Feb 24, 2009
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Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS USM

Buy from B&H Photo
Reviews Views Date of last review
37 210286 Jan 26, 2013
Recommended By Average Price
95% of reviewers $6,486.36
Build Quality Rating Price Rating Overall Rating

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