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Canon EF 400mm f/4 DO IS USM

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Reviews Views Date of last review
42 143316 Jun 27, 2013
Recommended By Average Price
93% of reviewers $4,866.61
Build Quality Rating Price Rating Overall Rating
9.80
7.19
9.3
ef400_4dois_1_

Specifications:
Canonís breakthrough multi-layer diffractive optical lens technology provides photographers with superior super-telephoto performance in a smaller and lighter design with enhanced correction for chromatic aberrations. Weíve also added our highly effective Image Stabilization system that gives the equivalent effect of a shutter speed two stops faster. And, itís built it to our professional standards with fast AF, full-time mechanical focus and dust and water-resistant construction.


 


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jhapeman
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Registered: Sep 20, 2004
Location: United States
Posts: 2003
Review Date: Mar 4, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $5,200.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Very light, fast focusing, sharp.
Cons:
Expensive.

Excellent build quality, very lightweight. Focuses very fast, nice and sharp. Not quite as sharp as the 500mm f/4, but close enough--and there is no other lens besides the 100-400L that you can take hiking with you, and this is a much sharper and faster prime. If you can afford it, the perfect hiking/handheld birding lens. Very sharp with the 1.4x TCII as well.

Jeff


Mar 4, 2006
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hvr_oosterzele
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Registered: Sep 9, 2003
Location: Belgium
Posts: 565
Review Date: Nov 15, 2005 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 9 

Pros: Very sharp, great bokeh wide open, size & weight, excellent with 1.4x and even with 2x.
Cons:
Can be a bit flat in low light. I would like to have a normal lenscap. The little screws on the hood come loose very easily. Minimum focussing distance.

This is the only birding lens with IS that you can take with you on a hike. I wish the minimum focussing distance was a bit shorter so it could be used for butterflies & damsels also.

Examples : http://www.pbase.com/hvr_oosterzele/birds


Nov 15, 2005
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Russ Jones
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Registered: Apr 23, 2005
Location: Canada
Posts: 739
Review Date: Oct 23, 2005 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $4,500.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Size and weight, build quality, IS, optical peformance
Cons:
cost, hood is a little bit tight

I just sold a 500mm f4.5 because it was too big and heavy for my purposes. I needed a bird lens that was a little less work to bring around with me and the 400mm DO seemed to be the ideal lens. I'v done alot of reading up on the DO and decided that I needed to get one in order to make a decision since the opinions were so divided. After searching high and low for a recent used copy of the DO I finally found one, it was made in April 2005 according to the date code so it is a very recent copy.

This lens produces stunning images. I'v had a couple of L telephoto lenses and my copy of the DO is on par with them. This isn't consistent with what other people think of this lens but my copy is great and it will deffinatly have a place in my gear bag for a long time. Here is a link to a photo I took with this lens PLUS a 1.4x TCII http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v156/britishcanuk/kinglet.jpg

As I build up a collection of images I will be sure to add them to this review. I would recommend this lens. I do find the huge variation in opinions a bit worrying though, it seems that there certainly are some copies that are better than others.

Russ


Oct 23, 2005
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brozzis
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Registered: Aug 30, 2003
Location: Italy
Posts: 2
Review Date: Jul 6, 2005 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 9 

Pros: IS, sharp, very good with a 2x canon extender. Relatively small and light
Cons:
price



Jul 6, 2005
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rbranan
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Registered: Jan 30, 2005
Location: United States
Posts: 2217
Review Date: Jul 6, 2005 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 7 

Pros: light weight. small size. thus very portable.
Cons:
for the price, image quality, while very high, is not at the level of the alternative canon long lenses. it is too slow for a sports photographer.

okay, you want to love this lens. it is a prime 400 and it is light and easy to carry--especially on a plane if need be. in certain conditions--such as late afternoon or early morning with the sun at yr back, it hangs with the best canon offers (optically). with its lite weight, you can take it to places you wouldn't want to lug a 400 2.8 or 600. So if a transportable 400 is what you need, then carefully consider it.

so why a 7 ratings? for the money it cost, you can buy a 500 at the same speed and get a 'killer' lens. wonderful contrast, super sharp and not too heavy. yes it is longer, but still easy to transport. I have shot several versions of both the 400 DO and the 500 4.0 IS and the 500 wins on ALL accounts. On the other side there is the 300 2.8 IS--another 'killer' Canon lens that is equally lite in weight and world class performance. Oh it is MUCH cheaper than the DO. so get a 1.4X for the times you need that extra length. Or go for a 1DS or 1DS Mkll and crop to the length. Both ways with the 300 2.8 you have a much more verstile and better performing optic--and us sports guys love 'em because we can shoot night games with them.

the other option is of course the 'REAL' 400 in the Canon line-up, the 2.8 IS. This lens will beat the DO in every aspect except weight. When you see the Getty Pros, the SI staffers, etc, etc on the sidelines of the major sports events of the world, you see this optic 90% of the time--I RARELY see a DO, and most cases it is one that was checked out for the day from CPS for trial. the other 10% tend to be 600's, 500's and 300's.


Jul 6, 2005
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Mike Hatam
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Registered: Jun 8, 2003
Location: United States
Posts: 4095
Review Date: Nov 27, 2004 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $4,350.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Size and weight, easily hand-holdable, very portable (compared to other 400mm+ lenses). Very sharp if you get a recent copy (manufactured after mid-2002). Image Stabilization is excellent.
Cons:
Can produce muted, low contrast images in low-light situations. Can occasionally (although very rarely) produce a strange moire pattern in the bokeh when shooting wide open at specular highlights from certain angles.

I've been getting a lot of PMs from people asking for my impressions on the Canon 400 DO lens, so I thought I'd just post them here.

I've owned all of Canon's long lenses, including the 300/4IS, 300/2.8IS, 400/5.6, 400/4 IS DO, 400/2.8IS, 500/4.5, 500/4IS, and 600/4IS. This is now my 4th copy of the 400DO, so I've had a few samples to compare with.

I'm not the type to do exact detailed comparisons of side-by-side images at 100%. So my thoughts are based on my overall judgement after shooting a few thousand frames with each of these lenses, rather than an analytical or measured comparison.

Size and Weight
The 400DO is very close in size, and actually lighter in weight, than the 300/2.8IS. It's surprisingly easy to hand-hold, as it is well balanced, light, and small (for the focal length and f4 apeture). When deciding which of my long lenses to keep, and which to sell, this became a significant factor for me, as I can easily hand-hold this lens, while I needed at least a monopod for the 300/2.8IS, and a heavy tripod for the 400/2.8IS, 500/4IS, and 600/4IS.

Image Quality
There seems to be a lot of variability in the optical quality fo the 400DO lenses. From my own experience (and this is consistent with what I've read from many other 400 DO owners), recent copies of the lens are much better than earlier copies. Where is the cut-off? I'm not exactly sure. These lenses started in production in 2001, and it seems that around mid-2002 is the cut-off, where lenses manufactured after mid-2002 are much sharper than lenses manufactured before mid-2002. I don't have any hard evidence on the date, but several pro's I know (including several FM forum members) have tried both early copies as well as recent copies, and have noticed a big difference between them, with recent copies being of very high optical quality.

My current copy of this lens was manufactured in August, 2004, and is exceptionally sharp. How sharp? I've been asked to compare this to other Canon long lenses. Well, it's not as sharp as my 300/2.8IS or my 500/4IS, but it's very close. It is much sharper than the 100-400IS that I once owned. Older copies were dissappointingly soft (on par with the 100-400IS), but recent copies are now very close to the 500/4IS in sharpness, in my opinion.

It is a very sharp lens, but it does have a characteristic that seems to be unique to the DO lenses - it occasionally suffers from poor contrast. This is especially noticable in low-light or low-contrast situations. In bright sunlight, I don't think you could tell images from the 400DO apart from the 500/4IS even when viewed at 100% on screen. But comparable shots in low-light would be distinctly different - the 500/4IS continues to produce rich color and excellent contrast, where the 400DO produces slightly muted colors and less contrasty images in low-light. This can be partially corrected in PS after the fact, but it never looks quite as good as the 500/4IS images.

One of the PS tricks I use on low-light images shot with my 400DO is what is to apply what I call "localized contrast", which really makes a difference on these images. See the following link for an article on local contrast enhancement:

http://www.luminous-landscape.com/tutorials/contrast-enhancement.shtml

Using this technique on images shot with the 400DO in low-light conditions will give it the appearance of being much sharper, by adjusting the contrast.

Bokeh
Some 400DO users have noticed some unattractive patterns in the bokeh when shot wide open. It has a strange sort of moire pattern to it, as if the background were some out-of-focus chan-linked fence. This effect only seems to show up on occasion, and when there are specular highlights caught at certain angles. Personally, I rarely see this affect. I see it on less than 1 out of 100 images - not enough to be a concern for me. I also speculate (with no hard evidence) that this problem was more pronounced on earlier versions of this lens.

General Practical Uses
I can only really afford to have 2 or 3 long lenses in my arsenal. For a couple of years, I've debated on which to have. So I finally broke down, and bought all of them, used them for a few months, and then decided which to keep, and sold the rest.

If I were a Bird Photographer, I would have kept the 400/5.6L (for hand-holdability), and the 600/4IS for excellent reach. But I'm not really that passionate about birding, and tend to use my long lenses more for action photography (surfing, soccer matches, kids playing on the beach, etc). I wanted to find a combination of lenses that provided me with good versatility and excellent image quality, and also be usable in the maximum set of situations (which meant portability matters).

The first lenses I sold off were the 400/2.8IS and the 600/4IS, simply because they are not very practical lenses. They were the two most expensive, and the two least used lenses in my set. They are just too darn heavy and large to be convenient. These lenses are for the hard-core pro's who need these specialized lenses for specific situations.

I've decided to keep the 300/4IS (excellent image quality and portability) and 400 DO IS. I've also currently got the 300/2.8IS (my favorite sports lens) and 500/4IS (excellent all-around long lens), but eventually one of those two will need to go.

The 400DO will stay. It is an excellent performer, is easy to carry and hand-hold, and has IS capability which I really love (which is why the 400/5.6L was not a keeper for me). The 400DO also works very well with the 1.4x and 2x extenders, so it's probably the longest lens I need. I have not pulled my 500/4IS lens out one time since I got this latest 400DO lens.


Conclusion
So the bottom line is that I think the 400DO IS lens is an excellent all-around long-lens for the photographer who can have only one long lens (400mm or longer), and who is not a birder.



Nov 27, 2004
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Tom Piotrowski
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Registered: Sep 10, 2002
Location: Australia
Posts: 74
Review Date: May 16, 2004 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Stunningly sharp, light for the size you are about to carry and easy to handle
Cons:
$$$

I have added this lens to my photo equipment bag to provide better alternative to 300mm F2.8 IS with 1.4x extender. I needed a lens that could be as sharp as tack yet would not break my back when carried around. I also wanted a lens that I could use hand held or with monopod only. Have not been disappointed since then. This is an incredible lens with highest quality glass, faultless image stabiliser that reproduces fantastic detail, contrast and colour of the scene you're shooting. Highly recommended. Just check one of the examples from my gallery: http://www.fredmiranda.com/hosting/showphoto.php?photo=15284&papass=&sort=1&thecat=500

May 16, 2004
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bobjarman
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Registered: Feb 27, 2002
Location: United States
Posts: 406
Review Date: Jan 7, 2004 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $4,950.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Light Weight Compact Sharp and nice Bokeh
Cons:
Price. Its come down, but it is still high.

I bought this lens after much deliberation, angst, and help/adivce from fellow FM Forum users.

This lens in my opinion is incredible. A dream to use, it is fast, responsive, and is the perfect lens for anyone who looks for a long telephoto without the weight issues normally encountered.

In about one month of use I have found the sharpness, contrast and bokeh to be superb. Some people talked about suceptibility to flare and specular highlights. I have not seen a single case of this yet in my shooting.

I will not argue with those who say it is not quite as good as the 300 2.8. It may not be, but this lens is such a treat to use in the field, and the shots are so nice, I personally could not be happier with my decision.

If you can live with a 300mm lens, by all means, get the less expensive, and optically superior 300 2.8L. But if like me, you want one telephoto that is both long enough to capture birds and wildlife and l can be easily transported or carried in the field, there is nothing that comes close to this lens.

I guess my best endorsement for the DO technology would be that if and when Canon ever comes out with a 600 DO, I will be saving my pennies and nickles again.





Jan 7, 2004
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Fred Miranda
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Registered: Dec 30, 2001
Location: United States
Posts: 17401
Review Date: Jun 4, 2003 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $5,000.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Lightweight for a 400mm f/4 Handles well in a compact design Sharp wide-open Fast AF and effective IS
Cons:
Price Great IQ but not jaw dropping. :)

Many find disappointing that the 400mm f/4 DO IS does not match the optical quality of the 300mm f/2.8L IS with the 1.4x II extender...
To me the obvious difference is in contrast.
However, we are left with other practical considerations, such as weight:
The 400 DO weights about 4.3 pounds
The 300/2.8L IS + 1.4x weights about 6 pounds (That is almost 2 pounds heavier!!)
I found the 400mm f/4 DO IS to be of very high optical quality aside from the lower contrast, yielding nice looking bokeh and great flare protection. When combined with the 1.4x extender, IQ suffers noticeably.

This picture was taking with the original Canon 1Ds + 400mm DO + 1.4II extender @560mm (contrast and sharpening in post)
http://www.fredmiranda.com/hosting/showphoto.php?photo=70&sort=1&cat=500&page=3


Jun 4, 2003
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mark1958
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Registered: Jan 27, 2002
Location: United States
Posts: 8269
Review Date: Apr 2, 2003 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 6 

Pros: Relative Lightweight
Cons:
lack of sharpness cost!

I was excited about this lens and really was looking forward to getting it and selling my 300/2.8L IS. However, I must admit I was disappointed. I did a number of comparison shots (inside and outside) with the 400 DO vs 300/2.8L IS with the 1.4x TC. I compared the shots on a tripod and a few hand held ones. In all of my comparisons, the 300 plus TC resulted in sharper and more contrasty images. While the 400 is lighter, it is not a small or lightweight lens. Therefore, it was not an easy lens to carry around for long periods. I personally believe this lens is over priced for the quality. If the lens was in the 2500 dollar range, I think it would be a reasonable value. Nonetheless, in the end I returned the DO lens.

Update: Based on other posts related to "sharper" copies, I did get a new copy to try and was impressed. While still not as sharp as the 300+TC, it was much much closer and overall the optics on the new lens was night vs day compared to my old one. As a result I am keeping this one and sold my 300/2.8L IS. I think there are others who have found many of the older DO lenses to have QC issues but I can say that the one i have is really decent and a keeper.


Apr 2, 2003
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Canon EF 400mm f/4 DO IS USM

Buy from B&H Photo
Reviews Views Date of last review
42 143316 Jun 27, 2013
Recommended By Average Price
93% of reviewers $4,866.61
Build Quality Rating Price Rating Overall Rating
9.80
7.19
9.3
ef400_4dois_1_


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