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Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM

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116 273082 Aug 19, 2014
Recommended By Average Price
95% of reviewers $1,058.59
Build Quality Rating Price Rating Overall Rating
9.73
9.54
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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adrianb
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Registered: Jun 27, 2010
Location: Romania
Posts: 526
Review Date: Aug 19, 2014 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,044.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: price, weight, AF
Cons:
f/5.6, no IS , no weather sealing

I've wanted to move from a manual focus lens (Tair 300mm f4.5) to an AF lens, because I was getting tired of shooting wildlife with manual focus as I was missing a lot of shots (especially moving targets).

There were only 3 options for me: 100-400 L, 300 F4L IS and 400 5.6L

The zoom was out of the question, since I would be shooting 90% of the time at the long end (400mm), and then the battle was on between 300 F4L IS and 400 5.6L.

The main advantages of the 300 were F4 and IS. I liked the fact that it had 1.5m MFD,but soon I've learned that that MFD is not a deal breaker (For me) with the 400 (which has 3.5m).

I finally decided on the 400mm because I had already used a 300mm for a while,and if I'm upgrading to a new lens, besides the AF, I just wanted some extra reach.

I've got the lens for 2 weeks and used it on a 5Dc, 5D3 and 50D.

On the 5D3 it works superb, considering the high ISO capability of the camera to help the slow 5.6 aperture of the lens. Not to mention matching the advanced AF system of the 5D3 with the fast AF speed of the 400 5.6 . If you're shooting BIF or distant targets, set the lens AF to 8.5-infinite, and the AF is lightning fast.

Sure, a lot of people would have wanted IS on the lens,but then the price wouldn't have been the same, the weight wouldn't have been the same, etc.

To me, the only disappointment is the lack of some decent weather sealing,since this is thought out as a wildlife/sports lens.

F5.6 is annoying,especially on the 5D, as I find myself shooting ISO 800+ almost all the time,with this lens, but the results are very good. I can't complain on the aperture,since I knew what I was getting into.

For somebody who wants extra reach from a telephoto (wildlife,etc) I can't think of a better lens (on a budget) than the 400mm 5.6L

For an extra 100mm and an F stop (500 MM F4 IS) you have to pay 5-6 times the price and I don't think it's worth it.

I also browsed the web for reviews of the new Tamron 150-600, but it didn't convince me.

It's a shame that Canon doesn't have a cheaper alternative for the 500mm+ FL


Aug 19, 2014
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bacateen
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Registered: Nov 11, 2011
Location: Canada
Posts: 24
Review Date: Nov 23, 2012 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 9 

Pros: Light weight, sharp, contrast, cost
Cons:
no OS

All has been said about this lens. I am putting up this review just out of urge to support this good lens. Everything is good about the lens except no OS. However, this was my first L lens which I used for long time. By end, I started taking decent sharp pictures at 1/200 to 1/300 shutter speed if need be. When I moved to OS lenses, I was getting out 4 stop OS out of 2 stop system. This builds your techniques very well. I still get surprised by amount of detail in pictures I have with this lens.

Nov 23, 2012
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fishyfinger
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Registered: Jul 3, 2011
Location: United Kingdom
Posts: 0
Review Date: Aug 28, 2012 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: 'Price', light to hold, very sharp, fast focus, hood.
Cons:
None, I looked at the box first..

First chance to use it, was today.
Chasing gannets in Shetland, lovely blue sky.
This lens is a great buy, very easy to use, very easy to hold for a good amount of time.
I also tried the lens with a carbon fibre monopod, worked great.
Very fast focus, easy to hold the focus too when waiting for that 'great' shot!
Worth the money; people that moan about 'lack of IS', spend more money then, simple.
A lot more money..
Buy this, it makes a lot of sense.

Shots of gannets here;

http://www.flickr.com/photos/fishyfinger/

Thanks for reading,

Tim.


Aug 28, 2012
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cpe1991
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Registered: Apr 25, 2012
Location: United Kingdom
Posts: 0
Review Date: Apr 25, 2012 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,100.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Light, sharp, very fast focus, great for handheld shots of birds.
Cons:

The lack of IS is not much of a drawback for bird photography. Because of its light weight and lightning fast focussing, this is the best lens for birds in flight where you have to turn off IS if you have it. For other bird shots, fast shutter speeds are usually necessary anyway and these eliminate the effects of shake. If you are in a hide, you can steady your elbows or the lens on a ledge for slow shutter speeds. For a fraction of the price of one of the big Canon lenses, you get a hand holdable lens you can walk around with all day, and you can move it around quickly for unexpected shots, unlike those guys with their f/2.8s and the necessary hefty tripods. This lens is sharp wide open at f/5.6 and there is no point in going to smaller apertures unless you want greater depth of field.

Apr 25, 2012
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fotojev
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Registered: Feb 13, 2010
Location: Netherlands
Posts: 24
Review Date: Nov 13, 2011 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 8 

Pros: Sharp, relatively light weight, fast.
Cons:
No weather seal, no IS.

This lens was my first lens for bird photography. With a 50D it was a nice compact solution. Of course it was not perfect because of the limited reach. For birds in flight with enough light it is perfect because it is hand holdable.

I do no longer have this lens and I doubt whether I will buy it again. IS is a must have I think as well as weather sealing.


Nov 13, 2011
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JoelWilcox
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Registered: Apr 11, 2005
Location: United States
Posts: 349
Review Date: Jun 5, 2011 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,329.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Lightweight, simple (no IS).
Cons:
Would be bullet proof if it had weather sealing.

Sharper than my 100-400 at 400mm, which is why I got it. Love the built-in lens hood. But its lack of IS practically screams for a gimbal head. I use a Wimberley Sidekick on an Arca-Swiss Z1 -- super smooth and stable.

But note that if you're using a 1D series body or battery grip, you'll want a longer lens plate than made/recommended to move the lens/body forward for neutral balance. An RRS multi-purpose rail (MPR-113) fits the bill.


Jun 5, 2011
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nadandnad
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Registered: Apr 5, 2010
Location: Germany
Posts: 0
Review Date: Apr 7, 2011 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Light weight, Sharp, really fast AF
Cons:
weather sealing

This is the longest focal length lens I ever griped, It needs training to be used to hunt the shot you want on time. Light weight and the built in hood is very practical. The only thing I would complain about is weather sealing that is missing. Of course sharp f5.6. It is really fun to use such a lens. Great bokeh for 5.6. Compared to the 5 times priced f4, this is a real bargain.

Apr 7, 2011
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ken billington
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Registered: Dec 4, 2010
Location: Switzerland
Posts: 0
Review Date: Dec 4, 2010 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: light in weight, excellent optical performance, fast focusing, sharp images, good vignetting performance
Cons:
no image stabilisation, not water resistant

Advantages:

1. Light in Weight - the Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM Lens is light in weight compared to the other Canon telephoto lenses . This is a huge advantage for bird photography, easy to maneuver when taking flight shots, not too tiring when trekking.
2. Excellent Optical Performance - as a member of the Canon L Lens Series, the Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM Lens' overall optical performance is outstanding.
3. Fast focusing - thanks to the Ultrasonic Motor (USM), the 400 f/5.6 L internally focuses very fast and very quietly.
4. Sharp Images - the Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM Lens performs superbly in the sharpness department. Even wide open, the 400 f/5.6 produces very sharp images.
5. Good Vignetting Performance - even the corners of full fame shots remain evenly colored without displaying any tendency to vignetting.

Disadvantages:

1. Image Stabilisation - one of the compromises of this budget lens is that it doesn't have image stabilisation (IS). It can still be very successful for "handheld" or so-called "grab-shots" provided that a short exposure time and/or a higher ISO is used. When used together with the high quality EOS DSLR's recently introduced by Canon, this disadvantage can be compensated.
2. Water Resistance - another disadvantage of this lens is that it isn't 100% water resistant like its more expensive cousins.

Conclusion:

The Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM Lens is hugely successful for bird and wildlife photography and especially for flight shots. It offers a good level of performance at a relatively low price.

Check out my photos on http://kenbillington.ch/photobank/


Dec 4, 2010
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CampX
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Registered: Dec 20, 2005
Location: Canada
Posts: 811
Review Date: Jul 27, 2010 Recommend? | Price paid: Not Indicated

Pros: Light weight, super IQ, easily hand-holdable
Cons:

http://www.fredmiranda.com/forum/topic/921921

Easily my favourite lens.....


Jul 27, 2010
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rndman
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Registered: Apr 10, 2009
Location: N/A
Posts: 2
Review Date: May 24, 2010 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,200.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Sharp wide open, light, built in hood, surprisingly hand holdable even for lower shutter speeds, price
Cons:
Little long. I now need a new bag to carry it attached...

In spite of having 100-400 in my bag, I went for this lens, just to get those BIFs. My 100-400 is very good for static subjects, but for BIFs I though the AF was bit slower.
Yet to give a complete test ride to 400mm, but in last couple of days whatever it has delivered, I am pleased.
Highly recommended to anyone looking for lens for BIF (alone) and on fence between 100-400 and 400mm. The absence of IS should not be an issue as BIFs need high enough shutter speed.
Some samples from my new lens below. Yes, these are not BIFs, but just to give you an idea.
I think my copy has abit of front focus. I will probably need to run through MFA.

http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4065/4634230136_391ceb718b_o.jpg

http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4057/4633632327_8fec5f36c7_o.jpg






May 24, 2010
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Phil UKNet
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Registered: Oct 20, 2007
Location: Thailand
Posts: 0
Review Date: May 7, 2010 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,357.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Reasonable price for the focal length, reasonable weight, great image quality, fast and accurate AF, built-in lens hood, tripod collar included
Cons:
No IS, minimum focusing distance not that close

In theory the EF 300mm f/4L IS lens plus an EF 1.4x extender should be a better choice than the EF 400mm f/5.6L lens. Instead of just 400mm @ f/5.6, you get 300mm @ f/4 or 420mm @f/5.6 plus Image Stabilisation.

That's the theory. In practice, it didn't work out for me because the EF 300mm f/4L IS lens I owned never really delivered the results I was expecting. I sold it and bought the EF 400mm f/5.6L.

So far, this lens has exceeded all my expectations. The image quality is very good, and with small subjects I think the limiting factor is my 40D's sensor. I'm sure the extra pixel density of a 7D will help, and that will probably be my next acquisition.

Autofocus is accurate and very quick. The image quality is still perfectly acceptable with the Canon EF 1.4x extender but - of course - autofocus ceases to function on bodies other than 1-Series cameras.

When using an extender, manual focusing using Live View works adequately but the process is slow and not really suitable for photographing quick moving subjects, such as birds. The lens isn't too bad for hand-holding but after a few hours my forearms start to ache a little.

The biggest drawback is the lack of IS. After using lenses with the latest technology IS, it is something that I miss very much. I feel happier using this lens on a tripod but it isn't possible all the time.

I won't get into the EF 400mm f/5.6L vs the EF 100-400mm L zoom lens debate because I've never used the 100-400mm.

My buying decision was based on the theory that with the zoom I would probably be using it at 400mm most of the time. The prime was cheaper, and probably sharper - although I know some people say it isn't.

I'd love an updated version with improved optics and four-stop Image Stabilisation. When/If Canon announce that lens I will upgrade, but until that happens I am happy with the version that's available now.

A few image samples at:

http://phil.uk.net/photography/canon_400F56L.html


May 7, 2010
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barmaley
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Registered: Oct 23, 2009
Location: Russia
Posts: 0
Review Date: Nov 19, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Very sharp, Very fast AF, nearly flawless IQ, good build, built in hood.
Cons:
none for the price, may be want close minimal focusing distance.

This is my favorite lens.
I wanted long telephoto primary for birding, and chosen this lens over a number of competitors.
It is insanely sharp, have excellent colors and microcontrast,
have virtually none CA (they are pronounced only in very high contrast lighting). Overall image quality is excellent.
It has the fastest AF speed among anything with comparable price, and balances very nicely on medium sized body like 40D or 7D.
On full frame camera 3.5m minimum focus distance may be annoying, but on crop camera sparrow sized bird fills the frame.
I like built in hood, very nice feature.
Lack of IS may be drawback for somebody, but I successfuly use it handhold.
You can read my review with sample images here:
http://alexsukonkin.com/reviews/Canon-EF400f56-L-USM_en.html


Nov 19, 2009
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phreeky82
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Registered: Aug 22, 2005
Location: Australia
Posts: 0
Review Date: Sep 29, 2009 Recommend? | Price paid: Not Indicated

Pros: Sharpness, contrast, colours, AF speed, well built, inbuilt hood is fantastic.
Cons:
Tripod collar foot could be a little bigger.

Extremely sharp and great looking results from this, even wide open. Amazingly useful results even with a 2x other than useless AF (even with a non-reporting TC) on a 20D. MF is very smooth and nice to use though.

The AF speed makes this a very enjoyable lens to use for both airshows and birds.

The inbuilt hood is a fantastic design, and gives a lens that is not only very easy to set up and use in a hurry, but also makes it compact enough to fit in a backpack without much trouble.

I'd like the tripod collar foot to be a big larger, for gripping onto it - instead I leave a large QR plate attached, makes hand holding a bit more comfortable.


Sep 29, 2009
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phreeky82
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Registered: Aug 22, 2005
Location: Australia
Posts: 0
Review Date: Sep 24, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Stupidly sharp, great colour and contrast, well built, and surprisingly hand-holdable a lot of the time. OOF areas look very nice. Best hood design ever!
Cons:
A longer foot on the tripod collar would have been nice.

The sharp images you get from this wide open is amazing, with the very slightest of improvements when stopped down (mostly in contrast I've found).

Throwing a 2x behind it, despite losing AF usefulness (even with pins taped), made me very surprised indeed. No they're not perfect, but still better than most cheap long lenses without a TC. 1.4x not yet tried.

Have found that the shutter speed needed to stop bird movement motion blur means the lack of IS isn't such an issue as it wouldn't help anyway. Can't really fix the F/5.6 aspect without a whole lot of $$$ and/or weight.

Buy a monopod+tripod, use them, and get amazing results.


Sep 24, 2009
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nickjohnson
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Registered: Sep 15, 2009
Location: United Kingdom
Posts: 780
Review Date: Sep 19, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: fantastic IQ when used properly, fine build, light weight / good handling, very good value
Cons:
none when used by those who understand and accept it for what it is.

Common to all reports

This is my attempt to give something back to the forum members who have provided this wonderful resource. I found much here that helped with my lens selection. So over the last 1 to 2 years here is what I used all on a pair of 5D bodies. (My comments will be subjective and personal. I will try to avoid saying anything that cannot be read in the spec sheets).

17-40 L
24-105 L IS
70-200 f4 L IS
180 L Macro
400 f5.6 L
50 f1.8 mkII
Sigma 50 f2.8 Macro EX

400 f5.6 L
Comment
This is an old lens in design terms, but recent DSLR high ISO performance gains make it ever more applicable to today's photography. Mine has done more to improve my technique than all the other lenses put together. If I just point and shoot I get what I deserve fuzzy nothings. But if I put the ISO high enough to ensure a proper shutter speed, shoot properly, and give it just a sniff of sweet light ... bang knock-out images which are not possible with anything else at less than three times the price.

Used hand held for wildlife, BIF, landscapes.

IQ is fabulous if I do my bit. Heavy cropping to make up for lack of reach no problem.




Sep 19, 2009
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maiaibing
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Registered: Jun 25, 2009
Location: Afghanistan
Posts: 10
Review Date: Aug 29, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Cheap, light (comparably), durable, fast focus, very sharp, great colors, built-in hood, tripod mount included.
Cons:
No IS, f/5.6 is slow if you like to shoot hand held.

For pure optical performance it does not get better than this.

If you are looking for the best 400mm on a budget or for a light weight alternative to the 400L f/2.8 this is the lens to get. No compromises in sharpness, color or clarity. It is an amazing lens for its price point.

The downside is no IS, no zoom and f/5.6. Thus there is a very real difference shooting with the 2.8 and the 5.6, just as you will not get the flexibility of a zoom like the 100-400mm, which is also excellent lens and comes with IS.

Canon has so many great choices for 400mm. Use the one that fits your situation the best.

(Remember to check your lens for front/back focus, my sample needed -8 to be on spot with my 5Dii. It makes a visible difference even @ f/5.6.)


Aug 29, 2009
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Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM

Buy from B&H Photo
Reviews Views Date of last review
116 273082 Aug 19, 2014
Recommended By Average Price
95% of reviewers $1,058.59
Build Quality Rating Price Rating Overall Rating
9.73
9.54
9.5
ef400mmf_56_1_


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