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  Reviews by: Edward Rotberg  

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Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM

Review Date: May 29, 2004 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,100.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: light, blazing fast focus, extremely sharp and contrasty at all apertures, ruggedly built, easily removable tripod collar
No IS, long minimum focusing distance, f/5.6

Sure I listed a lot of cons here, but I'm trying to be fair. I can't think of a lens that does not have some significant "cons". But not all the pros/cons are really black and white.

For instance, take the long minimum focusing distance. This means you can't get very close to a subject (I think about 12 feet) before you can no longer focus on it without the use of light-robbing extension tubes. However, for 95% of this lens' uses, this is a blessing in disguise. Why? Because of the resricted focusing range, when the distance limiter switch is in the "long" position, the lens focusing speed is increcibly quick. If it doesn't have to hunt close, the "throw" required to cover its range is fairly small, and it leaps to focus as fast as any lens I've ever used. If you ar shooting wildlife, this is a huge plus.

This lens is wonderful to handhold - when there is enough light for fast enough shutter speeds. Thankfully my 10D offers good noise levels at high ISO's so I can usually attain the necessary shutter speeds. In these cases, the lack of IS becomes insignificant. However, having IS would allow the use of the lens in more cases as well as lower ISO in many circumstances.

Even in light of this, I rated this lens at 5/5. Why? Because its optical quality is simply magnificent. Sharp as a tack corner to corner. Contrasty and neutral in color cast. I couldn't ask for more from an f/5.6 400mm lens.

I've had this lens for about 4 months now, and it rarely leaves my camera. I recently completed a six week study of Anna's Hummingbirds (ambient light!) where I used this lens for probably 1000+ images. I learned a lot about its close-focusing weaknesses and its many strengths in this time. If you are working at more realistic distances than 7-8 feet, this lens is simply marvelous.

Highly recommended!