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  Reviews by: gregdhumphreys  

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Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM

Review Date: Apr 28, 2004 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,135.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Sharp, good contrast, light for a 400mm, takes 77mm filters.
For the price paid, none.

Where do I start with the 400 f/5.6L, except I have wanted a 400mm lens for a long time, and for me, Canon's f/5.6L does not disappoint.

The lens is classic Canon white with the telltale red ring that designates it as an L-series lens. The lens is 10.1 inches long and weighs 2.8 pounds, which is small and light for a 400mm lens. It has a built-in lens hood that locks into place both when extended and retracted. The lens hood has a rubber ring around the back of it, and when retracted, the entire hood rotates with the focusing ring (with the rubber ring, you can actually focus the lens with the lens hood when the hood is retracted). The lens is well built and feels very solid. It comes with Canon's tripod mount ring A(W), which is the same tripod ring that is used on the 70-200 f/4L and the 300 f/4L (non IS). This tripod ring is well designed, easy to adjust, and it installs and removes easily. If you have the 70-200 f/4L and have not sprung for a tripod collar, you can use the tripod collar from the 400 f/5.6L for both lenses.

The 400 f/5.6L takes 77mm filters, which is the same size as other popular lenses such as the 70-200 f/2.8L (both the IS and non IS versions), the 16-35 f/2.8L, the 17-40 f/4L, and the 24-70 f/2.8L. If you already own one of these lenses, then any filters you have purchased to use on those lenses will fit the 400 f/5.6L.

The 400 f/5.6L feels well balanced on a 10D, auto focuses fast, and has a very nice, well-damped manual focus feel. The lens is sharp even wide-open, has good contrast, and to me has pleasing bokeh.

I had a difficult time choosing between the 400 f/5.6L and the 300 f/4L IS. I ended up purchasing the 400 f/5.6L for these reasons: I use a tripod 99 percent of the time, so IS is not that important to me; I already have the 70-200 f/4L, and it seemed to me that the jump from 200mm to 400mm would be more useful than the jump from 200mm to 300mmonly time will tell if my thinking is correct on that one; the 400 is a simple design optically (7 elements in 6 groups), and something about that appeals to me; and finally, I read a lot of comments from people who buy a 300mm f/4 lens and then immediately glue it to a 1.4 TC, making a 420mm f/5.6I figured I would be one of those people and just decided to go straight to 400mm.

My only reservation with buying this lens is that I thought I might not get enough use out of it to justify spending around $1100 for itI was wrong with that thought. Now that I have the lens, I am starting to use it more and more. Im very pleased with the purchase of this lens, and I would buy it again.

Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM

Review Date: Apr 14, 2004 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $700.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Sharp, good contrast, well-built, takes 77mm filters.
Considering the price vs. performance, I have no negative comments.

I really like this lens, especially for the price. The lens is well-built and produces sharp pictures with good contrast. I used to own the 16-35 f/2.8L (I do not want to discuss why I no longer own that lens), and the 17-40 is at least as sharp as the 16-35 (perhaps even a bit sharper than the 16-35, but it would be very difficult to tell from a printed picture), but I think my copy of the 17-40 has a little better contrast than my copy of the 16-35. Well, better is a strong word, but the pictures from the 17-40 seem more pleasing to me, maybe because they appear slightly warmer. The performance of both lenses is excellent in my opinion.

So if money were not a factor, which lens would I own? It depends. If I needed a lens for low-light situations, I would consider the 16-35. However, if I used the lens mostly for landscapes (and that is what I use this lens for), then I would spend my money on the 17-40.