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Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM

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Reviews Views Date of last review
120 312035 Feb 5, 2022
Recommended By Average Price
95% of reviewers $1,071.57
Build Quality Rating Price Rating Overall Rating
9.74
9.56
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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CampX
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Registered: Dec 20, 2005
Location: Canada
Posts: 812
Review Date: Nov 8, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 8 

Pros: Superfast focusing, really sharp images, light for its size, built-in lens hood, price
Cons:
F5.6 (but we knew that when we buy it, RIGHT!)

I bought this lens, along with a 40D body and a bunch of other goodies this summer. After much searching, reading a ton of reviews, and agonizing over the choices in buying a long lens, I decided on the 400mm F5.6L. Definitely didn't go wrong.
I have a 70-200mm F2.8L IS which I had thought about just getting a 1.4X or 2X tele-converter for, but the reviews said that the focusing speed and IQ takes a big hit when you do so. The 400mm F5.6L focuses very fast, and I'd say my keeper rate, when I have done everything right, is probably 7 or 8 out of 10.
Being used to shooting with a F2.8 lens most of the time, one has to pay attention more with this lens being a F5.6. Most of the time, it's pretty sunny where I live, so ISO 200 or 400 works great, and I usually just leave it on F5.6, as the images at F5.6 are razor sharp anyways. I still have the odd 'ooopsy' moment when taking bird photos, when I have closed down the aperture to F11 and the bird is sitting still, then the bird decides it wants to fly away......blur. As for being hand-holdable, this lens is light (compared to my 70-200 F2.8L IS), doesn't fatigue the arm at all, and so far I have not used a tripod with it.
I find that this lens is on my camera 80 per cent of the time these days, and my poor old (actually like brand new!) 70-200 F2.8 L IS spends a lot of time at home on the shelf...makes me think I should maybe be selling it. All in all, I am loving this lens, great piece of gear for the low price of it.


Nov 8, 2008
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Povilas
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Registered: Aug 23, 2007
Location: Lithuania
Posts: 2
Review Date: Aug 10, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,000.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Image quality, color rendering, superfast and accurate autofocus, superb handling, build quality, compactness
Cons:
Minimum focusing distance 3.5m

There are many reviews concerning the quality and performance of this lens, go along and read them. I will try to add a different, more practical perspective. Please note that I am an amateur photographer and some of my findings might not be the fault of the lens, but lack of my skills.

I cultivate kite boarding (water sport) and specialize photographing kiteboarders, windsurfers and surfers. I have been challenged to make good pictures because usually the subjects are quite far in the see (or the ocean).

I have been using Canon EF 100-400 3.5-5.6L for those purposes for a year but have never been satisfied. The autofocus and subject tracing were very poor, most of the time, because of the autofocus errors the subject was blurred most of the time. Manual focus was no good because it went from infinity to the closest distance too fast; the accurate results were difficult to obtain. The contrast has always been the same story. Not always you can choose the direction of the sun vs. the shore and sometimes you have to shoot almost against the sun (sun in front but out of the picture). In those cases 100-400 produced just black silhouettes. The size and the weight of this lens was also challenging. It was very difficult to handhold the lens for when it is extended it is huge and has a lot of weight in the front.

So I have read the reviews here and decided that I need this lens. Guess what? Everything that was listed as 100-400 negative aspects where solved with 400 5.6L lens! The autofocus speed is simply brilliant, with EOS 20D (handhold) it traces the subject without any hesitation and makes crystal clear pictures. Manual focus is not needed but it is much better balanced that in the zoom cousin. Now I can shoot against the sun and the slightest nuances of color can be spotted on the subject. The contrast is superb. Moreover, with this lens the tripod is not needed! It is easy to handhold this lens and 9/10 pictures are crystal sharp. The weight is distributed much better with this lens and it is lighter by 200g so tripod is not needed.

Concerning the two disadvantages that most people list IS and 5.6 aperture I have my own findings. Neither of those are disadvantages in water sport shooting. In the sunny conditions (with small clouds) in my country (LTU) I set the shutter at 800 (which is more than enough to get sharp images) and ISO at 200. Aperture varies from 7.1 to 11. If the sky is covered with thin/medium clouds the ISO needs to be raised to 400 to achieve the same results. In the evening with cloudy conditions I leave ISO400 and aperture drops to 5.6 (which, as you know produces excellent sharpness results on this lens) and sometimes shutter automatically drops to 640 (which is the lowest recommended shutter speed for 400mm lens (x1.6 crop factor) handheld). The results are that 9/10 pictures are crystal sharp and no ISO noise whatsoever.
As you can see, for the purposes that I use this lens it is just perfect. If you need a lens for outdoor sports buy this lens without any hesitation.
HIHGLY RECCOMENDED.


Aug 10, 2008
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EOSMIKE
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Registered: Jun 14, 2003
Location: Canada
Posts: 2081
Review Date: Jul 2, 2008 Recommend? | Price paid: Not Indicated

Pros: very hi IQ, sharp as a tack, easy to hand-hold & carry, focuses well, monopod/tripod mount & lens hood included, worthy of "L" status, weight is only 2.75lbs. (~1.25kg)
Cons:
no IS version (in 2008, that's a minus), suitable for daytime outdoors use only (with few exceptions), minimum focusing distance of 11.5ft / 3.5m,

The 400mm f/5.6 is a lens that anyone with long telephoto requirements should consider. This lens will more than fully please many, including photojournalists with long lens requirements (i.e. situations such accidents, spot news, stake-outs where getting anywhere within close proximity is problematic), daytime sports (baseball, football, rugby, surfing, soccer etc.), and wildlife shooters (i.e. birds and animals)

Thought this lens is relatively slow, it has the advantages of extreme portability (case is included) ++ hand-hold-ability that more than make up for the slower maximum aperture.

This combo is cheaper, better and more desirable than a 70-200 f/2.8 with a 2x extender on due to obvious IQ-robbing that combo consumes. (but obviously not quite as flexible when it comes to focal length)

For instance, when using a two body system, pairing this 400mm with a 70-200mm zoom (with or without a 1.4x) on the other would be considered a very ideal set-up by many shooters.

happy shooting!


Jul 2, 2008
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BERTPIX
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Registered: Jun 7, 2008
Location: Belgium
Posts: 0
Review Date: Jun 11, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: fast AF, sharp wide open, solid, cheap, great IQ
Cons:
none !

This is a fantastic lens for the money. From the first day it was delivered I enjoyed this piece of equipment and it will stay with me forever.
It's tack sharp wide open, great IQ, great colors, light to handhold, L-quality and one of the best lenses on the market to shoot birds in flight.
Don't hesitate : this is a WOW-lens !


Jun 11, 2008
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gazzajagman
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Registered: Apr 26, 2006
Location: United Kingdom
Posts: 189
Review Date: Jun 8, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Very sharp wide open. Very fast AF. Integrated lens hood...a very nice feature. Quite reasonable price. Solid L build.
Cons:
Tripod collar isn't so nice to use. Erm, that's about it. IS would be nice but not essential. monopodding is fine. Very poor min focus distance. 3.5m???

I love this lens. It's AF speed and "lock on" ability is quite astounding. Many shots that I have got were grab shots and I didn't expect this lens to lock on so well. Birds in Flight ect are easily shot, assuming you have a good pan technique.

The retractable hood is a really neat feature too and I like the way it turns the AF ring like it's an extension of the AF ring.
f5.6 is a bit dim, but it's has 2 distinct advantages here.
Firstly, the images from this lens wide open at f5.6 seem very bright compared to the darker 100-400 IS L images, which leads me to suspect that the zoom isn't really an f5.6 lens.

The croppability of this lens is also impressive. The IQ at 100% shames a lot of good zooms. Optically it's a gem and has simular sharpness charectoristics with the 135L wide open.
Often I see shots from 400mm f2.8 and 400mm f4 DO lenses that are stopped down to f5.6 to get a deeper DOF. So why not just jump straight for the lighter and cheaper version and shoot wide open for a simular result?
The redition of the out of focus areas are very pleasent too. The images I get near the Min focus distance have a 100mm macro look about them. Which brings me onto the min focus distance...
3.5m isn't very close at all, especially if I try to shoot some large sized flowers with this lens. Both the 300mm f4 and the 100-400mm IS seem to be able to focus a lot closer, so why not this lens? I have used extension tubes, which work well. But forget the 12mm tube, it hardly does a thing. Go straight for a 25mm to really improve the min focus distance.

I have used this lens on a 5D and it's produces great results, but where this lens really shines is on a 40D. The extra reach, fast AF system and faster FPS really give this lens what it needs.

This is my first big white that I've bought and owned, but I have used a 100-400mm IS L, a 300mm f4 IS L and a 300mm f2.8 IS L and 70-200mm f2.8 IS L on occasions.


Jun 8, 2008
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rxgolf
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Registered: Aug 25, 2005
Location: United States
Posts: 2768
Review Date: May 21, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Sharp, light, and fast to lock on
Cons:
None for my use

This lens is the reason I switched back to Canon! I am using it on a MarkIII and am very, very pleased with this combo. I was using a Nikon D3 with their 200-400f4, and just found the combo to be way to heavy for me to enjoyably use for long periods of time. And, I feel that at 400mm, the Canon combo is giving me results with wildlife better than the much more expensive Nikon combo just because of the ease in handling. Please note I am not saying one setup is better than the other, just that one fits my shooting style better.

May 21, 2008
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natalia.atkins
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Registered: Mar 24, 2008
Location: Australia
Posts: 65
Review Date: May 20, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 9 

Pros: Very sharp, Versatile, Light, Excellent for locking onto moving objects, well built, and great value for money
Cons:
Minimum focusing distance of 3.5m sometimes limiting, but can be corrected using extension tubes

This is a really terrific lens for its price range (around 900 US dollars). Its light enough to carry around my neck hiking all day, and a lot of fun to use.

I mostly use it for hand-held bird photography, which is probably not its strength but it does surprisingly well , especially in sunny conditions where shutter speeds are typicaly 1/1000 - 1/3200 and above. Like most owners of this lens I am blown away by its sharpness wide open and its motion-tracking capabilities. The Lens really locks onto the subject and keeps it's focus, which opens up so many great possibilities for taking wonderful pictures of birds flying, landing, and taking off.

Overall, its a wonderful addition to the kit and highly recommended.

















May 20, 2008
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Spock lonewolf
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Registered: May 8, 2008
Location: Czech Republic
Posts: 10
Review Date: May 8, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Very sharp even wide open, not as heavy as faster lenses, quick focus, built-in hood, nice bokeh. Yes and perfectly sharp all the time.
Cons:

Perfect fo hiking through the forrest for shooting wildlife and birds. It's not as heavy as faster lenses, so your hand is not going to fall off after a while.

May 8, 2008
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Breitling65
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Registered: May 31, 2006
Location: United States
Posts: 5271
Review Date: Apr 30, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,099.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Relatively light and not as big. Fastest AF among any other EOS I own/tried. Color/Contrast/Sharpness very good as well.
Cons:
Bit slow aperture, I would prefer F4 instead (no IS!!!). Useless with 1.4tc since dramatic loss in IQ.

Got this lens for mine 40D/birding and air shows needs. AF not working with 1.4tc on 40D, even with taped pins. Same works on 5D fine, I guess simply 40D issue with AF.
Amazing AF speed, very good for birds in flight. Bit sticky hood but this is minor to me. I like old desigh for tripod colar and overal lens not as heavy and long.
First shots amazed me much more than my 300/F4L IS with 1.4tc.


Apr 30, 2008
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scottleslie
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Registered: Oct 30, 2004
Location: Canada
Posts: 318
Review Date: Apr 29, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $900.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Sharp. Light. Fast AF. Build quality.
Cons:
Minimum focus distance (not a big problem)

I have just three words for this lens: superb, superb, superb.

Apr 29, 2008
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Brian Kersey
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Registered: Feb 12, 2007
Location: United States
Posts: 1268
Review Date: Apr 16, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $925.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: very fast autofocus great image quality excellent sharpness wide open price not much digital darkroom required
Cons:
rather large minimum focusing distance not too versatile I wish they made an IS version

I purchased this lens to replace my 100-400L due to the slower focusing speed of the zoom and the requirement to stop down. My primary use for this lens is for birding and sports and in these two fields, this lens has truly shined. My favorite feature of this lens is it's fast AF, locking onto moving targets and maintaining focus is Child's Play while using this lens in conjunction with a 1-series. It is remarkably easy to make consistently sharp flight shots of birds or of sports action. Equally as important as fast AF is it's ability to
be shot with wide-open and not lose any sharpness even when stopped down to f/8. Both these qualities are immensely important to Nature photographers. Since I have purchased this lens, I have additionally noticed that I am spending less and less time in photoshop as this lens just delivers L quality results consistently.
In future editions of this lens though, I would like to see and IS version due to the difficulty of steadying the lens handheld for long periods of time, especially when photographing static birds in less than desirable lighting situations. I mostly use a tripod though so it really doesn't bother me THAT much. Overall, I believe this to be one of Canon's great lenses truly worthy of the "L" label. I would recommend it any day of the week.


Apr 16, 2008
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lextalionis
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Registered: Jul 28, 2007
Location: United States
Posts: 1076
Review Date: Apr 16, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,050.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: For the reach and IQ, very affordable.
Cons:
Well, lack of IS, but heck...then it wouldn't be affordable.

WOW! Want to emerse yourself into bird or sport photography and not break the bank?

Great lens all-around. Thanks to Hung Tran for these sample shots:

Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM Sample Photos

-Roy


Apr 16, 2008
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Peter Kirk
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Registered: Sep 25, 2004
Location: Australia
Posts: 312
Review Date: Mar 30, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,460.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: WOW, this lens is sharp and quick to focus
Cons:
could do with IS.

Apart from an IS update on this lens, all I have to say about it is 10 out of 10.
Beautiful background rendition for a 5.6 minimum aperture. I am well impressed.
I keep this lens on my 1DmkIIN all day with or without the 1.4xII and it sings like a bird. The simple things in life are often the best and this lens proves that a simple design can go a long long way indeed.


Mar 30, 2008
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Peter Kotsa
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Registered: Nov 1, 2007
Location: Australia
Posts: 268
Review Date: Mar 30, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,400.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: weighs next to nothing, SHARP as a tac, fast focusing
Cons:
no image stabilizer

an amazing lens indeed. I use it for sports mainly and it can keep up just as good as the 300 2.8 does. For versatility and ease of use it is an excellent choice.
Did I mention that this lens is SHARP, oops I almost cut myself again..lol



Mar 30, 2008
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chalford
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Registered: Mar 1, 2008
Location: United States
Posts: 0
Review Date: Mar 24, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,100.00 | Rating: 8 

Pros: Easy to hand-hold, inexpensive. Sharp sharp sharp!
Cons:
Lack of I.S. and slow (f/5.6)

This is a fantastic lens. I read a lot of reviews before purchasing it, and I wasn't unhappy.
I used this for my son's soccer games and got amazingly crisp shots. I've recently picked up the 400mm f/4 DO, and will post some comparisons.

A problem I had with this lens and the x2 converter was related to loss of AF and loss of more sharpness than I wanted. However this may be due to the x2 converter and not the lens itself. The x1.4 might have been better for the job, but AF is still lost.

I posted some sample shots of the lunar eclipse a few weeks ago. They are OK, but not great.

http://web.mac.com/halfordchris/

The important thing about this lens is that it has great reach and is very easy to handle without a tripod. I prefer more opportunistic shooting, so needing a tripod isn't always a good thing for me. I like this lens for the freedom and quality you get with it.


Mar 24, 2008
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edelsolar
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Registered: Aug 16, 2005
Location: United States
Posts: 15
Review Date: Mar 21, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,100.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Best entry level birding lens in the market, sharp, very light, quick AF.
Cons:
Not the best under low light such as heavy canopies, rain forest. Not a real close focusing lens, close up tubes can be added

Got this lens a couple of years ago, supra sweet lens. Sharp wide open, reasonably priced, great with 1.6X back. Toy lens that truly delivers.

IF F5.6 is too slow for you, the F2.8 is a better option for an extra $5,000, minor detail I guess. :-)


Mar 21, 2008
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Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM

Buy from B&H Photo
Reviews Views Date of last review
120 312035 Feb 5, 2022
Recommended By Average Price
95% of reviewers $1,071.57
Build Quality Rating Price Rating Overall Rating
9.74
9.56
9.5
ef400mmf_56_1_


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