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Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS USM

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30 176084 May 10, 2014
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97% of reviewers $6,110.09
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This lens is ideal for sports and wildlife photography. The newly designed optical system has one fluorite element and two UD-glass elements to obtain high resolution and high contrast. Also, the minimum focusing distance was reduced to 18 ft. (5.5m). Extender EF 2x II can be attached to increase the focal length to 1200mm while retaining AF (at the center focusing point with the EOS-1v and EOS-3).


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Registered: Nov 30, 2011
Location: United States
Posts: 14
Review Date: May 10, 2014 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $6,900.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Reach,f4,sharp,fast focus,IS ,quality build
Cost,size/weight.... but that's reality.

I previously used the EF 500 4.5 lens to shoot birds. The quality it produced was great even wide open. Huge difference from using the 300/4 IS/ext. combo. Used it mainly on tripod/gimbal but shot handheld for tracking owls in flight. Made the decision to upgrade to the 600 mainly for reach and IS. The weight makes it a little cumbersome to hike with but once setup it's worth it. That extra reach over the 500[which most use with an ext.] is important when shooting the small birds under the usually dim rain forest canopy here in Hawaii.5.6 doesn't cut it. I know the new version is a lot lighter and a little sharper but I'm happy making due with what I have.

May 10, 2014
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Registered: Nov 28, 2012
Location: United States
Posts: 10
Review Date: Nov 28, 2012 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $6,000.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Mindblowing image quality.
If you touch this glass you start scratching it.

So much has been said about this lens already, but there are some things that I can share that I have not seen in previous posts. I use this lens with either a 1D Mk II or a 1D Mark IV body.

1. Unlike most of the reviewers I use this lens exclusively with a monopod/ballhead combo. I use a Giottos MH3300 ballhead, on top of a Manfrotto 681B Monopod. The main purpose of the ballhead is to provide a strong and stable platform for the lens to sit atop the monopod. I don't ever change the angle of or loosen the ballhead, rather I loosen the lens in the collar and rotate the lens/body to change the angle of the picture if I want to shoot vertically.

Even in high wind conditions with inherent instability (I shoot a lot of ocean sports), I get pin sharp results with this rig. It is a heavy rig, but not unbearable; it is nowhere near as heavy as trying to move a tripod around, and gives you complete flexibility in terms of moving around at will to get the shot you want.

I am able to take this rig into positions that would be unthinkable with a tripod, or without support, and get the exact shot I want.

The ballhead/monopod combo is extreme weight-rated to handle this load.

2. I am constantly amazed at the sharpness of the images this lens produces on a pro-body. Nothing else in my bag comes close. If I can use this lens under any circumstances, I will use it, even if it means lugging the load around all day.

3. At times I use it with a 1.4x extender but I find that this will produce usable pictures only in the best possible light - like on a bright sunny day. Shooting fast sports like surfing with the extender on a dull day is a waste of time IMO.

4. If you need distance/getting in close to the subject, then I would recommend you stick with a cropped sensor on a body such as a Mark IV with this lens. Testing this lens on a friends 1Dx, I could see no ability to compensate for the loss of magnification, which is very noticeable between cropped and full frame.

5. My biggest complaint with this lens, is that it appears to be hyper sensitive to micro-scratches... those tiny almost imperceptible swirls. I would love to only have to clean this lens once a year, but working with it in extreme environments, I have to clean it regularly. Slowly over time, no matter how careful I am, and believe me I treat this lens literally with kid gloves, it picks up these tiny whirls from the cleaning. They don't show up in the images, but they cause me real heart-burn looking at them!

6. The lens cost me a small fortune, but it produces a picture that is quite unique, which in turn leads to more sales, so it has been a very worthwhile investment.

I highly recommend it.

Nov 28, 2012
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Registered: Jun 22, 2004
Location: United States
Posts: 2984
Review Date: May 30, 2012 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $6,000.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Amazing reach, particularly with a teleconverter. Very sharp, good color and contrast, built like a tank.
Heavy, cumbersome and awkward. Difficult to use without a carbon fiber tripod and gimbal head. Very expensive.

I bought this lens for my annual spring journey to Yellowstone National Park. I usually either buy or rent a 500mm f4, but I got a good deal on a used 600mm so I decided to give it a shot. On the plus side---and it's a pretty big plus side---using the 600mm in conjunction with a 1.4X TC gave me incredible reach and really brought the animals in close. The lens was also very sharp and focussed quickly and accurately, especially when used without the TC.
The downside: the weight and size. I was used to the 500, which I could handhold for a while and use easily when mounted on a monopod. The 600 was much heavier and it seemed to be less well balanced. It was very difficult to use without a full tripod and gimbal, which limited its versatility. And it was a pain to haul in and out of a vehicle.
All in all, I would rather have had a 500mm, but the 600mm is a heck of a lens and I enjoyed the extra reach it gave me. I got images I would never have captured otherwiise.

May 30, 2012
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Registered: Dec 13, 2011
Location: Norway
Posts: 0
Review Date: Dec 13, 2011 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Super sharp + the range, oh the range!
Huge, heavy and draws a lot of attention

My Precious! My Precious!
-Bought this new as the mark II came into the stores and I'm not regretting the decision. I knew it was a great lens. I can't imagine the mark II being that much better, and the price I paid for this lens was about half that of the mark II.
-It's amazingly sharp! If you get within 100 feet you'll get astonishing details! You can do portraits of people from up to 150 feet.
-Took a picture of the coastal steamer from the shoreline at about 1500 feet and recognized a friend of mine on the deck!
-Very decent pictures of people from as far as 600 feet, but if you get within 300 feet you get a lot more keepers. Birds, football players, celebrities, my dog, you name it!
-I love the sound of the IS churning, too. And it's ready to shoot in no-time.
-It's a specialist lens, though. It's not the kind of lens you just slap on and start shooting with. It's made me suspicious of people. Anyone could be a thief trying to steal My Precious away from me! So I end up taking it with me less than I would have if it were not worth as much as a decent used car. Maybe I'm overly careful, but better safe than sorry!

Dec 13, 2011
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Registered: Jun 8, 2006
Location: Canada
Posts: 0
Review Date: Jan 19, 2010 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $7,600.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Sharp, fast focus, image stabilization.
It's heavy and expensive!

I got this lens to replace my Sigma 300-800 f/5.6 lens that was my favorite for birding. My 300 f/2.8 got me hooked on IS, and I really wanted IS on a longer reaching lens.

I sold the Sigma in good faith that I would like the Canon 600 better and was not disappointed. My first outing with the lens was to photograph Atlantic Puffins. I used it with a 50D body and it delivered excellent results. Puffins fly very fast and this was no problem for focus speed and tracking. Very sharp shots.

I would not use this lens (or any large lens) without a gimbal mount. My choice is a Jobu designs Black Widow Pro. It balances the considerable weight of the lens easily and makes tracking moving targets more feasible.

The lens also works well full frame on a 5D mark2 when the extra reach is not needed. I have recently paired it with a 7D (replacement for my 50D) and the combo is working very well though I have not used it extensively (yet). The high pixel count and crop factor with this lens is killer for birding!

Jan 19, 2010
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Registered: Mar 9, 2009
Location: United Kingdom
Posts: 0
Review Date: Mar 24, 2009 Recommend? no | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 9 

Pros: Sharp - Great IQ - Typical 'L' Prime infact.
Slow focussing - IMO this lens is made obsolete by the Canon 400 F2.8 IS 'L' and 1.4x convertor

I have to say I don't own this lens though I could buy one for a very reasonable price. However I've used the lens quite a lot over an 18month period, and my initial thoughts were very positive. However the initial impressions have dulled over the period of usage to the point where I'd prefer to use my own 400 F2.8 IS fitted with a 1.4x convertor. My reasons are as follows:
1. IQ is similar on both setups.
2. Focussing is much faster with the 400 & 1.4x convertor, important for birding.
3. I personally prefer the weight balence of 400 &1.4x when used on a monopod, though both setups weigh approximately the same.
4. The 600 is longer and IMO more awkward to line up on a small bird quickly.
5. New the 600 costs more than the 400 & 1.4x:-(
6. The 400 and 1.4x is more usuable [F2.8 aperture and 400mm when you need it]
7. Most birders can only carry one BIG lens out on location taking the 400 & both convertors is a no brainer IMO because of the increased flexibilty.
If you have only ever used the 600 F4 then you probably think its the dogz bollox, and for sure it takes awesome shots But you could do better, & IMO you need to try a 400 & 1.4x, and then I'm sure that like me You'll never use the 600 again!!
As I previously mentioned I refused to buy the 600 when offered it at a very reasonable price, coz I'd never use it enough.

Mar 24, 2009
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Registered: Jun 30, 2004
Location: United States
Posts: 864
Review Date: Feb 24, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $6,200.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: sharpness, image stabilization, brokeh, focusing speed

I acquired a nearly new 600 F/4L IS last Fall to shoot motorsports. I've owned the 400 f/2.8L IS for a couple years but really needed some extra reach. I'd used the 400 with extenders but wasn't really happy with it. I considered the 500 f/4L IS, an excellent lens which a good friend of mine owns. I've used it a couple of times but decided it was just too close to the 400 to justify it.

Once you adjust to the size and mass of the 400, the 600 is not any really much different. In fact, it seems to be a bit easier to handle. This is probably because of it's extra length and higher mass moment of inertia. Anyhow, it's size it not big deal to me.

My first outing with the 600 was at a WERA sanctioned event at Barber Motorsports Park last Fall. The results were just incredible. Shooting from very long distances was a breeze. I was able to rethink how I shot the track, creating new and unique angles that were just not possible with my 400.

Recently I've used it to cover baseball. Once again, the extra reach enables me to easily shoot the outfielders and create outrageously tight crops on the infielders. Shooting the infield and batters from the outfield is also quite amazing.

If you can afford this lens, I highly recommend it. A lot of the birders have their sites set on the 800, so you probably can find a deal if you're patient.

Feb 24, 2009
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Registered: May 9, 2004
Location: United States
Posts: 240
Review Date: Apr 28, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $7,200.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Very sharp images, great bokeh at even f/8, takes pictures like no other Canon lens.
It could weigh less :-). The first one arrived with a huge front focus issue, second one is perfect. A family member's first one was soft, not quite sure where focus was.

It's a huge monster to drag around but it you need it, or think you need it, there is nothing like it. Shooting Ironman cycling the bokeh was incredible even at f/8. For surfing it has excellent reach. Feather and fur details are excellent.

The 600 works equally well with a 1D2N or a 5D. For extra apparent reach hang a 1.6 CF camera on it. For shooting looser hang a FF camera on it. Image quality with an Extender 1.4 II is still better than many lesser lenses. It's even fun shooting closeups of kids in the backyard (from the other side of the yard!).

It does take some technique to master it. I found it much harder to use than my 300mm f/2.8 IS. The narrow view angle means that IS is less effective than with wider view lenses. As much as I like my 300mm there is just no comparison to the look of images taken with the 600mm.

If Canon could deliver properly adjusted products to the final user my ratings would be 10. Two out of three copies that I've personally tried were not unsable. My replacement, from B&H of course, is perfect.

My advise? Get one but get it about 30 days before you really need it so that any quality issues can be dealt with.

Apr 28, 2008
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Registered: Oct 21, 2004
Location: Australia
Posts: 1311
Review Date: Feb 11, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Everything except for its weight but that goes with the territory..

Well its just about worth its weight in gold. Marginally sharper than my 500 this is a killer lens for whatever you want to use it for.
Cant wait to get it to an airshow...
Simply awesome..

Feb 11, 2008
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Registered: Nov 17, 2007
Location: N/A
Posts: 0
Review Date: Nov 17, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Read all the other comments....there is nothing more to add.
Not really.....I was prepared for the weight. Sometimes you are too close to the action, oh well!

What is there more to say, about that monster lens. Always wanted to have one. Back in 2004 I finally bought my first prime. Back then I was still a Nikon shooter and the 400 f 2.8 was a brilliant lens, although shooting mainly Aviation stuff with it, I was missing some important mm at the end.

Then I made the costly switch to Canon (which was the best move ever) and about 2 weeks ago, after about 2 years without a prime lens, I purchased the 600mm f4. I just got back from the Dubai Air Show 2007 and all I can say is WOW. You get what you pay for. This lens is sharp, sharp and sharp. I was surprised that you can even handhold it for a couple of shots.....

Panning shot at 1/15sec not a problem, thank you IS. Attached to a Wimberley Head the 600mm f4 is almost weightless and a joy to work with.

Nov 17, 2007
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Registered: Dec 27, 2004
Location: United Kingdom
Posts: 5
Review Date: Jul 21, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Build Quality, Image Quality, Very fast silent AF.

Superb sharp images from this lens even at f4.

Effective IS, autofocus in very fast, silent and accurate.

Superb quality with the 1.4xmkII converter.

Jul 21, 2007
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Registered: Mar 9, 2006
Location: United States
Posts: 3954
Review Date: May 30, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Image quality - what else is there?

In praise of older lenses, then.

My copy of the 600 f4 is date-coded UI - 1994. That's pre-image stabilization. Pre-magnesium. This beast topples the scale at 13 pounds - quite a bit heftier than the newer version.

Irony of ironies is that the weight of the beast is its own best friend. Mount this thing on a REALLY sturdy tripod (15kg rating), and it's not going anywhere. Inertia is its own form of IS.

This particular copy has seen at least three owners on FM, and there's a review of this copy somewhere down this thread. So why another review?

Mainly because when you shell out what you do for one of these things you want to know it's not going to wear out. I don't know the full history of the lens. It looks like Joanie Weston used it to distribute strategic blows through several seasons of roller derby. But you don't buy 'em for the outside.

Ugly doesn't matter. Stopped down to f5.6, this lens minimizes the amount of additional sharpening required in post processing, and we all know enough about PP to realize that it's an activity that's destructive to the image.

I was lucky to learn my long lens technique without IS lenses, and in fact, I think the way to learn to use a lens with IS is to turn the IS OFF until you start getting good shots. Then you can turn it on if you feel the need. But if you've got your technique developed, you may find you'd just as soon have the $3-4K you'd otherwise pay for a new piece of equipment that has IS.

I guess my point is that if you're itchin' to get into LONG, don't be afraid to look at older copies that don't have IS. Look hard, ask tough questions, they're out there - and they still deliver jaw-dropping images -

May 30, 2007
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Registered: Feb 23, 2002
Location: United Kingdom
Posts: 77
Review Date: Jan 26, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Sharp, Image Stabilizer, Rapid and quiet AF,
Costly but genuine flourite element must cost a bomb to produce on its own.

Basically the only reason I switched to Canon.

A big and costly lens but when you consider what you get and the manufacturing process, such as producing a pure naturally cultured flourite element, the price comes into perspective.

I'm used to a 600/4 lens so the weight and size is no shock, the size being more of an issue to me than weight.

The bare lens produces razor sharp images at f4, with the EFII 1.4x very little is lost in any area of image quality and even the EFII 2x, with suitable care, the results can be staggering and more than capable of publishable work., although AF speed drops a fair bit and only centre point focus can be used on the Canon pro bodies.

The tripod collar rotates smoothly, so I presume this has been rectified from earlier models. The tripod foot is fine for me, the rubber grip a very pleasing addition for those who carry the lens by it's foot for long distances.

I would prefer the focus preset to be recalled via a button towards the camera body, or even via the camera itself. Moving your hand down towards the end of the lens is not great for those staked out for wildlife.

AF speed is very rapid and quiet and the magical I.S. comes in to effect quicker than many I.S/VR lenses I have used.

I.S. on lenses like this really comes into it's own in tough conditions, especially when the wind is up in exposed locations and when light is poor (we don't all live in sunny places) with static subjects when using teleconverters. All in all, i find I.S. on long primes to allow me to concentrate on the actual subject and composition, rather than spending every moment trying to reduce vibration... and at 850mm+, that's an issue no matter the support you have.

images and more detailed review at

Jan 26, 2007
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Registered: Jun 15, 2006
Location: Kuwait
Posts: 416
Review Date: Jan 6, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $7,100.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: fast focusing, amazing IS and extremely sharp
very heavy, not effecient without a gimbal head and a good tripod

i was dreaming to own such lens with it's amazing preformance and results for wildlife photography, so i did the crazy thing and i over limited my credit card to purchase one, and still i'm paying for the credit card Smile and till the next 2 years, but in my opinion it worth it.

the only problem that made me a little bit depressed is that, this lens requires a wimberly gimbal head and a carbon fiber bogen tripod (= 1500 $) to function in the right way, other wise forget to get the best of it, unless you are a muscle builder.

Jan 6, 2007
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Registered: Mar 26, 2005
Location: United Kingdom
Posts: 85
Review Date: May 26, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $6,500.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Great lens, really sharp and incredible fast.
The only negative is the weight, but you get used to it.

Great lens, fast and sharp. My 1.4x stays on all the time and the IS is a life saver.

The only draw back is the weight, but you gradually get used to it.

May 26, 2006
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Registered: Jan 14, 2004
Location: United States
Posts: 2956
Review Date: Jan 30, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Everything about it
May be cost? But still cheaper than other 600/4 lenses, and it has IS!

See my review of the lens at .

Jan 30, 2006
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Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS USM

Buy from B&H Photo
Reviews Views Date of last review
30 176084 May 10, 2014
Recommended By Average Price
97% of reviewers $6,110.09
Build Quality Rating Price Rating Overall Rating

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