Do I have a gear beat topic for you! OK, this is what I’ve dreamed of for years! So many times I’ve gone looking for wildlife. It gets dark. Wildlife comes out. Lens is either too short, max aperture is too small, or it has no IS (image stabilization). Either the wildlife gets away, or noisy and cropped images proliferate to frustrate me. The dream was to have a lens that was long, fast, sharp and with state-of-the-art IS. This is it; the Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS II. Simply put, it is the sharpest lens Canon has ever made. Also, this lens extends my day, literally! I can shoot earlier in the morning and later in the evening since f/2.8 and hybrid IS combine to allow more light in and damp out any motion I may have hand-holding the lens at lower shutter speeds in near darkness. Yes, even hand-held. At 8.5 lbs, it is a whopping 3.3 lbs lighter than its predecessor. And the center of gravity is now closer to your body, since much of the weight savings was taken from the front of the lens where the previous model had a large glass element (not a lens element) for added protection.
As often as not, I go slingin’ (hand-carrying) with this lens on my Black Rapid strap. It is a bit heavy, but manageable. It takes the new Mark III versions of the extenders well, too. I got the 1.4x III and 2.0x III extenders when I bought the lens. So, it’s like three lenses in one (400 f/2.8, 560 f/4, and 800 f/5.6). The new Mark III extenders include a processor that aids autofocusing accuracy when used with the new Mark II supertelephoto lenses (300 f/2.8 II, 400 f/2.8 II, 500 f/4 II and 600 f/4 II).
Last year, I thought I wanted a 600 f/4 II. But over time, I realized there were situations where I wanted to get closer, or the animals were bigger or I really needed f/2.8 in low light. So, the 400 f/2.8 II was the choice. I’m so loving it! More nature and less frustration. I can’t wait to get back to Cades Cove and have another shot at those bears!
A surprise bonus is that it is fantastic with any photography (not just sports and wildlife). The transmittance of image contrast through this lens is as close to perfect as any lens Canon has ever made. If I can fit the subject into my frame, I choose this lens over any other, even indoors! It really spoils me.
Yes, there are times when a longer lens (bare glass) could be preferable over this lens, such as shooting small birds at a distance or hawks at a huge distance away. But, while I can add extenders to this lens, I couldn’t reduce focal length or increase aperture on the 600 f/4. At Photoshop World this month, Moose Peterson may talk me into getting a 600 down the road anyway. We’ll see. Meanwhile, this lens is the epitome of lens perfection; top notch build quality, weather sealing, speed, accuracy, durability, and optics–with a price to match: $11,500. Whooaa. Yes, I’m crazy about photography! 🙂 One downside, though. I now have no excuse. 🙂
Oh, almost forgot.. why is the watch hanging on the lens in the picture? Life is short. Once those moments are gone, they’re gone. Grab your dreams. 🙂
Posted on March 15, 2012, in Gear Beat and tagged 400mm, aperture, autofocus, build quality, Canon, contrast, extenders, f/2.8, fast, image quality, IS, lens, lens element, max aperture, Moose Peterson, nature, outdoors, Photoshop World, sharp, shutter speeds, surprise bonus. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.