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Author Topic: Long term ownership review ? Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM  (Read 1381 times)

Offline joethephotographer

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Long term ownership review ? Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM
« on: September 25, 2015, 12:23:34 PM »
I've been getting serious about wildlife photography for the last 2 years. I already own the 55-250 mm IS II from Canon. However, 250 mm was not enough to get me closer to the action and I ended up cropping a LOT. Since my 1100D doesn't have a lot of megapixels to start with I was limited in how much I could crop.

I planned to upgrade my lens and ended up purchasing the 400 5.6 a few months back. Here's a short review:

Technical details
  • Focal Length: 400mm
  • Max Aperture: 5.6
  • Image stablization: None
  • Minimum focus distance: 3.5 m / 11.5 ft
  • Filter Size: 77mm
  • Weight: 1.2 Kg

Full tech specs here, at Canon India's website.

Other deails

This is a telephoto prime lens that's being sold since the 1990s and still going strong. It is perfect for photographers that're getting excited about wildlife but don't want to take a car loan to buy a 600mm lens. :)

Accessories included in the box:
  • Tripod collar
  • Carrying case
  • Lens hood (built-in)
  • Lens Cap

What I love about this lens

1. Focus
Love the ultra fast USM and the focus limiting switch. To say that this lens can focus fast would be an understatement. I use it on a 1100D - a camera that isn't known for its autofocus system. Even on this it focuses really fast!

2. Sharpness
Make no mistake, this lens is sharp - very sharp. If used properly this can give nearly any other lens a stiff competition.

What I don't like

The only think I don't like is the lack of weather sealing. For a lens that costs more than some motorbikes it is slightly annoying that it doesn't even have basic weather sealing.

Image Stablization

This lens has no IS which is actually a good thing. IS would've increased the cost significantly.

Build quality

The build quality is what you'd expect from a professional grade lens high quality materials used perfect fit & finish. It feels really solid in the hand.

How does it compare with similar products available

In terms of price range the other lenses that are in the general area are probably the Tamron 150-600, Canon EF 300 4 IS, Sigma 150 500. I have never shot with any of these lenses so I cannot compare them directly. However I will say this - I've heard mixed reviews about the Tamron & Sigma all over the internet. I have yet to come across a review/comment that says the 400 5.6 is bad.

My main concern was how would my new lens perform on my entry level body. I was tempted by Tamron's reach. I tried to search for reviews on how it performed on crop sensor bodies like the XXXXDs. Apart from one video on YouTube I couldn't find any reviews of how the 150-600 performed on entry level camera bodies.

In the end I decided to sacrifice reach & versatility for performance.

Pricing

I got it for 81,000 INR from a local camera store in Hyderabad. They had to order it from Canon (Gurgaon) as there was no stock in Hyderabad. It took 2 days for the lens to get here.

On a side note, registering the lens wasn't easy. Canon India's website didn't recognize the lens' serial number. I had to email Canon support multiple times, send a scanned copy of my bill + warranty card before I was able to register my lens successfully.

Handling

Handling is a bit tricky. My camera body isn't really heavy (probably around 0.5 kg with the battery grip & 2 batteries). However, the very first day I shot with this lens (handheld, close to 3 - 4 hours) my arm was aching! Although you eventually get used to hand-holding the lens, I would recommend some sort of support.

I plan on getting a monopod for this lens. Although I have a tripod, using it in public places such as Zoos isn't very convenient and you tend to attract attention.

Summary

Overall, this is a really nice lens - focuses fast, consistently sharp wide open and solidly built. The only thing I thought would be good to have was moisture & dust resistance. Even though my camera body isn't weather sealed, I may end up getting a weather sealed body a few years down the line and I'd like to have my lenses "ready". However, if you think about it with such an expensive lens will I ever be out in the rain?  ;D

I'd recommend this lens to anyone who has to do lightweight wildlife shooting - this lens won't let you down.

Sample Images

A few sample images I've taken with this lens.

IMG_6232 by Aashish Joshi

bird_on_a_branch by Aashish Joshi

IMG_6276 by Aashish Joshi

Common Mynah (Acridotheres tristis) by Aashish Joshi
"You know you're getting serious about photography when you stop attaching a lens to your camera and start attaching a camera to your lens" - Not Me