Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Upcoming Canon 200-400mm lens (with built-in 1.4x adaptor) - An Olympic Review

Now that I have returned from the London Olympics, one of the most frequently asked questions from other photographers is "How did you like the new Canon 200-400mm lens?" So, I thought that I would take a little more time (now that I am not running all over London) to give you my impression of this lens. 

It was not a finished product, as all of the Canon 200-400 lenses at the Olympics were hand built models for us to use, and the Canon people asked me to give them my feedback.

Let me start off by saying that I fell in love with this lens, and here is why:
  • Having the built-in adaptor may not seem like a big deal since it is just a 1.4x adaptor built in to the end of the lens vs putting it on when you need it, but having the ability to flip the switch and immediately go from 200-400mm f4 to 280-560mm at f5.6 is AWESOME! I will give you an example of how I was using this. In water polo, when I was shooting the action on my side of the pool (in photo position behind the net), the lens was switched to 200-400, but as soon as the action moved to the far side of the pool, I immediately flipped the switch and get in closer to the action. So easy and effective! Whenever I was shooting a sport at a larger venue, with a fixed focal length lens, I was clamoring for the ability to zoom in or out to change the framing or composition. The focal range of the 200-400 lens was addictive.
  • The lens is tack sharp. (Check out the attached image).
  • It is not overly heavy (as far as these beasts typically go).
  • The zoom ring is really responsive and smooth and goes from 200-400 quickly and easily.
  • Typical L series bullet-proof construction.
Canon 1D X w/ Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM - ISO 200 - f/4 - 1/5000s 

The only drawback of this lens is that it starts at f4 and not f2.8. But, if this lens DID shoot at f2.8, it would likely be WAY more expensive and kill the sales of many other Canon lenses. I have to admit that there were a couple of times when I really wanted to depth of field of a 2.8 lens, but still happily chose the versatility of this lens over a faster lens speed.

People have asked me about the quality of the image stabilization, and I honestly can not tell you. Because I was on a monopod, I generally chose not to use IS, hoping to increase the speed of focus. But, since this is a new L series lens I have to assume that it will be just as impressive as any of the newer IS lenses from Canon.

I know that different photographers have varying opinions about prime lenses vs. zoom, but I am a zoom guy. I love having the ability to change the framing and composition with the lens. And at the Olympics, you have so little chance to get out of a fixed position, that I wanted the option to zoom. One of the Canon guys asked me what I thought of it, and I said, “this thing is $%^ing amazing” and he said “can we quote you on that?” :)

Now the big question – HOW MUCH WILL THIS COST? And nobody seems to know yet, not even the Canon guys over at the Olympics.


Anonymous said...

This lens has been "upcoming" for 2 years now and they keep postponing. While cost is a factor, I'd like to know when the heck they plan on releasing this or is it never going to see the light of day?

Unknown said...

Jeff, did you get a chance to use the lens in nighttime conditions at all? do you think this lens would work for evening football games? I'm using the 70-200mm 2.8 (with IS turned off) and am relegated to shooting 1/800 sec, F/2.8 at ISO 3200-4000 depending on how good the lighting is. I'm thinking that the focal range of 200-400mm would be AWESOME, but pushing ISO 5000 for night football games would make for too much noise... your thoughts?

Jeff Cable Photography Blog said...

Jonathan - I did use the lens in very dark conditions, but I think it would do well, especially with cameras capable of high ISO shooting. I can shoot at ISO 5000 fairly clean with the 1DX and 5D Mark III. With that said, there may be times when an aperture of 2.8 is needed. I promise to give this a try as soon as I can get a real (not hand built) unit to play with.

ReidWolf said...

If Canon could in under $5000 and earn a scant profit, they would own the market. I would save my nickels for it. At five figures upwards, no way.

Anonymous said...

Will auto focus still work on say the T4i or the 60D with the 1.4 converter being used.

Jeff Cable Photography Blog said...

Hmmm. Not sure if the autofocus will work with this lens and a Rebel T4i or 60D, but honestly, with this expensive lens, it is more appropriate to have it mounted to a 1DX or something high-end like that.

Anonymous said...

dGarnber matiIt is now May 9, 2013 at least 2 years since the announcement. Does anyone have an idea when it will be available to purchase in North America.

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