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Thread: Canon 400mm 5.6L - opinions please

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    Default Canon 400mm 5.6L - opinions please

    Further to my thread viewtopic.php?f=16&t=8584&start=0 regarding the Sigma 50 500, it was suggested I look at the Canon prime 400mm 5.6L.

    If you have one or have used one, what is your opinion of it? Would you buy it again or go for the 100-400L?

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    Default Re: Canon 400mm 5.6L - opinions please

    Best beginners lens you could buy IMO Dave. I will never get rid of mine as it comes in very handy for flight shots, portraits of tame birds and times when I don't want to walk around with the big lens. Pretty much all of my image posts from before July last year where made with this lens.

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    Default Re: Canon 400mm 5.6L - opinions please

    That's quite interesting timing as I've just been reading the reviews on amazon for this lens. I like the one that ends with "Buy it. Don't even think about it."

    In all seriousness though, since I bought my canon 550D with two kit lenses 18-55, and 55-250mm I have been dying for a prime lens. I looked around a lot and the 400 was really the one that stood out to me. I had been interested in the 100-400, but I had many people mention to me that if you are using it for something like birds, you are simply going to be spending at least 90% of your time at 400mm anyway. I was worried about the lack of flexibility, as I do like to photograph anything opportunistic that takes my fancy. But the more I read, the more I'm won over by the 400 prime. It seems a very good lens, I've heard many rave reviews about it, a nice telephoto that is really portable for the walkabout photographer. I've read a few complaints about the lack of IS and soft lenses, but I think every now and then, someone gets a dud. From what I've heard though, it really is the lens to get if it's your first 'proper' lens.

    I don't own one yet, but I am planning on buying one later this year. I also am thinking about renting one for a couple of days before I buy one too. Then I can take it out in the field and test the lack of IS for myself etc. Renting lenses is a really good way to get a feel for them. Because I know I've also read that a lot of people simply don't like the 100-400 because of how it's a pump zoom instead of a twist one, and some people just don't like using them. So there's a lot of personal preference in it too.

    But as far as I can tell, the 400mm is a great lens, I know a lot of people here use one, when I'm looking in the photography forums I always like to see what camera body and lens people have used. Gives me an idea of what to expect I guess
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    Default Re: Canon 400mm 5.6L - opinions please

    Bec has made a good point. Try both lens out in the hand and get a feel for which one feels more natural to you.

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    Default Re: Canon 400mm 5.6L - opinions please

    Then I can take it out in the field and test the lack of IS for myself etc.
    Be sure to use a tripod. I was a little disappointed with mine until I was told to use a tripod. Now I LUV it.
    The voices in my head may not be real, but they come up with some great ideas..

    Cheers Rev.

  6. #6
    Tony Hansford Guest

    Default Re: Canon 400mm 5.6L - opinions please

    I considered the 400 f5.6L when it was initially released in 1993 but decided on the 300 f4L and 1.4x extender for the simple reason that the 300 would be a faster lens when used by itself, and a longer lens when used with the 1.4 extender. I have no experience with the 100-400L.

    I do have a 100-300 f5.6L which is also a pump action lens. I have no problem with it, in fact zooming is very quick, just a push or a pull.

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    Default Re: Canon 400mm 5.6L - opinions please

    Either the 400mm f5.6 or the 300mm f4 plus 1.4x would be a good choice, both are very sharp and quick focusing. the difference between the two is that the 400mm will focus faster but it's min focus distance is 3.5m while the 300mm f4 is 1.5m. Sharpness is even between the two but you get IS on the 300mm, which makes it hand holdable down to about 1/100 or so. the 300mm can also do duty as a long macro lens suitable for things like dragonflies and larger butterflies. There's a 400mm on Ebay right now with one bid of $1000 on it.
    Chris Ross
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    Default Re: Canon 400mm 5.6L - opinions please

    I have both the 100-400 and the 400 f/5.6 and to be honest, both have their uses. The 100-400 is my general purpose lens when carrying the big 500mm around is not an option; gives more versatility to shoot other subjects or, if you are lucky enough to get a real close approach from a big bird, back off on the focal length a bit. The 100-400 also has second generation IS; not the best IS going around but enough to let you get away with shooting at a slightly lower shutter speed and avoid camera shake than what otherwise would be the case. It also has the old "push-pull" zoom design; I dont find it a problem, but some people hate it so it's worth trying it out first.

    The 400 prime is the king when it comes to a portable, fast-focusing BIF (birds in flight) lens. It was my first lens and one that I will keep as the 100-400, although good, is not quite as fast at locking focus than the 400 prime. The 400 prime is also a little sharper usually, although I was lucky to get quite a good copy of the 100-400 which has good sharpness - close to that of the 400 prime. The 400 prime does not have IS which is not a big factor anyway, as mostly you will want to be shooting at a fast shutter speed to freeze head movements of the bird, etc. I can handhold the 400 prime at shutter speeds around 1/200s, but much lower than that and handshake will come into play and is accentuated given the long focal length.

    Bec is on the money, try both out if you can and then see which one feels the most comfortable and is giving you the most reliable results (take a memory card to the shop so you can view the images at home on your computer). Good luck!
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    Default Re: Canon 400mm 5.6L - opinions please

    Dave have a search in this forum. THis question has been asked many times
    Cheers, Dave

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    Default Re: Canon 400mm 5.6L - opinions please

    Probably one of the best BIF lenses around. AF is lightning fast. If I was more of a birder, I'd sell the 100-400 for it.

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    Default Re: Canon 400mm 5.6L - opinions please

    While I love the lens it has its limits, much as any other lens does. If you use it in the situations that it is designed for, then you'll love it. For times when it can't do the job just mutter a curse then sit back and enjoy the birds

    It's great for BIF with its quick focus lock and AI Servo is a treat. I handhold mine 99% of the time and without the tripod ring attached it is even lighter to throw around following flying birds. The prime allows you to crop pretty savagely and still retain quality. I have printed A3 sized prints off of 50% crops and they are fine (Actually have some on the loungeroom wall).
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    Default Re: Canon 400mm 5.6L - opinions please

    If you asked me the question, I'd say NO to both 400/5.6 and 100-400/4.5-5.6. I have used the 400/5.6 and still have it from a friend on loan. Awesome for BIF as said, but not so great for my own style anyway for all around wildlife (not just birds) as I hand hold lots and in low light. Everyone has different opinions though, so you'll get everyone's two cents' worth. For me, the only time I'd use a zoom is to photograph my dogs and cats, or my wife's horse. With birds I always like maximum FL. Chris Ross made the point I was going to raise regarding MFD and IS. It's up to you what you want to buy really. Try them both if you can and check out Mark Young's images with a 300/1.4x. Just superb mate. Good luck whatever you get. One thing though, I'd definitely buy a Canon lens over any Sigma (especially zooms).

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    Default Re: Canon 400mm 5.6L - opinions please

    Quote Originally Posted by Ákos Lumnitzer
    One thing though, I'd definitely buy a Canon lens over any Sigma (especially zooms).
    Sigma 120-300 2.8 > Canon 100-400

    Sigma 300-800 = Canon 500f/4 + flexibility.

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    Default Re: Canon 400mm 5.6L - opinions please

    Quote Originally Posted by AdamJL
    Sigma 120-300 2.8 > Canon 100-400
    The new Sigma 120-300 f2.8 OS looks AMAZING. This might very well be my next lens.

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    Default Re: Canon 400mm 5.6L - opinions please

    Unfortunately for Sigma, I consider myself a Canon snob.

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