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Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L Image Samples

 

Canon EF Lenses

Canon EF 17-40mm f/4.0L

Canon EF 40mm STM f/2.8 pancake

Canon EF 70-200mm f/4.0L

Canon EF 70-200mm f/4.0L IS

Canon EF 85mm f/1.8

Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro

Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS Macro

Canon EF 300mm f/4.0L IS

Canon EF-S Lenses

Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5

Canon EF-S 18-55 f/3.5-5.6 IS II

Canon EF-M Lenses

Canon EF-M 22mm f/2.0

Canon EF-M 18-55 f/3.5-5.6 IS

Canon Lens Extenders, Extension Tubes, Adapters

Canon EF 1.4x II Extender

Canon Extension Tubes

Canon EF-EOS M Mount Adapter

Lighting

Canon ST-E2 Speedlite Transmitter

Canon 90EX Speedlite Flash

Canon 430EX II Speedlite Flash

Canon 550EX Speedlite Flash

Electra Studio Lighting

Support

Giottos MM 9550 Monopod

Markins Q3 Ball head

Gitzo GT2541EX Tripod

Cameras

Canon PowerShot S90

Canon EOS M

Accessories

Electra Colour Balance Panel

Sekonic L-308S Flashmate

Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 lens
A selection of photos taken with my Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L lens

Clicking on the thumbnail images will open a larger image in a pop-up window

Many of the bird photographs were taken in fairly difficult conditions, that is, hand-holding while sitting in a moving boat trying to photograph small subjects at a considerable distance. Please bear this in mind if assessing image quality.

Blue whistling thrush, Krabi, Thailand - Click for larger image Camera: 40D
ISO: 800
Aperture: f/5.6
Shutter speed: 1/100
Focal length: 400mm
EC +/-: 0
Monopod/Tripod: No
Flash: Canon 550EX
Extender: No
Location: Krabi, Thailand
File Size: 151 KB
Monitor lizard, Krabi, Thailand - Click for larger image Camera: 40D
ISO: 200
Aperture: f/5.6
Shutter speed: 1/1000
Focal length: 400mm
EC +/-: 0
Monopod/Tripod: No
Flash: No
Extender: No
Location: Krabi, Thailand
File Size: 153 KB
Pacific swallow, Krabi, Thailand - Click for larger image Camera: 40D
ISO: 200
Aperture: f/5.6
Shutter speed: 1/250
Focal length: 400mm
EC +/-: 0
Monopod/Tripod: No
Flash: Canon 550EX
Extender: No
Location: Krabi, Thailand
File Size: 145 KB
Lizard, Krabi, Thailand - Click for larger image Camera: 40D
ISO: 400
Aperture: f/5.6
Shutter speed: 1/320
Focal length: 400mm
EC +/-: 0
Monopod/Tripod: No
Flash: No
Extender: No
Location: Krabi, Thailand
File Size: 157 KB
Lotus flowers and mountains, Phattalung, Thailand - Click for larger image Camera: 40D
ISO: 200
Aperture: f/5.6
Shutter speed: 1/1250
Focal length: 400mm
EC +/-: 0
Monopod/Tripod: No
Flash: No
Extender: No
Location: Thale Noi, Thailand
File Size: 180 KB
Yellow bittern, Phattalung, Thailand - Click for larger image Camera: 40D
ISO: 200
Aperture: f/5.6
Shutter speed: 1/640
Focal length: 400mm
EC +/-: 0
Monopod/Tripod: Gitzo GT2541EX
Flash: No
Extender: No
Location: Thale Noi, Thailand
File Size: 160 KB
Great Egret, Phattalung, Thailand - Click for larger image Camera: 40D
ISO: 400
Aperture: f/7.1
Shutter speed: 1/8000
Focal length: 400mm
EC +/-: 0
Monopod/Tripod: No
Flash: No
Extender: No
Location: Thale Noi, Thailand
File Size: 161 KB
Bronze-winged Jacana, Phattalung, Thailand - Click for larger image Camera: 40D
ISO: 200
Aperture: f/10
Shutter speed: 1/400
Focal length: 400mm
EC +/-: 0
Monopod/Tripod: No
Flash: No
Extender: No
Location: Thale Noi, Thailand
File Size: 183 KB
Blue-winged Pitta - Click for larger image Camera: 40D
ISO: 400
Aperture: f/6.3
Shutter speed: 1/250
Focal length: 400mm
EC +/-: 0
Monopod/Tripod: No
Flash: Canon 550EX
Extender: No
Location: Hat Yai, Thailand
File Size: 190 KB
Purple Swamphen chick - Click for larger image Camera: 40D
ISO: 200
Aperture: f/5.6
Shutter speed: 1/500
Focal length: 400mm
EC +/-: 0
Monopod/Tripod: Gitzo GT2541EX
Flash: No
Extender: No
Location: Thale Noi, Thailand
File Size: 214 KB
Purple Swamphen, Phattalung, Thailand - Click for larger image Camera: 40D
ISO: 200
Aperture: f/5.6
Shutter speed: 1/800
Focal length: 400mm
EC +/-: 0
Monopod/Tripod: Gitzo GT2541EX
Flash: No
Extender: No
Location: Thale Noi, Thailand
File Size: 159 KB
Olive-backed Sunbird, Phattalung, Thailand - Click for larger image Camera: 40D
ISO: 200
Aperture: f/5.6
Shutter speed: 1/125
Focal length: 400mm
EC +/-: 0
Monopod/Tripod: Gitzo GT2541EX
Flash: No
Extender: No
Location: Thale Noi, Thailand
File Size: 112 KB
Brahminy Kite, Phattalung, Thailand - Click for larger image Camera: 40D
ISO: 200
Aperture: f/5.6
Shutter speed: 1/1250
Focal length: 400mm
EC +/-: 0
Monopod/Tripod: No
Flash: No
Extender: No
Location: Thale Noi, Thailand
File Size: 88 KB
Purple Heron, Phattalung, Thailand - Click for larger image Camera: 40D
ISO: 200
Aperture: f/8.0 (Manual focus using Live View)
Shutter speed: 1/500
Focal length: 560mm
EC +/-: 0
Monopod/Tripod: Gitzo GT2541EX
Flash: No
Extender: Canon 1.4x II
Location: Thale Noi, Thailand
File Size: 306 KB
Purple Swamphen chick, Phattalung, Thailand - Click for larger image Camera: 40D
ISO: 200
Aperture: f/5.6
Shutter speed: 1/500
Focal length: 400mm
EC +/-: 0
Monopod/Tripod: Gitzo GT2541EX
Flash: No
Extender: No
Location: Thale Noi, Thailand
File Size: 214 KB
Thai tourists, Phattalung, Thailand - Click for larger image Camera: 40D
ISO: 200
Aperture: f/5.6
Shutter speed: 1/1250
Focal length: 400mm
EC +/-: 0
Monopod/Tripod: No
Flash: No
Extender: No
Location: Thale Noi, Thailand
File Size: 159 KB
Whiskered Tern, Phattalung, Thailand - Click for larger image Camera: 40D
ISO: 200
Aperture: f/5.6
Shutter speed: 1/1250
Focal length: 400mm
EC +/-: 0
Monopod/Tripod: No
Flash: No
Extender: No
Location: Thale Noi, Thailand
File Size: 81 KB
Thale Noi fisherman, Phattalung, Thailand - Click for larger image Camera: 40D
ISO: 200
Aperture: f/5.6
Shutter speed: 1/1250
Focal length: 400mm
EC +/-: 0
Monopod/Tripod: No
Flash: No
Extender: No
Location: Thale Noi, Thailand
File Size: 128 KB
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Lens Impressions

This lens never featured in my plans. Had Canon announced an update version with improved optics and - most importantly - the addition of IS, I would probably have been tempted but I had no plan to buy the original version.

The decision was kind of forced on me because of needing a long lens occasionally, and the constantly poor image quality from my Canon EF 300mm f/4L IS (which I sold).

Without spending a fortune on one of Canon's 'big guns', my only options were the EF 100-400mm L zoom or the EF 400mm f/5.6L. Both lenses have their fan bases and there is much heated discussion on Internet forums concerning the individual merits of each lens. However, I chose to go with the EF 400mm f/5.6L.

The image quality analysis of these two lenses using DxO Analyzer - as carried out over at the Luminous Landscape - would seem to indicate that I made the right choice: Two Canon 400mm Solutions Compared

It's not perfect but early impressions are that the image quality is significantly better than the Canon EF 300mm f/4L IS. After I ordered the lens I was a little concerned, but since it arrived I have been quite pleased.

If you search for reviews you will find mostly favourable comments, but you might also come across a guy who described it as a waste of money and the most expensive paperweight he owns.

I will just try to be factual here and - by posting some sample images - let you decide for your self.

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Lack of Image Stabilisation

Once you get used to image stabilisation - especially the latest version - it can be difficult going back to lenses without IS. Short focal length lenses aren't a problem but longer lenses are. And when hand-holding a 400mm lens (560mm on a 1.6x crop factor camera), IS would really be appreciated.

With an IS lens you get used to seeing a wobbly image in the viewfinder but as soon as you press the shutter button half-way it's as if a huge pair of hands has taken hold of the lens for you.

When I first used the EF 400mm f/5.6 it wasn't reassuring to press the shutter button half-way and to find that everything just kept wobbling.

If you are hand-holding, you need to keep an eye on the light and be prepared to use high ISO values. With fast shutter speeds it is still possible to take acceptable shots without a tripod. This lens has a good reputation for bird-in-flight (BIF) photos, which are often hand held.

I have had reasonable success hand-holding, but I prefer using a tripod whenever I can. I like to feel in control of the shot before I release the shutter, and when hand-holding this lens I never quite feel in control.

When Canon announce an IS version my current non-IS version will be sold very quickly but for the time being I will have to cope without Image Stabilisation. From what I have seen so far, the image quality of this lens is very good. Coupled with the last four-stop IS system, it will be hard to beat.

The lens isn't too heavy, and it is quite well balanced. This certainly helps with hand-holding. If you brace yourself correctly and shoot in good light, it is possible to get reasonable results.

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Uses

I can take portraits with this lens but I will get better results with my Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 and I won't need to shout in order to communicate with my subject. Plane spotters and private detectives may also find a 400mm lens handy.

When people think of landscape photography they probably think of wide angle lenses, but some landscape shots work well with long lenses. Distant mountains can fill the frame; everything from foreground to background gets compressed; and there is only a narrow depth of field.

Sports photography benefits from the use of long lenses but I don't have many opportunities nowadays to photograph sports.

This lens has other uses, but it really excels at birds and wildlife. Animals, especially birds, don't like humans getting too close. Unless you hide yourself, it can be a problem getting close enough for there to be any detail in your photos.

This lens on a 1.6x crop camera is about the minimum focal length you need to get close enough to photograph birds before they decide you are too close and fly off. I bought it primarily to photograph birds.

More photos I have taken with this lens (and others), along with some basic information, can be found here: Birds of Thailand

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With the Canon EF 1.4x II extender

For more image samples of this lens when used with the Canon EF 1.4x II extender, see: Canon EF 1.4x II Extender/Teleconverter

With this lens, as with other Canon lenses, I cannot detect any noticeable degradation as a result of using the Canon EF 1.4x II extender.

However, something significant happens when using the Canon EF 1.4x II extender and this lens on a Canon body other than an expensive 1-Series. The minimum aperture goes above f/5.6 and the autofocus stops working.

You can still use the Canon extender - and the image quality will be fine - but you'll have to focus manually. The great thing now with digital is that the Live View feature makes manual focusing simple and accurate.

It's not an ideal situation but it can work. You'll need a tripod and also a stationary subject. Sometimes with birds they stay still long enough for you to focus manually, but it can be frustrating if you are trying to focus manually when your subject keeps moving.

Conclusion

At the time of writing I haven't owned the EF 400mm f/5.6L for very long but it seems like a very good lens.

People often debate whether they should buy this lens or the EF 300mm f/4L IS plus 1.4x extender. On paper, the latter choice looks better. However, in practice, that wasn't what I found.

The EF 400mm f/5.6L isn't perfect. I'd like it to be half a stop faster; I'd like it to have a shorter minimum focusing distance; and I'd love it to have Image Stabilisation.

But all things considered, I'm finally getting the shots that the EF 300mm f/4L IS plus 1.4x extender couldn't deliver.

To get longer and/or faster lenses in the Canon range requires spending a lot more money. Also, those big lenses are difficult to lug around and need big, sturdy tripods plus the addition of gimbal heads.

Those big lenses are in a different league and, as a keen hobbyist, it's not really a path I want to go down.

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Post-Processing

Most original images were shot in the RAW format and converted with Adobe Camera Raw. Noise was reduced using Imagenomic Noiseware Professional. Small amounts of image enhancement were applied using Adobe Photoshop CS2 (curves, levels, saturation) before sharpening using the Smart Sharpen filter (Amount: 30% - 120%, Radius: 0.2px - 0.3px, Remove: Lens Blur).

The large JPG images that open if you click on a thumbnail were saved with a 'High' quality setting of '8' on a scale of 0-12.

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Lens Details

Weight: 2.8 lbs; 1,250 g
Filter Diameter: 77mm
Closest Focusing Distance: 11.5ft; 3.5m
Minimum Aperture: f/32
Serial Number: 129111
Lens Code: UX1217
Date Manufactured: December 2009
Date Purchased: April 2010
Supplier: Chia Color Lab, Hat Yai, Thailand
Price: 43,900 Thai Baht
Lens Hood: Built-in
Soft Case: LZ1132 (included)
Tripod collar: Included

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