My favorite Super Tele of all :
The Canon 200-400mm f/4L IS + 1.4X
An appreciation of the Canon 200-400mm f/4L IS+1.4X
I have been shooting wildlife and birds for at least 10 years. I have shot with and owned the Canon 300mm f/2.8L IS, the 400mm f/4L IS DO, the 500mm f/4L IS and the 600mm f/4L IS.
I have been waiting a long time for this lens… So long that I switched to Nikon in 2012 because of their 200-400mm lens and the D800E. But I was disappointed by the Nikon 200-400mm which was a bit slow to focus, and was not very sharp on distant targets using a D800E. Then came the Canon 200-400mm f/4L IS+1.4X and Andy Rouse review of his test model.
Although the 300mm f/2.8L IS is a beast by itself and was my favorite super telephoto lens because of its sharpness and its extremely fast focussing system, I find myself using more than ever the Canon 200-400mm f/4L IS+1.4x : more often than not.
The main reason is not that it is sharper than the other Canon lenses cited above or faster than those. The main reason is that, it is very sharp on short and long distant targets AND very versatile due to the 200-560mm zoom (400mmX1.4). More than once did I face a situation where I was too short, or too long while shooting wildlife. For landscape photography, you can use your leg-zoom but for wildlife, you don’t have the time to use leg-zoom. So using a sharp zoom becomes a real benefit compared to a long prime lens.
Is the 200-400mm f/4L IS+1.4X sharp? The answer is definitely very sharp even wide open. I find it as sharp if not sharper than the 500mm or 600mm lenses I have used, in the native 200-400mm range. I also find it probably almost as sharp using the 1.4X internal extender than the two bigger brothers. And the results are sharp, even on a 50% crop shot taken on a 1D X or 5D MK III.
Focussing speed is a tad slower than the 300mm f/2.8L IS and as fast as the 500mm and 600mm. I find it better performing in low light that the two laters.
Carrying the 200-400mm is a pleasure compared to the old or new 600mm L IS, and to the old 500mm L IS. It is almost as long as the 500mm. In the past years, I used to carry the 300mm f/2.8L IS and either the 500mm or 600mm f/4s in addition to a second body and the 70-200mm for wildlife shooting (between 12 and 15 pounds for 300mm+500mm or 600mm). Today, I carry only one super telephoto lens: the 200-400mm at 8 pounds (3620gr), a second body and my 70-200mm f/2.8L IS. So I am saving from 3 to 7 pounds to carry on my back. I also have the benefit of not having to change lenses and the benefit of having a longer range of shooting that before since I have 200mm to 560mm in one lens when using the internal extender.
For wildlife photography, I am certainly a happy camper with the Canon 200-400mm f/4L IS+1.4X, a very sharp, very versatile and very portable super telephoto lens.