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Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Extender 1.4x Quick Review

June 2013 | By Andy Westlake
Buy on Amazon.com From $11,799.00

Quick review based on a production Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Extender 1.4x

About a month ago Canon announced the EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Extender 1.4x - the world's first SLR lens with a built-in teleconverter. With the simple flick of a switch on the top of its barrel, the lens can be turned into a 280-560mm f/5.6 optic. This is a deceptively simple trick, but one that seems to have caused Canon plenty of headaches, as the lens had an unusually long gestation period: it took more than two years from its initial 'development announcement' in 2011 to the lens's general release. During that time, we're told, it was put through its paces at last summer's biggest sporting events, and many aspects of the design refined and improved.

The 200-400mm is, frankly, a monster: it's over 36cm / 14" long and weighs 3.6 kg / 7.9 lb. It uses no fewer than 33 elements arranged in 24 groups, including Fluorite and Ultra-Low Dispersion glass. It has everything you'd expect of a professional sports optic - a weathersealed magnesium alloy barrel, ultrasonic focus motor, and image stabilisation that promises four stops benefit. The latter means that despite its bulk, it can plausibly be shot hand-held, at least for short periods of time.

It's pretty obvious that this isn't a lens for the mass market - it's a specialised sports and wildlife optic, and at a cool £11999.99 / €11800, more likely to be bought by agencies than individual photographers. In fact we'd not normally cover a product this stratospherically-positioned, but it's the first of its kind, which rather piqued our interest, and Canon was kind enough to let us try one out for an hour or two. Read on to find out more.

Headline features

  • 200-400mm focal length range, F4 constant maximum aperture
  • Built-in extender converts lens to 280-560mm f/5.6 at the flick of a switch
  • Optical IS - four stops claimed benefit, three modes
  • Ultrasonic motor for focusing, including power focus for movie shooting

Zoom range

The examples below give some idea of the lens's zoom range, shot from the same position on the EOS-1D X at 200mm, 400mm, and 560mm (i.e. with 1.4x extender engaged):

200mm 400mm 560mm

Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Extender 1.4x specifications

Recommended retail price  • UK: £11999.99
 • EU: €11800
 Maximum format size  35mm full frame
 Focal length  • 200-400mm
 • 280-560mm with extender engaged
 35mm equivalent focal length (APS-C)  • 320-640mm
 • 450-900mm with extender engaged
 Diagonal angle of view  • 12.3° - 6.2°
 • 8.8° - 4.4° with extender engaged
 Maximum aperture  • F4
 • F5.6 with extender engaged
 Minimum aperture  • F32
 • F45 with extender engaged
 Lens Construction  • 25 elements in 20 groups
 • 33 elements in 24 groups with extender engaged
 • Fluorite and Ultra-Low Dispersion glass elements
 Number of diaphragm blades  9
 Minimum focus  2.0m / 6.6ft
 Maximum magnification  • 0.15x
 • 0.21x with extender engaged
 AF motor type  • Ring-type Ultrasonic motor
 • Full time manual focus
 Focus method  Internal
 Zoom method  Internal
 Image stabilization  • Yes
 • 4 stops
 • 3 modes
 Filter thread  • 52mm
 • Drop-in filters
 Supplied accessories*  • E-145C front cap
 • Rear cap
 • ET-120 (WII) hood
 Weight  3620g (7.9 lb)
 Dimensions  128mm diameter x 366mm length
 (5.0 x 14.3 in)
 Lens Mount  Canon EF

* Supplied accessories may differ in each country or area


If you're new to digital photography you may wish to read the Digital Photography Glossary before diving into this article (it may help you understand some of the terms used).

Conclusion / Recommendation / Ratings are based on the opinion of the reviewer, you should read the ENTIRE review before coming to your own conclusions.

Images which can be viewed at a larger size have a small magnifying glass icon in the bottom right corner of the image, clicking on the image will display a larger (typically VGA) image in a new window.

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This article is Copyright 2013 and may NOT in part or in whole be reproduced in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from the author.

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Comments

Total comments: 14
jesusrc

Andy writes: "... the lens comes ridiculously close to matching Canon's very best primes. Click for comparisons with the EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM and EF 400mm f/2.8L IS II USM in our lens widget."

I would like to understand how he arrived to that conclusions when he is testing combos and not lenses. The EF 300/2.8 L IS USM II test was carried out on a 5D II while the 200-400 zoom was performed on a 5D III. The results will never be truly comparable.

0 upvotes
jesusrc

I had it. Before it I owned th3 300/2.8 II and now I'm back to it. The reason? Bokeh and weight. I can't complain about quality: the 200-400/4 1.4x is, indeed, certainly the best zoom lens ever made by humans.
But I prefer not to have two rings to manipulate when holging such a big and heavy lens. 300/2.8 II is my favourite. Razor sharp, and a beautiful bokeh.

0 upvotes
Vmo9

This lens is over-the-top in performance, quality and deliverability! You get what you pay for in this fine lens. If you can't afford one, I highly recommend renting it. When shooting Equestrian, Football, Lacrosse or Soccer (my main focus), you are not confined by the Prime Lens focal length. The f-stop is sufficient for low light, end of day shooting. When shooting Equestrian events, this lens shines and gives the photographer the ability to quickly change focal lengths and capture the action from 200mm to 560mm! This lens has given new life into what I've never been able to accomplish and when comparing to other pros, I've noticed they too are considering (or already have) purchasing or renting one. The 400mm f2.8 is used much less and only for particular reasons. I use a mono pod but have also shot hand held and still captured incredible shots with no signs of camera shake (using a 5D Mark III or 1 DX)!
Without a doubt, this lens is my favorite for shooting sports, wildlife, etc.

0 upvotes
Outback Aus

How does the lens compare to a prime lens say either the 300 or the 600 for sharpness. Some people are saying the pictures are a bit soft. I also use a 70 - 200 2.8 lens. I am getting mixed feed back. It is a lot of money to shell out and not get a sharp image. Thanks

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 10 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
manolo romero

I just recently bought the lens and I'm very happy with the quality.
Its lighter than 400 2.8 sharpness is excellent. The ability to track subjects from a distance as you zoom are superb. That missing range from 200 to 400
is wonderful to have at a twist of a barrel. I can olny think of the shots Ive missed grabbing my 70-200. The ability to frame shots alone are worth a bundle. I let some fellow phtographers try the lens out while shooting a college Lacrosse match and they were equally pleased. The 1.4 ext. also gives you that range that would take an addition lens to cover, especially when shooting with a 1D IV. This lens has become my favorite sports lens in my arsenal.

0 upvotes
Dr Bhaskar Maitra

Very expensive. Out of bounds for 99% of photographers. Canon should reduce its price to realistic levels for increased sales. Only then, it can make a good profit margin. Very poor value for money.
Waiting for a head-on comparison with others....

0 upvotes
oysso

Reduce price? It is a very specialized and costly to develop lens. For the right people this lens is much value for the money. But you have to earn money from your shooting or have loads of money to buy this one.

1 upvote
MarshallG

I would love to see Canon do this with their 200mm f/2.8 L lens -- a compact, sharp lens that 200mm f/2.8 or 400mm f/5.6. That would be fantastic.

4 upvotes
oysso

there is a 100-400 4.5-5.6 for the masses already. That would suit most people on a budget. and you have the 70-200 2.8 which you can turn into a 140-400 5.6 with a 2x teleconverter.

0 upvotes
dbltapp00

I use the 70-200 f2.8 IS II with a 2X a lot. Only a stop slower, for sports that's not a problem. Which is why they have that built-in 1.4X, without which that lens would have been a dud.

0 upvotes
Scorpius1

Amazing lens,all we need now from canon is a top knotch sensor,and maybe they can knock a few hundred grams from the weight of the 1DX successor while they at it..

0 upvotes
Maciejewski

Wonder if they need testers for this lens. I'm available!!!

0 upvotes
Francis Carver

Lens weighs 8 pounds or close to 4 kilos according to the specs. R U sure you're in shape for it? Maybe it will come with its on 2-wheel dolly?

0 upvotes
Scorpius1

This is pretty light compared to the 400mm 2,8 mk1...

1 upvote
Total comments: 14