The Canon 400 f5.6 Lens is often overlooked as a choice lens for wildlife and bird photography.
After all, It has no zoom capabilities, it's maximum aperture is only f5.6, and it has no image stabilization. Well, what does it have going for it?
It's very sharp. It's lightweight and easy to use. It's very affordable.
Generally speaking, most lenses are sharpest when they are stopped down about two stops from their maximum aperture. With a lens that has a maximum aperture of f2.8, that would be f5.6.
The technical lens testers out there in the world of scientific lens testing have determined that the Canon 5.6 has excellent sharpness wide-open at f 5.6, even all the way in the corners of your image.. At 400mm you still get great bokeh at f5.6 with the 8-bladed aperture. This has been verified by many of the everyday photographers like me, the Canon Geek.
I don't recommend you carry it this way, but it is light enough to carry with your pinky finger.
This lens weighs about 2.75 pounds, a few ounces less than the Canon 70-200 f 2.8, one of the all-time best rated lenses Canon has ever produced.
Compare that to the Canon 400mm f4 DO IS that weighs close to double that at 4.28 pounds.
The Canon 400mm f2.8 L IS II comes in at a romping 8.5 pounds.
Compared to the 85mm f1.8, the 400mm f5.6 is a monster. Relative to the 70-200mm f2.8, the Canon 400 f5.6 lens is only slighter longer, but slightly lighter than the 70-200 f2.8 lens.
The 400mm f2.8
The 300mm f2.8
The 400mm f5.6
The Canon 400mm f2.8 costs over $10,000.00. The 300mm f2.8 lens costs over $7,000. The 400mm f 5.6 is a little over $1,000.00
No Image Stabilization. With moving targets in sports and wildlife photography, IS is not recommended anyway.
Maximum aperture. Low light situations become challenging because of a need to use a slower shutter speed. Hand-held shooting requires a fairly high shutter speed, depending on your skill level.
You can counteract this with modern, full-sized sensors that have low noise and good sharpness at high ISO settings.
No zoom. Not as versatile as the 100-400. Forces you to be in a good position for good composition and cropping.
Despite the disadvantages, 73% of Amazon reviewers gave this lens a 5-star rating.
The Canon 400 f5.6 lens is certainly an interesting consideration, limited to specific uses for sports photographers, wildlife photographers and bird geeks like me.
The maximum aperture and no image stabilization mechanism are not issues in any way at all for me personally. My Canon 5D Mark III is remarkably sharp with low noise at high ISO settings. I love the weight and sharp, USM ring-type,quick focusing that this lens gives me.
Chromatic aberration is minimal. This lens produces good saturation and contrast.
Canon 400mm f5.6 wide open produced good sharpness on the cardinal.
At such a close distance and wide open, depth of field is limited.
You can see that because of the extreme shallow depth of field that the sparrow was out of the plane of good focus.
Here are some more sample photos with the Canon f5.6 lens.
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