Canon 400 f5.6 Lens

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.


The sharpness of an "L" lens.

The Canon 400 f5.6  lens produces  very sharp photographs

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.


The Canon 400 f5.6 lens is very light.

The 400mm f5.6 is light enough to be held with your pinky finger


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.


Size Comparison:  Canon 85mm f1.8,  70-200mm f2.8, and the 400mm f5.6

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.



This 400mm lens is a bargain.

The 400mm f5.6 is a bargain compared to the Canon 400 f2.8 and the Canon 300 f2.8 lenses

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


Disadvantages of the 400 f5.6 Lens

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.  



Un-boxing of Canon 400mm f5.6 USM L Lens and size comparison with the Canon 70-200 f 2.8

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.


Sample photo with Canon 400mm at 5.6

Canon 400mm f5.6 wide open produced good sharpness on the cardinal, but you can see that because of the extreme shallow depth of field that the sparrow was out of the plane of good focus.

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.

You get great bokeh with the lens.

Here are some more sample photos with the Canon f5.6 lens.

You can also learn a lot about camera accessories by reading up on the reviews by photographers who have purchased them on amazon.

The Canon 400 takes 77mm filters.  

This is convenient if you also have the Canon 70-200mm f2.8 or the Canon 24-105mm f4.0 lens because they take the same sized filters.


You can get some good ideas on what people like and dislike about any product.  Here are the thoughts and opinions about the:

Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM Super Telephoto Lens for Canon SLR Cameras


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Written by Bruce Lovelace


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