I am using my Canon 400mm f/5.6L Prime lens for more than 2 years now, almost on a daily basis. It’s a gem of a lens and has become my go-to lens not only for shooting birds, but also for shooting beautiful, intimate landscape of the mighty Himalayas.
Today I list out 5 reasons, why me and every wildlife photographer (who uses Canon ?) will adore this lens.
It’s Cheap (and I mean extremely cheap), when I purchased this lens it costed me around INR 80,000 or USD 1160. If you think this is costly, try checking out the 400mm f/4 or the f/2.8 version (the price is anywhere between 4 to 7 times). For this quality and focal length, this is the cheapest prime lens out there in the market today.
The Canon 400mm f/5.6L weighs around 1.2 kilos, and is easy to carry all day long. I trek in some of the most difficult terrains in the Himalayas, with this and my 7D M2, shoot all day and still not feel a bit tired. If you are someone who avoids carrying a tripod, this lens is the best choice out there. This lens feels light in the hand and is extremely versatile for shooting quickly in any direction handheld. It is also considered as one of the best lenses for birds in flight. I have used third party zoom lenses and they are extremely bulky when compared to this.
This lens is sharp even at its widest aperture of f/5.6 and when you step it down to f/6.3 (or beyond to f/8) it becomes unbeatable. The Images are as crisp as can be, and though the images from the super telephotos are a bit sharper compared to this, so is the price. I shoot almost all my shots at f/6.3 and have been able to produce some extremely sharp images (Not only with the7D but also with the old 550D)
I mostly shoot Himalayan Birds, and if you have been here, then you know that most of them
- Are really small
- Are extremely fast
- Move very randomly.
And yet my Canon 400mm has no problems in tracking them, what so ever. I have tracked them in dense thickets, in between branches, in extremely poor light conditions, in extremely good light conditions, in flight and in situations which offered no contrast what so ever. This lens performs excellently well most of the time, latches on to the bird and does not lets it go.
Great for Landscapes
If you think Landscapes can only be taken using a wide-angle lens, think again. One can make beautiful intimate portraits of mountain peaks using a Telephoto lens. I use this lens quite often to shoot Himalayan peaks during sunrise and sunset. The details and colors resolved by this lens, even when shooting from 10’s of kilometers away is stunning to say the least. You can check out my blog titled Shooting Landscape with telephoto here
So there you have it, the top 5 reasons why i absolutely adore my Canon 400mm f/5.6L
This lens is definitely not the fastest or sharpest lens available out there. Yes it does not have Image Stabilization (IS) and f/5.6 is not exactly a very wide aperture to start with. But personally for me the quality which it offers, the ease of using it quickly, its maneuverability, its versatility and to top it off the price at which it’s available weighs out its shortcomings. I shoot a lot of images handheld, sometimes at extremely low shutter speeds and still have been able to make extremely sharp images.
This lens does takes a bit of time to getting used to (Every lens does ?). The only thing I can recommend is, to spend some time with the lens, make it a part of your body and feel how the lens and your camera work together. Do that and this beast will deliver exceptional result almost every time.
If you have used this lens and would like to share some other advantages/experiences, please share them in the comments below.
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