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.

  • Its Cheap

    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.

Canon 400mm f/5.6L

  • Its Light

    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.

  • Extremely Sharp

    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)

5 reasons why i love my Canon 400mm f/5.6L

5 reasons why i love my Canon 400mm f/5.6L

5 reasons why i love my Canon 400mm f/5.6L

  • Fast Autofocus

    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.

5 reasons why i love my Canon 400mm f/5.6L

  • 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

5 reasons why i love my Canon 400mm f/5.6L

The Aerial distance from Kartikswami to Dronagiri peak (In the left) is 75 Kms, add in the atmospheric haze too. The details produced are still stunning.

5 reasons why i love my Canon 400mm f/5.6L

Nanda devi peak is 83 Kms from where i took this shot.

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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Madhu Reply April 19, 2017

Hi Praveen, fantastic images and a great youtube channel as well! Have you tried the sigma 150-600 lens?(It’s less than USD 1000 as well).
Keep up the good work!

praveen April 20, 2017

Thank you , I have not tried the Sigma 150-600, but some of my participants have. That lens is good when the light is good and the subject is isolated. But for small birds a.k.a. Himalayan Birds, that too in dense thickets, the lens almost always failed to focus in the required time. Also its hunts extremely bad in low light. Himalayan birds are quick and the shot is gone in a matter of few seconds. My 400mm is a beauty, and it focuses quickly and effectively most of the time. I used it on my old Canon 550D and now on a 7DM2, it performs very satisfactorily with both the cameras.

Madhu Reply April 22, 2017

Thanks for your reply! The primes would definetly be better in most cases I guess. But I was wondering since 150-600 is a very large range to have. Also, any experience with the 70-200 2.8 with 2X extender compared to 400 5.6? Main reason being the budget.

praveen April 22, 2017

I would recommend going for 100-400 IS2 if u r a Canon and 200-500 if a Nikon user. Both are excellent lenses. The 600mm may look like a major factor, but 400mm cropped to 600mm will look much sharper then with the one taken with the 150-600. Also i think its the lens that performs optimally when required,that is more relevant, compared to the 100mm difference. I have not used the 70-200 f/2.8 with a tele, but have heard it works fine.

Madhu Reply April 24, 2017

Hi again,
I am a canon user and I read a bit more on the subject- probably your first recommendation of the 400 prime is gonna be the sharpest at the price point. The 100-400 is a lot more expensive as well. When I get serious about birding and the budget allows, I will look into the 400. For now, might get a good 2x or 1.4 converter. Thanks again and hope to join you in your expeditions some day! You should have lot more subscribers on youtube than you have at the moment, I am sure it will happen in due course.

Lalit b Reply September 11, 2017

Hi Praveen
I am a beginner with wild life photography and planning for new DSLR can you give suggestions currently I am checking Canon 1300d or Nikon 3400d please suggest good camera if you know with similar budget

praveen September 14, 2017

Both are extremely good entry level cameras, depends on which your personal choice is. These are the cheapest DSLR’s available and extremely good to start with and practice, you can upgrade the body in the future once you outgrow the camera.
P.S.: Dynamic range of Nikon is slightly better then that of Canon’s.

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