Testing the new Canon EF 200-400 f4L with 2x extender

I have been waiting for two years for this lens to arrive.  For the kind of wildlife photography and video that I do, I have anticipated that it may replace several lenses I regularly travel with and let me respond more quickly and compose more precisely in the field.  So it was very exciting when yesterday I finally got the call from my local camera gear supplier, Hunts Photo and Video, that my lens was in.   I immediately drove down and picked it up and went out this morning and started shooting some test shots.

I was confident the lens would be sharp and perform well as I had already read early reviews.  However, since I am often temped to push the focal length by adding extenders, one thing I was very curious about was how it would work with not only the internal 1.4x converter enabled, but also when 1.4 or even the 2x converter is added externally.  I went out to one of my local wildlife spots and found a cooperative Great Blue Heron.  Here are some of my first shots with this new lens.  Needless to say, I am extremely pleased with the results!

 

Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias).  Cooperative test subject for new Canon 200-400 mm lens.  Shot with Canon 1DC on 1 June 2013.  This image shot at 520 mm using 1.4x.

Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias). Cooperative test subject for new Canon 200-400 mm lens. Shot with Canon 1DC on 1 June 2013. This image shot at 520 mm using 1.4x.

 

HERE IS THE REAL TEST:  200-400 WITH INTERNAL 1.4X ENABLED, PLUS THE EXTERNAL CANON 2X CONVERTER III = 1120 mm focal length.

See for yourself, but my feeling is that even with this 2x converter added, the quality is there.  In fact, though I haven’t done the side-by side test yet, I think this looks sharper than using my 600 mm f4 with 2x converter at 1200 mm.   Of course I had to manual focus this as at f11, autofocus does not work.  But for extreme situations when I really want the reach, this looks totally usable to me, and has actually exceeded my expectation for this lens, so I am extremely pleased with it.

Canon 200-400 mm f4 1.4 converter with internal converter enabled PLUS Canon 2x converter III.  Great Blue Heron test shots with new Canon 200-400 mm f4 1.4x converter lens on 1 June 2013.  Full frame view.

Canon 200-400 mm f4 1.4 converter with internal converter enabled PLUS Canon 2x converter III. Great Blue Heron test shots with new Canon 200-400 mm f4 1.4x converter lens on 1 June 2013. Full frame view.

 

Crop of image at 100% resolution.  Canon 200-400 mm f4 1.4 converter with internal converter enabled PLUS Canon 2x converter III.  Great Blue Heron test shots with new Canon 200-400 mm f4 1.4x converter lens on 1 June 2013.

Crop of above image at 100% resolution. Canon 200-400 mm f4 1.4 converter with internal converter enabled PLUS Canon 2x converter III shot on Canon 1DC. Great Blue Heron test shots with new Canon 200-400 mm f4 1.4x converter lens on 1 June 2013.  Tripod, f11, 1/1000 sec, ISO 800.

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    Comments

    1. Nice glass !!!! very good results

    2. Jeff Faulkner says:

      Tim, Amazing Pictures! Thanks for sharing your feedback re: the new 200-400 mm lens.

    3. Guy Dupuis says:

      Nice shot…you really nailed the eyes…now that you’re shooting herons…I have a spot for you here in Ottawa… ;-)

    4. Anand Varma says:

      What are your thoughts on the 1DC?

    5. Leslie Boudreau (Roemer) says:

      Your photos are as amazing as ever! I saw your name on Facebook and just wanted to say hello, it’s been a while. Hope you and the family are well!

      -Leslie

    6. Looks great! Thanks for sharing, I was waiting or someone to test this!

    7. Great Shots! My baby arrives next week with Think Tank Glass Limo from B&H- I am hoping to use it with breaching Great White Sharks in Cape Town this summer and later in the year – Polar Bears at Churchill!
      1) Do you recommend Lens Coat Covers?
      2) Can this be used on a Monopod with a Wimberley Side Kick?
      3) How does it compare in weight and balance to your 400mm 2.8 II?

      Cheers
      Philip

      • Tim Laman says:

        Hi Philip, Congrats on getting the lens. I think you will really love it.
        1) Yes, I use Lens Coat covers and I think they provide some good protection for the lens.
        2) A monopod will definitely be good to use with this lens. I don’t think there would be any advantage in using the Wimberley Sidekick on a monopod because doesn’t that require use in combination with a ball head? You could use the monopod with just the ballhead and be fine.
        3) Weight and balance is almost identical to the 400mm 2.8 II. Totally possible to handhold, but not to sit and wait in position holding the lens. You definitely want a monopod or tripod if you are going to intending to keep you lens in ready position while you wait for the wildlife action.

        • Phil Amoils says:

          Hi Tim
          The new baby arrived! Fantastic
          Crisp and perfect even though I just tried it for the afternoon!
          I am planning to spend the summer getting familiar with this lens prior to the Polar Bear Trip in November.
          Questions
          1) I have the Gitzo monopod with a wimberley side mount that makes it very portable and usable up to 540mm focal length,
          If I add a 2x or another 1.4X external converter, I will need a TRIPOD.
          I have a Gitzo tripod 1542 T lightweight travelling tripod (17,6 lbs load) with a small Manfrotto ballhead is not sufficient for this fine lens.
          Can I use add a full Gimball Head ($195 modification from a sidemount to a full Gimball) or do you suggest a separate Ballhead for this TRIPOD or do I need both a heavier tripod and a new ballhead?
          2) I have the Glass Limo as a backpack for the lens, Do you attach your Steroid Belt with the other lenses to the Think Tank Glass Limo Backpack or do you just use the side pouches for the lenses!

          Regards
          Philip

          • Tim Laman says:

            Hi Philip,
            1) Re a tripod, I agree with you that the small tripod you mention is not really ideal for this lens with a 1DX. I use a Gitzo 3000 series tripod for all my larger lens work. But for a trip like a polar bear trip, I don’t imagine you will be on land much where you can use a tripod. And with the high ISO performance of your camera, I would be tempted to go light with just your monopod setup to save your arms.
            2) I am using the Glass Limo with this lens as well and it is a perfect fit. I use the Steroid Speed Belt, with pouches and other lenses on it. As for attaching it to the Glass Limo, one of my favorite things about this ThinkTank setup is that I can attach the belt to the backpack when I am on a longer hike and I want the belt to help support the backpack. But when I am shooting and changing lenses a lot or want to set the backpack down but keep the belt on, it is so easy to detach the belt and use them that way. On the Galapagos photo tour, for example, I mostly just kept the backpack and belt separate and it worked out real well.

            Enjoy your new gear and great shooting,
            Tim

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