If there was one way of thinking that I could eradicate from the photography world it would be the assumption that “lens A,” is way better than “lens B,” due to the price. Lenses come in all shapes and sizes, some are more expensive than others, and yes, in general, more expensive lenses are “better” than cheaper lenses. But just how much better are they?

In many cases, the difference in optical quality is not nearly as high as the difference in price, and today I wanted to take some time to demonstrate that. I am currently reviewing and comparing the difference between the relatively cheap $1300 Canon 400mm F/5.6L and the very expensive $11,500 Canon 400mm f/2.8L.

[REWIND: Sigma 50mm F/1.4 vs Canon 50mm F/1.2]


This particular post is not meant to be a full review or even much of a comparison for either lens. This is solely for the purpose of showing you, with real world examples, what the visual difference between these lenses are.

Click on the Image to open a large version. These were shot with the Canon EOS-M and Canon 6D bodies on an overcast day, so light was dim, but even. 

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So can you tell which lens shot which images? The depth of field may give it away, as both lenses were shot wide open, but as far as the optical quality of the images go, I have to say that I am both surprised and impressed with how well the 400mm F/5.6L holds up.

Initial Thoughts & Perspective

Just to put it into perspective, for the price of one 400mm F/2.8L, you could purchase 8 of the 400mm F/5.6L lenses. Are the images above that come from the 400mm F/2.8L 8 times better than the images coming out of the 400mm F/5.6L? Not in my opinion they aren’t.

That is not to say that there are not other areas that the 400mm F/2.8L is much better than the 400mm F/5.6, but in terms of optical quality alone the difference in real world shooting is not as high as uninformed individuals may think.

What are your thoughts on this quick and dirty comparison? Do you see an 8x difference between the shots taken with the F/5.6L and the F/2.8L? Share your thoughts below.

Answer Key: The First and Last shots are the F/5.6L, the two in the middle are the F/2.8L