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Birders Rejoice! Canon 400mm F/5.6L IS In the Works?

By Anthony Thurston on March 14th 2015

Ask most photographers if they would like a lens with a fixed aperture of F/5.6, and the majority would tell you, “No way.” The remaining photographers would be birders/wildlife photographers who value weight savings over light/DoF considerations.

canon-400mm-56-lThat is what makes the Canon 400mm f/5.6L such a popular lens for that demographic. It has a great range, while maintaining a small size – which makes it a great lens for walking around. It is starting to get a little old in the tooth though, and if this new rumor is correct, Canon will be updating it this year!

According to the rumor report over on Canon Rumors, the new version of the Canon EF 400mm F/5.6L will include Image Stabilization, increasing its value to ‘walk-around-birders’ even more. That is where details on the new lens end though, unfortunately.

As a bit of a wildlife shooter myself, I would love to get my hands on a 400mm F/5.6L IS. It would be a daytime lens, obviously, but even during the dusk hours, with how well cameras can do with ISO these days, I am sure you could still get some usable shots. This lens, paired with the Canon 7D Mark II would be a pair to beat.

The rumor did say that ‘if all goes to plan’, Canon would have the update for this lens out this year. So keep an eye out, and we will update you with any new info that crops up.

What are your thoughts on an update for the 400mm F/5.6L? Would you like one in your kit? Leave a comment below and let us know what you think!

[via Canon Rumors]

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Anthony Thurston is a photographer based in the Salem, Oregon area specializing in Boudoir. He recently started a new project, Fiercely Boudoir to help support the growing boudoir community. Find him over on Instagram. You may also connect with him via Email.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Nikos Delhanidis

    Regarding the sharpness syndrome, besides birders, also sports & motorsports and aviation shooters most of the time have to use only part of their frame, they have to crop a lot , either they are amateurs or professionals, for that making sense shot. They also have to cope with atmosphere factors and stray or back light hitting the glass. In this kind of photography believe me, the capabilities of a prime tele making 100% difference. With todays sensors you can shoot with any zoom lens and downsample to a printable size and it will be ok, given that you are using all of your frame. With wildlife, aviation, motorsports, sports, very often you have to crop an area out from 1:1, and only primes can give you that possibility

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  2. Nikos Delhanidis

    Τhis lens might be the additional final reason i could replace my Nikon aviation / motorsports set with Canon . In my view, Canon has it going for motorsports / aviation , in both proper sharp teles options and most suitable AF systems, comparing to Nikon, and i am a Nikon user. I can see myself selling my Nikon pair for a 7D Mk II + the new 400 5.6L IS (and why not a Canon 1.4 TC too)

    100-400L Mk2 beats the 80-400G, a fast AF pro-sharp affordable 400 5.6 its a prime all brands should had in their inventory, strangely only canon had the common sense to make it. (400 f/4 would be the best option, its just pity that the current 400 f/4s -again only from Canon- cannot be priced around 3000. Would be so great if third party would make a 400 f/4 for around 2000-2500 … it would be the perfectly exact tool many of us who cant touch the exotics wish it existed) Instead , Nikon is forcing in nikon users throat instead their sole 300 f/4 philosophy . They are yet to realize that they have no offering for the many users who need reach of around 600mm. (NOT 400). Even their exotically priced heavy 200-400 f/4 at medium-long distances with either a 1.4TC or without, is equal or a little behind from cheaper lenses like the 100-400L Mk2, any 400 5.6L, or sigma 150-600 Sports. And at f/8 maybe even the Tamron or the Contemporary. As things are now, its just overpriced

    Having worked with Nikon and little bit with Canon , i can say that Canon does quite better with action able AF systems – paired with proper Canon lens that is.

    Sorry for turning this to a mini critic on Nikon mentality in this area of lenses (and corresponding bodies)

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    • adam sanford

      You might want to wait for more Sigma 150-600 Sports reviews. LensTip says it’s a winner resolution-wise, provided such a relatively slow lens will do it for you.

      And that lens has a Nikon-mount version. Something to think about.

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  3. Bill Bentley

    The Tamron (now) and Sigma Sport (now), Contemporary (soon) 150-600 are available. The Sigma Sport is getting good reviews. Tamron just a little bit behind. Plus, what will be the price I wonder? Somewhere between the Sigma Sport and Contemporary? That would put it at around $1500.

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    • adam sanford

      Sure, but much like the 100-400L II, it’s compact size and weight are worth a premium to birders/wildlife people. The current Canon 400 f/5.6L is around $1,300-1,400 some 20+ years after it was put out. Expect this new one to be sharper, lighter, have IS and cost a little bit more, say $1500-1600.

      Provided it delivers from an IQ perspective, those birders with ‘sharpness syndrome’ (the most discerning/particular pixel-peepers, who prefer primes over teleconverters or zooms) will snap it up at that price, regardless of how insane that seems compared to the flood of long zooms that are now available.

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  4. Graham Curran

    Only f/5.6, no other apertures possible?

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    • Anthony Thurston

      Yes its a 400mm F/5.6 prime lens.

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    • adam sanford

      Yes, Graham, it’s a f/5.6 prime. Stop it down all you like. :-)

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    • adam sanford

      Lenses like these are why you pledge allegiance to a *mount* instead of a sensor. You just won’t be offered a 400mm f/5.6, a 5:1 Macro, 4 different tilt-shifts, etc. with a young mirrorless mount — there are too many holes to fill on a new system to offer such specialty sort of tools.

      I believe Canon is unique in offering a slow/light/not-criminally-priced birding/wildlife lens like this — with Nikon (I believe) you have to choose between their beastmaster 400 f/2.8, a zoom, or a teleconvertered shorter lens.

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    • adam sanford

      If this is happening, I’d expect the following things to be improved over the prior (1993) version:

      * Image Stabilization (according to the story)
      * Proper weather-sealing — the current 400 f/5.6L lacks a mount gasket, I believe
      * Possibly the nifty side hatch to the hood offered on the new 100-400L II (which allows you easy access to turn a CPL while hooded)
      * Latest coatings, better AF performance, yadda yadda (it is 23 years old after all!)

      Offer that, keep it relatively inexpensive and sharp right at f/5.6, and it will be welcomed by Canon shooters.

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    • Ralph Hightower

      It more than likely stops down to f/32 at least. I’ve found that mirror lenses usually have a fixed aperture. I have a cheap Spiratone 400mm f6.3 than manually stops down to f32.

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    • adam sanford

      Ralph wins the prize. TDP says you can set aperture from f/5.6 to f/32.

      And yes, this is NOT a mirror lens. It’s a regular telephoto prime with all the glassy goodness, but it’s just a slow one at f/5.6 max aperture.

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    • Graham Curran

      So it’s a fixed MAXIMUM aperture. Sorry, but my pedantic streak got the better of me.

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