I shot tennis star Jelena Jankovic with my Canon 5d at 3 frames per second, fast enough to record her serve. The Sony SLT-AT77 uses a Translucent Mirror and it is a whole lot cheaper than the high-end Canons or Nikons that professional sports photographers use.
This is simply one of the most incredible lenses available and one of the ultimate action sports lenses. Owners of the this lens will, like owners of the previous lens version, primarily be professional and serious amateur photographers (or wealthy photographers).
And due to the focal length and max aperture of this lens, they will primarily be using this lens for sports, wildlife and photojournalistic pursuits. A longer focal length lens has a narrower angle of view, which of course requires you to be farther from the subject for optimal framing. If you are shooting a running person with a 24mm lens on a full frame format DSLR, optimal framing distance to capture the entire person might be 9' (3m). Distances much closer than optimal will often result in the subject being cropped in the frame, so I'm not counting this distance. This does not mean that a 400mm lens is always a better choice, but it is definitely the answer for many sports events.
There are longer focal length lenses available, and these lenses provide even larger areas of optimal coverage.
And this extra stop of light can make the difference between getting a great shot and getting blur. Sports events are especially known for having very distracting backgrounds - advertisements, fans, apparatus, gear, etc.
Rendered as a blur, the distractions melt into a colorful background blur that allows the subject to pop into the viewer's attention. Bouncing horses galloping at near-30mph provide a huge challenge for the camera, lens AND photographer. Even at the moderately long focus distance required to properly frame an American Quarter Horse and her rider, the background is strongly-blurred.
It is not hard to make a web-sized image look good, but this lens will make even huge prints look great. While I'd love to take full credit for the results, the camera and lens had a great amount to do with them. I have so many great horseback riding shots that I'm having a really hard time eliminating the excess (the sweet pains of success). Mode 1 image stabilization is practically a standard feature on lenses introduced at this time. In this mode, only 1 axis of stabilization is provided - allowing the linearly-moving subject to be tracked.
In mode 3, image stabilization is active and ready for use the moment the shutter releases, but actual stabilization is not in effect until that precise time. This means that you are able to follow your erratic subjects without fighting against image stabilization trying to prevent you from doing the same. I immediately began using the new IS mode 3, though I was not completely convinced of my need for it when shooting action. At this event, with much longer-than-usual-for-fast-action shutter speeds, I indeed saw a benefit of the mode-3 IS. My percentage of sharp shots was noticeably higher than without Mode 3 IS in this circumstance. You will hear some clicking and whirring when IS is active, but the IS implementation is very well behaved. By this I mean that the image in the viewfinder does not jump around when the system activates. In Mode 3, IS sound will be heard when the shutter release is half-pressed, but the image is not stabilized until the precise moment that the shot is taken.
And since I generally was using a fast shutter speed for sports action, IS was not so important to me in that lens. So, IS was indeed helpful on the version I lens for those shooting from a tripod (I typically used longer lenses for wildlife photography). Wildlife tends to be most active in the low-light hours of the day - Wildlife photographers capturing less-active subjects will find plenty of use for IS in this lens.


I generally don't like vignetting, but this is one of the lenses I don't mind having some vignetting from. Sports action and wildlife shots seldom have a primary subject (or a primary subject's face) in the corner of the frame. So the vignetting-darkened borders can serve to draw the viewer's attention to the subject and their face. CA (Chromatic Aberration) is very well controlled - only a minor amount is visible in full frame corners. Fluorine coating is also used on the front and rear elements of the lenses, repelling dust and dirt for clearer shots. The Fluorine coating benefit is easy to see from a cleaning standpoint - fingerprints specifically are much easier to remove from the lens. In regards to autofocus, all Canon super telephoto lenses turn in best-in-class performance. All Canon super telephoto lenses focus internally and have FTM (Full Time Manual) focusing available. The subject size in the viewfinder does change somewhat over long focus pulls, but the change is solid and predictable.
New on the 2010-announced super telephoto lenses is the third focusing mode: "PF" or Power Focusing. This mode allows manual rack focusing to be operated smoothly by turning a playback ring that is normally used for the focus preset function.
Turn the ring slightly to get the low speed electronically-driven AF and turn it to a greater degree to obtain the higher speed.
The feature works nicely, but you are going to need a solid tripod setup and a steady hand to not induce movement while turning the ring. The electronic focusing is very quiet, but image stabilization needs to be turned off if recording sound at the camera. I use AI-Servo focusing mode for shooting sports, but like to shoot a focus-and-recompose portrait at times during the event. The Autofocus Stop feature makes it easy to obtain focus lock, turn off autofocus and recompose for a framing that places the active focus point(s) off of the subject. To be honest, I felt that I had a somewhat better AI Servo in-focus rate when using the original version 1 IS lenses. No current lens delivers 100% accurately focused results in challenging conditions, but I was getting some OOF shots that I thought should be in focus.
I had been trying to get more information from Canon in this regard, but were non-responsive. And the good news is that this lens performs exceptionally well in all regards, including AF, when used in front of the 5D III.
Following is a comparison table showing the recent, current and near future Canon super telephoto lineup as of review time.
That extra reduction in minimum focusing distance can be especially helpful with these lenses when photographing wildlife.
When the series III extenders were introduced, much was made about their performance with the new series II super telephoto lenses. With the 2x mounted, CA remains similar to that of the 1.4x and barrel distortion is reduced. Again, a 1-stop narrower aperture results in a more-pleasing image when the 2x extender is in place. These lenses are expected to deliver ultimate performance in the most adverse environments.
Note that the version II super telephoto lenses do not have the protective meniscus front lens element that the older super telephoto lenses had. I'm sure that removal of the protective lens lends to the weight reduction that I enjoy very much. With the large lens hood in place during use, the front element is already very protected on the Canon super telephoto lenses. Taking delivery of a new Canon super telephoto lens can make even the most jaded photographer feel like a kid on Christmas morning. Here is a table of comparable Canon telephoto lenses with the weight specification included.


I can handhold this lens for a significant amount of time - for several hundred shots in the case of the IS testing segment of this review. After shooting a full-day tournament with this lens, including walking long distances between field assignments, I had no aches or pains the next day. Simply adjusting the monopod while tracking sports action is much easier with the lighter lens. Or, simply lifting the monopod off the ground to track action handheld is easy and fast to do. You can better see the color change in the larger images available in the large lens image comparison tool. Also shown in this image is one of the two attachment points for the included lens neck strap - which is shown below.
The lens strap attaches to the tripod ring, which allows the camera to be rotated without the neck strap following the rotation. Two tripod ring feet are included for use on tripods or monopods - the monopod foot is delivered as the optional attachment and is shown above.
Sports photographers typically employ monopods while wildlife photographers will more typically use tripods. I most often use only a quick release clamp on my monopod, but a head is needed for tripods. When adjusting the tripod head, a heavy lens can quickly fall forward - which then can topple the entire tripod - resulting in an expensive repair.
New for the 400 IS II is that the tripod ring has a slot for a Kensington-type wire security lock. The entire lens hood is no longer covered, but the padded nylon cover can easily be removed with one hand - simply pull the Velcro-attached tab. Canon super telephoto lenses come in a nice, very protective, lockable (keys included) lens trunk.
The new cases feature two side-mounted carry handles and feet on three sides of the cases including those opposite of the carry handles.
Missing to me is the handle that lifts the case straight up from the most-flat storage position (the previous 400 hard case had this handle). At review time, the Think Tank Photo StreetWalker Pro (love it) is my preferred carry case for this lens.
Instead, a CD with all of Canon's lens manuals in PDF format is included - a great move in my opinion.
My big white Canon lenses have actually proven to be a better investment than my 401k fund in the last few years.
I sold my being-replaced Canon super telephoto lenses prior to the new ones becoming available to be able to fund the new lenses. Even selling my four mint used lenses at very-good-for-the-buyer prices, I still made a significant amount of profit (4 figures) after getting years of use from them.
If you are not shooting professionally, consider getting other parents to share in the rental expense in exchange for photos of their kids. Wildlife photographers needing a long focal length lens for use in low light will probably be the next-largest customer segment. If you need to be able to get to 1200mm with a 2x extender, the answer is again easy - get the 600.
The Sigma budget lens was going to be used to photograph the local high school soccer games.Boy was I disappointed.
Thus, I depend solely on the commissions received from you using the links on this site to make any purchase.
Many even turn it into a discussion of what company makes the best sports cameras, Canon or Nikon.
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