Canon launches EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Extender 1.4x

Canon have today unveiled an amazing new addition to their L Series Telephoto zoom lenses, the EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Extender 1.4x.

Designed to meet the needs of discerning action, sports and wildlife photographers, it’s a fast aperture L Series Telephoto Zoom, and the first EF lens to feature a built-in extender, extending the range to 560mm with the extender engaged.

Like most great ideas, it’s brilliantly simple. There’s a bulge at the rear of the lens that houses a 1.4x extender, and it can simply be swung into the optical path using a lockable lever.

Whilst customers have been able to achieve similar results previously, using an L series lens and a separate extender, this new lens offer unprecedented levels of image quality and convenience. The built-in extender has been designed to perfectly complement the new lens, delivering exceptional results.

Built-in Extender gives extra reach when you need it
Attaching a conventional extender to a super-telephoto lens requires care and takes time, that could mean the difference between getting the shot or not. You need to ensure that you ensure that no dust or moisture can get into the lens or the camera, and there’s always the chance that you could drop something. For shooting situations like motorsport, where there’s a constant swirl of dust and dirt, it’s not really a viable option.

With the Canon EF 200-400mm f/4 L IS USM Ext 1.4x Lens, simply pulling a lever will engage the extender, converting the lens to a 280-560mm f/5.6 optic, which will be ideal for wildlife and sports photographers looking for extra reach.

The lens is typical of the L Series super-telephotos, with outstanding build quality and optical performance. Making extensive use of magnesium alloy, the lens weighs just 3.6kg.

Four-stop latest generation IS with 3 modes
The zoom lens features Canon's latest Image Stabilizer system, offering outstanding image quality during handheld shooting and allowing users to shoot at speeds up to four times slower than normally required. IS Mode 2 features new algorithms to improve performance when panning, and the new IS Mode 3 is also included, assisting users when switching between subjects by activating the IS unit only during exposure.

The lens’ optical elements feature Canon's SubWavelength Structure Coating (SWC), designed to reduce ghosting that can be caused by light bouncing back from a camera sensor. A water-repellent fluorine coating is also used on the surface of the front and rear elements of the lens – this coating repels dust and dirt for clearer shots and keeps the front element free of marks by ensuring that water droplets run off the lens quickly.

Fast aperture for outstanding results
The constant f/4 maximum aperture throughout the zoom range allows photographers to use higher shutter speeds to capture faster action or a low-light scene. It can also isolate subjects from their background, irrespective of the focal length, with the 9 bladed circular iris providing superb bokeh, giving real atmosphere to shots.

Advanced Focusing
The lens features Canon’s renowned Ultrasonic motor (USM), which delivers fast, quiet focusing. It features internal focusing, so the lens will not extend during zooming or focusing, and the ring type USM allows full-time manual focusing, for precise fine tuning of focus, even when autofocus is activated.

A three position focus distance range switch delivers faster autofocus by ignoring subjects that are outside of the selected distance. This is great for sports shooters. At a football match, for example, where a match official or substitute warming up on the sideline might run in front of the photographer, the lens will not switch focus to the new subject and will remain firmly fixed on the action on the pitch.

Additional focus features include the focus preset and Power Focus mode. With the focus preset, photographers can preset a focus distance, and instantly focus at that point even whilst shooting another subject, simply by turning the lens’ playback ring.

The Power Focus mode is a great tool for video, allowing photographers to smoothly adjust focus during filming by twisting the playback ring on the lens. Using the EOS-1D C or EOS-1D X, videographers can achieve a smooth pull-focus effect, using one of two speeds.

Finally, there are four AF stop buttons at the end of lens barrel which can be used to temporarily stop autofocus. In addition, the functionality of the button can be customised in most Canon DSLR bodies using the Custom Controls menu, allowing photographers to switch between AI Servo and One Shot AF mode, or switch to the cameras registered AF point, for example.

It’s been a little over two years since Canon first announced that this lens was under development. Hopes of it ever coming to market began to fade as the months rolled by but when it was spotted at the 2012 Olympics and other sporting events excitement began to build.

This new concept builds on Canon’s proven L series technology and delivers something truly unique, giving sports, action and wildlife photographers extra reach at the flick of a switch. It’s a really powerful tool and will undoubtedly produce outstanding results.

We’ll have one here on our Canon Big Lens Event on Monday 20th and Tuesday 21st May, and we’re expecting stock in June, so why not keep an eye on www.parkcameras.com to find out when the first units are due to arrive so you can pop into our showroom to try it for yourself.

Park Verdict
A superb telephoto zoom lens. Proven L series optical quality and construction ensures impressive results, whilst the built-in 1.4x extender instantly provides extra reach. The 4 stop Image Stabiliser delivers great shots in low light, whilst dust and weather sealing mean you can take it anywhere.

We Love

©       Built-in 1.4x extender provides additional reach when you need it
©       Superb image quality with 4 stop Image Stabiliser for shake-free shots
©       Ultrasonic motor for fast, accurate focusing with full-time manual focusing

Key Specifications

Minimum Focusing Distance
Image Stabilisation
Yes, four stop
Max / Min Aperture
f/4 – f/32
Dimensions (Length x Diameter)
366 x 128mm
Weather Sealing
Focus Distance Limiter
3 position; Full, 2m-6m, 6m-infinity
Other Features
Switchable built-in 1.4x extender, converts lens to 280-560mm f/5.6 lens

Esteemed wildlife photographer Andy Rouse has been using the lens for a few months now. Click here to read his thoughts

Jon Penney
Park Cameras

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