Gadgets & Gizmos

One of the challenges of using super-telephoto lenses is their size and weight. Even with weightlifter arms, holding a 400mm f2.8 or 600mm f4 for long periods of time gets pretty tiring, so much so that many photographers have opted for the lighter 100-400mm and similar zooms. While these zooms are remarkable for their size and price, they don't quite provide the sharpness and clarity of a super-telephoto.

So, what if someone could design a super-telephoto that is a lot lighter? Would that solve the problem? You bet!

Canon has released not one, but two lightweight super-telephotos, the EF 400mm f2.8L IS III USM and the EF 600mm f4L IS III USM. Both are claimed to be the world’s lightest in their class, making them ideal for action and wildlife photography.

In addition to weight, super-telephotos have to be kept incredibly still to ensure sharp images – or you use fast shutter speeds to compensate. Then again, the five-stop Image Stabilizer (IS) technology in these new lenses will let you shoot hand-held, as camera shake is significantly reduced.

So how light are these lenses? When we handled the 400mm, we wondered if it were a mock-up! The EF 400mm f2.8L IS III USM’s weight is 2840 g (previously 3850 g), and the EF 600mm f/4L IS III USM’s is 3050 g (previously 3920 g). These are really significant weight savings!

Sporting the familiar white finish that Canon L-Series super-telephoto lenses are known for, the light colour acts as a thermal insulation coating to ensure the lenses operate consistently in all temperatures. The protective weather sealing guards against dust and moisture, while inside, fluorite lens elements virtually eliminate chromatic aberration, boosting resolution and contrast, according to Canon. The Air Sphere Coating (ASC) is designed to reduce flare and ghosting and both lenses have a nine-bladed diaphragm, producing a pleasing 'blur'.

The lenses incorporate a ring-type USM autofocus motor which, along with a high-speed CPU, enables fast and quiet focusing. And when shooting video, the lenses provide pull-focus effects with power focus controls and focus presets. Instant adjustments can be applied via the full-time manual focus control and focusing speed can be customised with electronically-controlled manual focus for extreme precision.

Two preprogrammed focusing positions can be recalled instantly with the twist of the preset ring. Controls for focusing mode, focusing range, focus preset recall and IS are all conveniently located for seamless control.

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