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|| News Item: Posted 1999-07-21

New Glass From Canon
By Brad Mangin

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Canon recently announced that they would be introducing four new telephoto L-Series lenses this fall; 300 2.8, 400 2.8, 500 4.0 and a 600 4.0. These lenses feature "a new optical system that delivers improved image stabilizer performance and the highest possible image quality."

Although the new lenses will not be available to purchase until they are rolled out separately in October, November and December I recently had the chance to test out the new EF400 2.8L IS USM this past weekend while shooting the Seattle Mariners break in their new ballpark, Safeco Field.

I must say the lens was a lot of fun to use, once they opened the roof at the new ballpark for Sunday afternoon's game. I currently have the "old" 400 2.8 that I bought in 1993 (I never upgraded to the series II lens in 1996) so I noticed a big difference in the weight of the new lens immediately. It is considerably lighter, especially with the carbon fiber lens hood, than my old model.

Photo by
Combined with an EOS3 body with the NiCad battery (Canon recommends that you must use the EOS3 to take advantage of the new lenses as they are designed to work as a pair-as will the new pro camera that replaces the EOS 1n next year) the lens focused faster and crisper than the old lens. The focus grabbed the ballplayers and wouldn't let go.

The image stabilization was fun to play with as I shot portraits of Ken Griffey Jr. in the dark Mariner dugout at 1/125 with the 400mm and the 1.4 converter (560mm). Normally, I would have to throw out several frames because of camera shake, but not with the IS turned on. I really think this feature will come in handy more times than people think, especially when using the 400 or 600 with a converter at a slow shutter speed. Many times you will see some camera shake in your pictures even with your lens on a monopod once the focal length reaches 800mm. If you want to shoot a 49er game from the frontlit endzone with a 600 and a 2x (1200mm) I have to think your percentage of razor sharp pictures will go up.

I will shoot with the new 400 for another week or so. It will be hard to send it back to Canon and go back to my old model. The new 400's aren't expected out till around November/December and might be priced around 10%-15% higher than the current models, although no one is quite sure what they might run. My guess would put the new 400 2.8 around $8,500 or so. I hope I can put up with my old lens for that long. My advice is to get on a list at your favorite camera store as these lenses will undoubtedly be
tough to come by.

The following information comes from Canon: The center of gravity has been shifted as much as possible to the rear thanks to a new lens arrangement, mitigating the front-heavy tendency seen in other telephoto lenses. As a result, the EF300 2.8L IS USM and the EF500 4.0L IS USM can be easily handheld.

The lenses in the IS Super Telephoto Lens Series are lightweight because their lens tubes and many other exterior parts are made of magnesium alloy. Despite the weight reductions, the durability of each IS lens is the same as the predecessor.

The new lenses are far more dust-proof and drip-proof than earlier lenses. A rubber ring on the mount blocks the gap at the mount when the lens is mounted on a camera, along with several other dust and drip resistant measures.

To read more technical information on the EF400 2.8L go to the canon website at:

(Brad Mangin is a Bay Area freelance photographer.)

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