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Author Topic: Canon 400mm L 5.6 .. So what's changed in 19 years?  (Read 13861 times)

revup67

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Canon 400mm L 5.6 .. So what's changed in 19 years?
« on: July 05, 2011, 07:48:19 PM »
This great lens first released in 1993 is currently still part of Canon's lineup and tack sharp.  It has USM but lacking IS as most of us know.  I called Canon support (3 different reps) and no one was able to tell me what exactly has changed/updated/upgraded on this lens since 1993.  It would seem logical that some components have been upgraded or possibly the coating but not necessarily a feature accessible by consumers.

Does anyone or can anyone shed any light on the 19 year time line for this lens?

PS one thing Canon support did state is that the lens is "drip and dust proof" which debunked a statement I had found on another web site.
Thanks in advance
Rev
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Rev
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Canon 400mm L 5.6 .. So what's changed in 19 years?
« on: July 05, 2011, 07:48:19 PM »

drummstikk

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Re: Canon 400mm L 5.6 .. So what's changed in 19 years?
« Reply #1 on: July 05, 2011, 08:58:50 PM »
I'm sure this lens was coated from day one. Coating has been standard on even the "non-premium" lines of OEM lenses since the 1970's or earlier. Although I suppose coating might improve to some incremental degree. Probably nothing else has changed about the 400 f/5.6 since it's inception other than possibly the sourcing of small components, as you suggest.

IS would be nice, but I don't find I miss it much in my use, which usually includes a monopod. I actually wish it was a bit heavier or fatter, as that might make it settle in your hands more steadily for hand-holding. But overall, no complaints.

It's not likely, but I wish Canon would upgrade this lens with IS and maybe take it to f/4.5 or so to give it just a bit more speed and heft. An f/4.0 lens would obviously command a price tag much higher than the current 5.6. What could we get with IS for, say, $2000.00 to $2400.00? f/4.5? 5.0?

Come on, Canon. Make me an offer.

Back in the day, Olympus had a few "big white" lenses in odd focal lengths and fast apertures. 250mm f/2.0, 350mm f/2.8 and maybe a 450mm f/2.8 (not sure, it's been a long time).

I'd go for a 350mm f/4.0 with IS. (Compared to the 400mm f/5.6, I'd gladly trade 50mm and some money for a full f/stop.) Or a 250mm f/2.8, which would be 350mm f/4.0 with a 1.4x. Or, I've long wished they would extend the 70mm-200mm 2.8 to 250mm. But that's just me dreaming. CR ZERO.

Anybody with me, or am I just weird?
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dr croubie

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Re: Canon 400mm L 5.6 .. So what's changed in 19 years?
« Reply #2 on: July 05, 2011, 09:00:36 PM »
They canned the original 200 f1.8 becuse of ROHS concerns, nothing in the glass, but the manufacturing process made some nasty by-products. They couldn't change the composition/manufacturing process easily, so they came up with the 200 f2.

That hasn't happened with the 400 f5.6, so i'd be very doubtful that they've changed the composition of any glass. There were no ultra-special elements like the 200/1.8, and they wouldn't just change any pieces of glass without putting a II after it. Maybe they could have quietly changed a coating for a bit better performance, or more likely for a cost saving.

There's no IS to update to a better design. The USM is possible to have been changed to a slightly better/quieter/faster design, or at least they might have made it cheaper to make.


But companies like canon will take any excuse to put a II behind the name of any lens. It's good marketing if people think their lens has been designed last year rather than 5, 10, 20 years ago (case in point, the efs55-250 ii, whether this is a recent phenomenon is debatable). If they just quietly updated everything without telling, people would keep their old stuff, and yell that their R&D dept does nothing.

So my money's on absolutely nothing having changed, bar a slightly cheaper process for some minor parts...
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revup67

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Re: Canon 400mm L 5.6 .. So what's changed in 19 years?
« Reply #3 on: July 05, 2011, 09:18:14 PM »
thanks for the replies and my statements were only examples about the glass or the coating as sort of a reference.  Assumptions welcome but I was seeking more absolute, factual information if at all possible.
Thanks
Rev
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kubelik

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Re: Canon 400mm L 5.6 .. So what's changed in 19 years?
« Reply #4 on: July 05, 2011, 10:50:50 PM »
the factual information is exactly what dr croubie pointed out: the fact that there is no factual information to be found.

croubie nails it on the head when he states that what can be charged for won't be given away for free.  also, when you're dealing in the photography industry, don't expect that everything is announced somewhere.  for instance, discontinued production is almost never announced formally; you won't be able to get on a search engine and determine when canon ran the last batch of a particular lens.

Mt Spokane Photography

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Re: Canon 400mm L 5.6 .. So what's changed in 19 years?
« Reply #5 on: July 06, 2011, 01:30:27 AM »
Some of us prefer to get a $1500 lens that is excellent to the same lens for $2500 that is ever so slightly sharper, and has better IS.

In a way, its a good idea to keep making those old lenses that are sold at relatively low prices compared to what their replacements will cost.

I'm always wanting better lenses, just like everyone else, but i'd hate to see the prices go up by $1,000 more or less.

ReyMorlu

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Re: Canon 400mm L 5.6 .. So what's changed in 19 years?
« Reply #6 on: July 06, 2011, 09:54:04 AM »
With the exception of the tripod collar, now more likely 70-200 shaped against the square shaped minimalist older one... and unconfortable in xtrem! I have not had any other info about it and believe me, I'm specting Canon to decide updating this lens for a long time!!
Then I read all about it wherever, but it seems this brand prefer not to sale this lens! :-\ cause nobody who has tested the "IS" in other lenses do not have any interest in non-is lenses and when you need a long specific focal lenght, zooms are not good enough to give the spected image quality.(100-400 ie)
Another question is the price paid... why when is added to a pro lens it doubles its price and amateur lenses have "is" at afordable low prices????? (300/4 & 300/4 IS, another example)

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Re: Canon 400mm L 5.6 .. So what's changed in 19 years?
« Reply #6 on: July 06, 2011, 09:54:04 AM »

neuroanatomist

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Re: Canon 400mm L 5.6 .. So what's changed in 19 years?
« Reply #7 on: July 06, 2011, 10:12:12 AM »
Canon has done some 'stealth' updates, but they are always minor changes (e.g. slightly faster AF chip, when the subcontractor stopped producing the previous one or they changed contractors, for example).  New coatings mean sharper lenses with better MTF curves - Canon would not let those out the door without a corresponding MkII designation (and more importantly, a price increase).

one thing Canon support did state is that the lens is "drip and dust proof" which debunked a statement I had found on another web site.

The rep you spoke with was incorrect.  The 400mm f/5.6L USM is not a weather-sealed lens.  Sealed lenses are easily identified by the black rubber seal at the lens mount, and the 400/5.6 does not have one of them - therefore, not sealed. 

I wish Canon would upgrade this lens with IS and maybe take it to f/4.5 or so to give it just a bit more speed and heft. An f/4.0 lens would obviously command a price tag much higher than the current 5.6. What could we get with IS for, say, $2000.00 to $2400.00? f/4.5? 5.0?

I'd go for a 350mm f/4.0 with IS. (Compared to the 400mm f/5.6, I'd gladly trade 50mm and some money for a full f/stop.) Or a 250mm f/2.8, which would be 350mm f/4.0 with a 1.4x. Or, I've long wished they would extend the 70mm-200mm 2.8 to 250mm. But that's just me dreaming. CR ZERO.

Anybody with me, or am I just weird?

For $2K, you'll be lucky to just get the 400mm f/5.6 with IS - I'd guess that lens, if released, will come in at ~$2200.  Even at that price, I'd buy one straight off.

I think lots of people are with you - we all want more (wider aperture, longer focal length) for less $.  But what I think you're missing is the practical barrier.  Do the math: 400mm/5.6 = 71.5mm, 300mm/4 = 75mm, 200mm/2.8 = 71.5mm, etc.  The lenses you're talking (dreaming) about all push that iris diaphragm up over 75mm, meaning an increase in the diameter of the front element beyond 77mm threads.  They could give you a 420mm f/5.6 (same iris diaphragm diameter as the 300mm f/4), but the extra 20mm probably isn't worth it.  Bigger glass means more cost.  Those fast Oly lenses you mention were close in price to the Canon superteles, e.g. the Oly 250mm f/2 was $4300 and the Oly 350mm f/2.8 was $5500. 
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dr croubie

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Re: Canon 400mm L 5.6 .. So what's changed in 19 years?
« Reply #8 on: July 06, 2011, 10:31:30 AM »
cause nobody who has tested the "IS" in other lenses do not have any interest in non-is lenses

google translate issues aside, i can definitely agree.
a 250 f/3.5 MF prime i've got is just hand-holdable focussable, despite its soviet-stiffness in the ring. add a 2x tele for 500 f/7 and i can barely frame and focus, lack of a tripod ring and gimball head doesn't help. I could maybe put up with 400 f/5.6 without IS, but it'd have to be some damn sweet IQ to make up for the annoyance.

(and if i add my two 2x teles for 1000mm f14, just breathing on the lens to focus will shoot the framing off, so not very useful even in studio work, but it sure looks impressive with all my extension tubes)
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neuroanatomist

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Re: Canon 400mm L 5.6 .. So what's changed in 19 years?
« Reply #9 on: July 06, 2011, 10:31:58 AM »
Another question is the price paid... why when is added to a pro lens it doubles its price and amateur lenses have "is" at afordable low prices????? (300/4 & 300/4 IS, another example)

If your reference to the 300/4 vs. 300/4 IS was an example of a lens doubling in price, it's not a good example - after compensating for 6 years of inflation, the IS version of the lens was a price increase of only 14%. 

The reason that addition of IS to 'pro' lenses is differentially more than 'amateur' lenses is that pro lenses have wider apertures for comparable focal lengths, meaning bigger lens elements, including the IS elements.  Bigger elements cost more, and require more powerful (and thus expensive) motors to move them.  An 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS lens has an IS element group that is ~15mm in diameter.  The 300mm f/4L IS has an IS element group that is ~37mm in diameter, and therefore contains approximately 5 times as much glass as the elements in the 18-55mm lens. 
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Re: Canon 400mm L 5.6 .. So what's changed in 19 years?
« Reply #10 on: July 06, 2011, 12:11:19 PM »
For $2K, you'll be lucky to just get the 400mm f/5.6 with IS - I'd guess that lens, if released, will come in at ~$2200.  Even at that price, I'd buy one straight off.


I'd likely do it as well, but the sad thing is, if all the lenses took a jump in price like this, a lot of photographers would not be able to afford one, and that would be a shame.

Perhaps they should come out with a totally new model and keep the old one like they did with the 70-200 models.

WarStreet

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Re: Canon 400mm L 5.6 .. So what's changed in 19 years?
« Reply #11 on: July 06, 2011, 02:16:42 PM »
... cause nobody who has tested the "IS" in other lenses do not have any interest in non-is lenses
I just purchased the 400mm 5.6, and I do have the great IS of the 70-200 2.8 IS II for which I switch it off very often, and these lenses are used handhold. It depends on the usage needs. I didn't used the 400mm for my intended use for now, as I will do so within few months, and also since I have a focusing problem and I am currently dealing with Canon to fix it.  But from the few test, this lens is great, and I like it since it gives me what I want without IS.

I do like IS and I think Canon have the best stabilisation on the market, but it has a big disadvantage which gets ignored when comparing optical stabilisation against sensor shift, which is the quality/price ratio value. We have to look at the quality we are missing due to IS. If Canon have created a new non stabilised 70-200 2.8 costing the same as the 70-200 2.8 IS II, the lens would have been optically better than the IS version.

I am not saying that sensor shift is better than optical stabilisation, since this is subjective, but this is a disadvantage which has to be considered. Without IS, they could have created a slightly lower priced with slightly higher quality lens by using the advantage of the quality/price ratio.

revup67

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Re: Canon 400mm L 5.6 .. So what's changed in 19 years?
« Reply #12 on: July 06, 2011, 08:34:36 PM »
Hello Neuro (you wrote):  "The rep you spoke with was incorrect.  The 400mm f/5.6L USM is not a weather-sealed lens.  Sealed lenses are easily identified by the black rubber seal at the lens mount, and the 400/5.6 does not have one of them - therefore, not sealed. "

I wanted to inquire again and gain further specifics on this previous support statement and spoke with another Canon rep (Larry) who read out of the in house tech support lens catalog this lens only offers drip and dust proof sealing when attached to an EOS 1D and no other camera.  it is inherent and directly to a seal only found on the EOS 1D and no other.  Bummer.
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Rev
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Re: Canon 400mm L 5.6 .. So what's changed in 19 years?
« Reply #12 on: July 06, 2011, 08:34:36 PM »

dr croubie

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Re: Canon 400mm L 5.6 .. So what's changed in 19 years?
« Reply #13 on: July 06, 2011, 08:36:35 PM »
...and don't forget that sensor shift has problems with overheating, but we've heard that story before...

also, don't forget The Third Option, if only canon would make something like that.
but they won't, because then people would buy the 70-200 nonIS and the converter for less than the price of the 70-200IS (if it worked as good, that is). I'd even buy one for all my old MF primes, if it worked half as good as a canon IS, just for framing...
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neuroanatomist

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Re: Canon 400mm L 5.6 .. So what's changed in 19 years?
« Reply #14 on: July 06, 2011, 09:03:40 PM »
Hello Neuro (you wrote):  "The rep you spoke with was incorrect.  The 400mm f/5.6L USM is not a weather-sealed lens.  Sealed lenses are easily identified by the black rubber seal at the lens mount, and the 400/5.6 does not have one of them - therefore, not sealed. "

I wanted to inquire again and gain further specifics on this previous support statement and spoke with another Canon rep (Larry) who read out of the in house tech support lens catalog this lens only offers drip and dust proof sealing when attached to an EOS 1D and no other camera.  it is inherent and directly to a seal only found on the EOS 1D and no other.  Bummer.

Interesting...so, it's sealed only when used with a camera that was discontinued at the end of 2003.  Well, if true, that's certainly not very useful. 

I'm still not certain that's true - tech manuals are occasionally incorrect.  Statements like that have been used on many weather sealed lenses, becuase technically, only the 1-series bodies are truly sealed against dust and moisture. 

I still believe that the lens mount gasket is necessary for sealing - the mount surface on a 1D body (or any other body) does not have an exterior gasket.

I'll do a little more digging...
« Last Edit: July 06, 2011, 10:14:20 PM by neuroanatomist »
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Re: Canon 400mm L 5.6 .. So what's changed in 19 years?
« Reply #14 on: July 06, 2011, 09:03:40 PM »