10 out of 10 points and recommendedCompact and beautiful image qualitynone
I live in the Yellowstone area and this is my "normal" lens. Used on a Canon 20D at ISO 100 - 400 depending on light, the image quality is sublime.reviewed November 2nd, 2005 (purchased for $1,069)
The images are tack sharp with great color rendition and pleasing bokeh. I almost always use F5.6 and have never seen a trace of softness in any image that wasn't related to motion.
I don't try to handhold this lens although I frequently rest it on the car window or fender with great results.
The built in lens hood us another great plus. Very functional and convenient. This lens is built tough to last.
10 out of 10 points and recommendedAmazing versatility and image qualitylens hood
I live a few miles from Yellowstone and have unbelievable opportunity to photograph large mammals. My primary lens has been the 400 f5.6L which I consider to be excellent. My problem with it has been that I frequently have too much lens as I am able to get quite close to wildlife. (The bighorn sheep will sometimes stick their heads into the car window to see whats going on durinhg the winter months when they become quite habituated to automobiles.reviewed December 9th, 2005 (purchased for $1,300)
I have read many reviews of this lens with the common theme being that it is not very sharp and the push pull method of changing focal length is flawed. A few weeks ago I had the chance to borrow a friends 100-400 at a captive raptor shoot at a local bird rehab center. He is a full time pro, and uses his lens extensivly and sells the images throough a stock agency. He was very surprised when I mentioned the many reviews blasting the image quality. I used his lens and my 400 prime on the same bird at the same time and later reviewed the images and printed many examples.
The image quality is superb. While the lens is listed at 400mm top end it is actually more like 370 in comparison to the 400. The images are tack sharp off a tripod with the IS off. Many images were shot later from a car window (using my own recently purchased copy) using IS and the image quality is superb. I did some experimentation and found that on a tripod with the ball head locked tight and the IS on the images were blurry. This should come as no surprise since the owners manual and the Canon website both state this fact.
I don't know where the poor reviews come from. I have had nothing but excellent images from all my Canon L lenses when I did my job as a photographer. IS is no substitute for technique, and I find it hard to believe that some people expect to be able to handhold a lens this large and always get acceptable results.
I believe this may be the most useful lens Canon makes for wildlife photography. I wish that I had purchased this lens years ago.
10 out of 10 points and recommendedNear Perfect Image qualityPrice and weight
I made the mistake of saying OK when a friend said for me to hook up to his 500 and shoot a few frames of a Pine Martin when we were in Yellowstone this January. When I saw the results I knew that I would have to have my own.reviewed March 28th, 2006 (purchased for $5,400)
Yes, it is expensive and heavy. But if you are serious about wildlife photography, and shoot dangerous or shy or small animals (birds, bears,or other predators) there is no finer all around lens. I own a 400 f5.6L and a 100-400 LIS and have used the 600f4Lis. All of these are fine lenses capable of producing professional quality images, but the quality of the 500 is definitly superior to the 400's, and the lens is much lighter and easier to deploy than the 600.
I continue to be amazed by the image quality, and the IS is head and shoulders above that on the 100-400. When I review images I almost never have to cull an image for being soft. I am not a proponent of handholding a telephoto, but have gotten great images with this lens in a few cases when I didn't have time to mount to the tripod, although it is too heavy to handhold for more that a few shots. It is very usable with teleconvertors. I use the 1.4 frequently, and while the images suffer slightly, they are still excellent. With the 2X you can reach out and get the shot that you could otherwise not get with good results, especially if you stop down a stop or two.
The only real negative to this lens is the cost. If you can't afford the 500, the 400 f5.6L image quality is very close at a fraction of the price.