Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS USM

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500mm $4,429
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Buy the Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS USM
(From Canon lens literature) Next-generation super telephoto L-series lens with an Image Stabilizer, it's one of the world's best lenses for wildlife and nature photography. The optical system is newly designed with a maximum aperture of f/4. One fluorite element and two UD-glass elements effectively correct aberrations resulting in sharp and excellent delineation.

Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS USM

Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS USM User Reviews

10.0/10 average of 10 review(s) Build Quality 9.9/10 Image Quality 10.0/10
  • 10 out of 10 points and recommended by martinbrasg (1 reviews)
    One of the sharpest prime lenses I've used
    Heavy as heck. Needs a good support

    I am a wildlife and bird photographer from South Africa. I have been using the Canon 100-400 Mark ii lens with a 1.4x Mark iii extender on my 5D MKiv for ages. This was a great combo until I borrowed a friend's 500. WOW! Was I gobsmacked. There is definitely a huge difference from zoom to prime lenses.

    I was now hooked, but being semi retired, I just could not afford a new 500 L ii lens. So I started hunting for a good, clean used one. And lo and behold I found just that. An elderly lady had one in mint condition. She told me she has to let it go as it is just too heavy for her to lift any more. Was I in luck.

    This lens looks like it has only been used on a Sunday to go to the shops and back. Not a mark anywhere and the case is mint.
    Unfortunately with COVID 19 Lockdown, I have not been able to put it through its paces, but I have managed to get some incredible shots of the birds in my garden. I have found a winner here. Now can't wait to get back into the African bush.

    reviewed June 20th, 2020 (purchased for $2,000)
  • 10 out of 10 points and recommended by JamiePoc (1 reviews)
    Image quality Image stabilizers ids fantastic. Focus very fast Colours are very good.
    People stare and smile a lot at you when walking around with it.

    I have owned this lens for 2 months now, I upgraded from a 500mm 4.5L which I had owned for many years and really loved. Last Christmas I managed to destroy the 500mm 4.5L by having it fall from a bench onto a concrete floor putting a 2cm circler chip on the inside of the lens with many bits of glass floating around inside, I suddenly had a very expensive rattle, yep.. happy Christmas to me.
    Thinking OK I can live with this, I dug out my 70-200mm 2.8L IS and a EF1.4x and when out for a walk, got home, looked through the images on my PC and at that moment decided to sell everything I dont use including the 70-200mm to raise funds to get another 500mm.
    It took me 4 weeks to raise the funds, many trips to the post office posting things and a lot of Ebay fees but I finally got the money together and bought a used EF 500mm F4 L IS in absolute mint condition, not a mark anywhere on it, looking this up it turned out to be one of the very last EF 500mm F4 L IS produced.

    To the lens.
    I have two EOS bodies, an old Canon EOS Kiss x4 / 550D and a 5DS.
    First Thoughts
    The first day out with the lens on my 5DS I visited a local field where I often walk my two dogs and from the very first capture I was stunned just how much sharper and how improved the colours were over the 4.5L,
    I quickly discovered that handheld I could set the shutter speed to 100 @ F4 with IS enabled and get great sharp images, this was technically possible at 4.5 with my old lens but it would have been supported on my knee or a fence post plus I would really have to concentrate on holding the rig steady, not with F4 I just panned across the field following the dogs and got a number of incredibly sharp images, I mean retina detail sharp and on moving subjects, I must say I was very happy.

    I dont find the weight a problem at all, I know some do. I dont own a tripod; I don't care for them and find them cumbersome, they make for a lot of missed shots. I handhold this everywhere, A few weeks back I spent 7 hours out with the lens which included a 4 hour hike without any problem and I am 44 and 5ft 7

    I had a new lens so I thought I would purchase the latest EF MKIII 1.4X to go with it. I am picky about detail in my images when it comes to bird photography, I hate noise, to me a good wildlife image foundation must start by being pin sharp. I dont know if its my extender but with it attached I would estimate a 20% loss in image quality, my MKI extender is even worse by a few %. First I thought it might be me or micro adjustment was needed but after a few hours of tweaking settings, micro adjustments and many test images I concluded I get cleaner images and more detail with the 500mm standalone and cropped than I do with the 1.4 attached and not cropped. I must admit I was disappointed with the extenders performance on this lens; could I have two bad 1.4Xs?.

    If you want the ultimate image quality, more portability and dont need the reach of the 500mm I would recommend you get the Canon EF300mm f/2.8L IS II USM, I have used it and its just incredible image quality however the 500mm F/4 comes in a close second. If like me you photograph wildlife then the 300mm would defiantly be too short, even with extenders you find the image quality drops below that of the 500mm so I would recommend the 500mm to anyone shooting wildlife and wants a lens you can walk about with.

    reviewed March 30th, 2020 (purchased for $2,400)
  • 10 out of 10 points and recommended by macman (4 reviews)
    Image quality, image quality, image quality!
    Weight, but then I suppose that is to be expected.

    I had always dreamed of owning a big white one day, well that day came and what a lens it turned out to be. Fantastic image quality, even with the 1.4 converter it produces stunning images.
    I have printed out A4 sized prints which were cropped from the original somewhat and they are truly stunning.
    It needs a good support, so a decent tripod and gimbal head or a big beanbag.

    reviewed November 27th, 2010 (purchased for $7,500)
  • 10 out of 10 points and recommended by SaSi (1 reviews)
    Reach/weight is best, Sharp, versatile
    No way you go unnoticed

    There is only one thing wrong with this lens. You cannot go unnoticed. Especially if you mount the lens hood. Thank goodness, contrast and flare control are excellent even without the hood.

    I was decided to get a 300/2.8 as a means to get to 600mm for birds, small animals and sports. A used 500/4 in mint condition came my way and I grabbed it for ~$1,000 than it normally goes used in such condition.

    The lens is barely usable handheld. I have made day trips with it and made several shots handheld but was finding myself reaching for support most of the time.

    The lens excells with a monopod. Even a lightweight one like the Manfrotto 676B is fine.

    It takes the Canon 1.4x very well. Only some loss of contrast in some occasions, that could very well be caused by me not using the hood all the time.

    It also takes the Kenko 2xTC extremely well. AF is not lost on a 350D/XT and AF speed is not any worse than with the bare lens. I need to stack two 2xTCs to reach a level when image is so-so.

    IS works fine with the lens and although rated at only 2 stops (compared with 4 in the newest lenses) it does it's job well, especially on a tripod.

    Build quality (both of the lens and the carry case) are beyond criticism. It is a solid lens that will take good pictures and won't fail you. Again, only issue is how well you react on comments from bystanders, especially in public places. Best thing to do with this lens is take a walk in the woods.

    reviewed November 27th, 2007 (purchased for $3,500)
  • 10 out of 10 points and recommended by jcmueller (1 reviews)
    Sharp, fast focus, weather seals
    cost , focus - see comment

    Mainly shoot youth sports with a Canon Mark II. Always shoot off mono-pod, will occasionally pickup mono-pod and shoot handheld. Why pick the 500mm? Both the 400 f2.8 and 600mm f4 cost and weigh much more than the 500mm. The 500 gives a little more reach than the 400, not quite as far as the 600. For outdoor sports (soccer, baseball, softball) this gives great isolation of the player. If you shoot all day (7am to 5pm) the extra couple of pounds will make a difference by the end of the day. For low light (Friday night football) have a 300mm f2.8, for indoor (volleyball, basketball, hockey) the 300 is more versatile than the 400
    In low light, ISO >1250 shutter <250 at F4, can detect slower focusing compared to the 300 f.28 even using just the center focus point. A low battery will also slow focusing down.
    Superlatives are needed to describe the picture quality, regularly make sharp detailed 13”x19” prints. Have used the 1.4 extender with good results. Example: Girls softball shooting from the outside the fence (250 ft?) towards home, frames the batter, catcher and umpire.
    Horror Story. The weather seals do work. Camera was on, and had slid to the back of a small power boat. Imagine my concern as another boat approached ours and I watched a WAVE come over the side of our boat onto my camera.
    Highly recommended.

    reviewed November 21st, 2006
  • 10 out of 10 points and recommended by Mlr8081 (3 reviews)
    Near Perfect Image quality
    Price 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.

    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.

    reviewed March 28th, 2006 (purchased for $5,400)
  • 10 out of 10 points and recommended by twereliu (5 reviews)
    Sharp, Fast, Furious
    Bring a Crane

    The 300 prime is sharper, barely, but this thing is just awesome.

    Dont think your are goind to walk around with it and not notice though, the 400 is even heavier or course, but it's BIG.

    Fantastic lens, ultra sharp, as good as the 600 and you can double to 1000 and still get phenomenal results.

    I have rented 6 times and would buy it if I didnt have other bills to pay.

    reviewed December 30th, 2005
  • 10 out of 10 points and recommended by steube59 (1 reviews)
    If you need both reach and speed, this is your best bet!
    None, if you're a Pro or Un-Married.

    When matched up with Canon's EOS 1DMkII it is fantastic! Effective 650mm reach and both the AF / IS gives 1st class performance. Used with a Wimberley gimbal-head and you have total control for active mammals or birds in flight. I used to lift weights (a lot) so I wouldn’t disqualify the heavier 600mm f/4 L IS just on weight, but the 500mm is obviously shorter, easier to handle, and I’d swear superior optics. My only complaint is despondent look in my friend’s eyes when I say NO, about lending it.

    reviewed November 1st, 2005 (purchased for $5,200)
  • 10 out of 10 points and recommended by niclasfoto (1 reviews)
    sharpness, fast AF, work well eith EF1,4x..
    Weight, cost??

    I bought this lens about four years ago and I still love it...

    The pivtures almost nails you in the eye, straight from the camera...

    Works well for many motives, birds, landscape, flowers, animal,, you name it!

    Wiht the 1,4x converter you have a VERY versible lesconfig..

    No problem to log around when trevelling. Yes if you compare wiht shorter lenses these are bulky but if you need a lens of this calibre you need it. No more to say about that.

    I dont know how many hours the IS has been active, no problem so far..

    I have had the EF 300 2,8L in my possesion and I miss the feeling in the focusing ring. I also miss the "three gear modes" for the focusing.. None of the new IS:lenses have this nice funktion!!!!!

    Bought in Sweden..

    Recommend it more than any other lens I have owned.

    reviewed October 25th, 2005
  • 10 out of 10 points and recommended by ChrisH (1 reviews)
    Simply one of the best performers in telephoto you can get. Bullet proof AF, Sharpness, IS, Build quality
    none really

    Ok I bought this lens 3 months ago and I I used it for lot's of stuff now. ( Sports, animals, landscape)

    I love this lens. Yes it's Pricy and heavy, but that's kind of normal for this big telephoto.

    I can also say that it performces very well with the Canon 1.4 Converter.

    It's a fantastic lens and I can only recomend it.

    reviewed October 20th, 2005 (purchased for $5,000)