Canon launches powerful 200-400mm f/4 lens with built-in 1.4x extender


posted Tuesday, May 14, 2013 at 11:07 AM EDT

Canon shooters: Would you like a constant-aperture, L-series zoom lens that can see clean into next week* for your full-frame or cropped Canon digital SLR? If so, you may find a new model announced today by the company rather interesting -- but the price tag will likely keep it out of your hands unless you're a pro or a very deep-pocketed enthusiasts. (If you're among the latter, you can get your preorder it now, though!)

The Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Extender 1.4x is unusual in that it includes a built-in 1.4x teleconverter, allowing it to double as a 280-560mm f/5.6 zoom. When mounted on an APS-C camera, 35mm-equivalent focal lengths are 320-640mm without the teleconverter, and flicking a switch places the extender into the optical path, yielding a focal length range of 448-896mm.

The Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Extender 1.4x lens is unusual in including a built-in, switch-activated 1.4x teleconverter.

First previewed in prototype form at the CP+ tradeshow in Japan over two years ago, the new optic is also compatible with either the Extender EF 1.4X III or Extender EF 2X III, for even more reach. With the Extender 1.4X III mounted, you've effectively created a 392-784mm f/7.8 zoom, while the Extender 2X III takes you out to a 560-1,120mm f/11.2 zoom -- so you're trading away your maximum aperture in a big way, but you're getting a very far-reaching optic in exchange for that tradeoff. Of course, with so small a maximum aperture when teleconverters are stacked like this, you can only autofocus with EOS-1 series cameras and the EOS 5D Mark III running current firmware, and even then only when using the 1.4x external teleconverter. With the Extender EF 2X III attached, autofocus is simply not possible if the lens' own internal teleconverter is active.

The Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Extender 1.4x ordinarily has an optical formula consisting of 25 elements in 20 groups, and adding the built-in extender into the optical path raises this to 33 elements and 24 groups. There's a nine-bladed aperture diaphragm which can stop down to f/32 (effectively f/45 with the extender active). Closest focusing distance is two meters, and maximum magnification is 0.15x (or 0.21x with the extender active).

Add an external teleconverter into the mix, and the EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Extender 1.4x can reach out to extreme focal lengths -- but you'll likely find autofocus unavailable or functionally limited.

Canon's image stabilization system is said to be good for a four-stop correction, and autofocus is catered with a ring-type ultrasonic motor. The new optic is both dust and moisture-resistant, and weighs 3,620 grams. Dimensions are 366mm in length with a 128mm diameter. The lens accepts 52mm drop-in filters.

US-market pricing for the Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Extender 1.4x is set at US$11,800 or thereabouts, and the lens ships from May 2013. If you'd like to get your hands on this optic as soon as possible, we recommend getting in queue as soon as possible. Imaging Resource affiliate Adorama is already listing the lens for preorder, and will also sell an official hard case for the lens priced at US$700 or thereabouts (making it a no-brainer to protect your investment, we'd say.)

* (Note: lens may not actually be able to see the future -- but it will reach further than any other current first-party zoom for Canon EF mount.) ;-)