Sample photos from Canon’s new ultralight supertele lenses: 400mm f/2.8L IS III & 600mm f/4L IS III


posted Wednesday, September 12, 2018 at 12:35 PM EDT

Canon 400mm f/2.8L IS III GalleryCanon 600mm f/4L IS III Gallery


Seemingly lost in the shuffle amid the late-night release of Canon's EOS R full-frame mirrorless system was the news that they've also updated two of their famed supertelephoto lenses: the 400mm f/2.8L IS and 600mm f/4L IS. The new third-gen EF 400mm f/2.8L IS III and EF 600mm f/4L IS III supertelephoto sports and wildlife lenses underwent both exterior/mechanical redesigns as well as optical re-workings to significantly reduce each lens' weight compared to their Mark II predecessors. Both lenses, though still relatively heavy compared to other long lenses (especially those for smaller-sensored cameras), are now quite comfortable to carry and shoot handheld. Yes, an optically stabilized, full-frame 600mm f/4 lens that you can use handheld -- and yes, we did use them handheld!

In fact, in the case of the 400mm f/2.8L IS III, its weight is reduced so much that it now reigns supreme as the lightest full-frame 400mm f/2.8 lens, besting Sony's recent FE 400mm f/2.8 GM lens. The Canon 400mm f/2.8L IS III tips the scales at just 6.26 lbs (2.84kg), which is about 2.2 lbs (approx. 1kg) lighter than its predecessor and indeed lighter than Sony's 6.38 lbs (2.9kg) FE 400mm f/2.8 lens. Similarly, the 600mm f/4L IS III weighs in at 6.72 lbs (3.05kg), which is approx. 1.92 lbs (870g) lighter than the Mark II 600mm lens.

After the EOS R announcement event in Hawaii, we had an opportunity to briefly see these two new telephoto lenses in-person next to their predecessors. It's shocking just how light these new versions really are. The 600mm f/4 III, especially, is impressively light consider the focal length and large aperture.

Handholding the 600mm f/4L IS III

We weren't able to shoot with the lenses during the Hawaii press trip, unfortunately. However, Canon circled back with us on the mainland, visited IRHQ and brought along shootable prototypes of these two lenses. So, naturally, I grabbed our Canon 5DS R camera and headed out to grab a quick handful of real-world sample photos. Please note that both lenses are pre-production models, so final image quality and overall performance might change once they are released. As such, we were only permitted to published full-size JPEG images; no RAWs, unfortunately.

Handholding the 400mm f/2.8L IS III

Below are a few sample photos and 100% crops for your pixel-peeping pleasure. For more photos, head over to the Canon 400mm f/2.8L IS III Gallery and Canon 600mm f/4L IS III Gallery pages. (All images were shot handheld with the 5DS R and using Fine Detail Picture Style.)

600mm f/4.5, 1/1600s, ISO 100, -0.3EV
100% crop from JPEG
100% crop from JPEG

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While macro photography isn't the 400/2.8's forte, the resolution of the 5DSR really help!
(400mm, f/3.2, 1/2000s, ISO 1000)
100% crop from JPEG

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Oh, just a shot of a leave with a 600mm lens??
(600mm, f/4, 1/2000s, ISO 125)
Surprise, spiders!
(100% crop from JPEG)

Regarding optical configurations of these two lenses, as with the predecessors, both the 400mm and 600mm lenses utilize a number of exotic lens elements to provide top-notch image quality, including two fluorite elements and one super UD element in both lenses. Both the 400mm and 600mm MkIII have a total of 17 elements situated into 13 groups, which is, oddly enough, one more lens element than in their predecessors, yet they weight less.

Lens barrel construction on both lenses have been redesigned to be lighter and thinner than the MkII models, yet they still retain the same level of durability, ruggedness and weather sealing as we've come to expect from Canon's flagship L-series supertele lenses. Although Canon wouldn't specify the exact composition of the barrel material used in the new lenses, they did say that one of the component materials is magnesium.

I wasn't expecting to be able to do this easily!

Both lenses are scheduled to begin shipping in December 2018, with the Canon 600mm f/4L IS III coming in at an estimated retail price of US$12,999, while the Canon 400mm f/2.8L IS III has an estimated retail price of US$11,999.

600mm f/4, 1/2000s, ISO 200
100% crop from JPEG

Canon 400mm f/2.8L IS III GalleryCanon 600mm f/4L IS III Gallery