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Home » Camera Lens Reviews » Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Extender 1.4x Review

Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Extender 1.4x Review

Looking to find more information regarding the Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Extender 1.4x? Read our latest review to learn more about the Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Extender 1.4x, its specifications, and if it’s a good camera lens for you. 

Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Extender 1.4x Overview

At the time, the only Canon zoom lens in the telephoto range was the Canon EF 100-400 f/4.5 -5.6 L IS, a solid if an unspectacular lens with an out-of-date design. On the other hand, and much to Canon users’ envy, Nikon had provided its clients something entirely various in 2003 when they released the Nikon 200-400mm f/4G VR, a professional-quality consistent aperture super-telephoto zoom lens. While Nikon’s 200-400mm had its faults (namely lack of sharpness when photographing far-off topics), it was the perfect lens to handle an African Safari or to a sports game. With fast autofocus, a consistent aperture, and great sharpness all packaged into a zoom lens, the Nikon lens was perfect for circumstances that needed adaptability and the ability to change focal lengths, while still preserving high image quality.

Nikon’s monopoly on professional-grade super-telephoto zooms would fortunately alter in 2011 when Canon announced the advancement of its own 200-400mm f/4 lens which was also going to be the first telephoto lens of its kind to utilize an integrated teleconverter. The statement was consulted with terrific excitement amongst Canon shooters, as it would finally give them a lens they long had on their wishlist. When it was finally released in 2013, the Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Extender 1.4 x ticked all the right boxes in its specifications, as it should have with its large price of $11,799.

Given that its release, the EF 200-400mm f/4L 1.4 x has actually ended up being a staple of Canon’s telephoto lineup and Nikon’s recent announcement of their own Nikkor 180-400 f/4E FL VR with an internal teleconverter is probably the best evidence that the lens had been a smashing success with specialists and hobbyists alike.

Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Extender 1.4x Specifications

Below is a summary of this lenses specifications:

Indicative Price: $11800Zoom Type: Ring
Release Date: 05/14/2013Mount Type: Canon EF
Focal Range: 200-400mmTripod Mount: Yes
Aperture: F/ 4Colors Available: White
Filter Diameter (millimeters): 52Full-Time Manual Focus: Yes
Maximum Diameter (millimeters): 128Number Of Lenses: 25
AF Motor: USMLength (millimeters): 366
Stabilization: YesWeight (grams): 3620

Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Extender 1.4x Performance

Below are some of the measures we take into consideration when we reviewed this camera lens:

Build Quality and Handling

As part of Canons top of the line L series telephoto lenses, the EF 200-400mm f/4 1.4 x build quality is immaculate. One location of issue I had was whether the extender lever area of the lens would be sealed well enough to prevent water and dirt from getting in the lens through the relatively penetrable region of the lever. My issues were laid to rest after utilizing the lens numerous times in the rain and snow and never ever as soon as did it seem as if any extraneous material was getting in the lens through the location.

When installed on a tripod (as the majority of individuals utilizing this rather heavy lens will do) the location of the zoom ring is not a problem. For those that like hand-holding their telephoto lenses as I do, the balance point of the lens ends up being extremely important.

Over time, I have learned that the finest method to handholding the Canon 200-400 is to place the lens between the left thumb and with the middle finger simply behind the zoom ring which frees up the index finger to change the zoom. This approach works rather well with practice and by now I can do it rather easily, however the fact stays that the lens’ zoom is much easier to use when the lens is supported by a tripod.

After using the lens more, I have actually come to an option where while the left arm is cradling the lens I can move the switch with my best hand all the while keeping my eye in the viewfinder and hence making the procedure of engaging the teleconverter while handholding much quicker. I think that with their new 180-400mm f/4 lens, Nikon had this concern in mind when they put the lever on the right-hand side of the lens.

As usual with a top-end Canon lens, you can fine-tune the focus manually at any time when using autofocus. Power Focus is created to give smooth, controlled focus pulls during film shooting. Listed below this is the focus distance limiter switch. The place of the limiter switch is another problem that will arise if you want to handhold the lens and the subject you are photographing is changing its distance from you from close to far or the other way around which creates a need for changing the limiter switch. Due to the fact that the switch is located so near to the mount, it is not possible to change it without decreasing the camera to hang off the strap, permitting it to rest on your body and freeing your left hand to make the necessary change.

This mode is relatively new to Canon lenses and is specifically helpful for photographing unpredictable action since unlike in Mode 1 which can make for a tense viewfinder due to the consistent activity of the stabilizer, in Mode 3 the stabilizer only starts at the point of exposure. Below that is the focus pre-programmed function set. This set enables you to set a specific focus point of interest.

The tripod collar is an important component of the lens and can not be removed. While the feet are fine and well made, I personally prefer to replace the Canon provided ones with a third-party lens foot that has an integrated dovetail built-in, allowing for a much lower profile.

The lens comes provided with the ET -120 (WII) lens hood. The hood is well made from what seems to be carbon fiber, with rubber edging on the front, anti-reflective gathering within, and the brand-new style Canon locking knob that protrudes a little less on the side. The hood connects securely with the threaded locking knob (though after duplicated use the knob seems to tighten up a bit excessive for my liking) and provides excellent security for the front aspect. 

Overall, the Canon EF 200-400mm f/4 1.4 x handles well and is a beautifully crafted lens. When installed, the lens is extremely easy and intuitive to use. When hand-holding, the complicated nature of a lens of this kind emerges and some adjustments and compromises need to be made to make it work.

That said, I do not see too many individuals continuously handholding this lens as I do, and because of this, I believe that there is really little to grumble about.

Focus Performance and Accuracy

As a professional wildlife photographer, autofocus is among the most crucial things that I search for in a lens/camera mix. These days even one of the most standard lenses have quite a decent focusing performance, particularly in excellent light, but where the top of the line lenses actually come into their own (together with the better camera bodies) is in being able to focus precisely under tough conditions.

Conditions such as low light, fast-moving topics, and complicated backgrounds require lenses that take advantage of the video cameras tracking abilities and this is where top-tier lenses such as the EF 200-400mm f/4 1.4 x entered into their own. An essential aspect to consider when evaluating a lens’s focusing capability is that the camera body plays an integral function in the quality of the autofocus and because of this, it is essential to match your lenses with premium bodies that can provide good focusing performance. As I have stated formerly, the brunt of my experience with the EF 200-400mm f/4 1.4 x is on the Canon 1Dx body, an extremely capable camera, particularly in low light and when it pertains to tracking moving topics.

Prime lenses, especially telephoto primes are usually much faster to focus than telephoto zooms due to having far less moving parts inside the lens therefore when I first received the EF 200-400mm f/4 1.4 x I wasn’t anticipating it to focus nearly as good as it does. On my very first day with the lens I took it out to shoot some regional migratory birds here in Philadelphia and I was actually caught off guard by how stylish the focus seemed. Similarly pleasing was how well the lens locked onto the inbound ducks and geese. Since that day I was able to test it on all manner of fast-moving wildlife species and in challenging lighting conditions and my impression is that the focus speed feels on par with Canons top of line f/4 aperture primes like their EF 500mm f/4 IS II. It is a touch slower than my Canon 300mm f/2.8 IS (primarily in low light situations) and quickly as good as my Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 IS II except for very low light situations.

The focusing accuracy is also remarkable and I was blown away by how good it was able to keep an eye on moving topics. Paired with the Canon 1DX, the EF 200-400mm f/4 has no problem keeping up with fast-moving birds in flight which is something I have actually found to always be an obstacle with even the best zoom lenses. Another positive note is that I have had a better struck rate (variety of successive frames in good focus from a series) with the EF 200-400mm f/4 than my older 300mm f/2.8, something that I wasn’t expecting.

This might be due to Canon’s more recent lenses working better with the more recent camera bodies due to the more advanced electronic communication between the lens and the electronic cameras. For instance, the EF 300mm f/2.8 IS II has a definite benefit over the EF 300mm f/2.8 IS in focus tracking consistency and so I think that Canon’s newer lenses are much better able to utilize the camera’s focus tracking. Unedited original 100% crop With the internal extender engaged, autofocus is still precise and reasonably quick, specifically in direct light. In such situations, you will see an extremely little drop-off from the bare lens. When photographing moving topics, the ratio of critically sharp images dropped vs the bare lens, but it is not substantial.

When the background is hectic or in low light, the lens was more likely to drop focus lock with the extender engaged. In general, the EF 200-400mm f/4 stays a great focusing lens even when the internal extender is engaged. Here is a series with the teleconverter of a Black Tailed Shoulder Kite that shows the lenses ability to track even with an extender: Canon EOS-1D X @ 412mm, ISO 2000, 1/4000, f/7.1 Canon EOS-1D X @ 412mm, ISO 2000, 1/4000, f/7.1 Canon EOS-1D X @ 412mm, ISO 2000, 1/4000, f/7.1 What about the focusing capabilities of the EF 200-400mm f/4 1.4 x with both the internal extender engaged and an external 1.4 teleconverter? This choice is only available for those using Canon’s advanced bodies, such as the 1Dx, 1Dx Mark II, 5D Mark IV. Surprisingly, this combination is quite good, particularly considered that now the maximum aperture is f/8. When utilized in conjunction with the focus limiter, this combination can track sluggish moving topics and stays a solid option for when the light is good.

Optical Quality

All these features wouldn’t be of much usage if the EF 200-400mm f/4 1.4 x wasn’t able to produce very sharp images and the good news is this is where this lens truly shines. Just as essential, it is extremely sharp even wide-open at f/4 and so there’s no need to stop down the lens for extra sharpness when shooting.

Hard to see the name when you see the complete unedited photo below but looking at a 100% crop shows that the name can be read quite quickly which highlights the level of detail that the lens can draw out from a scene. Do remember that this is with an 18-megapixel body that has an AA filter (albeit a rather weak one) and so the level of detail is limited by the camera sensor rather than the lens itself. Canon EOS-1D X @ 400mm, ISO 6400, 1/800, f/4.0 Unedited original Canon EOS-1D X @ 400mm, ISO 6400, 1/800, f/4.0 100% Crop With the internal extender engaged, the image quality takes a minor dip, mostly in the type of somewhat lower contrast and lower refinement in the textures of detailed areas.

When an external extender is utilized together with the internal one the lens’s sharpness takes quite a nosedive. Thankfully, the lens’s starting point is so great that even with both extenders the image quality is still extremely usable, specifically so when you are close to the topic. The sharpness enhances when the lens is stopped down from f/8 to f/11 but even at f/8 the sharpness is really rather good with still subjects.

The EF 200-400mm f/4 1.4 x features Canon’s best lens stabilization system which is ranked at 4 stops and it doesn’t dissatisfy. I have found the vibration reduction system of the lens to be excellent and it has actually enabled me to take some portable shots that shutter speeds that are far below what I would usually go for with the older generation telephoto lenses which only had 2 stops of stabilization. There are 3 stabilization settings to be found on the EF 200-400mm f/4 1.4 x. Mode 1 is for fixed topics and it does a sensational task of both lowering vibrations in the viewfinder in addition to the actual image itself.

This is my go-to mode when I am handholding because it makes it a lot easier to frame and keep track of your subject due to the fact that even when I am doing my best to be still as I handhold the lens, there is little hope that I will develop into a tripod anytime soon. Mode 2 IS is used for panning with a subject. In this mode, just 1 axis of stabilization is provided– allowing a linearly-moving subject to be tracked. Lastly, there is Mode 3 which was created to offer stabilization for fast-action photography. The manner in which it works is that the stabilizer only switches on when the shutter is launched therefore the image in the viewfinder isn’t stabilized, hence permitting you to track fast-moving action. I discover this mode extremely helpful for quick action and I use it when I am photographing birds in flight.

Overall, the image stabilization system on the lens is exceptional and makes an already flexible lens that much more flexible.

Bokeh

The Canon EF 200-400mm f/4 1.4 x displays a really pleasing bokeh. It’s certainly not as smooth as the EF 300mm f/2.8 IS, but I discover it less nervous than my EF 70-200mm f/2.8 IS II and better than most telephoto zooms I have used prior to. With a maximum aperture of f/4, this lens can blur backgrounds very successfully, even from a distance and when the extender is engaged you have the ability to attain a really pleasing separation of your subject.

The lens displays some vignetting around the edges of the frame, specifically so at 400mm at f/4. 

Ghosting and Flare

The EF 200-400mm f/4 1.4 x isn’t really susceptible to ghosting and flare and I have actually often taken pictures where I anticipated to see some type of flare but when I evaluated the images no flare was to be found.

Naturally, the flare will approach in particular situations and is dependent on the angle of the sun, but, I would rank the lens’s flare resistance as very good. As always, ensure to keep the lens hood on the lens to avoid light from straight reaching the front element of the lens.

Chromatic Aberration

Modern lenses have actually become significantly proficient at alleviating chromatic aberration and the EF 200-400mm f/4 1.4 x is no different. When utilizing the lens without any extenders I have actually seen little to no chromatic aberration, even when shooting high contrast circumstances with strong highlights transitions. Adding the internal teleconverter includes a really narrow strip of magenta to high contrast images. This is only seen in really specific situations and even then, it is just when you zoom into the image well above 200%. With 2 teleconverters utilized in combination, there is an apparent boost in chromatic aberration with tips of magenta and cyan turning up in high contrast locations however it is still very appropriate.

Lens Comparisons

Honestly, there aren’t really any other lenses in Canons lineup that can genuinely be compared to the EF 200-400mm f/4L. It just does things that no other lens in Canons lineup can do. The EF 100-400mm f/4.5 -5.6 IS II has very high image quality though it isn’t rather on the same level as the EF 200-400mm f/4.

In the 100-400mm’s favor, it is much lighter and much easier to deal with for handholding purposes and has a price tag that is a fraction of its larger cousin. I believe that while these two lenses cover a similar variety they are meant for various purposes.

At the time, the only Canon zoom lens in the telephoto variety was the Canon EF 100-400 f/4.5 -5.6 L IS, a strong if an unimpressive lens with an out-of-date design. With fast autofocus, a constant aperture, and great sharpness all packaged into a zoom lens, the Nikon lens was perfect for scenarios that needed flexibility and the ability to alter focal lengths, while still keeping high image quality.

Nikon’s monopoly on professional-grade super-telephoto zooms would luckily alter in 2011 when Canon announced the development of its own 200-400mm f/4 lens which was likewise going to be the first telephoto lens of its kind to make use of a built-in teleconverter. As always, make sure to keep the lens hood on the lens to prevent light from directly reaching the front component of the lens.