Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II vs Canon EF 800mm f/5.6L IS: And the Winner Is!

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This Brandt’s Cormorant flight shot was created by Patrick Sparkman with the hand held Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM lens, the Canon 2x EF Extender III (Teleconverter), and the Canon EOS-1D X Digital SLR Camera (Body Only) w/FREE Bonus Item – $446.45 Value! [expires soon]!. ISO 1600. Evaluative metering +1/3 stop: 1/4000 sec. at f/8.

Central sensor (by necessity) Expand/AI Servo/Rear Focus AF active at the moment of exposure. Click here if you missed the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to see a larger, sharper version.

Image courtesy of and copyright 2013: Patrick Sparkman. Note the image quality of this 1D X image at ISO 1600.

Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II vs Canon EF 800mm f/5.6L IS

I announced in the blog post here that I would soon be selling my beloved 800mm f/5.6L IS lens. Many were astounded that I would be going from the 800 down to the 600. Melissa Groo commented, “600mm plus full frame? Can’t wait to hear your explanation.”

First we need to consider that on page 6 of “The Art f Bird Photography II” (ABP II: 916 pages on CD only) I wrote, “… it is routine for me to use either the 500 or 600mm IS lenses with the 2X II teleconverter and produce razor-sharp images consistently at shutter speeds of 1/60 sec. and—at times—with shutter speeds even slower than that.” And that was before Series III TCs and before 4-stop Image Stabilization.

Reach

With the above in mind, let’s take a look at the maximum effective focal length of the two lens with a professional digital camera body.

800mm f/5.6 with the 1.4XIII TC (at f/8): 1120mm.
600mm f/4L IS II with the 2XIII TC (at f/8): 1200mm.

By a small margin, the edge when considering reach goes to the 600II. In effect, competent photographers actually have a longer lens when they are using the 600II than when they are using the 800. Note: 1200mm is longer than 1120mm :)

Advantage: 600II.

Do realize that when using a 1.6 crop factor camera like the EOS-7D that the edge again goes to the 600II as follows: 840mm (at f/5.6 with the 1.4X III TC) is greater than 800mm (at f/5.6).

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This American Kestrel flight shot was created by Arash Harzeghi with the hand held Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM lens,
the Canon 1.4x EF Extender III (Teleconverter), and the Canon EOS-1D X Digital SLR Camera (Body Only) w/FREE Bonus Item – $446.45 Value! [expires soon]!. ISO 640. Evaluative metering +1/3 stop: 1/3200 sec. at f/5.6.

Central sensor Expand/AI Servo/Shutter Button AF active at the moment of exposure. Click here if you missed the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Image courtesy of and copyright 2013: Arash Harzeghi.

Weight

800mm f/5.6: 9.86 lbs or 4.47 kgs.
600mm f/4L IS II: 8.65 lbs or 3.92 kgs.

By a healthy margin, the edge when considering weight goes to the 600II. For the younger and the stronger among us (like Patrick and Arash!), hand holding the 600II for an entire photography session is a reality. At 66, I have trouble hand holding the 500II for an extended time. I could easily hand hold the 600II in a pinch for a few minutes. One thing that I have forgotten to mention is that the weight of the 600II (and the 500 and 400II lenses as well) is concentrated towards the rear of the lens. This makes these lenses seem even lighter than they are.

Advantage: 600II.

lens weight/lbs wt./kgs mfd/feet mfd/m magnif filter year
Canon EF 600mm f/4.0 L IS II 8.65 lbs 3.92 kg 14.77 ft 4.5 m 0.15x 52mm
drop-in
2012
Canon EF 800mm f/5.6 L IS 9.86 lbs 4.47 kg 19.68 ft 6 m 0.12x 52mm
drop-in
2008

Canon Telephoto Lens Specs Chart

The info above is excerpted from the comprehensive chart here. All are advised to bookmark the page.

Versatility

800mm f/5.6: with a pro body you have two focal lengths to choose from: 800 and 1120. With a 1.6 crop factor camera you have access to only one focal length: 800mm.
600mm f/4L IS II: with a pro body, you have three focal lengths to choose from: 600mm, 840mm, and 1200mm. With a 1.6 crop factor camera you have access to two focal lengths: 600mm and 840mm.

Add to the above the fact that with either a pro body or a 1.6 crop factor body you can often be too close at places like Gatorland and the St. Augustine Alligator Farm where you simply cannot move away from your subject.

By a huge margin, the edge when considering versatility goes to the 600II.

Advantage: 600II.

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This Brandt’s Cormorant head portrait was created by Patrick, Sparkman with the Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM lens, the Canon 2x EF Extender III (Teleconverter), and the Canon EOS-1D X Digital SLR Camera (Body Only) w/FREE Bonus Item – $446.45 Value! [expires soon]!. ISO 800. Evaluative metering +1/3 stop: 1/1000 sec. at f/8.

Central sensor (by necessity) Expand/AI Servo/Rear Focus AF active at the moment of exposure. Click here if you missed the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Image courtesy of and copyright 2013: Patrick Sparkman.

Close Focus and Magnification

Do note that close focus and magnification are very closely intertwined.

800mm f/5.6: the minimum focusing distance of the 800 is 19.68 feet (or 6 meters) which yields a magnification of only .12X.

600mm f/4L IS II: the minimum focusing distance of the 600II is a very impressive 14.77 feet (or 4.5 meters) which yields a magnification of .15X.

Again by a huge margin, the edge when considering close focus and magnification goes to the 600II. In fact, the 600II blows the 800 out of the water in this category. When working with birds at close range the 600II will enable you to make images with the subject taking up a well larger portion of the frame.

Advantage: 600II.

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This unsharpened test image is courtesy of and copyright 2013: Patrick Sparkman. Clicking to enlarge is recommended.

Sharpness

Thanks to Patrick Sparkman for sharing his composite comparative sharpness test above. The results above are unsharpened. Both Patrick and I agreed on our analysis of the results. As expected sharpness at the edge of the frame with all combos is less than in the middle of the frame. Unexpected was that the 600II alone was perceptibly sharper than the 800 alone, that the 600II with the 1.4X TC was sharper than 800 alone, and that the 600II with the 2X III was at least as sharp as the 800 alone. Considering that the 800 is the sharpest long lens that either of us have ever used the sharpness of the 600II with and without TCs is astounding.

By a large margin, the edge when considering sharpness goes to the 600II. Again, the 600II blows the 800 out of the water in this category.

Advantage: 600II.

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This sharpened test image is courtesy of and copyright 2013: Patrick Sparkman. Clicking to enlarge is recommended.

Reality Check

At this point some folks might be thinking that the 800mm f/5.6L IS is a real pile of junk. But just a glance at the sharpened test results reveals the that 800 with and without the 1.4X III TC is fully capable of creating sharp images like those you have been seeing on the blog and in Bulletins for the past few years. The 600II is just that much sharper….

Price New

Right now, you can purchase a new Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM lens from B&H for $12,799.00 (in your shopping cart). Please note: the listed price is reduced only after you put the item in your cart.

And you can purchase the Canon EF 800mm f/5.6L IS lens for $13,249.00 (in your shopping cart). Please note: the listed price is reduced only after you put the item in your cart.

Here the lower price of the 600II is easily quantified: $450.

Advantage: 600II.

Price Used

Right now finding a used 600II would be akin to finding a needle in a thousand haystacks. Heck, it is nearly impossible to find a new one to buy. It is very likely that more and more used 800s will come onto the market. Right now they are going for about $11,000 in excellent condition, about $9,500 in good to very good condition.

For folks who would like to move into the true super-telephoto arena while saving several thousands dollars the 800mm f/5.6L IS lens is a more than viable option.

Large Advantage: 800.

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This White-tailed Kite take-off image was created by Arash Harzeghi with the hand held Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM lens,
the Canon 1.4x EF Extender III (Teleconverter), and the Canon EOS-1D X Digital SLR Camera (Body Only) w/FREE Bonus Item – $446.45 Value! [expires soon]!. ISO 1600. Evaluative metering +1/3 stop as framed: 1/2500 sec. at f/5.6.

Central sensor Expand/AI Servo/Shutter Button AF active at the moment of exposure. Click here if you missed the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Image courtesy of and copyright 2013: Arash Harzeghi.

Patrick and Arash

Thanks a stack to both Patrick Sparkman and Arash Harzeghi for allowing me to use their great images here. As an aside, I am pretty sure that Arash, with his great concern for extremely sharp fine detail, would rarely if ever use the 2X III TC with his 600II while Patrick often reaches for his 2X. I will be in Patrick’s camp on the 2X.

To see a spectacular larger version of Arash’s White-tailed Kite image, click here. The sharpness and image quality at ISO 1600 border on the unbelievable. That’s why I wrote the DPP (Digital Photo Professional) RAW Conversion Guide with Arash’s help. Consider also Arash’s Professional Guide to Noise Reduction.

Conclusions

And the Winner Is!

As the 600mm f/4L IS II is lighter, sharper, less expensive, more versatile, and, surprise, effectively longer than the 800mm f/5.6 L IS, it is, for folks for whom cost is not an issue, clearly the best choice. As stated above, a used 800 is a viable option for folks with budgetary constraints. I guess that the only folks who will be buying new 800s are those who have their heads stuck in the sand with regards to using the 1.4X III and the 2X III teleconverters.

As for me, I am eagerly awaiting the arrival of my new 600II.

Coming ASAP

Within a week or two I hope to be addressing 500II vs 600II considerations.

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Typos

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111 comments to Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II vs Canon EF 800mm f/5.6L IS: And the Winner Is!

  • avatar Ben

    I read thru your article and do not fully agree to your comment and findings. It’s sounds more like your are trying to make your new purchase with no regrets. Personally I have tested both the 600mm ll and 800mm. I believe both have their strong point and weaknesses . The 600mm with 1.4x tv still could not produce the sharpness of the 800mm. From the start of your article, you sounds very eager to say “My new 600mm is the best in the world!!
    Anyway with a weight of 500g difference and completely different specification between the 2, you claim the winner is the 600mm ….??

  • avatar Tareq Alhamrani

    So, what is the winner after all?

    Do you have that free user’s guide for 1DX?

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Tareq,

      Here is what I wrote above:

      As the 600mm f/4L IS II is lighter, sharper, less expensive, more versatile, and, surprise, effectively longer than the 800mm f/5.6 L IS, it is, for folks for whom cost is not an issue, clearly the best choice. As stated above, a used 800 is a viable option for folks with budgetary constraints.

      Though there is no mention above of a free 1D X Autofocus Guide, folks can earn one by purchasing a 1D X or any super-telephoto lens using our B&H or Amazon links–web orders only, and sending us their receipts via e-mail.

      • avatar Tareq Alhamrani

        Well, i was thinking about 600II more than 800 as well, i know that 800 is longer and more reach, but it is heavier and i don’t think it is so practical over 600, but you are the birding master and you know which lens is more suitable, price is not an issue because both are expensive and i only buy brand new, hope one day.

        So you didn’t make that 1DX AF Guide? I thought you did for different Canon cameras, you are lucky to have many cameras to do it, but for now my best choice camera is 1DX, i still have 1D MarkIII but i prefer using 1DX over 1D3 for many reasons even for birding which i never did yet with 1DX.

        • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

          Hi Again Tareq, As above, I pretty much agree with you. The possible 1D X User’s Guide exists only in my mind so far. Too, too busy :).

          The 1D X is a Lamborghini to the 1D III’s soap box derby car…. In other words, there is no comparison at all when it comes to AF.

          • avatar Tareq Alhamrani

            Well, i will try if i can get 600II from someone to test it and make my own AF Guide, and if it work great then i can share, but honestly speaking, you don’t need one, 1DX is a remarkable phenomenal camera, more than 1 year i use it for sports [soccer] and it never let me down, AF is way better, sharpness is noticeable with same lens i use on 1D III, so you are right that it is a Lamborghini to the 1D III’s soap box derby car.

            I didn’t read the whole replies here or maybe i forgot if i read it, but can you tell me again how much lose of AF speed and IQ when you use that Canon 2X III TC? i don’t think it will help much for my version 1 lenses, but sure it will shine more with version II lenses [ i have only 70-200 version II].

            Hi Tareq, Please do not take this personally, but as far as your question about AF speed and IQ, I suggest that you make your own 1D X AF guide and then answer your own question. artie

            ps: folks who have used my 1D X rave about it and nobody but me has info on my Custom case for photographing birds in flight. Maybe when you are done writing your 1D X guide you can send me a free copy.

  • Artie, I wonder if the trouble some folks are having creating sharp images with TCs is a result of their not having micro adjusted their lens, TC, camera setups.

  • Hello,

    Been reading this thread with fascination, as I’m really quite torn. I’m purchasing a 70D body going from Olympus, selling my current lenses and bodies. I’m torn between a used 800mm lens, or the 600 which I’d like to use with a 1.4 teleconverter. That would also get me slight closer. But would this work with the center focus point on the 7 or 70D in autofocus? I can get a good price on an 800mm used, and I really want sharp birds, especially in flight. Is it worth shelling out even more for the 600? Or will the 800 give me some very nice sharp images. Thanks for any help here.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      The 800 is a great lens and is great for flight. There is a great used 800mm for sale in the last Bulletin by my friend Monte Brown. I am pretty sure that you will not get AF at f/8 with the 7D, virtually positive and though I know nothing about the 70D but suspect that you will not get AF at f/8. Why not sell one of them and use one of our links to purchase a 5D MIII? I’d be glad to send you a free Mark III User’s Guide if you use our B&H link for a 5D III and send us your receipt via e-mail :). artie

      ps: If you do go for a 600 II please use our link as well :). Same goes for used stuff: start your search with our generic link and type “used whatever.” Thanks for considering these requests.

      • Thank you for the feedback, I love your work and hope to get to that level one day. At this time, I’m leaning towards purchasing a 70D or 7D, and an 800 without a tele, which should I think serve me well. I’m a Catholic priest, and while that means no kids college fund, wife fund, or house payment, I still need to be prudent with how I spend my money. I’ll be curious how this set-up will compare to my current one, the Olympus E5 and EM1 with a 300 2.8 and 2x tele; an EFL of 1200mm, but the lens with the tele is a bit of a dog, and horrible for birds in flight. I am going to get a used 800mm. Thanks again! – Paul

        • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

          Digital makes it easy for folks who study and practice to make great images in no time at all. The 800/70D will be great for flight. Did you find the used one that I mentioned for sale?

          • I did indeed find it for sale, and typically I’d jump on it as it’s a better price than I’m paying. However as it’s so steep, I have to charge it so am going through a retailer using 0% APR for a year on a used version. If I had the cash on hand though I’d certainly buy it up. Thanks for your help on this, looking forward to the transition.

            Related, someone suggested the Sigmonster 300-800 for my Olympus (discontinued but available still on Amazon – one has been there for a year new). I instead opted to change systems. Any experience with the 300-800? Was a bit leery.

            Several things. There was a great used 800mm on Amazon. Did you search there using our affiliate link? You can just click on one of our Amazon or B&H logo links, type in “Used Canon 800mm f/5.6L IS lens,” and hit search…

            Everyone loves learning from the blog. The best way to thank me is to get in the habit of using our links regularly for both large and small purchases. I spend a lot of time helping folks out by answering questions both here and in e-mails in addition to the 20-30+ hours I spend on preparing the blog posts and Bulletins. Using our links does not cost you one cent more and helps me out tremendously. That’s why we ask :).

            As for the Sigmonster I would stay far away from it at any price; it is huge, heavy, has no IS, and many folks report that they cannot make sharp images with it. artie

          • Hi Artie,
            Thanks again. I’m now more at peace not going with the Sigma 300-800. I did see that price on Amazon, but am going through another retailer where I can get a similar price for it, and to whom I’m selling my gear for trade-in.

            In your opinion, how important is the tripod? I have a Manfroto I had been using that was about $120; I’m also picking up a Wemberley head; I had a cheap nock-off from India that was actually pretty good (thecinecity) but the knob broke.

            I’ll be curious how the autofocus on the 800 is compared to my Olympus set-up. I feel like I was left in the dust by Olympus as I had been a four-thirds owner; with the adaptor for micro-four thirds, the autofocus for tracking birds is pretty worthless, which is why I’m moving over to Canon.

    • avatar David Policansky

      Hi, Paul. The 600 f/4L plus 1.4 TC gives you an effective aperture of f/5.6, so the 7D and the 70D would AF with that, as they would with the 800 f/5.6L. They won’t AF through the lens at f/8 with a Canon lens and won’t AF well even with a non-Canon lens that lies to the camera. AF in live view works at f/8 or even smaller with both cameras, better and faster with the 70D, but still way too slow for flight.

      David

      • Hi David,

        That’s what I thought. I’ll be using the 800 with no tele, though I’m sure that both the 600 with the 1.4 or the 800 with no tele are in about the same range. I’m just sure a few extra grand is worth it for me for the 600, though it’s something to think about. But when you add on extras like the weberley head, the extra battery, and the other lenses I’m purchasing it gets expensive quick. I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to get some nice, crisp images of both perched birds and birds in flight using a 7/70D and 800.

        I forgot the podcast, but when I asked the host about teleconverters, he said there’s only one man I know who can use them perfectly, Art Morris, so don’t use them. I have for 4 years and my shots are OK, and my sense is they would work just fine on the 600 lens.

        Thanks for the feedback.
        Take care,
        Paul

        • avatar David Policansky

          Paul: As you know, Artie seems to make any lens or TC/lens combination look incredibly good. I find his photographs, blogs, and books inspirational, but I don’t expect to consistently–ever?–get images as good as his. He has produced many spectacular images with the 800 f/5.6L lens. But yes, I also think you’d do fine with the 600/1.4X TC combo. Good luck and have fun whatever you decide.

        • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

          Tell the host that he is dead wrong. Anyone can make super-sharp images with the 1.4X TC and many of my students routinely make sharp images with the 2X TC. Tell him thanks though :) artie

  • avatar Alberto

    I live in Italy

  • avatar Alberto

    Hi Arthur, I finally received the new canon ef 600mm II, it is really impressive, with the 2xIII teleconverter is simply incredible, I cannot believe how much sharpen it is.
    Thanks again for your precious support and help leading me to this important choice,
    take care,
    Alby!

  • avatar Munzir

    I wonder Arthur, how an image can be sharper than this …. you took it with 800mm + 1.4x … will be a miracle if 600mm II +2x III can ever close to it :)

    http://www.birdsasart.com/359%20pelican%201.jpg

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      The 600 II with the 2X III is, in the right hands, as sharp as the 800/1.4X III combo :)

      • avatar Munzir

        Thanks Arthur for your reply, all i want to know shedding extra 2.5k USD is well worth against a used canon 800mm IS which is currently in market for 8.8k to 9.5kUSD, vs 600mm IS II at price tag of used cond. 11.5kUSD + 1.4xIII which is 400USD?

        The IQ justifies spending extra 2.5k money?

        Thanks
        Munzir

  • Two weeks ago I had the occasion to shot with the Canon 600/4 II. This lens is spectacular. I was amazes to get usable pictures even with two stacked teleconverters.

    sample (croped):
    http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=3215316477810&set=a.2249959384486.61316.1713293315&type=1&theater
    Canon 1D mark III + Canon EF 600mm F/4 IS II + Canon 2x III + Kenko Pro 1.4x;
    manual focus, handheld from trembling small boat, 1/500s, F16, 1680mm (2184mm echiv);

    Also the weight is …WoW, and the stabilization system is working very good
    bravo Canon!

  • avatar Alberto

    I live in Italy, that’s the reason of my bad English!

  • avatar Alberto

    Sorry, I was talking about “see my comments on Arash in the original post” …..
    Anyway, this last consideration will help me in my decision to maybe upgrade from 500 IS to 600 II or 800, obviously when I talk about sharpness I talk about on tripod tests or at least not handhold test, to reduce the variation due to the photographer.
    I will look for some on field image for comparison between the two lenses,
    my consirations now are that 600 is more versatile than 800 but with it my 500 has to go, 800 could be added to my 500 to complete my gear …

    many thanks for now Arthur!

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      YAW. Cut and pasted from the Patrick and Arash section:

      Thanks a stack to both Patrick Sparkman and Arash Harzeghi for allowing me to use their great images here. As an aside, I am pretty sure that Arash, with his great concern for extremely sharp fine detail, would rarely if ever use the 2X III TC with his 600II while Patrick often reaches for his 2X. I will be in Patrick’s camp on the 2X.

      There are lots of images made with the 600 II alone and with both the 1.4X III and the 2X III tcs.

      Where do you live?

  • avatar Alberto

    Thanks Arthur,
    Can you maybe help me finding the discussion? And what about on field consideration about 800 bare vs 600 II + 1,4 III ? Thanks, Alberto

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      I am confused. What discussion? I was referring to Patrick’s test images above…. 800 bare and 600 with the 1.4X is about equal. artie ps: results will vary in part due to the skill of the operator :)

  • avatar Alberto

    Hi, here, a few lines above. …. Bye thanks
    Alberto

    Sharpness

    Thanks to Patrick Sparkman for sharing his composite comparative sharpness test above. The results above are unsharpened. Both Patrick and I agreed on our analysis of the results. As expected sharpness at the edge of the frame with all combos is less than in the middle of the frame. Unexpected was that the 600II alone was perceptibly sharper than the 800 alone, that the 600II with the 1.4X TC was sharper than 800 alone, and that the 600II with the 2X III was at least as sharp as the 800 alone. Considering that the 800 is the sharpest long lens that either of us have ever used the sharpness of the 600II with and without TCs is astounding.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Hi Alberto, Those comments were based on Patrick’s tests. You can check those out yourself. Now that I have the lens I can say that it is very sharp with the 2X III TC but that fine feather detail is nowhere near as good as with the 800 bare or even the 800 with the 1.4X III. See my comments on Arash in the original post….

  • avatar Alberto

    Hi, how can be possibile that 600 II + 1,4x or 2x is sharper than 800 bare? Have you maybe got any on field shot to compare real performances? Thanks, Alberto

  • avatar Petrus

    Hi Artie,
    Somewhere higher up in this chain I finally found “almost” the answer to the balance question. For a few years I have trued to hand hold the 800 mm, but as all the weight seemed to be in the front, I had to give up. So I swapped the 800 for a new 500/4LII, which I love and find almost possible to hand hold. Now I have started to think about the new 600, but nowhere before I found the weight/balance info. I think it would a good idea for the manufacturer to issue some info in thieir spec’s in this regard.
    Thank you Artie for an inspiring Blog,
    Micha

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      If you have trouble hand holding the 500II the 600II would be a problem despite its light weight. Again, hand holding for flight and action is a lot easier than hand holding for static subjects while standing….

      I’ll pass your suggestion along but do not hold your breath. :) As for the blog, you are most welcome. artie

  • avatar Charles Scheffold

    I’m definitely acquiring the 600 II before Galapagos, but I don’t think I’ll be giving up my 800 any time soon. That’s not to say I won’t change my mind after owning both for a while. I really have to see how the 600II + 1.4 performs for BIF. I find the 800 + 5D3 to be a most killer combination at the moment.

  • Have you ever visited any of the Canon headquarters here in the states or abroad? Maybe see where a Canon lens or body are manufactured? Doug

  • avatar Troy

    I bought and tried a 600 II on my 7D. There seems to be issues with that combination both bare and with a 1.4tc…
    Massive random front and back focussing both in single shot AF and Servo. I returned the lens after doing extensive tests against my 500 IS mk1.
    Unfortunately i’ve only seen comments about the combo online that report exactly the same issues i had and NO positive ones (have seen positive about the 500 II + 7D though).

    I’m not sure where to go from here as i wanted to upgrade my old 500 for the new 600 :(

  • avatar Carl Zanoni

    MA means micro adjustment. sorry for not spelling it out.

  • avatar Bill Richardson

    Could not agree more. I love my new600 and it is sharp even with the new 2x. The prints look almost 3D. And no CA!!!!!

  • avatar Carl Zanoni

    excellent review & camparison, Artie. could you comment on MAs for the
    bare lenses & for the lenses with the 1.4x III & 2x III extenders when used
    with your 1DX. Thanks, Carl

  • avatar David Policansky

    Artie: Do extenders change the minimum focus distance (MFD)? I think not, although I don’t understand why. But if they don’t, another advantage for the 600 f/4 over the 800 f/5.6 is that with a 1.4X extender, you get 840 mm f/5.6 with a MFD of 14.77 feet instead of the 800 f/5.6′s 19.68 feet.

  • Well Artie, I knew from the title of this thread that 600II is gonna be the winner as you already mentioned the focal length advantage at f/8 in one of your earlier posts. However, what I didn’t know, as I ran down, was that it would beat the biggest gun in every department.

    BTW, I don’t understand why it’s that difficult to find new products in your place while it’s easier to get it in this part of the world (Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand)! May be because geographically we are closer to Japan (lol).

    Finally little disappointing part of the long telephoto glasses is; nothing new is coming up for enthusiasts like me.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Disappointment is a choice. I am thrilled at a chance to own and use the best long super-telephoto lens ever created :).

    • avatar David Policansky

      I am curious about your disappointment. We have a whole bunch of new Canon telephoto lenses since 2010, such as 300 f/2.8L ISII, 400 f/2.8L IS II, 500 f/4L IS II, 600 f/4L ISII. And the 800 f/5.6L IS is only 4-5 years old. What were you expecting or hoping for? (I’d like a 500 f/5.6L; maybe I could afford and handhold it.)

      • Perhaps you missed my first comment on this topic. There I said “Finally little disappointing part of the long telephoto glasses is; nothing new is coming up for enthusiasts like me.”

        The catch word is “enthusiast”. Enthusiast telephotos are: EF 400mm f/5.6L USM, EF 100-400mm f/4-5.6L IS USM, EF 300mm f/4L IS USM. All of these cost less than US$ 1,500/- and are pretty old. There’s no update of any of these glasses.

        Thanks.

        • avatar Tareq Alhamrani

          Yes, i agree here with you, Canon maybe thinking about pro shooters mostly or more nowadays, with bodies they produced for all levels but with big lenses and long telephotos?!!! they are all very expensive and many old ones are not update yet, i will hold my old 300 2.8L IS until i can afford one of those long glasses over 400mm in the future.

          I was going to get 400 5.6L and use it with 1.4x, but without IS and at f8 i am not sure i will keep this lens for long time, i have 100-400 which may be more versatile than 400 alone, so i better save for glasses longer than 400mm.

          • However, any update of these glasses is rather dreaded. These days whenever a “II” appears in the name of an updated glass; the price also becomes II (double). Don’t u think so looking at the newly released “II” lenses?

            BTW, EF 400mm f/5.6L is a wonderful glass with excellent IQ that I use regularly for wildlife shots. It’s arguably the best glass for BIF shots considering hand holdability. In addition, it’s also convenient to have either EF 200mm f/2.8L II USM or EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM in your telephoto arsenal for closeup shots. All these are good prosumer/enthusiast glasses.

            Rgds.

        • avatar Jim Kranick

          I agree with your comment on “enthusiast” lenses. I took a look at Davids list on B&H this morning and came up with the following numbers: $7,249, $11,499, $10,499, $12,999 and $13,999. Prices like that require a bit of thought before making a purchase.

          • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

            Canon already offers infinitely more intermediate telephoto lenses then Nikon. And most of them are great: 70-300, 70-200 f/2.8L IS II, 28-300, the old 300 f/4L IS, and lots more.

        • avatar David Policansky

          You said you were disappointed at the lack of new “long telephoto glass.” That says 400mm and up to me. No matter. And I did notice the word “enthusiast.” I figured it meant people willing to spend more than I am. :) Again, no matter. As I said, I’d like to see a 500 f/5.6L, but I’m not holding my breath! I also agree with you that new versions will cost a lot more. And I think this has been an interesting exchange, so thanks to all, and again to Artie for starting this very popular blog post.

  • avatar Bill Eaton

    Very interesting Artie.I was surprised that the 600 bare was noticeably sharper to the eye than the 800 bare.
    Both Arash’s Kestrel and White Tailed Kite are wonderful,a testament to both the photographer and the lens.
    See you in Tampa.

  • All makes sense, Artie. With the IQ, IS and weight improvements on the 600…combined with the new TCs, that rig looks like an outright winner now.

    For many years, folks used to say ‘a bare longer lens is always better( IQ and AF) than shorter-lens-with-tc’. But now, with the latest refreshes( on the 300f2.8, 500f4, 600f4, 70-200f2.8), that does not seem to be the case…or at the least the difference is so negligible that the advantages of the shorter lens outweighs the longer one.

    I am afraid the 800 might become too niche( and small volume) a product to survive in the long run.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Hey KD. I suggested quite some time ago that the 600II might make the 800 obsolete…. But I do think that it will be around for quite some time. Not everyone reads the BAA Blog:)

  • avatar mark

    Artie, excuse me for not being the sharpest tool in the shed, perhaps even a few plates short of a picnic, but why did you not mention the 800 with a 2x tc? Haven’t you used that combination many times? If not, my apologies for thinking you had. If you have, then aren’t you leaving out 1600mm focal length with the 2x? And even longer with a crop?

    That aside, you are not only a master photographer, you are a master explainer and make your case well. Kind of remind me of Perry Mason giving his closing argument while Hamilton Burger squirmed in his seat.
    mark

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Mark,You do not have function AF with the 800/2X C combination. It is possible to focus using contrast on the sensor while working in Live View but it is slow and cumbersome at best.

      Thanks for your kind words. Perry :).

  • Greetings, Artie: Would love to see the comparison between the new 600 and the prior version. I love my 600 f4L IS – never considered going further. I realize that technology keeps moving forward, and some refinement is inevitable, but for 99% of us, the difference is most likely unrecognizable. Regards – Ron

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Short and sweet: much heavier, no 4-Stop IS, not nearly as sharp. Greater MFD. AF not as fast to acquire.

      Not to be a wise-ass but if 3.18 pounds is “most likely unrecognizable” you must be a very strong man….

      That said, the old 600 f/4L IS is, in the right hands, more than capable of making great photographs.

  • avatar Bobby Perkins

    Hiya Artie, was thinkin what Dan Steiffert already mentioned and saw that corrected. I was also curious as far as the “too much cut & pasting”, With Arash being primarily a BIF photographer does he use back button focusing for flight? Or is that a cut & paste whoops? Great post too! Look forward to more with your new 600.

  • I went down the second-hand 800mm route, and to quote a Florida-based bird photographer, I am loving it!

  • Love the Brandt’s Cormorant head shot. I don’t think I’ve ever been able to get that close to one, even with just binoculars or scope.

    The question I don’t think you addressed was length of the 600 vs. 800 and also packability. A friend suggested to me that I might really prefer the 500 to the 600 simply because the 500 was easier to carry-on (+ cheaper and lighter too of course).

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Not too difficult in San Diego. The 600 is shorter; this makes it easier to travel with and use in a vehicle.

      I did mention this: “Within a week or two I hope to be addressing 500II vs 600II considerations.” But yes, the 600II is not for everyone.

  • Hi Artie

    I look forward to your 500II vs. 600II considerations. Later this year I will be in a position where I can just about afford the 600II which I will use with a 7D, although I am also pondering whether to go for the 500II and 5D mkIII, or the 500II and save the rest for a 1D X, your opinions will be invaluable to me.

    You said Arash doesn’t use a 2x extender because of his great concern for extremely sharp fine detail but I also get the impression that it would slow auto focus down to an unsatisfactory level for his type of photography.

    Thanks for a great blog

    Nick

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Hey Nick, Please remember to use our affiliate link when you are ready to buy. 1D X is too good….

      I have trouble with flight with the 500/2X but Patrick seems to do just fine with it…. Prefocusing is key. So definitely not unsatisfactory–just slower and difficult.

      • What I meant Artie is it would be unsatisfactory for Arash to use a 2x extender as he likes taking photos of birds flying at the speed of a bullet which most of us mere mortals wouldn’t attempt!

        I have used a 2x extender with my 300mm f2.8 to photograph Boobies recently with some success but they are a completely different kettle of fish to what Arash normally photographs.

        I am UK based and have sometimes thought of buying from the USA but not sure how the cost would work out once import duty etc has been paid, not sure about the warrenty either.

  • avatar Ron May

    Thanks Art, now I am even happier with my 600mm f/4L IS II.

  • avatar Graham Hedrick

    Hi Art, thanks for this really cool article. All I can say is, who would have thought this was true! What I really loved was the part about the 600mm giving us three focal lengths. – Graham Hedrick

  • Artie,
    Under the photo of the American Kestrel, you indicated that using the 600mm f/4 lens with the 1.4 multiplier requires use of the central focusing sensor. This does not sound correct to me as the older 500mm f/4 with a 1.4 multiplier can focus with any of the sensors with my Canon 7D.
    Please clarify for me.
    Thanks,
    Dan

  • avatar Tareq Alhamrani

    I am not good in reading long articles, i will read it later when i have enough time, English is not my language, so i may not understand some points here, but i was trying to save my time and asked that question, you don’t want to answer direct?

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Here is what it says at the end:

      “As the 600mm f/4L IS II is lighter, sharper, less expensive, more versatile, and, surprise, effectively longer than the 800mm f/5.6 L IS, it is, for folks for whom cost is not an issue, clearly the best choice.”

      • avatar Tareq Alhamrani

        Ah cool, thank you very much!

        It will save me $450 or more in the future, i will keep watching this blog of yours, inspiring!

        Thank you very much for the review and tests and the answer, keep up your art.

  • avatar Jim Kranick

    Interesting. From the “Coming ASAP” note you still have the 500 II. Wondering if it will be replaced by the 300 II + TCs? Or can you pack all three for a trip?

    Thanks.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Will wind up with the 300, 500, and 600IIs…. Most air travel will be with the 300II, either the 5II or the 6II, the 70-200II, and the 24-105.

  • Arthur…

    Just a little fun…hope you don’t mind. If you do, I’ll understand
    completely if you remove this…

    http://www.thebirdphotographer.com/Birds/id/i-9Fq7rnT/0/XL/penguin_cartoon%20panel-XL.jpg

    Doug

  • avatar David Policansky

    Thanks, Artie. The main argument seems to depend on the capability of these lenses with the extenders. Now that I’ve experienced how good the 300 f/2.8L IS II is with even the series II 2X extender, thanks to you, I buy the argument. Of course, seeing your images is pretty convincing too! I’m hoping you’ll have good news for those of us who have serious budgetary constraints about the 500 f/4 versus the 600 f/4. In the meantime, I still love my toy lens (400 f/5.6L).

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      As I said, folks that avoid using TCs just because are really missing the boat… If you have serious budget constraints then neither the 500II or the 600II is in your future….

  • avatar Tareq Alhamrani

    And the winner is???

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