Worth the Weight? The Skinny on the Two New Canon Super-telephoto Lenses « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Worth the Weight? The Skinny on the Two New Canon Super-telephoto Lenses

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This is the new Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II lens without the hood. It is 1 1/2 pounds lighter than the old 500 and promises to be one of the sharpest telephoto lenses ever produced when used both with and without the Series III teleconverters.

Worth the Weight? The Skinny on the Two New Canon Super-telephoto Lenses

This morning, February 7, 2011, Canon finally and officially announced the lightweight updated versions of both its 500mm and 600mm f/4L IS USM Series II professional super-telephoto lenses. Both are similar to the EF 300mm and EF 400mm f/2.8L IS II USM lenses that were released last August. The two new big guns feature completely new optical designs and water-repellant Fluorine coatings along with lighter weight construction. A new IS mode has been added that activates stabilization only during exposure. The lenses also offer optional long or short foot tripod mounts suitable for monopods or tripods and a smoother tripod collar rotation mechanism that should make it easier to rotate the lenses to vertical. (In the past, individual 500s and 600s often became quite sticky with age and some folks had problems right out of the box).

Here is the skinny on the weights:

The new 500 f/4L IS II weighs 7 pounds. This represents a weight reduction of 1.5 pounds from the 8.5 pound 500mm f/4 L IS.

The new 600 weighs only 8.8 pounds, down 3 full pounds from the weight of the 11.8 pound 600mm f/4 L IS lens.

The 800mm f/5.6L IS lens weighs 9.9 pounds.

The relatively new 800mm f/5.6 lens was the first to offer the amazingly revolutionary 4-stop Image Stabilization system. All four of the Series II super-telephoto lenses offer 4-stop IS.

The new 600 IS II offers far greater versatility than the 800mm and offers a longer effective focal length with functioning central sensor-only autofocus (1200mm with the 2X for the 600 IS II as compared to 1120mm with the 1.4X for the 800). In addition, the new 600 weighs 1.1 pounds less than the 800.

It should be mentioned at this time that the Series III teleconverters will offer improved AI Servo tracking accuracy only with the Series II Super-telephoto lenses. The micro-chips in the Series III TCs cannot communicate with the older super-telephoto lenses. Do note however that early reports indicate that the EF 2X Extender III is noticeably sharper than the EF 2X Extender II.

I will surely order one or both of the new lenses right off the bat….. If one, I have not decided which. Prices have not yet been announced 🙂

Here is the press release:

London, UK, 7th February 2011 – Canon today launches two new super-telephoto lenses for its leading EOS Digital SLR (DSLR) range – the EF 500mm F/4L IS II USM and the EF 600mm F/4L IS II USM. Designed to meet the needs of the most demanding sports and wildlife photographers, both lenses offer breakthrough performance, delivering consistently high-quality images and incredible mobility. The launch of the models follows a development announcement in August 2010, and the display of prototypes at Photokina 2010 in Cologne, Germany.

Launching into Canon’s professional L-series, the models replace the widely-respected EF 500mm F/4L IS USM and EF 600mm F/4L IS USM, and are designed to achieve unparalleled levels of image quality. Each includes the highest-quality optics and the latest Canon Image Stabilizer (IS) technology, while magnesium alloy constructions with titanium components make each lens significantly lighter and even more durable. Launching as the lightest lens in its class*1, the EF 600mm F/4L IS II USM benefits from an exceptional 27% reduction (1.4kg) in weight compared to its predecessor, while the EF 500mm F/4L IS II USM offers an impressive reduction of 17% (680g).

New levels of performance

Both lenses feature completely redesigned optics, with 16 elements in 12 groups. Canon has over 40 years of experience in the manufacturing of fluorite lens elements, and has utilized two high performance fluorite elements in these lenses– delivering high resolution, high contrast shots rich in detail across the frame.

Both lens’ optical elements feature Canon’s Super Spectra Coatings and a SubWavelength Structure Coating (SWC), optimized to effectively reduce ghosting and flare. A water-repellent fluorine coating is also used on the surface of the front and rear elements, repelling dust and dirt for clearer shots, and keeping the front element free of marks by ensuring water droplets run off the lens quickly.

Enhanced IS, precise AF

Both models feature Canon’s latest Image Stabilizer system, offering outstanding image quality during handheld shooting and allowing users to shoot at speeds up to four times slower than normally required. IS Mode 2 features new algorithms to improve performance when panning, and the new IS Mode 3 is also included, assisting users when switching between subjects by activating the IS unit only during exposure.

Both lenses offer a constant f/4 aperture, allowing photographers to achieve excellent image quality in low light and capture clear, sharp shots of fast-moving subjects. The wide aperture also allows users to creatively isolate their subjects from the background, with a nine-blade circular iris creating beautiful background blur that instantly adds atmosphere to an image.

Rapid, quiet Auto Focus (AF) is provided by a ring-type Ultrasonic Motor (USM). Photographers can also utilize full-time manual focusing functionality, which enables the fine-tuning of focus even when the AF system is activated, providing even greater control over image capture. Power Focus mode also assists users during video shooting, allowing the photographer to smoothly adjust focus during filming by twisting the focus recall ring.

Premium L-series design

Both lenses have been designed as part of Canon’s renowned elite L-series, combining exceptional-quality optics with stylish designs. Both also feature a revised layout, with carefully-positioned controls that improve everyday operation. The AF stop buttons are now location-adjustable, improving ergonomics by allowing users to custom-select the position of the lens grip where the AF stop buttons are located.

Mechanical improvements include optional long or short foot tripod mounts suitable for monopods or tripods. An improved tripod collar rotational mechanism provides a smoother movement when turning the lens from portrait to landscape orientation, and a Kensington-type wire security lock has also been included, keeping the lenses secure during location-based shoots. The robust design is also weatherproof, making both lenses suitable for use in extreme conditions when paired with a weatherproof EOS body.

*1 According to Canon market research conducted in December 2010.

8 comments to Worth the Weight? The Skinny on the Two New Canon Super-telephoto Lenses

  • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

    Gordon, That is a good tip in a pinch, but the stability provided by a round piece of foam pipe pales in comparison to the stability offered by the BLUBB with its large flat surface.

  • A quick tip for car window shooting and not having your normal support. Foam pipe insulation, 3 pieces, 3 feet long, $3-4, do a good job, you can keep a one foot section in your camera travel bag, so you always have something soft to lay your lens on. You may not be able to buy them in So. FL though.

  • Mark

    … any read on how the weight reduction of the 600 will enable the use of smaller/ligher tripod head and/or legs? Since the lens matches the current 500 in weight, is it a good assumption that the current support systems adequate for the 500, will be the new standard for the new 600?

    • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      The 3530 LS will still be the way to go except for the real tall folks…. We have them in stock.

  • Bill Richardson

    The 4 stop IS and promised CA improvement are the main reasons I will get one. I hope you do a comparison of the new to old TCs when you can. I don’t know whether it is worthwhile upgrading them.

  • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

    Yup. Don’t hold your breath on May or June (that based on past performance…)

  • Bill Stubbs

    All sorts of good news! Looks like your guess on the weight(s) was pretty accurate. I’ll definitely order the 600, and a 500 that light is pretty tempting as well. I do have to admit I’m skeptical about those May and June projected availability dates (as posted on BPN).

  • Jeff Dyck

    Artie – the Canon press release does list “approximate retail prices” – $9.5K for the 500mm and $12K for the 600mm. Ouch.