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      02-23-2015, 02:40 PM   #1
dcstep
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Canon 500mm f/4.0 L IS II - A short review

I finally replaced my Canon EF 500mm f/4.0L IS USM with the Series II version of the lens. I'd borrowed one from Canon Professional Services back in 2012, but I used it mostly with a 1D X body that I'd also borrowed from CPS. I knew right off that I had to have the 1.5-lbs weight savings and the improved IS that allowed me to hand hold a 1000mm moon shot at 1/40-sec.

What I didn't see in those images was a major improvement in image quality compared to my Series I version. Maybe it was because I was using an unfamiliar body. When I received my Series II version, I'd been using my Series I lens for between 10,000 and 20,000 shots on my Canon 7D MkII body. I thought that my results had been very good, but the Contrast and Colors from the Series II noticeably POPPED when I made the switch. I simply had not thought that much improvement was possible.

I shoot mainly hand-held birds and wildlife, so the stunning IQ of the 500/f4 II combined with the small pixel-pitch of the 7D2 is giving me eye popping fur and feather details. Contrast and color are perfect and it doesn't seem to matter what aperture that I use. (I used to notice a significant improvement going to f/8.0 with my Series I, but now it doesn't seem to matter at all, other than DOF changes). People using bodies with full-frame sensors may want to consider the 600mm II.

AF is fast and accurate. I mostly use single-point AF with AI Servo mode engaged. I occasionally turn on the single-point expanded mode, but find all the modes with more AF points inaccurate. Those modes increase the odds of focusing on a wing or the tail, instead of the eye and are totally unusable if there's a contrasty background.

I paid $8,530, including shipping and all fees, from Camera Canada, which I highly recommend. B&H, which I use a lot, was showing $9,499 when I ordered and paid via PayPal. CC charged me the exact exchange rate, with no monkey business, trying to screw me slightly with a less favorable exchange rate. I ordered on Monday and received my lens by Friday.

It is expensive. Used Series I lenses still sell for $5,500, so they tend to hold their value. You could by a complete 7D2/Tammy 150-600mm kit for the price difference and have money left over. There is a learning curve to shooting these big lenses, so I really wouldn't recommend one to a noob, unless money is simply no concern. Whether buying new or used, you can think of these super-telephoto lenses as investments.

Dave
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      02-23-2015, 02:44 PM   #2
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Damn $8,500 for a lens? Only if you're a serious photographer I guess.
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      03-16-2015, 11:42 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BMW F22 View Post
Damn $8,500 for a lens? Only if you're a serious photographer I guess.
I suppose you can always rent them for a few days if you don't see yourself using it regularly...
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      03-16-2015, 04:17 PM   #4
dcstep
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Originally Posted by P1et View Post
I suppose you can always rent them for a few days if you don't see yourself using it regularly...
It's not an easy lens to use, so renting is tough, unless you've got a mentor or someone that can fast-track you onto learning the lens.
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      03-18-2015, 03:42 PM   #5
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Oh, I should have shown an example. Here's a 30% crop (I consider it 30% because I cropped out and threw away 30% of the original file):

Bald Eagle Gives Us "The Eye" by dcstep, on Flickr
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      04-27-2015, 11:22 AM   #6
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A short follow-up is in order, now that I've shot with the lens for almost 3-months.

Not only do I notice an improvement in my image quality compared to the 500/v1, but others are commenting that I "did something." My processing is unchanged, so it's all in the lens. I still believe, "It's the photographer, not the equipment", but when you eventually need to break through a ceiling, this piece of equipment will move your forward.

I can casually pop off hand held, 60% crops of the moon that stand up to really close inspection, like this:

Waxing Gibbous Moon (Explored) by dcstep, on Flickr
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      05-10-2015, 10:49 PM   #7
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Glad to see another wildlife shooter. I use Nikon but have always be tempted by canon. The ii telephotos are very nice, but I just can't give up nikons sensor technology.


Nice eagle shot btw
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      05-11-2015, 08:47 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by matthewo View Post
Glad to see another wildlife shooter. I use Nikon but have always be tempted by canon. The ii telephotos are very nice, but I just can't give up nikons sensor technology.


Nice eagle shot btw
Thanks Matt.

Hopefully Nikon will provide you guys with a new generation of super-tele lenses soon, so that you can enjoy the weight reduction, IQ improvement and stabilization potential that is now possible. I have to think that they're working hard on this.

I think that lens sharpness and AF speed and accuracy trump DR any day when shooting wildlife, especially if you Expose To The Right. With DxO's ability to push and pull shadows and highlights, I feel no DR constraint. Still, I respect the Nikon (and Sony) shooters.

Dave
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