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Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM Lens
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- EF Mount; telephoto lens
- Ultra-low Dispersion glass with Fluorite elements; inner focusing ring; full-time manual focus; image stabilizer
- Micro UltraSonic Motor (USM)
- 500mm Focal length
- f/4 Maximum aperture
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From the Manufacturer
Super Telephoto Lens
Worthy successor to the lauded Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS USM, the new EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM super telephoto lens features completely redesigned Fluorite optics that deliver sharper images with less chromatic aberration and has a lighter weight thanks to magnesium and titanium construction elements. Because image stabilization technology in super telephoto lenses may inadvertently over-compensate and interfere with composing and framing distant or moving subjects, the EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM includes an advanced third Image Stabilization mode (Mode 3) that activates IS only when the shutter button is fully pressed. This allows users to pan fast-moving subjects and then activate IS only when it is precisely required. Additionally, all three IS modes give the equivalent effect of a shutter speed four stops faster, ideally positioning the Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM for professional action photography, from sports to nature. The addition of the Power Focus mode enables smooth focus change when shooting video. Buttons and switches are redesigned for intuitive, deliberate operation, and dust and water sealing keeps the EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM functioning flawlessly in even the most challenging environments.
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The lens seems to AF slower with the series III tele converters vs the series ii. So keep that in mind, and this is my observation and may not be yours.
The 4 stops of IS also helps with hand holding this lens, but so does the aforementioned weight savings.
I am happy I have purchased the 500mm ii and it will be a nice companion to my 800mm.
The price is the only negative, but in this day and age, things like this lens are not cheap.
If you are looking for one lens that can do it all; wildlife, birds, sports in semi decent light, a super telephoto to travel with....here it is, but it does come at a price.
Like most people considering spending $9000 on a single lens, I first spent a long time reading reviews and lab reports on the technical qualities of this lens in terms of sharpness, color and contrast and trading off the 500mm vs. the 600mm. I read testimonials and watched videos on the human factors of practical usage of a lens of this physical size. Finally I concluded that I needed a super-telephoto to move my photography to the next level and was convinced that the 500mm lens size would be manageable for me, even though I am 65. And then the lens arrived ……
Regardless of how well you think you have prepared yourself, if this is your first super telephoto lens, when you open the case for the first time “you gasp”. This lens is huge! Fortunately as you start using the lens you become more comfortable with it and it seems to shrink in size. Mounting to a sturdy tripod is fairly easy and it can be shot hand-held effectively for a short period. However, I take issue with some people who have said that it is the perfect hiking lens. If you are going to hike more than 0.5 mile with this lens you will probably do so with it in a backpack as it is awkward to carry.
I shoot a lot of birds-in-flight (BIF) with a focus on hummingbirds. When the lens arrived I attached a Canon 5DSR, and a high speed flash, and mounted the combination on a heavy Induro AT413 tripod using a sturdy gimbal mount and set about getting some hummingbird in flight shots. As I started getting good captures I noticed that the pictures were indeed sharp, but not spectacular, and not any sharper than I had been getting with my Canon EF 100-400mm F/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens at 400mm, which had been my primary lens for this purpose. Certainly the image sharpness was not what you would expect from a prime lens of this quality. So, it was time to stop taking adhoc pictures and set up a rigorous testing plan for the lens.
The first thing I did was perform a focus test using a commercial focus chart. The lens focused cleanly on the zero point but the far “1” was a little fuzzier than the near “1”. So maybe a little front focus, but not enough to bother correcting.
For the sharpness test subject I selected a house across the valley from my house about 300 yds. away. The house’s chimney was constructed with T-111 siding providing crisp vertical lines and the occasional knot to examine. The roof was tiled, which provided repeating sinusoidal lines formed by the ends of the tiles. In back of the house was an orchard of apple trees visible over the roof. The trees were loaded with large red apples surrounded by leaves which made for a challenging auto-focusing environment.
To test sharpness I did a comparison of the new Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM Prime Lens with my Canon EF 100-400mm F/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Zoom Lens at 400mm. To eliminate camera unique issues I did the testing using both my 5DSR and also my 5D Mk III. All photos were obtained while tripod mounted, in good light, at ISO200 and using a 2 sec shutter delay to eliminate vibration. Auto focus shots were made using only the center focus point to allow precise selection of the area to be focused on. The 300 Yd. distance provided a minimum 240 ft. DOF at f/4.5 so regardless of the selected focus point the entire scene should be in good focus if the lens focused properly. However, all images were compared only at the selected focus point used in each series.
I took hundreds of photos using various combinations of focus point, manual focus, auto focus, with mirror lockup, and soft shutter. Each image was taken four times using both lenses on both cameras. Apertures ranged from f/4.5 (lowest common) to f/14. Manual focus was performed in live-view mode using 10x magnification on both cameras. Images taken with the 500mm Prime were viewed at 100% side by side with images from the zoom lens taken at 400mm viewed at 120%. All images were resized to a common 400ppi to aid in comparisons but no other image processing was performed.
Results were mixed and often counterintuitive. When using manual focus, the 500mm Prime was a little sharper on both cameras 66% of the time. However, when using manual focus along with mirror lockup, fewer than half of this population of photos were sharper with the 500mm lens. When using auto-focus with the 5DSR, the 500mm Prime was slightly sharper only 50% of the time. When using auto-focus with the 5D MkIII the 100-400mm Zoom lens produced sharper images 80% of the time over the entire population of auto-focus images taken with that camera. When using auto-focus along with mirror lockup on the 5D MkIII the 100-400mm zoom produced sharper images 55% of the time. At no time in any of the image comparisons did the 500mm Prime produce an image that was “significantly” sharper than the Zoom lens. In the majority of the cases it was very difficult to determine which lens had produced the better image in each round of testing. During auto-focus testing the 500mm Prime produced a higher number of “focus misses” where the achieved focus was significantly off. This occurred more often with the 5DSR than with the 5D MkIII.
Conclusions. I gave the Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM Prime Lens 3 stars (Instead of 1 star) because it was quite sharp and at f/4.0 was capable of decent pictures in low light. However, this is a $9000 super-telephoto Prime lens and it produced sharpness and focusing accuracy at best on par with that available from my Canon EF 100-400mm F/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Zoom Lens. A properly functioning Prime lens should always produce noticeably sharper images than is capable from a similar zoom lens. I concluded that the copy of the Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM Prime Lens that I received was either a very soft copy or was damaged in transit. I have returned it for a refund. I still want a super-telephoto lens in my inventory, so I will reorder it again once I receive my refund for the returned lens. I will update my review of the Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM Lens once I receive the new copy. I am anticipating (hoping for) spectacular results from the new copy more in-line with other published test results.
The only thing I don't like is the high price. I just hope that they don't come out with a version 3 in a few months like the Ipad.
This a followup to my original review of this lens.
I have now used this for about 16 months now. The more I use this lens the more impressed I am with it's superb image quality and image stabilization. I was able to successfully hand hold this lens with a 1.4x series 3 Canon teleconverter on an air boat in Florida. This lens is absolutely great.