The 60 millionth Canon EOS lens, an EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS zoom, rolled off the production line recently. Canon sent out a celebratory press release today and they also announced three new super-telephoto lenses, a 500mm f/4, 600mm f/4 and a very interesting 200-400mm zoom with a built-in tele-converter that increases the maximum focal length to 560mm. The EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM EXTENDER l.4x zoom lens is still in development but Canon plans to show a prototype at the CP+ tradeshow in Japan, this week (February 9-12, 2011).
Canon began updating their big pro glass last year with the introduction of the 300mm f/2.8 L IS II and the 400mm f/2.8L IS II, both of which were considerably reduced in both size and weight. That work is continued with the new Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM and 600mm f/4L IS II USM super-telephoto lenses. The new 500mm is 18% lighter than the previous version. That might not sound like much expressed as a percentage but that’s a pound and a half (680 g) off what was an 8.5 pound (3.85 kg) lens! The new 600mm L lens has also gone on a diet. The original version weighed nearly 12 pounds (5.4 kg). But Canon managed to reduce the weight by a whopping 27% – about 3.2 pounds (1451 g). That will make a real difference for wildlife photographers who have to pack that beast of a lens into the bush for critter photos.
Besides significantly reduced weight, both lenses have also been improved optically and mechanically. They have new flourite elements as well as new anti-smear coatings protecting the front and rear elements. Both lenses have the latest image stabilization to bring them up to the current standard of four-stops of camera shake compensation. Canon also says lens durability is improved with better weather-sealing as well as more titanium and magnesium in the lens barrel assembly.
Of course, the new 200-400mm prototype is the most interesting of the new lens announcements. There are no photos of the new lens and Canon didn’t provide much detail other than it includes a built-in 1.4x tele-converter for a, “maximum focal length [of] 560mm for sports and wildlife photography”. It does have the L designation and the official press release said it would be weather sealed and include flourite lens elements. I am definitely very curious about how the integrated tele-converter works and the overall performance of the lens. If it works well, this could be how all big lenses are made in the future. Canon didn’t announce a price for the EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM EXTENDER l.4x zoom lens – it is only a prototype, after all. But speculation on the Web is that the price will be about $7500. We’ll have to wait and see how close that price actually is. But $7500 for what is essentially a pro-level 200-560mm f/4-5.6L IS zoom lens is not a bad deal when you compare to what’s currently available.
As for the two super-telephoto prime lenses – put your kids and car up for sale on eBay now – the Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM lens will be available in May for $9499.00 and the 600mm f/4L IS II USM lens is scheduled to be available in June for $11,999.00. Don’t forget to also budget for a new wheelbarrow. You’ll need to cart those two monster lenses around.