Canon has updated two of their most important pro-level super-telephoto lenses, the 300mm f/2.8L IS and the 400mm f/2.8L IS. Actually, it looks like more of a complete overhaul. Those lenses date back to about 2000 so they’re definitely due for an update. The new Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II and Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS II super-telephoto lenses are lighter with a new finish, improved optics, better optical image stabilization and they’re supposed to be even better built than the previous versions. They also both cost as much as a good used car.
The Canon 300mm f/2.8L and 400mm f/2.8L are standard equipment for many pro motorsports and wildlife photographers. They pull you in close to the action and allow you to completely eliminate background detail with ridiculously shallow depth-of-field. But you pay through the teeth for this kind of performance – both literally and figuratively. Big telephoto prime lenses cost a fortune, they’re huge and they weigh a ton – 5.6 lbs. for the 300 and 11.7 lbs. for the 400. Canon hasn’t lowered the price but they have lightened the load. At 5.2 lbs., the new 300mm f/2.8L IS II lens is approximately 8%* lighter than the previous model; and the new 400mm f/2.8L IS II weighs about 8.5 lbs., almost 28% lighter than the old version.
Besides making them lighter, Canon also improved the optics and image stabilization on the new 300mm and 400mm lenses. Both lenses have added a second flourite element, “for improved image quality and reduced chromatic aberration.” They’re also using a new “flourine” coating that’s supposed to minimize fingerprints and help keep the outer lens element clean. The image stabilization system uses a new, “rolling-ball-friction system in place of sliding parts,” for improved efficiency and up to four stops of shutter speed compensation. Canon says they’ve even beefed up the build – in spite of making the lenses lighter. Finally, that white L lens finish – it’s changing. I can’t see a difference in the product photos, but Canon told me that the white color is being warmed up a bit. I’m not sure why and I don’t know if it will be obvious but apparently it is changing. Hello pink lenses?
The two new super-telephoto lenses should be available in December. The suggested retail price on the Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II is $7000. And the price for the Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS II is – maybe you’d better have a seat – it’s $11,000. Yup – eleven grand – [insert pricing wisecrack here]…