Prior to this review if someone asked me what the best lens Canon has ever made was, I’d have to say either the Canon EF 200mm f/2L IS USM or the Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM. However, this review has convinced me that the “best lens ever” discussion requires this lens to be in the discussion as it is simply amazing. We are talking Zeiss Otus good!
By now you’ve probably read other reviews that gush over this lens, so you’ve probably come here to get my real world take on it. This is where I usually get flamed for bringing all the love back to reality, but not this time. This lens is freakin awesome!!!!!
Case in point – below is a screen shot of a 100% crop of my first photo with this lens and one that I had never intended to put on the blog:
Viewing this actual image like this on a UHD (4K) display shows every fiber of detail in the pollen and sharp edges of the pedals. You literally can’t see that detail this lens resolves on a display that isn’t 4k or greater
My jaw literally hit the floor, so I showed it to my wife. She isn’t a geek so she is typically not impressed, but she literally put her hand over her mouth and said OH MY GOD! This was like showing proper 4k images for the first time to someone who has never even seen 1080p – it was that jaw dropping!
Even this super boring image taken on a windy day was so amazing when I zoomed in, I thought I had a macro lens on my camera:
Canon 1D X 1/400 sec at f/8, ISO 200 at 22mm
Click for the unedited full-size original
When I zoom in to the flower on the right the detail is incredible:
when I move down to the leaf, I’m just blown away at the detail:
I became so obsessed with this lens that I found myself doing so many shots an a 11-24mm has no business being used for, but I couldn’t help myself – this lens is amazing!
This lens is going to be the new reference lens for what can be done to keep flare under control. Despite its HUGE bulging front element, I was shocked at what an incredible job it did at keeping the flare out of control. In fact, it almost made it too hard to get flare when you really want it!
Here’s a few unedited real world examples exactly as they came out of the camera:
So if you are coming from any other lens where flare has been an issue, you’ll love how well this lens keeps it under control. Even when present plenty of contrast remains in the areas away from the source of the flare as shown above.
Real World Images
As my readers have come to expect, here’s my 100% unedited real world images with all their flaws and incredible detail. These are all straight out of the camera JPEG’s taken from a Canon 1D X with no cropping, rotating, etc - nothing.
All images are copyright ® Ron Martinsen – ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. You may click to view the in-camera originals, but you must delete them when you are done reviewing them. You may not edit, print, copy, upload or otherwise use or modify these images without written consent – yes, even the ugly ones!
If you can manage to get the lens on the same plane as the subject, the distortion is minimal. Here's 19mm which could be better if had used a tripod. The gallery has other exaggerated examples to demonstrate off axis distortion.
Sadly this bee wasn't around long enough for me to set my shutter speed fast enough to get a sharp shot, but I was amazed at the detail captured in the wing despite the shutter being too slow to freeze the motion
You must view the images above at full size then zoom to 100% to fully appreciate them. Prints are simply incredible from pretty much any image you take with this lens.
Click here for a complete gallery of sample images.
See my conclusion in this article:
Where to order
Oh, and consider getting a NEC PA Series UHD 4k display while you are at it – you’ll need a high resolution display to truly appreciate the images it creates.
Can’t afford it? Rent it from LensRentals.com at discount
This lens is a huge investment, so I realize many people won’t be able to justify the cost. The cool thing is that as of the time this was written, LensRentals.com was offering a 4 day rental for only $99!!! It’s even less with my blog reader discount!
Other articles you may enjoy
If you enjoyed this article, you may also enjoy these:
- WPPI 5Ds/5DsR & 11-24mm discussion
- NEC PA322UHD 4k for Pro Photo & Video Editing
- Canon 8-15mm f/4L Fisheye Zoom
- Canon 24-70 f/2.8L II (vs 24-70 f/4L IS Comparison)
- Canon 100-400m f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM (NEW)
- Canon 200-400mm f/4L IS with 1.4X Extender
- Canon 300mm f/2.8L IS II at the Zoo
- Nikon D750–Yeah, it’s better than my 5D Mark III (Part II of II)
- Lytro Illum Light Field Camera (The Real Light Field Camera)
- Fujifilm XF 56mm
- Fujifilm XF 10-24mm
- Fujifilm XF 50-140mm f/2.8
- SIGMA 35mm Art Series
- SIGMA 50mm f/1.4 Art Series (includes comparisons)
- Sony a7R
- Zeiss Otus 55m f/1.4
- Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4
If you make a purchase using links found in this article, I may make a commission. It doesn’t cost you a penny more, but it does help to support future articles like this.