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August 2011

Canon has announced that its EF300mm f/2.8L IS II USM and EF400mm f/2.8L IS II USM telephoto lenses – which feature completely redesigned optical systems, the latest Canon Image Stabilization (IS) technology, new IS and AF Modes and improved build quality – are now shipping to selected dealers.

The development of these high quality telephoto lenses was revealed in autumn 2010 and they are now available to meet the demands of professional photographers, with an obvious appeal to those photographers who shoot nature, wildlife or sports. The lenses offer optical excellence, consistently high performance, super-telephoto focal lengths, fast f/2.8 apertures and outstanding image quality to provide exceptional results and reliability.

The EF300mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens features a completely redesigned optical system, the latest Canon IS technology, and new IS and Power Focus modes.

The lenses replace the EF300mm f/2.8L IS USM and EF400mm f/2.8L IS USM models in Canon’s L-series lens range and, as well as featuring completely redesigned optical systems, they feature an all-new magnesium alloy construction that ensures the designs are both robust and lightweight.

The EF400mm f/2.8L IS II USM is the lightest lens in its class, due to a 28% reduction in weight compared to its predecessor (down by over 1.5kg, from 5.37kg to 3.85kg), while the EF300mm f/2.8L IS II USM features an 8% weight reduction in comparison to its predecessor.

High optical performance
Manufactured using the very best optical components both the EF300mm f/2.8L IS II USM and EF400mm f/2.8L IS II USM lenses feature 16 elements in 12 different groups, and use high performance fluorite lens elements that correct chromatic aberration to deliver high resolution and high contrast shots of the best possible quality – this allows photographers to capture images that are rich with edge-to-edge detail.

The optical elements of the lenses also feature Canon’s latest Super Spectra Coatings, optimised for both the position and type of each lens element. Canon’s SubWavelength Structure Coating (SWC) technology, which uses microscopic cone-shaped structures smaller than a wavelength of visible light, prevents flare and ghosting caused by light bouncing back from the imaging sensor from occurring. Fluorine coating is also used on the front and rear elements of the lenses in order to repel dust and dirt and to help to deliver clearer shots. The coating is also water repellent so it keeps the front element free of any water marks and smearing by ensuring that water runs off the lenses quickly.

Improved IS, rapid AF and Power Focus
Both lenses feature Canon’s new Image Stabilizer system to help to provide outstanding results when shooting whilst moving around and for capturing moving subjects. A four-stop advantage (compared to two stops in the first generation versions of the lenses) offers greater image quality during handheld shooting, allowing photographers to shoot at shutter speeds up to four times slower than normally required, with minimal additional blur.

The operation of IS mode 2 has been improved when shooting panning motion thanks to a new IS algorithm that negates the ‘bump’ that can occur when you first start panning the lens, providing a more stable viewfinder image. A new, third IS mode (Mode 3) has been added – it assists users when quickly switching between subjects by only activating the IS mechanism when your camera’s shutter button is fully depressed.

Both lenses offer a constant f/2.8 aperture, allowing photographers to shoot at fast shutter speeds and capture clear shots of fast-moving subjects. The wide aperture also allows users to creatively isolate their subjects from the background, with a nine-blade circular iris creating dramatic and striking background blur.

Fast, quiet autofocus is provided by a ring-type USM which, when combined with a new high-speed CPU and a dedicated optimised AF algorithm, offers quick and accurate focusing during shooting. Photographers can also utilise full-time manual focusing, which enables the adjustment and fine-tuning of focus even when the AF system is activated, providing even greater control over image capture.

A new Power Focus mode aids focusing during video shooting, allowing the photographer to smoothly adjust focus during filming by turning the Focus Preset ring.

Refined L-series design
Both the EF300mm f/2.8L IS II USM and EF400mm f/2.8L IS II USM have refined, quality L-series designs. A choice of dedicated tripod mounts provides added flexibility, allowing photographers to use a long or short foot suitable for monopods or tripods. A new rotational mechanism for the tripod collar also provides a smoother movement when turning the lens from portrait to landscape orientation.

Both lenses also feature a new high quality exterior texture, while a new shade of white casing indicates the new advanced design and higher precision that each lens offers. A new Kensington-type wire security lock has also been added, allowing photographers to keep their lenses secure whilst on location shoots. A robust weatherproof design makes both lenses suitable for use in extreme conditions when paired with a weatherproof EOS body.

High quality lens extender compatibility
Both of the new lenses are compatible with Canon’s latest lens extenders – the EF1.4x III and EF2x III – that are designed to add extra focal length ranges to L-series super-telephoto lenses. Manufactured to complement the new optical systems featured in both lenses, the EF1.4x III and EF2x III will allow professionals to instantly extend the focal length of either lens by 1.4x or 2x respectively – enabling the capture of high quality, detailed images of subjects that may, typically, be beyond reach.

To get the best out of the new lenses and the Mark III extenders photographers must ensure they attach the extender to the lens first, before attaching the whole unit to the camera. This ensures that the combined lens information is transmitted correctly to provide the optimum image quality and focus performance.

  • To find out top motorsport photographer Frits van Eldik’s thoughts about the EF400mm f/2.8L IS II USM you can read his CPN blog about shooting the 2011 Hungarian F1 Grand Prix weekend with the new lens.