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Eddie Keogh on the EF200-400mm f/4L IS USM EXTENDER 1.4x

Eddie Keogh on the EF200-400mm f/4L IS USM EXTENDER 1.4x

© Eddie Keogh/Reuters

June 2013

If you were to scrutinise the photographers on the touchline of the 2013 Champions League final between Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund at Wembley Stadium recently, you might have seen that one of them was using a rather special lens. Photographer Eddie Keogh tried out Canon’s new EF200-400mm f/4L IS USM EXTENDER 1.4x zoom at the game, with his EOS-1D X DSLR, instead of his usual EF400mm f/2.8L IS II USM and EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens combination. He reveals to CPN writer Ian Farrell his thoughts on this latest addition to Canon’s telephoto zoom range…

Eddie Keogh explains that, at UEFA games like this, the ability to change his view without changing position is vital. “When I usually shoot at Wembley Stadium I get to choose where I sit,” he says. “For this final my ticket was for a seat in the corner of the pitch by the corner flag.” Eddie says that the new EF200-400mm lens gave him more reach in this position, and also the versatility to zoom back for any action that was happening nearer to him...

© Eddie Keogh/Reuters

Borussia Dortmund's Mats Hummels (right) challenges Bayern Munich's Mario Mandzukic during their Champions League final soccer match at Wembley Stadium, London, 25 May 2013. Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X with an EF200-400mm f/4L IS USM EXTENDER 1.4x lens at 258mm; the exposure was 1/1000sec at f/4, ISO 1000.

He explains: “Normally I’d cover the goalmouth with an EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM and use my EF400mm f/2.8L IS II USM to cover mid-field action and goals and celebrations from the other end. But with this new EF200-400mm f/4L IS USM EXTENDER 1.4x, I used the 200mm end of the lens to cover the goalmouth at my end of the pitch and the long end – with the built-in 1.4x converter – for action in the mid-field and at the other end of the pitch. It was pretty much the only lens I used for the game itself.”

Not having to swap between lenses, or search around for a second camera body, gave Eddie a speed advantage and helped to keep things simple. “You don’t get as much dust in the camera if you’re not swapping lenses all the time, and rain is less of a problem too: I just have one rain cover on the lens in bad weather and I don’t have to worry about keeping a second camera dry. Fitting a teleconverter to the EF400mm f/2.8L IS II USM in the pouring rain is a nightmare, I can tell you!” he quips.

Eddie Keogh agrees with other photographers who describe the integrated 1.4x teleconverter technology as “seamless”. “Yes, it is like working with a 200-560mm zoom lens really,” he says. “You can be photographing goalmouth action at one end of the pitch and when you see something down the other end of the field you can flick the converter switch and zoom to 560mm in about a second and a half.”

“The image quality is terrific, too,” he continues. “Conventional teleconverters are sharp, but this new lens is just as good with the converter engaged as it is without.”

Fast-paced performance

Football is a fast and furious sport and is notoriously difficult to photograph well. Eddie praises his EOS-1D X’s advanced 61-point autofocus system, and says the EF200-400mm f/4L IS USM EXTENDER 1.4x lens performs well with it in such demanding situations. “The EF400mm f/2.8L IS II USM is the fastest focusing lens I have ever used, and this EF200-400mm lens is in the same league as that. Any differences between the two are minimal really. It tracks [moving objects] really well.”

© Eddie Keogh/Reuters

Bayern Munich's Arjen Robben kisses the trophy after his winning goal defeated Borussia Dortmund 2-1 in the Champions League final soccer match at Wembley Stadium, London, 25 May 2013. Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X with an EF200-400mm f/4L IS USM EXTENDER 1.4x lens at 560mm; the exposure was 1/1000sec at f/4, ISO 1000.

He reveals: “Optically speaking, the results are a match for prime lenses too. Obviously when you are shooting sport it’s impossible to get every frame entirely sharp: things are flying around all the time. But these days any lack of sharpness is down to user error, or just because things are moving so quickly it’s impossible to follow. When it is sharp with the EF200-400mm, it’s really sharp.”

Although it covers four classic telephoto focal lengths, the EF200-400mm f/4L IS USM EXTENDER 1.4x is still relatively compact. “It’s no different in size and weight than any other long lens,” says Eddie. “It’s maybe even a tad smaller than the EF400mm f/2.8L IS II USM that I’m used to, actually.”

He adds: “I usually use lenses like this on a monopod, but I have tried shooting hand-held with it too, and the results are good. The other day I was covering Cheltenham horse races and the Duchess of Cambridge [Kate Middleton] made an appearance right up in the stands. I photographed her with the EOS-1D X and the EF200-400mm hand-held, at 560mm, and it was absolutely fine. The Image Stabilizer is good – it’s a very hand-holdable lens.”

“I hear people talking about what a good lens this is for sports and wildlife photographers, but actually it’s great for the press guys too – especially if you are shooting the royals,” reveals Eddie. “With editorial work you are often stuck in the same position and you’re not allowed to move. So when a person walks away from you, a telephoto lens is needed, and when they come back – if Kate Middleton decides to say hello to the crowds, for example – then you suddenly need your 200mm again.”

He notes: “What you really don’t want is to miss that special moment, like when she [the Duchess of Cambridge] smiles in your direction, because you’re changing a lens or teleconverter. Especially when you’ve been standing on a pair of stepladders for four hours waiting!”

At the Wembley Champions’ League final, the key moment for Eddie is the trophy presentation. “It’s a very important and well used picture,” he says. “It’ll be on the front and back pages of newspapers and used extensively online. I would not have used the EF200-400mm f/4L IS USM EXTENDER 1.4x lens if I didn’t know it would perform, but it did and the pictures look great. It’s genuinely a very good lens.”

Biographie: Eddie Keogh

Eddie Keogh

UK-born Eddie Keogh is a freelance photographer who shoots sports and sports features for Reuters. He previously worked as a sports photographer for national newspapers from 1986 to 2005. He covered his first Olympic Games in Los Angeles, USA, at the age of 21 and he has already photographed seven FIFA football World Cups. In 2006 he won the Barclays Premier League Football Photographer of the Year Award; in 2009 and 2010, the Sports Journalists Association (SJA) Sports News Picture of the Year award and the UK Picture Editors Sports Photographer of the Year in 2010. He won the SJA Sports Picture Portfolio award in 2012 and became a Canon Explorer in May 2013.


Bayern Munich fans light flares during their Champions League final soccer match against Borussia Dortmund at Wembley Stadium, London, England, 25 May 2013. Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X with an EF200-400mm f/4L IS USM EXTENDER 1.4x lens at 311mm; the exposure was 1/1250sec at f/4, ISO 1000.