With my recent switch from Nikon to Canon equipment, this was the obvious replacement for my old 600 f4 AF-S lens. In fact I'd say 90% of my reasoning behind my change of direction was down to the desire for a super telephoto of this reach with image stabilisation. Nikon have now announced long VR prime lenses.
Anyway, I now own this great white beast. Actually, it's barely larger or heavier than my previous 600mm f4, so no real surprises there. But, as with any 600mm f4 lens, it's very big and very heavy in comparison to anything you have used before. Think long and hard about your needs before spending your money, the Canon EF 500mm f4 L I.S. USM may well be the best bet if you can get within close distances of your subject or if your subjects are fairly large.
Yes, a 600mm lens does make a substantial difference in 'reach', more than a mere 100mm would suggest, but it is always preferrable to be closer to the subject than using heavy artillery like this... the air between you and the subject can have many invisible pollutants, and when compressed with lots of magnification, these will effect image quality.
So, the Canon EF600mm f4 turns up on the doorstep. The lens comes in one of those new style travel cases, the CS60040, made of strong polycarbonate. Gone are the 'coffins' that big lenses used to arrive in, now we have smooth rounded edges and an altogether more modern look... even if you think that these new cases are a bit cheap in comparison.
The slip-on E-185 lens cover is standard fayre, always more time consuming to remove and attach than you'd hope but thankfully it is not elasticated like some I have seen, that seem desparate to cling on to the the lens and snag on something.
Many seem intent on replacing supplied tripod feet for specialised low profile ones with built-in arca-swiss fitting, but the Canon one seems ideal for my needs. In fact, the slightly padded top is a major relief to this photographer, as I carry my lens by it's foot for many a mile.. my hands appreciate this nice touch!! * (see text on left)
Contrary to some reports, maybe earlier models, the tripod collar rotates very smoothly with indents at 90 degree intervals.
Controls & Operation
These modern lenses come with all sorts of knobs and switches on them.
Uppermost on the switch control panel of the Canon EF600mm L I.S.lens is the focus limit control. 3 options here, the 5.5 metres - infinity (full) setting allows the lens to focus from minimum distance to infinity. Then the 5.5 metres - 16.2 metres and finally 16.2 metres to infinity. Basically, if you're target is expected within a known distance from you, it speeds up autofocus if the lens isn't hunting through it's entire range to get a lock-on.
Next we have the AF/MF switch. Says it all really, though you can always operate the camera in manual focus even if it's set to AF, being FTM (full time manual) design. Personally I would prefer the option of totally disabling the focus ring, as it's can shift if you're working from something like a beanbag.
Next we have the magic switch, Image sabilisation on or off. After countless questions from people, can I just say here that the I and 0 originates from binary, I is on and 0 is off.
Underneath the magic I.S. on or off switch, we have the Image stabilisation mode. mode 1 controls movement vertically and horizontally, mode 2 just counteracts vertical movement... so as to allow you to pan along with a subject without the I.S. system trying to compensate.
Lastly in this panel is the focus preset functions. Basically, you can set a focus distance on the lens, press 'set' and you can recall this distance at any time via the twist ring (the ring with the serrated edge) just in front of the focus ring. It's handy feature if you're likely to be shooting at 2 vastly different distances. I would prefer it if focus recall was an option on the 4 focus lock buttons and in a really ideal world, a focus recall button would be situated far closer to the camera body, or indeed controlled via the camera itself, as some lens functions are on the Canon 1Ds MkII.
Superb!! Image quality in combination with the Canon EOS 1Ds MkII is phenomenal. The genuine Flourite element really brings home the goods in trying conditions, not a trace of CA evident in any images with the bare lens as yet.
AF speed is very rapid and quiet, I.S. operation steps in quickly. Many other aspects are shared with the equivilant Nikon 600mm f4 lens, bokeh and resolution not noticably inferior or superior.
Above; A Dunlin taken with Canon EOS 1Ds MkII + Canon EF600mm f4 + 2x EFII teleconverter. Click for larger image
Below; European Goldfinch feather detail taken with Canon EOS 1Ds MkII + EF600mm f4 + 2x EFII 100% crop, unsharpened straight from camera. Click for full image. Remember this is a 100% crop, so very small in the whole frame
A Long-tailed Tit taken with Canon 1Ds MkII with EF 600mm f4 and Canon EFII 1.4x teleconverter
A Blue Tit taken with Canon 1Ds MkII with EF 600mm f4
I have been using a 4th Generation Design CP-61 adapter plate for some time now. This saves nearly 3/4lbs in weight, as it is built to arca-swiss specification and makes a Wimberley P-50 plate redundant.
There si still just enough room between the CP-61 and the lens body to get your fingers through but it is a fairly tight squeeze, although better than Wimberley's own AP-602 replacement foot in that regard.
Benefits i have found using this very low profile foot include:
1: Far easier packing and stowage of the 600mm lens.
2: Far more comfortable carrying the 600/4 over your shoulder, and this now my preferred choice for longer walks.
3: Easier to use the lens on a beanbag and faster to rotate the lens for portrait format shots.
Less important benefits (some I haven't really noticed) are:
You can get down lower with ground level shots, especially using something like a Skimmer ground pod/sledge (even more so when just using a Wimberley C-10 clamp)
Without having a seperate swiss arca plate, you are probably helping stability and vibration.
A low profile foot lowers the centre of gravity of the lens, making handling easier.