Canon's 200-400mm supertele lens could arrive this year

A year and a half ago, Canon announced that it was working on a 200-400mm telephoto zoom lens with a built-in 1.4x extender. But since then, there's been nary a peep.

Canon's 200-400m f/4L IS lens has a large objective lens, but not as large as the brighter 400mm f/2.8 lens that Canon also sells.
(Credit: Stephen Shankland/CNET)

Well, there's a peep now, Canon shooters who were jealous of Nikon's 200-400mm will be pleased to know.

The plan is to release it this year, said Mike Owen, communications manager for Canon's professional imaging department in Europe. He spoke at a Canon press conference yesterday at the Photokina show in Cologne, Germany.

But Owen was quick to add a caveat: "We're anticipating that, but we don't know," he said.

Canon and its partners have been putting the lens through its paces at the Olympics and other major sporting events, he said. The qualitative feedback so far has its autofocus working just a tad slower than Canon's 400mm f/2.8 fixed focal length lens, he said.

Canon hasn't detailed the mammoth lens yet; Owen said it's expected to be a bit heavier than the EF 400mm F/2.8L IS II, but that's still a lot: Canon cut the 400mm lens 28 per cent to 3.6kg in 2010.

A bit more detail is visible at Canon's booth at Photokina. Sandwiched between the EF 400mm f/2.8L IS II and EF 500mm f/4L IS II, it looks to be about 36.8cm long.

Judging by the focus-range limit option, the minimum focusing distance is 2 metres. The focus range on the lens can be set for 2m-6m, 5m to infinity or the full range.

The lens also comes with the power focus (PF) mode for smooth, motor-driven focus changes during video shooting.

The lens has something of an unsightly bulge near its camera mount, but it's for good cause: a housing for a flip-out element that extends the lens range 1.4x to 280-560mm but dimming the lens to a maximum f-stop of f/5.6.

The telephoto extender is technology brought to the photography line from Canon's broadcast lens business.

Supertelephotos of this class are expensive as well as bulky. Canon's 400mm f/2.8L II costs US$11,500, and the 500mm f/4L costs US$10,500.


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