Canon 500mm f4 II pre-review

Today I went out and dropped a few thousand dollars on a big lens.  And despite all the hullabaloo over my two-part hands-on review of both the Canon 400mm f2.8 II and the Canon 600mm f4 II that I took for extensive test drives in December and January, I did not get either.  Instead, I once again opted for my ol’ reliable, another 500 — now the third 500mm lens I have owned in my career as a wildlife photographer.

The Canon 500mm f4 II supertelephoto lens is the newest addition to my camera bag

So what made me go with the known, the Canon 500mm f4 II, vs the unknown, the sexy 400 or 600?  Why did I go back to Old Faithful? 

Well if any of you can recall from that first review back in December, I mentioned that I had been hoping to test the 400 vs the 500 vs the 600, but had been relegated to just the 400 and 600 because there just weren’t any 500mm lenses available in North America at the time.  In fact, it looked like there might not be any available here for months.  However, that all changed on Saturday when I got an email from a friend in Vancouver who said she just got her new Canon 500mm f4 II last week…ten seconds later I was on the phone to Calgary to The Camera Store learning that there WAS a 500mm that had just come in. 

So today I whizzed off to the big city to go check out the new 500 and compare it to the 400 and 600.  The deal was, I had told myself I was not leaving that store without at least one of the new lenses in tow. 

And in the end, there were two things that swayed me back over to getting another 500mm lens.  The first was that I was convinced that if I purchased the 600mm f4 II, I’d also end up getting the 400mm f2.8.  The end result?  $21K of glass and a heck of a lot of nightmares trying to figure out how to travel with both big lenses (I still don’t know how all of you that carry Nikon 600mm’s and 200-400mm’s do it). 

The second key factor was the extra weight savings over the 600.  The 500mm is not only about 10 inches shorter when compared to the 600 (with hoods on), but it’s also over 2 pounds lighter (almost a full kilo).  Like I said back in that original review, size and weight are a serious issue for me, as I like to travel light and I love to be able to hike with my big lens.

So the bottom line is that I now own a brand new Canon 500mm f4 II supertelephoto lens.  I may still decide to switch to the 600 at a later date, but for now, this choice saves me some major $$, a few pounds, and a lot of travel packing nightmares.

Stay tuned in the following weeks for a full review of the 500, and until then, I’m off to Jasper for my annual winter Jasper Wildlife Photography Workshop.

Wish me luck,


3 Comments on “Canon 500mm f4 II pre-review

February 4, 2013 at 8:32 pm

That lens is drool worthy 🙂

Ricky Jones
February 4, 2013 at 9:43 pm

Excellent review, and very sexy lens!

Images West
April 27, 2013 at 3:22 am

Hey, John – when can we expect to see your full review of the 500 f4L IS II?


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