On 5th September 2018, Canon achieved another historic milestone in lens design. It marked a step change in optical quality with its release of the EF 400mm f/2.8 IS III USM and EF 600mm f/4L IS III USM lenses. But what sets these lenses apart from everything else in the market? And why are they the most exciting telephoto lenses Canon has released in the past 30 years? We’ve identified five things you should know about these new lenses (that you might not already!) and why they are so revolutionary.
They’re lighter – decreasing kit bag weight by up to 1kg
Carrying a weighty kit bag is something Canon knows can inhibit photographers. With photography being very physically demanding, it’s vital that photographers have kit that doesn’t weigh them down – after all, getting the best shot may come down to being on location just five minutes more. The EF 400mm f/2.8 IS III USM weighs just 2.8kg – that’s 1kg lighter than the previous model making it the lightest lens in its range, whilst the EF 600mm f/4L IS III USM is almost 900g (870g) lighter than its predecessor. These lenses are the first Canon products to use new glass materials that’s 20% thinner whilst maintaining its strength and lightness.
- They’re better balanced – with a shifted centre of gravity
As photographers, you want to feel like the kit you’re using is an extension of yourself – not holding you back. During early testing stages of both the EF 400mm f/2.8 IS III USM and EF 600mm f/4L IS III USM’s development, Canon reduced the weight of the lenses and then found the centre of gravity was off – this made handling the kit uncomfortable, more of an effort to balance and in some cases the heightened need to regularly change shot composition. To create a lighter, but well-balanced lens, Canon completely recrafted the inside of the lenses. This meant bringing the centre of gravity closer to the camera body which made for an easier, more comfortable shooting experience.
- They were designed with the help of professional photographers
Getting out in the field was important to Canon in the early stages of producing these lenses. The developers wanted to truly understand what challenges photographers face in order to create lenses that directly aid their creative and technical ability. Shota Shimada, Canon Inc.’s Executive Product Planner was one of the leading experts involved in the making of these new lenses at Canon’s Utsunomiya lens factory in Japan. Whilst accompanying professional photographers on various shoots, he recognised that photographers’ “ability to capture split-second, one-of-a-kind moments in high quality, whilst enjoying every moment” was the most important aspect of their job. To him, and his team of professionals, it was clear they needed to create lenses that were reliable, durable and optically excellent, with easy handling.
- They cope well in all temperatures, thanks to specifically designed Canon-made material
Competition in the photography market is high. Today, everyone is a photographer and it takes much more than just a good picture to be featured on National Geographic’s Instagram. A split second could mean the difference between a good shot and a great shot. Speed is paramount and shooting in extreme weather conditions can be the ultimate speed blocker – whether you’re a winter sports photographer sitting in plummeting temperatures or a wildlife photographer trekking to a watering hole in sweltering heat. Having kit you wholeheartedly trust is pivotal. Featuring the familiar heat-deflecting, white finish that Canon L-series super telephoto lenses are renowned for, Canon developed a new coating for both the EF 400mm f/2.8 IS III USM and EF 600mm f/4L IS III USM lenses that acts as a thermal insulation coating – ensuring the lenses maintain optimal operation in all temperatures. (p. 18)
- Canon’s developers used 3D printers to get the usability ‘just right’
Usability and comfort were key drivers in Canon’s development of these lenses. Using its own 3D printers, Canon was able to share precise mock-ups with photographers allowing them to receive feedback early-on in the lenses’ development because professionals could identify feature improvements, such as creating a more rounded tripod base plate.