Nothing Brings the Natural World and Sports Action Closer than the Canon EF 800mm f/5.6 L IS USM Lens
Until Nikon decided to enter the super-telephoto competition during 2013, the Canon EF 800mm f/5.6 L IS USM lens was the king (other than Canon’s 1200mm monster, which is often not in production) – and many nature, sports and news photographers will tell you that the Canon 800mm still deserves its crown. Of course, you must make a hefty investment to work with the royalty of big lenses, but it’s worth the money if you compete, as a professional, in the specialties where this lens is needed.
By designing the 800mm f/5.6 to be constructed with magnesium alloy, Canon was able to give it a reasonable weight of 9.9 lbs. (4.5 kg), which is almost 2 lbs. lighter than the Canon 600mm f/4, at 11.8 lbs. The weight of the 800mm and its dimensions – 6.4” x 18.1” – means handholding this lens is limited to a few minutes, so in virtually all shooting situations, you need a monopod at a minimum, but a sturdy, solid tripod with a gimbal head will provide the best shooting configuration. Generally, the monopod setup is preferred for sports and other action. Using the Canon 800mm f/5.6 will also make you more aware of natural camera supports, such as forks of tree branches, fence rails and rocks (with proper padding).
Canon gave the 800mm the glass – 18 elements in 14 groups – to produce an image quality that can only be described as excellent. A major attribute of this lens’ quality is corner-to-corner sharpness at f/5.6, but f/8 is the optimum aperture, as you’ll see the least amount of vignetting and exposures are at their brightest. Despite the super focal length, color and contrast are equally excellent, chromatic aberration is very minimal, flare is of little or no concern and you simply can’t find any distortion. In addition, the Canon 800mm f/5.6 creates extremely pleasing bokeh, so a tight composition of a bird, for example, has great three-dimensionality. It’s almost a recipe for lens perfection.
Canon’s IS, or image stabilization system, allows you to shoot 4 stops slower handheld, but, as mentioned above, there will only be a few rare occasions when you’ll need the handheld option, such as capturing a subject quickly that is on the move. According to a number of photographers who use this lens, 1/800th of a second shutter speed is usually required to create sharp, crisp images when handholding the Canon 800mm f/5.6, and without the IS. Activate the IS and you can slow the shutter speed to 1/160th, but again you won’t be doing this often.
Thankfully, Canon designed the IS to be a big help when you use a tripod, as its secondary stabilization mode offsets the effects of mirror slap. It’s important to understand that the physical movement of the mirror prior to the shutter opening is intensified in a lens of this and similar focal lengths, so this additional IS mode is essential when shooting with the 800mm.
Another major feature of the Canon 800mm f/5.6 lens is its Ring Ultrasonic Motor (USM). After many years of field use, it continues to have an excellent reputation for actuating the AF very precisely and extremely fast. There is some focus hunting at f/5.6 under low-light conditions, but that combination is a rare occurrence. You’ll appreciate how well the AI Servo tracks moving subjects and, as you might expect, full time manual focusing is available since the internal focusing lens doesn’t extend.
Since the Canon 800mm f/5.6 lens will spend almost all its time outdoors and often in inclement weather, it was imperative for Canon to give it complete weather sealing. This Canon lens comes with the ET-155 lens hood, which increase the lens length to 23.9” and its weight to 10.6 lbs. Also included are the E-180C leather-like lens cover/cap, a lens neck strap, super telephoto-standard filter holder and a sturdy hard lens case that locks. The Canon 800mm f/5.6 lens accepts 52mm rear drop-in filters.
Purchased new, the Canon 800mm f/5.6 is only affordable for a limited number of professional photographers, but whether you’re an aspiring professional or highly dedicated amateur, buying it used could bring it within your affordability range. Only one company can offer you the opportunity to acquire this lens fully refurbished - KEH, the world’s largest dealer of used cameras and photographic equipment. Plus, your purchase includes a 14-day, no-questions-asked return policy and 6-month, non-transferable warranty. That’s a deal as excellent as this lens and you’ll only find it a KEH.com.
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