A guest blog for PixSylated by Peter Read Miller, Canon Explorer of Light

McKalya Maroney USA. London 2012 Olympic Games Day 1. Women's Artistic Gymnastics, The Vault. Canon 200-400mm f/4L IS 1.4X lens at f4, 1/2000", ISO 3200, 400mm. © 2012 Peter Read Miller.

Last summer, while on assignment for Sports Illustrated at the London Olympics, I was one of the lucky handful of photographers who were given a pre-production version of Canon’s EF 200-400mm f4L IS USM Lens with Internal 1.4x Extender to shoot during the games.

Canon 200-400mm lens

I used the lens almost every day and had photos published in both the print and online versions of Sports Illustrated —as well as in SI’s super cool “Live from London” iPad app.

Allyson Felix USA gold. London 2012 Summer Olympic Games: Day 12. Athletics: Women's 200m Final. Canon 200-400mm f/4L IS 1.4X lens at f4, 1/1250", ISO 4000, 400mm. © 2012 Peter Read Miller.

Given the logistical challenges presented during the London Olympics, the 200-400mm was a godsend. Most days, I averaged one to two hours on busses and trains getting around the Olympics. One day, I did ten busses, plus the train, just to cover four events.

My typical kit included three Canon EOS-1D X camera bodies, the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II Lens, the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II Lens, and the Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS 1.4x Lens.

Physically the 200-400mm is quite compact—not much bigger than the current Series II 400 f2.8. In terms of weight, it’s slightly heavier—closer to weight of the original 400.

Oleksiy Torokhtiy Ukraine gold. London 2012 Summer Olympic Games: Day 10. Weightlifting: Mens 105kg. Canon 200-400mm f/4L IS 1.4X lens at f5.6, 1/1250", ISO 4000, 335mm. © 2012 Peter Read Miller.

The first thing that I noticed when I put the lens on a body is the way it balances. Most fast telephoto lenses are front heavy due to the fact that most of the glass is in the front of the lens. The 200-400mm, however balances farther back— which helps if you carry your lens on a monopod over your shoulder as I do.

Also, one of the unique aspects of the 200-400mm is that it has a 1.4x extender built in—which increases the focal length to 560mm and drops the maximum aperture to f/5.6. The 1.4X extender and the associated mechanism located at the rear of the lens move the balance back. The extender is contained in a surprisingly small hump protruding from the side of the lens. It is controlled with a level that is easy to flip with your thumb. There is also a lock to prevent you from accidentally flipping the extender in or out.

Usain Bolt Jamaica gold, WR 36.84". London 2012 Summer Olympic Games: Day 15. Athletics: Men's 4x100m Relay Final. Canon 200-400mm f/4L IS 1.4X lens at f4.5, 1/1250", ISO 4000, 311mm. © 2012 Peter Read Miller

Shooting with the lens was, for me, a dream. My first thought was “wow, framing is back!”. Thanks in no small part to the great work of SI Photo Chief Bob “Bubbles” Martin, my shooting positions at the London Olympics were excellent, but they were fixed shooting positions nonetheless. I rarely had the option to move a little closer or back a little farther away from the event I was assigned to shoot. In the past, if 400mm was too tight on the finish line and I switched to to a 300mm, then I’d be too loose. With the 200-400mm, if 342mm was just right, then I shot at 342mm.

14 Kristina Franic Croatia. 10 Andela Bulatovic Montenegro. London 2012 Summer Olympic Games: Day 7. Womens Team Handball: Preliminaries Croatia vs Montenegro Croatia vs Montenegro. Canon 200-400mm f/4L IS 1.4X lens at f4, 1/1600", ISO 4000, 200mm. © 2012 Peter Read Miller.

So, how does the lens perform? The copy I had was fantastic. I’m not an empirical tester—I just shot the lens daily at the London Olympics for 16 days on my EOS-1D X bodies, almost always wide open and usually under challenging lighting conditions. I think without the extender the sharpness is a match for any Canon prime telephoto and with the extender the performance is as good or better than any prime lens plus extender combination I have ever used. The auto-focus speed on the 1D X body is on a par with the latest Series II lenses. The image-stabilization allowed me to make a sharp photo of the Queen during the opening ceremonies at a shutter speed of 1/100 of a second at 560mm on a monopod.

Kyla Ross USA. London 2012 Olympic Games Day 1. Women's Artistic Gymnastics, Floor Exercise. Canon 200-400mm f/4L IS 1.4X lens at f4.5, 1/2500", ISO 4000, 290mm. © 2012 Peter Read Miller.

In short, I think that Canon has really hit a home run with the 200-400mm. Combined with amazing high ISO performance of the EOS-1D X camera, this lens becomes a real “go anywhere, shoot anything” piece of gear for both sports and wildlife photographers.

Lens specs and pricing at B&H 

Lens specs and pricing at Amazon

About Peter Read Miller

Peter Read Miller sports photographerIn addition to shooting nine Olympics, Peter has shot 37 Super Bowls, 14 NBA Finals, the Stanley Cup Final, the World Series, the Kentucky Derby, the NCAA Final Four, and Men’s and Women’s World Cup Soccer. Peter worked as a staff photographer at Sports Illustrated for more than 30 years and has more than 100 SI cover shots to his credit.

Peter offers a week-long sports photography workshop in the spring and fall. To join the mailing list for upcoming announcements, click here. To check out the workshop’s page on Facebook, click here.

His new book, Peter Read Miller On Sports Photography, will be published by Peachpit Press this year.

Peter’s portfolio—PeterReadMiller.com • Peter’s Canon Explorer of Light gallery

 

9 Responses to Guest Blog—Peter Read Miller: Hands-On With the Canon 200-400mm at the London Olympics

  1. [...] built-in 1.4x extender Here's Peter Read Miller's write-up on his experiences with the lens: Guest Blog?Peter Read Miller: Hands-On With the Canon 200-400mm at the London Olympics | PixSylated … __________________ Members don't see ads in threads. Register your free account today [...]

  2. Dave Randolph says:

    Hey Syl,

    Thanks for the review on the $12,000 lens. Think I will run right out and get one. ;-)

  3. Steve Mac says:

    Interesting read..always good to hear a guest blogger’s point of view. Price tag means this is on my wish list for the moment though!

  4. [...] Guest Blog—Peter Read Miller: Hands-On With the Canon 200-400mm at the London Olympics –> read it here [...]

  5. [...] Famed sports photographer Peter Read Miller had the lens on assignment to capture the Olympics in London last Summer. He used it daily with the 1D X and has shared his thoughts in a guest post over on pixsylated. [...]

  6. [...] Light Peter Read Miller had the opportunity to test the lens at the London Olympics 2012 (source: pixsylated). He [...]

  7. [...] Light Peter Read Miller had the opportunity to test the lens at the London Olympics 2012 (source: pixsylated). He [...]

  8. [...] Read Miller had the opportunity to test the lens at the London Olympics 2012 (source: pixsylated). He says: So, how does the lens perform? The copy I had was fantastic. I’m not an empirical [...]

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