Shutter Muse: Canon 200-400 f/4 L IS Review

Canon 200-400 f/4 L IS Review – Bears of Vancouver Island

There’s no doubt in my mind that this is Canon’s greatest ever achievement in their lens lineup; an optical masterpiece.  Over the last five years we’ve seen them work on an increasingly impressive range of zoom lenses that challenge the popular though that primes rule all else.  This is no longer the case.  [...]  The 200-400 is just the icing on the cake though, and I’ve no qualms about declaring it the best wildlife photography lens on the market, from any manufacturer.  Canon lost a few wildlife shooters due to their lack of a 200-400 in the lineup but I dare say they’re going to gain a few back again with this lens.  It would be a good enough lens if it was just a 200-400 but the inclusion of the 1.4x extender elevates its versatility to a whole other level.  It should almost be referred to as the Canon 200-560 because there’s little reason to not make use of the extender.  The difference between an image at 200mm and at 560mm is vast and the ability to grab those two shots just a second apart means that you come back from your wildlife trip, or your sporting assignment with a much wider array of photos.

For many, the question is going to be “Is it worth the money?”.  For professional Canon wildlife photographers, yes, it’s absolutely worth it.  I don’t take these sums of money lightly, and I’ve rarely, if ever, been so direct with my response to such a question.  You can spend many thousands of dollars getting to a location and waiting for your subject.  Coming away from an encounter with a wider range of images is only going to increase your sales and give your clients with a choice of images. Not only do you get that range of images from the tight portrait to the wider, scenic, animal-in-landscape shot; you also get some creative freedom for framing all those images instead of being forced into a composition with a 500 or 600mm prime.  Sometimes with wildlife and sports you don’t get to choose exactly where you want to stand so the zoom range give you some freedom to create a more pleasing composition.  If you aren’t a professional who’s making money from their images then it’s unlikely you’ll be considering this lens.  If you are lucky enough to have this kind of money at your disposal, to spend on your pastime, then you simply won’t be disappointed.  As I said in the un-boxing video, I think every photography fan should experience the excitement of unwrapping a super telephoto lens at some point in their life.

What about sports photography though? I know that I concentrated heavily on wildlife in this review but I know that a lot of sports photographers will be considering this lens as well.  Just a few years ago it would be unthinkable to approach a sporting event professionally with an f/4 lens, but times have changed and cameras like the 1D-X deliver high ISO results that more than compensate for the stop of light that this loses over something the Canon 400mm f2.8 L II.  My thoughts are that if you are primarily shooting sports then the 400mm prime lens is likely to still be your workhorse though.  If your work takes on a broader range of subjects, more photojournalistic, then the Canon 200-400 is a perfect partner to the venerable 70-200.  Many people follow me because of my winter sports work and for this as well the Canon 200-400 is the new king as far as I’m concerned.  It’s long enough for me to shoot big mountain skiing in Alaska, and versatile enough that I can just pack a 24-70 alongside it and be good for a day in the mountains.  For major sporting event coverage like the Olympics this would be the lens I want in my hand, paired with a 600mm f/4.

Read the full review in Bears of Vancouver Island. You can also get A Free E-Book Version Of This Review With Bonus Images & Full Resolution Samples.

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Still Motion DSLR Tutorials for the Canon Cinema Caravan website

Still motion has a bunch of great videos brought to you by the Canon learning center. These have been around for some time, but are for the most part relevant today. Enjoy!

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Great Deal: Photoshop and Lightroom CC

Photoshop Photography Program : Adobe Creative Cloud

For a limited time, you can join a special Creative Cloud plan. It includes access to Photoshop CC and Lightroom 5, plus feature updates and upgrades as they are available, 20GB of cloud storage for file sharing and collaboration, and a Behance ProSite. And it’s just US $9.99/month when you sign up for a one-year plan, but you need to join by March 31, 2014.

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Interview: Cinematography of 12 Years a Slave

Time’s LightBox interviews Cinematographer Sean Bobbitt on The Cinematography of the Oscar Nominated 12 Years A Slave.

LightBox: Talk a bit about the differences–or the similarities– between photography and cinematography from a narrative standpoint.

Sean Bobbitt: In photography you’re trying to capture a moment in time. In cinematography you’re also trying to capture a moment, but extended over a longer period. One of the major demands is to create a visual consistency over extended periods. You are basically compressing time, and making it believable, so people don’t see the artifice in a half-day’s filming that ends up as six minutes on screen.

We wanted to create something that felt real and accurate, so that at no point is the audience taken out of the film itself — so that the world we created has verisimilitude, that there is a truth to it, to heighten the impact of Solomon’s story.


My favorite scene, though, is so simple, just a medium shot of Chiwetel Ejiofor, when he just sort of glances into the camera.

At the end of the day the cinematography is there purely as a vehicle for the performance. The camera should be invisible, and in that scene that is very much the case, as Chiwetel goes off into this amazing state. His face isn’t moving, and yet we see the whole of his life written in his eyes, the compassion and the horror and the dignity all welled up inside him, and when he does that little glance into the camera, it was like a physical blow to the chest. It’s so simple and powerful, and for me that’s what cinematography should be.

Then there’s the whipping scene of Patsey, (played by Lupita Nyong’o). The reality is that, perversely, that was the most enjoyable scenes of the film to make. I live for those extended hand-held scenes, and to be able to get all the beats correct and to be in the right place at the right time for the whole of the take I found it exhilarating.

This scene is the culmination of all the humiliation, pain and fear and all the degradation, when he’s forced to whip the one person he has a connection with, someone he loves. It’s heartbreaking, so it was crucial for that scene to work. From the very beginning Steve and I agreed that if we could possibly do it in one shot, then we would. We’ve discovered over the years that if you extend a shot, particularly a scene of violence, and don’t edit it, you don’t lose the audience. But as soon as an edit appears in such a scene, subconsciously the audience is reminded that it’s watching a film — that it’s not real — and they relax.  If there is no edit, then you’re not given that opportunity to relax, and are drawn deeper into the emotion of the scene itself.

Read the rest of The Cinematography of the Oscar Nominated 12 Years A Slave – LightBox.

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Preplanned Oscar Selfie

Writes Suzanne Vranica in Behind the Preplanned Oscar Selfie: Samsung’s Ad Strategy – on the joys of going viral.

Marketer Spent Nearly $20 Million on Ad Time—and Got Product Placement for Galaxy Phone

Samsung Electronics Co. spent an estimated $20 million on ads to run during breaks in the Academy Awards broadcast on Sunday night. But Samsung may have got more promotional mileage from Oscars host Ellen DeGeneres during the show itself.

Ms. DeGeneres toyed with a white Samsung phone during the broadcast, including when she handed a Galaxy Note 3 to actor Bradley Cooper so he could take a “selfie” photo of himself and other stars including Brad Pitt, Meryl Streep, Kevin Spacey and Jennifer Lawrence surrounding the host.

While the stunt felt spontaneous, it wasn’t entirely unplanned. As part of its sponsorship and ad pact for the Oscars with ABC, the TV network airing the show, Samsung and its media buying firm Starcom MediaVest negotiated to have its Galaxy smartphone integrated into the show, according to two people familiar with the matter. 


The origin of the “selfie” shot was a little different. Ms. DeGeneres, in the days leading up to the broadcast, decided she wanted to take “selfies” during the show and ABC suggested she use a Samsung since it was a sponsor, another person familiar with the matter said. During rehearsals Samsung executives trained Ms. DeGeneres on how to use the Samsung Galaxy, two people familiar with the matter said.

“It was a great plug for the Samsung brand,” said Allen Adamson, managing director at Landor Associates, a branding firm owned by WPP PLC. “Ellen’s selfie is going to be more impactful than their commercials. You can’t buy that magic of going viral,” he added.

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