Canon EF 200-400mm f/4 IS USM Extender 1.4X review: does the performance justify the price?

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DxOMark Lens

Introduction

Although Canon announced the lens’ development in February 2011, subsequently showing a prototype at CP+, Yokohama Japan, working models were first ‘seen’ during the London Olympics in 2012 before being only officially announced recently in May 2013. At $11,800, the lens is unashamedly targeting professionals and well-heeled enthusiasts looking to use it for sports and wildlife.

Without the extender in place the new lens achieves a DxOMark score of 24 points, dropping to 17 points with in place which is good for a telephoto-zoom but still behind less extreme models.

Tamron SP 70-200mm F/2.8 Di VC USD Canon 1699 28
Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM 2499 27
Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Extender 1.4x 11800 24
Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM 1300 24
Tamron SP AF 70-200mm F/2.8 Di LD (IF) MACRO Canon 770 24
Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM 1695 23
Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM 1210 23
Sigma 70-200mm F2.8 EX DG APO OS HSM Canon 1699 23
Sigma 70-200mm F2.8 EX DG APO HSM Canon 880 22
Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM 1599 21
Sigma 70-200mm F2.8 EX DG APO Macro HSM II Canon 949 21
Sigma 70-300mm F4-5.6 APO-M DG Macro Canon 209 18
Tamron SP 70-300mm F/4-5.6 Di VC USD Canon 449 18
Canon EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 III USM 195 18
Sigma 120-400mm F4.5-5.6 DG APO OS HSM Canon 999 17
Sigma 70-300mm F4-5.6 DG OS Canon 359 17
Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Extender 1.4x 11800 17
Tamron AF 70-300 F/4-5.6 LD Macro Canon 125 16
Canon EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM 420 14
Canon EF 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 DO IS USM 1330 14

 

The lens is placed 3rd, and 11th respectively in our database rankings for Sharpness (measured in P-MPix)

Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM 2499 21
Tamron SP 70-200mm F/2.8 Di VC USD Canon 1699 20
Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Extender 1.4x 11800 19
Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM 1210 18
Sigma 70-200mm F2.8 EX DG APO OS HSM Canon 1699 18
Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM 1695 16
Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM 1300 16
Tamron SP AF 70-200mm F/2.8 Di LD (IF) MACRO Canon 770 16
Sigma 70-200mm F2.8 EX DG APO HSM Canon 880 15
Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM 1599 15
Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Extender 1.4x 11800 14
Sigma 120-400mm F4.5-5.6 DG APO OS HSM Canon 999 13
Sigma 70-200mm F2.8 EX DG APO Macro HSM II Canon 949 13
Tamron SP 70-300mm F/4-5.6 Di VC USD Canon 449 12
Canon EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 III USM 195 12
Sigma 70-300mm F4-5.6 APO-M DG Macro Canon 209 11
Canon EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM 420 10
Tamron AF 70-300 F/4-5.6 LD Macro Canon 125 10
Sigma 70-300mm F4-5.6 DG OS Canon 359 10
Canon EF 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 DO IS USM 1330 9

 

Achieving an excellent DxOMark score of 24 points overall and 19P-Mpix for sharpness mounted on the EOS 5D Mk III, the lens performs very well, edge-to-edge, but the image quality drops noticeably when the 1.4X extender is engaged. Then it’s just slightly the ahead of the $999 Sigma 120-400mm F4.5-5.6 DG APO OS HSM, in terms of sharpness at least. In all other respects; Distortion, Vignetting and Chromatic Aberration are all very low indeed. Slightly more than one stop (1.2EV) is lost in Transmission when the extender is used.

When compared against Canon’s recently introduced redesigned 300mm and 400mm f/2.8 super-telephotos without the extender in use, we can see just how good a performer the Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Extender 1.4 really is. While it can’t quite match them in outright sharpness (it is very close at each focal length setting) the other metrics are equally low. In fact, the zoom lens has a less lateral chromatic aberration than either of the other two, though bear in mind the two primes are a stop faster at full-aperture.

Despite the desirability, with the price close to twice that of the rival Nikon equivalent the (as yet untested) $6,700 AF-S Nikkor 200-400mm f/4G ED VR II, this lens will remain largely inaccessible to most Canon users. However, for those that can afford it, or decide to rent it for occasional use, the Canon 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Extender 1.4X offers image quality that’s close to the best in class, along with the convenience and versatility that’s otherwise lacking with those fixed focal length equivalents.