Above: I snapped this iphone shot of of the 200-400mm before I left for the game last night. You can see it’s a lot skinnier than the 400 f/2.8, and so lightweight you could hand-hold it without a monopod. 

Hi Gang: Well, it wasn’t a pretty game, and the Bucs lost pretty miserably, and the stands were pretty empty and….well….(he pauses searching for some redeeming nugget), but at least I did get to try out some cool new gear.

After my post about last week’s Falcons/Titans game, Canon offered to let me take their new 200-400mm f/4 with a built-in 1.4 teleconverter out for a spin for last night’s game.

I got in well after midnight and still had a 2nd round of uploads for the wire, so I don’t have any game action shots ready to post this morning, but while I was at the game, I did think to take three shots to show you how the 200-400mm with the built-in tele works, because it’s really worth seeing:

Above: Here’s the view from the end zone. With the Bucs at center field, being out at 200mm makes them look like ants. Of course, the 200mm length is for when they’re much closer, but this does give you a good idea of why a 70-200mm alone makes shooting football pretty tough.

Above: Zooming in to 400mm definitely brings the action a lot closer. Of course, the lens doesn’t just have just 200mm and 400mm, like any zoom you can choose any focal length you want in-between those two.

Above: If you flip the switch to turn on the built-in 1.4 teleconverter, it zooms in to 560mm. You don’t have to do anything fancy — it’s just a switch on the top of the lens — flip it and bam â” you’re zoomed in even tighter.

When you flip the switch, you lose a stop
The 200-400mm is an f/4 lens, and if you switch on the 1.4 teleconverter it becomes an f/5.6 so if you’re shooting a day game, this is really pretty much a non-issue. However, at a night game, I had to increase my ISO from between 5,000 ISO to 6,400 ISO (depending on where the teams were on field, as the lighting changes). Believe it or not, those shots above are at 6,400 ISO and you still don’t see any noise (that 1Dx is insane!). However, this is something to keep in mind if you have a body that doesn’t do well at high ISOs at night.

You can get spoiled really fast
I will say this — it’s easy to get spoiled  with one lens that pretty much covers the whole field (unless they get inside the 10, which sadly really wasn’t an issue for the Bucs last night). Being able to cover that range keeps you from running up and down the sidelines so much, and you’re more likely not to miss any action that’s just out of reach of a regular 400mm. The only thing is, you have to keep an eye out on your ISO especially since the 1Dx’s Auto ISO minimum ISO setting won’t go up to 1/1000 of a second (it stops at 1/250), so Auto ISO won’t help you out in this case. (So far, this is the only chink in the armor of the 1Dx that I’ve found).

The lens itself is sharp as anything, and the focus is really fast and crisp. Plus, the lens is so lightweight you could literally hand-hold it. Also, this is just a little feature, I really like that when you rotate the lens on the collar (switching the camera from wide to tall or vice verse), the center is “detented” making it simple to make certain that when you rotate it for wall or wide that it’s perfectly straight, just by feel. Hope that gives you insights into the 200-400mm.

Above: OK, here’s one action shot from the game, and I’m posting it because it pretty much tells the story of the whole night in just one shot — one of the Bucs lying on the ground as Redskins Running Back Chris Thompson strolls in for a touchdown. Hey, it’s just a preseason game. A “practice” game. None of our starters even played. I keep telling myself this stuff over and over. LOL! 

OK, I’m off to Photoshop World
Whew — it’s been a whirlwind week, but there’s another one coming up for me as I’m heading to Vegas for Photoshop World. I’m hoping to see a lot of you there (and since we already have more folks registered for this year’s conference than last year’s, that’s a pretty good bet).If you see me around, I hope you’ll stop me and say “hi” so I can thank you personally for reading the blog, and sharing a part of your day with me.

Hope you have an awesome weekend and I’ll see a whole bunch of you in Vegas next week. Whoo Hoo!!!

About The Author

Scott is the President of KelbyOne, an online educational community for Photographers, Photoshop and Lightroom users. He's editor and publisher of Photoshop User Magazine, Conference Technical Chair for the Photoshop World Conference & Expo, and the author of a string of bestselling Photoshop, Lightroom, and photography books.


  1. Interesting to read and see how the built in teleconverter works. I wonder if Nikon will follow in similar fashion.

  2. Very nice. I would love to own one but I think it’s a little more than I need right now. I think my first L-Series lens will be the 70-200 but what is perplexing is that the prices are very close for the 70-200mm f/4 L IS USM and the 70-200mm f/2.8 L USM. Which one do I go for? I am an amateur, with no clear direction on my portfolio. I take family pics, NASCAR race day pics from the stands @ New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Red Sox pics, and wildlife when I can find them. I am planning on getting the Canon 2.0x III Telephoto Extender to give me up to a 400mm until I can truly afford the 200-400.

    • If you are going for the 2x converter get the 2.8 lens. That way with the extender on it is f5.6.

      • lvthunder,

        Thanks for the suggestion. I knew there was something I was overlooking. I didn’t want to miss out on the IS but the f2.8 and f5.6 is more important.

      • I wouldn’t miss out on the IS. Look for a used version of the 70-200 2.8 L IS first generation or save more money to get the IS version.

  3. Thanks Scott! I was wondering how the 200-400 worked out for you. As I doubt I could sell enough images to even rent one of these lenses I’ll just have to live vicariously through your blog!! I’d love to update my 1D Mark III as well and that will happen one day. Thanks again for the info and images!!

  4. Scott,

    Auto ISO on the 1Dx work great. Try shooting in Tv mode and set your shutter speed the way you want. The camera will go to the widest aperture and auto ISO will would like a dream. The reason you use Tv is in that mode you will be able to use exposure comp to get the image how you want it. Usually for me about +2/3 is correct for me.

  5. I’m really surprised the 1Dx doesn’t support 1/1000 with auto-ISO. The 5D Mark III does and I’ll admit to rarely setting my ISO at all anymore for sports. I do limit the auto-ISO to not go above 6400 because it gets too noisy above that.

  6. I used auto ISO in Tanzania last month, on manual. Set the shutter and aperture where I wanted and let the ISO “float”. Great shots and one insane one in a Maasai hut shot at 25,600 ISO. Did use Lightroom noise reduction, but the file is amazing. Most shots were at ISO 200 -1600. Will show you next week at Photoshop World, still my favorite “gathering of the clan” convention!.

  7. At a price of ~$11K, I don;t think I’ll be spoiled anytime soon :-(

  8. Absolutely a fantastic lens I gotta have one !

  9. Hi Scott,

    It’s completely out of the above topic but I’m sure that you and the boys will dig it!


  10. Tonight’s our first local high school football game and I enjoy taking the photos just for the players and fans to share on Facebook (plus, it’s good marketing for my high school senior photography business). I’ll be shooting the 5D Mark III at 6400 ISO with the 70-200 2.8 IS II. Last year I just used the first generation 2.8, so I’m hoping this new one will lock focus just a tad bit faster. High school stadium lights are almost always horrible though. It did alright last year and it’s better than any other local camera setup on our sidelines, but I’d love to try out a 400mm one time! lol! See you next week in Vegas!! :)

  11. It is a great lens indeed. Chris (our SmugMug co-founder) has one, and I borrowed it to shoot MLS game not long ago. That was a lot of fun, though having an extender just made it that much harder to choose which length I am shooting at?

    Nice seeing you earlier this week, Scott!

  12. Scott I’m a little confused about your comment that the “1Dx’s Auto ISO setting won’t go up to 1/1000 of a second, so Auto ISO won’t help you out in this case”. I have the 1DX and set it to Auto ISO on my 100-400 f4-5.6. I have no problem setting 1000/sec shutter speed in Auto ISO. Are you saying you can’t get to 1000/sec shutter speed on the 200-400 f4.0 in Auto ISO?

    • I’m talking about the minimum shutter speed setting, which I need it to make sure my shutter speed doesn’t ever fall below 1/1000 of a second. The 1Dxs fastest minimum shutter speed setting is just 1/250 which is useless for sports.

      • Hi Scott

        Why not use manual – ie set your shutter to say 1/2000 and aperture to f8 – then auto iso – I do this with my 1DX and 600mmMKII + 1.4x so I can keep the shutter speed where I want it.

  13. A good friend shoots with 200-400, I’m in the market and he’s trying to convince me to get it over 400. If you could get one and had a choice, which would it be?

    • The 400 2.8 is an amazing lens – but quite a skill getting used to swapping between two bodies to e.g. a 70-200 for the shorter shots. If you have only one body, the 200-400 is the way to go as it’ll cover a large portion of the field and the corners of the goal/ end zone area. But as Scott said in previous post, the 400 2.8 has a different look

  14. Hi Scott – why not use manual – ie set shutter at say 1/2000 and f8 – then use auto iso – I do this with my 1DX + 600mmMKII + 1.4x to keep the shutter speed where I want it.

  15. Hi Scott – dang – I bet that was a fun lens to shoot. Glad you had a chance to try one out – and thanks for sharing. Though the lens costs more than my first 4 cars combined – it sounds like Canon knocked this one out of the park. As for the Bucs loss – thankfully it was preseason. Not sure if it was as painful as watching the Beavers drop one today. :)

  16. Could you compare the Nikon 200-400 f4 with a Nikon D3s? I wanted a little insight to the comparison. Thanks so much.

  17. Scott, I just don’t seem to get the Crisp focus that you do..I may be timid not using higher iso and faster speed (use 1/350 up to 1/800) with D4… How how would you go iso with D4 at HS football night game?

  18. Maybe I should use different setting for focus (51 pts or focus tracking setting)?

  19. Scott, thanks for sharing. Your travels and equipment discussions rock. Hey, I have the 1D-X and love it!!!!!!!!! I don’t have the 200-400 f4, but I can dream. I shoot soccer and football. My question to you is: do you use the 61 point AF or the center focus with 4 or 9 points???

    I find that the 61 points AF, with soccer especially, will lock on something else, thus blurring out what I wanted. Bummer. Since I have switch to the 4 or 9 point center, I get much better results. I shot my first pro soccer game last week. The 1D-X did not disappoint.

    Thanks again.


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