Canon’s Mark III 400mm f/2.8 lens was introduced in 2018 (see Canon lens release timeline) and revealed a complete revision of the 400mm optical design that allowed a staggering 26.2% weight reduction over the Mark II version. With the majority of the lens elements being shifted towards the lens mount, they became significantly smaller, allowing this huge weight reduction. You can read more about the new design, and the history of the various versions of the Canon 400mm in a special post that I wrote when it was first launched.

In the hand the weight reduction is impressive, but it’s further enhanced by the altogether better balance of the camera now that the weight of the lens is more concentrated towards the rear. Anyone that remembers high school physics will remember the idea of moments…

I recently borrowed this lens from Canon to test it, and while I work on the full review I wanted to share some hands-on photos of the lens. I know it’s just a lens, but boy is it thing of beauty! 400mm super telephoto prime lenses are such iconic items in a brand’s lens portfolio.

Canon super telephoto lenses used to be delivered in bulky hard cases, but newer lenses now come in a more convenient soft case with a rigid plastic bottom.
With the Mark III lens moving to a focus-by-wire-system, we get the addition of a focus speed switch to control the amount of focus ring rotation that is required to move the focus elements. Essentially adjusting the speed at which you can go from close focus to infinity.

In short, the weight reduction feels even more significant than the already impressive 26% figure would suggest.

Incidentally, the weight of the Canon 400mm f/2.8 L IS III is 2840g which makes it the lightest 400mm f/2.8 on the current market. A record that Sony held for just a matter of days when their FE 400mm f/2.8 GM came out, weighing 2895g. Of course the 55g difference isn’t really noticeable, but hey, camera manufacturers do like to flaunt their superlatives and records.

With a 5-figure price tag one would obviously expect stellar results from this lens, but with a complete optical redesign, and in fact entirely new design philosophy from the previous versions, it’ll be interesting to see how it performs.

The new design of the lens element cover for the Mark III lenses allows you to use it on the lens when the large lens hood is not in place. Nice for travel when you might put the bulk hood in your checked luggage, but carry the expensive and more fragile lens in your carry-on.

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