Last week I had an opportunity to purchase a second-hand Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS USM at a very cheap price.
The big 500 is a lens I have long wanted, and it is an ideal lens and focal length for wildlife photography.
I decided to have a look at it, and I spent a fair bit of time with it.
It works fine, but it is not in the greatest condition.
A portion of the AF switch had been snapped off, which exposed the inside of the barrel — at least, the section below the switch panel. That was concerning to me, as water could easily ingress the barrel.
Also, the front rim was in quite bad shape. It had copped a lot of bumps into hard objects.
I was told that it belonged to a paparazzo who used it on a motorbike.
Clearly it had collided with poles, walls, cars, the bike itself and heaven knows what else.
Despite a few paint scratches, the hood was in great shape. I would expect that if it had been used much, it would have been well and truly trashed; I suspect it did not spend much time on the lens.
Even for the very cheap price I was offered, it was a risky and uncomfortable situation, and the lens would need to be serviced by Canon to address the damage, which could have been an expensive exercise.
The lens was in good condition relative to how it had been used; but a condition not good enough for my comfort level.
I decided not to proceed.
The following day, I began to think about the Canon EF 200mm f/2L IS USM. I tried that lens at PMA Australia in 2008 when it was new. It is a stunning lens, and having recently shot a few times with the long-discontinued and rare Canon EF 200mm f/1.8L USM, I would be very happy with a fast (faster than f/2.8) 200mm lens.
When I conducted some critical analysis, the truth is that I do not need a 500mm lens, as I can already achieve the 560mm focal length at f/4 by attaching my Canon Extender EF 1.4x II to my Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS USM.
What the 500mm prime has in its favour is lighter weight (enormously beneficial when travelling: 3.87kg vs. 5.37kg), and a sharper, native focal length of 500mm. Having said that, of the three longest focal lengths I had in Kenya, 400mm was used most, followed by 800mm and 560mm.
What I cannot currently achieve is f/2) at 200mm. It has been a dream of mine for a number of years to replace my Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM with a Canon EF 200mm f/2L IS USM, as not only would the latter give me a brighter aperture at the 200mm focal length and a stunningly sharp lens, but it would switch me to a 100% prime lens rig. I am a fan of fast primes, and presently I only have one zoom — one of the finest zoom lenses Canon has produced, incidentally.
I have asked my regular supplier (who has always given me good deals) for a price on a Canon EF 200mm f/2L IS USM. If I can land a good price, I might just finally do this, and turn another lens replacement dream into a reality.