Shooting Portraits With a Massive 400mm f/2.8 Lens

400mm f/2.8 lenses are generally the domain of sports and wildlife photographers, who need lots of reach and to be able to capture as much light as possible and are often willing to pay five-digit prices for the ability to do so. However, with such high-quality optics and thin depth of field, there is another genre in which it is fun to play with such a lens: portraits.

Coming to you from Mango Street, this fun video follows them as they shoot portraits with a Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS III USM lens. The 400mm f/2.8 is a highly specialized lens with a stratospheric price tag ($12,000) and a massive footprint, but it also contains some of the best optics you will find in pretty much any Canon lens. Combine that with the different perspective of the very long focal length and the shallow depth of field, and you can create some very unique portraits in which a crisp subject seemingly pops out against the background. Of course, it is not a particularly practical endeavor, but this is more about the enjoyment of the experience and experimentation. I managed to snag a secondhand copy of the first version of this lens years ago, and I love using it for recital photography, where it can make a soloist pop in a similar fashion while allowing me to stay in the back of the hall to avoid interrupting the performance. Check out the video above to see what it’s like!

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