Exclusive: Prototype Canon 400mm f/2 legacy lens review

Something you have never seen before – a mysterious legacy prototype / one-off Canon lens from the 1970’s / 1980’s, with crazy parameters. Huge thanks to cinematographer Joel Honeywell for hiring it to me – check out his website here:

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All pictures taken by me on a Canon EOS R5 camera.

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Canon EOS R5:
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Music: ‘Opportunity Walks’, Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0

Source: zero24-7.org

See also  Episode 12: Discovering LA Wednesday: Paul Revere, KYD and the Mission Inn

45 comments on Exclusive: Prototype Canon 400mm f/2 legacy lens review

  1. There are quite a few of these hidden gems out there, that no-one has encountered before (at least, no-one on the internet) – it's always fascinating to see them uncovered!

  2. That looks like a focusing helicoid that may have been retrofitted onto the lens and maybe not original. I wonder if it had some other focus mechanism, or was used with a bellows or something. Or maybe a fixed-focus lens for some scientific or industrial purpose?

  3. How did you manage this 11 kg beast to point to that light source (for testing against bright light) Chris? Great review!!

  4. I don't know why but for the examples images I'm pretty sure I get get better and creamier background separation with my GM135mm f1,8 lens and maybe with the GM50mm f1,2 lens..

  5. I really hope he doesn't get it rehoused, or have the mount changed any further. Firstly because, if he does intend to hire it out, moving to PL effectively restricts it to only being used for video, while with the EF mount it could be used by both video and stills photographers equally. It's true that the PL mount is usually better for heavy lenses as the mount is a touch sturdier, but in this case you'd never be using it without both the lens and the attached camera supported very securely, so the extra strength of the PL mount shouldn't matter.
    But second, and the more important thing for me, is I'm really tired of seeing increasingly-rare (let alone one-of-a-kind) vintage lenses being hacked up, which in many cases results in some of their original parts becoming unusable and frequently discarded. While it's unlikely there absolutely aren't any other copies or variations of this lens at all (since Canon would have to have made at least one or two more prototypes to get the formula right; the age means this was designed before 3D computer simulation and they wouldn't have simply gotten it right first time), but it's stiill clearly as rare as any lens possibly could be. That should be preserved as much as possible, not modernised. There are already several Canon R (not RF) and FL lenses which, as far as any collector knows, no longer exist in their original mounts, and many FL and FD lenses are increasingly hard to find in their original shells. These old lenses are finite, and once you've hacked one up into a modern shell, that original form is gone for good and the pool of surviving lenses becomes that much smaller. I don't want to see a day where an entire lens line effectively no longer exists because some indie music video director has decided he really must have those old optics but can't tolerate the idea of just using an adapter instead of permanent modification.
    A special rarity like this should be left alone and enjoyed for what it is.

  6. Forget it 🤣 if one needs to stop down to f4 to get a decent image, just buy a average quality 400mm from anywhere!

  7. 4:00 This is probably made for Canon's FD mount flange distance at the time. The Canon FD flange distance is shorter than EOS and while Canon already made exotic FD L lenses during the time, this one was probably a prototype hence the external focusing helicoid.

  8. Amazing lens. I collect and use Canon cameras and lens and my guess about the date of the lens is end of the 1960's certainly not 80's. In the 80's Canon was making New FD lens and they had UD and Fluorite glass in many lens. The original New Fd 400mm f2.8 was on the market in 1981. The look of this lens match the look of the R lens series that was made for the Canonflex cameras series. The helicoidal to focus the lens is not original. The original focusing unit was probably a small bellow on rail. Christopher did you use some sort of lens hood in you test because the lens anti reflection coating was mostly a single blue layer and not very effective like modern lens coating? Thank you for testing that amazing lens. You saved that lens from oblivion because now it is part of Christopher Frost Tested lens.

  9. Wow! So THAT'S what you look like?!?!?! I always imagined you would look a lot more like Harry Potter.

  10. Wow! The person standing in the garden at f/2 looks like a miniature figure, because we are only used to that kind of background blur in macro photography!

  11. Chris, you are making truly excellent job. I've been watching your reviews for so many years… You and Dustin Abbott are my favorite reviewers 👍

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