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70-300 Canon Lenses

Tronhard
Authority

Introduction

I have quite a lot of gear, including quite a few L series lenses, but I am also interested in the non-professional units as there are a lot of people who cannot or choose not invest in such expensive units.

The gold standard for Canon zoom lenses has been measured against the Canon EF 70-200 f/2.8 IS USM (I have the MkII) and latterly also the f/4L MkII (super light), or the EF 100-400 L MkII  - these are why I went to Canon when I moved from film: at that time using a mix of Canon, Nikon and Olympus, but I had to choose a body and I went for Canon based on the glass. 

However, for the kind of photography I do, I shoot mostly beyond that 70-200 focal length, so the 70-300 became my go-to range - although now, based in NZ and shooting mostly birds, I shoot with the RF100-500 and Sigma 150-600C and 60-600S lenses.  One of the big drawbacks of the 70-200L IS USM MkIII f/2.8 was, for me, the weight.  I don't change lenses in the field, so each lens has a body attached to it, thus I prefer to keep the overall weight down when possible.

The EF 70-300 f/4-5.6 IS USM, MkI lens.

I have had for some time the Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM Lens, a unit released in 2005 that has caused some controversy amongst a few users as they apparently have had mixed results with it.  Those issues related to specifically using the lens in portrait mode, but that was resolved by Canon when it was made apparent.

70-300MkI.jpg

Personally, I have liked the images taken with it, although compared with the most modern units it had some odd traits, like the slightly audible autofocus and IS, and the way the lens might occasionally not fully retracted at random times during use (easily resolved with a re-focus).  Still, it was a valid and significant update from the of 55-250 (for reach), or (for optics and build) to the pretty horrific 75-300 standard kit zooms that have mediocre optics and build, and are unstabilized.

If I was limited for funds and wanted to upgrade from either of those lenses today, I would still seriously consider this lens.

The following three images were taken on the EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM MkI: all hand-held.

NZ Auckland Mission Bay Seagull 01.jpg

Canon EOS 60D: 300mm, f/9, 1/400sec, ISO-500. 

Takahe adult -.jpg

A Takahe Adult Canon EOS 80D, 189mm, f/7.1, 1/250 sec, ISO-400

Bulding 08.jpg

Canon EOS 650D, 75mm, f/9, 1/250 sec, ISO-200 (hand-held and severely cropped)

I think the MkI version is still a great performer and it will be much cheaper refurbished or second-hand.

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The EF 70-300 f/4-5.6 IS USM, MkII lens.

So, recently I acquired the EF 70-300 F4.0-5.6 IS II USM and had the following impressions of this newer piece of kit.

70-300MkII.jpg

1.  It has had a major cosmetic upgrade.  Gone the busy and lumpy control layout and in with a sleek smooth matt plastic shape that is bigger in diameter than the MkI - the old unit had a 58mm filter ring while the new one is at 67mm. The weight has been kept under control 710g from 630g is not too bad considering the changes "under the hood".

The buttons are now recessed more and it now sports a LCD display that offers DoF indicators for the currently selected focal length, or (press a button) the FoV of the lens - which seems superfluous, considering lens focal length is printed on the focusing ring about 1 cm above!  For those using an ASP-C body it does give the equivalent FoV values automatically. Finally, after another press it gives you the degree of shake experienced by the lens.   Personally, I have little use for any of these so I would tend to leave the display off, but that's my choice.

2. The body is still not weather sealed but the rear element, located flush with the metal plate at the rear of the lens, is fixed in place, so it may offer some resistance to bellows effect.  The lens still extends and retracts like the old one.  Operation is smooth and silent.

3. The autofocus is accurate and blazingly fast thanks to the Nano USM motor that combines best of STM and ring-type USM - I can see this appearing in more lenses.  I did not find it was hunting as the MkI did on a few occasions.  This is an amazing performer in that area.

4. IS offers 4 stops compared to the claimed 3 of the MkI and it seems to hold onto that.  Which is just as well as my research and own experience indicates that the variable aperture of this lens loses its wider capacity significantly faster as one increases the focal length than the earlier model- essentially it is a slower lens across much of the zoom range.  From what I have read this is seen as a result of the more complex optical construct of the lens. 

Being almost silent it is likely a much more suitable candidate for video than the previous one.  Still if you don't do video (as I don't) that is less of an issue unless you are concerned about disturbing your subjects - say at a wedding...

5 In terms of distortion, vignetting etc.  I found both the lenses performed reasonably well in both areas - the focal range of tele-zoom is much less challenging than one going from wide to tele, such as the 24-105 or the 18-135.  I had no difficulty in letting the PP software do its magic to make the appropriate corrections.

6. Performance on FF vs APS-C.  This was interesting to me...  I tried both the units on a canon 650D (T4i Rebel), a 60D, 80D, 7DII and 5DIII.   I found the latter three units seemed to render similarly excellent results, especially considering they are two crop and a FF body respectively.  I got good results with the 60D and the Rebel.  I will hazard no inference here simply report my own experience and perception.

A variety of photos taken with the Mk II lens: all were hand-held, using available light.

Flower 3-1.jpg5DMkIII, 200mm, f9, 1/500sec, ISO 200

Sample 01.jpgCanon EOS 80D, EF 70-300 IS USM MkII, 278mm, f/5.6, 1/250 sec, ISO-100

7D2_1909c.jpgDetails.  Canon 7DMkII, EF-70-300 f4-5.6 II USM @ 189mm, f/8, 1/1000sec, ISO-200

5D3_6186a LR.jpgCanon EOS 5DmkIII, EF 70-300 f/4-5.6, IS USM MkII, 135mm, f/8, 1/80sec, ISO-100

5D3_6191a LR.jpgCanon EOS 5DmkIII, EF 70-300 f/4-5.6, IS USM MkII, 187mm,  f/8, 1/250sec, ISO-1000

String of Pearls LR.jpgCanon EOS 80D  EF 70-300 f/4-5.6 IS USM MkII, 300mm, f/10, 1/15 sec, ISO-200 (shot through double-glazed window)

7D2_2274-1.jpgCanon 7DMkII, 135mm, f9, 1/250sec, ISO 800

Neither of these units could or should be compared to the fabulous Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM.

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Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM

70-300L.jpgThe Canon EF 70-300L lens.

This is one of my favourite lenses: relatively light, small form factor, incredibly sharp and responsive, and with beautiful, rich tones - but about 3 times the price of the new EF 70-300 F4.0-5.6 IS II USM, so I see these as aimed at completely different markets, and one has to consider that when judging them.  

Some sample shots from EF 70-300L the lens, all hand-held.

Canada BC Vancouver Island Duncan Raptors Bald Eagle 09 LR.jpgEOS 7DMkI, 182mm, f/6.3, 1/100 sec, ISO 320

Canada BC Victoria Beacon Hill Park Deer 01-1.jpgCanon EOS 7DMkII, 140mm, f/9, 1/160 sec, ISO-320

Canada BC Victoria Inner Harbour 01.jpgCanon EOS 60D, 76mm, f/8, 1/160 sec, ISO-200

The following two image were taken, again hand-held, on the totally unforgiving Canon EOS 5DsR, a 51MP monster that cancels out the Anti Aliasing Filter to offer stunning detail, but will show any lens or technique flaws.  The images have had to be massively downsized to fit on this forum.  The second is a 100% crop of the first image.

Queen Vic ULR.jpgCanon EOS 5DsR, Canon EF-L 70-300 f/4-5.6 IS USM @150mm, f/5, 1/200 sec, ISO-200

Queen Vic ULR FS.jpg

Conclusion:

Being an EF rather than EF-S lens, any of the versions of the EF 70-300 F4.0-5.6 is worth considering as a great upgrade lens for those leaving the standard kits lenses and considering one day moving up to a FF body, or who need the extra reach of the 70-300mm rather than one of the 70-200 EF-L models.

For second opinions on the EF 70-300 IS USM MkII lens see these reviews by Justin Abott:

RESOLUTION and FINAL VERDICT 

cheers Trevor

"All the beauty of life is made up of light and shadow", Leo Tolstoy;
"Skill in photography is acquired by practice and not by purchase" Percy W. Harris
"A good swordsman is more important than a good sword" Amit Kalantri

Technique will always Outlast Tech - Me
39 REPLIES 39

Waddizzle
Legend

Sounds and looks like both the original 70-300mm and the update can hold their ground.

EOS 7D Mark II, EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM: 1/1600, f/5.6, ISO 320, @400mm

 

2320540014832018_12_011002177.jpg

 

I like to practice with gulls, too.

 

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"The right mouse button is your friend."

ebiggs1
Legend

Very nice report.  Exactly what I like to do although I am winding down now.

One thing I found out is even the same model lens can be different form another same model.  I bought three Sigma 150-500mm f/5-6.3 APO DG OS HSM lenses before I got the third one which is outstanding. The first two were disappointing to say the least.  There have been several other lenses where I have had multiple copies. Some showing the same experience some not.

I, personally, have never owned, nor would I own one, of the non-L 70-300mm but I have been familiarized with many of them in my DSLR 101 classes. A lot of Rebel owners have one.  My daughter-in-law has one. You obviously got a good one or you are very good with PS.

 

"...the rear element, located flush with the metal plate at the rear of the lens, is fixed in place, so it may offer some resistance to bellows effect."

 

I very much doubt it.  If it zooms, it sucks.  Otherwise it couldn't zoom.

EB
EOS 1DX and 1D Mk IV and several lenses!


@ebiggs1 wrote:

Very nice report.  Exactly what I like to do although I am winding down now.

One thing I found out is even the same model lens can be different form another same model.  I bought three Sigma 150-500mm f/5-6.3 APO DG OS HSM lenses before I got the third one which is outstanding. The first two were disappointing to say the least.  There have been several other lenses where I have had multiple copies. Some showing the same experience some not.

I, personally, have never owned, nor would I own one, of the non-L 70-300mm but I have been familiarized with many of them in my DSLR 101 classes. A lot of Rebel owners have one.  My daughter-in-law has one. You obviously got a good one or you are very good with PS.

 

"...the rear element, located flush with the metal plate at the rear of the lens, is fixed in place, so it may offer some resistance to bellows effect."

 

I very much doubt it.  If it zooms, it sucks.  Otherwise it couldn't zoom.


A very Merry Christmas to you and all other Canon Forum users!!! Smiley Very Happy

Thank you for your comments.  I totally agree with you about the variation in quality between individual lenses.  I am not sure if this occurs during production or delivery - we recently had two couriers over here caught tossing parcels, including items clearly marked Fragile between two trucks.   My one seems to be particularly good, and I am certainly not good at PS! Smiley Embarassed  I wish I was...

 

I agree that an extending lens will have through draft, but I am hoping that the fixed back element will help to protect the camera sensor from stuff channeled from the lens itself.  We shall live in hope...  

cheers Trevor

"All the beauty of life is made up of light and shadow", Leo Tolstoy;
"Skill in photography is acquired by practice and not by purchase" Percy W. Harris
"A good swordsman is more important than a good sword" Amit Kalantri

Technique will always Outlast Tech - Me

And a very merry Christmas to you and yours also.  Smiley Happy

 

What would be so cool if you give a progress report in 6 months or so. How's it holding up and so forth. Still good IQ.  You will have at least one interested reader!

EB
EOS 1DX and 1D Mk IV and several lenses!

One of the great tests of a lens is to see how much you can crop one of its images and still get something decent.  So I took the 70-300MkII out to the Tiritiri Open Sanctuary and along the way took this shot of a juvenile Tui:

 

IMG_4281 LR.jpg

 

So after a bit of cropping I got this:

IMG_4281-a.jpg

 

Gory details:  Canon 80D, 300mm, f8, 1/50 sec, ISO 1600

cheers Trevor

"All the beauty of life is made up of light and shadow", Leo Tolstoy;
"Skill in photography is acquired by practice and not by purchase" Percy W. Harris
"A good swordsman is more important than a good sword" Amit Kalantri

Technique will always Outlast Tech - Me

Stop that! You will give me GAS!

8^)


@kvbarkley wrote:

Stop that! You will give me GAS!

8^)


I think you can get pills for that! Smiley Very Happy

cheers Trevor

"All the beauty of life is made up of light and shadow", Leo Tolstoy;
"Skill in photography is acquired by practice and not by purchase" Percy W. Harris
"A good swordsman is more important than a good sword" Amit Kalantri

Technique will always Outlast Tech - Me

"Gory details:  Canon 80D, 300mm, f8, 1/50 sec, ISO 1600'

 

...and you consider this a success or failure?

EB
EOS 1DX and 1D Mk IV and several lenses!


@ebiggs1 wrote:

"Gory details:  Canon 80D, 300mm, f8, 1/50 sec, ISO 1600'

 

...and you consider this a success or failure?


Such things are in the eye of the beholder... But given the photo was taken hand-held in dim light (they are forest birds), the slow shutter speed and the small size of the original, I think the lens performed well.

 

What do YOU think? Smiley Wink

cheers Trevor

"All the beauty of life is made up of light and shadow", Leo Tolstoy;
"Skill in photography is acquired by practice and not by purchase" Percy W. Harris
"A good swordsman is more important than a good sword" Amit Kalantri

Technique will always Outlast Tech - Me
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