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A Retrospective on an old article on EF 70-300mm lenses

Tronhard
Elite
Elite

In 2018, which seems like some time ago, I wrote an article on (all but the DO version of) the range of Canon EF 70-300 lenses, in consideration of their value as an upgrade from kit lenses, but at a lower level than the much more expensive L series of optics.  
See: Canon EF 70-300mm Lenses 

A lot has changed since then.   We have had the arrival of R-series MILCs and with them a range of fine optics at different price points, and it is clear that this is the platform for future development.   This brings up the question, for those who are still staying on the DSLR platform, of what to buy?  There is a huge mass of DSLR equipment out there still and the platform still has its enthusiastic users - I use both, myself.

So the question still is valid for those who are either starting up, or just upgrading an existing system: what are the options, and are they still worthy of consideration? Some people might want to know if they can use such optics on RF mounts if they have very limited funds and are able to afford a body, but don't have much left for optics - but I shall not deal with that question this time around.

I am going to assume that if the reader has not done so, they will review the above link to the original article - which I have done some editing on to improve the flow.

This follow-up series will look at each of the lenses in turn and provide some comments on the viability of the lenses and their place in the marketspace.

THE CANON EF 70-300 IS USM f/4.5.6 (2005)

For brevity sake I shall refer to this as the 70-300 MkI. Without doubt, this is a throwback, and cannot pretend to match the optics or focusing of the latest generations of lenses, especially on the more demanding RF systems. So, who might want to get or use such a lens?

As I see it, this lens is a potential option for those with the EF 75-300 kit lenses common on many of the lower-end DSLR bodies, even today.   Those don't offer image-stabilization, have mediocre optics and made of less durable materials.   For someone with extremely limited funds, seeking to add to the 18-55 kit lens, or replace that 75-300,  the EF 70-300 MkI may provide the answer.  The price point will vary by location, but given the age of the lens design they are going to be about as cheap as one can get in Canon's 70-300 range.  Recently, Canon was selling refurbished MkI units on their US website, so it appears they see a market for these too.

One person in my area, a teenager with very limited funds, but unlimited enthusiasm, was keen to find a telephoto solution for their venerable EOS 60D camera.  This is an oldie but a goodie and is, IMHO, a bit of a classic.  It too sells for a much-reduced price and offers a good platform for someone just starting out and wanting a good learning camera.

I decided to resurrect the combination from my museum of gear and take it to a place that would challenge both the lens and camera, particularly in the areas of stabilization, optical performance and usability.   I shot in RAW, imported in PS, and did the usual basic default lens profile corrections, and some cropping, and of course massively reduced the image sizes to post here.

I went to the local museum, which is quite dimly lit, to try my hand at shooting static displays and get some candids of visitors, in some of the darkest areas.  The following are the results, all taken in available light, hand-held.  I shot with the 60D using spot metering and spot autofocus, IS on, single shot.

Image 1: Shooting in high-contrast but generally lower light conditions with people.  Challenging for lens sharpness, clarity and for camera focus and dynamic range.  To get the exposure on the lit subject, I had to let the background suffer from a bit of noise.

300mm, f/7.1, 1/500sec, ISO-1600300mm, f/7.1, 1/500sec, ISO-1600

Image 2: In a far less contrasty, but still dimly lit area.  The challenges here were speed of focus lock, holding it and getting a lock on the face.  In this case the subject and background offered few DR challenges, so the noise was much reduced.

225mm, f/5.6, 1/50sec, ISO-1600225mm, f/5.6, 1/50sec, ISO-1600

Image 3:  Back to a very contrasty area, I went for monochrome here to test the tonal range of the system.  Again focus lock on the eyes and image stabilization were tested.  In particular, I  was looking for focus precision, tonal range and stabilization

300mm, f/5.6, 1/100sec, ISO-1600300mm, f/5.6, 1/100sec, ISO-1600

Image 4:  As for Image 3

300mm, f/7.1, 1/200sec, ISO-1600300mm, f/7.1, 1/200sec, ISO-1600

Image 5: Static image - dimly lit, with very subtle colour and tonal changes in the exhibit.  Shot at much shorter FL.  This was a test of tonal and colour ranges, focus and noise

RF 24-105@ 105mm, f/5.6, 1/20sec, ISO-1600RF 24-105@ 105mm, f/5.6, 1/20sec, ISO-1600

Image 5: Extremely dimly lit but with some high contrast, with masses of fine details, taken at moderate tele FL.  Test of IS, sharpness, focus and colour rendition.

70mm, f/5.6, 1/20sec, ISO-160070mm, f/5.6, 1/20sec, ISO-1600

Image 6: Peter the Dinosaur, looking for detail here as well as tonal coverage

85mm, f/6.3, 1/20sec, ISO-160085mm, f/6.3, 1/20sec, ISO-1600

My conclusions:

I have maintained that if a camera or lens took decent images when it was first released, it will continue to perform at that level unless it is damaged or worn out.  The 60D is in perfect condition, as is the 70-300 on it, so no issue there.

Much really depends, as always, on what one is going to produce.  However, for digital publishing, modest size prints and as a learning platform, such a system may offer a viable solution.

Obviously, the conditions of specific units will have a significant bearing on the results.  Personally, looking a the images, if I was just starting out, with very limited funds - both of which were my premises,  I would say that this combination offers a viable platform.  

CC welcome!


cheers, TREVOR

"All the variety, all the charm, 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
10 REPLIES 10

deebatman316
Authority
Authority

Hey Trevor its great to see you back in the forums! Its always great to follow up on an article to see if the same lens holds up years later on new bodies even old ones too.

-Demetrius

Current Gear: EOS 5D Mark IV, EF 16-35mm F/2.8L III USM, EF 24-70mm F/2.8L II USM, EF 50 F/1.8 STM, EF 85mm F/1.8 USM, EF 70-200mm F/2.8L IS III USM, 430EX III-RT, 470EX-AI & 600EX II-RT

Retired Gear: EOS 40D, Sigma 17-50mm F/2.8 EX DC OS HSM & EF 28-135mm F/3.5-5.6 IS USM


-Demetrius

Current Gear: EOS 5D Mark IV, EF F/2.8 Trinity, EF 50mm F/1.8 STM, EF 85mm F/1.8 USM, 470EX-AI & 600EX II-RT

Retired Gear: EOS 40D

Thanks Demetrius! 🙂  I shall be keeping my contributions limited for a while, I suspect.  It was nice to just go out and shoot at all after quite a long hiatus.

I would certainly welcome any observations and comments as to the gear, the results and my methodology - given it's not meant to be a clinical scientific review.


cheers, TREVOR

"All the variety, all the charm, 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

I had the rare chance to see the EF 70-300mm F/4-5.6 DO IS USM. But I was unable to use it because I didn't have my camera with me. I was with my friend at the camera store that selling off there older lenses that didn't sell well. While there my friend was looking at the EOS R6 Mark II body. She wasn't satisfied with the original EOS R6. She was much happier with the EOS R5. Her father bought the EOS R7 to replace his old 7D Mark II. Which he was replacing because his shutter went out and decided it was time to replace it.

-Demetrius

Current Gear: EOS 5D Mark IV, EF 16-35mm F/2.8L III USM, EF 24-70mm F/2.8L II USM, EF 50 F/1.8 STM, EF 85mm F/1.8 USM, EF 70-200mm F/2.8L IS III USM, 430EX III-RT, 470EX-AI & 600EX II-RT

Retired Gear: EOS 40D, Sigma 17-50mm F/2.8 EX DC OS HSM & EF 28-135mm F/3.5-5.6 IS USM


-Demetrius

Current Gear: EOS 5D Mark IV, EF F/2.8 Trinity, EF 50mm F/1.8 STM, EF 85mm F/1.8 USM, 470EX-AI & 600EX II-RT

Retired Gear: EOS 40D

I have never had a DO version of the 70-300 - it is a rare bird, but I know it is very expensive, and has had some criticism as a mediocre performer despite that.  Curious to know what your friend's experience was!

I am happy with the R6 unit so far, but again, much depends on what and how one shoots and produces.  I still have a mint 7D and 7DII.  


cheers, TREVOR

"All the variety, all the charm, 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

She dislikes the missing top LCD screen and the smaller rear LCD screen. Then the lower megapixels 20 megapixels vs 26.2 in the 6D Mark II. But she's always been a 5D series fan and always more aimed at photo than video. She does a lot of low light work photography and prefers Full Frame (crime photography). While her father has been EOS 7 series fan since the first 7 series camera in the 90s. He was disappointed that the R7 didn't support a battery grip. But he mainly does high school sports for the school newspaper and yearbook. He prefers APS-C because of the 1.6x crop. He doesn't have to carry too many lenses with him. But he misses the top LCD screen too that he's had since the 90s. Out of both of them her mom actually loves the R6 she prefers smaller bodies. Her last body was the original EOS 6D. She mainly does weddings. Her mom's EOS 6D's image sensor went out in August. She preordered her 6D new in 2012.

-Demetrius

Current Gear: EOS 5D Mark IV, EF 16-35mm F/2.8L III USM, EF 24-70mm F/2.8L II USM, EF 50 F/1.8 STM, EF 85mm F/1.8 USM, EF 70-200mm F/2.8L IS III USM, 430EX III-RT, 470EX-AI & 600EX II-RT

Retired Gear: EOS 40D, Sigma 17-50mm F/2.8 EX DC OS HSM & EF 28-135mm F/3.5-5.6 IS USM


-Demetrius

Current Gear: EOS 5D Mark IV, EF F/2.8 Trinity, EF 50mm F/1.8 STM, EF 85mm F/1.8 USM, 470EX-AI & 600EX II-RT

Retired Gear: EOS 40D

I have been shooting for 35 years and adapt to changes. I am truly surprised that anyone with a 7Dii would be disappointed with an R7, other than it not being a tank, if they like that kind of thing. I have a mint condition 7Dii with battery grip and can say in absolute honesty that even my RP kills it for autofocus and autofocus tracking. It has half the burst rate, but a much higher keeper rate. There is simply no comparison. Then the R7 is much faster in focusing than the RP, obviously. It has much higher image quality than the 7Dii (which looks terrible by modern standards), runs rings around the 7Dii in terms of burst rate, AF options, animal and human eye detection and the vastly superior hit rate. The image quality is far better, the dynamic range is better, the camera is nice and light. Who needs a top LCD when everything is in the EVF (FAR more info than any top LCD) and it is also on the back of the camera anyway when you don't have your eye up to the EVF. I realise we are all different, but I feel people don't like change.

Well he's still new to mirrorless cameras. So he's been fine tuning all of his custom functions. Also DSLR and Mirrorless AF work differently. So he's still learning. He's not against change. He also wears a strong glasses prescription. He felt sick while looking through the EVF. I told him that he would get used to it. I felt the same way too. But I don't wear a strong glasses prescription either.

-Demetrius

Current Gear: EOS 5D Mark IV, EF 16-35mm F/2.8L III USM, EF 24-70mm F/2.8L II USM, EF 50 F/1.8 STM, EF 85mm F/1.8 USM, EF 70-200mm F/2.8L IS III USM, 430EX III-RT, 470EX-AI & 600EX II-RT

Retired Gear: EOS 40D, Sigma 17-50mm F/2.8 EX DC OS HSM & EF 28-135mm F/3.5-5.6 IS USM


-Demetrius

Current Gear: EOS 5D Mark IV, EF F/2.8 Trinity, EF 50mm F/1.8 STM, EF 85mm F/1.8 USM, 470EX-AI & 600EX II-RT

Retired Gear: EOS 40D

Thanks for your response and that explains everything. There is definitely a learning curve to getting the most out of mirrorless AF systems compared to DSLR AF systems. I hope he really ends up liking his camera and how to get the most out of it. I think it is a very exciting step going from DSLR to mirrorless, once you get used to the differences. 

I mainly work in low light conditions. I found out the IR AF Assist Beam doesn't work with mirrorless cameras. I found that my speedlite would switch to Intermittent Flashes. To provide an AF Assist Beam for the camera to lock focus. This caught me off guard because the body lamp would fire for AF Assist.

-Demetrius

Current Gear: EOS 5D Mark IV, EF 16-35mm F/2.8L III USM, EF 24-70mm F/2.8L II USM, EF 50 F/1.8 STM, EF 85mm F/1.8 USM, EF 70-200mm F/2.8L IS III USM, 430EX III-RT, 470EX-AI & 600EX II-RT

Retired Gear: EOS 40D, Sigma 17-50mm F/2.8 EX DC OS HSM & EF 28-135mm F/3.5-5.6 IS USM


-Demetrius

Current Gear: EOS 5D Mark IV, EF F/2.8 Trinity, EF 50mm F/1.8 STM, EF 85mm F/1.8 USM, 470EX-AI & 600EX II-RT

Retired Gear: EOS 40D
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