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Thread started 01 Dec 2017 (Friday) 17:30
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Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS II USM, reviewed by Bassat

TOGGLE RATINGS BETWEEN ALL AND Bassat (showing now: Bassat)
Overall Rating9.5
Overall Image Quality9
Value for Money10
Bokehn/a
not rated
Sharpness9.5
Contrast9
Focusing10
Must Have9
Suitability to Intended Use10
Got What I Expected9.5
Ownership Status: "own"

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List all reviews of Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS II USM
 
Bassat
"I am still in my underwear."
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6,744 posts
Joined Oct 2015
Bourbon, Indiana - USA
Post has been edited 6 days ago by Bassat.
Dec 01, 2017 17:30 |  #1

I have given my brand new EF 70-300mm II IS USM a thorough pacing. Short story, I am happy with the purchase. Balancing the IQ, usability, and price, this lens is worth the cost. Read on for the long story.

Backstory: I am moving to smaller, lighter gear. Ostensibly, the 80D/70-300 II will replace my 1D4/100-400Lc for sports and athletics works. I have not quite decided yet, but so far, the new setup is performing well.

Notes: I compared this lens to the 70-200 f/4L IS USM at 70mm, 100mm, 200mm. I compared this lens to the 100-400Lc at 100mm, 200mm, 300mm. I did NOT use hoods on any of the lenses because I don't have one for the 70-300 II, yet.

Autofocus:
This is my second nano-USM lens. I remain astounded by the speed and accuracy of this new focus system. It is lightning quick, and dead accurate. On top of that, it is silent. I can't hear it focusing in a dead silent house, with the windows closed. Casually, I'd rate the speed as about equal to the 85 1.8, or 70-200 f/4L IS. The AF on this lens is more than up to the challenge of shooting sports (if the aperture works for you).

Image Stabilization:
The IS on this lens is, as expected, superior to the 100-400Lc. It is as good as the IS on the 70-200 f/4L IS. Again, it is dead silent. I didn't notice the difference when shooting the 100-400, it is pretty quiet. My 70-200 is the loudest IS of any Canon lens I've ever owned. The difference between the IS noise of the 70-300 and the 70-200 will make you think there is something wrong with your 70-200.

Image Quality:
Let me start by confessing two assumptions. Number one, I half expected this lens to be on par with the other two. My experience with the 18-135 USM led me down that path; it is the best EF-s lens I've ever owned. The other half of me expected not quite so much from a $400 lens compared to $1100, and $1700 lenses. I got pretty much what I expected - somewhere in the middle.

I shot everything at ISO 800, 1/250, and f/5.6 on all lenses. Body was the 80D, BTW. To start with, both the L-lenses showed more contrast and more saturation than the 70-300 II. The 70-300 II also seems about 1/3 to 1/4 stop brighter (shot JPG) than the other two. For the sake of argument, I will assume the NOT insignificant differences in brightness, contrast, and saturation can be equalized in any PP software. I use LR6.

Sharpness was extremely good, considering the price of the lens. The AF speed and accuracy, along with way better IS, should put this lens on par with the 100-400Lc.

vs. 70-200:
@ 70mm the L is slightly (pixel peeping) sharper
@ 100mm the L is noticeably sharper, no need to go to 100%
@ 200mm the L is slightly sharper
Remember, at 200mm, I am comparing a $400 lens shot wide open, in the middle of its range, to an $1100 lens, stopped down, at its maximum focal length.
The 70-300 II accounted well for itself against the 70-200L.

vs. 100-400Lc
@ 100mm it is hard to see any difference
@ 200mm the L is slightly sharper
@ 300mm the L is sharper, but not by enough to make me hate the 70-300
The 70-300II looks as good at 300mm as the 100-400Lc does at 400mm

All in all, I am happy with this purchase. It crossed my mind to replace both of the L's with the 70-300 II. I am no longer in a hurry to do that. For one thing, the 70-200 on full frame (6D) is a smaller, lighter, faster, sharper, just plain better lens. If I keep the 6D, I'll keep the 70-200. The 100-400 is a different story. I really don't see the extra 100mm as a reason to keep it. The IQ is only marginally better than the 70-300, and the IS sucks on the 100-400. The downside to selling the 100-400 is current pricing. $700? Really? I know, I know, I have to consider the competition. Sigma, Tamron, and Canon all have equivalent focal length, arguably better lenses. Even my new 70-300 gives the 100-400 a run for its money. Maybe I'll relent after it sits in the closet for a year, unused.


Tom

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Bassat
THREAD ­ STARTER
"I am still in my underwear."
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6,744 posts
Joined Oct 2015
Bourbon, Indiana - USA
Dec 02, 2017 06:50 |  #2

A slight addendum, if you please. I found myself wondering how the 70-300 II, and its new nano-USM AF, would behave on an old camera. Essentially, it behaves exactly like my other lenses on the Elan 7NE. Whether in ONE-SHOT or AI-SERVO, after I press the shutter button there is a slight, but noticeable, hesitation, then the focus just jumps to the subject. I compared the 70-300 II to my 28-105 (GP lens on this camera), the 85 1.8, and the 70-200 f/4L IS at both 70mm and 200mm. All of these lenses have the same slight hesitation, then almost immediate focus lock. The was no hunting or stutter, even in 0.5s, f/5.6, ISO 200 (film I had loaded) light. For obvious reasons, I did not release the shutter, so I have no idea how ACCURATE the AF was. I have no reason to believe it is any less accurate than it is on the 80D, which is dead-on.


Tom

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TreeburnerCT
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Joined Dec 2016
Stratford, CT, USA
Dec 02, 2017 19:08 |  #3

Thanks for the review Bassat! Couldn't agree more with everything you said about the Canon 70-300mm IS II USM, every time I use it I'm amazed at how fast the AF locks on and how sharp the lens is even at 300mm! Is it the best lens ever made? Of course not. But is it worth it's under-$500 price tag? Heck ya!

-Joe


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Bassat
THREAD ­ STARTER
"I am still in my underwear."
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6,744 posts
Joined Oct 2015
Bourbon, Indiana - USA
Post has been edited 8 days ago by Bassat.
Dec 04, 2017 03:32 |  #4

IF YOU START READING THIS POST, FINISH READING THIS POST.
MAKE NO JUDGEMENTS UNTIL YOU GET TO THE END OF THIS POST.

Well, that didn't go as well as I'd planned. I had the thought that if the 70-300 II is good enough on full frame (vs EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM), I'd sell the 70-200. I spent about an hour carefully setting up the same shots on the 6D that I did on the 80D. TOTAL FAIL!!!

I looked at the results and my first thought was, "What the HELL! This lens is crap on full frame." Which of course, made no sense. The 70mm shots were about even. Both at f/4, the L looked a smidge better. Dial in f/5.6 on the II, and it looked better. Up to f/5.6 on the L, and it looked better again.

At 100mm, the L was better in the center, better in the corners, and better than the II at f/5.6. OK. Unexpected, but OK. At 200mm it was a total blowout; the II just didn't compare. I thought this lens was wonderful on the 80D; it can't possibly be this bad on the 6D!

Then I noticed the focus was off on the II. It became more apparent as the DOF got thinner that I needed to run MFA on this lens on my 6D. I did NOT have to do that on the 80D. The need for MFA happens, and this is why we have it. This makes no derogatory comment about the II, or the 6D. MFA is a tool to be used when needed. MY 6D paired with MY II needs MFA.

I was shooting from about 12 feet. At 70mm & f/4, DOF is just over 2 feet. At 200mm & f/4, DOF is 3 inches. Well, no wonder! Anyway, I will reshoot my full frame tests after I get a chance to MFA my 6D/II combo.

Moral of the story: Make sure you have proper focus before wasting time on a bunch of comparison shots. Got it.

EDIT:
It just occurred to me that I should try MFA on the 80D. This lens may be even better than I originally reported. Right now, I don't have time for all this. Once it starts snowing....


Tom

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Bassat
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"I am still in my underwear."
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6,744 posts
Joined Oct 2015
Bourbon, Indiana - USA
Dec 06, 2017 02:10 |  #5

I spent my free time today getting the 6D/70-300 II MFA'd. I ended up with W:+7, and T:+12. I think we can all agree that NOT being MFA's really killed the lenses chances against the other two lenses (70-200 f/4L IS, 100-400Lc) in my comparison. I ordered a hood for my 70-300 II, today. I'll re-shoot the comparison after the hood arrives.


Tom

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Bassat
THREAD ­ STARTER
"I am still in my underwear."
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6,744 posts
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Bourbon, Indiana - USA
Dec 07, 2017 18:36 |  #6

6D + 70-200mm f/4L IS USM vs 6D + 70-300mm IS II.

70mm & f/4 the L is slightly better.
70mm & f/5.6 the L is slightly better.
II @ f/5.6 and L @ f/4, nearly indistinguishable.

100mm & f/4.5 (II) vs f/4 (L) II is very slightly better
100mm & f/5.6 L is better
II @ f/5.6 and L at f/4, II is VERY slightly better

200mm f/5.6 vs f/4 (Both wide open), L is slightly better
200mm both at f/5.6, L is slightly better

I take 'slightly better' to mean that you'd never see the difference in an 11"x17" print.
I take 'better' to mean you may be able to see the difference in an 11"x17" print, but you'd need both of them to compare.
'Nearly indistinguishable' mean I looked a both shots and could not find a difference in sharpness at 100%.

One caveat on this data: These are my subjective opinions, which certainly may be colored by the fact that I just spent $400 on the new lens. It is almost impossible to be unbiased, because shot at the SAME MANUAL SETTINGS, the II turned in 1/4 to 1/3 stop brighter results at every focal length and aperture setting. I always KNEW which lens' product I was looking at. That said, I had to compare them side by side at 100% to see most differences. The exception is at 100mm, with both lenses at f/5.6. Neither of them is at the end of the zoom range and neither is wide open. I was surprised to notice I could tell which was which at full screen (not 100%) on a 22" monitor. The L was noticeably better. This makes no sense. Look at the other 100mm info. In both other cases, the II was very slightly better. What? I will write that off to user/testing error.

It is worth noting that the quite noticeable saturation and contrast differences between these lenses on the 80D was much less apparent, but still there, on the 6D. That may be due to the differences in how each camera applies it's Picture Styles. In any event, they may be compensated for in any decent post-processing program. I didn't try to compare the IS systems, but after repeatedly handling both of these lenses, I felt like the IS on the II was better than the IS on the L. Since the II is slower (aperture) and longer, that is a nice added benefit.

Conclusion? The EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 compares very favorably (sharpness) with the EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM. It is a stop slower at the long end; it hits f/5.6 about 180mm. But the extra 100mm is nice to have. I did take a shot with the II at 300mm. Comparatively, I'd guess it is a good as the 100-400Lc at 400mm. This lens is well worth the $379 it cost me at the Canon refurb store. I am seriously considering selling my 70-200 f/4L.


Tom

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Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS II USM, reviewed by Bassat
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