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300mm vs 300mm vs 300mm vs 300mm

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Thread started 31 May 2007 (Thursday) 13:43   
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Leorooster
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Hi all, I recently acquired a 300 f/2.8 and was interested to see how it compared to my other lenses with a 300mm range. Here is the result, which I think some of you might be interested.

PS - Please click on the images to enlarge.


DISCLAIMER:
This comparison does NOT constitute a comprehensive review of these lenses. It simply represents an one-man opinion on the sharpness and image quality of some of the lenses he owns.


ASSUMPTIONS:

  • The shooting environment is perfectly controlled (which is obviously NOT).
  • All lenses have the same focal length (i.e., 300mm).
  • All lenses used for the comparison are as good as (or as bad as ) other copies manufactured by Canon.

FACTS:
  • The following lenses are used for comparison at 300mm: Canon 70-300 DO, Canon 100-400L, Canon 300 f/4L and Canon 300 f/2.8L.
  • All shots are taken with a Canon 5D on a tripod with mirror lock-up and cable release.
  • Image Stabilization (IS) is set to off and white balance is set to auto.
  • Aperture Priority is used through out the comparison (was using M mode, but frequent changes in lighting condition drove me crazy).
  • The comparison is done based merely on visual appearance of the sharpness of the images produced by the lenses, and hence this is NOT a technical review and is somewhat subjective.
  • No sharpening or any other post-processing is done (except for raw conversion). All images are taken in raw format and straight out from the camera, and then are converted to tiff format and cropped 100% in PS CS2.

OBSERVATIONS:
First off, it is not easy to find a good subject in my backyard for testing. This is a full frame (i.e., no cropping is done) of the best subject I can find.

Original Image
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It’s not the greatest subject, but I believe it serves the purpose.

I first compare the sharpness of the images taken with each of these lenses wide open (i.e., f/5.6 for the 70-300 DO and 100-400L, f/4 for the 300 f/4L and f/2.8 for 300 f/2.8L).

Wide Open Comparison
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It is quite obvious that the 300 f/2.8L is sharper than the other three lenses wide open. The 300 f/4L, which seems to be sharper than the two zooms, is not much behind its bigger brother. The 70-300 DO and 100-400L appear to be about the same as far as sharpness is concerned at f/5.6.

As you will see without any surprises, the 300 f/2.8L appears to be the sharpest among these lenses at all apertures used for the comparison (i.e., f/5.6, f/8, f/11 and f/22).

Comparison @ f/5.6
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Comparison @ f/8
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Comparison @ f/11
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Comparison @ f/22
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At f/5.6 and f/8, both the 300 f/4L and 300 f/2.8L are very close in image quality and are superior to the 70-300 DO and 100-400L. When stopping down to f/11, the differences in image quality are not as pronounced. In other words, both the 70-300 DO and 100-400L benefit greatly by stopping down to f/11. At f/22, the IQs for all three L lenses are almost identical, while it is still noticeable that the L’s perform better than the DO.

to be continued..........

Post #1, May 31, 2007 13:43:23


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Leorooster
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...........continued

The following comparisons illustrate how each lens performs at various apertures. One thing discernible is that diffraction starts kicking in (i.e., becoming observable) at around f/16 for each of the four lenses.

70-300 DO

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100-400L
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300 f/4L
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300 f/2.8L
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In general, both prime lenses are very sharp wide open and does not benefit much by stopping down. The two zooms, especially the 100-400L, on the other hand profit from stopping down from f/5.6. It appears (at least to my eyes) that the optimal apertures are between f/8 to f/16 for the two zooms, and from wide open up to about f/16 for the two primes. At f/16, as mentioned earlier, diffraction becomes visible to human eyes. As can be seen above, the effect of diffraction is very apparent at f/22. I didn’t take any test shots beyond f/22, but according to the laws of physics the effect of diffraction can only be more and more pronounced as the aperture gets smaller and smaller.

CONCLUSION:
The 300 f/2.8 is clearly the winner in terms of sharpness and image quality. It’s the sharpest at wide open and it’s the fastest among these lenses. However, you get what you pay for. Whether the differences in prices and weights are justified by the gain in image quality and speed are very subjective and vary from person to person. The 300 f/4 is not far behind in terms of IQ and sharpness. It is also sharp at wide open (i.e., f/4). The 70-300 DO is really great for travel, and it’s known to many users that the sharpness of images taken with this lens can be greatly improved by an incremental amount of post-processing. I would rate the sharpness of the images produced by the 100-400L between the 70-300 DO and the 300 f/4, but the 100-400L wins hands down when versatility is the main concern. To me, all these lenses are great lenses and serve me well for different purposes in different occasions. Bottom line, you’ll be your own judge.

Post #2, May 31, 2007 13:45:30


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Tom ­ W
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Thanks for the comparison. I'll add a couple of observations from my own experience. I've had all 4 at various times, but never all simultaneously! For the record, I compared the 300/4 with the 100-400 and 70-300 DO at one point in time and found similar conclusions. Unfortunately, I sold the DO and the 300/4 prior to buying the 300/2.8 so I could never make that comparison.

I would say that at f/8 to f/16, they are all fairly close in terms of sharpness, though one can still rank them as 300/2.8, 300/4, 100-400, and 70-300DO with the best being first. The 300/2.8 and 300/4 are quite close. The 100-400 is a bit better than the DO especially at wider apertures. My comparison at f/5.6 had the DO quite soft, though it did straighten out by f/8. My 100-400 is slightly soft at f/5.6 as well, but not as soft as the DO. It really tightens up at f/7.1.

And the 300/4 has a much smoother bokeh than either zoom. I've never had any problems with bokeh from the 300/2.8.

The DO is somewhat prone to flare and loses contrast in difficult lighting - a tradeoff for it's very compact design. It has excellent IS, and build quality is good.

Post #3, May 31, 2007 14:42:01


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Leorooster
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Hi Tom, thanks for the additional observations. Yes, I second that the IQ from f/8 to f/16 are fairly close in terms of sharpness. IMHO, for general use, all four lenses are great lenses on their own.

As a side note, I also noticed more visible vignetting at larger apertures (e.g., f/4 & f/5.6) on images taken with the 100-400L and 70-300 DO than images taken with the primes at the same apertures.

:)

Tom W wrote in post #3298245external link
Thanks for the comparison. I'll add a couple of observations from my own experience. I've had all 4 at various times, but never all simultaneously! For the record, I compared the 300/4 with the 100-400 and 70-300 DO at one point in time and found similar conclusions. Unfortunately, I sold the DO and the 300/4 prior to buying the 300/2.8 so I could never make that comparison.

I would say that at f/8 to f/16, they are all fairly close in terms of sharpness, though one can still rank them as 300/2.8, 300/4, 100-400, and 70-300DO with the best being first. The 300/2.8 and 300/4 are quite close. The 100-400 is a bit better than the DO especially at wider apertures. My comparison at f/5.6 had the DO quite soft, though it did straighten out by f/8. My 100-400 is slightly soft at f/5.6 as well, but not as soft as the DO. It really tightens up at f/7.1.

And the 300/4 has a much smoother bokeh than either zoom. I've never had any problems with bokeh from the 300/2.8.

The DO is somewhat prone to flare and loses contrast in difficult lighting - a tradeoff for it's very compact design. It has excellent IS, and build quality is good.

Post #4, May 31, 2007 15:14:27


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PetKal
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Great comparison, Adrian.
I wish you had the 300 f/4 (non IS) to test.;)

Post #5, May 31, 2007 15:23:26 as a reply to post 3298363


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CyberDyneSystems
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Thanks for posting. Great comparison.
One thing I notice, sharpness aside .. only the 300mm f/2.8 has the resolution capble of really showing the little american flag sticker.
With the other lenses, even when all else looks sharp stopped down, the flag's wavy lines look soft or lack detail on all but the 2.8

Post #6, May 31, 2007 15:29:30


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Bill ­ Roberts
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Pretty good comparison! I'd love the 300 2.8 but I don't think I would want to live with the weight of it just for casual use. I've owned the 70-300 DO and to be honest it was better than I initially gave it credit for, and it certainly makes a good travel lens. Currently I have the 300 f4 and it's good. I don't think I'd argue at all with your conclusion.

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S.Horton
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Awwwwwww, why'd you have to go and do this?

The 300 f/2.8 L haunts my budget and mind. :cool:

BTW, nice comparison, thx. Or, Mastercard thanks you. Or, they should.

Post #8, May 31, 2007 15:54:43


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weka2000
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Great comparison. Be interesting to see how Sigma glass would stack up next to it. The last test I did like that was @ 200mm between Sigma 120-300, Canon 100-400, Sigma 50-500 and Canon 70-200 F4.

Just sold my bigma and 300F4 for the 300F2.8

Post #9, May 31, 2007 16:09:13 as a reply to S.Horton's post 14 minutes earlier.


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Leorooster
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PetKal wrote in post #3298392external link
Great comparison, Adrian.
I wish you had the 300 f/4 (non IS) to test.;)

Thanks, Peter! Wish I had the non IS version as well, as it's arguably sharper than the IS version ;)

CyberDyneSystems wrote in post #3298415external link
Thanks for posting. Great comparison.
One thing I notice, sharpness aside .. only the 300mm f/2.8 has the resolution capble of really showing the little american flag sticker.
With the other lenses, even when all else looks sharp stopped down, the flag's wavy lines look soft or lack detail on all but the 2.8

Thanks, CDS! I tried limiting the comparison to sharpness, but I'm glad that you mentioned the resolving power. That's a great observation! I agree with you that the resolving power of the 300 f/2.8 is superior to that of others. One thing I also noticed is that I found the resolving power of the 70-300 DO is better than the 300 f/4L and the 100-400L. Others might disagree with me on this. ;)

Bill Roberts wrote in post #3298466external link
Pretty good comparison! I'd love the 300 2.8 but I don't think I would want to live with the weight of it just for casual use. I've owned the 70-300 DO and to be honest it was better than I initially gave it credit for, and it certainly makes a good travel lens. Currently I have the 300 f4 and it's good. I don't think I'd argue at all with your conclusion.

Thanks, Bill! The weight of the 300 f/2.8 is actually better than what I thought. I had a couple of outings with this lens. Each outing is about a couple of hours. I handheld this baby all the way and find that it's not as heavy as I thought ;) But, of course one can't hold it up in shooting position for too long ;)

hortonsl62 wrote in post #3298491external link
Awwwwwww, why'd you have to go and do this?

The 300 f/2.8 L haunts my budget and mind. :cool:

BTW, nice comparison, thx. Or, Mastercard thanks you. Or, they should.

Thanks Sam! 300 f/2.8 is the way to go :eyes :mrgreen:

Post #10, May 31, 2007 16:10:29


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Leorooster
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weka2000 wrote in post #3298553external link
Great comparison. Be interesting to see how Sigma glass would stack up next to it. The last test I did like that was @ 200mm between Sigma 120-300, Canon 100-400, Sigma 50-500 and Canon 70-200 F4.

Just sold my bigma and 300F4 for the 300F2.8

Thanks! I would like to see the Sigma comparison as well. However, I just can't afford throwing out a few more thousands of $$$ just for that :rolleyes: :cool: :lol: :lol:

Post #11, May 31, 2007 16:12:31


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hortonsl62 wrote in post #3298491external link
The 300 f/2.8 L haunts my budget and mind.

Ditto. I borrowed one from CPS for a couple of days at the Oshkosh airshow/convention and I can say with near certainty that if I can ever afford one, it will almost permanently bonded to a body (maybe removed only to add/remove a TC). I don't care about the weight, the AF and IS make it an awesome performer.

Thanks for the comparison!

Cheers,

Geoff S.

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cosworth
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Having owned the 300 4 IL and the 300 2.8 IS, I can't see the price difference here.

But when sometihng is moving at speed, the AF speed will come into play for sure.

Post #13, May 31, 2007 16:26:58


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folville
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This shouldn't come as a surprise, but the 2.8 is really sharp wide open, and it doesn't seem to gain much by stopping down. I guess this is a good thing because it shows that the lens has been build to handle low light well. Still, it's always nice to get a little added sharpness in the sunlight.. :)

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Stan43
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You get what you pay for. The 300 2.8 IS rules. That being said there are ,as you have so gratiously proved, several good alternatives(compromis​es) that deliver good results.
It is about image quality, but one that a person can afford.

Post #15, May 31, 2007 17:27:57


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