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Old 30th of August 2007 (Thu)   #1
Mrvile
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Default Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM Review

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

-Lens Review-

I've been reading the forums lately and have noticed that this lens gets a lot of hate from people who haven't even used it. Well I'm part of the elite group of people who have switched from the 70-200/4L to this lens and I don't regret the decision one bit. I was thinking of upgrading this lens to something a step up the other day but I couldn't think of a single lens that would fit the bill. Sigma 70-200/2.8? Only goes to 200mm and doesn't have IS. Sigma 100-300/4? It's too big and would be much harder to handhold without IS. Canon 300/4L IS? It's a great lens but it doesn't zoom, plus it has older gen IS. Canon 200/2.8L? No IS, only 200mm, and doesn't zoom. Canon 70-300IS DO? Ha!

Looks like the 70-300IS is the perfect lens for me.

Let's get started with the review. The lens is fairly light at 1.4lb and pretty compact at 5.6" x 3" (8.5" at max zoom/focus), though it does feel well-built (but not quite up to L or EX standards). It has 15 elements in 10 groups, 8 aperture blades for smoother bokeh, a 58mm filter ring, and a zoom-lock switch to prevent lens creep. The IS is 3-stop Image Stabilization in two modes, one for vertical and horizontal correction and one for just vertical correction for action/panning shots. Finally, the lens features a UD element - normally only found in Canon's L-grade lenses - which is why this lens is sometimes referred to as a hidden L-lens. And while it does have USM, it does not have the ring-type USM found on L-lenses and other performance lenses like the 85/1.8 or 17-55/2.8IS, but I will talk about the AF later. The lenses focuses up to 4.9ft, which results in a max magnification of 1:4 at 300mm, the same magnification as the 300/4L IS.

Here are some pictures of the lens itself:








Now I'll talk about the lens in use. As you've noticed, the lens extends while zooming, extends while focusing, and rotates while focusing. Yuk. Also, the lens does not have full-time manual override, so if you want any manual correction you'll need to switch to MF mode. DO NOT try to turn the focus ring while in AF, this is bad for the lens. Now that the bad is out of the way, the lens feels great while in use. The zoom ring is smooth and damped, the focus ring is a bit loose in MF mode (but still easy to use) and all the switches work fine. The IS works great, stabilizing both the lens itself and the image in the viewfinder which makes for easier tracking/framing and focusing.

The AF of this lens is generally where it tends to fall back into second place against the 70-200/4L, and because this lens doesn't have ring-USM, the AF is a little loud and slower than that of the 70-200. However, it is pretty accurate and for everything other than very fast paced sports or extremely low light use, it works fine. Hell, the lens even works great for action shots...in these next examples I was tracking a couple friends on a jetski going 60mph, AI-Servo, continuous drive mode. The lens kept up, and did a great job at that:

300mm, f/5.6, ISO-200, 1/1250s:


100% crop:


Continued in post #2...
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Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM Review

Last edited by Mrvile : 30th of August 2007 (Thu) at 14:39.
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Old 30th of August 2007 (Thu)   #2
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Default Re: Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM Review

Finally, here's what you guys wanted to see. The lens (or at least my copy) is super sharp, even wide open, and do most of my shooting at 300mm f/5.6. I didn't post any shots at anything shorter than 300mm but you can expect even better performance at shorter focal lengths. I won't say much more; I'll let the images speak for themselves:

100% crop, 300mm, f/5.6, ISO-400, 1/400s:


100% crop, 300mm, f/8, ISO-400, 1/200s (IS doing its job):


100% crop, portrait mode, 300mm f/5.6, ISO-400, 1/1600s:


I had originally purchased this lens to use as an insect lens, and because of its attractive focal range, high max magnification, and IS, this is a great lens to shoot butterflies and dragonflies with.

100% crop, 300mm, f/5.6, ISO-400, 1/2000s:


The 70-300IS is one of the most "perfect" lenses I've owned, with almost all the things I want in a lens and nothing I don't really need for a great price. I can't even find a $1000+ lens that fits my needs as well as this one does. But in the end, it's all about what you shoot, and since I don't need things like fast aperture or a bomb shelter build, the 70-300IS is a true winner. For everyone who is still deciding between this lens or the 70-200/4L: I refuse to acknowledge that the 70-200 is any sharper than the 70-300 (I've seen first-hand performance of both lenses with my own eyes and hands) so weigh out the rest of your priorities and go with the one that suits your own needs better. That's all there is to it.

Thanks for reading, I hope this review helped.
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Old 30th of August 2007 (Thu)   #3
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Default Re: Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM Review

My growing 70-300IS gallery:











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Old 30th of August 2007 (Thu)   #4
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Default Re: Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM Review

Good job!

I think sometimes its frowned upon simply because its NOT an L lens, sure it doesnt have this & that but at the end of the day the images it produces are first rate & identical in sharpness, colour & contrast to my other L lens.

Too add to your review, it also works wonders with kenko tubes as I recently discovered, I was amazed at how closely it compared to a true macro lens, the 24-105L however was not very good with tubes, I was suprised it being an L lens, but it sufferered from edge softness & high CA, however the 70-300IS is FANTASTIC with tubes.

Have a look (100% crops from the bottom left edge)

Sigma 50mm Macro Lens:



Canon 70-300IS with Kenko Tubes:



Considering the 70-300IS has been put up against a prime lens which is noted to be one of the sharpest 50mm primes around (see FM) & not only that but a dedicated macro lens with its floating focus elements & what not, im amazed to see hardly any significant differences, these are edge crops as well.



I actually ended up sending the macro lens back for a refund, the 70-300IS has a much greater working distance & a set of tubes can easily be put in my bag, rather than another lens.

Last edited by Nick_C : 30th of August 2007 (Thu) at 14:34.
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Old 30th of August 2007 (Thu)   #5
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Default Re: Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM Review

This is a great lens, especially at its price (faster would be nicer but that's more $).

http://www.pbase.com/sparksdjs/image/73850222/original

http://www.pbase.com/sparksdjs/image/73850220/original

Other samples at http://www.pbase.com/sparksdjs/700_300is&page=all

Dave
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Old 30th of August 2007 (Thu)   #6
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Default Re: Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM Review

Great lens and nice photo all .
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Old 30th of August 2007 (Thu)   #7
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Default Re: Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM Review

Thank you very much for the review, it helps me a lot. I was really hesitating of buying this lens, but with this definitely I will buy it.

Regards!
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Old 31st of August 2007 (Fri)   #8
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Default Re: Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM Review

I use this lens too with my 350D soon to be replaced by the 40D. I took it for a spin 2 weeks ago dduring my 2 daughter's final netball games of the season. I was very happy with the results.
Anyone interested I can post the link.
I got this lens in July as a birthday gift from my brother-in-law who was visitng me from overseas. He got one same time as well....
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Old 31st of August 2007 (Fri)   #9
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Default Re: Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM Review

Quote:
Originally Posted by Souwalker View Post
I use this lens too with my 350D soon to be replaced by the 40D. I took it for a spin 2 weeks ago dduring my 2 daughter's final netball games of the season. I was very happy with the results.
Anyone interested I can post the link.
I got this lens in July as a birthday gift from my brother-in-law who was visitng me from overseas. He got one same time as well....
pat
i would like to see your gallery
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Old 31st of August 2007 (Fri)   #10
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Default Re: Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM Review

Thank for the review, I have been going back and forth for weeks, this lens or spend another few hundred on the 70-200F4IS, I dont shoot action so I think this lens will fit the bill. Now I wish BH would get the hood in stock so I can order the darn thing!
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Old 31st of August 2007 (Fri)   #11
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Default Re: Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM Review

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nick_C View Post
the 70-300IS is FANTASTIC with tubes.
do you get greater zoom if used with tubes or is the image basically just magnified so you can focus closer to the subject?

thanks
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Old 31st of August 2007 (Fri)   #12
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Default Re: Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM Review

Quote:
Originally Posted by jonnypb View Post
do you get greater zoom if used with tubes or is the image basically just magnified so you can focus closer to the subject?

thanks
The latter. You can focus closer with tubes, at the expense of infinity focus.

Kind regards, Wim
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Old 31st of August 2007 (Fri)   #13
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Default Re: Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM Review

Quote:
Originally Posted by jonnypb View Post
do you get greater zoom if used with tubes or is the image basically just magnified so you can focus closer to the subject?

thanks
The magnification you get also differs per focal length. With the same set of tubes on, you'll get more magnification at the 70mm end than at the 300mm end. Tubes have a greater effect on shorter focal lengths.
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Old 4th of September 2007 (Tue)   #14
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Default Re: Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM Review

Hi there,

I'm a new user to this site and was wondering if i could get some "pointers" please...
I have a 400D with a newly aquired 70-300 IS USM. Looking at what has been posted here (excellent shots !!!) it doesn't compare to the shots i'm getting. I'm quite fussy when it comes to taking pics and always aim for the "crystal clear shots" - i'm sure we all do..I have been trying to shoot at 300mm but the shots i'm getting are quite blurred even with my slightly shaky hands and IS on.
Is it just trial and error that i carry on practising till i hit a sweet spot wrt accurate shots ? Is there a preferred setting on the camera that i should use ?

Zorro
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Old 4th of September 2007 (Tue)   #15
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Default Re: Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM Review

Quote:
Originally Posted by Zorro23 View Post
Hi there,

I'm a new user to this site and was wondering if i could get some "pointers" please...
I have a 400D with a newly aquired 70-300 IS USM. Looking at what has been posted here (excellent shots !!!) it doesn't compare to the shots i'm getting. I'm quite fussy when it comes to taking pics and always aim for the "crystal clear shots" - i'm sure we all do..I have been trying to shoot at 300mm but the shots i'm getting are quite blurred even with my slightly shaky hands and IS on.
Is it just trial and error that i carry on practising till i hit a sweet spot wrt accurate shots ? Is there a preferred setting on the camera that i should use ?

Zorro
Well first make sure that you diagnose the problem correctly. Go outside in bright sunlight (to make sure your shutter speed is really high, 1/500+), set the lens to 300mm, f/5.6, ISO-200, and take a picture of something bright and contrasty. This is the most basic way to test a lens for sharpness. This takes lens shake out of the picture.

If you're still getting blurry shots, do a simple focus test by shooting a page from a book or something at an angle, and make sure that what is in focus is what you focused on (use a single AF-point and use the centermost one). This takes AF out of the picture.

If you're still getting blurry shots, chances are you have a bad copy. So try the first two things are report back to us!
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