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Author Topic: Review - The Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS  (Read 12154 times)

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Review - The Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS
« on: April 23, 2013, 03:00:13 PM »
Hi again!  For those interested in reading a review of this excellent lens along with a lot of sample images taken with it, I have just posted a review to my website at:  http://www.dustinabbott.net/2013/04/canon-70-300mm-f4-5-6l-is-review-the-ultimate-zoo-lens/

Among the things I address are its use with teleconverters (sample images included).  A lot of you are now familiar with my review technique, but in case you aren't, this is a real world review with pictures of things as opposed to charts.  I am a part time professional photographer with a lot of real experience.  If you don't care to look at the review, here is the conclusion:  I like the lens...a lot 8)
6D x 2 | EOS-M w/22mm f/2 + 18-55 STM + EF Adapter| Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 | Tamron 24-70 f/2.8 VC | 35mm f/2 IS | 40mm f/2.8 | 100L | 135L | 70-300L -----OLD SCHOOL----- SMC Takumar 28mm f/3.5, Super Takumar 35mm f/3.5, SMC Takumar 55mm f/1.8, Helios 44-2 and 44-4, Super Takumar 150mm f/4

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Review - The Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS
« on: April 23, 2013, 03:00:13 PM »

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Re: Review - The Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS
« Reply #1 on: April 23, 2013, 03:37:06 PM »
here is the conclusion:  I like the lens...a lot 8)

... me, too, and I bought it back when it had a reputation as being an overpriced version of Canon's non-L lens - but it's interesting to see how it gained much more recognition since then. I esp. like the still handholdable weight for ext. periods of time and walking around vs. the 70-200Lii (ymmv).

Just a some random additions to your again very nice review:

* The 70-300L's white paint is just for show, there aren't lens elements that would heat protection like in the 70-200L. One drawback of the extending design is that you cannot camouflage and protect the lens completely with a neoprene hood.

* I really doubt Canon will add f8 af for the 6d and wouldn't advise anyone to gamble on that. On my 60d the Kenko likes to hunt on low contrast objects when using single point af, and for multi-point the 9 af points usually is spread too far apart - so while 6d/5d3 might do fine, on crop it's rather for static objects.

* Close up performance is nice when not wanting to change lenses (I took some surprisingly good butterfly shots with it), but it in no way reaches the performance of the 100L macro lens. Another issue with the 70-300L is that it is missing the focus limiting switch of the 70-200L and 100L (thanks, Canon!), so if the af misses it takes a lot of time.

* The IS on the 70-300L is really good (at least 2ev) and the lock is instant and nearly not noticeable - but there's a catch since it still needs a little time to be most effective. So for quick point & shoot it's nice to have a stable viewfinder and being able to set the af precisely, but in my experience waiting for a second is a good idea.

TWI by Dustin Abbott

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Re: Review - The Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS
« Reply #2 on: April 23, 2013, 04:12:05 PM »
here is the conclusion:  I like the lens...a lot 8)

... me, too, and I bought it back when it had a reputation as being an overpriced version of Canon's non-L lens - but it's interesting to see how it gained much more recognition since then. I esp. like the still handholdable weight for ext. periods of time and walking around vs. the 70-200Lii (ymmv).

Just a some random additions to your again very nice review:

* The 70-300L's white paint is just for show, there aren't lens elements that would heat protection like in the 70-200L. One drawback of the extending design is that you cannot camouflage and protect the lens completely with a neoprene hood.

* I really doubt Canon will add f8 af for the 6d and wouldn't advise anyone to gamble on that. On my 60d the Kenko likes to hunt on low contrast objects when using single point af, and for multi-point the 9 af points usually is spread too far apart - so while 6d/5d3 might do fine, on crop it's rather for static objects.

It actually focuses pretty remarkably well on the 6d.  I am attaching a photo I took yesterday at 420mm while quickly tracking.  I had very little warning for this shot.  There are scenarios where it will hunt, but that tends to be in darker areas.  I was actually surprised at how well it did.  I shot with that combo exclusively while exploring a marsh yesterday.
6D x 2 | EOS-M w/22mm f/2 + 18-55 STM + EF Adapter| Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 | Tamron 24-70 f/2.8 VC | 35mm f/2 IS | 40mm f/2.8 | 100L | 135L | 70-300L -----OLD SCHOOL----- SMC Takumar 28mm f/3.5, Super Takumar 35mm f/3.5, SMC Takumar 55mm f/1.8, Helios 44-2 and 44-4, Super Takumar 150mm f/4

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Re: Review - The Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS
« Reply #3 on: April 23, 2013, 04:17:20 PM »
here is the conclusion:  I like the lens...a lot 8)

...

* Close up performance is nice when not wanting to change lenses (I took some surprisingly good butterfly shots with it), but it in no way reaches the performance of the 100L macro lens. Another issue with the 70-300L is that it is missing the focus limiting switch of the 70-200L and 100L (thanks, Canon!), so if the af misses it takes a lot of time.

* The IS on the 70-300L is really good (at least 2ev) and the lock is instant and nearly not noticeable - but there's a catch since it still needs a little time to be most effective. So for quick point & shoot it's nice to have a stable viewfinder and being able to set the af precisely, but in my experience waiting for a second is a good idea.

A focus limiter would have been nice.  No, it isn't close to the 100L's performance, but that is not surprising.  I haven't tried it with extension tubes, but I suspect it would do pretty well.

Bryan Carnethan at the Digital Picture rated the IS at actually better than 4ev, but testing IS is pretty subject.  I am very stable, myself.  This sample was taken (also yesterday) with the extender attached (420mm) at 1/15th.  That's pretty impressive.  I suspect that with a static subject I could pull off a 1/5th at 300mm.  I haven't actually experienced the lag that you describe for the IS to kick in, but I am rarely a speed shooter so it may be possible.
6D x 2 | EOS-M w/22mm f/2 + 18-55 STM + EF Adapter| Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 | Tamron 24-70 f/2.8 VC | 35mm f/2 IS | 40mm f/2.8 | 100L | 135L | 70-300L -----OLD SCHOOL----- SMC Takumar 28mm f/3.5, Super Takumar 35mm f/3.5, SMC Takumar 55mm f/1.8, Helios 44-2 and 44-4, Super Takumar 150mm f/4

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Re: Review - The Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS
« Reply #4 on: April 23, 2013, 05:52:48 PM »
Thank you for the review and the pictures were great.  Keith

Marsu42

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Re: Review - The Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS
« Reply #5 on: April 23, 2013, 06:07:48 PM »
Bryan Carnethan at the Digital Picture rated the IS at actually better than 4ev, but testing IS is pretty subject.  I am very stable, myself.

I am rating it as "2ev+" for me personally to be on the absolutely safe side when taking a non-repeatable shot. If I wait a little for the IS to settle and am/get very stable myself it is indeed 4ev - but I wouldn't say this what I have come to expect, again for me personally.

When rating an IS system which is all about *statistics* it's also important to make clear what we're talking about: Is it just to still get an average good/usable shot after downsizing, or is it to to get a shot at full mag exactly like one that was taken with a much higher shutter speed?

In my experience, fast shutter speed and IS off beats the IS on the 70-300L in sharpness most of the time, but I feel safe shooting with 1/250 x-sync at 300mm on crop (i.e. 480mm ff) and can expect get near-optimal iq at 100% mag. Without IS I'd feel safe with 1/1000s, so it's a 2ev advantage - remember the old 1/focal length from the ol' analog days doesn't really apply here because nowadays the sensor resolution is so high.

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Re: Review - The Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS
« Reply #6 on: April 23, 2013, 11:56:52 PM »
Nice review!  I, too, love its form factor and compactness.  I also agree that it should put a bigger dent into the 70-200 f/4 IS's sales than it does because it is that good.  The only thing that would force me to consider selling this lens is the mythical 100-400L replacement.

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Re: Review - The Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS
« Reply #6 on: April 23, 2013, 11:56:52 PM »

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Re: Review - The Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS
« Reply #7 on: April 24, 2013, 02:41:44 AM »
Great review. I like the simple and without emphasis way of writhing. Please make more reviews like this one!
 
I am thinking for a while at this lens and I was curios how good this is.

Thanks to you, now I know!


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Re: Review - The Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS
« Reply #8 on: April 24, 2013, 05:29:12 AM »
here is the conclusion:  I like the lens...a lot 8)

... me, too, and I bought it back when it had a reputation as being an overpriced version of Canon's non-L lens - but it's interesting to see how it gained much more recognition since then. I esp. like the still handholdable weight for ext. periods of time and walking around vs. the 70-200Lii (ymmv).

Just a some random additions to your again very nice review:

* The 70-300L's white paint is just for show, there aren't lens elements that would heat protection like in the 70-200L. One drawback of the extending design is that you cannot camouflage and protect the lens completely with a neoprene hood.

* I really doubt Canon will add f8 af for the 6d and wouldn't advise anyone to gamble on that. On my 60d the Kenko likes to hunt on low contrast objects when using single point af, and for multi-point the 9 af points usually is spread too far apart - so while 6d/5d3 might do fine, on crop it's rather for static objects.

It actually focuses pretty remarkably well on the 6d.  I am attaching a photo I took yesterday at 420mm while quickly tracking.  I had very little warning for this shot.  There are scenarios where it will hunt, but that tends to be in darker areas.  I was actually surprised at how well it did.  I shot with that combo exclusively while exploring a marsh yesterday.

It is not possible to evaluate the quality of this lens for bird and nature photography based on photos like these. Here, the birds are too small and span too few pixels to evaluate what the IQ is for them. Similarly, the Canada goose, squirrel etc you posted are small blobs. Please post some 100% crops so we can see the details of feathers, fur etc to get an idea what the lens is really like native and with extenders.

I had assumed it was soft at 420mm  - see http://www.the-digital-picture.com/Reviews/ISO-12233-Sample-Crops.aspx?Lens=738&Camera=453&Sample=0&FLI=5&API=1&LensComp=113&CameraComp=453&SampleComp=0&FLIComp=7&APIComp=0

So, it would be nice to see what it is like in practice.
« Last Edit: April 24, 2013, 05:37:10 AM by AlanF »
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Marsu42

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Re: Review - The Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS
« Reply #9 on: April 24, 2013, 06:48:17 AM »
I had assumed it was soft at 420mm  - see http://www.the-digital-picture.com/Reviews/ISO-12233-Sample-Crops.aspx?Lens=738&Camera=453&Sample=0&FLI=5&API=1&LensComp=113&CameraComp=453&SampleComp=0&FLIComp=7&APIComp=0

With the tdp crops, you have to check all copies they tested - in case of the 70-300L the 2nd is visibly better, unfortunately they didn't use it with an extender which will enhance the softness of the 1st copy:

http://www.the-digital-picture.com/Reviews/ISO-12233-Sample-Crops.aspx?Lens=738&Camera=453&Sample=1&FLI=4&API=1&LensComp=738&CameraComp=453&SampleComp=0&FLIComp=4&APIComp=0

Though even with that in mind, a tc is always for occasional use except if you use really expensive tele primes - if you want 400mm+, get a 400mm lens and not a 70-300mm zoom. The important aspect with the 70-300L+tc is that the combination is better than cropping (I'm on aps-c), so the 200€ for the Kenko are good investment and it's still a very small package.

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Re: Review - The Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS
« Reply #10 on: April 24, 2013, 06:59:28 AM »
I don't want this lens.  But then, why am I checking the current price on Amazon??   :-X

Actually, what I'd find useful is a comparison between the 100-400L at 400mm and the 70-300L at 300mm cropped to the 400mm FoV, on a FF body.  Since getting a 600, I use my 100-400L less, but I do still use it.  If it could be replaced by something smaller and lighter (70-200 II + TC need not apply!) without sacrificing IQ, I'd be quite interested in the 70-300L.
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Re: Review - The Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS
« Reply #11 on: April 24, 2013, 07:45:31 AM »
I don't want this lens.  But then, why am I checking the current price on Amazon??   :-X

Actually, what I'd find useful is a comparison between the 100-400L at 400mm and the 70-300L at 300mm cropped to the 400mm FoV, on a FF body.  Since getting a 600, I use my 100-400L less, but I do still use it.  If it could be replaced by something smaller and lighter (70-200 II + TC need not apply!) without sacrificing IQ, I'd be quite interested in the 70-300L.

I don't have a 100-400, but I do have a 70-200 II + 2x and a 5DIII.  If interested, I could take a few pics of items in the yard, maybe even a shed (although I promised not to underexposed by 3 stops and then lift it in post).

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Re: Review - The Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS
« Reply #12 on: April 24, 2013, 08:28:25 AM »
Great review!

I bought this lens month ago and I love it. I initially didn't want this lens. I was looking for Tamron 70-200 f2.8 VC and Tamron 70-300 VC to supplement my Tamron 24-70 VC but when I found this lens among used items on web site of my local retailer, I gave it a try. It cost me 70% of the new one and it still had one year of warranty. I also bought a tripod collar - Canon really can make money from nothing. The collar cost more than 50 f1.8! I somehow found the collar quite good for handling the camera with the lens.

My copy has IMHO little bit loose focus ring and IS makes a strange noise when starts and stops operating (it is only audible in silent environments) but otherwise it is flawless. I use it for animals (dogs, birds, zoo), flowers and close details in general. It has a very compact size (and pleasing weight) and fits to quite small backpack together with body, other lens and external flash.

I'm beginner and I still shoot with Rebel (and slowly collecting money for 6D) so I cannot compare IQ or build quality with other L lenses. This is my first one but it really make a great impression and I doubt it will be the last L lens I will ever buy (I already itch for 100L f2.8 ).

Edit: It is also lens which makes me think again about moving to FF. Extra reach on APS-C is a great bonus.
« Last Edit: April 24, 2013, 08:48:36 AM by Ladislav »
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Re: Review - The Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS
« Reply #12 on: April 24, 2013, 08:28:25 AM »

TWI by Dustin Abbott

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Re: Review - The Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS
« Reply #13 on: April 24, 2013, 09:16:44 AM »
here is the conclusion:  I like the lens...a lot 8)

... me, too, and I bought it back when it had a reputation as being an overpriced version of Canon's non-L lens - but it's interesting to see how it gained much more recognition since then. I esp. like the still handholdable weight for ext. periods of time and walking around vs. the 70-200Lii (ymmv).

Just a some random additions to your again very nice review:

* The 70-300L's white paint is just for show, there aren't lens elements that would heat protection like in the 70-200L. One drawback of the extending design is that you cannot camouflage and protect the lens completely with a neoprene hood.

* I really doubt Canon will add f8 af for the 6d and wouldn't advise anyone to gamble on that. On my 60d the Kenko likes to hunt on low contrast objects when using single point af, and for multi-point the 9 af points usually is spread too far apart - so while 6d/5d3 might do fine, on crop it's rather for static objects.

It actually focuses pretty remarkably well on the 6d.  I am attaching a photo I took yesterday at 420mm while quickly tracking.  I had very little warning for this shot.  There are scenarios where it will hunt, but that tends to be in darker areas.  I was actually surprised at how well it did.  I shot with that combo exclusively while exploring a marsh yesterday.

It is not possible to evaluate the quality of this lens for bird and nature photography based on photos like these. Here, the birds are too small and span too few pixels to evaluate what the IQ is for them. Similarly, the Canada goose, squirrel etc you posted are small blobs. Please post some 100% crops so we can see the details of feathers, fur etc to get an idea what the lens is really like native and with extenders.

I had assumed it was soft at 420mm  - see http://www.the-digital-picture.com/Reviews/ISO-12233-Sample-Crops.aspx?Lens=738&Camera=453&Sample=0&FLI=5&API=1&LensComp=113&CameraComp=453&SampleComp=0&FLIComp=7&APIComp=0

So, it would be nice to see what it is like in practice.

Fair enough.  I have added a new gallery to the review called "Pixel Peepers", all with shots taken a few days ago with the extender, at 420mm, f/8 (AKA wide open).  I have both the originals (almost all completely unedited) along with 100% crops (all unedited).  I am attaching one sample here for you - there are a total of 4 pairs in the new gallery at various distances from the subject.
6D x 2 | EOS-M w/22mm f/2 + 18-55 STM + EF Adapter| Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 | Tamron 24-70 f/2.8 VC | 35mm f/2 IS | 40mm f/2.8 | 100L | 135L | 70-300L -----OLD SCHOOL----- SMC Takumar 28mm f/3.5, Super Takumar 35mm f/3.5, SMC Takumar 55mm f/1.8, Helios 44-2 and 44-4, Super Takumar 150mm f/4

TWI by Dustin Abbott

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Re: Review - The Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS
« Reply #14 on: April 24, 2013, 09:21:04 AM »
I had assumed it was soft at 420mm  - see http://www.the-digital-picture.com/Reviews/ISO-12233-Sample-Crops.aspx?Lens=738&Camera=453&Sample=0&FLI=5&API=1&LensComp=113&CameraComp=453&SampleComp=0&FLIComp=7&APIComp=0

With the tdp crops, you have to check all copies they tested - in case of the 70-300L the 2nd is visibly better, unfortunately they didn't use it with an extender which will enhance the softness of the 1st copy:

http://www.the-digital-picture.com/Reviews/ISO-12233-Sample-Crops.aspx?Lens=738&Camera=453&Sample=1&FLI=4&API=1&LensComp=738&CameraComp=453&SampleComp=0&FLIComp=4&APIComp=0

Though even with that in mind, a tc is always for occasional use except if you use really expensive tele primes - if you want 400mm+, get a 400mm lens and not a 70-300mm zoom. The important aspect with the 70-300L+tc is that the combination is better than cropping (I'm on aps-c), so the 200€ for the Kenko are good investment and it's still a very small package.

I would definitely agree with all of this.  If I could add one thing, it would that as a travel package the Kenko tele will have about as much space and weight premium as the 40mm pancake.  I think between the near equal image quality and the much light weight and space + the vastly superior IS of the 70-300L, I would choose that over the 100-400L while traveling every time.  I also fully expect that opinion to change when the new 100-400L II is released.
6D x 2 | EOS-M w/22mm f/2 + 18-55 STM + EF Adapter| Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 | Tamron 24-70 f/2.8 VC | 35mm f/2 IS | 40mm f/2.8 | 100L | 135L | 70-300L -----OLD SCHOOL----- SMC Takumar 28mm f/3.5, Super Takumar 35mm f/3.5, SMC Takumar 55mm f/1.8, Helios 44-2 and 44-4, Super Takumar 150mm f/4

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Re: Review - The Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS
« Reply #14 on: April 24, 2013, 09:21:04 AM »