August 27, 2014, 01:08:55 PM

Author Topic: Is my copy soft or that's the average for the Canon EF 70-300 f/4-5.6 IS USM?  (Read 4980 times)

LetTheRightLensIn

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I got the Canon EF 70-300 f/4-5.6 IS USM as a last minute solution to an order screw up (had ordered the 100-400L), and I was stuck with this as my only telephoto lens for my safari in Kenya. I certainly didn't expect wonders, and sure enough I found it to be a quite soft lens if lighting conditions aren't perfect. Now I'm wondering if that's the average for this lens or it's just my copy, how can I determine that? I think I'll be keeping it until the new 100-400L comes out, so it'd be nice to have it working properly, within its limits. It also has a slight front focus problem, how does Canon handle this problems? Can I send it to fix under warranty?

Attached there's a photo example, thank you for the help!

It looks softer than the lens can do. It might just be shooting distance over grasslands. It almost looks like heat haze softening, hard to be sure though.

LetTheRightLensIn

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I wouldn't use the canon filter, it certainly degrades sharpness.
Really?! I thought buying their filter for their lens was a safe bet!
So you think no filter at all is better? Or do you suggest other brands?

No, Canon filters are low end and ones to avoid. B+W are probably the best and then Hoya. (but those brands also make lower end, but over-rpiced stuff too, make sure the B+W are MRC (fully coated) and same for Hoya as they and Heliopan too make uncoated or onyl slightly coated stuff which isn't worth using or the price they charge).

neuroanatomist

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It's hardly that bad to say you don't want to shoot with it at 300mm. It's pretty sharp there even if the large scale contrast is a bit duller there.

Maybe you can say you want to shoot with it at 300mm.  I can confidently say that I certainly don't.  I've tried two copies of it, one in a shop, one borrowed from a colleague.  My experience reflects the performance of the lens on the TDP test chart, here's the 70-300 non-L at 300mm, followed by the 70-300L for comparison.  Maybe you think it's 'pretty sharp' but I call it a mushy mess at 300mm.
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Took this last weekend with my 70-300 @300.
Its perfectly fine to me for 350$ that I paid with usa warranty.
Are there better lenses: surely, but I wont complain about the results at that price point.
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AprilForever

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Aye, tis a soft lens!!! I replaced it with a 300 f4. Then added a 300 2.8 to that. Now am looking for a 600 f4.

It was always soft at the long end, but it does get a lot better, I believe, if you stop down.
What is truth?

Sporgon

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I have access to two copies of this lens and can confirm that in this case the TDP resolution crops give a true representation. At 200 to 300 mil, wider than f8 it is a soft focus lens. The op has shot at 270mm @ f6.3 so I would expect it to be soft. The lens has to be used between f8 & f11 at that focal length, and even then the mid frame is soft.

The 70-300 L on the other hand is a gem.

Regarding the price, here in the UK I think the non L is  rather expensive for it's overall performance, but at sporting venues such as horse trials where every second member of the public has a dslr, I see hundreds of them !
« Last Edit: October 12, 2013, 04:31:25 PM by Sporgon »

banana joe

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It's hardly that bad to say you don't want to shoot with it at 300mm. It's pretty sharp there even if the large scale contrast is a bit duller there.

Maybe you can say you want to shoot with it at 300mm.  I can confidently say that I certainly don't.  I've tried two copies of it, one in a shop, one borrowed from a colleague.  My experience reflects the performance of the lens on the TDP test chart, here's the 70-300 non-L at 300mm, followed by the 70-300L for comparison.  Maybe you think it's 'pretty sharp' but I call it a mushy mess at 300mm.

Wow, that's some difference!
Ok, so that's the quality one can expect from this lens? It's not just my copy? And are Canon filters really that crappy? They're quite expensive and I thought they were designed to be put on L lenses, what's the point in producing a $2000 optical marvel and sell with it an overpriced crappy filter? So, B+W MRC it is.
On top of all that my copy front focuses (example attached, focus set on eyes), should I fix that with micro focusing  adjustments or send body and lens to Canon?
I'll definitely get rid of it when I buy the new one, but I'm waiting to see what they're doing with the new 100-400L, hoping they'll announce it soon. I guess then the choice will be between 100-400L, 70-300L and 28-300L.

Rat

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Wow, that's some difference!
Ok, so that's the quality one can expect from this lens? It's not just my copy?
Check and check :)
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Mt Spokane Photography

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for comparison.  Maybe you think it's 'pretty sharp' but I call it a mushy mess at 300mm.
, but I'm waiting to see what they're doing with the new 100-400L, hoping they'll announce it soon. I guess then the choice will be between 100-400L, 70-300L and 28-300L.

 
People have been waiting for a new 100-400L for some 7 years, probably more.  That's a lot of lost images.
 
The new lens, if it ever comes out is going to run $3K, and the price of the old version will rise as a result.
 
Its pretty difficult to go wrong with one, but for a crop, the 100-300L is a excellent choice too.
 
As to the 70-300mm IS, it struggles at 300mm, but is ok at shorter focal lengths.  It was a huge upgrade when I bought my 70-200mm f/4 IS to replace it several years ago.

LetTheRightLensIn

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It's hardly that bad to say you don't want to shoot with it at 300mm. It's pretty sharp there even if the large scale contrast is a bit duller there.

Maybe you can say you want to shoot with it at 300mm.  I can confidently say that I certainly don't.  I've tried two copies of it, one in a shop, one borrowed from a colleague.  My experience reflects the performance of the lens on the TDP test chart, here's the 70-300 non-L at 300mm, followed by the 70-300L for comparison.  Maybe you think it's 'pretty sharp' but I call it a mushy mess at 300mm.

My experience is NOTHING remotely like the TDP disaster for either the non-L or L. TDP either had hideous copies of each or used a target right near MFD or messed the tests up totally. My experience doesn't remotely match their Tamron 70-300VC results either while I'm at it. In fact, an awful lot of my experiences don't match TDP. Photozone results are overall a lot closer to my own experiences and tests (not quite the same either, but between copy variation and test margins of error, to be expected I guess) than TDP for the most part.

On FF it probably becomes mushy mess at the edges, but on APS-C a solid copy isn't pretty sharp if a bit lacking in large scale contrast. It was at least a sharp as my old 100-300L, although the 100-300L had far richer color and large-scale contrast at 300mm. My 70-300L had both richer color, large-scale contrast and sharpness.

Don't forget that when the 70-300 IS first came out it was referred to by some as a so-called "hidden L".

LetTheRightLensIn

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I have access to two copies of this lens and can confirm that in this case the TDP resolution crops give a true representation. At 200 to 300 mil, wider than f8 it is a soft focus lens. The op has shot at 270mm @ f6.3 so I would expect it to be soft. The lens has to be used between f8 & f11 at that focal length, and even then the mid frame is soft.

Well I can confirm as can my friend that TDP's results do NOT give a true representation. It also tested quite well, I believe, at DxO (not that I trust them for lens tests) and one other site.

Perhaps there is extreme copy variation with this lens then? (Do beware focus precision though as the non-L 70-300 is prone to need very different MFA at each focal length along the way and is prone to miss at the longer end in any case under a number of scenarios which can make it seem softer than it really is. In the end the focus precision, or lack thereof, started bugging me, since I kept having to recheck to make sure it wasn't a little hazy due to miss to make sure I didn't need to reshoot since it missed just often enough to be something of a pain.)

TDP looks like they dropped it, kicked it, dropped it again, focused at MFD and then slightly defocused and then posted results.

Quote
The 70-300 L on the other hand is a gem.

Well the 70-300L certainly is better. It's the best one of these mini-70/300 or so range slow lenses ever made.
Even here TDP has a horrible copy or messed the test IMO. AS their 70-300L did a lot worse compared to the 70-200 f/4 IS than I found with my copies or than photozone found or than most bloggers found.

70-300L has much more precise AF, faster AF, non-rotating front, a tiny bit better IS, at the least a bit sharper across the board and sometimes much more noticeably so (much much so at the edges on FF across the board, the non-L is more of a strong performer on APS-C, beyond APS-C image circle it starts getting dicey unlike the L zooms), much stronger contrast and richer colors above 200mm, much better built. It is larger and a LOT heavier though.

« Last Edit: October 12, 2013, 06:33:46 PM by LetTheRightLensIn »

Sporgon

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Well I can confirm as can my friend that TDP's results do NOT give a true representation. It also tested quite well, I believe, at DxO (not that I trust them for lens tests) and one other site.

Perhaps there is extreme copy variation with this lens then? (Do beware focus precision though as the non-L 70-300 is prone to need very different MFA at each focal length along the way and is prone to miss at the longer end in any case under a number of scenarios which can make it seem softer than it really is. In the end the focus precision, or lack thereof, started bugging me, since I kept having to recheck to make sure it wasn't a little hazy due to miss to make sure I didn't need to reshoot since it missed just often enough to be something of a pain.)

TDP looks like they dropped it, kicked it, dropped it again, focused at MFD and then slightly defocused and then posted results.

AS their 70-300L did a lot worse compared to the 70-200 f/4 IS than I found with my copies or than photozone found or than most bloggers found.


I agree with you on TDP's resolution crops of the 70-300 L - but not at 300mm. I do find that they have not done justice, or perhaps the lens has not done justice to the L version at 70 -100mm where like you say it is shown to be clearly inferior to the 70-200 f4 IS and even the 24-105, yet I have not come across anyone who believes their 70-300 L is inferior to those other lenses when they actually own them. TDP resolution crops also show the new 24-70 L IS to have an inferior performance to the 24-105, which IMO is misleading.

Like yourself I find that photozone gives a view that is more close to my experiences with the various lenses I have owned and used. Photozone use MTF software to analyse the blur on the edges of the black squares whereas with TDP we are simply viewing it. You would think that would be the best way as after all it is about viewing the image. To overcome the effect of the AA filter TDP sharpen to the equivalent of '1' in the Canon picture style settings. Now I am not sure how effective this is as from my experience sometimes one lens may appear sharper than another with no sharpening applied, but after a little sharpening of both the other lens then is clearly sharper. I presume the information is there for the sharpening to work, but I really don't now.

One thing I do know though is that whoever said ' the 70-300 IS non L is the hidden L series lens' should give me some of what he'd been smoking. I need it.

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Without the EXIF data it is impossible to say, but there is nothing sharp in your image, if you had a good fast shutter speed, the vehicle was stationary, no crappy filter, it isn't a huge crop, etc then I'd say you have a soft lens, but to test that you need to put it in a tripod and do some controlled exposures in both manual and auto focus. It does not look like a micro AF issue as nothing is sharp, not meaning you don't need to do micro AF, but that the issue you have is masking any additional micro AF issue.

Here is how I test my lenses for sharpness and element misalignment. This series showed me extreme misalignment at 35mm with a 16-35, even at this size you can see the image right paper is more blurred than center and left.

And a little sharpen and rework on your elephant shot too.

You're right, I didn't give enough information.

Shot with Canon EOS 7D

EFIX data:
f/6,3
1/1000 sec
ISO 800
275mm

The vehicle was stationary, it's almost not cropped at all and I had on the Canon protection filter.
So, if my copy is soft, will Canon fix it under warranty?

What software and tool did you use to retouch my photo? I like what you did, except for some artifacts in the sky.

Thank you all for your responses!

As others have now said, the filter is not good and is costing you sharpness and contrast, I once had a Canon CPL, it was the worst filter I ever bought!

That will be your biggest improvement, after that shutter speed could be hurting you, at 275mm on the 7D you should be looking at 1/500 absolute minimum for pixel sharp images, 1/1000 as a minimum if you are a little excited, flustered or just drunk coffee! IS will help a bit, but I find light lenses to not get anywhere near as much sharpness improvement from IS as heavier lenses, maybe sprung to unsprung mass differentials play a part, maybe it is more difficult to jog a heavier lens, I don't know, just an observation I have made. Even at distance my 100 macro IS is not as effective as my 300 f2.8 even though the 100 has newer generation system.

After that it is probably just the lens, try some tests at home with no filter on a tripod with live view manual focusing, obviously just looking at the differing responses here and the different test results linked to there is some sample variation out there, but if you are not happy and it is a recent purchase send it back.

As for the post processing, I did it in ACR via Bridge, which is exactly the same as Lightroom, auto setting for exposure and contrast, your metering overexposed the scene because the elephants are dark and overwhelmed the Evaluative Metering (or Center Weighted or Spot, the only metering mode that would have nailed this image is Average Metering) simple grad filter for sky, vignette to draw attention to the subject and thats it, very simple and basic. My copy didn't get artifacts so I suspect it was the forum algorithm doing a bit of compression that introduced it.
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photonius

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Without the EXIF data it is impossible to say, but there is nothing sharp in your image, if you had a good fast shutter speed, the vehicle was stationary, no crappy filter, it isn't a huge crop, etc then I'd say you have a soft lens, but to test that you need to put it in a tripod and do some controlled exposures in both manual and auto focus. It does not look like a micro AF issue as nothing is sharp, not meaning you don't need to do micro AF, but that the issue you have is masking any additional micro AF issue.

Here is how I test my lenses for sharpness and element misalignment. This series showed me extreme misalignment at 35mm with a 16-35, even at this size you can see the image right paper is more blurred than center and left.

And a little sharpen and rework on your elephant shot too.

You're right, I didn't give enough information.

Shot with Canon EOS 7D

EFIX data:
f/6,3
1/1000 sec
ISO 800
275mm

The vehicle was stationary, it's almost not cropped at all and I had on the Canon protection filter.
So, if my copy is soft, will Canon fix it under warranty?

What software and tool did you use to retouch my photo? I like what you did, except for some artifacts in the sky.

Thank you all for your responses!

First step, go out and test without a filter!  Canon filters are apparently not that great

photonius

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It's hardly that bad to say you don't want to shoot with it at 300mm. It's pretty sharp there even if the large scale contrast is a bit duller there.

Maybe you can say you want to shoot with it at 300mm.  I can confidently say that I certainly don't.  I've tried two copies of it, one in a shop, one borrowed from a colleague.  My experience reflects the performance of the lens on the TDP test chart, here's the 70-300 non-L at 300mm, followed by the 70-300L for comparison.  Maybe you think it's 'pretty sharp' but I call it a mushy mess at 300mm.

Wow, that's some difference!
Ok, so that's the quality one can expect from this lens? It's not just my copy? And are Canon filters really that crappy? They're quite expensive and I thought they were designed to be put on L lenses, what's the point in producing a $2000 optical marvel and sell with it an overpriced crappy filter? So, B+W MRC it is.
On top of all that my copy front focuses (example attached, focus set on eyes), should I fix that with micro focusing  adjustments or send body and lens to Canon?
I'll definitely get rid of it when I buy the new one, but I'm waiting to see what they're doing with the new 100-400L, hoping they'll announce it soon. I guess then the choice will be between 100-400L, 70-300L and 28-300L.

Well, first give the lens a proper test without the filter. Some people report that a filter can also affect focusing accuracy. As pointed out, it looks like your lens is performing not as good as it could, irrespective of the TDP tests, which may simply be due to wrong focus. 
It has to be said though that in hot places heat seriously affects visual quality over distance, so that may have impacted your images as well.