The first test of the new Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS II USM has become available, and I have read a lot of disappointed responses to the image quality of it. Being in the market for this lens, I took a few days before reading that test again, so I could read and interpret it with a fresh pair of eyes.
I just finished spelling it out and reviewing the results on the site of the-digital-picture.com.
The new Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS II USM is an EF-lens, so it is intended to be used on Canon’s more expensive full frame (FF) cameras. The image quality on full frame cameras shows to be hardly an improvement, if at all.
That is a bit of a surprise to me, because recently Canon had showed to be capable to produce lenses with fine optical performance for a relatively low price. The EF-S 55-250 f/4-5.6 IS STM for APS-C cameras, is an example of this. It does not have ‘professional’ build quality and not even a metal bayonet, so it requires attention. But the image quality is quite decent. And even the AF is quite fast and accurate.
Owning a Canon 80D, I am particularly interested in the image quality of this new 70-300 lens on an APS-C camera (as opposed to on full frame). The tests results for this comparison are now available at the-digital-picture.com, albeit for the 7D MkII.
Comparing the new Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS II USM with the EF-S 55-250 f/4-5.6 IS STM on an APS-C camera, I expected to see better results, in particular at the edges of the frame (for obvious technical reasons). And in my mind that would have made sense for Canon also, if Canon wants to offer ‘entry level’ FF buyers an equivalent to what the 55-250 STM is for the APS-C user.
However, on an APS-C camera, the test results show that @ 70mm, the IQ of the new Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS II USM at the center, in mid-frame and even in the corner is worse than that of the EF-S 55-250 f/4-5.6 IS STM. The sharpness is less and contrast is less. Even the CA is worse.
And @ 200 mm the new Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS II USM also shows less sharpness and less contrast at the center, in mid-frame and in the corner than the EF-S 55-250 f/4-5.6 IS STM. The CA is better at this zoom position, though.
And with both lenses at their maximum zoom position, the image quality of the new Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS II USM @ 300 mm compared to the EF-S 55-250 f/4-5.6 IS STM @ 250 mm, again shows a worse sharpness and less contrast at the center, in mid-frame and in the corner than. The only thing that is better at maximum zoom, is again the CA.
I therefore must conclude that I also am disappointed with the image quality of the new Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS II USM.
I, nor anyone with some sense, expected an image quality at the level of the L-series lenses. But there is even hardly any improvement over its over 10 years old predecessor, and that was not exactly an example of fine IQ – as many responses all over the internet show (also on this board, despite the at times fanatic opposition against that fact).
It is hard to understand why the new Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS II USM, that in many aspects is comparable to the EF-S 55-250 f/4-5.6 IS STM but costs about 60 to 80 % more (depending on where you live), does not deliver better images.
It seems that the AF-system of this new Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS II USM is remarkable, though that has not been confirmed in any test. And it is true that in real life the AF performance is a very important characteristic for al lens: fast AF-speed, high AF-accuracy and low AF-spread can result in many ‘keepers’ in less-than-optimal circumstances.
I cannot accept some critics (or cynics) being right when these folks write that Canon sometimes markets crippled products to protect the sales of other, higher end and therefore more profitable, products. That is not how I saw and still see Canon.
Perhaps the results of other (independent) review sites will show better results, what may lead to the conclusion that this test by the-digital-picture.com was performed with a lousy, early copy of this lens.
I truly hope so, because for many aspects of this lens I really want to buy it. But based on the test results of this (single) test, I will just wait until I see better test results at a few other (independent) test sites.