Canon Announces 70-300 f/4-5.6L IS

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Edwin Herdman

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I think the key "problem" with the lens is that it doesn't cater enough to sports / press users who would like a larger maximum aperture, regardless of ISO performance. This certainly is the issue for me. A larger maximum aperture would definitely come with weight and more expense, of course. The MTF curves are very promising, and the new IS rounds it out.

Everything about the features of this lens and the press information Canon put out suggests this is targeted for advanced amateurs, not professionals who I hope will be getting a lens targeted for them in the future (with at least f/4 at the 300mm end).

A Canon equivalent of the Nikon 200-400 would be nice too...
 

neuroanatomist

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Edwin Herdman said:
Everything about the features of this lens and the press information Canon put out suggests this is targeted for advanced amateurs, not professionals who I hope will be getting a lens targeted for them in the future (with at least f/4 at the 300mm end).
I suppose Canon thinks the 'real' professionals will be using the new supertele primes, like the 300mm f/2.8L IS II.

But in a way, Canon has already given us a ~100-300mm f/4 lens with great IQ. The newish 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II takes a 1.4x teleconverter very well, giving an 89-280mm f/4 lens that's sharper at 280mm f/4 than the Mk I version of the lens at 200mm f/2.8 (see a comparison HERE).
 

kubelik

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Aug 11, 2010
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neuro, thanks for the link -- I'm surprised the difference is that huge. another alternative I'd like to highlight is sigma's 100-300mm f/4.

it doesn't have IS, and it has probably the worst lens hood I've ever worked with, but other than those two issues, it's a great lens (even disregarding the sweet price) for anyone interested in shooting in the 300mm range
 

neuroanatomist

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kubelik said:
neuro, thanks for the link -- I'm surprised the difference is that huge.
Yeah, I was, too. That's one reason I got the new 70-200 II, in fact. I have and really like the 100-400mm L, but it's not weather-sealed, whereas the 70-200 II + 1.4x gives me 100-300mm that I can take out in the rain. It's a constant f/4, which is great - but it's big and a bit unbalanced. Now, here comes this new 70-300mm L, which loses a stop at the long end compared to the 70-200 II + 1.4x, but is a lot smaller and still has weather sealing. If it manages to beat out the 70-200 II + 1.4x for sharpness, it becomes a much more interesting lens (and one for which I might consider changing out my 70-300mm DO).
 
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Edwin Herdman

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On the sharpness front, you might get an idea how the extender 1.4x would affect the 70-200mm IS II by looking at the differences to the new 300mm or 400mm. Here's the 300mm. The 70-300mm's MTF lines are close to the 70-200mm's, but I'm not expecting a big drop off in performance with the extender. For me, the question is more whether the loss of the wide end and the aperture, and the cost and weight, are worth the slightly wider maximum aperture.
 

Mark D5 TEAM II

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Another bad thing with this lens, as revealed by TDP, is that it's already at f/5.0 way before 200mm, at 155mm in fact.

http://www.the-digital-picture.com/Reviews/Canon-EF-70-300mm-f-4-5.6-IS-L-USM-Lens-Review.aspx

The 70-300 L appears to be very sharp wide open including good sharpness into the full frame corners at focal lengths up to and including 135mm. I expect to see nearly as good of performance right up to 300mm, but because of poor test conditions, I'm not yet ready to state this with any certainty.

I think we are going to see a little CA (Chromatic Aberration) in 70mm full frame corners, but little or nearly-none over the rest of the focal length range.

Distortion appears to be about average for a 70-300mm lens. Expect some 70mm barrel distortion transitioning to pincusion by just over 100mm. Pincusion distortion becomes moderate by 200mm and remains so through 300mm.

In short, the 70-200 f/4L IS + 300 f/4L IS would be a better choice, assuming money is enough for that but not enough for the 2.8 versions.
 

neuroanatomist

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Mark D5 TEAM II said:
In short, the 70-200 f/4L IS + 300 f/4L IS would be a better choice, assuming money is enough for that but not enough for the 2.8 versions.
Except then you'd be carrying two lenses instead of one lens that's smaller than either of them. The big advantage of this new lens is reach and IQ in a very portable package. For more reach with the same slowness, bring a 100-400. For less reach and more speed, bring a 70-200/2.8. If I'm going out shooting from pre-dawn through the morning or afternoon through twilight, I bring both the 100-400 and the 70-200 II. But if I'm going out in the middle of the day and bringing my toddler along, neither of the big white zooms is coming. Currently, I've got the 70-300 DO for such outings. The new 70-300 L adds a bit of length and weight, and seems to have much better IQ - that's not a bad trade.
 

neuroanatomist

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Edwin Herdman said:
The 70-300mm's MTF lines are close to the 70-200mm's, but I'm not expecting a big drop off in performance with the extender.
If you mean you're not expecting a big performance drop when pairing the new 70-300 L with a Canon extender, I disagree. With that combination you'd take the ultimate performance hit - a completely unusable lens. The 70-300 L is not compatible with Canon extenders.

I can tell you from personal experience that the 70-200 II performs quite well with the 1.4x II, though.
 
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Edwin Herdman

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Bah, I'd read about that elsewhere and forgotten. Guess the rear focus elements would hit the extender's optics.

Agreed totally on the balance of the new lens versus the multi-lens solution. What's more, it's simply a newer lens and the other factors (new IS system, weather and dust sealing, better ergonomics) make me feel it's a reasonable investment compared to older designs.

Mark D5 TEAM II said:
Another bad thing with this lens, as revealed by TDP, is that it's already at f/5.0 way before 200mm, at 155mm in fact.
Thanks for the link and information - I wasn't expecting Bryan C. to update from the placeholder page so quickly! Guess my faith he's an insider was well placed. Anyway, I was afraid that the maximum aperture would become rather low quite quickly, though that is rather more extreme than I expected. I'm not sure it will matter to me though - for 300mm, for instance, the sole affordable choice (for me) besides other zooms is the aging f/5.6 L single-focal length design, which I was considering previous to the 70-200mm (as mentioned before). If I need a faster 200mm lens, there are some good single focal length options available such as the 200mm telephoto, or the 180mm macro. I do think that continuing improvements on ISO and the tradeoffs in the AF performance of lower-tier DSLRs means that this will probably be a better match for those cheaper systems, at the expense of a more artistic look from faster lenses and more noise in low-light pictures.
 

neuroanatomist

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Edwin Herdman said:
I do think that continuing improvements on ISO and the tradeoffs in the AF performance of lower-tier DSLRs means that this will probably be a better match for those cheaper systems, at the expense of a more artistic look from faster lenses and more noise in low-light pictures.
Absolutely - and that's exactly where Canon has stated they are positioning this lens. I have to assume there are quite a few xxD, 7D, and even some Rebel owners who want to step up from the base level (55-250/75-300) or mid-level (70-300 non-L) to a better quality telezoom, but then look at the 70-200L's and figure they're not long enough, and look at the 100-400 and think, "I can't lug that beast around!"

It's still definitely a compromise lens, but with some very reasonable compromises.
 

docsmith

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neuroanatomist said:
Absolutely - and that's exactly where Canon has stated they are positioning this lens. I have to assume there are quite a few xxD, 7D, and even some Rebel owners who want to step up from the base level (55-250/75-300) or mid-level (70-300 non-L) to a better quality telezoom, but then look at the 70-200L's and figure they're not long enough, and look at the 100-400 and think, "I can't lug that beast around!"

It's still definitely a compromise lens, but with some very reasonable compromises.
Yep. If you are only going to buy and own 1 telephoto "L" lens you are going to have to make compromises in which lens you buy. I see this lens taking a lot of that market.
 
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Freeze_XJ

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However, its size and price (and the 2 stops extra) put it in a whole different market. I can see myself put a 70-300L in my backpack (like i do now with the non-L version) as an allround tele, but lugging that 300 2.8 around would probably break my back(pack).
 

neuroanatomist

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Edwin Herdman said:
Bump with yet another challenger....Sigma announces stabilised 120-300mm F2.8 telezoom
I don't know that I'd call it a challenger to the new 70-300mm L. As Canon stated, "Users looking to a camera like the EOS 60D or 7D often put a priority on reasonable weight and good handling, and this applies to their lenses as well as their cameras. Until now, Canon’s long zoom lens options have meant either putting up with lots of weight..."

The current non-OS Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 is as long as an extended Canon 100-400mm and it's twice the weight. Even if Sigma can add OS without adding to the size/weight, the Sigma lens is still big and heavy. That's not really the market Canon is going after with their new lens.

If the reportedly slow AF in the non-OS version is is carried through into the new OS version, I think the Canon 300mm f/2.8 would be a better choice, and likely there won't be too much price difference (relatively) between the new Sigma OS zoom and the MkI version of the Canon prime.
 

kubelik

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there's almost no relationship between the new canon 70-300 L and sigma's 120-300 f/2.8. just in terms of handling alone, that's like comparing sneakers and hiking boots. one is a lightweight, do-all lens, the other is a beast meant to shoulder a specific burden. very different people will be looking at these two lenses for very different reasons
 
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Edwin Herdman

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neuroanatomist said:
I don't know that I'd call it a challenger to the new 70-300mm L.
Yes, I realize that. In this post I'm not focusing (as usual) on Canon's market positioning, I'm focusing on what will be best for me. Apologies for not making that clear.

From my perspective, the 70-300mm has a nice focal length range and features, but the maximum aperture is narrow.
The 100-400mm I'm less interested in on the basis of its being an older, heavier, and more expensive design all around, without the benefit of a zoom ring (well, it's a benefit in most situations, plus the dust advantage). I didn't realize until writing this post that the apparent 1/2 or 1/3 stop benefit of the 70-300mm is negated by 155mm, and the 100-400mm surpasses it by 228mm, where it holds on at f/5 until 239mm, where the 300mm has has given way to f/5.6. Not a shattering victory and in actuality a rather small range where the 100-400mm is faster, but the 70-300mm isn't an unambiguous improvement.

Size and weight for the 70-300mm doesn't really sell it to me over the 100-400 - minimum focus is considerably better, however.

The MFD charts (comparing the 70-300mm and the 100-400mm product pages) are somewhat ambiguous to me because I'm left attempting to compare different focal lengths:

The 70-300 does seem to start better at the center for many focal lengths (especially wide) and keeps that improvement to 20mm diagonally (where one of the f/8 30LP/mm lines drops off, though the other stays high). The 100-400 MTF lines, sharpening up by 400mm compared to 100, suggest to me that it gets sharper (relative to its wide performance) as you increase the focal length, whereas the 70-300 seems to be the reverse, being sharper at 70mm than 300. Unfortunately this doesn't help a direct comparison - the MTF lines for the 100-400mm sag at about 5-10mm across the frame, at 400mm, but that's apples and oranges to the 70-300 @ 300mm (though it bodes well for the 70-300 that its lines don't sag, but stay high farther across).

I'm starting to think that overall the 100-400mm may have no great handicap at comparable focal lengths, if not an edge...really the only thing that stands out is the rather ugly 80% contrast for 30 LP/mm lines (the thicker / coarser lines) on the 100-400mm at 100mm, but it stays at 80% further across the frame whereas the 70-300mm drops rather quickly past the corners of an APS-C frame (unfortunately, comparing 70 and 100mm, so apples and oranges again). How the newer coatings etc. of the new lens enhance the performance indicated by the MTF charts, not to mention performance on the targeted APS-C frame, may make up the difference remains to be seen.

In any case, the new 120-300mm looks like a potential deal buster to me - if it is more appropriate for full frame is no problem for me, since that leaves full-frame camera options wide in the future. Overall contrast and sharpness, features, and especially AF reliability all remain points I'm worried about, however.

Thankfully I can put off a decision on these zooms for some time.
 

ronderick

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mmm... I wonder if anyone mentioned this before, but another reason why the 70-300L won't fill the niche of the 100-400L is that it does not support the use of extenders.

At least the 70-300L is not listed as one of the supported lenses under the EF 1.4x III extender description on Canon Japan's website...
 
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Edwin Herdman

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Yeap, it's been pretty well determined that the 70-300mm won't work with extenders. This confuses folks because the new 70-200mm IS II does.
 

neuroanatomist

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Good points, Ed. There are trade-offs between the two lenses, certainly. IQ-wise, my guess is that in general the new lens will be a little bit sharper on average, but the 100-400 is plenty sharp. As you state, the aperture differences are not major, and frankly both are slow... So in my mind, the main differences come down to portability and weather-resistance vs. the extra 100mm.

Minimum focus distance (MFD) is considerably closer (6') with the 70-300 L, but maximum magnification (MM) is not too different. It seems that the new 70-300 takes focus breathing to the extreme - the MFD for the new lens is the same as the MFD for several of the 70-200mm zooms, and the MM at 300mm is the same as as those other zooms at 200mm. So, if the numbers are correct (and apparently Chuck Westfall has confirmed them), the new 70-300 L at the MFD has an effective focal length of only 200mm.

Sigma lenses are a mixed bag - AF issues do seem to be common with them, and focus is usually slower than their Canon equivalent.

Edwin Herdman said:
Yeap, it's been pretty well determined that the 70-300mm won't work with extenders. This confuses folks because the new 70-200mm IS II does.
Part of the lens design, keeping it compact - the rear element of the 70-300mm is right at the back, so there's no room for the protruding element of the extenders. 3rd party extenders (e.g. Kenko) would work.

Good thing you're not in a hurry, and good luck with your decision!