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Canon EF 300mm f/2.8 L IS USM Review

Looking to find more information regarding the Canon EF 300mm f/2.8 L IS USM? Read our latest review to learn more about the Canon EF 300mm f/2.8 L IS USM, its specifications, and if it’s a good camera lens for you. 

Canon EF 300mm f/2.8 L IS USM Overview

Introduced in 1999, the Canon EF 300mm f/2.8 L IS USM has actually long been regarded as a benchmark in Canon’s lineup in regards to image sharpness and focusing performance. At the time of its intro, the EF 300mm f/2.8 L IS changed the very successful EF 300mm f/2.8 L USM which was one of Canons best lenses. With this update, Canon gave the EF 300mm f/2.8 L IS USM an entirely brand-new optical formula with one fluorite element and 2 UD-glass aspects in addition to image stabilization.

These additions allowed the lens to reach extraordinary levels of sharpness at even at wide-open apertures while the stabilization considerably increased the potential for utilizing the lens efficiently while handheld. The lens was finally retired in 2011 with the introduction of the Canon EF 300mm f/2.8 L IS USM II but stays a fantastic lens that differs little to its newer brother in total performance.

Canon EF 300mm f/2.8 L IS USM Specifications

Below is a summary of this lenses specifications:

Indicative Price: $6000Zoom Type: /
Release Date: 01/07/1999Mount Type: Canon EF
Focal Range: 300mmTripod Mount: Yes
Aperture: F/ 2.8Colors Available: Grey
Filter Diameter (millimeters): 52Full-Time Manual Focus: Yes
Maximum Diameter (millimeters): 128Number Of Lenses: 17
AF Motor: USMLength (millimeters): 252
Stabilization: YesWeight (grams): 2550

Pros and Cons Of The Canon EF 300mm f/2.8 L IS USM

Below are some pros and cons associated with this camera lens:


  • Excellent image quality
  • Fast focus
  • Creamy Bokeh
  • Sharp
  • Fantastic build quality


  • Expensive
  • Lens Hood Can Be Difficult To Operate
  • Switches are easy to move on the side of the lens

Canon EF 300mm f/2.8 L IS USM Performance

Below are some of the measures we take into consideration when we reviewed this camera lens:

Build Quality and Handling

The lens is weather-sealed and after duplicated usage in various weather condition conditions, including heavy rain and snow, I can state that the lens operated flawlessly and at no point did it seem as if any extraneous material was getting in the lens. The white paint used on this generation of Canon telephotos is susceptible to scratching, much more so than Canon’s modern-day lenses, which is why a LensCoat Lens Cover is useful for keeping the lens scratch-free.

From a handling viewpoint, the lens runs really well with the focusing ring being extremely well-dampened. For those that like hand-holding their telephoto lenses as I do, a lens’ balance point becomes really essential. Further making complex things, the fairly short length of the lens barrel suggests that the location between the front of the focus and the lens ring is extremely short.

Unlike the fixed tripod collars of Canon’s longer telephoto lenses, the tripod collar of the EF 300mm f/2.8 L IS USM comes off and this significantly help in using the lens handheld. Beside the tripod mount there are five switches along with a button. The very first of the switches is the Focus Limiter switch which has three settings: 2.5 meters-infinity, 2.5-6.4 and 6.4 meters-infinity. The 2nd switch is for AF/ MF. The third set of switches handle image stabilization. Here, one can discover two switches with the first turning the stabilizer on and off. The 2nd switch has 2 stabilization settings named Mode 1 and Mode 2. Mode 1 remedies for both vertical and horizontal shake, and is my “go to” mode when hand-holding the lens. Mode 2 is utilized for panning with a subject. In this mode, only 1 axis of stabilization is offered– enabling a linearly-moving subject to be tracked.

The last set is the focus preset function and button, which enables you to set a specific focus point of interest and have the lens remember it so that it can go back to that focus distance with a turn of the focus predetermined ring. I have actually personally never ever found much of a need for this set, but I think it becomes a lot more beneficial when you are shooting sports with more predefined areas of where your subject might end up being.

The lens includes a well-crafted and especially big lens hood that does a great job of keeping the front element well-protected.

Focus Performance and Accuracy

Having utilized a lot of Canon’s telephoto lenses, I can say that the focusing of the EF 300mm f/2.8 L IS lens is extremely outstanding. The internal focusing motor (USM) enables the lens to focus very quickly and silently.

All this speed goes will with the wildlife shots I capture. With precise focusing and a great camera body, the lens doesn’t disappoint. An essential aspect to consider when judging the focusing ability of a lens, is that the camera body plays an integral role in the quality of the autofocus and because of this, it is necessary to match your lenses with high quality bodies that can deliver great focusing performance. I have had the ability to pair this lens with the Canon 1D III and 1Dx camera bodies and it is outstanding on both. The Canon 1Dx really makes the most of this lens however, and together, they form one of the best low-light and bird photography camera/lens combinations I have actually utilized.

It is not quite as responsive as when the lens is used bare, however the experience with the 1.4 x teleconverter is really high. Thanks to its big aperture, the EF 300mm f/2.8 L IS works really well with a 2x teleconverter.

Image Quality

When it concerns sharpness and contrast, the EF 300mm f/2.8 L IS is often considered one of Canon’s “recommendation” lenses due to its amazing sharpness. Even at f/2.8, the sharpness is terrific with great contrast. A little more sharpness and contrast is gained when stopping down, and its sweet area is found at f/5.6 where the image ends up being razor sharp and you will be tough pressed to discover much better performance in the entire Canon lineup. Below are some examples of the lens sharpness:

With a 1.4 x teleconverter, the sharpness is deteriorated a bit with the lens being excellent, however not tack sharp at its optimum aperture (now f/4). Once stopped down to f/5.6 and particularly f/8, the lens ends up being extremely sharp again and though it never ever reaches the same heights as it does without teleconverters, the performance with a 1.4 x teleconverter is still extremely high:

With a 2x teleconverter, the EF 300mm f/2.8 L IS ends up being an excellent 600mm f/5.6 lens. At wide open aperture, sharpness is decent, however contrast takes quite a hit. Once stopped down to f/8, the sharpness and contrast end up being excellent and there is a lot of information to be discovered in images taken at these apertures.

Vibration Reduction

The EF 300mm f/2.8 L IS comes with Canon’s second-generation image stabilizer, which is rated at around 2 stops of stabilization. It is a very good system that has been vital for me when hand-holding the lens, though it does not compare to Canon’s latest IS system which can be discovered in the like of the Canon EF 200-400 f/4. The newer generation lenses provide to 4 stops of stabilization and this difference is quite visible in the field between 2 and 4 stops. The advantage about the lens, is that its big aperture typically enables much faster shutter speeds in lower light than you would have with lenses with an f/4 or f/5.6 maximum aperture, and this will often make up for the distinction in between its stabilization abilities and those of the more modern-day Canon lenses.


When shooting at big apertures with shallow depth of field, the Canon EF 300mm f/2.8 L IS shows incredible bokeh and you can get smooth out of focus areas. When utilized at f/2.8, the background blur is extraordinary with a practically dream-like quality that truly makes the subject in your image stand out.


The lens shows a fairly obvious corner shading when used at its optimum aperture. This effect normally adds to the dreamy look that this lens offers when utilized at f/2.8 and the vignetting only ends up being an issue when photographing topics against an uniform background where the shading is visible. By f/4 vignetting is nearly gotten rid of and by f/5.6 it becomes negligible.

Ghosting and Flare

The flare on this lens is well controlled overall. It is not quite as good as the flare control of the modern Canon telephoto lenses that hardly ever exhibit any flare, even against direct lighting, but in general, the Canon EF 300mm f/2.8 does a good job when working against intense lights. When photographing a topic versus bright light, the contrast will take a fair bit of a hit, however as a whole, the image quality will remain really high.

Chromatic Aberration

Thanks to the fluorite aspect utilized in its style, the EF 300mm f/2.8 L IS has very little chromatic aberration even when utilized broad open. When used with the 1.4 x teleconverter, some small chromatic aberration is introduced, however it is again extremely well-controlled.

Lens Comparisons

The EF 300mm f/2.8 L IS has a couple of competitors within Canon’s lineup. The very first and the most apparent is the Canon EF 300mm f/4L IS lens. The f/2.8 lens is sharper than the f/4 lens at any aperture combination and while the f/4 lens is excellent, it doesn’t reach the lofty heights of the f/2.8 version. The f/2.8 version likewise focuses faster, specifically in low-light and has a better bokeh. In the EF 300mm f/4L IS’s case, it is much smaller and much easier to manage, and is likewise much cheaper at about 1/3 of the price. It likewise has a much shorter focusing range, the f/2.8 has rather a long 2.5 meter focusing distance therefore the F/4 variation is better for close-up and macro work.

The EF 300mm f/2.8 L IS also competes with the more recent design of the very same lens in the EF 300mm f/2.8 L IS II variation. The newer lens is a bit lighter, but its weight circulation makes it noticeably simpler to hand-hold. It has 4 stops of image stabilization vs the 2 stops. The version 2 of the lens is a hair sharper when used in its native range and visibly better when used with teleconverters. It likewise deals with flare better. Overall, the EF 300mm f/2.8 L IS II takes an the currently amazing lens in the first variation and makes it essentially best. The drawback to this perfection comes in the type of a price that is double that of the variation I of the lens, therefore one should think about whether the clear but not stark advantages of the newer variation are worth the enormous difference in price.


It might be an almost two-decade-old design by now, but the Canon EF 300mm f/2.8 L IS continues to be a fantastic lens. The reality is that this lens is still one of the best fast aperture telephoto lenses available today and considering its present street cost, I feel that providing the EF 300mm f/2.8 L IS USM my greatest suggestion is a no-brainer.

The lens was lastly retired in 2011 with the intro of the Canon EF 300mm f/2.8 L IS USM II but stays a wonderful lens that offers up bit to its newer bro in overall performance. The lens is weather-sealed and after repeated use in various weather condition conditions, including heavy rain and snow, I can say that the lens functioned perfectly and at no point did it seem as if any extraneous material was going into the lens. The white paint utilized on this generation of Canon telephotos is susceptible to scratching, much more so than Canon’s modern lenses, which is why a LensCoat Lens Cover is beneficial for keeping the lens scratch-free. The great thing about the lens, is that its big aperture typically permits for much faster shutter speeds in lower light than you would have with lenses with an f/4 or f/5.6 optimum aperture, and this will often make up for the distinction in between its stabilization capabilities and those of the more contemporary Canon lenses.

The f/2.8 lens is sharper than the f/4 lens at any aperture mix and while the f/4 lens is really good, it doesn’t reach the lofty heights of the f/2.8 version.

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