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Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM Review

Looking to find more information regarding the Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM? Read our latest review to learn more about the Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM, its specifications, and if it’s a good camera lens for you. 

Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM Overview

The new Canon EF 70-300 f/4-5.6L IS USM telephoto zoom lens is designed to provide ultra high-resolution pictures with lightning quick performance, bringing a long-time favorite zoom range to the renowned Canon L-series of lenses. It includes two Ultra Low Dispersion (UD) elements for improved picture quality and reduced chromatic aberration, as well as a floating focusing mechanism for sharpness from close up to infinity and an IS system that improves usability by approximately four stops.

The Image Stabilization system also has a feature that allows it to continue to function even if the camera is mounted on a sturdy tripod. An optional Canon Tripod Mount C (W II) is available as an accessory for balanced mounting on a tripod or monopod. The lens is dust- and water-resistant and features a newly developed Fluorine coating that resists smears and fingerprints, as well as making lens cleaning easier. This new L-series lens is an excellent and portable solution for versatile telephoto lens shooting for any serious EOS user.

Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM Specifications

The Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM was first announced on 08/01/2010 with a Canon EF mount type. Below is a summary of this len’s specifications: 

Indicative Price: $1599

Focal Range: 70-300mm

Aperture: F/ 4-5.6

Filter Diameter (millimeters): 67

Maximum Diameter (millimeters): 89

Number Of Lenses: 19

Length (millimeters): 143

AF Motor: USM

Stabilization: Yes

Zoom Type: Ring

Tripod Mount: Optional

Colors Available: White

Manual Focus: Yes

Weight (grams): 1050

Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM Performance

The Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM lens is an outstanding telephoto zoom that can capture distant subjects with great detail and in crisp, clear quality with fast autofocus. It focuses with precision even in low light conditions, allowing you to take full advantage of lighting opportunities at any time of the day or night. The performance of this lens is especially evident when shooting sports or wildlife, when images are often moving targets.

Build and Handling Quality

The build quality of the lens is nothing short of remarkable, which is probably the first time I’ve praised a 300mm zoom lens like this. The body of the lens is constructed of metal with everything well-connected and sealed against dust and dampness.

The inner lens tube (also made on metal) extends when zooming towards the long end, but there is no sign of movement here. The focus ring performs smoothly, and so does the zoom ring. There’s a transport lock (70mm setting) to prevent zoom creep, but our test sample did not exhibit any such tendencies. The front element does not rotate during focusing, making polarisation easy to use. Although it isn’t built-in from the start, a tripod mount is available as an optional accessory.

Autofocus Performance

The ring-type USM AF is incredibly quick and quiet. In one-shot AF mode, FTM (full-time manual focusing) is possible. LiveView(contrast)AF performs reasonably well. It has an image stabilizer (IS), just like most Canon telephoto lenses, which is supposed to provide up to 4 f-stops of extra potential.

This may be a little bit of a stretch, but it does appear to be pretty close. The IS system has two settings: a standard mode for static photography (vertical + horizontal stabilization) and a panning mode (horizontal OR vertical stabilization – the panning direction is automatically detected). Tripod detection is also supported, ensuring that the IS stays engaged.

Sharpness

Initial sample images are generally very sharp in the centre, with some softness appearing towards the far corners. The resolution at 70mm is fairly good wide open (f/4), with slight improvement in clarity when stopped down to f/5.6. Zooming to 120mm results in increased sharpness overall, but it’s only really usable at f/8-11.

Image quality at 300mm is fairly similar to what we had before: fairly sharp in the center of the frame and somewhat soft towards the corners even when stopped down, although stopping down did produce visibly crisper images than used on prior reviews of this lens (although I’m almost certain that Canon has upgraded optics).

Vignetting

Illumination (Vignetting) is most pronounced wide open, but it’s not all that bad. However I would expect this lens to be used primarily in good light conditions – like most telephoto lenses, after all.As seen in the Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM review , Canon has made some significant progress with respect to peripheral illumination correction on L-series zooms. This particular model produces acceptable results even when shooting wide open, which means there are no longer any excuses for vignetting!

Chromatic Aberration

Chromatic aberration control is a little bit of a mixed bag. The lens starts off pretty well at 70mm, but there’s some deterioration as the lens is pushed towards 300mm. This distortion isn’t gone completely by f/8, so this may be another situation where stopping down might not always net out positive results.

Image Quality

The EF 70-300mm L IS lens features a high resolution, but it varies somewhat across its zoom range. At 70mm, it can produce excellent to exceptional results from f/4 throughout the image frame. The peak performance is at f/5.6 at this length.

The 200mm/300mm focal length range is where you get to notice the difference. At this range, there’s a significant drop in quality (and sharpness), but the center is still quite good to excellent and the borders/corners manage to stay on a very high level (albeit “only” at f/5.6). The high degree of contrast even at 300mm f/5.6 is a distinction. The tested sample’s centering was perfect.

Bokeh

In the background, the out-of-focus blur is pleasant. Although the foreground blurring has improved somewhat, it is still tense. We’ve observed a few with an ugly bokeh in difficult settings while on our field trip with this lens, but these were taken under tough circumstances – the hard focus transition zone is simply bigger than quicker lenses that have a natural edge here.

Handling

The Canon EF 70-300mm L IS lens is a joy to use. It features an all-metal barrel and tight tolerances. It is focused fast and feels good in the hands – it’s not too heavy either (that would indicate stability issues, but I did experience some camera shake with such extreme focal lengths). The tripod mount (when pulled out) can serve as a makeshift switch protector or hood for transportation.

How Does The Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM Score? 

Below are the lens metric scores we’ve measured for this specific lens: 

  • Performance and Image Quality: 9/10
  • Features: 9/10
  • Bokeh: 8/10
  • Build Quality: 10/10
  • AutoFocus Quality: 9.5/10
  • Handling: 8/10
  • Value: 9/10

Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM Pros and Cons

Below are some of the pros and cons regarding this lens. 

Pros: 

  • Incredibly sharp
  • Fast focus
  • Great build quality
  • Lightweight for the size of this lens
  • Fantastic image quality

Cons: 

  • Somewhat heavy
  • Zoom creep
  • Steep price point

Our Verdict

The Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM is an incredibly sharp, lightweight, and well built lens that is capable of producing excellent image quality. It’s a bit on the pricey side, but it’s a worthy investment for those who require a good telephoto zoom lens with great capabilities.

It’s also a good lens for amateur and professional photographers who are looking to upgrade their telephoto lens, but aren’t quite ready for the higher end lenses in the Canon L-series.