Customer Reviews: Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM Lens for Canon EOS SLR Cameras
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on May 2, 2008
The short version:

The optical quality is great, the speed is terrific, and it compares well to the 70-200mm lens that people like to say blows this out of the water (I believe they are wrong - but we will get into that later) and finally, the price cannot be beaten. Buy it.

No hood, extends as it zooms, and the quality of the picture in low light situation lessens a little.

The long version:

I am writing this in simple terms. I found several, several reviews on this lens but they were all in technical terms and leaves you scratching your head a little. So, if you are like me maybe this review will help you.

I bought this lens a couple months ago from (check these guys out. They regularly have significant sales and terrific customer service). I use this lens with a Canon 40D.

I take several types and styles of pictures so I needed a lens that would do the best job at several things and have a very affordable price (right at or less than $1,000). I looked through new, used, third party (Tamron, Sigma, etc) lenses, and read too many reviews and looked at too many images to count, and spent four hours in a photography store playing with lenses before I decided to spend money and take advantage of this lens. All in all I spent about a week's worth of time in research and testing before I bought this lens.

Okay, so amazon won't let me put a link here. This is how you find me.
~Go to Flickr
~Then type in a "/" then "photos" then "/" and last type in "gman_five0"
And that should take you there.

Test of comment #1:
~The Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM does not track moving objects very well and the farther to the end of the zoom the slower the tracking.

(Flickr Gallery page 2)

This, I have found, to be completely wrong. I have used the lens at several sporting events and found that it tracks rather nicely. I was able to track every step of a base-runner from first base to second, slide, and recovery after the play without losing ONE shot.

To see what I am talking about check out my gallery on Flickr. The older ones are NOT done with this lens or camera and taken, actually, several years ago. I will reference the pictures in question.

Safe, Got There By a Mile, Breaking Up That Double Play (please note that as time goes on from the date that this was posted the pictures may have been re-moved). Also, "Safe" was used instead of another shot taken at the same time and angle with a 70-200mm IS lens.

To take these shots I used "AI focus" and the "H" settings on my camera for quicker tracking and the H settings for about 6 frames per second.

Test of Comment #2:
~The 200-300mm range is nice in theory, but a tack-sharp photo from the 70-200mm f/4L at 200mm is going to look better cropped than a 300mm full-frame photo from this lens.

Again, I found this to be wrong. Though I have no actual "full sized" picture for this if you comment back with an email address then we can arrange a viewing of one. Otherwise, take my word for it, I own several lenses and this one stacks up well.

(Ref Flickr Gallery)

The pictures from the Dance Theater and Tashina were all taken at the 200-300mm focus lengths. Again, they are not full sized because of photo pirates, but if you email me we can see about full sized shots.

Test of Comment #3:
~The IS motor is loud

I do not know what these people are talking about, but if you call that loud...
On the other hand, I have heard (once), the sound of the IS motor, but if you are not listening for it you will not even notice it.

Things I have found about the lens:

If you spend some time with the lens will be one of your best friends. It is a great lens especially for people on a budget (like me). To take the best pictures you cannot just twist it on and go to shooting. Take the time to LEARN about the lens (change shutter speeds, ISO settings, aperture, white balances, etc) and it will show you where it shines - just like the L series lenses and the 70-200mm IS.

This lens has a solid make and feels like it will last forever. Then again, as you zoom the lens does extend and is plastic. So, watch out if you are doing sports. You may get it knocked off. It did well for me, though. Extending while zooming makes putting a hood on the lens a bit (very little; so little that you cannot tell) awkward and it looks kinda goofy.

I like the lens because it is not as bulky as the 70-200mm lens and it is extremely mobile. It is as quick as some other lenses, not as quick as some, and quicker than others. It will give you great quality pictures. It does have its limits, however: in low light situations not being able to take it back a couple stops and get a wider aperture will not give you the same shot as a 70-200mm. Then again, like I said, it doesn't drop to that f/2.8 and does not cost all that money. This has been the single drawback for me about the lens.

I use this lens for portraits (Tashina, Samantha), for sports (see gallery), and music (Shawn Pander - See Gallery). So, it's pretty versatile. I have yet to use with it flash, but that is because I simply do not like to use flash. I have yet to use it in a studio setting, but when I do I will amend this review and add a couple of those pictures as well.

This lens comes highly recommended from me. I am not a big time, highly paid, or well known photographer. I just like to shoot and like what I shoot to be of the best quality that I can have AND afford at the time. So, if you are like me and cannot spend the needed $1,500 - $1,700 on a 70-200mm IS lens then spend your money on this lens. You will not be sorry for it.

On another note, comments are welcome. This is my first ever review on here so let me know if there anything else that you would like to know about and I will do my best to answer the question in the most plain terms as possible.
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on May 11, 2007
I have used a different brand 70-300mm zoom before which worked well, but it was noisy and slow to focus. The Canon 70-300mm is absolutely silent and extremely fast in focusing, and produces absolutely outstanding photos. So good in fact, that I have posted a few of the images under this lens for you to judge yourself. Photos that I took at the Atlanta Zoo, under all types of lighting conditions. The lens produced incredible photos. All were hand-held shots, most of which were at the full 300mm range. And the IS is incredible. I had one photo which was taken in the shade and I was shooting with aperture priority and wide open. I did not realize how well the IS stabilized my photo till I looked at the exif data on my Flickr site - the shutter speed was 1/10th of a second, hand-held, and at 275mm. What more can you say about a lens, to obtain sharp photos like that. This lens is an absolute winner for me! For a sharp, fast, quiet lens with a tremendous zoom range, this is the next lens you want to buy!
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on March 21, 2006
After debating between this and the 70-200 L series I decided to purchase this lens. I have been pleasantly surprised by the results. I also own the 17-85 and the 50mm 1.8 lenses and I have found that I have gotten the "most pleasing" results from this lens. The pictures have been very sharp from my 20D - even in the 200mm - 300mm range. I've also been happy with the quality of the bokeh.

The primary drawback I see is that the AF tends to hunt a fair amount when confronted with low contrast images. That being said, I used it for some flying bird shooting at the wildlife refuge and was surprised to see how many of the shots were in sharp focus. However, it was a little bit of all or nothing. Several shots were also wildly out of focus. Since the lens is fairly slow to focus, you never know what you're gonna get with such a fast moving object against the distant sky.

I had much more consistent results when shooting soccer, softball and football in the park. The AF speed did not present an issue for any of these activities and the results were excellent.

I wish the lens were a little less expensive but I the prints I have gotten from my 13 X 19 printer have been worth the extra money.
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on January 29, 2006
I owned this lens' predecessor, the Canon EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 IS. That lens was horrible. When I read many good things about this new 70-300mm IS lens, I thought it was time to upgrade. But, it was difficult to decide whether buy this lens or the Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L. I bought this lens and it was my mistake.

While it has numerous improvements over the 75-300mm IS, there are still some shortcomings with this lens that keep it from competing with the similar-priced 70-200mm f/4L.

First, starting at around 150mm-200mm and getting worse as you approach 300mm, this lens gives images that look soft (no, I'm not using any filters!). This is not an issue of focus, but of low-cost consumer-grade optics. You can stop the lens down and get some improvement, but then you lose your depth of field. (EDIT: The sharpness problem with my lens was the result of using it in portrait-orientation, a defect among the first batches of this lens. Canon repaired the lens for free and it became sharper, no matter the orientation, but still not as good as the 70-200mm f/4L).

Second, the focusing speed is slow. New in this lens is variable-speed focusing; as the zoom passes 200mm, the focusing speed slows. I assume this is to prevent the missed-focus hunting common with its predecessor. But, this makes it harder to track moving objects and keep them in focus.

Third, this lens suffers from very ugly purple chromatic aberration. This lens really shows this problem too, in that even small bright objects develop purple halos.

Finally, the lens gets larger as you zoom, the lens gets larger when you focus, the front of the lens moves when focusing, the focus ring moves when auto-focusing, the zoom retracts by itself when pointed upward (EDIT: last item was fixed by Canon during the above-mentioned service), and I'm sure there's more I'm forgetting... But none of these problems exist with the 70-200mm f/4L.

This is not "the hidden L lens" as one reviewer said, it is nothing but a common consumer lens with a big price tag. The IS feature is the single sole benefit. If you have very shaky hands you might just need this lens. If you have very steady hands, with IS you can use this lens in the dark of night (assuming you have a very still subject). The 200-300mm range is nice in theory, but a tack-sharp photo from the 70-200mm f/4L at 200mm is going to look better cropped than a 300mm full-frame photo from this lens.

If what you want is a very high quality lens that will give you sharp photos in daylight; buy the 70-200mm f/4L lens instead, it even comes with a hood. The hood for the 70-300mm IS lens is another $40, making the 70-200mm f/4L a lower priced lens (and it even comes with a bag!).

UPDATE 10/3/11: I'm now using my 70-200 f/4L with a Canon 7D and it is fantastic. I cannot fathom why people even consider this 70-300 given the economical availability of the 70/200 f/4L. The extra 100mm and IS isn't worth it given the major drawbacks of expanding size, rotating front element, plastic construction, and lack of comparative quality. You don't need IS as much as you think you do, especially if you've been taught how to shoot steady and follow the simple rule of using exposure speeds that are numerically higher than your current zoom setting (at 200mm make sure it's at 1/200 exposure time or faster).
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on November 8, 2005
I bought this lens as a replacement for the earlier 75-300mm IS lens. I was generally happy with that lens, but it had definite limitations - I needed to shoot at f8 or f11 and bump up the ISO to get a decent shutter speed.
This new version seems sharp at full zoom even wide open, allowing me to use a lower ISO setting. Size is similar to older version, but the IS seems more effective - looking through the lens when it kicks in you can actually see the image become more stable and less shaky. I got this over the Canon 70-200 f4 L because of the extra reach, smaller size (slightly) and the images I've seen from both are very similar.
UPDATE: There have been reports of soft images when using this lens in a verticle orientation - however I have not experienced this on my copy. I'm happy to say that after months of using this lens, I still consider it great.
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on October 11, 2005
Well today I was like a kid with a new toy just got my new 70-300 mm this is my first image stabilizing lens so I was excited to try it out

so i took off my 70-200 4 L probably a good lens to compare with.

Well first thing is the weight it's light and inconspicuous compared to my 70-200 L with its black finish ,

it feels very nice and its fast to focus, image stabilizion is excellent (Featuring the latest 3-stop Image Stabilizer for camera shake reduction) and the range is great 112mm to 480 mm on my XT Rebel.

Colours and sharpnesss are a not nice as my 70-200 f4 L

but image stabilization and weight and extra range make it very attractive , I am happy with it would liked a pouch and hood for the money come on canon it's only a piece of plastic!

see some picture unedited and some edited on my site

p.s I am not a professional.

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HALL OF FAMEon May 11, 2006
The Canon EF 70-300mm f4-5.6 IS USM telephoto zoom lens replaces the first Image Stabilizer lens of its kind, the Canon 75-300mm f4-5.6 telephoto zoom lens. It offers now up to three - as opposed to two - apertures in image stabilizing mode, as well as slightly wider focal length. The current June 2006 Popular Photography issue has a fine test report on this lens, showing that it is capable of excellent contrast and resolution in the range from 70mm to 200mm; at 300mm, both contrast and resolution decline slightly to very good, but still an excellent result for a zoom lens in this class. It is also fully compatible with Canon's digital SLR cameras (112-480mm equivalent), with improved lens coatings optimised for digital sensors. Without question this is an excellent lens for the Canon photographer interested in excellent nature and landscape photography, without resorting to a sturdy tripod to hold both the camera and lens; thus it is also quite suitable for handhold panning shots at most outdoor sporting events held under good weather conditions.
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on June 28, 2006
Just returned from a trip to Hawaii and had the opportunity to put this lens to the test. I was very pleased with the results. This is a powerful lens, yet it is relatively light weight and not burdensome to use. I was able to get some really amazing wild life shots of birds, zooming in from a distance with a hand held camera (Canon EOS 20D) and virtually every shot was a keeper. The IS feature allows you to quickly zoom and compose your shot and fire it off and the image quality is excellent with sharp focus. Usually a lens this size with this much power requires a firm grip and almost always a tripod - not so with this one. I shot in both portrait and landscape mode and I didn't see any problems with focus, clarity or sharpness. All the images were clean and razor sharp. If you are looking for a long lens with the ability to bring in a distant shot without having to use tripods and other equipment, I highly recommend this lens for your arsenal.
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on August 20, 2011

I'm sure as you read this review there may have been tears shed, hair pulled out, foreheads banged against hard surfaces, screams and curses uttered, more tears, frustration, and exhaustion only to realize that you're still contemplating between this lens and the 70-200L F/4 IS USM. The photography needs for many is like a bottomless pit, but it all comes down to the items that will ultimately compliment YOUR photography needs. Having said that, pay careful attention to the pros and cons of both lens to seek which best suites you. Hopefully this review can give you that last push to finally pull the trigger.

After buying a Canon 5D Mark II with a 24-70L lens, I realized that my needs for a lens with extensive reach was necessary during nature trips, graduation events, etc. Knowing that my next purchase of a telephoto lens usage was seldom as compared to my primary 24-70L lens, I was bit more frugal regarding $ value but image quality was still my utmost priority. I set out on a journey to a local photography store to borrow a 70-200 F/4 IS USM (~ $1250) and 70-300 F/4-5.6 ($500) which only costed me $40 :) Though they had my credit card on file incase of scratches or loss :(. Notice that my reviews are primarily focused on lenses with IS since my hands are not the steadiest.

After going to an airplane show and local mountain, I took many pictures of flying airplanes (little redundant but just to illustrate that they weren't inactive!) to landscape portraits. When I compared the pictures from both lens down to the pixel, I realized image quality was VERY VERY similar. Of course you'll have differences in terms of minor distortion, vignetting, resolution and chromatic aberrations from the 70-300 lens but it was so minor that you'll never notice it without zooming in. This is where the power of the "L" comes in, but only to an extent. Pictures printed up to 8x10 were fine, but any larger the minor flaws of the 70-300 became indisputable.

There are many claims that the AF on the 70-300 is rather poor especially on maximum 300 zoom--AF was able to capture almost all my airplane photos 7 out of 10 attempts whereas the 70-200 was right on the dot 10/10 which wasn't a big problem for me considering the image quality was still up to par. Also I must note that the 70-300 was able to retain a great amount of detail just like the 70-200. This is not a subjective con but rather raw proof that this lens can perform just as great! My only itch with the 70-300 is obviously the narrow aperture will perform poorly in low lit areas which inevitably increases ISO and slowing down shutter speed which may result in blur or "noise". Also please note that the 70-300 does NOT come with a lens hood whereas the 70-200 does. Weight is not a problem since they are both about ~ 1.5 lbs.

As I have mentioned before, it all comes down to YOUR needs, so:

BUY THE 70-300 F4-5.6 IS USM - if you don't mind the wide aperture F5.6 on far zoom which also means the majority of your pictures will be taken under well-lit areas, need the longer focal length range (which comes handy especially if your trying to catch a bird), MUCH less expensive which is by a non trivial margin from the 70-200 F/4 IS (~1200) and offers just as great image quality!

BUY THE 70-200 F4 IS USM - if need a constant aperture size at all focal lengths which can translates to faster shutter speeds/low ISO at long focal lengths, compatibility with 1.4x and 2.0x teleconverters which can potentially extend your focal lengths to 400mm!, enlarging your pictures past 8x10 while retaining phenomenal image quality and detail, shooting sports needing faster reliable AF.

BUY THE 70-200 F2.8 IS USM (aka King of telephoto lens) - if your sick and tired of reading review after review and just want the best of the best, have at least $2400 to spare from your piggie bank (which is the same price as a Canon 5D Mark II body!), wedding photographer, basically same specs as 70-200 F4 except for F2.8.

Given my needs and my seldom usage of this "secondary" lens, I bought the 70-300 IS USM along with a B+W 58 multi-coated uv filter (a must!). I've been scolded at by some colleagues for placing this lens on a pro grade camera Canon 5D Mark II, but after performing many tests, the image quality of the 70-300 IMHO is just as good. Surprisingly, this was initially a recommendation from my photography professor at ucla.

I hope this helps! Good luck!
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on January 11, 2006
I bought this lens about a month ago when I purchased my Rebel XT.

I was initially dissapointed by the image quality but it turned out that I actually had a bad filter on the lens. Once I removed that cheap filter the lans came to life and has blown me away!!

If you read some of the forums there are actually Canon owners complaining that this lens is too good and has effectively devalued their expensive "L" lenses!

The only negative thing that I can say about this lens is that the front element rotates while focusing, making using a circular polarizer somewhat cumbersome. The Image Stabilizer really is a technological marvel though and will leave you wondering why every lens doesn't come with it (the answer is that it adds to the weight and IS isn't cheap).

This weekend was the first time the weather cooperated enough for me to try it outdoors. I went to a small local zoo and took a picture of a red fox from about 30ft away... through 2 wire fences... in sub-par lighting. I didn't expect much. The picture actually came out and is so sharp I am having it framed.

Buy this lens!
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