Canon EF 70-300 IS USM

As an upgrade to my frequently used Canon FD 200mm F4, I recently bought a used Canon EF 70-300 IS USM to replace it with. As such, this review will mainly focus on why I think this lens is better suitable for the type of photographing and filming that I do.

Canon EF 70-300 IS USM with Viltrox EF-NEV IV mount adapter

As this is a Canon EF lens, and I shoot solely with Sony camera’s, I use my Viltrox EF-NEV IV mount adapter to mount this to my Sony camera. You can read all about my experiences with the mount adapter here.

Features

The main two reasons I upgraded from my FD 200mm are 1) autofocus and 2) image stabilization. I will explain both in further detail.

First up, autofocus: even though the focus ring on the FD 200 is great, meaning it has a lot of travel to more precisely focus on subjects, the travel distance is still not enough to make me confidently focus on subjects. Every time I’m focussing, I use the digital image zoom function of the Sony camera to digitally zoom the image to check whether I’m really in focus, or just a smidge off. Now, I’m well aware that using an older Canon EF lens on a Sony body is not the best combination for confident autofocus, but in my experience, it is reliable enough for me. Sure, it takes a while for it to acquire focus, but once it’s locked in, you can be sure that it really is in focus. So far, if the camera tells me something is in focus, by showing a green box or the dancing green squares (during AF-C) is most cases the photo turned out perfectly sharp. However, I’m sure a native Sony FE lens will lead to better results, but this will come a much higher price!

Second, image stabilization. After spending a weekend with a Canon EF 70-200 F2.8 IS USM, I was instantly amazed at how well the lens IS and Sony IBIS combination works together. Initially, when I mounted the 70-200 on my Viltrox EF-NEV IV mount adapter, only the IBIS worked. On my Sony’s display, the correct focal length showed up, so I assumed this information would be sent to the IBIS system to adjust the focal length. However, lens IS didn’t seem to function, as the 70-200 didn’t seem more stable than my manual Canon FD 200mm. After I changed the aperture of the lens however, suddenly IS kicked in, and the image was totally stable. Initially, I thought the mount adapter caused the camera to freeze, the image was so stable! I was amazed after this experience, which caused me to consider purchasing an IS lens as a replacement for my tele-prime.

Performance

As this lens in a step up from the cheapest Canon tele-zooms, but not an L-series lens, I had modest expectations for this lens. Previously, I owned the non stabilized Canon EF 75-300 III, which was by far the worst lens I have ever owned. I would not recommend this lens to anyone, on any budget! I still see this lens being sold today, sometimes bundled with a newly released camera. Beginners would be far better of considering the Canon EF-S 55-250 IS, which is better suited to APS-C Canon camera’s and performs a lot better! Or, you know, the lens I’m reviewing here!

Anyway, I digress. The image quality out of this lens is OK. It is not stellar, like the Canon EF 70-200 F2.8 IS USM that I was able to use during that weekend, but that is not surprising considering that lens costs a whole lot more. For a tele-zoom that costs less than €300 on the used market, I don’t think you can go wrong with this lens.

The bokeh on the tele end is a bit distracting, not in a good way. It can cause the image to look a bit unnatural, so you have to take that into consideration when composing your shot. Chromatic aberration can sometimes be observed, but this is to be expected from tele-zooms at the cheaper side of the EF spectrum, and can usually be solved by adjusting a slider in your photo editing software of choice.

I’ve added a couple of pictures I made specifically for this review. I think it does a good job of giving an honest impression of this image quality that this lens produces. While the bokeh can sometimes look unnatural, for a lens in this price category, it produces totally useable images.

By far the best feature of this lens is the image stabilization, which enables me to shoot wonderfully stable video’s, handheld at 300mm, with no problem. The IS system of the lens works great in combination with the Sony IBIS system, both when taking pictures and shooting video. As this was one of the main considerations for me to upgrade, I’m very happy that this turned out the way it did!

Autofocus, while making a lot of noise, especially during continuous autofocus, also performs better that I expected. While it may take some time to acquire focus, this lens, in combination with the Viltrox EF-NEX IV mount adapter, makes for a very usable combination for a Sony FF camera. Be sure to check out my review of the Viltrox!

I’ve shot some video material showing of the AF-C capabilities of this lens. Check out this YouTube video for some test footage showing of the AF-C performance.

Alternatives

Some alternatives I considered, besides this lens, where the Canon EF 70-200 F4 USM, which costs a little more, has greater image quality, but lacks image stabilization, and the Canon EF 70-200 F4 IS USM, which does have image stabilization, but costs a whole lot more than both this lens and the non-IS 70-200 F4 version. Lack of IS and price where the reasons these two lenses where dropped.

A worthy contender, which costs a lot more, but offers greater image quality, is the Canon EF 300mm F4 IS USM. However, as this lens is bigger and heavier, carrying this lens with my in my bag would not be practical. As the lens reviewed here was already bigger than my previous Canon FD 200mm F4, the EF 300 F4 IS USM prime would be way to big for me to carry around.

Conclusion

Pros

  • Autofocus (not very fast, but faster than manually focussing, more reliable than you might expect!)
  • 300mm instead of 200mm (compared to Canon FD 200mm F4)
  • Image Stabilization
  • Relatively light (heavier and bigger than Canon FD 200mm F4, lighter than most other Canon EF telezooms)
  • Relatively cheap (not as cheap as an MF tele-lens, cheaper than most Canon EF options, a lot cheaper than anything tele that Sony has to offer!)

Cons

  • Autofocus makes a lot of noise, especially during AF-C
  • Front element moves during focus (looks silly)
  • Image quality not as good as more expensive L-series Canon EF lenses (obviously)
  • It doesn’t have true ring-type USM, even though it says so on the lens barrel

2 thoughts on “Canon EF 70-300 IS USM

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