John Galea's Blog

My blog on Gadgets and the like

Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS II USM Telephoto-Zoom Lens review

I previously, briefly, owned a Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS older lens (from 2005), before I dropped it. Lately I’ve been photographing lots of nature and additional zoom always comes in handy, small birds, longer distances from the subject, all benefit from better zoom. One of the things the older lens struggled with was focus speed, it was slow. I was doing some research into a new lens for my canon APSC T6i and came across this one. A starting point, is the lens I’ve been using for over 15 years, a Canon EF-S 55-250mm F 4-5.6 IS. In the Canon world the IS means image stabilized, and with the higher zoom, image stabilization is even more important. The F4-5.6 tells you how much light is let in by the lens at min and max zoom which will tell you how well it will do in low light conditions. The lower the F number the better. One of the areas the Nikon P900 that my GF uses struggles in, is low light, and it can be simply an overcast day in tree cover and it’s having difficulty focusing.

I looked into a number of different lenses before focusing (pun intended) on this one. The specs I used to go through the choices are pretty simple: Price, weight, max zoom and F values (I wanted it to be at least as good as my current lens in low light). I looked at Sigma and Tamron that both make lenses for Canons but decided to stick with Canon. The price delta, weight and F stop numbers just weren’t enough to motivate me to not choose Canon. I seriously toyed with some of the prosumer lenses like the L series but these were only briefly on the table when I looked at prices $1200-2400, and weights up to 1.5kgs. Traipsing around a hike with something this heavy would irritate a chronic shoulder issue I have.

So looking at the options, here’s a table showing the comparisons:

So the two Canon L’s got dropped pretty quickly for weight/price. The Sigma 100-400 got dropped for poor F stops even at min zoom, the worst of the batch in my comparison pool. The Canon 70-300 mod 1 I’d already owned and found it slow to focus, so it’s here more from a comparison point of view, as is the 55-250. So that left the Tamron 70-300 or the Canon 70-300 II. I chose the Canon over the Tamron mostly for brand reasons, I don’t have any experience with Tamron and it was heavier and not cheaper enough to push me to try one.

Reading reviews of the 70-300 model 2 they all seemed to say the same thing, same good optics, faster/quieter auto focus. Quieter comes into play when trying to do movies. The price on the lens seemed to be something I could get my head around, as was the weight. Looks like this lens was brought to the market in 2016, so 11 years after the previous one. Interestingly, I’d never heard of it. Looks like Canon still offer it.

Because I’m using an APSC camera a lens like this one that is designed for full frame camera get additional zoom. So on my camera the lens is equivalent to 112-480mm. In Canon terms it’s an EF lens instead of an EFS as my 55-250 is. So you can see I’m going to 480mm from 250 on max zoom, quite a nice boost for a reasonable price/weight, with no increase in F stops.

The lens also includes a display on it that tells you the amount of shake, current zoom, and F stop. Honestly I’m not sure I see the point in this display, when looking into the view finder it’s not visible, nor could it be. The displays includes recognizing the fact it’s on an APS-C camera and includes the additional zoom factor that comes from that. Interestingly the EXIF data documenting the zoom a picture was taken at does not take this factor into account.

Using the lens it was noticeably faster at focusing making things like birds in flight more possible. The lens, of course, can’t do everything. There’s still times when I need more zoom, or more sensitivity in low light, but for the price I think this was a great updrade. I think I will soon regret not buying it sooner đŸ˜¦

I briefly looked at teleconverters (they go between the camera and the lens and provide additional magnification) but they are quite expensive and even worse in low light.

I bought a lens hood for it as well, reduces glare in direct light and provides some small amount of protection for the lens. It’s worth noting, the lens (nor the camera) are NOT weatherproof. So keep it dry.

January 28, 2020 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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