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EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM
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The New Pinnacle of Image Quality
Since this is my fourth Canon 300mm f/2.8 lens, I'm very aware of its evolution over the last 30 years. Each model has come with improvements both optically, and mechanically, but secrectly I've always longed for the size/weight of my original, the new FD 300mm f/2.8L. The first two EF's manufactured were both great lenses, but their weight/size were just a tad bulky for consistant hand holding, even having added IS on the second version. Hand holdability is a big reason why I like using a 300mm so much! However, this latest version is lighter while still keeping its durability! It weighs about the same as my original, and coupled with the latest IS system, and the low light performance of the 5D3, it performs like nothing else has before! Also, I didn't like the sloppy collar design on the original IS, but loved it on the first two versions, now that has been corrected too! Finally, I've often wondered since 1985 why Canon didn't use this double flourite design before?? Cost, production issues?? It's surely working here - clearly the best optics ever in a tele lens! Read the many technical reviews out there... or better yet, attach one to a 5D3 and just look at the files! I know this lens is rather expensive, but it just doesn't matter if photography is your business! I've sold so many shoots just by how this lens represents me. It's the best! Well done, Canon!
June 8, 2013
Ridiculous was an adjective used by someone I know, when other superlatives were too weak in their description. There are a couple of lenses in my arsenal that are considered by many to be reference standards. But this one even leaves those behind and has no peer - in many different aspects.
The image quality will blow you away, words are useless here, the pictures you get will astound you. Razor sharp across the entire(!) frame and bokeh that is crazy delicious. No distortion or aberrations to speak of. The three modes of Image Stabilization work great with 4-stops of assistance.
I have a 1.4x extender and have used it with this lens with great results with regard to picture quality. The extender degrades the quality of any lens it's attached to, but this lens is so astonishing that when brought down a notch, it still provides a better image quality than other lenses in this focal range without the extender - the only exception I imagine would be the big brother of this lens, the EF 400mm f/2.8L IS USM II. I did experience more hunting while focusing in darker rooms on objects that didn't have much contrast with the extender on than versus off - the focus was fine with the extender, but it was lightning fast without it.
I can't speak much about the weather-proofing of this lens. It was a rainy day when it was delivered and I was too much of a wuss to bring it, or any other lens for that matter, outside. The build quality is simply superlative, something you notice immediately as you pull it out of its case. It's built like a tank.
I debated on purchasing this one versus its 400mm sibling - the ability to use the lens without a mono/tripod. Size and weight were a factor in that consideration. This one is definitely the more portable of the two and the shoulder strap is really helpful. I can use this thing hand-held easily for 4-5 hours (and people complain about their 24-70mm being heavy, seriously?!?). Actually, I think my legs and calves get a great workout hauling this thing around!
Unless you have experienced using another monster super-telephoto, be prepared to get noticed. This can be good and bad. Good in that you can pass out your business cards and look like a real professional. The bad is obvious, you'll receive comments (note that I purposely didn't use the word complements) and questions. Most people are curious and well-intended, but there's always a few oddballs that aren't.
The only really big negative here, but you expect it given the quality of this lens, is the price. If you can cough up the funds, this lens will not let you down. Also, it might be a good thing to get insurance for this and your other camera gear which also add to the cost. Things breakdown, wear out and worse, stolen; these are painfully expensive repair and replacement bills.
You might think after reading this that I'm trying to justify my purchase, don't believe me, go rent it! Guaranteed, you'll become a believer. I'll be looking into the 400 next year despite my scribbles above and the purchase of the 300. I think anyone would be more than satisfied with either one of these lenses - they are truly remarkable.
Good luck and happy shooting!
March 10, 2013
Practical hand hold birding lens
I am an inexpert bird photographer, and have graduated from a 70-200 L IS with a 1,4xTC, then a 400m L f/5.6 and a 100-400mm L. They are all fine lenses, and I love my 100-400mm for travel as it is light enough and is small when the barrel is compacted. But, I wanted the longer reach of a 600mm which could be hand held as I want to wander around holding camera and lens without a tripod, and also an upgrade in image quality. So, I chose the 300mm plus a 2xTC to complement the 1,4xTC, and am delighted. It is light enough to carry around slung over a shoulder or in my hand for shorter periods. I use it at 300, 420 and 600mm, hand held, for with the 4 stop IS is essential. The image quality is simply outstanding at all lengths. The focus speed is acceptable at 600mm and lightning fast at 300mm.
September 23, 2012
worth the price
I purchased the new 300mm 2.8 after much debate and waiting on the release of the new generation of supertelephotos from Canon. I was considering everything from this lens up to the 600mm f 4, but because of the delay for the longer lens and the great with teleconverter reviews of the 300, I took the plunge. I have to say that the performance with and without the converters is stunning. I previously owned an FD 300 2.8, which I loved but never used quite enough to master focusing on moving objects - and in the days of film it was just too painful to shoot so many OOF images. Even with my 5DMKII (not the best focusing body), I have been very pleased with wildlife and sports shots. Focus is almost instantaneous and the focus limit switches are a great help when working in brush - where the lens can get confused. One of the most pleasing aspects of this lens is the perfomance with the 2X converter for avian photography. If you use a blind and can get very close to your subjects, having the close focussing ability of the 300 with a 600mm reach gives great images. I usually stop down to f8 w the 2X, use a tele-flash for fill (typically the birds are somewhat overhead and backlit) and can literally see every feature in the in focus feathers (the flash usually adds a nice catch-light in the eyes as well). I'm sure the converter adds some softness in corners relative to the lens alone, but for most applications, the DOF and composition make this irrelevant. Without the converters the lens is an amazing peformer (and obviously, you should really want a 300 focal length if you buy this lens - if you mostly need a 600, wait for that) - I even have some great closeups during indoor volleyball and outdoor sports are a pleasure to shoot. As I frequently backpack or hike with lots of gear, the weight, size and flexibility with converters means I can put this in the bag without too many regrets. The IS is superb and I love the options for three modes - working off a monpod for sports and wildlife really benefits from IS when you don't have to stop action with the shutter and can go for less noisy ISO's. The hardcase travels well on planes and the overall construction is as expected for the price - outstanding. I'm still debating adding either the 500 or 600 when they finally appear, but I'll have to see great reviews and with tele performance with these to consider buying b/c the 300 is so good and covers many of my needs - and I can't quite see those as backpacking lens.
April 12, 2012
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