Friday, December 3, 2010

Canon's New 70-300mm "L" Lens

When I started this blog, I deliberately decided not to write anything about gear, especially cameras and lenses.  As a Canon "Explorer of Light," I think my judgments can be looked at with a certain amount of skepticism.  More importantly, all of the online pixel peeping and blogging about gear has created an obsession with perfection.  Many of the greatest images ever made were taken with manually focused lenses, well before the age of auto focus or  auto aperture, let alone image stabilization.

Occasionally, a piece of gear comes along which is quietly revolutionary, and in that regard, Canon's new 70-300mm "L" lens is, to say the least, extraordinary.  Yesterday I went into New York with the intention of shooting some test shots to show just what this lens is capable of producing.  

A few caveats: all these images were made on a 7D body, which is not full frame.  Is the lens equally as sharp corner to corner on FF ?  Honestly, I haven't tested it yet on the 5D2.  On the 7D, at the 300mm end, it has an effective focal length of 480mm.

Though I shot some images wide open, I deliberately chose apertures of anywhere from f/8 to f/22 for many of the shots as I wanted depth of field when I wasn't shooting parallel to a building.  The first image here, was shot at f/13 and 1/45th of a second.  You read that right.  1/45th second, 480mm focal length.  Hand held.

Besides being the sharpest zoom I have ever used—whether from Canon or Nikon—there is no visible barrel or pincushion distortion at any focal length, nor is there any chromatic aberration.  And yes, shooting at f/13 should be way beyond the "diffraction limit" of the 7D's 1.6X sensor.  So much for theory.  

This lens is a tank.  Relatively short, thick, and somewhat heavy.  Yet compared to, say, the 70-200mm f/2.8, it's a "baby."  

There is one thing, though, that sets this lens apart—I can hand hold it, CONSISTENTLY, at 1/30th second and get sharp images.  The image stabilization of this lens, combined with its balance, shortness and heft, put it beyond the Twilight Zone of reason.  There are some lenses that are examples of the best art and science of optical design.  The Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 Distagon is one, as is the Nikon 14-24mm zoom.

Obviously, I feel that the Canon 70-300mm "L" is in that league.  For the first time ever, I can shoot at an effective focal length of 480mm, at 1/45th or 1/30th of a second, and get extremely sharp, distortion-free images.

Yes, I know, you want to know about "bokeh," or how it does wide open, or full frame, or...well, like I said, this is not supposed to be an analytical examination about "line pairs" of resolution.  This is one sharp lens that makes it easy for me to make images that I could never make before.  That's more than good enough for me: Canon 70-300mm L.


















14 comments:

  1. They look great! Indeed sharp enough and i'm sure you'll print some 20x30!
    You should have a link to the lens on the CUSA site for easy reference.
    http://www.usa.canon.com/cusa/consumer/products/cameras/ef_lens_lineup/ef_70_300mm_f_4_5_6_is_usm

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  2. Thanks for posting these great images, by far the best I have seen from from those whom have posted on various sites.
    You have given me the visual evidence that I have needed, to help me make my mind up and finally part with my hard earned cash.
    Thank you.

    Vishca

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  3. Aside from the obvious (dimension and focal length) how does this compare to the 100-400? Oh, and nice photos!

    MQ

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  4. Hi Eric,

    Thanks for the heads up on this lens. I look forward to trying it. Your images are certainly sharp and of course have your signature style!

    Best,
    John

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  5. Hi, er, "Anonymous." I've shot extensively with the 100-400 on the 5D2 and on the original 5D. My copy is very sharp, but has to go in often for dust issues. The 100-400 also has very slow AF, and first generation stabilization. I haven't shot extensively with the 70-300 L on the 5D2, but what I have shot looks extremely sharp.

    Personally, if I need 400mm, I need 400mm. But on a 7D, I have it and more. There has been some talk that the 100-300 L is the replacement for the 100-400. I don't think so...but we'll have to wait to see if Canon comes out with an 80-450, or a 100-500. I have no inside information, but I think they're more likely to come out with something to "challenge" Nikon's much larger f/4 200-400mm.

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  6. I think about Ernst Haas walking around New York with an M3, 35mm Summicron, some Kodachrome II, nothing more. But reading about this new Canon offering has given me a severe case of Lens Lust.

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  7. OK Eric, this is now a gear thread. I have the 100-400 / 5D2 and pretty much use it in MF. It's a nice lens but all my work - to Rob's point - not that I'm Ernst or Cartier, is with a 35mm Summicron. Santa has a M9 in his bag so after 30 years of M film - big, fun step. Back to image talk...

    MQ

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  8. I think the link at the top of this page is to the wrong lens. The new 70-300 lens is posted here: http://www.usa.canon.com/cusa/consumer/products/cameras/ef_lens_lineup/ef_70_300mm_f_4_5_6l_is_usm#Overview

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  9. Stunning photographs and info on the lens, I was lucky to obtain one of the first of these lens back at the start of November in the UK. Using it on the 7D is amazing and certainly prefer it over the 100 - 400. Just an amateur and take shots hand held. one was at @ 1/6 sec. http://www.pbase.com/mjlamoon/canon70300l

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  10. I've been using the 70-200 f/4 on my 5d2 but I could use the additional length. If you get chance to test out the lens on full frame, I would be interested in learning about your experience.

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  11. bought this baby in Feb 2011 and aside from the "zoom ring & focus ring" switch-a-roo foolish design flaw - this is my preferred lens - no contest.

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  12. I just picked up one of these used. It is sharper than my 100-400 and has richer color than my 70-200 IS II. WOW!!!

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