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CANON 300mm f/4 L IS versus non-IS

ADRI SETLUR , May 05, 2006; 01:44 p.m.

While going through various sources that give a quantitative measure of a lens's optical performance, I noticed that there is some significant discrepancies not normally noticed for other lenses.

For example, a] PHOTODO rates the non-IS at 4.3 which is higher than the IS version which is rated at 3.4 b]PHOTOZONE, however, in their performance based on multiple inputs rates the non-IS at 4.78 and hence lower than the IS version [a whopping 5.13] c] PHOTOZONE'S individual sample tests also confirm the multiple user survey both as regards MTF[resolution] and chromatic aberration i.e.,the superiority of the IS over the non-IS version.

Whereas for most other lenses there is a good co-relation between PHOTODO and PHOTOZONE quantitative lens ratings, the ratings for the Canon 300mm f/4 L IS and non-IS lenses is a bit puzzling.

Is it a case of apples versus oranges comparison or quality variations in individual samples? Any comments from forum members please?

I wonder if someone has come across references to actual comparison shots for the 2 lenses that could clear the confusion to some extant.

Responses


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Dan Funk , May 05, 2006; 02:02 p.m.

By all reports the nits you are picking between these two lenses are going to be outwieghed by sample variation. If you need IS, then the decision is easy - if you merely want IS, then...

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Puppy Face , May 05, 2006; 02:20 p.m.

Back in the day there were a number of comparison articles between the two (maybe Bob Atkins wrote one?). You might want to goggle. I recall most found the older design a little sharper but the new one sharp enough. After all, there's a bunch of extra elements in the IS unit. Plus the IS and closer focus seemmed to make up for a little less sharpness.

I have the older EF 300 4L USM (1995 vintage) and it's wickedly sharp wide open, even on my EOS 5D. So it's a keeper for me but I mainly use it on a tripod fpr landscapes and large mammals (including humans). I don't hand hold it much.

Jon Austin , May 05, 2006; 02:52 p.m.

Canon makes IS-equipped zooms with a maximum focal length as short as 85mm, and has announced a new IS zoom model that only extends to 55mm.

My first and only IS lens is a 24-105, and I can testify to its utility in low-light, non-flash situations. I won't buy another lens 100mm or longer without IS. I don't know whether or how quickly Canon plans to revamp its product line with IS-equipped models, but it can't happen soon enough to suit me. (Although I shudder to think what the prices will be!)

Bob Atkins , May 05, 2006; 04:49 p.m.

The non IS version is slightly better (at least of the samples I tested) but the difference would probably only be visible to pixel peepers who like to compare shots at 100% magnification on video monitors.

The non-IS version was slightly sharper wide open and had slightly less flare when shooting into the sun (which isn't surprising as it has no IS unit and therefors a lot less elements).

However you'll probably lose more shots due to lack of IS than you would due to fractionally lower sharpness wide open and fractionally higher levels of flare when shooting into the sun.

The Photodo numbers are an excellent example of why you shouldn't put absolute faith in anything you read on the web. You also can't judge much by user comments as most users don't really have the technical skills to properly evaluate a lens and most are influenced by other reviews.

The bottom line is that both lenses are very good and if you want IS, you should buy the IS version. The main reason to buy the non-IS version would be to save money, since (a) it would be cheaper anyway and (b) you'll be buying it used (around $700).

James Colwell , May 05, 2006; 04:50 p.m.

I agree with all of the comments above (although I would consider buying non-IS versions of both 135/2 and 200/1.8). I have the 300/4 L IS and 70-200/2.8 L IS lenses, and use them almost exclusively for handheld shooting - they're great. You might want to read this posting from last Nov. on 300 vs. 300 at Canon 300/4L IS vs. 300/4L (non-IS), it includes a link to a review by Bob Atkins.

Ignacio Feito , May 05, 2006; 05:58 p.m.

I bought the 300 f/4 recently and being no pixel peeper (seriously, I'm not) I can tell you that it's in the same league as my 100 f/2.8 macro and 50 f/1.4 (stopped down some) in the sharpness department.

I honestly think the 3.4 rating on photodo is incorrect, I have had lenses that are ranked around there by photodo and the difference in resolution is very noticeable.

By the way, IS on a 300 mm lens is great. If you are a steady shooter and aren't shooting landscapes you can probably go down to 1/15 handheld. You can actually use it with a 1.4x extender handheld and get very good results if lighting is good.

Hope this helps,

Ignacio

Matt Sallis , May 05, 2006; 06:47 p.m.

Having used Canon's IS telephotos over the past couple of years (70-200/2.8, 300/2.8 and now 600/4) I would NEVER go back to using non-IS telephoto lenses.

Even my beloved Zeiss lenses are taking second place to the Canons for telephoto work, and that would certainly not have happened without the amazing advantage of IS.

Any slight reduction in sharpness or resolution (and I'll bet it's very slight) will be more than made up for by the IS.

Steve Dunn , May 05, 2006; 09:08 p.m.

I have been sold on the merits of IS for quite a few years now, and the guy who bought my 300/4L IS USM became a convert within a day or two of getting the lens. I sold it not because anything was wrong with it (it's a lovely, sharp lens), but simply because its focal length didn't suit my needs as much once I went from 35mm film to a 1.6-crop DSLR.

As for the specific case of the two 300/4L lenses, it has been asked numerous times, and the responses you see above are a pretty good summary of the results.

ADRI SETLUR , May 05, 2006; 09:08 p.m.

Thanks a lot gentlemen. It is truly amazing to get top quality advise from the professionals in a matter of just a few hours for a state-of-the-art piece of gear with me sitting in Mumbai [a small corner of India] at 3 in the morning. And as icing a note from the great Bob Atkins himself. You have convinced me that I must become a paying member. Wont want the photo.net forum to be robgalbraithed do we?


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