A Site for Photographers by Photographers

Home > Equipment > Canon > Canon EF 70-300mm f4.5-5.6 DO IS USM lens test

Featured Equipment Deals

How to Choose Studio Lighting Read More

How to Choose Studio Lighting

Read Garry Edwards' advice on proper studio lighting equipment on photo.net. He covers all the bases, including how to choose the right lighting kit and what the three basic studio lighting options...

Latest Equipment Articles

Sun Position Tracking Apps Read More

Sun Position Tracking Apps

These 5 apps, ranging in price from free to $8.99, are our top picks for tracking sun (and moon) light. Also ranging in complexity, some help you keep tabs on the ideal lighting of the day while...

Latest Learning Articles

Advanced Printing with Lightroom (Video Tutorial) Read More

Advanced Printing with Lightroom (Video Tutorial)

Building upon last week's Basic Printing with Lightroom video tutorial, this advanced printing tutorial will teach you to print contact sheets, print multiple images at a time, use Lightroom's present...


Canon EF 70-300mm f4.5-5.6 DO IS USM lens test

by David Hay, 2004


Why I wanted one.

As a long-term user of a Canon 75-300 IS USM lens I hoped that Canon would bring out an L-series version of this lens with better optical quality, especially at the 300mm end. When Canon introduced the 100-400 IS lens I bought one to get higher quality images of wildlife at long focal lengths but although the results were good, I found the lens very heavy to use and only carried it on specific projects. Most times I just carried the 75-300 IS as it fitted into my small bag , was much lighter to hand-hold, and on my Canon 10D was equivalent to 120-480mm.

When Canon announced the EF 70-300 DO lens at just under 10cm in length, this sounded like the lens for me. It was described as of near L-series quality and the MTF tests published showed good performance at 300mm, the focal length I use most often. I placed an order immediately with a friend who is a photo dealer.

lenses-photo-web.jpg (25116 bytes)
100-400L IS, 75-300 IS and 70-300 DO IS compared at wide setting

lenses-at-300-photo-web.jpg (32509 bytes)
100-400L IS, 75-300 IS and 70-300 DO IS at 300mm setting

What happened to ‘delivery starts end March/early April’

Two or three months later, at the opening of a photographic exhibition in May my friend the photo dealer said “Your lens came in a couple of days ago, I tried to drop it off at your house but there was no-one in”. The next night, after the shop closed he delivered the lens just in time for a trip the following day to the Outer Hebrides, islands of the west coast of Scotland.

Opening the box

First impressions of the lens were good, the build quality was substantial, the lens was certainly short, fatter than I expected and also quite heavy. It came with a lens hood, almost as big as the lens itself, and a soft case. Although only slightly heavier than the 75-300, it felt substantially heavier, probably because of the small size. Focussing was much faster (and quieter) than the 75-300, almost up to the 100-400 standard. Full-time manual focus was available, unlike the 75-300 and the front of the lens did not rotate during focussing. Switching on the Image Stabiliser was a revelation. The image became very stable in the viewfinder, noticeably better than the 75-300. The 3rd generation 3-stop advantage stabiliser looked promising.

The zoom control is at the back of the lens so is rather close to the body. The zooming action is quite heavy and alters depending on whether the lens is pointing up or down. Looking down on subjects from a cliff top I noticed that zooming back from 300 to 70mm was quite difficult. Although the lens slides out to 300mm when pointed down, a lock is available to keep it at 70mm during travel. I kept forgetting I had engaged the lock and wondered why I couldn’t zoom out when a bird flew past.

I was surprised to actually see a series of concentric circles when looking through the lens from the rear. Could the diffractive optics produce high quality images without any optical side-effects?

How do diffractive optics work?

Diffraction is normally viewed as a problem in photographic lenses, causing light scatter at small apertures. Canon is the first, and so far the only, lens manufacturer to use diffractive optics to focus light. The diffractive element contains embedded optical plastic parts with a series of moulded concentric rings which bend light more steeply than conventional refractive lenses. The first DO lens produced, the 400 DO, had two of these but for a zoom lens, where the angle of light passing through varies with focal length, a third was needed with an air space. A major advantage of a DO lens group is that chromatic aberration is reversed compared with normal refractive elements so by combining both types, chromatic aberration, the major cause of loss of sharpness at long focal lengths, can be almost cancelled out.

What was the optical performance like in real life photographic situations? In bright light, with the sun above or to the rear, sharpness and colour saturation were good, even at full aperture. On a variety of subjects the fine detail revealed after light USM (200%, 0.3 pixels) was impressive. However I soon started to notice a dreamy quality to some of the photos, especially around white subjects, when photographing into the light. Even using the lens hood I got substantial multi-coloured flare when photographing into low light when the light source was just out of the frame. Highlights from water revealed obvious target-shaped discs. When I used a mirror lens many years ago I got to like the doughnut shaped out-of-focus effects and often framed pictures to maximise the effect. I found myself doing the same thing with this lens when photographing a sea bird colony. Out of focus areas also had a ‘broken’ quality with leaves sub-divided and fine details like grasses repeated.

So the lens is capable of high quality results in most lighting conditions but in back-lit situations, which I do a lot of, light scatter within the lens, almost certainly from the diffractive group, can lead to variable loss of quality. Heavier than normal Unsharp Masking can improve some of this as it increases the contrast at edges, where this dreamy quality is most obvious, but this should not be necessary in a £1,000 lens.

The focussing and image stabiliser performance was impressive. I took a series of shots of sea birds in (rapid) flight on a windy day on a cliff top. Using the Sport mode on the 10D the focus appeared to be able to stay with the bird, after the middle target locked on, even when the bird came straight towards me. The hit rate of the final images was even higher than it looked through the viewfinder as the lens kept tracking the birds during the exposure.

Verdict?

The pros and cons of the 3 lenses are as follows :-

75-300 IS

Pros

  • Cheap
  • Good quality up to 200mm, OK at 300mm at f8-11 with the stabiliser on.
  • Light

CONS

  • Slooooow focus, no good for birds in flight
  • Rotating front
  • No full-time manual focus

70-300 DO IS

PROS

  • Short
  • Fast focus, good enough for birds in flight
  • Excellent stabiliser

CONS

  • Too expensive
  • Internal light scatter
  • Target shaped highlights?

100-400 IS

PROS

  • L-series build quality
  • Usable at all focal lengths
  • Good stabiliser
  • Fast focus

CONS

  • Expensive but good value
  • Very heavy, tiring to hand hold, you need the stabiliser when your arms start to shake!
  • Push-pull zoom

Would I recommend the 70-300 DO?

It is probably not for most people, especially at the price. Here in the UK it sells for £1,049. Canon have to recover the R+D costs of diffractive optics so early products will carry a premium price. They see the technology coming to cheaper lenses eventually, allowing shorter low-cost lenses to be produced. The cost of moulding diffractive elements, if mass-produced, is said not to be inherently high.

The main benefit of the DO optics in the 70-300 is the reduction in length (but not weight). A short lens has obvious attractions for candid photography. After my experiences with flare I started using the lens hood all the time, but guess what, the 70-300 with lens hood attached is the same length as the 75-300 without one! No gain there then.

Also the penalty of variable quality loss when photographing white subjects and into the light still causes me concern. When looking through the back of the lens around 50 concentric circles are visible in the diffractive optic. They show up as white when light shines on them. It looks like these are causing the effects noted at full aperture with additional white stray light affecting the image. However because the circles are much closer together towards the edge of the lens, most willbe masked off quickly as the lens is stopped down. This would lead to the obvious improvement in quality seen at smaller apertures.

L-series photographers will probably not be satisfied with the quality of this lens but creative photographers may have fun exploring the unique visual effects that this lens can produce. Me, I am still waiting for a 75-300 L-series lens that can produce a high quality image at full aperture at 300mm.

The caveat, as always, is that this is a test of only one lens, and an really early one at that (No. 88000244). If Canon think that it is not representative of the current production, I would be happy to test another example and publish the results, (provided I can keep the best one).

Sample Images

Comparison images of shots taken with the 100-400, 75-300 and 70-300 lenses will hopefully be the subject of a future article, but here is one shot which shows the excellent supression of the 70-300DO IS lens compared to the 75-300 IS. This is a crop taken from a section towards the edge of the frame. On the left is the image from the 70-300DI IS and on the right is the image from the 75-300 IS. It's pretty clear that the chromatic abrerration seen in the 75-300 shot is gone in the 70-300DO shot.

chromatic.jpg (35273 bytes)

The following images were all shot with the 70-300 DO IS lens:

In the image below (full frame) you can see excellent sharpness at 300mm and full aperture (f5.6), even with an off center subject

Skylark full frame-web.jpg (49871 bytes)

However in the 100% crop from the original image shown below you can see a faint white halo around the wire.

Skylark wire 100%crop-web.jpg (39355 bytes)

Backlit flowers - In the image below you can see a strong colored flare despite lens hood use and sun not in frame.

Backlit flowers lens hood web.jpg (53858 bytes)

Below is the same shot but with a hand used to shade the front element from direct sunlight. A dramatic reduction in flare is seen.

Backlit flowers lens hood + shading web.jpg (69797 bytes)

Herring gull - This 100% crop from a full frame shots shown an example of target-shaped out-of-focus highlights

Herring gull 100% crop web.jpg (120719 bytes)

North Uist landscape - excellent detail at 100mm with polariser.

North Uist full frame-web.jpg (54525 bytes)

Kitiwake - Good detail in 100% crop. No halo around white 1/2 stop down from wide open (f6.7).

Kittiwake 100% crop-web.jpg (39748 bytes)

Starling 100% crop - Good sharpness with black subject

Starlig 100% crop-web.jpg (80849 bytes)

Starlings - Good sharpness with black subject

Where to buy

Purchasing through the following links helps to support photo.net.

Featured Merchants
Product:
Canon EF 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 DO IS USM Telephoto Zoom Lens
VendorVendor RatingAvailabilityPrice

2109 Reviews
yes$1179.95

See all-time ratings
yes$1309.00

See all-time ratings
yes$1366.69
Results by PriceGrabber.com

© Copyright 2004 David Hay

Readers' Comments


Add a comment



Arthur Yeo , June 19, 2004; 12:46 A.M.

Interesting article, indeed. But, for the sake of us who are not Canon-aware, what does DO stand for? I searched thru the whole article, and unless my CTRL-F is failing miserably, the article says nothing of what the acronym means.

Joel Arnold , June 19, 2004; 01:31 A.M.

DO stands for Diffractive Optics.

Yaron Kidron , June 19, 2004; 02:11 A.M.

Just curious-- I assume all of these shots were done on a 10D? what about full frame performance?

Marcus Erne , June 19, 2004; 05:10 A.M.

"Me, I am still waiting for a 75-300 L-series lens that can produce a high quality image at full aperture at 300mm."

=> I assume that means you didn't keep the lens?

I am in the same boat as you, torn between the 100-400mm IS which I own now and any smaller & lighter HQ-zoom that would make my gear bulk and weight smaller.

Ken Rimple , June 19, 2004; 07:10 A.M.

Great review; I think you nailed the quality issues. I bought the lens when it came out, and noticed some of these issues; specifically the backlit image quality loss and the white halos. However, I'm keeping mine, as it replaces a heavy 70-200 IS lens, with not as much reach and much heavier payload.

For the amount of true telephoto photography I do (I'm more into wide angles, environmental portraits and scenics, and some macro) it is a reasonable compromise, as long as I avoid front-lit subjects and out of focus specular highlights. These are disappointing negatives for me at the price of this lens, but I also owned the 75-300 IS lens and absolutely hated the focus mechanism and the rotating front element.

Dan Barthel , June 19, 2004; 10:06 A.M.

This is creating a big decision problem for me. I have the 100-400 as well as long L glass. It seems to me that a travel kit with a 16-35 or 17-40 and the 70-300DO with maybe a 50 1.8 tucked in would be hard to beat for a compact travel kit. OTOH, the bokeh doesn't seem at all as nice as the 100-400. So, I'm on the fence as I can't keep both.

Dan

Guy Hammond , June 19, 2004; 01:40 P.M.

You can certainly find a better price in the UK than GBP 1049. AJ Purdy has it for GBP 899. I'm not affiliated with them in any way, just a happy customer.

Fabio Riccardi , June 20, 2004; 02:07 A.M.

I bought the 70-300 DO a week ago and I have to say I'm quite happy with it. I also have a 70-200 f/4L and I find the new lens quite a bit easier to use. IS aside the 70-300 DO is a lot easier to handle, it is much more compact and has most of its mass close to the camera body. The 70-200 has most of the mass at its tip, making it very hard to handle without a tripod (at least for me).

Image quality wise the 70-200 is better (the build is better too), we knew this already, but the 70-300 is *a lot* better than the old 75-300 IS, it has a fast AF and real good IS. For me the 70-300 DO allows to explore a whole new range of hand-held pictures that I just can't manage with my 70-200, for this alone it is a winner and definitively a keeper.

Steve Bingham , June 20, 2004; 12:18 P.M.

Great review, David. You did an excellent job of describing both the strengths and weaknesses. A very informative review. I am a little surprised that a 4.5/5.6 lens would cost this much. I know, Nikon stuff is pricey too. Most interesting was your honest attempt to show the effect that the DO IS had on the brokeh. A little distressing but I could live with it! I would love to see someone take this lens through a MTF test - or at least a resolution test target comparison.

Andrew Robertson , June 20, 2004; 09:15 P.M.

I find the 70-300 DO very intriguing, but I personally could not justify buying it at this time. I already owned the 70-200 f/4L long before this lens was announced, and I love that lens. This spring, I was itching for more reach, so weighed all the options. The DO was announced, and I looked very closely at this lens. It's quite light, has the latest IS, and is quite compact. I probably would have jumped on it if it was more affordable, and possibly sold the 70-200. Comparing the 70-300 DO with the 300 f/4L IS, at the same price point, is what sold me on the prime. It's faster, takes the Canon 1.4x TC (which is almost flawless), has IS (2nd generation), and performs beautifully. It's also much larger and heavier, but I'm pretty young and can handle the weight.

After owning the 300 f/4L IS and the 70-200 f/4L, I am becoming more attracted to the 70-300 DO simply for the stealth factor. I can handle carrying those lenses, but sometimes the attention I attract is simply obnoxious. The 70-300 DO is now on my long-term list, simply to provide a compact telephoto with IS with reasonable performance. I can think of a few other lenses in the same price range that I'll be buying first, however. Despite all the minuses, and the fact that I didn't buy one, I still think it's a useful addition to Canon's lens stable.

Dan Funk , June 20, 2004; 10:36 P.M.

This might be of interest to those who want some more tech info.
Canon Technical Report: 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 DO IS USM

Peter Phan , June 21, 2004; 03:38 A.M.

It sounds like this is a lens that absolutely should be used with its hood for optimum performance in sunlight. While that may be true of most lenses, it seems particularly true with a DO lens because of the grating in the front element group. Nevertheless, I'm still very intrigued by this lens for its optical quality, compactness, fast autofocus, and latest IS capability. It sure beats lugging around my 100-400L IS.

Joe W , June 21, 2004; 10:51 P.M.

Thanks very much for a well written review. I am disappointed to see that Canon still ignores its problems with zoom creep. The creep in the 28-135 IS is so terrible I returned mine. I'd had great hopes for the new 70-300 DO IS, but for this kind of money we shouldn't have to put up with a lens that can't maintain the focal length we set.

Jon Austin , June 22, 2004; 10:43 A.M.

I agree with Joe W about the zoom creep problem with several Canon zooms. That's why I prefer the fixed (physical) length L zooms with internal zooming (also for minimizing "dust-sucking"). Hopefully, if Canon ever produces an f/4L standard zoom (say, ~28-80mm?), it'll be a fixed length design, unlike the 24-70 f/2.8L.

Rich Dykmans , June 22, 2004; 11:27 A.M.

I own this lens and have to say this review is about as accurate as I've seen in describing it's strengths and weaknesses. It's a lens that I use a lot and it's gotten me great images when it counts. Yes it's expensive but if you end up using it as much as I do . . . . well how do you put a negative on that?

Tommy Lee , June 24, 2004; 03:39 A.M.

Thanks for the review. I had my 70-300DO for a few weeks now (I was one of the few who bought one during B&H's initial pre-sale), you sum up everthing I kind of suspect my copy is doing but couldn't put in words. I kept my copy. I think the DO's Bokeh may be diffent but it has good looks and feel to it (I did not see the target like high-light that you saw). Unlike the 28-135IS, I also didn't have to count "thousand one" mentally to give "IS" time to work. I could still bring along my other smaller focal length prime lenses without feeling loaded.

*** Update *** I did some MTF test between my copy of 28-135IS, 70-300DO and 85mm f1.8. I did it at the focal length of 85mm @f5.6 and @ f8 using my Drebel. I used the Normal Koren Method. Details is at his web site www.normankoren.com (thanks Norman).

The results match with my experiences of these 3 lenes; 85mm f1.8 is the best, 70-300 DO is next and the 28-135IS came in third but with a very repectable result.

Two things worth noting, the DO's center to corner (at least for my Drebel) MTF are very consistent. For a zoom, it has very good MTF50 result, an indication of good contrast and mid-detail sharpness.

At f5.6 Center MTF10 85mm = 57.3 lp/mm DO = 49.7 lp/mm 28-135IS = 43.9 lp/mm

Details at JPG below

Tommy Lee , June 24, 2004; 03:41 A.M.


70-300 DO MTF Compare

Here are the MTF JPG summary

Tommy Lee , June 24, 2004; 03:47 A.M.

Here is the 100% crop of 70-300DO MTF JPG, Center f8.0

Image Attachment: 70-300DO-f8_2652.jpg

Maxim C. , June 24, 2004; 05:22 P.M.

Does anyone notice a less then plesant bokeh shapes. I found them very disturbing. I guess one wold have to go L for nice smooth bokeh.

Paulo Bizarro , July 03, 2004; 03:31 A.M.

I have now shot a couple of rolls of Astia 100F with this lens, and have inspected the results on my light table. I have to say that I am impressed. I bought this lens to use as part of my hiking kit, and also to use at my children's school functions and gatherings.

Last week, at a school party, I used it a lot, both out and indoors with flash. The results are very pleasant, even wide open. I don't think that sharpness or lack of contrast will be a problem with this lens. The only downside was to try and remember to re-set the zoom lock button, either on or off. The lens is quite heavy actually, so there is a lot of glass inside a small package that tends to creep.

Overall, I am quite pleased that this lens performs and delivers the goods under "fuss-free" shooting conditions that I will tend to use it. Having a decent performing zoom at 300mm is quite helpful.

Paul - , July 06, 2004; 11:38 A.M.

"Copyright 20004 David Hay"

I guess we got the review 18,000 years in advance! ;-P

Yee Man Chan , July 11, 2004; 08:43 A.M.

"Me, I am still waiting for a 75-300 L-series lens that can produce a high quality image at full aperture at 300mm."

Isn't there already a 100-300mm f/5.6L? You can get a used one for $300-350. I think it will make a good comparison.

Paulo Bizarro , July 15, 2004; 03:52 P.M.

I have now scanned some photos taken with this lens, and I am quite pleased with the results. I will try to post some examples.

Image Attachment: maristas_25_6_04_2.JPG

Paulo Bizarro , July 15, 2004; 04:06 P.M.

This is 100% crop of the upper right corner, to show the OOF areas. From what I read before, I was expecting a lot worse. Certainly they are quite acceptable. And even wide open at 300mm, it is a sharp lens.

Image Attachment: crop1.JPG

Chris Evans , July 21, 2004; 12:36 P.M.

I've followed a similar route to this lens. I used a 75-300 IS lens with my EOS 5 and EOS 3, then felt the need to replace it with the 100-400 and 1.4x converter. The focussing and image quality was fantastic, but the size and weight made me reluctant to carry it around with me and so I missed shots I could have taken with a smaller lens. Last Autumn I bought an EOS 300D, and so the 100-400 became effectively a 160-540 lens but I still wasn't using it. So last month I sold it and the converter through EOS Magazine for a very fair price and ordered the 70-300 IS DO lens.

This is the first review I've seen which has been critical of the lens (and mine is still on its way to me). It's very useful to know what to look out for, and to beware of shooting into the light - I had to find out the effects of this on my new Sigma 12-24 zoom the hard way! (Again a great lens that gives a useful wide angle view on the 300D, and an incredible view on my EOS 3.)

Bill Tuthill , March 30, 2005; 07:23 P.M.


Takes time, but not difficult

The bokeh isn't bad if you do a Gaussian blur on the highlights.

R C , October 19, 2005; 05:06 P.M.

Just recieved my DO IS a couple of days ago. Initially I was disapointed with the image quality (basically lack of sharpness). Then I did a "shoot-out" with my 300D/70-300 DO IS and a friend and his D70/70-200 AF-S VR f/2.8. We shot at 200mm/f11, 1/80th sec (both handheld and with VR on) and we could hardly tell the images apart (except more saturated on the D70), so we loosely concluded it was more down to technique which would get the sharper results as we're both amateurs. I guess expecting pin-sharp results handheld at 300mm/1/16th sec is simply too much to ask :)

I do like the reach and it enables me to walk about with a fairly small kit (300d, 17-85mm, 70-300mm and 50mm prime).

I guess the next thing is to really figure this baby out to give me the best pictures (aperture etc.). If anyone has any ideas or experience feel free to share them.

Xavier HENRI , September 23, 2006; 01:59 P.M.

Think Different!

After a while with this lens, I discovered that it's like no other and has very specific characteristics. That's why I created this Tips and Tricks page to help you get the most out of it!

Xavier.

Rocky Sadera , October 10, 2007; 11:01 P.M.

I read all the reviews and looked at the pictures submitted and then decided to buy this lens. I was going on a three week safari from Cape Town thru Namibia, Botswana and ending in Victoria Falls. I passed through Etosha and Chobe National Parks on the way. I took 3700 photos in total and 200 to 300 were at full 300 mm zoom. When I got back and looked at these images, I was so disappointed and disgusted they are ALL without EXCEPTION, out of focus and are totally useless. Now many of you will say it's my fault I should have had the lens checked out or calibrated before I went. Well, I took the lens and the camera to my local Canon service center in Irvine, California and they said the focusing was off and they made some adjustments. I took hundreds of shots ranging from 70 to 200 +/- mm and these pictures are sharp and in focus, but when you start going towards the 300 mm mark, the focus deteriorates rapidly. This lens is basically useless at or anywhere near the 300 mm mark. This lens in my opinion is a total waste of money. I wasted my money on this lens and I wasted my trip with hundreds of useless images of far off animals. Who in their right minds would pay $1200 for a 70 to 200 lens, because this is all you're getting. This lens is a total piece of crap. Its "design" and it's "superior quality" are an absolute fiasco. When you extend the lens and point the lens upwards to shoot something in the sky, the lens creeps back down to 70mm. There is no locking mechanism to keep the lens extended at a certain point. Didn't Canon think that we would want to take a photo pointing upwards without holding the lens all the time. Try taking a shot of the moon at night...!!! This is a total waste of money. A two year old kid with two Crayola Crayons could draw a picture better and sharper than what this worthless piece of crap lens will take. SAVE YOUR MONEY DON'T WASTE IT ON THIS LENS...!!!! I have complained to Canon already about this useless lens and they refuse to refund my money. So you have been warned...look at a different manufacturer for a decent lens, because Canon won't stand behind their worthless products, once they have made a fool out of you and made you purchase one of their products.

Gordon Kyd , November 03, 2007; 01:43 A.M.

Firstly, thank you David for your initial review back in 2004 on the Canon EF 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 DO IS USM. I found it very informative and helpful. Reading through all the other great posts here, I gathered all the pros and cons regarding this lens and came up with more positives than negitives, at least from my perspective.

Then Rocky dropped his bomb and scared me witless! To make matters worse, I'm just about to do exactly the same trip through Africa as he did (The Northern Quest from Cape Town to Victoria Falls with virtually all the same stops in between) so is this a bad omen or what?!!

I was looking to get a high quality telephoto zoom lens for the trip and the Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM appeared to be was what I was after, at least until I sampled it in a local photographic shop and saw how large it was. The price wasn't an issue. The photos through it were fantastic, the zoom range was what I was after but it was so heavy and bulky which was made worse by the fact my wife had trouble holding the camera with it on let alone switching lenses quickly, which whilst treking, is a must. On top of it's weight and size, I realised that for really decent results, a mono or tripod is need at full 400mm zoom. It is a superb lens but I feel it's size, weight and carrying a tripod would have taken some of the enjoyment away from the trip and the photography more taxing than I was prepared for.

Upon further research I came across the Canon EF 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 DO which seemed the next best option due to it's vastly reduced size for it's 300mm zoom capabilities. Visiting the same camera house, I spent 45 minutes snapping away and was impressed with it's size, marginally fatter and heavier than I first expected, but far more practical for safari travel and being on the move than the 100-400mm. I took comparative photos with an old EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 II Ultrasonic lens(1995)and the newer DO had far sharper and clearer results. This was probably thanks to the image stabilizer althought the older lens did have a slightly more powerful zoom. I was using my old Canon 300D. I was pretty much sold on the DO even with some of the immediate drawbacks mentioned in this thread. It took better photographs than my old 75-300mm zoom, bottom line, and that is what I was after. I have to admit I did not take any outdoor shots as it was an over cast day anyway so the issue of it's frontlit weaknesses did not come up.

After reading Rocky's post, which basically damns the lens and Canon to hell for providing an inferior product at a premium price, I'm now at a loss to what lens I should consider.

I have my old 75-300mm II however I was after a superior upgrade that took sharper and clearer shots.

Does anyone have any suggestions to what optional lenses I might consider? Should I be scared off the Canon EF 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 DO IS USM lens and take Rocky's warning or does he sound like he got a one off lemon?

Vamsidhar Juvvigunta , November 07, 2007; 08:23 P.M.

I have just purchased a used 70-300 DO IS and already have a 100-400 IS so I will also find out if things will work out for me. I am pretty much in the same boat as you guys looking for a good stealth telephoto for an upcoming peru trip. This is how my current thoughts are.

There are two aspects to this story.

Canon's atrocious QA is pretty much a given. It might be prohibitive to reduce the lens assembly variability and canon probably expects even users of 1000$ lenses to send it in for "recalibration" never mind that the repair center might make it even worse (Irvine seems to have a good rep in this regard). However, my 10-22 and 24-105 have been exceptionally sharp from the factory and I have never used warranty service. Touch wood!

The second thing is the quality/artifacts of the DO lens itself.

The idea would be to get from amazon or B&H which allow you to return lenses if you are not satisfied. Amazon gives you a month unlike B&H's 14 days.

Read through http://photography-on-the.net/forum/showthread.php?p=2081235 . Figure out how to best extract the potential of the 70-300 DO. Once you have the raw/jpeg stuff, extra sharpening steps etc figured out test the lens you have. Since folks do say that the quality/sharpness is *very* good if you post process the images correctly, any softness defects could be either user focusing error or lens calibration issues.

See how much the image improves with in-camera jpg (vs) jpeg + sharpening (vs) raw + wb + contrast + sharpening and you will see the cost/benefit proposition of the various post-processing options and decide if the end result justifies the pp time cost and the price of the lens.

At that point you decide to either send it in for calibration or return it.

I think, even though the lens is expensive, doesn't have a rear seal, zoom creeps and has alien oof highlights, the size, stealth and carry ability make it worth it to me if I can extract good images out of it and if the post processing required can be automated or done reasonably fast. I might have to invest in Lightroom and Photokit Sharpener, I'll update this thread with my results when I get my lens Nov 12th.

Rocky Sadera , November 12, 2007; 08:47 P.M.

Note to Gordon. I really feel you need to reconsider your choices. Do you really want to spend $1,200 on a 70 to 200 mm useable lens, because that is all you're getting. You are spending a lot of money on your trip, do you want to some back and then spend hours "sharpening" images, because the lens you bought cannot focus beyond the 200 mm range. Believe me Gordon, you will be sorely dissapointed with the pathetic images from this lens. Look at other reviews on other web sites. I found many, many other sites with reviews of this lens, stating (very politely) the images are "soft" at 300. For "soft" replace with the phrase "out of focus". As for getting a lemon...I took the lens to the local Irvine, California regional service center prior to going on my trip and they recalibrated the lens along with my camera that I took on my trip. They should have been perfectly matched according to Canon, and still I came home with hundreds of images with are so badly out of focus I can't use them. If you are paying $1,200 for a lens should it not give the clearest and sharpest images without the need to "sharpen" the images before you can use them? This lens really is worthless in my opinion and not worth the $1,200 price tag. I could have spent $350 and bought a lens that gives the same quality images that this worthless lens does.

Gordon, do you really want to come home thinking you have taken some great close up images of Oryx running in the sand dunes at Soussouvlei or Rhinos drinking at watering holes in Etosha and then come home see that the images taken are so badly out of focus that you can't use them. You will be unable to share the wonderful sights you've seen with the rest of your family and friends, and this will be a great dissapointment after you spend $1,200 on the lens and also not to mention the money you spent on your trip. Believe me I am not making any of this up, I have 300 to 400 images that are not useable from my trip.

A foolish man learns from his own mistakes... a wise man learns from other people's mistakes. Good luck and have a great trip, but take the correct lens. Even if you get one that's a little heavy, the image quality will compensate for that and you will come back with great images that you will be proud to share.

Andre Stull , December 12, 2007; 12:32 P.M.

I love this lens. It works great on my 5D. Only shoot Raw. But images were soft until I purchased DxO Optics Pro version 5. This software has transformed this lens to an amazing one. Just try out the demo at dxo.com. I also use it for my entire kit: 15 fisheye, 50 1.4 and 70-300 DO. Simply excellent and I can batch process. Try out the vivid and sharp function and your DO lens will come to life without distortion!!!

Jack Yang , March 16, 2008; 09:53 P.M.

Thanks a lot for every piece of comments and sharing.

I limite my desire within the range of 'amatuer class' equipment --- this lens is very close to the upper limit just like 17-40 L (I am using it as main lens). With these 2 lens and a cheap 50mm 1.8II, I will be very tough to be lured with more expensive lens.

It will be somewhat annoying that I will have to buy a few more 58mm filters (PL, etc) for 'the little green' --- won't cost me too much but I will have to bring a few more 'pieces'. Anyway, it's much easier than carrying 'white' lens.

Chuck Kuhn , March 23, 2008; 02:04 A.M.

Wow, what responses from 2004 to 2008. First thoughts, why not buy the 70-200 f/4 L and attach the 1.4 extender. Approx $550 for L 4 and 200 for extender. Its amazing the photo I get with this set up. Just my 2 cents

Brian K , March 31, 2008; 05:47 P.M.

Two entries follow

Brian K , March 31, 2008; 05:59 P.M.

I have had this lens for 3 years now,and although I have not used it a great deal, I have found the results very pleasing.I have used it to take shots of aircraft at air shows and also long distance landscape shots to shorten perspective, and find its light weight and portability a great asset, particuilarly when hill walking. Two shots attached - the picture of the lake is a view across the whole length of Derwentwater in the English Lake District. I've improved the contrast because even on a clear day in the sumer it gets a bit hazy - in the winter it would be much clearer on a sunny day. Considering that the path you can see is over 3.5 miles away, I don't think this is a bad shot. The IS made it possible - ISO 400 f16 1/180 300mm.. The second is a picture of acrobatic flying - turned the ISO up to give me plenty of depth of field, so this is bit grainy but otherwise the IS made this possible - ISO 800 f11 1/3000 300mm.

Image Attachment: IMG_4864.crop.jpeg

Brian K , March 31, 2008; 06:09 P.M.

Here's the Derwentwater pic. I'm new to this, so not doing very well at the moment! I guess the images I'm posting are also too big, so please bear with me!

Paul Rentz , September 15, 2010; 01:23 A.M.

"Me, I am still waiting for a 75-300 L-series lens that can produce a high quality image at full aperture at 300mm."

Looks like your dream is coming true! Now we'll see if it can pass the test.

Denise Bryant , January 03, 2011; 01:02 P.M.

Okay - THANK YOU! For all the great details.

So if money were NOT an issue - which of the two 70-300's (not the DO) would you choose? Or is there another brand 70-300 which is still fast and sharp?


Add a comment



Notify me of comments