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Canon EF 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6L IS USM Preview

by Bob Atkins, 2004

At PMA 2004 Canon announced a new lens, the EF 28-300/3.5-5.6L IS USM. It's very similar to the current EF35-350/3.5-5.6L in size and shape and is its logical successor. Going from 35mm to 28mm at the wide end is well worth the loss of the 300mm - 350mm range for most users, especially those using small sensor DSLRs like the 10D or 300D where wideangle ability is compromised by the 1.6 crop factor. On a 10D this lens would give the same angle of view as a 45-480mm zoom (the 35-350 equates to a 56-560). Canon have also added their IS (Image Stabilization) technology to the lens with improved IS performance. The first generation of IS allowed hand held shutter speeds 2 stops slower than without IS. Canon now claim a 3 stop advantage. The IS on this lens is dual mode, meaning seperate setting for static use (including use on a tripod) and for panning. The only real downside of  the new lens is the price, Estimated selling price is $2500. The current selling price for the EF35-350/3/6-5.6L is around $1400. I haven't seen any comments from Canon on whether the EF35-350/3.5-5.6L will continue in production, but given the difference in price and range they may well keep around for a while.

The following information is from the Canon Press Release:

EF 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6L IS USM

The new EF 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6L IS USM is an entirely new L-series design lens (and a significantly enhanced successor to Canon's EF35-350mm f/3.5-5.6L USM zoom introduced 11 years ago). Though it offers 11x zoom capabilities (compared with the 10x capability of its predecessor), this newly designed, 22-element L-series lens combines Canon's newest optical glass advances, faster autofocus and a groundbreaking Image Stabilization system that makes capturing incredible images a snap, even when the zoom is at max, the shutter speed is slow and the camera is handheld.

The EF 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6L IS USM lens that features three ultra low dispersion (UD) glass elements that reduce chromatic aberration, and three Aspherical elements that reduce linear distortion and correct spherical aberration during zooming (keeping image resolution and contrast high), together with superior lens coatings that minimize reflection, especially when used with digital SLRs. The shorter minimum focal length of the new lens versus the previous 35-350mm model also makes the EF 28-300mm L zoom more suitable for digital SLRs with image sensors smaller than 35mm format.

Among this lens' most significant enhancements is its highly refined Image Stabilization (IS) system with new shake-detecting gyro sensors. IS is now effective for correction of up to three shutter speed steps for handheld photography, 50% better than the original EF75-300mm IS lens. Additionally, IS remains effective with the new EF 28-300mm L lens even when it used on a tripod, improving image quality by helping to eliminate the effects of reflex mirror vibration at slow shutter speeds that are typically required in low light. The lens features an IS mode switch that allows the user to select Mode 1 for general stabilization or Mode 2 for deliberate panning. IS is activated within 0.5 seconds of depressing the shutter halfway.

Additionally, the EF 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6L IS USM lens features a new, faster autofocus drive thanks to a new AF CPU and revised in-lens software (that accelerates the transmission of data between lens and camera), a powerful, quick and silent ring-type Ultrasonic Motor and an inner focus system that moves only the lens' lighter elements during AF while keeping the front elements stationary.

Because of its extended zoom range, the new EF 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6L IS USM lens features push-pull zooming operation (unlike most other EF lenses that utilize a ring-type zoom) though it does have a zoom adjustment ring that allows a user to loosen, tighten or lock the zoom control. The lens also permits closer minimum focus than previously available — from 2.3 feet at all focal lengths — and is capable of filling the frame with a subject as small as 3.2 x 4.8 inches at the 300mm zoom setting.

The lens is compatible with optional EF12/EF12II Extension Tubes at all focal lengths and EF25/EF25II at mid-range and telephoto zoom settings. The EF25 provides a maximum magnification of 0.5x, effectively filling the frame with a subject approximately 2 x 3 inches at the 300mm zoom setting. It is also compatible with the 77mm 500D and 500 Close-up lenses for a maximum magnification of 0.58x.

The EF 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6L IS USM lens kit includes a newly designed bayonet mount lens hood, a detachable tripod collar and a soft lens case.

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Matt Kime , March 01, 2004; 12:40 A.M.

i'm curious as to how much money photo.net makes from postings like these. I feel like I'm being sold to on a site I visit for unbiased info.

Bob Atkins , March 01, 2004; 01:29 A.M.

Some people are SO cynical...

Zip, Nada, Nothing, Zero. Nobody pays photo.net to run any article.

Product previews and press releases are posted simply to inform site users about new equipment. They are PREviews, not REviews.

If and when we obtain equipment for testing, we will run a full, unbiased, REview. Until then, we can either stay silent, leaving users to find the info elsewhere on the web, or we can run a PREview with a description and feature list. Which would you prefer?

Getting equipment for review isn't easy. Manufacturers don't have hundreds of samples to loan out to everyone who wants to evaluate them. We have to wait our turn. We're on waiting lists for several items. If you want a faster REview, buy one and send it to us. We will REview it and return it to you within 7 days!

We include a comment field so users can provide their input, good or bad if they have more information than we do.

David Vatovec , March 01, 2004; 05:26 A.M.

I like those previews anyway - information is just that an information.

However i`m most curious what kind of uses must such a lens have, i never got the 35-350, and the new beast 28-300 is just too big to be very usefull.

Anyone outthere that want`s this lens? Or better anyone uses the 35-350 i don`t know how many of those were sold!?

Matt Kime , March 01, 2004; 09:48 A.M.

I'm curious how many users on the site actually benefit from learning about the newest $2,500 lens. (Yes, there will probably be a few lens geeks out there.)

Bob Atkins , March 01, 2004; 10:42 A.M.

OK Matt, we'll preview some cheap stuff - just for you.

Bob Atkins , March 01, 2004; 10:43 A.M.

It's a lens for use in situations where you need wide coverage from wideangle to telephoto and where switching lenses or cameras is too slow or too difficult. Some types of photojournalism for example.

Yes, it's quite large and not very fast and it's not for everyone. I doubt it will be a huge seller, but I have met several photographers who carry and use the 35-350L and love it. This is a better lens, albeit at a higher price.

Erb Duchenne , March 01, 2004; 11:32 A.M.

There certainly are quite a few cheapie 28-300mm third party lenses which can be reviewed... and matched against this Canon L. :P

I might want one of these. This is a great range for events where you're more or less stuck in one spot but need to shoot various subjects of different distances or at different focal lengths very quickly. Of course, in bright light or flash... since it's rather slow... though not THAT slow in the greater scheme of things.

Bob Atkins , March 01, 2004; 04:02 P.M.

I wouldn't quite put it that way...

I do actually intend to review some of the low cost 28-300 type zooms. Unfortunately coordinating equipment loans isn't easy so it's not likely I'll be able to do a side by side test of a $300 lens vs a $2500 lens - assuming I can get either one!

The low cost lenses have an advantage in size and weight as well as price, but I'm sure they lose out on image quality - and none of them has any form of IS as far as I know.

Stay tuned. One of these days we'll have hard test data.

Robert Davis , March 01, 2004; 06:02 P.M.

There's absolutely nothing wrong with posting a press release, as long as you ATTRIBUTE it to its author. You'd be surprised how many articles you read in a daily newspaper that are either derived from press releases or are re-writes. I know - I work on the copy desk at a newspaper. Bob was just posting information - the ONLY informationat this point - about a new product. How many of you receive Canon's press releases? Not me.

So thanks for the post, Bob!

Miles Stoddard , March 02, 2004; 02:11 P.M.

Though the introduction of this lens might depreciate the older 35-350mm, that 10x L-series zoom really holds it price (just check the www auctions, or a camera show/shop). I dont know how many were sold, but demand still seems high, at least on the used market. I think many journalists might prefer this lens, and carry little if anything else with them. The people I know who bought the 35-350mm way back when, were mostly newspaper guys or security people; those people have the same needs today. The real test will be how much better it is than say a Tamron/Sigma (which used might be 10% the cost of this lens, new), and even if it is remarkably better, will people pay THAT much for the improvement.

Bob Atkins , March 02, 2004; 10:31 P.M.

Well, you have to remember it does have IS, which the other lenses in this range (including Canon's own non-L version) don't. On the other hand IS should only add a few hundred dollars at most to a lens.

I'm sure it will sell, but if the price sticks at $2500, it's not going to be a huge seller. Like you say, for 1/10 the cost you can get a 28-300 zoom (which is smaller and lighter) that will certainly yield at least fairly acceptable images.

Brian Cincotta , March 03, 2004; 10:31 P.M.

For those on a budget- there is also the new Canon EF 70-300 f/4.5-5.6 DO IS lens. It may not say "L" but it is-in a way. It has Defractive Optics elements in the front of the lens, as well as two UD glass elements, image-stabilized, full time manual focusing, and USM. It's cost is around $1,300.00. From the photos I've seen, the lens produces striking results. http://www.usa.canon.com/html/eflenses/lenses/ef_70-300_45/ef_70-300_45.html

Randy Tamayo , March 05, 2004; 07:15 A.M.

I was able to try both the Canon EF28-300mm f/3.5-5.6L IS USM and the 70-300 DO IS the past week here in Manila, Philippines during the PhotoWorld manila exhibit together with the 1D Mark II, the 28-300 is very heavy (like the 35-350) - Although the skin tones on the images are very nice.

The 70-300 is short and light, also with very nice color renditions.

Ilkka Nissila , March 07, 2004; 05:45 P.M.

An 11x zoom. 1670 grams. 28/3.5. 300/5.6. Who is going to carry this thing around? I see the IS is going to increase the usefulness of this type of a lens but wouldn't the aperture be more important to a PJ? I feel this is a toy designed for amateurs unwilling to carry a tripod around or change lenses. Goes to the category "silly money".

Edward Loh , March 08, 2004; 01:24 A.M.

35-350 User and Abuser

I have had the 35-350 since June of 1998 and have gotten a lot of use out of it on my A2e, 1n, D30 and my latest body - the 10D.

Although you can't tell from my portfolio (which I haven't updated or even posted to since god knows when) I am a working motorsports pro and use this lens for a lot of different stuff. For travel, its a great all-in-one. Just throw in a 17-35 in your bag and you have coverage from 17-350 in two lenses. The 350 is sturdy as hell too - I dropped it at a track in Japan, and watched it roll down a hill of dirt and rocks before coming to rest in a drainage ditch. Luckily I had the rear lens cap and hood on. A quick wipe of the glass and the thing functioned perfectly year until I bought the 10D (then it generated a Err99 code for some reason - but CPS fixed that.)

Sure, it sucks in low light, and I don't dig variable apertures, but the flexibility is amazing. I shoot a lot of racing and having the ability to zoom in and out at will is, as the British say, "tits, mate". I use it to frame pan blurs at practically any distance or park it at the tele end at 5.6 and get acceptable subject/background separation. Only major compaint is the AF doesn't snap into focus as fast as the 70-200 F2.8 (in comparison, the 35-350 kinda moseys into focus).

I hate dropping or even alluding to "names", so I'll just say I know at least one USA Today staffer who swears by it for daytime stuff. Because its so flexible - its permantently attached to one of his 1Ds. I usually carry only one body at the track and find this lens to be on 90% of time, except for nighttime events.

With IS and wider coverage, the 28-300 looks tasty. The price, however, puts it out of reach. Plus I like how the 16- and 17- to 35 lens dove tail with the 35-350 without redundancy. Stupid I know, but its one less thing to think about.

By the way - I don't mind new product anouncements like this. Not because I am always in the market for new glass (or can even afford something like this) but because like many of you here - I'm a photogeek, about technique and equipment.

Party on Bob.


Jim Davis , March 09, 2004; 08:05 P.M.

Ahem, so many fascinating comments. let me start by saying that I would buy this lens for sure. If i was a travel photographer. Or if i was rich and just travelled alot. You see I like many others hate changing lenses. We hate carrying extra lenses. We want great IS so no tripod. We want to make wide angle shots too while for example waking around Venice. Not only that, but you can get a great shot of birds if you have the opportunity. This lens gives one the ability to shoot just about anything, anytime, anywhere. PJ types will be lined up to get it. Travel photogs will be selling off primes. This new IS - geez even on a tripod - 3 stops - you gotta love this. I will of course reserve judgement until I see it's performance wide open. But the reason the price is high usually reflects on the quality of the image. If it's better than the 35-350, then it'll be awesome indeed.

Some of the comments here really make me laugh. Hey guys, go out and rent a nice IS lens and find out why some lenses are worth more than a 500 buck Tamron which most people will buy for their vacation. Not to say that their images will be less sharp, but without the IS, and with obviously less sharpness etc, these cheaper lenses do not compare. Only the 100-400L IS compares. In fact this lens looks exactly like one. It has a diferent range to be sure, but it's laid out exactly the same, and has better IS. I carry my 100-400 with a 50 and perhaps a wide zoom, but this new lens would mean I could only carry the 28-300 and maybe an extreme wide and be fully equipped. Just add batteries and CF cards!

Andrew Gough , March 10, 2004; 08:17 P.M.

I will ultimately buy this lens. I am planning to purchase the next generation 1Ds and this lens will be ideal for travel in dusty enviroments. I have been hoped for IS for a long time. I had also hoped that it would lose some weight in the redesign. That said, it probably weighs the same as my 24-70 & 70-200 F4 combined.


Stephen Lutz , March 11, 2004; 11:46 A.M.

I had the 35-350mm for a little over two years, and it was my favorite "event" lens where I had to be able to zoom in and zoom out at will. It was a terrific lens on my EOS 3, with the wide end being just wide enough.

With a D-30, 10D, Rebel D, it wasn't as useful. It just wouldn't get wide enough. Ultimately, I traded it for a 16-35 2.8L which, IMO, is the perfect lens for the 1.6x crop factor Canon digital SLRs. I use the 16-35 2.8 90% of the time.

I'm not sure I would buy the 28-300 IS lens. 28 is still not wide enough for me, and I find I rarely use my 28-70 2.8L. If I go long, I use my 70-200 2.8L on one body and the 16-35 on the other. Still... the optics of the 35-350 were great, and the range sure was nice for PJ, event type work. If I had a 1D, 1D mk II or a 1Ds, I would imagine the 28-300 IS would be a terrific one lens solution.

Kai Petainen , March 18, 2004; 08:45 P.M.

It's simple. I'm going on a 3 week trip to Smokies/Blue Ridge/Shenandoah. I want only one lens as I'll be hiking, it must be an L series and it must be versatile. This is the kind of lens I'm looking for. I had thought of getting the 35-350mm, but it did not have IS. This one does and it has a bit more of the wide angle. Versatile, one lens, L series -- nuff said. -kai

Darek M. , March 28, 2004; 06:05 A.M.

Matt Kime: your remarks are very, very strange to say the least of it. Shame. I have been in the market for such expensive lenses and have found this Review just fine for me. I am looking for some info on the lens, but yours has made me sick.

John MacPherson , March 29, 2004; 01:20 P.M.

Well....an awful lot of negative comment from people, some of whom I suspect have never used a 35-350L. I have, in fact I switched systems from Nikon to Canon to get into these types of innovative and excellent lenses that Canon is capable of producing. Am I pleased with it? Well my 35-350 has earned me more money than any of the Nikkors ever did.

I have illustrated books with it (quality printing and sharp sharp images), ad campaigns for major companies, postcards, posters, all sorts of printed media. No-one has ever complained about the quality. Used carefully it is a sharp lens.

The weight? Yes its heavy. But carrying it is a price I am happy to pay for a solid, well-engineered, reliable lens that has never failed. And I often work in rain, snow, salty environments - the sort of places you dont want to expose the innards of your camera to the elements, and the wide zoom range is a godsend. Shooting skiers is a good example - light enough to be able to ski with, able to grab wide views and close teles, and then closeups of faces etc. Useful!

I once spent a day on commission for an environmental agency, in the blowing snow, caught some deer at 300mm, walked on and did 35mm wide landscapes, then put the len to its 135mm/0.25x close-focus and captured exquisite ice details in a frozen pond. All these images were published. The weather was appalling, ice crystals blowing towards me in the gale smashed the front skylight filter at one point. I zoomed back and forwards happily, and obtained a shedfull of razor sharp well-exposed images.

No its not a lens for everyone, but everyone I've loaned my 35-350 to has returned it reluctantly, having realised that not having to fumble with lens choices, and sweat over humphing a bag of gear...leaves you open to concentrate on the job at hand - taking quality images as quickly as the light allows.

The 28-300.......hmmm! Same lens, with a wider wide-angle, IS, closer focus and better environmental sealing - yes I could easily be tempted. The bottom line is that these lenses let you do much much more than any bagfull off individual/shorter/lighter lenses ever will.

So....Bob's alert that such a lens as the 28-300 is available is useful, and his test/review of it when he receives one will certainly be of interest to me.

Edward Crim , March 30, 2004; 08:53 P.M.

I am a professional photographer in the process of switching from medium format (weddings & portraits) and 35mm (travel, sports, documentary, nature) to digital. I currently shoot with a Canon 10D and a 1Ds (the 1Ds is truly a professional camera; I'm ready to trade the 10D in on a 1D Mark II). For lenses I use (all Canon) a 28-135 3.5-5.6 IS, a 16-35 2.8L, a 50 f1.4 and a 100 f2. I like the fast lenses, but I LOVE Canon's Image Stabilization! I have been looking for a longer lens to shoot with and had been considering the 70-200 2.8 IS (I tried the 70-300 4-5.6 IS, but don't like it), but now Canon is bringing out a 28-300L IS, even though it is variable aperture and not as fast a lens as the 70-200 2.8, it is the same as the 28-135 of which my only criticisms are it isn't rugged and has insufficient reach. So in case you're still wondering who will buy this lens, the answer is, I will! The L series lenses are so much better built than the others, that if you actually use your equipment every day (as I do) it makes it worth spending the big bucks. And all the money I save by not buying new medium format equipment with digital backs (ouch!) helps pay for the few expensive lenses I need for my Canons.

I am keeping my 4x5's though, just for recreational shooting - I like to travel light ;-)

Gary G , June 02, 2004; 12:13 P.M.

I am also interested in purchasing this lens, that is when the price drops somewhat. I've missed too many shots because of not having time to switch lenses.

I'm curious/skeptical of the image quality on this wide range of zoom.

How would this lens do for people/portraits?? Weddings? Or maybe its not intended for this purpose.

Ben Lanterman , June 04, 2004; 09:40 P.M.

I broke down and bought this lens based on getting the IS on the wide range. I made a series of tests using a Canon 1Ds at the widest available f stop which are shown on four pages at -


This is the legend to use, 28-300 @ XX , where XX is the focal length in question. Look for another lens to compare to it. I put on the 24-70L and 100-400L IS as well as a Tamron 28-200 to compare to. They are sorted funny but all are there.

The legend without the @ symbol is an earlier test series with the 35-350L but without the 28-300L IS.

I feel that the 28-300L IS is equal to or better than any of the Canon long L zooms.

Expensive? - yes. Worth it? - to me yes but I am now out of money! It is a very nice lens.

Andrew Gough , June 05, 2004; 11:33 P.M.

Thanks for the review, I now have this lens on order along with a mk2. Counting the days...


ed kraemer , November 18, 2004; 02:54 A.M.

I apreciate the site, and the reviews. COOL. I don't get the negitive remarks above; Those comments would not have occured to me.

I have been using my d300 for about a year. I have the 50 1.4 (returned the 50 1.8), the 18-55, and have rented a 100-400L, 75-300usm, 70-200 2.8?, and an 85usm. The 100-400 was not wide enough for some shots (race starts). The 70-200 was not long enough (surf photos from the beach). Weight and size are a factor, but secondary.

I shoot sailing photos and portraits of my 10month old. I have been going CRAZY trying to choose a lens for sailing photography that will be generally usfull outside the regatas. I am looking at the 75-300is, 28-135is, 35-350L, and 28-300Lis. I apreaciate the review and the reader comments that follow. I think price may drive me to the 35-300L, but during REM sleep, I lean twoards the 28-300L (and the 20D). I will probably also buy the 28-135 for the wife to use and for family portraits.

I'd like to hear from somone who has opinions about this lens .vs. the 35-350L for regata photos from a chase boat.

B.C Okmen , February 18, 2006; 10:20 A.M.

I like the reviews a lot and don 't find them biased at all. Internet is for knowledge and that is what we get. Thank you for enlightening us.

Tom Fawls , May 11, 2011; 11:22 A.M.

Well, I'm happy Photo.net has reviews of professional quality equipment. 

Over the years, photo.net has been a great help in improving my owne photography...to the point where I actually make money from my photography and 'm now ready and able to upgrade to professional quality hardware.

These previews are invaluable...even 7 years after the fact.

Anthony Darling , January 25, 2012; 12:25 P.M.

Well I enjoyed reading the above comments, but it seems the thread rapidly became about the previous 35 - 350 lens.

So to redress the balance I would say that I bought one of these 28-300's about 3 years back and it has rarely been left behind when I am out making images. It is very heavy but the weight goes un-noticed when I am actually shooting and a lot of the time I carry it in a Tamrac Expedition 5 rucksack type bag where again the weight disappears , except at airline check-ins..

The camera is my EOS5D Mk2

Optically the 28 - 300 is is excellent and has given me many shots at long and short focal lengths that I would have missed if I had to change lenses.

There is also the advantage that I have had less dust on the sensor with greatly reduced number of lens changes. Before I had this lens I used the Canon 100-400 for telephoto pictures, I think that lens is marginally better optically, but most times it is not a noticeable difference.

The only lens I have used more often than the 28-300 is its short focal length partner the 16 -35 2.8L although being a fan of unusual perspectives I also carry the compact lightweight Canon 15mm Fisheye.

The Tamrac fits the airline carry on bag cage and this kit has been with me to the US, most of Europe, Egypt and China.  Never once have I felt the need for more lenses. More Memory cards and spare batteries yes but lenses no.

Anthony Darling , January 25, 2012; 12:37 P.M.

Back again I did not mention the Image Stabilisation, it is truly amazing.

I was taking a few indoor shots of my grand-daughter playing with her Wii Sports game I was mainly catching the laughter when she stopped moving rapidly because she had made a mistake.

The batteries in my flash died and the camera was left to shoot available light at 200 ASA.

I got about an 80% success rate with in-focus shake free shots 11 x 19 inch prints shooting between 1/30th to 1/125th at around 150 mm focal length.

The only thing I am not really happy about with the lens is the zoom tightness adjust ring which can be obstructive when working fast and needing quick focal length changes. But at least it keeps the lens under control when being carried.

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