< Back to the Photography Museum Lenses: Canon EF Mount
Canon EF 70-300 ƒ/4-5.6 IS USM
The Canon EF 70-300 ƒ/4-5.6 IS USM (released 2005) was my first image stabilized lens and the longest lens in my kit for almost 10 years.
I bought the lens for two reasons: I wanted a longer telephoto zoom than my EF 80-200mm ƒ/2.8L; and I wanted a lighter telephoto zoom than my EF 80-200mm ƒ/2.8L. I was willing to sacrifice some quality to achieve these goals.
I was never too impressed with the build quality of the EF 70-300 ƒ/4-5.6 IS USM. It always felt very plastic, especially as I was used to all metal L-series zoom lenses. And optically it was never a very sharp lens (again not L-series). It suffers dreadfully from zoom creep. In fact, when photographing the lens for this page I could not show it in the 300mm position because it would instantly collapse under its own weight.
Photographically, I also recall struggling with this lens due to its length. Even with 3-stops of image stabilization (less probably on APS-C) I struggled to get high enough shutter speeds, probably because with the cameras at the time I hesitated to use ISO speeds above 800. I probably would have less trouble on a modern sensor body.
However, all those negatives aside, I was pleasantly surprised by the images in my catalogue that I produced with this lens. On a DLSR it is a fine long walk-around lens. Not too heavy or bulky. For this reason I seemed to have it with me in casual situations where I never would have wanted to lug around my 80-200mm lens. Yes, the images are not tack sharp (well, at 12 megapixels they look pretty good) but the perspective is captivating and the compositions refreshingly different — factors I would not have been able to replicate with a shorter lens.
These days I am used to much higher quality in much smaller EF-M lenses. At 200mm and 24 megapixels I have the option to crop in if I want to, or for serious firepower I take out my Tamron 150-600mm ƒ/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2 SP.
The Canon EF 70-300 ƒ/4-5.6 IS USM now only comes out when I am feeling nostalgic. On the other hand, if I was still shooting with a DSLR, I would probably have replaced this lens with the EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS II USM, a very nice looking lens.