Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Canon 70-300mm f4-5.5.6 L IS mini review

Well, I bit the bullet in August and invested £705 of my hard earned Alamy income on a used Canon 70-300mm f4-5.5.6 L IS lens.  It's built like a tank, it's heavier than any other of my lenses, and I already had most of the range covered with my lightweight and pretty good image quality 55-250mm or the combination of my old Sigma 180mm macro with a 1.4x teleconverter.  So, other than Gear Acquisition Syndrome, why get it?

Let's take the 55-250mm.  Great, lightweight lens that's easy to carry and certainly capable of generating saleable photos.  Two problems with it.  Firstly, image quality falls apart much beyond 200mm.  It's not bad - but it's not good enough.  Secondly, and this is more important, Maria has grabbed it for her own use.

Which leaves me the Sigma 180mm macro, naked, or with a Sigma 1.4x teleconverter.  Big and heavy, it's invaluable for tripod work, providing superb image quality at macro and close up distances.  But it's not optimised for longer distances - though it does a good job - and with no image stabilisation it's not one for more general use.

Canon 70-300mm f4-5.5.6 L IS lens mounted on Maria's 600D

Am I pleased with my purchase?  Yes.  I'm used to sharp lenses that deliver a lot of detail in combination with good image sensors.  My macro lenses are particularly good in this respect and form a benchmark. The 70-300mm is nearly up there with them.  Not quite, but the differences are marginal and I'm happy enough that the image quality meets professional requirements.  More to the point, the good image quality is maintained through the zoom range and from closest to infinity focus.  I have a lens that I can actually use at 300mm maximum extension, a failing with the cheaper consumer lenses.

European robin, 300mm and close focus, handheld 1/200sec
100% crop of the Robin's eye and beak.  Click to show at full size.  Standard sharpening for screen only
Image stabilisation (IS) is rated for 4 stops effectiveness.  At 67 years of age
I don't have the steadiest of grips but the ability to handhold at 300mm at 1/50th to 1/100th of a second and get professionally sharp images is a major bonus.  I have a tripod collar and frequently use the lens with it for plant and garden work but, for walking around, it's easier to travel unencumbered with a tripod.  The effectiveness of the IS gives me the confidence to travel with the lens, knowing it will perform in most circumstances.

Dahlia 'Blue Bayou'.  Handheld, 300mm, 1/80sec
It's also a very compact lens, fitting easily into my smaller Crumpler camera bag.  A day out with the 70-300mm and my 15-85mm becomes a very realistic and relatively lightweight option for high quality photography from a good wide angle (24mm equivalent) to extreme telephoto (480mm equivalent). 

The acid test, of course, is how many saleable shots the lens has generated.  Well, since I bought the lens, I've uploaded to Alamy 341 images.  99 have been taken with the 70-300mm.  Allowing for the natural enthusiasm to try out a new piece of equipment that's a pretty reasonable ratio.  My standards are high - they have to be for acceptance at the agency - so a lens that can deliver the technical quality required is a valuable asset and worth the money I paid.  I might not see sales from thjese particular images for a while - but the images are good enough to grace my Alamy portfolio.  Judge for yourselves.


Now to try it in winter conditions! Should be interesting,

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