REAL WORLD Lens Test 70-300
These lens tests are designed to show you what a rank amateur can do with these lenses.
Very little adjustment has been done to these images and, in certain photos, actual straight-from-the-camera images are provided. In other words, if "I" can get these results, you should be able to, as well.

If you bought a DSLR with the normal kit lens, one of your first lens wishes might be a telephoto zoom for a bit longer reach. An attractive range, obviously, is 70mm to 300mm, as evidenced by Canon's own three different models (along with two more affordable 75-300mm lenses). This page will discuss the EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM, current retail $649.99.

First impression

There is certainly an excitement having 300mm reach at your disposal for the first time. Whether you're a birder or out to capture other long-range critters (like sporting events), you'll probably be more interested in the 300mm part of this lens, rather than the 70mm end. But would you believe that the maximum 300mm setting may not be acceptable? There seems to be a "sweet spot" on the long end, beyond which you should not go. For my own specimen, I find that it helps to back it off just a bit to around 280mm.

This lens is surprisingly light and easy to carry all day (as opposed to the L series version, almost twice the weight).

Note: Canon also has the DO (diffractive optics) variant of this lens with image stabilization for $1399.00, and an L series entry at $1349.00.

This telephoto lens was the first lens that I ordered after buying the Rebel XT and 18-55mm kit lens. All of my reading suggested that this would be a fine telephoto zoom for my purposes. Then again, this lens was the reason behind my Real World Lens Tests.

On the barrel are switches to choose from two stabilizer modes and to turn stabilizer on or off, a switch for auto/manual focus, and a lens lock (without which the lens slides in and out fairly easily).

The minimum focus distance in this case is just about five feet. But what I discovered when walking about with a telephoto zoom lens is that my eyes were alway looking off to the distance. Basically, what I "see" is in part determined by which lens I was carrying at the time.


f/13, 0.6sec., ISO200, 250mm at a distance of about 75 feet

Following are a few of my earliest photos with this lens, from back in 2006


f/6.3, 1/160, ISO200, 75mm


f/5.6, 1/640, ISO200, 70mm


f/5.6, 1/500, ISO200, 70mm

SAMPLES: See a slideshow of various images from the 70-300mm telephoto zoom

Canon User Manual for the 70-300mm, for those who want it (PDF)

bottom line

This lens is "okay." I've taken a lot of bad photos with this lens, and every once in a while it does well enough to keep me satisfied. In hindsight, I would have held onto my money until I could afford L-series glass, and in double hindsight, I would have saved up for the 100-400 L lens. But if you absolutely have to have a telephoto zoom lens today and this is the one you can afford, take a look at the accompanying slideshow above, and you be the judge.

dwight munroe
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