Canon EF 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 IS USM

I’m still looking for a good, general purpose lens with an emphasis on nature shots so I rented a Canon EF 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 DO IS USM for 10 days. That was too long. Within 20 minutes, it was obvious this was not a good lens. It’s incredibly blurry at all lengths from 70-300mm and all subject distances. It’s decidedly inferior to the cheaper Tamron 28-300, which, while not satisfying me, does well on at least some subjects. If the Canon works on anything, I didn’t find it. Besides general lack of sharpness, it also had very poor close focus and was too long at the short end to do decent portraits. If this lens is good for anything, I didn’t notice it.

The results are vaguely plausible if you reduce the size of the image, which tends to sharpen things up:

three turtles

However, viewing it at 1:1 the image just doesn’t come close to acceptable:

turtles head

In practice, the subjects I shoot are usually quite small and quite far away, often smaller than one of these turtles. I can’t afford to lose the pixels.

The one thing I didn’t try was mounting the camera on a tripod, but I need a lens that works at least acceptably when handheld with image stabilization on. I should perhaps also give it a run in bright sunlight. Today was rather cloudy, but not to the point that it should have had a really significant effect, and I shot at ISOs from 250 to 800 without any noticeable variation in image quality.

I may try the half as expensive, non-DO Canon EF 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 IS USM model next. That’s supposed to be much sharper. One thing I did figure out was that 70mm is way too long for general portraits and the like, especially given the smaller than average sensor size that produces about a 1.6x increase in the effective length of the lens. I could barely even shoot my cat indoors with this lens. I think I’m going to have to give up on the idea of one lens covering the entire range. I’ll need something basic and cheap in the landscape to portrait region (say 10mm-70mm) and then something more serious for 100-400mm.

4 Responses to “Canon EF 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 IS USM”

  1. Romain Guy Says:

    My favorite general purpose Canon lens is the 24-70mm f/2.8 L USM. It’s a bit big and heavy but the quality is excellent. I couple it with a 70-200mm and I get a good coverage with only 2 lenses.

  2. Torgeir Says:

    I have to agree that two lenses, 24/28-70 and 70-200 is the best split to get good coverage. I’d recommend the Tamron AF 28-75mm f/2.8 SP XR lens for the short range, since it’s amazingly sharp, but still very cheap; Check out the user reviews.

  3. Tsu Dho Nihm Says:

    I’m not sure that there actually are any really great all-around lenses. I have a Nikon D80 and primarily have been using an 18-200mm Nikkor lens (and occasionally an 80-400mm Nikkor) for the past three years. It’s pretty good, no doubt. However, I recently bought a 35mm f/1.8 prime lens and notice that the shots from the prime are far superior to the all-rounder. I’m seriously considering getting rid of my all-rounder and telephoto zoom lens and going to all primes and perhaps a teleconverter.

    From what I’ve seen that’s the best way to go if you don’t mind carrying a few lenses, and that doesn’t just apply to Nikon.

  4. Annmarie Auslam Says:

    I absolutely love this camera. That is my first DSLR camera, and it is pretty user friendly. The only problem We are having takes good pictures in suprisingly low light, but I am still learning to work all the features.

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