Canon Fixed Lenses

Canon EF 300 L f/2.8 IS II USM

Canon EF 300 L f/2.8 IS II USM Fixed Telephoto Lens – Field Review


I bought my own Canon EF300 L f/2.8L IS I some four years ago, the predecessor to this lens. From the first frame that I took with that lens, I never looked back. This has been my workhorse wildlife photography lens ever since. In fact, when I am in the field, I will often choose my shooting distance to suit that lens. It is that good! When I heard that Canon had released a new version of their 300f2.8 fixed telephoto lens, I was most interested to see just how they would go about improving it. Of course, technology and time move on, and the version 1 IS lens is no longer a new design, having first been released in mid-1999. At that time digital camera technology was in its early stages and there has been marked progress in camera bodies and sensors in the interim.

The Canon EF 300L f/2.8 IS USM II lens.

What Is New?

The moment you take a proper look at the version II lens, it becomes apparent that it is indeed a completely new design that shares little with its predecessor except for its final specifications.

EF300 L f/2.8 IS I on the left, EF300 L f/2.8 IS II on the right.- copyright © Grant Atkinson.

To begin with, the new lens is 4mm shorter than the old one. The large switch panel that was found on the side of the old lens has been made much smaller. The smaller, redesigned panel is home to the stabilizer on/off switch, the stabilizer mode switch and the preset focus mode switch. This panel is narrower, and contours more closely to the shape of the lens barrel. The switches also require slightly firmer pressure to move them. As a result of these two changes, it is now much more difficult to accidentally bump a switch and reset it. This is something that happens to me quite a lot with version I of this lens. Of course, covering the switch panel with a neoprene lens protector is one way to solve the problem on the older lens.

The EF300 L f/2.8 IS II switch panel- copyright © Grant Atkinson.

The EF300L f/2.8 IS II comes with Canon’s very latest image stabilization technology. The IS provides stabilization equivalent to four stops of shutter speed, and has three modes to choose from.

The remaining two switches, to switch between AF/MF and the distance limiting switch, are now positioned in one panel that sits very close to the lens mount, completely tucked out of harm’s way.

The tripod collar is new, and is now an integral part of the lens barrel. It can no longer be removed. The new ring rotates very smoothly, and has a very distinct click to it when it is centered, which is useful. The old lens had a black line that could be lined up to do the same thing. The locking knob for the tripod ring is now positioned high on the lens barrel, which is another improvement. It is much easier to reach it now without having to lower your hand far from the lens barrel. The new tripod foot itself is more robust, and it sits further from the lens body, allowing more room between the lens barrel and the foot.

Fast-flying avocets. Canon EF300 L f/2.8 IS II, Canon 1Dmk4 – copyright © Grant Atkinson.

The focus ring is wider on the new lens. This does make it easier to grip and turn, even with gloves on. I am not a big fan of these wider focus rings though, as I hardly ever use manual focus on these long lenses. I have found that the new wider focus ring can quite easily get shifted accidentally when holding the lens, or shooting it off of a beanbag.

As before, there are four rubber-covered buttons on the front collar of the lens, that can be programmed to perform various functions, depending on which camera body you use. I keep mine set to the default which is AF Stop, meaning that if you are shooting in Ai Servo, and you need to compose in such a way that none of your AF points will fall on your subject, then you can compose and push in one of these buttons in order to stop the lens from focusing temporarily.

The new lens hood is identical to the old one in size, which basically means big, but it too features improvements. The locking knob on the new hood has been redesigned and doesn’t protrude as much as before. This makes it less likely to catch on the sides of camera bags, etc. The new hood has been further improved by the complete omission of the four tiny mounting screws that were found at the base of the old lens hood. Those screws were very annoying in that they used to regularly come loose and fall out.

Changes are not restricted to the outside of the lens only. Big news inside the redesigned lens is the replacement of one lens group that was made up of three elements, with a new grouping of just two elements. This is made possible by the new grouping being structured of two fluorite elements. The old lens had two UD elements and only a single fluorite element in its construction. Flourite is highly effective at combating chromatic aberrations as well as flaring and ghosting. It also weighs less than some other optic materials. It is also extremely costly to manufacture. The extra fluorite element is one reason for the higher cost of this new lens. The new EF 300 L f/2.8 IS II has 16 elements in total, arranged in 12 groups, compared to its predecessor, which had 17 elements in 13 groups. The removal of the lens element, along with other changes, means that this new lens hits the scales around 340g lighter than its predecessor. There are now 9 aperture blades in the diaphragm, which should result in smoother edges to the shape of the aperture circle.

How Does It Work?

The new lens feels much lighter than its predecessor. I am very used to the weight of the older model, and am comfortable shooting it handheld. It is not just the 340g that has been shed, but where it has been taken from that makes the difference. The lens feels much lighter toward the front end, with the consequence that the bulk of its weight is now closer to the camera. This makes it much easier to control. The weight loss also counts more the longer you are handholding or carrying the lens.

The EF 300 L f/2.8 IS II focuses extremely quickly. Canon list revised AF computing, as well as new AF motors all being part of the new design. I was not able to say that I could detect any faster focusing, but it felt as least as fast as the old lens, which was already extremely fast. Any differences may be too fast for me to detect. I shot the two lenses side by side, with fast-flying birds for targets, using 1Dmk3 and 1Dmk4 bodies on the backs. The results were equally impressive, and reviewing the images did not show up a noticeable difference between the two in AF accuracy. The lighter weight of the new 300 made a difference in tracking moving subjects whilst handholding. It was noticeably easier to use due to its reduced and repositioned weight.

I also tested the image quality of the new EF 300L f/2.8 IS II by shooting it off a tripod alongside its predecessor. I used two different camera bodies, for their different sensor characteristics, on both lenses. I made use of the 5Dmk2 for its full-frame sensor, and the 1Dmk4 for its finely detailed captures, a product of its 5.7 micron pixel pitch. In low light the new 300 had a slight edge when it came to detail and sharpness on the older lens, particularly at wide-open aperture settings. From f/5.6 upwards there was little to choose between the two although the new lens is just that tiny bit better with slightly finer details. What was quite astounding with this new lens is just how good it is wide-open, at f/2.8. I was not able to really see any significant differences in sharpness and detail in images captured in low light at f/2.8 and f/8.0 using the EF 300L f/2.8 IS II. My evaluation of image quality was performed on a static subject, a furry toy baboon. I felt this gave me a close approximation of real-world wildlife usage. I also shot a few thousand frames of birds with the new 300 and was very impressed with both AF performance and image quality. I have not used a better lens.

EF 300L f/2.8 IS II, 1Dmk4. 1/800s at f/2.8, 100% crop – copyright © Grant Atkinson


EF300 L f/2.8 IS II, 1Dmk4. 1/100s at f.8.0, 100% crop – copyright © Grant Atkinson

For this test I once again made use of the furry toy baboon to simulate a wild animal, as there are no wild animals that I know that will stand still long enough for lens comparisons of this type.

The new lens showed that it is far less likely to suffer from flare or ghosting when shooting into very bright or direct light. The old 300 was already quite good in this regard, but the new lens is still better. Flare happens when stray light gets reflected off surfaces inside the lens and either shows up in the image as small circular, bright patches, or even sometimes as large areas of low contrast.

EF300 L f/2.8 IS I. Note pink colour caused by flare. 1/3200 at f/7.1 – copyright © Grant Atkinson


EF300 L f/2.8 IS II. Little or no flare visible. 1/3200s at f/7.1 – copyright © Grant Atkinson

I was not able to notice enough light fall off on the edges of the image circle that would have any significance to a wildlife or sports photographer with the new lens.

The IS system is very effective on the new lens. As I usually do a lot of my shooting whilst handholding, and I often photograph moving subjects, I spent a lot of time shooting the lens using the new Mode 3. Mode 1 is for regular shooting, in handheld situations. Mode 2 is for panning, which you are most likely to do from a tripod. Mode 3 is for photographing action and is a new mode from Canon aimed at sports and wildlife photographers. During operation, the IS function is active but electronically locked. When the shutter is fully depressed, the camera releases the electronic lock and the IS responds to camera shake based on the running calculations. This means that the viewfinder is not stabilized during tracking, and one does not struggle with the image in the viewfinder jumping around due to the IS corrections. Canon claim that the IS system will detect when the lens is mounted on a tripod. They claim that the IS is still beneficial even when shooting off a tripod in that is will be effective against even slight camera shake or vibration. Many shooters prefer to turn IS off when they are shooting from a tripod, or at shutter speeds over 1/1000sec, and this is still an option. I generally prefer to keep the IS on and have had no reason to change this.

Alongside the IS switch panel there are also controls for the focus preset function. With this feature one can preset a focus distance into the lens memory and then recall that focus distance instantly at any time just by turning the collar on the front of the lens. A new feature is the power focus option. This feature allows video shooters to make controlled focus pulls, driven by the electronic AF motor by using the front collar as a controller.

The second switch panel is much reduced in size and is situated just ahead of the lens mount. It has a switch to change between manual focus and autofocus. The other switch in this panel controls the focus distance of the lens. The lens has a three-position focus limiting switch. By limiting the focus distance to match your shooting conditions, you can speed up focusing as the lens need only work in a smaller focus range. That said, if you are shooting in situations where you have little idea of how close or how far your next subject may end up, make sure to leave the focus limit switch set to “2m – OO” which represents 2m to infinity. You really don’t want to have your closest focus limited to 6m and then have a subject suddenly appear much closer. That is a sure way to miss shots. I usually leave all my lenses on the setting that gives the minimum focus distance all the way to infinity to prevent any such surprises.

EF300 L f/2.8 I IS at minimum focus distance of 2.5m – copyright © Grant Atkinson


EF300 L f/2.8 IS II at minimum focus distance of 1.9m. Compare how much larger the subject is in the frame – copyright © Grant Atkinson

The minimum focus distance on this 300 has been improved, and it can now focus at 2m. This is .5m or 500mm closer than the older lens. This makes a big difference when shooting small subjects from close distances.

The lens hood attaches firmly and while its threaded locking knob can still get caught up in things, it is now less likely to do so.

The new 300 is fitted with seals, gaskets and O-rings in virtually every place where moisture might gain entry. This is highly desirable. It means you can shoot the lens in light rain if need be. It also means that moisture won’t easily get inside the lens if you live in or use it in damp conditions. This is dependent upon the lens being matched to a suitably weather-sealed Canon camera body though. Further to that, moisture sealing also means dust sealing, so dust will have a hard time getting inside this lens. Canon claim that weather sealing is improved due to design advances with the new lens. As the older 300f2.8 was pretty good in this regard, but the new one should be even better.

Both the front lens element and the rear element (the one closest to the camera sensor) are treated with a fluorine coating, which makes it more difficult for dust particles to adhere to the glass. The coating also makes it easier for users to get rid of smudges and fingerprints without leaving any residue behind.

The new lens cover – copyright © Grant Atkinson

There have been more improvements with the lens cover that comes with the camera. The old cover was made of some sort of artificial leather material, covered the whole lens hood, and was quite difficult to get on and off. The new cover is made from nylon, with a padded front end, and closes with a Velcro tab. It is effective and easy to use. It only really fitted well onto the back end of the lens hood, and is designed to be used when the hood is reversed on the camera.

The 300 f2.8 II also comes with a high-quality carrying case that provides complete protection to the lens and can be locked. There is no space to store anything else in the case apart from the lens, with its hood reversed, its cover and strap. The carrying case is made of hard plastic with molded padded insides to completely support the lens when stored. It is a valuable accessory and a good way to keep your lens safe, dry and dust-free when stored or transported.


For some time, the fast aperture Canon 300 f2.8 has served as the core lens for a system made up of the 300f2.8, as well as the 1.4 and the 2x extenders or tele-converters. Combining the 300 with the 1.4x extender creates a 420mm f/4.0 lens. Combining the 300 with the 2x extender creates a 600mm f/5.6 telephoto lens.

Canon recently introduced two new extenders, the EF 1.4x III extender, and the EF 2x III extender. These new extenders were redesigned, and optimized to work very well with the new range of Canon telephoto lenses.

I did use the new 2x III extender on the new 300, and found that it did work well. In good light there was only a slight quality loss in the images, when viewed at 100 percent. However, be aware that the 2x extender does slow down AF speed quite radically compared to the bare lens. This is of little consequence for photographing static subjects, but it can make taking sharp pics of fast-moving subjects quite challenging.

I did not have the newest version of the 1.4x extender, so used an EF 1.4x II attached to the new 300, and had good results from this combination. Image quality is just barely degraded compared to the bare lens and is noticeably better than the results from the EF 2x III extender. AF speed is also only slightly slowed down. Even with the EF 1.4x II attached, I was able to comfortably AF track fast-moving subjects.

I find that I tend to get better results when shooting with extenders attached when I am using the 1D Canon bodies. It feels to me as if the AF speed and accuracy of the 1D series is less affected by the extenders, whereas the 5Dmk2 and the crop sensor cameras give away a little more in this respect.


For those who find the EF 300 L f/2.8 IS II too costly, which is probably the single biggest reason not to buy it, used versions of the EF300 L f/2.8 IS I are a viable option. Perhaps the single biggest advantage the new lens has over the older one is the weight difference.

The old EF 300L f/2.8 IS I on the left, and the new EF 300L f/2.8 IS II on the right – copyright © Grant Atkinson

If either of these lenses are too big, or too heavy for you, Canon have a good alternative in the form of the Canon EF 300 L f/4.0 IS telephoto lens. The f/4.0 version weight around half the weight of its bigger brother, and costs much less than half as much. I owned two copies of the f/4.0, and found it a good performer. Both f2.8 lenses are sharper though, and also AF significantly faster. The f2.8 lenses also hold a significant advantage when it comes to image quality, and focusing ability in low light. The f2.8 lenses also allow one to shoot with a shallower depth of field, and will break up the background more effectively than the f/4.0 can. On the other hand the EF 300 L f/4.0 IS is very light, easy to carry and shoot with and is an excellent lens for its price range.


As at the time of this writing the Canon EF 300 L f/2.8 IS II stands out as probably the best fast aperture telephoto lens in its class. There have been so very many improvements made to this lens, some bigger, like the reduced weight and tucked-in switches, and some smaller, like the fluorine lens coatings, new tripod foot, that the end result is truly deserving of the label “State Of The Art.” The EF 300 L f2.8 IS II impresses in every way.

About the Author:

I am a guide and a photographer, with a deep interest in all things to do with nature. I am based in Cape Town, South Africa, but travel often to wild places whilst leading photographic safaris, and enjoying the outdoors.

31 Responses to “Canon EF 300 L f/2.8 IS II USM”

  1. Gary Gosse Says: April 19, 2013 at 3:09 pm

    I have read a lot of your writings and have learnt a lot from you – Thank you.

    I have a question re a new telephoto lens. I am a serious amature photographer using a 5d3 and a 60d (my original camera). I have a 70-200L IS II and both the 1.4 III and 2x III extenders. I am going to Alaska in late July to photograph bears. We will also see wolves, seals, and eagles, but bears are the focus. I want to add another telephoto lens. I have had 2 lenses recomended to me – Canon 300 2.8 and the new Sigma 120-300 2.8. I can afford both so it is not a money decision.

    The question is which is better for wildlife – the flexability of having a 120 -300 2.8 or the superior optics of a 300 2.8 prime. Any thoughts on the best strategy would be welcome.

    • Grant Atkinson Says: April 20, 2013 at 3:37 am

      Hi Gary
      If it were me I would go for the 300 f2.8 prime lens, the Canon one. Aside from the optical advantage, there is also a focus speed advantage. Initial AF acquisition is noticeably quicker on the fixed 300 f2.8.
      The fixed lens does give up flexibility, but you have a 70-200 f2.8, so you can sling that on your shoulder, and switch over to that one when need be, on your second camera body.
      It would also be my opinion that the Canon EF 300 f2.8 IS II would be lighter than the zoom 120-300 f2.8, and likely to have superior weather-sealing, as well as reliability. Used with the 1.4III extender, you have a light and fast focusing 420 f4 which will be a potent wildlife lens especially on the 5d3 with its more advanced AF system. In good light you could still make use of the 2x iii to really get you some reach.
      Hope that helps

    • Lex Franks Says: May 21, 2013 at 12:01 am

      Thank you for a very good article Grant. I have just purchased the new 300mm 2.8 and I am very impressed. For an upcoming trip where weight could be an issue I am considering just taking the 100-400 canon zoom and leaving my 300 and 70-200 at home. Would this be a mistake? and should I persevere with the two heavier lenses?

      • Grant Atkinson Says: May 21, 2013 at 11:51 am

        Hi Lex
        Thanks for your feedback on the lens review. With regard to your question, it would be valuable to know what trip you are going to be going on, and what sort of lighting conditions you might be expecting. In overcast weather, low light at the end and beginnings of days, or for fast action photography, it is very difficult to beat the performance of the 70-200 f2.8 and the 300 f2.8. Your own camera body may also play a role, as I have found that the 1D series, as well as the lates t5Dmk3 and the 6D, have autofocus good enough that they get the most out of the relatively modest maximum aperture (5.6) of the 100-400L. On the other hand, the two f2.8 lenses punch up the autofocus performance of middle and entry level bodies like the 7D, the 60D and the Rebels/700D series. Again this is most noticeable in low light.
        I own or have access to all three of the lenses that you mention above, and I almost always carry the heavier glass for the flexibility it brings in the field, particularly with low light and action photo opportunities.
        Hope that helps

  2. Gary Says: April 21, 2013 at 1:13 am

    Thank you very for taking the time to reply

  3. Murray Isbister Says: November 24, 2013 at 10:33 pm

    Hi Grant,

    Thank you very much for your excellent article on the 300mm f/2.8 IS II USM – for my last 2 trips to Africa I’ve used the Canon 100-400 along with the 70-200, and between the two I’ve gotten some very nice pictures – but I was looking for that lens that gives that little extra and would be a nice compliment to my 70-200. I’ve researched the 300mm and your great review is the one that sealed the deal.

    Thanks again for a very informative article.

    • Grant Atkinson Says: December 5, 2013 at 9:11 am

      Hi Murray, great that you let me know. I don’t think you will be let down by anything that the EF 300 f2.8 IS II does…it is one of the most exciting lenses to use. AF speed, accuracy, control over background and low light capability are all strengths, alongside the fantastic image quality that it produces.

  4. Robert Moore Says: November 27, 2013 at 7:45 am

    I’m picking up a Canon 300mm F2.8 IS II this morning….this purchase after carrying the latest Sigma 120-300mm for 3 weeks in Alaska. The IQ was great, the auto-focus speed (on Canon 6D and 70D) fast. We had ‘weather’ while in Kaktovik and the weather sealing did fine too. So why the Canon? Weight. Getting into various cars/vans/boat/small planes took its toll. Honestly weight is also the reason I never considered the larger Canon primes. Sigma has in a huge way improved their offerings and the 120-300mm didn’t dissapoint on the screen-just in my back!

    • Grant Atkinson Says: December 5, 2013 at 9:15 am

      Hi Robert, that is definitely a good point that you bring up. I know that personally, if I am working with a lens that is just too heavy, that I tend to miss shots, or not even take them on whilst handholding, whereas when I am shooting with a lens that is well-balanced, and not overly heavy, the situation is completely different. And of course, as you say, carrying super-heavy lenses can tend to make photography become a chore, which it shouldn’t be.
      I expect you are going to get some great results from the pairing of 6D, 70D and the new EF 300 f2.8L IS II…
      Thanks for sharing your experience

  5. Robert Says: December 5, 2013 at 10:01 am

    So kind of you to write back.
    In the meantime I’ve acquired a 5DIII, same philosophy-the 5DIII is much lighter than the 1DX plus the ‘oiling’ issues scared me away from the much faster body.
    Two months ago it was polar bears in Kaktovik:
    In June is is safari in Kruger Nat.Park 🙂
    Please to assess my lens ‘game plan’-
    A Canon 28-300mm on the 5DIII during the day, the 300 F2.8 with either the 1.4 or 2.0 TC on a 70D.
    Switching out the two lens on the two bodies for dawn and dusk at the water holes; this putting the more light
    capable 300 F2.8 on the more light capable 5DIII body.
    A Tokina 16-28 F2.8 in the wings for landscape opportunites (Drakenburgs/etc) and hopefully even the Milky Way; I’ll also be packing a Vixen Polarie. I do some astro work here at home:
    but no way to fly a big motorized mount to S.Africa!
    Some have questioned the C.28-300mm F2.5 but I rented one prior to purchase and found it quite acceptable by me (a non-Nat.Geo photographer) and fully realize its potential when animals can be around the corner with little time or desire (wind dust sand) to change lenses.
    and thanks again for taking the time.

    • Grant Atkinson Says: December 6, 2013 at 7:53 am

      Hi there Robert
      Lovely polar bear images in your flickr gallery…specially liked the mom and youngster together! I think your gear plan is pretty much spot-on. Having the option of f2.8, with the EF 300f2.8L IS ii, will be invaluable every morning and late afternoon, as well as if you have misty or overcast weather. The 5D3 adds further low light power to your setup, both in terms of accurate AF and image quality at higher iso settings. For far-off action photography the 5d3 and the 1.4x extender on the EF 300f2.8 will be a powerful setup too.
      The 28-300 is a Canon L series lens that I have virtually no experience with, and one I wish to spend some time using in the days ahead. Several photographers that I work with use it and like its performance and output though. Having a lens with such a wide zoom range means that you can get several different perspectives out of a single sighting without having to change lenses. Also, if you get large animals approaching, you can just concentrate on framing and shooting, from a distance to close-up, with that wide zoom range. Both your cameras are quite lightweight and share batteries all in all it sounds a great compact set-up

  6. Robert Moore Says: December 6, 2013 at 8:07 am

    Well since the game plant is G.Atkinson approved I think I’ll go with it !!
    Now all we have to do is to learn how to drive on the wrong side of the road in the wrong side of the car 😉

    • Grant Atkinson Says: December 6, 2013 at 10:26 am

      Hi Robert, I just got back from almost a month in the field, and I carried a 5dmk3, 70D, 17-40Lf4, 70-300L f4/5.6, and a 500f4L IS, not too dissimilar to your gear plan 🙂
      The animals in the park don’t care which side of the road you drive on

  7. Robert Says: December 6, 2013 at 7:12 pm

    A month in the field! Now that is time enough for complete immersion-but how do you return to civilization after being in the Creation for so long! Re-entry must be hard!
    I just spent 5 days living out of a kayak paddling around Land Between the Lakes…if you get seriously bored here is part 3 in the series:
    I’ll warn you up-front the vid was made with a cheap point-n-shoot and a GoPro. I still haven’t gotten enough nerve to carry a Canon body and lens in the kayak.

  8. Bryan Says: June 30, 2015 at 1:30 pm

    I own the old 100 to 400 f5.6 Canon zoom. I specialize in bird photography (image quality is the prime motivator) and have only a few really good photos with this lens. I have hired every prime Canon lens from 600 down to 300 f.28 (the 600 500 400 200 to 400 zoom and the new 300 f2.8) For my style of photography the 300mm beats them all (with extenders). The 400 500 and 600 are all too big (especially the 400 because it is f2.8) and are fine on a tripod in a bird hide but practically often make photography difficult and cumbersome and I have missed many shots that I should have got.) I have got equal results with the 300 often with a 2x extender and it is so much more user friendly. A 300mm lens with a 2X extender on a cropped sensor in effect gives you an effective 960mm. (With a 1.4 extender =670mm ). In addition if you put a 2x extender on the 300mm lens you can still go down to f5.6. If you put the same extender on the 400mm lens the biggest aperture you can use is f11 which makes using extenders a no no for this lens. In addition the autofocus is still lightning fast with extenders on the 300mm lens. Thus after much trial and error the 300mm lens has become my first choice lens for birds and I have bought it. The image quality is unmatched.

  9. Rafael Says: August 13, 2016 at 5:46 pm

    Hi Grant!

    I also have this lens (just bought out) and already loving it.

    I want to ask you something that you don´t mention: do you use 52mm drop in circular polarizers in this lens? I´ve seen the price and they are very expensive.

    If so, where do you store them when not in use (both the circular polarizers and the 52mm UV filter that comes with this lens?

    Thanks! Your website/photos are brilliant, need to convince my family to do a trip with you.

    Best wishes

    • Grant Atkinson Says: August 22, 2016 at 10:24 am

      Hi Rafael
      Thanks for writing. I dont use polarizing filters…and I have not actually removed the current filter holder that is in my 500 f4 IS ii from the lens. On my EF 300L f2.8, I just removed the filter holder to blow the glass in the filter holder and replaced it directly.

      Sorry i cannot help any more with that?

  10. Dave Says: May 15, 2018 at 12:54 pm

    Hi Grant , thinking of getting the 300 2.8 with 1.4 how would this combination compare to the 400 f 4 do thanks Dave

    • Grant Atkinson Says: May 15, 2018 at 6:30 pm

      Hi Dave
      If you are going to be using the EF 300 f2.8 IS ii with the 1.4x EF Extender in place all the time, then my own opinion drawn from experience is that the EF 400dO f4 IS ii is superior, in AF speed, in image quality, weight, manageability and focus accuracy for fast moving subjects. I also preferred the performance of the EF 400 DO f4 IS ii with a 1.4x extender in 560mm f5.6 form, as compared to the EF 300L 2.8 IS ii with 2x EF extender (600mm f5.6). But if you need that maximum aperture of f2.8 then obviously the EF 300 holds the advantage.
      On the other hand, if 300mm is enough focal length, then the bare EF 300 f2.8 IS ii cannot be beat, it is the best Canon lens at 300mm.
      Hope something there helps? I have also written a bit in the EF 400 DO f4 IS ii review on my website and compared it to the EF 300 where relevant.

  11. Mark Nissenbaum Says: December 15, 2018 at 8:44 pm

    Hi Grant
    I have both 100-400 Version II and 300mm 2.8 IS and was wondering if you had a preference . My concern is the 300mm is a somewhat heavier so in low light without the correct mountings on a vehicle or boat you cannot hand hold it easily so the 100-400 may be easier . at 400mm and aperture, 5.6 can you not just compensate with the higher ISO in lower light



    • Grant Atkinson Says: December 20, 2018 at 11:32 am

      Hi Mark, you have a point about the lighter weight and smaller form of the EF 100-400 being easier to manage when handholding. Whether or not you are happy to keep using higher iso settings in those scenarios where the light is low is really a personal preference. On the current Canon full frame bodies I will use iso 3200 anytime, iso 6400 when the light is really low, and iso settings above 6400 only as a very last resort. On the current Canon APS-C bodies I try to avoid shooting above iso 3200 at all costs and I really prefer to even keep the iso setting below 1600 if it doesnt slow down the shutter speed too much. So for me, if I am going to be using a lens like the 100-400 with its 5.6 aperture, I would prefer to have a full frame sensor to allow me faster shutter speeds when the light gets low. But for sure, one can work with the 100-400 instead of the 300 f2.8 by winding up the iso setting so long as you remain happy with the quality of noise, colour and detail that comes with those settings in your final image.

  12. Dilini Loku Says: March 24, 2019 at 11:30 pm

    Hi Grant, thanks for the great review. I own two Canon 5D Mark IVs and shoot a lot in Africa. My go to lens is the 100-400mm lens along with the 70-200 f2,8. However, I found the reach of the 100-400 to be a limiting factor for some cheetah hunts and was looking to buy the 300mm f2.8 II to couple with the 2x extender to get better reach. What are your thoughts on this if mounted on the 5D Mark IV for action shots?
    Thanks in advance!

    • Grant Atkinson Says: March 28, 2019 at 11:45 am

      Hi Dilini, of course everybody has their own opinions with these kind of things but in my experience the autofocus might not be able to keep up well if you have the 300 f2.8 combined with 2X extender and the 5D Mark 4 – for the sheer speed of cheetah hunts. A used 1DX might do better with that combination in my experience. For regular shooting the 5Dmk4 will do very well with the 2X extender but cheetah hunts present extreme speed. I have had my best results using either the 500 f4 lens or 400 f4 DO IS ii lens. Perhaps try loan or rent the 300 f2.8 and extender combination to try out yourself on some action that is close to where you live so you can see how it feels for you?

  13. Craig Says: August 16, 2019 at 10:49 am

    Hi Grant,
    I have the EOS R and 7D mk 11 bodies with the 100-400 II, 300 2.8 IS , 1.4 and 2X mk iii TC’s. After a lot or trial and error I currently find the best combinations are using the R with the 300 (images with wonderful clarity and pop) and the 7D with 100-400 (ideal for birds and versatility).

    I have an option to replace my 300 2.8 with a 500 4 (both mark 1’s) to use on the R to give me an extended range with the TC’s. I know both are no longer able to be serviced but as an enthusiast, they should last for many years to come. My primary shooting is wildlife with a little birding and just wondered whether you would suggest moving to the 500 or save for a while (quite a while) until I can find a mk2 300 2.8?

    • Grant Atkinson Says: August 17, 2019 at 3:01 pm

      Hi Craig,
      Thanks for posting here. I would probably get the EF 500L F4 IS (version 1) with no qualms if it was the more economic choice. That lens is really an excellent performer and aside from its somewhat heavy weight, doesnt give up much to the later version. It will certainly outperform a fixed lens like the EF 300L f2.8 I or II when they are combined with a 2x teleconverters, both in image quality and AF speed and accuracy.
      That would be my first choice. The EF 300L f2.8 IS ii is a fantastic lens but once you add on teleconverters (specially the 2x) its performance is degraded a little. It may still be easily good enough for some needs and requirements though…

  14. Marcus Ong Says: September 12, 2019 at 6:38 am

    Hi Mr Atkinson,

    I am going for a safari in Botswana next year for 7 nights. I have a n Eos R and a Canon 100-400mm IS II. I was thinking of renting a Canon 5D Mk IV and a Canon 300mm f2.8 IS II. Do you think the 2 lenses over lap too much? Due to weight restrictions I will bring a Leica QP as my wide angle lens at 28mm. Also I will bring a beanbag for stability instead of a monopod.

    What do you think of this set up for my first safari? Should I get a wider angle lens like a 16-35mm?

    Thank you for your advice.

    • Grant Atkinson Says: September 12, 2019 at 7:47 am

      Hi Marcus
      It doesn’t really matter too much about the lens overlap in focal length, at least the 300f2.8 gives you a very powerful lens for low light opportunities when the light might be too low for your 100-400 to work well. It will pair very well with a 5Dmk4. That will also be a good combination for action photography.
      To have an idea of how much you may need a wide angle lens, can you tell me which camps or reserves or parks you are visiting in Botswana, and then I can answer more usefully?

      • Marcus Ong Says: September 12, 2019 at 7:58 am

        Hi Mr Grant,

        Thanks for the swift reply.

        I will be going to Splash camp and Mashatu in the 2nd half of June.

        Yes I thought about the f2.8 lens and 5dmkIV as my R is a bit slow in fps though I do like the colours very much out of the camera.

        Also do you think a pair of binoculars is essential since I will have all these Long lenses already?

        My concerns are because of the 44lbs combined baggage weight limit of the small bush planes.


        • Grant Atkinson Says: September 12, 2019 at 8:58 am

          Hi Marcus
          Binoculars will be essential if you have a strong interest in birds. For most of the mammals you ought to get close enough that you won’t have need of them at those two locations. And even for the birds, you can take some images to document and identify the species. Thats if you are worried about the weight limit of course. About the wide angle lens and the Leica, for sure its an option if it weighs less than a wide angle lens. At Mashatu there is a high chance that you may have elephants in herds that come close to the jeep. Even higher chance if you are including a morning in the ground-level hide Matebole that they have there. If wide angle shots are important to you then a 24-70f4 L IS (its quite light) might be a better option than the fixed Leica. Another option could be the 16-35 f4 L IS or the EF 17-40f4L, or a 24-105 f4.

          • Marcus Ong Says: September 12, 2019 at 9:19 am

            Thanks Mr. Grant for the advice.

            Yes I will be going to the Matabele Hide at least for 1 morning.

            I am able to borrow the 16-35mm f4 and probably use the 100-400mm or 300mm for the other body.

            Thanks for the advice on the binoculars. I probably won’t bring one them as my interest is more in the big cats and that would allow me more leeway for the 16-35mm lens.

            Thanks for the great and open advice.


            • Grant Atkinson Says: September 12, 2019 at 9:32 am

              Hi Marcus
              Thats an excellent set of gear then for that trip, and that hide can be very productive. There is usually enough time to change lenses if need be when you are in the hide.
              Let us know how the trip goes.

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