Canon Lenses

Canon EF 70-300 f/4-5.6 L IS USM Field Review

Introduction

The Canon EF 70-300f/4-5.6 L IS lens was introduced in the last part of 2010.  The 70-300mm focal length range is a popular one and Canon already produce a handful of cheaper zoom lenses with similar focal length ranges. The difference is that this 70-300 is the first such L-series offering in this focal length range.  This means that the EF 70-300L IS is a whole level higher in specification and performance than any of the ‘standard’ 70-300mm zooms that Canon already offer.

What Is New?

Well, apart from focal length, this lens shares little in terms of looks with any existing Canon lenses at the time of writing.  It is a fresh design. The lens barrel is constructed of metal, and it benefits from Canons recent design philosophy, which seeks to combine strength and lower weight.

Image Stabilization switches Canon lens

The recessed switches are not likely to be accidentally shifted.

There is a switch panel located close to the lens mount, on the left side of the lens.  It houses switches for AF/MF, and IS On/Off as well as the IS mode.  The switches are of the new, tucked-in type, and require deliberate pressure to move, which is good.   They won’t accidentally get bumped onto a different setting.

Lock switch Canon zoom lens

This switch stops the lens barrel from extending accidentally

There is another switch on the opposite side of the lens barrel, which locks the zoom ring and prevents the front portion of the lens from extending by itself whilst you are carrying the lens. Neither of two copies of the lens that I used were prone to the zoom creeping due to gravity, but it is still nice to have the lock if you need it.

The focus ring turns very smoothly.  The zoom ring is located ahead of the focus ring, and is wider with more prominent ridging than the focus ring.  This is different to the Canon 70-200 lenses, where the zoom ring is closest to the lens mount.  It takes a bit of getting used to if you are accustomed to shooting with the rings the other way around. The zoom ring has no play in it, and operates with a light and positive action.  The inner section of the lens barrel extends during zooming.  At 70mm, it is retracted, and the lens is extremely compact in this configuration.  When retracted, it is short enough to fit into my camera bag standing upright, which leaves lots more room for other things.

Retracted position Canon zoom lens

Canon EF 70-300L in retracted position

Canon Zoom Lens, Extended

Canon EF 70-300L with lens fully extended

At 300mm, the front section is fully extended and increases the size of the lens somewhat. The ET-73B lens hood attaches to the end of the inner section of the barrel by turning and clicking into place quite firmly.  It extends along with the inner section of lens barrel.  This hood is well-made, with Canon’s new scratch-resistant finish on the outside, and anti-reflective flocking on the inside to prevent stray light from entering the lens.  The hood is deep and also provides excellent physical protection for the front element from water, flying debris, dust and bumps.  I am hoping that this lens hood will not become loose and rattly in its attachment, as some of the older Canon lens hoods used to do.  It does not have the locking tab as found on the latest version of the Canon EF 70-200 f/2.8 IS II lens.

The 70-300L has 19 elements in 14 groups, and has two UD (Ultra Low Dispersion) elements that help to minimize or eliminate chromatic aberrations.  Super spectra coatings on some elements also help reduce flare and ghosting.

Front objective Lens Canon 70-300L

Frontal view of EF 70-300L

Both the front and rear elements are coated with fluorine, which helps repel dust, and water or other contaminants. This Canon lens is also fitted with a four-stop image stabilization system.  What the four-stop description actually means is that the new lens stabilization system will give the user a higher probability of getting sharp shots whilst handholding the lens at even slower shutter speeds than earlier Canon IS systems.

Cape Gannet in flight

Canon 1Dmk4, EF 70-300L, 1/8000s at f/5.6. -0.67 Comp. Iso 640

 

How Well Does It Work?

 The EF 70-300 L is far superior to any of the consumer grade 70-300 lenses that are made by Canon and is totally deserving of its L-series designation. The design is a little unusual in that the outer lens barrel is a lot thicker than the inner barrel that extends when zooming.    This gives the lens a quite different feel to other Canon zooms in this focal length range.  The inner barrel does not rotate when zooming in or out. The lens casing is smooth and cleanly constructed. When retracted the lens has a chunky, business-like look to it.

The lens is no lightweight at 1050g, but that is the cost of the high-quality construction.  It is still lighter than the Canon EF 70-200L f2.8 IS II and the EF 100-400L F/4.5-5.6 IS.

It works perfectly on any Canon dslr, but due to its weight,  seems best suited to the intermediate sized camera bodies like the 60D, 7D and 5D series, as well as the larger 1D series. I have been shooting the EF 70-300L on a Canon 1Dmk4, a Canon 5Dmk3 and a Canon 60D with excellent results.

This lens is weather sealed, which is a big plus.  Even if you don’t use your gear in bad weather, having a weather-sealed lens means that dust and moisture will not easily get inside the lens.  This is a reassuring feature for me as a wildlife photographer. For the weather sealing to be complete, the lens needs a filter to be fitted ahead of the front element, and it should be mounted on a similarly weather-sealed Canon dslr body.  The front element is 67mm in diameter.

 

Canon zoom lens 5Dmk3 dslr

The EF 70-300L is well-matched to a 5D body

The 70-300L does not come with a tripod ring.  The correct tripod ring for this lens is tripod mount ring C, and it is quite a costly accessory.

The lens feels solid in operation and it is straightforward to use.

The relatively light weight of this lens makes it quite comfortable for me to handhold for long periods, and I found that I became used to the ‘switched’ locations of the zoom ring and focus ring quite quickly.  When I am photographing moving subjects, I like being able to adjust focal length whilst tracking the subject and shooting, and the EF 70-300L made this easy to do.

There is no focus distance limiter, and once you have selected which IS mode to use, you can just get on with shooting. The IS system has two modes.  Mode 1 is for handheld shooting, whilst Mode 2 is for panning or tripod shooting.  The IS unit in the 70-300L is able to detect when it is on a tripod and will function accordingly.  There seem to be differing opinions on the value of IS when shooting from a tripod.  I have found no problem with leaving IS on when I am shooting at fast shutter speeds, in Mode 2.  Having it on makes a difference in how steady the image appears in the viewfinder, and can make shooting easier. However, with some Canon IS lenses, I have found that when I am shooting at very low shutter speeds from a tripod, for example less than 1/20s, that it is best to switch off the IS completely.

Image Quality

This lens takes very good pictures.  Check out sharpness in this 100 % crop from a 16 megapixel file from the Canon 1Dmk4, shot at 300mm and wide open at f/5.6.  This image is cropped to just 1 megapixel for the purpose of showing what detail the lens can resolve.  The crop was sharpened in Adobe Camera Raw and Photoshop, the same way as I sharpen all my images.

Spotted thick-knee, bird, portrait, Canon

Spotted thick-knee. 100% Crop. Canon 1Dmk4, EF 70-300L at 300mm, 1/400sec at f/5.6. Iso 800.

It is sharp enough wide open, whether that be at 70mm and f/4.0 or at 300mm and f/5.6.   Stopping down improves sharpness a little.

There is some vignetting visible on the edges of a full-frame sensor when shooting wide-open at f/4.0 and 70mm focal length.  This lessens significantly by the time the lens is stopped down to f/5.6. At 300mm, and wide open at f/5.6 there is a bit less vignetting, and this also lessens when the lens is stopped down one or two stops.  It will only really be noticeable when photographing subjects against a uniformly bright background, like birds in the sky.  The vignetting is not at an intrusive level for my use, and what there is can easily be removed when processing the image.

When used on camera bodies with smaller sensors, which do not cover the outer edges of the image circle projected from the rear of the lens, there is no vignetting at all. This holds true for those Canon cameras with APS-C sized sensors like the 7D, 60D and 600dD as well as for the Canon 1DMk3 and Canon 1Dmk4 with their APS-H sized sensors. Chromatic aberrations are minimal, particularly around the central part of the image, which is the most important part for a nature photographer like myself.  In fact, the 70-300L has proven to be the best Canon lens I have used so far when shooting leaping marine mammals and the splashes of white water that they throw up.  Some of these splashes end up as small, overexposed circles of white, often with purple edges fringing them.  This purple is a form of chromatic aberration but images I have taken with the EF 70-300L  are the cleanest I have gotten so far. Distortion is also minimal, and not really anything to even mention as it is not field relevant for my requirements. Colour and contrast are good, even in less than ideal light. Overall, if I were to rate the image quality of this lens as it compares to the other current Canon mid-range zooms that I am very familiar with, I would make the ranking as follows:

  1. Canon EF 70-200L f2.8 IS II
  2. Canon EF 70-200L f4 IS
  3. Canon EF 70-300L f4-5.6 IS
  4. Canon EF 100-400L f4.5-5.6

This is a high-quality group of lenses under discussion here, and all four of them are either the best in their class, or close to it. All four of these lenses are more than sharp enough and produce image quality good enough for professional applications and what slight differences exist, may be hard to discern in normal use.

The modest maximum aperture of f/5.6 means that the lens will be used wide-open a lot of the time, especially when used handheld and in less than bright conditions. That maximum aperture of ‘only’ f/5.6 becomes less important if this lens is paired with a camera body that can shoot at higher iso sensitivities without sacrificing too much quality.  Raising the iso sensitivity becomes an option when faster shutter speeds are required. The EF 70-30L f4-5.6 IS surprised me with the speed of its autofocus.  The latest  microcomputers and motors in the lens do a great job of finding focus very quickly, accurately and quietly. Comparing the sharpness of consecutive frames taken in bursts, of flying birds, showed that the EF70-300L was able to provide several very sharp shots in a row. Although it does not always produce quite as many consecutively sharp shots as I get from my fixed telephoto Canon EF300f2.8L IS, or the EF 70-200 f2.8 L IS II, it was still easily good enough to get the job done and superior to the older EF100-400L IS in this regard.

Humpbacked whale breaching, Indian Ocean

Humpback whale. Canon 1Dmk4, EF 70-300L. Focal length 229mm. 1/4000sec at f/5.6. Iso 640

The EF 70-300L f/5.6 IS has become my lens of choice for marine photography. I photograph seabirds, as well as dolphins, and whales each year along the South African coast.  Shooting from a moving, pitching boat on the ocean isn’t easy, but the EF 70-300L can lock focus fast enough on a breaching humpback whale that I am able to capture the whale whilst it is still travelling upwards on its leap. Compared to the 70-200mm focal length that I used previously for this type of photography the EF 70-300L allows me to shoot for longer and spend less time moving the boat. Weather sealing is a big plus on this lens.  The front section of the lens extends during zoom movement, but is sealed where it enters the camera. Minimum focus distance is 1.2m which is good for a lens in this class, and gives decent magnification of small subjects.

Although the lens is not made to accept extenders, I have read reports of it being used with aftermarket manufacturers converters.  I prefer not to use extenders on lenses that are not designed for them.

Options

Canon has quite a number of L-glass choices in the medium telephoto zoom lens.

Compare Sizes Canon Zoom Lenses

Canon EF 100-400L IS, EF 70-300L IS, EF 70-200L f/4 IS, EF 70-200L f/2.8 IS II

Perhaps the Canon lens most similar to the EF 70-300L is the Canon 100-400L f/4.5-5.6 IS.  If you really need that extra 100mm of focal length, then the 100-400L is the one to get.  It is also a little less expensive, especially if you factor in the significant extra cost of the tripod collar which comes standard on the EF 100-400L.  Potential buyers might consider the EF 70-300L for its weather sealing, lighter weight, faster autofocus, slightly better image quality, bigger aperture opening at the short end of the zoom range and a quieter and more effective image stabilization system when choosing between these two versatile lenses.

Canon also make four L-series 70-200mm lenses.  Two of the four have image stabilization, and two don’t.

The pair that are image stabilized are the EF 70-200L f2.8 IS II and the EF 70-200L f4 IS . The EF 70-200Lf2.8 IS II enjoys a wide-open aperture advantage that can be essential for blurring out backgrounds, and shooting in low light.  It should also be more robust, with the lens barrel not changing shape or size when zooming.  This lens also focuses faster, and delivers about the best image quality of any similar focal length Canon zoom.  It is heavier at 1490g though, and costs a lot more.  This lens also works well with a 1.4x converter, although it does begin to get quite heavy and large in that configuration. In comparison the 70-300L is lighter (1050g), cheaper and has that extra 100mm of focal length.

The second IS lens, the Canon EF 70-200L f/4 IS, is very close to the f/2.8 II version when it comes to autofocus speed and image quality.  It is much lighter though, at 760g , and costs a little less than the EF 70-300L.  It enjoys somewhat of a low light advantage on the 70-300L due to the bigger, constant f/4.0 aperture and it doesn’t change shape when zooming.  It is also weather-sealed. The 70-200L f4 IS can also be used with a 1.4x converter.

The  70-200L f/4 (without Image Stabilization) is similar to the stabilized version in size, although it is a fraction lighter (705g) and is not weather-sealed.  It offers image quality quite close to the stabilized version and can be used with a 1.4x converter.  It is the lowest-priced L-series lens of this group of mid-range Canon zooms.

The EF 70-200L f/2.8 (non-stabilized) is an older lens model, and weighs in at 1310g.  It is only partially weather-sealed and offers the same large aperture advantages as the newer 70-200f2.8II IS described above.  It lacks image stabilization but sells for a much lower price than the newer f2.8 lens.  If you have to have the f/2.8 aperture this is the most cost-effective Canon way to do it.  Compared to the EF 70-300L which is the lens in review here, this lens probably holds a slight image quality advantage, as well as the obvious large aperture advantage but it is heavier, and lacks the extra 100mm on the long side of the focal length.  It will work with a 1.4x extender.

Another Canon L series zoom lens in this class is the Canon EF 28-300L f 3/5-f/5.6 IS.  This lens has a significantly wider focal length range than the EF 70-300L.  It too is weather-sealed.  If you only want to carry one lens that can do everything then you might want to consider the EF 28-300L.  In direct comparison to the EF 70-300L though, the EF 28-300L is heaver (1670 g), costs almost twice as much, and cannot quite match the newer lens when it comes to image quality over the focal length ranges that the two lenses do share.

Amongst such an array of L-series offerings from Canon, the EF 70-300L IS does not stand out as having the longest focal length, nor the biggest aperture.  However, it is an extremely versatile lens and that is where much of its strength lies.

Side view, Canon lens EF70-300L

The Canon EF 70-300 f/4-5.6L IS with lens hood ET-73B

 

Conclusion

The Canon EF 70-300L is a high-quality piece of equipment, and as such, it is a pleasure to use.  The lens has a lot going for it.  Its attributes include fast, accurate autofocus, very good image quality and effective image-stabilization.  Combine all of this with weather-sealing, in a compact and lightweight package, and you have one of those lenses that you just never want to take off your camera.  I enjoyed using this lens so much that after using a loan unit a couple of times, I actually went out and bought one for myself.

Burchells zebra, Equus burchelli, portrait

Burchell’s zebra. Canon 1Dmk4, EF 70-300L. Focal length 229mm. 1/1250sec at f/5.6. Iso 800

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.

127 Responses to “Canon EF 70-300 f/4-5.6 L IS USM Field Review”

  1. Loi Nguyen Says: October 29, 2012 at 2:13 pm

    Grant, thanks for the informative field review of this lens. I love this lightweight, tack sharp lens. For safari, though, if you can only take one medium telephoto zoom, would you choose the 70-200 f2.8 or the 70-300 f4-5.6? This assume you will have a longer lens as your main workhorse.

    • Grant Atkinson Says: November 2, 2012 at 3:23 pm

      Hi Loi
      The answer to that would depend upon what bodies you will be using, what your longer, workhorse longer lens will be, and how much you expect to be shooting in low light. If your other lens is a lot longer than 300mm, then it might be best to use the 70-300L, to minimise the focal length gap between your medium tele zoom at full reach and your fixed lens. I am taking the 70-300L for my next set of safaris, on a 5Dmk3 combined with a 1Dmk4 mounted with the 300f2.8..equiv 390mm.

      • Loi Nguyen Says: November 4, 2012 at 9:24 pm

        Hi Grant

        I currently have the 70-300L on my 5D3 and a 300f2.8 plus 1.4x or 2x usually on my 1DX. I find that the 300 plus 1.4x is usually short on reach for birds and the 2x compromises too much on IQ, so I’m ordering a new 500f4 II. My thinking is with the excellent low noise of the 1DX and 5D3 at high ISO, I could get by with the 500f4 for early mornings or late afternoon on a safari. I’m a bit worried that it is too long. I have not been on a safari, so may be I’m just worried too much. If the 70-300 is good enough for you, why wouldn’t it be good enough for me?

        Do you find yourself shooting often at f2.8?

        Thanks a lot

        Loi

        • Grant Atkinson Says: November 5, 2012 at 9:53 am

          Hi Loi
          That sounds like a pretty good set-up. I do end up shooting at f2.8 at times, but most often, even if I am using the f2.8 lens, I will often select aperture f4 just for the added depth of field. I think that with the 500f4 you will certainly be fine in terms of low light, specially combined with either of the two cameras you have mentioned. I always have travelled with a 70-200f2.8 as my second lens to back up the 300f2.8, however for my next set of 3 safaris I am replacing it in my bag with the 70-300L f5.6. There will be times when that f5.6 aperture will be a bit slow, but as the higher iso performance of the 5D3 is pretty good, I am counting on that, plus the extra focal length (which means I can minimize cropping, which is the enemy of image quality, specially at high iso) to balance out the loss of the f2.8 aperture on the shorter, faster 70-200L zoom. I leave in a weeks time and will let you know how it goes. How much low light shooting you do on safari can also depend on where you are staying..if you are in a camp where good game areas are close by, you will do more low light work. If you have to commute to the best game areas, then usually the better, lower light is already gone by the time you reach or leave those distant areas. Time of year and cloud cover also play a role.

  2. Loi Nguyen Says: October 31, 2012 at 11:12 am

    Grant, this is a great review. If due to weight restriction, you have to choose between the 70-200f2.8 and the 70-300f4-5.6 on a safari, which one would you choose? This assumes you have a longer telephoto like a 500 f4. Thanks.

    • Grant Atkinson Says: November 2, 2012 at 3:27 pm

      Hi Loi
      Sorry about my late response, I am just getting sorted out with this new website and how to make it work :-). Hopefully I helped answer in my earlier response?
      cheers
      Grant

  3. Simon Says: November 2, 2012 at 6:51 am

    Great Post Grant, thank you for sharing your knowledge.

    • Grant Atkinson Says: November 2, 2012 at 3:25 pm

      Thanks for helping set the site up Simon 🙂

  4. Loi Nguyen Says: December 16, 2012 at 1:35 pm

    Grant, you have taken this lens on a few safaris now instead of the 70-200f2.8. Did you find you missed the 70-200 for low light situations?

    • Grant Atkinson Says: December 16, 2012 at 8:39 pm

      Hi Loi
      I did not miss the 70-200 for low light as much as I thought I would, and that was due to the fact that I could ramp up the iso on the 5d3 to iso 1600 quite easily, without suffering much of a quality loss in the images. Where I do prefer the 70-200f2.8 IS ii is in it’s ability to blur busy backgrounds by means of wide-open aperture settings like f4 and f2.8. The 70-200f2.8 IS ii also gives me a slightly higher keeper percentage of ultra-sharp shots when shooting fast moving action, compared to the 70-300L. Each lens has some advantages, to some degree which is best will depend on what body you have it on, whether you are shooting fast-moving subjects in low light, and also how small or far away the subjects are?

  5. Loi Nguyen Says: December 17, 2012 at 10:32 pm

    Grant, thanks a lot. Interesting about your comments regrading keeper rate, which is something many people don’t discuss. For fast action, actually, keeper rate is often the difference of getting or missing the shots!

  6. Etienne Says: December 22, 2012 at 11:35 am

    Hi Grant,

    this lens has really captured my interest, but I would love to see a head to head with this and the much more expensive 120-300 f2.8 OS Sigma, which is a lens that I have had my eye on for a while. I dont think I will ever own a big telephoto, its not for me. But I am looking for a 300mm zoom just because of my shooting style, I find my 70-200 a tad to short on occasion.

    I think what would frustrate me with this 70-300 is that the aperture changes from f4 to f5.6 as I zoom out. This is a big thing for me, so just on the the fixed f2.8 sigma would take it, but cost and weight are against the sigma … so it would ultimately come down to image quality for me …

    So any chance of you putting these two together for a review?

    Etienne

  7. Grant Atkinson Says: December 22, 2012 at 3:24 pm

    Hi Etienne, I don’t currently have any direct access to the Sigma lenses, although I have shot the Sigma 120-300f2.8 OS quite recently in a Nikon variant for a few hundred frames with flying birds the subjects (on a D3s and a D300). Although the Sigma has a big advantage with its fixed aperture, it costs more than twice what the Canon EF 70-300L does. I was looking to the Sigma as a potential replacment for my Canon 70-200f2.8 and my 300f2.8 which would mean both a weight saving and cost saving. However, after shooting with the Sigma 120-300, I was not encouraged to pursue that idea any further. AF response and reliability are two areas where I feel that the Sigma cannot compete, with either of the two Canon f2.8 lenses mentioned above.
    As far as comparing the Sigma and the Canon EF 70-300L for image quality, I have only the single session with the Sigma, and going on that, they don’t look that different. I see the EF70-300L as a good one-lens solution when weight, convenience and cost are driving factors, but not as a replacement for f2.8 lenses when one needs that shallow depth of field approach. If I were you I would try get a Canon 300f2.8…
    Grant

  8. barbara Says: January 11, 2013 at 4:45 pm

    HELLO!
    I read your review on the 70-300 L
    I am a fan of photography to beginner and I have a Canon 550D and 17-55 f2.8 IS USM
    I’m thinking of taking a telephoto lens and my indecision and between 70-200 f4 L IS USM and the 70-300 L IS USM
    Generally I take pictures to put children on our travels and I’m interested what do you think
    thanks
    Barbara

  9. Grant Atkinson Says: January 11, 2013 at 7:31 pm

    Hi Barbara
    I think if you are taking mostly people photographs then perhaps the 70-200f4L IS might be just as good, or even better at least at 200mm. The 70-200 is quite a bit lighter in weight, which is an advantage for carrying and for travel. On the other hand, the 70-300L can collapse to a shorter length when it is at minimum focal length, an advantage for storage and travel, whereas the 70-200 lens barrel remains at its regular length at all zoom settings. The image quality is quite similar between the two lenses but the 70-200 would be a bit better indoors due to its wider maximum aperture, letting in more light. At 70mm, both lenses have a maximum aperture of f4.0, but at 200mm, the EF 70-300L becomes an f5.0. The 70-300L does retract into a shorter barral length lens when it is at minimum focal length. I would probably only choose the 70-300L if I thought I would be photographing subjects that were further away or that I could not get close enough to. I am sure you would be totally happy with both lenses. My wife owns the 70-200 L IS USM and I really enjoy using that lens too.

  10. barbara Says: January 12, 2013 at 5:22 pm

    Hello!
    Thank you for your response
    My dilemma was on the optical quality of the 70-200 and 70-300 with wanted to know if to do as as as transport seems more manageable and smaller and this determinant (I was in London last month and saw the 70-300 L and it seems almost the same as my 17-55 f2.8)
    My doubt and quality
    thanks

  11. Gavin Says: January 12, 2013 at 7:15 pm

    Good Evening Grant thank you for the review and it is great to see a South African point of view. Grant I shoot dog shows, horse shows, and events. I was a Nikon Shooter and moved across to Canon recently. For the dogs I shoot a dog about 30-60cm tall and about 1,4 metres long when they run at distance of 30-40 metres as i capture them in movement. I Have a 1 DX with 70-200

    Thank yu for the review grant. I recently moved from Nikon to canon after testing a 1DX. I have a 70-200 IS USM II and the Tamron 24-70 mm. I shoot dogs in action from about 30-40 metres. Therefore I needed a little more reach would the 70-300mm be the correct lense on my Nikon D4 the 300mm was just a little short maybe 350mm would be better . It was recommended I purchase a 2X Version 3 Extender would I be btter off with the 70-300 L or the 100-400 L .

    Plus i shoot horse shows and events or parties.

    Your advice would be appreciated.

    Thank you

    Gavin

  12. Grant Atkinson Says: January 13, 2013 at 8:02 am

    Hi Gavin
    Glad you found the review of interest. Regarding your current gear set-up, which sounds a good one, and your need for a little more reach, I would probably go with the 2x Extender III, or at least just borrow or rent one for the next event. That way you can see if it will focus fast enough for moving subjects. My suspicion is that it will, especially on the 1DX. Focus won’t be quite as quick and accurate as it is with your two f2.8 lenses, so you may find that you have to help things by picking up the subject a bit further away, and giving the system a bit more time in that way…
    I am sure the 100-400L would probably do the job quite well too, although that will be a more costly solution than the 2x extender, but if I were you I would not replace your 70-200 with the 100-400L but rather get that as another lens…
    cheers
    Grant

  13. Gavin Says: January 16, 2013 at 9:36 pm

    Hi Grant ,

    thank you very much, Apologies for the double post. My laptop crashed on the day. I would prefer to keep the 70-200 mm with the 2x converter III, I purchased it initially and I borrowed a 100-400 to test the 70-200 with the converter is as sharp as the 100-400. I feel that I may be better off purchasing the 400 2.8 IS II and utilizing my converters to take care of the longer end.

    Thank you once again for the article.

    Regards

    Gavin

  14. Grant Atkinson Says: January 17, 2013 at 6:10 am

    Hi Gavin
    If you get the 400 f2.8 IS II that will give you an incredible lens for action photography, with a large amount of creative control over the background blur as a bonus, and the fastest AF performance out there, specially on the 1DX…
    Thanks for your reply..
    cheers
    Grant

  15. Gavin Says: January 17, 2013 at 1:15 pm

    Thank you Grant !

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  17. Bernd Says: February 9, 2013 at 5:02 am

    Hi Grant,
    I have been using the non-L EF 70-300mm f:4-5.6 IS USM on my EOS 650D and am reasonably happy with the results. I take a lot of photos of birds and as you know of course, getting close is not easy with most birds and on full zoom the picture quality suffers, especially when cropping is required. Would you recommend to upgrade to the EF 70-300f/4-5.6 L IS. (somebody told me that there won’t be much of an improvement unless used on a full frame camera)
    Thanks for answering

    Bernd

  18. Grant Atkinson Says: February 9, 2013 at 12:57 pm

    Hi there Bernd
    Thanks for writing…I am familiar with the non-L series EF 70-300, but as you say, the double edge of shooting at 300mm on a wide open aperture, combined with heavy cropping, can take a toll of image quality when you are photographing distant or small subjects. Regardless of your camera body, and the EOS 650D is a very good one, I would say that upgrading to the EF 70-300L IS f5.6 would give you a noticeable image quality improvement at all focal lengths. However, it would not help you with getting more pixels on the subject. Given what an upgrade from your current lens to the EF 70-300L would set you back, have you considered keeping your zoom, and getting the EF 400L f5.6 for your bird photography…. L -series image quality, light weight and an extra 100mm.
    Cheers
    Grant

  19. Bernd Says: February 10, 2013 at 5:39 am

    Thanks Grant,
    something to consider, even though that would mean carrying more gear around. So you
    think it is worth it to have both a 70-300mm and a 100-400mm? Or should I eventually replace the
    70-300 with a more intermediate lens?
    Bernd

  20. Grant Atkinson Says: February 10, 2013 at 9:16 am

    Hi Bernd
    The lens I was suggesting was the fixed focal length, EF 400L f5.6, which is very highly regarded for its image quality, and light weight and AF speed. It typically sells used for less than R10K. You could keep your 70-300 and supplement it with this lens.
    On the other hand, if you chose to rather get the zoom telephoto Canon EF 100-400L f4.5-5.6 IS, then it would make sense to get rid of your 70-300 as there is too much overlap between the two and the 70-300 does not hold any real advantage over the 100-400L except it goes a bit wider.
    cheers
    Grant

  21. Amish Says: February 18, 2013 at 7:02 am

    Hi Grant,
    I need your suggestion, I am an amateur who is an avid follower of Nature, Wildlife & Birding. I like to photograph them. I have just migrated to a DSLR & wish to take this up as a full time hobby over other activities. I have purchased a Canon 7D body. I am confused which telephoto zoom lens to buy – 100-400mmL or 70-300mmL. Secondly I got to know that 70-300mmL is not compatible with an extender, is it true? Read a lot about these issues on various forums & now I am confused. Budget is also a constraint cannot spend anything beyond $ 1600 odd. Please suggest.

  22. Tan Says: March 16, 2013 at 3:32 am

    Hi Mr. Grant,
    First of all, Thank you for informative review on EF 70-300L.
    However, I’m still undecided whether I should buy this lense or EF 70-300 DO.
    I have been considering these two because budget wise they are quite close and easy to carry around.
    At the moment I owned 7D with 24-105L. Thus, I’m looking for a good tele to match.
    I will primarily use the tele for events and walkaround purposes.

    thank you for your time.
    Best regards,
    Tan

  23. Grant Atkinson Says: March 18, 2013 at 2:11 pm

    Hi there Tan
    Thanks for writing..with regard to your question, I would go with the EF 70-300L as it has a more effective stabilization system, and is weather-sealed, both advantages in real-world use over the older lens. The only reason to go for the DO in my opinion would be if very small size when retracted is the most important thing for your type of use. Even so, the EF 70-300L is quite compact when retracted.
    Both are good lenses but the 70-300L also holds a slight edge when it comes to image quality.
    Cheers
    Grant

  24. Ken Says: April 24, 2013 at 11:21 pm

    Grant and others. I have been down the road of 100-400, 70-200f4L and 300f4L and now deciding whether I need a 70-300L. The 100-400 I sold a year or so back as it no longer had the sharpness. Great with my 40D but not so good with 7D. Replace it with the 300f4L and what a difference. It is a great lens. I use the 70-200 a lot and as I do a lot of macro and close up photography. I found, with others that I know who also own this lens, that it will not focus correctly at 1.2M. Canon say there is nothing wrong but there is a flaw with this lens at it’s closest focus point and at 200mm. Back off to 170 or so and it is OK. I am deciding if I can handle the 5.6 aperture of the 70-300 as I like to shoot birds in flight and the one stop I find makes a difference in focus speed. Incidenltly I have also tried a friends 70-300 DO and I found it to be soft in general. Perhaps I am too critical. I have used the 70-300L and fined it to be very sharp, not quite as sharp as my 300 prime but at least as goods as my 70-200f4L.

    • Grant Atkinson Says: April 26, 2013 at 9:13 pm

      Hi Ken
      I would agree with your evaluation of sharpness, in that the 70-300L is very close to the 70-200 f4L. If I understand your question correctly are you looking to replace the 70-200 f4L AND the 300f4L with just a single EF 70-300L f5.6 IS. Are both of your f4 lenses the IS versions?
      I don’t think you can compare the 70-300DO with the EF 70-300L IS, the L lens is superior in every regard. In terms of focus speed, despite the f5.6 aperture, I found it to be quite fast focusing, and the lens has delivered some very acceptable results for me of action subjects. I have breaching humpback whales, several birds in flight, as well as a leopard running at full speed, all acceptably focused. I feel it focuses similarly fast to the 300 f4 L IS, but perhaps not quite as quickly as the EF 70-200 f4L IS, which of course benefits when it comes to focus speed from its wider field of view, and shorter focal length.
      Having just one 70-300L would be most convenient, but you would give up little ability to blur backgrounds quite as deeply, and a stop of aperture at 300mm , which can be important if you shoot in low light.
      All three lenses are pretty good, and I would be happy with either combination. For pure performance the pair of 70-200f4 L IS and 300f4 L IS would be superior in most regards but at the cost of weight, the need to change lenses and the inconvenience of having two lenses/bodies instead of one.
      As far as close focus goes, the 70-300L is pretty good at near-macro shooting, and superior to the 70-200 in that regard
      cheers
      Grant

  25. Ken Says: April 29, 2013 at 12:54 pm

    Hi Grant. I am thinking of getting rid of the 70-200 only because of it’s poor close focus ability. Replace it with the 70-300L but still keep the 300 prime as it is hard to beat

    Thanks for you opinions, much appreciated

    • Grant Atkinson Says: May 2, 2013 at 4:13 pm

      Hi Ken
      I think that would be a good move, as I have been getting some decent near-macro shots with the naked 70-300L, it works well for subjects like larger dragonflies, grasshoppers, etc. It is also great for flowers.
      I have been getting noticeably sharper results with my 70-300L using it without a protective front UV filter.
      My 70-300L continues to find its way into my camera bag more often than not. Right now it has just done me very well on a photo trip to southern Texas…too short for small birds far away but worked great on some javelinas (a type of wild boar) and on the larger, more relaxed birds…
      I would be surprized if that lens disappointed you
      cheers
      Grant

  26. James Says: May 7, 2013 at 7:26 am

    Hi, Grant,

    I have not seen too much discussion on using EF 70-300 mm 4/5.6L on Canon 60D or other cropped sensor cameras. I use this combination which has given me excellent results. Since it is a cropped sensor camera, the lens effectively becomes 110-480mm, and you don’t have to do too much cropping either. Although 60D does not have the latest processor and fancy features as 5D, 6D, or 1D, would it be a cheaper solution than getting a 500mm lens? I now carry a 6D and 60D, plus EF 70-300mm and a wide angle lens. That seems to cover 90% or more of the needs when shooting outdoors without changing lenses in the field.

    James

    • Grant Atkinson Says: May 11, 2013 at 10:52 am

      Hi James
      I think it is a very good idea to make use of cameras with different sized-sensors and pixel pitches, to help you make maximum use of your lenses, on both the wider focal length and telephoto zoom ranges. It is almost like having an extender/teleconverter without losing the stop of light. Usually the cameras with different pixel pitches may also have different image quality characteristics in low light, and then you can use the one that is best suited to particular conditions on the day.
      I also make use of all three of Canon’s dslr sensor sized, when one may offer an advantage over others, APS-C, the now discontinued APS-H and full frame.
      cheers
      Grant

  27. Momo Says: May 11, 2013 at 12:46 am

    I own a Canon 5d Mark 2 and I am interested in a zoom lens but can’t decide what works better for me. The EF 70-200L f/2.8 IS II or EF 70-300L IS!
    I love taking nature images like hummingbirds/ birds, animals,…usually outside. So I’d rather go with the EF 70-300L IS because I could zoom in closer, but a friend of mine told me this lens is not that fast and not that sharp…would you confirm this.

  28. Momo Says: May 11, 2013 at 12:51 am

    Thank you so much for taking your time and answering all these questions here, I am very impressed by your site and really appreciate your point of view. Thanks Momo 😉

    • Grant Atkinson Says: May 11, 2013 at 10:04 am

      Hi Momo
      I think that the best way forward for you might be to see if you can rent both lenses for a day, and then shoot them as much as you can. Although your friend is right in stating that the 70-200 f2.8 IS ii is both faster to focus and sharper than the EF 70-300L, the EF 70-300L is still pretty fast and produces lovely images. I find it good enough in terms of its quality of imagery and sharpness.
      For birds I would be surprized if the 70-200 would give you enough focal length. I usually travel on safari with a 70-200 f2.8 and a 300 f2.8 on two camera bodies, and I almost always end up using the 300mm combo for about 70 percent of my shooting, as the 70-200 cannot get me close enough on its own.
      The EF 70-300L takes great quality images, and it focuses fast…although it is beaten on both counts the 70-20 f2.8 IS ii, it may still be good enough. If I was shooting in very low light most of the time, and I could get close enough to my subjects all the time, then I would choose the 70-200.
      Of course, you could always add a 1.4x extender the 70-200 which would give you an even more versatile setup, at the cost of more money and extra weight.
      Hope that helps
      cheers
      Grant

  29. I.V.Alfredsson Says: May 14, 2013 at 12:20 am

    Dear Grant

    I had opportunity to try canon 70-300 L f/4-5.6 IS USM lens.
    I use Canon 650D body.
    Lens was brand-new with 10 digit code – produced in OCT 2012.
    I was impressed with picture quality, zooming etc.
    But I noticed that MF ring is really slack/almost wobbling/rattling – is it normal
    for new lens of this type ? Vendor in Reykjavik maintain that it is quite normal for
    this type – what is you opinion ?
    with regards
    I.V.Alfredsson

  30. Debbie Warren Says: May 15, 2013 at 7:13 pm

    Dear Grant,

    Thank you for the wonderful review of this lens. It has been very helpful. Here is my dilemma. I go on safari about every 2 years, and though I’m an avid photographer, I’m not a professional, so the longer telephotos are really not in my budget. On past safaris I’ve shot with a Canon APS-C body and a 70-200 f2.8 with a 2x converter. Although the converter makes some shots a little soft, I like the effective 640 mm for shooting birds, smaller animals and shyer ones. I also like the flexibility to remove the converter and have a fast lens for low light situations. I have now upgraded to a 5D Mark III and love the camera, however, in planning for my next safari in 2014, I’m trying to decide what lens to buy, since I don’t think I’ll be happy with the 400 mm reach of my current configuration. I’m considering the 300mm L f/4 and using it with a 2x converter to give me the 600 reach. I realize this might limit my low light capabilities, but I will keep my 70-200 on a second APS-C body for the low light needs. I wondered if you could give me any feedback on this set up and also, having never used a prime lens on safari, would this limit my flexibility too much? My other options is to upgrade my APS-C body to a 7D and just keep my current configuration or rent a longer lens. The rental options sounds good, but since we’ll be there for a month, the rental can be pretty expensive. If it helps, we’ll be in Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe. Thanks for any help you might give me.

    Cheers!
    Debbie

    • Grant Atkinson Says: May 21, 2013 at 9:29 am

      Hi Debbie
      Thanks for all the carefully considered information surrounding your usage and experiences, that helps me in being able to share some thoughts 🙂
      There are several ways to look at things. As your actual focal length has not changed at all, only your camera body, you are still getting the same magnification of image from the lens itself, so cropping the 5D3 image more heavily can get you to the same size subject. A 5d3 image cropped until it shows the same field of view as a Canon APS-C sensor would be around 9megapixels in resolution. Not ideal but possible especially with images captured in good light or at lower iso settings like up to 800.
      I owned two EF 300 f4L IS lenses, and had excellent results from them, but I found that trying to shoot that lens with a 2x converter resulted in a very, very dark viewfinder and not the greatest image quality. It will be better on the 5Dmk3 for sure as I was using an APS-C body at the time but still very limiting, especially if the light is anything less than very bright. It will also not be that effective at capturing moving subjects.
      Using the 300f4L with a 1.4 converter won’t do anything different from your current 70-200 plus 2x converter.
      Getting the Canon fixed lens EF 400 f5.6 also would not give you any more reach than your current setup.
      The only real way forward I can see in terms of getting significantly more reach and maintaining image quality and autofocus performance is a 300 f2.8 IS, which works just as well if not better with a 2x extender than your current EF 70-200 f2.8 IS ii. Used with the 2x extender, you will have a pretty decent 600 f5.6 with good AF.
      Another option might be the EF 400 DO IS lens, which is very lightweight, making it easy to handle for travelling, and easy to use in a vehicle too. Shot naked it won’t give you any more reach than your current setup but will give you one more stop of light. However that lens works very well with a 1.4x extender, which would give you 560mm at f5.6, with good AF, in a light weight package?
      I realize that both of these lenses cost much more than you might wish to spend, given what you wrote above, but at the same time, I cannot see any other way of getting that extra reach. I was faced with the identical situation some years ago and made the call to get the 300f2.8 IS, and I never once have looked back 🙂
      Rental is also an option, as is buying either of the 300f2.8 or the 400f4 DO on the used market.
      I use the 300 f2.8 IS as my primary safari lens most of the time, and I also have extensive experience with the 400DO ( I am busy writing up a review on the 400 right now) and can vouch for both with no hesitations.
      Hope you can figure out something that works for you
      Cheers
      Grant

  31. Augustine Says: May 25, 2013 at 1:32 am

    Dear, Grant,
    First, I thank you for your sharing your deep knowledge. It’s very helpful to choice lens.
    I read your review for this lens and then decided and bought it.
    Before I use this lens, I had a Sigma 70-200mm f2.8 lens for my son’s Lacrosse and football games.
    But sometimes I need more zoom. This lens suits my purpose.
    You’re GREAT !!!

    • Grant Atkinson Says: May 25, 2013 at 8:08 am

      Hi Augustine
      Thanks for the feedback on the reviews, and I am glad to hear that the 70-300L is doing the job for you. It definitely gives one a lot more flexibility when it comes to far-off subjects than the 70-200s, and with the modern cameras ever-improving sensor performance, it becomes more feasible to shoot at higher iso settings to get fast enough shutter speed…
      Thanks again 🙂
      cheers
      Grant

  32. Marc Says: June 3, 2013 at 5:19 pm

    Hi Grant,

    Thank you so much for the time and effort you put into creating your site and sharing your knowledge! It is much appreciated. I have been trying to find the best lens for my purposes and I thought I finally made the correct decision. Now, I’m not so sure. I mostly shoot pictures of my kids playing around the house, at parks and for their sporting events. The sports include soccer, baseball, wrestling, and gymnastics (I usually video record my son wrestling). Since I have been shooting my kids playing sports, I have really become addicted to sports photography! I orginally bought the 70-300 4/5.6 IS (non L) lens but was not happy with its performacne and color accuracy, so I decided to go with the 70-200 F4 IS lens. I was really impressed with the lens overall, but I was missing the extra reach. I was hesitant to buy the 70-300 4/5.6 L due to a lack of information on the web and that people mentioned getting bad copies in several different reviews. I eventually decided to go with the 70-300 4/5.6 L. The image quality of still photos is absolutely beautiful! I have found that action shots are not as crisp and there is a decent amount of grain in the pictures. The hightest I keep my ISO is 400. The body I use is the Rebel T3. Have you heard of others having similar problems with their lenses? Would investing in the 7D be a better fit or should I go back to the 70-200 F4 IS? Thanks again for your time!

    • Grant Atkinson Says: June 3, 2013 at 7:09 pm

      Hi Marc
      Thanks for writing, and hopefully my own experience can help with your situation there. I am going to guess that the reason you are seeing more grain in your action shots is because a) some of them may not be entirely properly focused, and b) Noise shows up most in low contrast parts of an image, so if you are shooting in low light, like at night or indoors, it is also likely that there is less contrast overall and noise may show up worse when there are large parts of the image with low contrast. In very low light, when it is possible, I try to frame with more of my high contrast subject filling the frame rather than having large expanses of low contrast background. I tried to expand on this on an earlier blog post, called Digital Noise and Wildlife Photography a few months back on this site.
      Another thing to consider is how you are evaluating the noise. If you are zooming in to 100 percent, then you are really expecting a good deal out of that sensor. I usually try to keep in mind what size my final output will be for an image when I evaluate the noise. Am I realistically going to be viewing the image at a size that a 100 zooming -in would create? If not, then maybe a 50 percent zooming in may be more realistic. If you are printing the images out, actually evaluate the printed pics alongside your screen, then you can also make good decisions taking into account how the prints compare to the screen. I am not sure if you would find that the 7D is a whole lot better than the T3 when it comes to noise. Canons APS-C sensors have been fairly similar in their noise levels for a few years now…You would get much better autofocus and lots of other improvements but I wouldn’t expect too much difference in noise between those two sensors.
      I would not expect that it is the lens itself causing the grain, especially as you have stated that still photo quality is excellent. To test it I would go and shoot some action somewhere with brighter light and fast shutter speeds. It is also worth noting that the 70-200f4 has a larger maximum aperture than the 70-300L f5.6, which will give the f4 lens an advantage in terms of focus speed and accuracy in very low light.
      It might be worth renting a 7D for a day to try it out, and maybe a 6D too if you shoot a lot in low light. If you need the reach of the 70-300 it is quite difficult to go without it?
      Hope something in there helps
      let me know how it goes
      Cheers
      Grant

      • Marc Says: June 4, 2013 at 3:06 am

        Hi Grant,

        Thanks so much for responding back to me. Sorry for being so vague with my initial post. I shoot 95% of the time outdoors as I do not have a lens that is better suited for indoors or low light. That is still on the wish list 🙂 I have been racking my brains for about a month now with this lens. I get better results, in respect to action, blur and noise, when my shutter speed is between 1/160 and 1/640 compared to shooting between 1/1000 and 1/2000 in bright sunlight. I have been looking back at some older pictures with my 18-55 kit lens and there was no where near as much noise in those pictures even when my ISO was set to 500 or 640. I have also noticed in some pictures (using my 70-300) that my focus points are on my subjects, but they are blurry but people and objects around the edges or background will be in focus. I have only been shooting with a DSLR for about a year so I am trying to understand what I need to fix so I can improve. As far as evaluating at 50% instead of 100%….Brilliant! It makes complete sense to evaluate the printed picture compared to my computer screen. Thank you for bringing that to my attention. Can I live without the reach of the 70-300 has been an on going internal struggle. I chose the versatility of the 70-300 over the 70-200 lens because the image quality was said to match that of the 70-200. My kids are 8 and 7 years old, so I am pretty close to the action. Being on the sidelines, I think I can make up for the loss by using my feet to move around the field. I think I can or would be more willing to forget the extra reach if the 70-200 F4 was the best choice for my shooting purposes. Again, I thank you for your time and knowledge.

        • Grant Atkinson Says: June 4, 2013 at 6:57 pm

          Hi Marc
          If you are struggling with the lens then perhaps another option is to go back to the 70-200L f4 IS that you know well, and were happy with, and perhaps pair it with a 7D. Your current sensor has 12mp of resolution, the 7D has 18mp, which will give you a little more leeway for cropping closer when needed. The 7D will also give you much better autofocus, as well as being more responsive, and a far better tool for action photography with more direct controls as well as a bigger viewfinder. If you shoot jpg images it also has superior in-camera noise reduction to your current body. Used 7D bodies are becoming available at lower prices all the time…
          Cheers
          Grant

  33. Marc Says: June 5, 2013 at 3:47 pm

    Hi Grant,

    I’m going to give the 70-300 one last chance and send the lens and my body into Canon so they can take a look at it. The 7D will definitely be purchased in the near future. Thanks again for all of the tips and info you shared. I will put them to good use. Take care!

  34. Neil Bailey Says: July 4, 2013 at 5:49 pm

    Hi
    I have just upgraded from a 7d to a 6d, and therefore had to sell my EF-S telephoto lens. I am torn between the EF 70-200 and 70-300, and wonder whether the restricted number of AF points on the 6d will be an issue. I mainly shoot wildlife with the telephoto lens.

    • Grant Atkinson Says: July 11, 2013 at 3:38 pm

      Hi Neil
      I would think that the extra reach of the EF 70-300L would make it perhaps the better choice for wildlife use than the EF 70-200 f4 L IS, and it compares very closely to that lens in both image quality and AF speed.
      The EF 70-200 f2.8 L IS ii offers faster, more accurate autofocus, as well as better image quality than either of the two I mentioned above, and it can take both the 1.4x and 2x extender very well, so that is something to take into consideration too.
      The 6D has 11 AF points, with only the centre point being f2.8 sensitive. You could expect significantly improved performance with that centre point and overall AF with the 70-200 f2.8 and 6D combination, if it was enough focal length.
      Hope that helps
      cheers
      Grant

  35. Dave Says: July 15, 2013 at 8:59 am

    Hi Gavin

    Thanks for a great review. I recently bought a 60D and am now looking for a good general purpose telephoto lens for it. You did mention using this lens on the 60D specifically so I was wondering what your thoughts were on that body. Would the 70 -300 L be your first choice as a general telephoto lens, I want something that will be good for wildlife, car racing, outdoor portraits, ship photos etc. Also, would the tripod ring be a good accessory to have considering the price? Thanks

  36. Grant Atkinson Says: July 15, 2013 at 10:48 am

    Hi Dave, I have used the 60D quite a bit, and it pairs well with the EF 70-300L. You get a field of view crop equivalent to 112mm to 480mm, which is pretty useful. Autofocus also worked well and the EF 70-300L is also just light enough that you can support the camera in unusual angles with the 60D swivel screen extended and shoot that way too.
    I would say that if you are looking to be shooting very small subjects, or very far-off subjects, then it might be better to choose the EF 100-400L. On the other hand, if you don’t need that extra 100mm of length, then you can benefit from the EF 70-300L giving you an extra 30mm wider focal length and an aperture advantage (at 70-mm it has an f4 aperture). Shooting it on a 60D at 70mm and f4 will give you a reasonably good portrait capability though not as good as the EF 70-200 f2.8 would do. The EF 70-300 also folds into the most compact size when not extended of either the 100-400L, 70-200 f4 and 70-200 f2.8. The EF 70-300 gives away very little compared to the EF 70-200 f4 L IS, both being f4 lenses at 70mm.
    The tripod ring is only necessary if you shoot it from tripods a lot…although I like to use the tripod ring foot as a place to support the lens with my left hand whilst I am shooting and I like having them on almost all of my longer lenses for this reason.
    Hope that helps
    cheers
    Grant

  37. Prateet Says: July 26, 2013 at 12:33 pm

    Hey Grant,

    Please suggest me two things:

    1. Whether I should go for Canon 60d or 7d for bird photography ? Does the 19 AF points really matter ?
    2. Which Canon 70-300 mm lens should I buy for bird photography ? I mean the exact model name

    Thanks,

    Prateet
    India

    • Grant Atkinson Says: July 26, 2013 at 2:26 pm

      Hi Prateet
      My suggestions would be as follows:
      1. To choose between the 60D and 7D, also take into account the faster frame rate, faster response, and its bigger physical form with more direct control options, which can make action shooting more intuitive. The actual difference between the single centre point of the 60D’s accuracy and that of the 7D is not that great in itself. The 7D also has AF that you can configure for different lense performace and different focus situations, whilst the 60D does not have those options.
      2. The best Canon 70-300 lens is the EF 70-300 f4/5.6 L IS USM, with the L designation and white colour being unmistakeable. The next best in terms of performance and value is the Canon EF 70-300 f4/5.6 IS USM (which is black in colour and has no L designation in its name.)
      Hope that helps
      cheers
      Grant

  38. Prateet Says: July 26, 2013 at 3:02 pm

    Thanks for replying !

    It’s true that 7d gives faster FPS than 60d plus the 19 AF. I am an amateur with a limited budget. This will be my first DSLR and I wont upgrade for 3 years. Should I go for 7d body plus 70-300 f4/5.6 L IS USM ?

    • Grant Atkinson Says: July 27, 2013 at 8:38 am

      Hi Prateet
      If you can get the 7D and the EF 70-300 f4/5.6L IS USM you will have a combination that is very responsive, with a wide focal length range, that allows you to cover a wide variety of subjects very effectively. You may find that you won’t need to upgrade the lens for a long time, I use my EF 70-300L most times that I am in the field. Also, when it comes to autofocus, perhaps even more important than the 19 points vs 9 points between the 7D and 60D, is the fact that the 7D has two processors, and has a whole bunch of AF parameter options in the menu that can be used to make the AF perform very well for different situations…

  39. Prateet Says: July 28, 2013 at 2:12 pm

    THANK YOU ! It helped.

  40. Jagan Says: July 30, 2013 at 9:05 pm

    Hey Grant,

    Awesome reviews..just happened to stumble upon this website and was very impressed with the content. Appreciate your efforts.

    By the way, I have a Canon EOS 550D with a 18-55 IS and the nifty fifty. Am looking to buy a telephoto lens and am confused with a few – Canon 70-200 f4 IS, Canon 70-300 L and a Tamron 70-200 f2.8 VC (the latest). Am planning to get this one as a general purpose telephoto lens to shoot landscapes, street portraits and quite a bit of wildlife. Can you please suggest which one would be the best one to go with the 550D? Also, am planning to replace my 550D and 18-55 with a 7D and a 15-85 lens by this year end. Keeping that in mind, please give me your inputs. Thanks.

  41. Jagan Says: July 30, 2013 at 9:07 pm

    Also, let me know if the bokeh out of the 70-300 L will be as good as the ones out of 70-200 f4 and the tamron..am interested in that too..

    • Grant Atkinson Says: July 31, 2013 at 9:02 pm

      Hi Jagan, the Canon 70-300L will be the best lens of those three when it comes to wildlife because of its extra focal length, 4 stop IS, and fast AF. It is also the most compact of the three you mention as it retracts when at 70mm
      For street portraits the Canon 70-200f4 will be the lightest lens to walk around with, and it has excellent, fast AF and 4 stop IS as well.
      When it comes to the lenses ability to blur the backgrounds, the Tamron will show the strongest blur at 200mm and f2.8, followed by the Canon EF 70-200 f4 at 200mm. The EF 70-300L will blur the background the least at 200mm as it is at f5 max aperture at that focal length. However, the EF 70-300L will do a good job of blurring the background at 300mm and f5.6, about the same at that focal length as the 70-200 at 200mm and f4.
      Only you will know which one of the three types of photography is most important to you, and then maybe make your choice accordingly.
      cheers
      Grant

  42. Janice Tipping Says: August 4, 2013 at 12:56 pm

    Hi Grant
    I have this 70-300 L series and find it excellent. I also have the 70-200 2.8 L series lens (with extenders). The advantage of the 70-300 L is size – it fits perfectly into a photographic shoulder bag that I can easily transport to local venues – being small and lightweight myself this is important! The 70-200 is great for longer trips where you have your camera equipment in a vehicle or boat or use a back pack. I currently use a 40D body but am hoping to upgrade to a 5d Mark III if poss. So many good reviews on this body. Prior to this I have prioritised buying good lenses (I also have the 24-105 L series – which is great for travel and landscapes etc.).

  43. Alice Kivlon Says: August 10, 2013 at 2:41 pm

    Hello Grant,

    I found your information regarding the 70-300 the most informative of all my web research – thank you.
    My photography of wildlife is used in my photo illustration work (alicekivlon.com). I own a 60D and 5D Mark 3. After not getting the reach from my 70-200 f/4L I added the 70-300 f4/5.6 L for the reach and for traveling. After a day at the Bronx Zoo – I realized I need to adjust how I’m using the lens for ultimate sharpness. I also like using the Manfrotto Neotec monopod which helps with the weight in a full day shooting. I also have the Canon 100L and the 85 f/1.2L which I have not tried beyond the portraits as of now.

    Would you be able to suggest an Iso, shutter and aperture for ultimate sharpness within the entire animal or object in sunlight for still or moving animals (backgrounds are less important because I usually silhouette for my illustrations)? Additionally, I will be going to Butterfly World in FL to capture some butterfly images for illustrations – Do you have any advise?

    • Grant Atkinson Says: August 11, 2013 at 10:39 am

      Hi Alice, thanks for writing and glad the 70-300L review was useful. I usually try to work around shutter speeds of 1/640sec or faster, say up to 1/1000second, for still subjects when I am shooting with a focal length of around 300mm. With the 70-300L, I usually find I am shooting it wide-open most of the time, which would be at f5.6 when zoomed out to 300mm. I will then set whatever Iso setting is necessary, in order to achieve that shutter speed. With the 5Dmk3, I am happy to go up to Iso 3200 in poor light, with the 60D not quite such a high Iso setting. For moving subjects, then my preferred shutter speed would depend on how fast the subject is moving, and how close or far they are from me. For butterflies in flight, I would prefer to be around the 1/1600sec up to 1/3200second shutter speed..
      Hope that helps
      cheers
      Grant

  44. Roelof Says: September 16, 2013 at 11:16 am

    Hi Grant.

    I am planning to buy a 5dm3 next month. But need to decide on lenses. i do not have any L lenses yet. but have the following in mind: canon 70-200 F2.8 ISii L and later ad converters as this is very expensive and actualy just outside my budget; canon 300mm F4 IS fixed, and this lens the 70-300L IS? Wich will be the one in your book? I live and work in the Masai Mara. Thank you for great reviews! Best, Roelof

    • Grant Atkinson Says: September 17, 2013 at 10:29 am

      Hi Roelof
      Good to hear from you and I think that the 5Dmk3 is a great choice for wildlife and nature photography. I would go with the EF 70-300 f4/5.6L IS for sure, given that it is almost, almost as good at 300mm as the fixed 300 f4L IS, and it offers so much more flexibility. I would only choose the fixed EF 300 f4L over the EF 70-300L if I had another shorter range zoom lens to cover the shorter focal lengths.
      When it comes to versatility, there is no comparison between the fixed 300 and the 70-300L zoom lens…and for nature photography that versatility allows you to compose several different images without having to change your own position. The EF 70-300L is also weather-sealed to some degree and it has 4 stop IS. On the other hand the EF 300 f4L IS is lighter, a fraction sharper at f4, and has a one-stop low light or background blurring advantage at 300mm. The 5dmk3’s excellent low-light performance will also mean you can comfortably shoot at higher iso settings when light is low or you need fast shutter speeds.
      Hope that helps
      cheers
      Grant

  45. Jorge Rufman Says: September 23, 2013 at 2:02 pm

    Hi Grant,
    Thank you for a very helpful review.
    I shoot since 2006, and I believe I still have a lot to learn.
    I have a 600D and a Canon 50mm f/1.4 and a Tamron 18-270mm f/3.5-5.6 DI.
    I feel I need a better glass to replace the Tamron, one of my choices was the 70-300L in this review.
    I wonder if this is the best I can get or should I select some other glass, one of my options is the Sigma 200-300 f/2.8.
    I will appreciate your opinion.
    Thank you.

  46. Grant Atkinson Says: September 23, 2013 at 3:59 pm

    Hi Jorge
    Thanks for writing. I think that the optics of the EF 70-300L are of quite a high standard, and will compare well to any of the lenses you mention above. When you wrote Sigma 200-300f3.2.8, where you perhaps referring to the Sigma 120-300 f2.8. If you do mean the latest version of that Sigma, it has a maximum aperture advantage of two stops over the Canon, although it is much bigger and heavier, and more costly. The Canon EF 70-300L is the best of its kind (compact, lightweight, portable f5.6 70-300mm zooms), and it focuses faster than one would expect for an f5.6 lens, and it is very sharp, but if you need to work a lot in low light or need to blur backgrounds strongly at 300mm, then the Sigma might be a better choice. Canon L-series lenses also typically enjoy a reputation for reliability and build-quality that Sigma doesn’t.
    You will have the best idea of your intended usage for whichever lens you choose.
    Cheers
    Grant

    • Jorge Rufman Says: September 23, 2013 at 6:36 pm

      Hi Grant,
      Thanks a lot for your replay, I made a typo, I meant Sigma 70-200mm F2.8 OS HSM.
      I will appreciate if you could address my inquiry.

      Thanks a lot.
      Jorge.

  47. Grant Atkinson Says: September 24, 2013 at 4:58 pm

    Hi Jorge
    Hmm, if you are considering the Sigma 70-200 f2.8 as an option to the Canon EF 70-300 f4/5.6 L IS, I would think that it would help if you defined your intended usage for the lens, or at least the most important requirements of a lens that you would choose to replace the Tamron with. The Tamron is a very versatile lens, with a greater range of focal lengths than either the Canon 70-300L or the Sigma 70-200f2.8. If your most important usage for the lens is portraits of people, or in poor light, or you have need to blur the background strongly, then the Sigma will hold the advantage. On the other hand, if you are using your current Tamron at 270mm most of the time, then the extra focal length advantage of the Canon EF 70-300L, will be an advantage, as will its faster focus and superior image quality. Both the Canon EF 70-300L and the Sigma 70-200f2.8 will focus faster than the Tamron, and likely more accurately. The Sigma is a bit heavier than the Canon, and also has no external moving parts, whereas the Canon is more compact especially when retracted.
    Hope that helps
    cheers
    Grant

  48. Jorge Rufman Says: September 24, 2013 at 6:14 pm

    Hi Grant,
    You have been most helpful and enlighten my way of thinking.
    Thank you very much.

    Jorge.

  49. Viv Says: September 30, 2013 at 10:40 am

    Hi Grant,

    After reading your review (and playing extensively with it) I’ve decided to get the 70-300 L as my single lens solution in place of my original plans to get the 70-200 f4 IS L and 100-400 L. I’ll probably also drop my plans for a 135 f2 L or 100 f2 as my portraits are mainly indoors. You just saved me a ton of money. Thank you.

    I’m buying an unsold new, under warranty, store copy of the 70-300 L manufactured end 2010 (serial no. Starting with 72XXX…) at the then prevailing (and significantly below the currently listed) price. My question is that were there any improvements made in the lens after 2010 that you may be aware of. If anything was improved in the lens after 2010 then I’d rather not save the difference and would prefer to buy a more recently manufactured copy.

    Your advise please.

    Viv

    • Grant Atkinson Says: September 30, 2013 at 8:23 pm

      HI Viv
      Thanks for the feedback. As far as I am aware, no changes have been made to the EF 70-300L since it’s introduction, so I would think you should be fine with a copy manufactured in 2010. I am not sure if the EF 70-300L can do exactly what the 135f2 or 100f2 can do when it comes to portraits in low light, but it is a great lens. Hope you have good luck with it and great results
      cheers
      Grant

  50. Moshe Says: October 9, 2013 at 1:56 pm

    Hey Grant,

    First of all: you have a great website! And of course thank you for all the reviews and the information.
    I take pics mostly outdoor of nature and landscape and animals.
    I am about to buy the Canon 5d3 and would like to upgrade my lenses, so i will be happy go get your advise.
    1. I have a dilema between two lenses: 70-200 4 L IS USM or 70-300 4/5.6 L IS USM
    The first one has lots of good reviews but its since 2006 and limited to 200mm but light weight (760gr)
    The second one is since 2010 and gets to 300mm but weight 1050gr. do u think this lens dosent need a tripod in day light photos?
    2. My second dilema is between these two lenses: 24-105 4 L IS USM or 24-70 4 L IS USM
    The first one has lots of good reviews but its since 2005.
    The second one is since 2012 but gets only to 70. weight is almost the same.
    I dont take portraits or studio pics so i tend to buy the second lens. what do u think?
    3. At first i thought to buy the 24-70 2.8 L II USM but its heavy and no IS and an expensive lens.
    Why do u think Canon made this lens with no IS? do u think IS is not necessary in that kind of zoom range?

    Thank you very much,
    Moshe.

    • Grant Atkinson Says: October 19, 2013 at 9:30 am

      Hi Moshe, thanks for your engagement here…and apologies for my late response. I am often away in the field for extended periods. As for your first question, the EF 70-300L is moderately heavy, but it can be very easily handheld for long periods. However, that would depend on some extent on your own stature and strength. For walking around, the EF 70-300L can also retract so that it becomes shorter, more compact and easier to manage. For ultra-light weight, then it is difficult to beat the EF 70-200 f4L IS, and it also holds an f4 maximum aperture at 200mm, compared to f5 at 200mm for the EF 70-300L. On the other hand the EF 70-300L has a strong advantage for subjects that might be far away. You may have to decide which is most important to you, extra focal length against weight.
      For question 2, the EF 24-70 f2.8L ii is one of the sharpest zoom lenses Canon have ever made, and it’s image quality can be compared to that of many prime, fixed lenses. The very high quality glass elements inside add to its high cost. I think that it should have IS as standard, although perhaps Canon were trying to keep the price as low as possible. Although IS is less necessary with shorter focal lengths, 70m is long enough that IS would be an advantage in my opinion.
      The EF 24-105 f4L IS is a bit lighter, costs much less and is very versatile…and quite sharp for a zoom. Compared to the EF 24-70f2.8 II, it gives up some ability to blur backgrounds, as well as some very low light shooting capability, and is not quite as sharp.
      If you will be shooting most often outdoors and will not need the maximum aperture of f2.8 very often, then the EF 24-105 might be the better choice….
      Hope that helps
      Cheers
      Grant

  51. Dimitri Says: October 13, 2013 at 7:54 am

    Hi Grant,
    Great Review I have a question I have been taking pictures all my life but I decided to get into photography more seriously because I love it and I enjoy everything about it. but I have spend quite some money in lenses and I hope you can save me here. I am sure with your knowledge and wisdom you can help me out of my misery in 10 seconds. Here is my confusion and my mistakes.
    1. I bought a Rebel t3I and came with a kit lens, then I bought a 55-250mm f/4-5.6, and I thought wow I am doing better
    2 then I bought a 75-300mm 1:4-5.6
    3 then I bought the 100-400mm 1:4.5-5.6 at the same time I bought the 28-300mm 1:3.5-5.6
    4 then I bought the 70-200mm 1:2.8
    now I hear that the 70-300mm 1:4-5.6 is lighter and better than the 28-300mm 1:3.5-5.6

    I was happy with the 28-300 because is one lens and does a lot for me and the 70-200 for indoor sports or where there is not much light, I was thinking of selling the others with the exception of the ef 100-400 since it gives me long range options.

    Do I need to return my 28-300 and get the 70-300 or not I was thinking of selling mostly all of them and staying with the ones I said before and just add the 24-70 2.8 and that way I will keep only 3 lenses.

    Also is there a lot of difference between the 70-300 and the 28-300 besides money and weight?

    Sorry for the long email and my ignorance but please share your knowledge with me and give me your sincere advise. I will thank you for it.
    Sincerely
    Dimitri.

  52. Moshe Says: October 19, 2013 at 9:52 am

    Hi Grant,

    Thank you so much for your answer!
    You have been very helpful!!
    Thanx again for sharing your knowledge and experience with others.

    Moshe

  53. aary birivi Says: November 3, 2013 at 11:20 am

    hello
    i have 70-300 lens but no image stabiliser ..it is good or no..?

  54. Merrianne Says: November 30, 2013 at 1:37 am

    Hi Grant: I currently own a Canon Rebel t4i I believe it is the same as a 60D. I am currently using a 18-135mm lens. I thought it would be beneficial for taking wild life pictures. But unfortunately all my shots are such far shots. So I decided to do some research and I am looking at the EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM
    Telephoto Zoom. However I am interested in the EF 70-300mm lens that you are so happy with. I love taking wildlife pictures here in Canada, but I can it seem get close enough so need a good telephoto zoom lens.
    Which one would you recommend for this camera? I appreciate all your advice above but just want to make sure I am making the right purchase. Thank You for your time

    • Grant Atkinson Says: December 2, 2013 at 10:43 am

      Hi Merrianne, thank for writing, and glad you found the review useful. I would say that for distant wildlife, you may be better off with the 100-400L, given that wildlife photography can be extremely frustrating when subjects are very shy or are just too far away….
      The T4i is a great camera, and very similar in most regards to the 60D. It will work just fine with either the EF 70-300 or the EF 100-400L…

      The 70-300L is a little sharper than the 100-400L but if you are not close enough with it, you will end up cropping the images which will erode the slight sharpness advantage anyhow..
      Hope that helps
      cheers
      Grant

  55. Andrew Says: January 2, 2014 at 10:40 pm

    Great website an blog Grant. I am heading to a private reserve in Sabi Sands and would be interested in you suggestions for a good lens. I shot with a 70D mostly with an 18-135STM which is great for travel and a good walkabout lens.

    What would you go for on safari? I was thinking the 70-300L over the 100-400L, I believe at the private reserves we can get close to the animals and concerned I will miss good close shot change lenses as the 100mm is too long.

    Can only really afford the one so need to make the right choice.

    • Grant Atkinson Says: January 3, 2014 at 8:40 am

      Hi Andrew
      I think both the EF 70-300L and the EF100-400L would be effective choices. I tend to prefer the EF 70-300L over the older EF 100-400L due to its slightly sharper image output, as well as faster and more accurate autofocus performance. In the Sabi Sands the 70-300mm focal length range is usually sufficient. The EF 70-300L also has noticeably superior image stabilization, especially when light gets low, and has a higher degree of weather resistance. I choose the EF 70-300L over the EF 100-400L about 80 percent of the time when I travel. On the other hand, there is a lot to be said for that extra 100mm of focal length that the EF 100-400L provides. It makes for an exceptionally versatile lens with a focal length range that makes tight portraits possible, as well as some bird photography for larger or nearby species. The EF 100-400L outsells the EF 70-300L and there are many great photos made with it.

      Hope that helps.
      Cheers
      Grant

  56. Pieter Says: February 12, 2014 at 4:00 pm

    Hello Grant,

    For my upcoming trip to Botswana I’m looking for a lens to complement my 70-200L 2.8 (non IS). I’m considering the 100-400L and 300 (fixed) f4 w/ 1.4 extender type 3. Now that I read this review, a third option might be to buy the 70-300L and take only that one (leave the 70-200 at home). What is your experience in terms of focal length? Is 300mm enough for places like Moremi, Chobe, Savuti, or would you recommend 400mm? Body = 6D.

    Thank you for your thoughts.

  57. Grant Atkinson Says: February 12, 2014 at 5:30 pm

    HI Pieter, thanks for writing. I would say that you would be better off with 400mm. You can get there with the EF 300f4L IS plus 1.4x extender, or the EF 100-400L f5.6 IS , or the EF 400L f5.6 (no IS). All are very good lenses, with the fixed 300 and fixed 400 having slight sharpness advantages over the 100-400L. Although the EF 400L f5.6 does not have IS, it will also hold a sharpness and AF speed advantage over the EF 300Lf4 plus 1.4X Extender combination…
    Tough choice to make but all are good lenses.
    Given that you already have the very good 70-200f2.8, I would myself choose one of the two primes, 300f4L or 400Lf5.6
    Hope that helps
    cheers
    Grant

    • Pieter Says: February 12, 2014 at 7:31 pm

      Thank you for your quick response, Grant. Tough one indeed. I didn’t even consider the 400/f5.6 before (mostly for being a non IS lens). The 300/f4 + 1.4x extender combo gives me 2 focal lengths vs 1 focal length of the 400/f5.6. But then again, changing lenses and extenders in the field is something to keep to a minimum, so the flexibility of having 2 focal lengths (with the 300/f4 + 1.4x extender combo) might actually turn out to be a disadvantage once in the field…? Only time and experince will tell 😉 AF speed advantage of the 400/f5.6 sounds like a big plus for fast moving subjects. Cheers, Pieter

  58. Vivek Khanna Says: February 13, 2014 at 2:58 pm

    I had originally planned on buying a 70-200 f/4 IS L and the 100-400L.

    After reading this post by Grant Atkinson in mid last year I first bought the 70-300 L instead of the 70-200 f/4 IS and recently bought the 400mm f/5.6 L instead of the 100-400L.

    It’s a superb combination for wildlife and birds. For birding (specially Bird-In-Flight) nothing beats the 400mm f/f.6…. very light and easy handling and superb image quality. Both lenses are insanely sharp…. so much so that people want to know what I do in PP to get such sharp pics on FB 🙂

    • Grant Atkinson Says: February 18, 2014 at 9:10 am

      Hi Vivek, very nice of you to share your experience with the two lenses you have mentioned, and I am happy to hear that you are getting great results out of both of them. Certainly think that your approach is a good one, and those two lenses pair very well as a combination, the one providing lots of versatile zoom range, whilst the other is a no-compromise fixed lens that focuses fast, and creates very sharp images. These days, with camera sensors becoming ever better at high iso settings,, so the lenses with a maximum aperture of f5.6 become more useful and feasible options.
      Thanks again for writing, always reassuring to read other’s good experiences.
      cheers
      Grant

      • Pieter Says: February 18, 2014 at 10:33 am

        Thank you both for your remarks and experiences, I just bought the 400/5.6 !!
        Can’t wait to take it to Africa 🙂
        Cheers, Pieter

  59. Harry Says: March 28, 2014 at 5:17 am

    Dumela Grant, (lived in Botswana for a spell)
    I am very impressed with your photos with the 70-300. I live in Florida, and often shoot in the Everglades. I do most of all my shooting outdoors and I use a Canon 6D. Colony birds are most of what I would shoot. I also do some traveling each year and carrying gear around is a concern

    The other concern I have is if I will miss out on the 100-400 extra reach. However, your pictures don’t show a problem with that . How did you make out using the 70-300 on safari?

    I did borrow a 100-400 and had some issues with the weight. At the end of an hour my hands were shaking pretty good. Of course this would be an indicator to me that a tripod must be used.

    Can the 70-300 accommodate a Canon or Kenko Extender (1.4)? Have you tried one?

    Thanks
    Harry

    • Grant Atkinson Says: March 28, 2014 at 6:58 am

      Dumela Harry 🙂
      Thanks for writing with your experiences. I am currently writing up a review of the EF 100-400L with some direct comparisons in it to the EF 70-300L. If you find that you are shooting at 400mm focal length most of the time with a 100-400L, then a 70-300L might not be enough glass. Unless you are photographing very large or very approachable birds, 300mm is typically not enough.
      In use the EF 70-300L is only a little bit lighter than the 100-400L.
      On safari the EF 70-300L does a great job, and I basically replace the 70-200 f2.8 with it. I almost always have a longer lens (500f4, or 300f2.8 plus 1.4x extender, or 200-400L), to pair with it and to cover the more distant subjects.
      I have found the EF 70-300L to benefit me when compared to the 70-200 in that I need to crop much less and on my safaris, I am often working in the 200-300mm focal length range.
      In our family, we own the EF 70-200f4L IS, the EF 70-200 f2.8L IS ii, the EF 70-300L f4-5.6 IS and the EF 100-400L f4.5-5.6 IS. Whilst the EF 70-200f2.8L IS ii is undoubtedly the best lens in that group when it comes to AF speed, image quality and build quality, I usually end up taking the EF 70-300L about 75 percent of the time, as my zoom lens on safari.
      I have not tried to use a 1.4x extender on the EF 70-300L, but I have read of a number of people that have managed. Apparently you would want to not have the lens at full extension (retracted I think) when trying to mount or operate the extender as the rear element of the lens moves during zooming and may come into contact with the extender. I think a 1.4x extender, on the EF 70-300L paired with the 6D, would work reasonably well, especially in good light
      Hope that helps
      Cheers
      Grant

      • Ed Says: March 2, 2015 at 9:03 pm

        Excellent discussion so far! Photography really is all about the tradeoffs.

        I currently own a T4i (aka 650D) with a 55-250 and the original 100-400L. I find the 100-400L quite heavy and I find myself not taking it unless I’m sure I’m going to see something, and even then I find a monopod or a tripod a necessity. I’m looking at replacing the body with the 7D Mk II and adding either the 70-300 non-L or perhaps the 70-300L along with the kit 18-135.

        I’m curious as to why you take the 70-300 with you on trips and leave the 100-400 at home. If you’re often working in the 200-300 range, why not take the 100-400 so you’ve got the reach when you need it?

        If I do purchase the 70-300L, should I also take the 100-400 if I’m heading out on safari? We’re planning a safari trip for 2017 (from the US) but haven’t picked a destination yet.

        Thanks again for the great insight!

        • Grant Atkinson Says: March 15, 2015 at 8:04 am

          Hi Ed, thanks for your post. I find the original EF 100-400L f5.6 IS (push-pull) to focus a little slower, and be a little less sharp, than the EF 70-300L f4-5.6 IS. And I usually pair whatever zoom I take with me, alongside the fixed EF 500L f4 IS ii prime lens. So I give up that extra 100mm of zoom ability, by choosing the 70-300L over the older 100-400L, still with the knowledge that I have the 500 on hand for extra reach. This year I have been carrying the new EF 100-400L f4-5.6 IS ii, as my main zoom lens in my bag. I am finding it to focus just as fast as the EF 70-300L, and to be just as sharp, if not sharper.
          As to your question, if you already own the original 100-400L, then there is no need to carry the EF 70-300L as well, specially on safari when weight for aircraft flights can be a consideration. The new EF 100-400L mk ii makes a great replacement for both of the 70-300L, and the older 100-400L push-pull 🙂
          Busy working on a full review of the new 100-400L ii, just have been guiding and in the field a lot of the time the past six months with little time for writing.
          Cheers
          Grant

          • Ed Says: March 16, 2015 at 2:40 pm

            Thanks Grant. I ended up buying the 7D2 along with the70-300L. So far, I love it! I haven’t had the chance to put the old 100-400 on it yet and couldn’t quite justify replacing it with the newer one (which is still hard to get a hold of here and is also nearly twice the price of the 70-300L).

  60. Will Goodlet Says: May 8, 2014 at 11:53 am

    Hi Grant,

    Great site and review. I keep coming back to see what’s new… 🙂

    Just wanted to say that it was really nice to run into you at Mombo and chat over dinner. Thanks so much for all the good advice (very lucky to meet you on the first night so we had time to put it into practice!!)

    I bought the 70-300L based on your review and the comments above and was in a quandary for a while versus the 70-200 F4 L IS (or sticking with my 300 F2.8)

    The 70-300L was the right choice by a mile for me. What a brilliant lens for the back seat of a dusty safari vehicle! It wasn’t as long or as expensive as the Nikon 200-400 used by the guy in front of me but it caught MUCH more of the action. The IS and AF worked brilliantly when bumping around chasing dogs. I was also very glad to have the extra 100mm on tap.. The F5.6 was barely an issue when compared to the mobility and IQ packed into this little lens. There may be better tools for birds etc… but there is not much to beat this as a general purpose safari lens where you can approach the wildlife.

    Regards,

    Will.

    • Grant Atkinson Says: May 8, 2014 at 1:45 pm

      Hey Will
      Definitely good to meet again at Mombo, and also I am very happy to hear that you guys got to spend some time with the wild dogs…:-), we missed those guys completely on my last trip.
      Thanks for the feedback on the website, I am currently busy with some more real-world reviews, and looking forward to getting them shared.
      Glad to hear that your 70-300L did the job, it is definitely a very productive focal length range for Southern African safaris. It also focuses fast enough that it can be used for action without giving up too much to many bigger, heavier and more expensive lenses.
      Hope to see some of your images from the trip..
      Thanks again
      Cheers
      Grant

  61. Pingback: My thoughts on the Canon 70-300mm f4-5.6 L IS USM

  62. Chandra Says: May 20, 2014 at 5:37 pm

    Hello Grant,

    Awesome blog with great amount of personal experiences. Your review is of the highest quality. I have a 60D and am planning to purchase a 70-300 IS USM or a used 70-300 L series lens. I will be travelling to SA & Kenya in Aug and hoping to have an unforgettable experience (this will be my first).
    Used 70-300 L series is difficult to find in India and hence wanted to know whether I can find them in Cape Town ( my first halt).

    Thank you again for maintaining this informative blog.

    Cheers,
    Chandra

    • Grant Atkinson Says: May 20, 2014 at 7:41 pm

      Hi Chandra
      Glad you liked the reviews. I am not totally familiar with all the camera retailers in Cape Town, but I can recommend a company called Orms. Their website is http://www.ormsdirect.co.za and I would suggest you contact them shortly before travel to find out if they have any used versions of that lens in stock.
      Cheers
      Grant

  63. Chandra Says: May 21, 2014 at 3:34 am

    Hello Grant,

    Thank you very much for the reply.

    Can you provide any photography tip which I should follow or practice during Game drive at Mara?

    Cheers,
    Chandra

    • Grant Atkinson Says: May 21, 2014 at 8:23 am

      Hi Chandra,
      The one thing I see that seems to go wrong most often with folk taking African wildlife pictures for the first time is shooting with too slow of a shutter speed. Try keep your shutter speed at a minimum of 1/640 sec with a zoom tele lens like the 70-300, and faster than that for action.
      There are more posts on this website under the Wildlife and Techniques sections describing in more detail some wildlife photography things to look out for that might be useful
      Cheers
      Grant

      • Chandra Says: May 22, 2014 at 3:37 am

        Thank you very much for your valuable tip. I am checking the posts under the wildlife and techniques and some of the pictures are awesome (especially the one taken from elephant bunker)

  64. Ray Says: May 22, 2014 at 1:47 am

    Hi Grant,

    This is the second time I am on this discussion list.

    I own a Canon 60d and a 70-300 mm f4-5.6. Two weeks ago I fell down while clicking pics and though my camera did not hit the ground but it definitely got a jerk and some dust also went in, Now I am facing two problems.

    1. Though the sensor and the lens is squeaky clean I see 3 dust stops through the view finder.

    2. Pictures are no more sharp and crisp like before. I cleaned the mirror too while cleaning the sensor. Is that the reason ? Or something has gone wrong inside the camera or the lens ? If I send it to the Canon repair in Ontario, Canada will they actually be able to fix it and send me my camera back safe and sound ?

    Please reply. Thank you for your time Grant.

    • Grant Atkinson Says: May 22, 2014 at 4:28 pm

      Hi Ray, sorry to hear about your misfortune. The three dust spots that you can see, are most likely just a few spots of dust that have fallen onto the autofocus screen. That screen is positioned above the mirror, and those spots are unlikely to show up in the image. They can be easily blown away.
      Pictures not sharp are more serious, and I think you may have a lens element out of alignment…
      Best will be to take it back to Canon, they will easily be able to get it back to perfect. Make sure to tell them how the damage happened so they are aware of what kind of impact took place
      Cheers
      Grant

  65. Barbara Saberton Says: May 22, 2014 at 3:43 am

    Thank you so much, this is perfect for me, and I really appreciate your views, given I too am a Whale/Dolphin and bird photographer (amateur, with high standards of what is acceptable in my images). This has found me longing for the 70-300mm lens. I will be following your site more in the future. Thanks again, you answered it all for me. Cheers

    • Grant Atkinson Says: May 22, 2014 at 4:30 pm

      Thanks Barbara
      Glad the information on the website was useful Barbara,
      and send a link where we can see some of your images..
      Cheers
      Grant

  66. Barbara Saberton Says: May 24, 2014 at 11:06 pm

    Hi Grant, your review was extremely helpful. I don’t have a website but use Flickr to share some of my photos, and have entered that above. I hope you enjoy them too 🙂 I can’t wait to get the new lens, and add to it further.

  67. Leo Says: December 29, 2014 at 2:26 pm

    Hi Grant,
    Awesome site, great work. You are very generous with your time.
    I’ve destroyed a 400D and am upgrading to a second hand 7d ,available here in Australia for about $700-800 body only. ( Your comparison of 70D vs 7D was excellent too)
    I have an old EF 70-300 ; must be 20yrs old but still ok.
    But, this L series seems a real improvement on my old lens and they are available here for approx $1000 in good nick.

    So, before I lash out and blow some hard earned, are there any budget zooms in that 70-300 class that you think I should look at? Tamron?? Mate, just a very quick reply will be much appreciated.

    I used to shoot proper wildlife but now, with four small kids, we have wildlife in the home

    • Grant Atkinson Says: December 29, 2014 at 5:40 pm

      Hi Leo, thanks for the feedback on the website, for the last six months I have been spending so much time shooting and traveling that i have not been able to update it for a while. I think the budget zooms are quite similar in their performance, that being the Sigma and the Tamron, 70-300mm models. Cannot vouch for their reliability, as I have not owned or used either for very long. They also focus quite slow. If kids are a major portion of your subject matter, why not see if you can pick up a used EF 70-200L f4 (non IS) can be had for not too much money. That way, at least you get a decently sharp lens to match up with the 7D, and just as important, you get a reasonably wide max aperture for blurring backgrounds and creating better portraits…just my thoughts.
      Cheers
      Grant

  68. Arnab Sarkar Says: August 31, 2015 at 3:57 am

    Hi grant, thank you for your excellent review and I have read all your responses, they are simply great. I have some doubts in my mind… I am using a crop sensor camera now (canon 1200D) and normally I take photos of landscape,architecture (fort, palace etc.) and street photography kind of thing. Sometimes I take photos of birds and animals. Could you tell that which lens is best suited for me 70-200 f4 is or 70-300 is l usm. Another thing I am really confused that whether the full frame lens can give good/excellent image quality in crop sensor camera. I mean if I attach any of the above mentioned lenses to my camera, will it the able to produce very good image? Could you please help me with these doubts.. Actually depends on your suggestions I will buy one of those two lenses and my next camera (either 70D or next version of 6D) thank you ?

  69. Tom Says: September 20, 2015 at 12:57 pm

    Despite all of this good information I still cannot decide between the 70-200 f/4 L IS (lighter, constant f/4, fixed length) and the 70-300 f/4.5-5.6 (shorter minimum length for easy packing, extra 100mm reach). [The 100-400 and 70-200 f/2.8 are both out of the question … too heavy and too bulky].

    I have both full frame and 1.3x crop factor EOS 1-series cameras. My main lens is a 24-70 f/4L which stays on my FF camera body almost all the time. For more reach I have been using the ancient 70-210 f/4 EF that I bought for less than 100 pounds sterling and which, despite its age, gives superb image quality. It was good enough to cover a couple of stages of the recent Tour de France, but for wildlife it lacks reach. It extends a lot, and it is useless with a polarising filter as the front element rotates. It also lacks IS and weather sealing, and focusses noisily and rather slowly.

    I am a minimalist. I don’t like to duplicate equipment. I like to have just the right items, neither more nor less. The less agonising about what to put in the camera bag each day, the easier.

    Can anyone help me to make the right choice?

    Or, as it seems almost impossible to choose, does that mean that I’d be happy with either, and might as well toss a coin.

  70. Tom Says: September 20, 2015 at 1:11 pm

    Whoops. I meant, of course, the 70-300 f/4-5.6L as reviewed here (not the 70-300 f/4.5-5.6 as I accidentally wrote in the previous post)

    • Grant Atkinson Says: September 27, 2015 at 3:45 pm

      Hi Tom, you seem to grasp most of the major differences between the two lenses, and I would have to think that if it were me, that I would go for the EF 70-300L which will give you extra reach, which I think in most cases is more useful for wildlife unless you have access to wildlife subjects that are very approachable. Compared to your current 70-210, you will find the EF 70-300L to be a massive upgrade in all respects expect the max f-stop, and for that f-stop you lose, you gain 100mm of magnification.
      I also think you are correct in your take that you would be happy with both.
      I can also say that we have finally sold our 70-200L f4 IS, in favour of a 70-300L as we were just not using it for our wildlife trips when there was a choice between those two lenses…
      Hope that helps
      Cheers
      Grant

  71. rob Says: October 30, 2015 at 11:59 am

    Hi Grant
    I am very pleased with my recently purchased 70-300 f4/5.6 L IS lens. However I could use a bit more reach. Would you recommend the Kenko 1.4, seeing the canon extenders don’t fit? Body 1 D Mk 3
    Thanks
    Rob

    m

    • Grant Atkinson Says: October 31, 2015 at 6:39 am

      Hi Rob
      I have not used the Kenko extenders so I am not able to offer any kind of first hand opinion on this. There do seem to be quite a number of folk who do use the Kenko extenders with some success out there. I think it is possible to attach a Canon 1.4x extender to this lens, but only when the zoom or focus is in a position that the rear element is not all the way back in the lens barrel. f you do need more reach, the ultimate solution would be the new EF 100-400L Mk2 as it matches the performance of the excellent EF 70-300L you already have just with an extra 100mm of focal length.
      Cheers
      Grant

  72. Jobu Joseph Says: November 3, 2015 at 6:38 pm

    Hi Grant,
    I am a hobbyist photographer with 70D and 3 kit lenses, 50mm 1.8, 18-135 IS STM and 75-300 non IS. Would like to be more serious and wish to upgrade my telephoto lens. Currently most of my photography is limited to portraits, landscapes and a few macros. Wish to take some photos of birds and even wildlife in future. Could you please suggest one among the 70-300L IS USM or 100-400L IS II USM (considering I already have 18-135) or 70-200 f4 L with extenders. I am a short guy with average physique and wish to carry a lighter lens without compromising IQ……
    Thanks in advance, Jobu

    • Grant Atkinson Says: November 4, 2015 at 6:50 am

      Hi Jobu Joseph
      If you wish to photograph birds, then I would be strongly inclined to get the EF 100-400L IS II USM as it will give you a 100mm increase in focal length over your current gear. For sure it will be a little heavier but for that you will get a noticeable improvement in image quality over your current lenses, faster and more accurate autofocus, along with the best image stabilizer system that Canon have yet made. I am also very small of stature and have no trouble managing the 100-400L IS ii for handholding situations.
      I would avoid the 70-200f4 with extenders and the 70-300L IS, whilst offering a big improvement in image quality, focus speed and accuracy and great IS performance wont get you any more focal length reach than your current lens.
      Cheers
      Grant

  73. Jobu Joseph Says: November 5, 2015 at 8:02 am

    Hi Grant,
    Thanks for your fast response. I am leaving in Oman and the price of 100-400L IS II USM is almost the double (OMR 815 = USD 2090) than 70-300L IS USM (OMR 445 = USD 1140). Does it make sense to buy such an expensive lens for occasional birding/wildlife. Would like to know ur opinion about the following combination of lenses with 70D – Sigma 18-35 f/1.8 A (not planning for FF upgrade in near future) + Canon 50 f/1.8 + one telephoto which can serve macros and occasional birding/wildlife (hope 70-300L can do this or Sigma 70-200 f/2.8 which I can get for almost same price). May trade off my 75-300 non IS as the image quality is below par. Any suggestions and better lens recommendations highly appreciated.
    Thanks and regards,
    Jobu

  74. Bastiaan Storm Says: December 21, 2015 at 6:14 am

    Hi Grant,

    First of all, great blog!! Very helpful and you seem very patient and elaborate with your responses to questions.

    I recently bought a Canon 7d camera with 2 lenses, the EF 28mm f1.8 USM (for portrait, street) and EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM (for landscape and architecture/interior).
    However my main reason for being more serious about photography is the Wildlife Photography side. I have worked with birds of prey most of my life, recently moved to Australia (from Amsterdam) and unfortunately due to Australian law, I won’t be able to hands on actively work with raptors.
    To continue with my passion for birds of prey, I am going to dedicate my free time to birds of prey photography (just imagine the potential of the Wedge-tailed Eagle, the Grey Goshawk, The Brahminy Kite and the rare Black Falcon (if i’m ever lucky enough to find one)).

    Now to my question:
    I am considering these tw telephoto lenses:
    – EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM
    – ef 70-200mm f/4l is usm lens (my budget is up to around 1500 AUD)

    The environment in which I will be shooting will be:
    (city) parks, woodland, farmland, arid areas, mountain forest

    I think I will be shooting on early mornings and sunsets as Australia has beautiful skies so I would need to be able to shoot in lower light conditions.

    I would like to be able to shoot quality close up shots but also in flight distance shots as birds of prey have impressive wingspans and beautiful feather coats.

    I am planning to buy a tripod as well for the bird photography (any recommendations?)

    I would very much appreciate if you could provide me with your opinion / recommendation regarding my lense query.

    Please let me know if you require more details.
    Thank you!
    Bastiaan Storm
    Sydney

    • Grant Atkinson Says: December 21, 2015 at 8:30 am

      Hi Bastiaan,
      Thanks for reading and also sharing your situation. I would choose the EF 70-300L over the 70-200 for birds, without any hesitation. Unless you have some method of getting incredibly close to those wild birds, then you may do fine with the 70-200L f4 IS. But certainly in all the places I have photographed wild birds, without the use of special hides, 300mm was superior to 200mm. I have found on a crop-sensor camera, that 300mm is the very minimum focal length that can work for me, when it comes to birds, and even that, is often not enough.
      I do understand your concern about shooting in low light, but the EF 70-300L matches the 70-200L at a maximum wide open aperture when both lenses are at 70mm focal length. After that the 70-300L gives up a little low light aperture advantage to the 70-200. If landscapes were to be your main use for the lens, then perhaps the 70-200 extra f-stop at 200mm would count for something but if birds are important, then I would have no doubts getting the 70-300L. It is also a newer lense, and focuses and performs a level above what one might expect from its specification.
      It also retracts for carrying, making it easy to carry around ones neck on a strap if you need to do that.
      Tripods, there are a large number to choose from, Slik offer a good value product that is tough enough for heavy use and reasonably priced here..Cheers Grant

  75. Bastiaan Storm Says: December 22, 2015 at 10:10 pm

    Hi Grant,

    Thank you so much for your prompt response, very much appreciated!

    I’m going to take on your advice and go for the 70-300L lens.

    I reckon I do need the zoom capability and I’m really going for the birds and less so for the landscape. I’ll be shooting predominantly in day light so the aperture is good enough and I can always shoot in a higher ISO setting in low light situations.
    For any close up shots (like the birds on a falconer glove – Sydney Taronga Zoo), I can also use this lens and even get that close that I would be able to use a 28mm (with some well trained birds).

    Considering that I’m not a very experienced wild life photographer (yet), I am realistic and know that I will need to get some good hands-on experience first before moving on to “better” gear.

    I’ll let you know how I go, if you’re interested to hear about it.

    Again thank you for your valuable insights.

    Best,
    Bastiaan

    • Grant Atkinson Says: December 24, 2015 at 9:02 am

      Hi Bastiaan
      I would also hope that you might find that even if you do change camera bodies, as I have over time, that the EF 70-300L is good enough to keep you happy even on more expensive, or newer cameras, and not just a ‘stepping stone’ kind of lens. My own EF 70-300L I still own and use on wildlife safaris with no qualms about image quality, focus speed or AF accuracy. The lens will outperform the EF 70-200f4 L when it comes to near-macro work as well, for up-close portraits etc as it focuses closer. My wife and I still own an EF 70-200L f2.8 IS ii, and an EF 100-400L f4.5-5.6 IS ii, and we make our choice depending on where we will be going and what our needs will be.
      Always happy to hear how things work out for you
      Cheers
      Grant

  76. Radim Says: January 2, 2016 at 10:38 am

    Hi Grant.
    Unfortunately, I can not in English, so I do not know whether I will understand.
    I searched the internet to know whether 70-200 / 4 (once I had it and I was thrilled optics) or 70-300 L. You gave me a clear answer. 70-300L is almost clear choice.
    I read your review and answer questions. You amazingly patient and many avid photographers and a draw you helped solve, like me, a dilemma.
    Thank you very much
    Radim

  77. Moritz Says: February 8, 2016 at 12:39 pm

    really nice shots. I’m thinking of getting this lens myself now! Thanks for sharing!

  78. Sarel Says: December 8, 2016 at 6:59 am

    Hi Grant,
    I like this review, but now I am even more confused…..
    I have got the 300 F4 L IS lens ( and a 1,4x extender) on a 550D body. So happy with the results, Excellent.
    But sometimes i wish i have got some zoom.
    So i was looking to replace this lens with either the 100-400L mK 1 or 2? annd this 70-300 L lens.
    Reading on internet makes me crazy because this person says this, another that. After reading your reviews on oll these lenses(Not the 300 F4 L ??) I deceides to write you, please help me out of my misery.
    I am not a professional, but with the 300 F4 i know what quality images are….so degrading would not be a very good thing, but on the other hand i know that if you replace a prime with a zoom you will loose some quality(or so “they” say)
    Money plays a role so i am not looking for the most expensive lens at all.
    What i am looking for is: What zoom would replace the 300 f4 L the best? I read that the 100-400 mk1 is extremely slow(Slow USM). is that right? how does the USM compare to the 300f4?
    I realy don’t know. i prefer the 100-400, but it is quite big, the 70-300 is smaller, so quite handy.
    Most importand is: What quality do i get on this 300mm length? Is there a possibility to compare this? to put pictures of the 300F4, 100-400 mk1 and mk2, 70-300 L nest to each other so you can see the differences?
    WIll i be extremely disappointed to replace the 300 with a 70-300? or 100-400mk1?
    Looking forward to your answer. hope youhave got a shorter answer tham my question………haha

    • Grant Atkinson Says: December 8, 2016 at 7:39 am

      Hi Sarel
      Thanks for writing. I have responded to your email separately. Unfortunately i dont have identical, test quality images taken in the same conditions, same bodies etc between the three lenses you mention. But, I do have lots of experience either using or owning those lenses and using them for my kind of wildlife photography. Between the 100-400 IS (version 1), the EF 300L f4 IS, I always use to prefer to own the EF 300L f4 IS because it focused more accurately, and faster. It also gave me sharper images, even at f4, than i usually got from any of the three copies of EF 100-400L IS that i worked with (but never owned for long). I found that the EF 70-300L IS was about as sharp in real life situations if not sharper than the EF 300L f4 IS, given that I handhold a lot, and IS helps a lot, especially the newer versions. So right now my wife and I own an EF 70-200L f2.8 IS ii, an EF 70-300L f4-5.6 IS, and an EF 100-400L f4.5-5.6 IS ii. The EF 100-400ii is the best of the lot for our kind of wildlife needs but the EF 70-300L IS is almost as good, just lacking 100mm in comparison.
      Hope that helps
      Cheers
      Grant

  79. Sarel Says: December 8, 2016 at 7:47 am

    Thanks Grant,
    I appreciate your answer and for me it is clear.
    I am going to have a big think now to decide between the 70-300L and 100-400L ii…
    there is quite a price difference…..but then quality is a important thing as well….
    not confused anymore, but you just leave me to make a difficult decission…haha!
    Thanks for your clear answer and help, much appreciated!

  80. Tom Says: December 8, 2016 at 2:20 pm

    Hi Sarel. After trying many Canon lenses I opted for the 300mm f/4 as an affordable wildlife lens. It is more it is light, focusses very fast, and has IS. With the 1.4x extender on an APS-C body it has great reach too.

    The only reason I considered the 100-400 or 70-300 is for convenience, but after a lot of research and experiment I decided that I preferred the 70-200 f/4 IS over the 70-300. Ideally I’d have liked to complement it with a 400mm prime, but could not justify the cost.

    Overall image quality from the 300mm is better than any of the zooms, whether you are making a subjective judgement or making actual tests of resolution, freedom from defects, colour balance, bokeh and all the rest. I think you might be disappointed if you were to replace it with a slower and heavier zoom.

    What does Grant think?

    • Grant Atkinson Says: December 8, 2016 at 8:48 pm

      Hi Tom, Grant thinks that the new zooms, EF 70-200L f2.8 IS ii, and EF 70-300L IS, and EF 100-400L IS ii, are good enough that in real-world usage, they usually match older fixed lenses like the EF 300L f4 IS, certainly for his way of shooting, which involves a lot of handholding where IS is helpful, and also often in lower ambient light situations..:-)
      So for sure if you compared an older zoom lens like the original EF 100-400L IS (push-pull) or even the EF 28-300L (push-pull), then I agree, that the EF 300L f4 IS will outperform both of them in AF speed, in image quality, all the above metrics mentioned. But newer zooms have made the biggest strides in terms of image quality, AF speed, great IS, and also more accurate autofocus than before. The autofocus advantages are helpful with any Canon dslr body but more so when paired with those bodies that really do well with the modern lenses – the 7dmk2, 80D, 5Dmk3, 5Dmk4, 1DX and 1DXmk2.
      But that is just my take on things
      Cheers
      Grant

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