Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS USM
 

Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS USM

This review covers


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» Image Quality «


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» Sample Pictures «

» Conclusion «

» Further Information «


Table of contents

Note: this lens has a successor - the Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM


Lenses giving a maximum aperture of f/2.8 at a focal length of 300 mm have been popular for many years. To get to f-stops that small in a telephoto lens huge optical parts have to be used that make the lens bulky, heavy and expensive. The EF 300mm f/2.8L IS USM is certainly no exception to this rule but it combines those specs with other features and qualities to a very interesting kit.

Intended Use

Wildlife & Sports

The EF 300mm f/2.8L IS USM's focal length of 300 mm used on an APS-C camera will give you an effective focal length of 480 mm which is ideal for wildlife and sports photography. To capture the body of a domestic cat (without tail) you could keep a distance of 20 ' and for pigeons you'd be shooting from 13 ' away which is far enough not to shy them away. If you want to shoot the full body of a person doing sports you'll only have to get as close as 72 ' to that person. If you require even more focal length you can use an extender with the EF 300mm f/2.8L IS USM and thanks to the lense's maximum aperture of f/2.8 you'll still be able to use the autofocus even with a 2x extender. An aperture of f/2.8 is ideal for wildlife and sports photography because by letting through plenty of light it allows the use of very fast shutter speeds that can freeze the motion of moving subjects. The built-in image stabilizer helps with camera shake when using the lens without a tripod. Since it's very common in wildlife and sports photography to emphasize a subject by blurring its sourrounding background the beatuy of blurred image parts is an important quality for such lenses and the EF 300mm f/2.8L IS USM performs well in this field (see test results).

Of course there are other usecases for the EF 300mm f/2.8L IS USM such as landscape or portrait photography. But it certainly is best for wildlife and sports.

Weight and Dimensionstop

Weight

At 90 oz the EF 300mm f/2.8L IS USM is quite a beast that screams for a tripod or monopod - especially when shooting upwards (e.g. birds in trees). But nonetheless I have used it on several occasions without support for hours on end and I took it to several long hikes as well and didn't regret it. Obviously it depends a lot on yourself whether you are comfortable carrying around that much weight. Maybe compare the EF 300mm f/2.8L IS USM's weight with other lenses that you own in below weight table to get a feel for it. BTW: I find the weight of the successor to this lens (the EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM) a lot more comfortable though it's just 7 oz lighter.

Lens Weight [oz]  
Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS USM 90

Compare with the weight of other lenses:

 

Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM 14
Canon EF-S 15-85mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM 20
Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM 22
Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM 17
Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS II 7
Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS 16
Canon EF 24mm f/2.8 IS USM 10
Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM 28
Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM 32
Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM 23
Canon EF 28mm f/1.8 USM 11
Canon EF 28mm f/2.8 IS USM 9
Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 STM 4
Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM 19
Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM 9
Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II 4
Canon EF 50mm f/2.5 Compact Macro 10
Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS 14
Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS II 14
Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro USM 12
Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM 52
Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM 14
Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM 21
Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM 22
Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM 52
Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM 83
Tamron AF 70-300mm F/4-5.6 Di LD MACRO 1:2 (for Canon) 16


Dimensions

The EF 300mm f/2.8L IS USM's dimensions are 5 " (diameter) by 10 " (length).

Camera

Compare with these values:

Length in
Diameter: in

Handling and Build Qualitytop

If you purchase a high-end L series lens you can expect superior build quality. And that is what the EF 300mm f/2.8L IS USM delivers. It's a very rugged lens made from magnesium alloy with an all metal lens mount that has a rubber seal to keep dust and moisture out. The supplied lens hood adds 8 oz to your kit even though it's made from carbon fiber. But it's very rugged as well and comes with a special treat: unlike other lens hoods it doesn't require a certain mounting position. Instead you just put it on top of the lens and fasten it with a nicely sized metal knob that's attached to the hood. Like most heavy and bulky lenses the EF 300mm f/2.8L IS USM comes with a tripod mount. When using the lens on a tripod the tripod mount not only ensures the right weight distribution but it also lets you rotate the lens from landscape orientation to portrait orientation (or to any other angle) very quickly. Unfortunately the tripod mount doesn't clearly click into place for level orientations but on the other hand tripods often aren't set up exactly level anyway. With the lens comes a Canon labeled strap that can be attached to the lens but if you change from handheld to tripod use rather frequently please note that the lens strap obstructs the rotation of the lens in its tripod mount so I recommend against using it. Also carrying a 5.6 lb lens with a regular strap is not good for you neck and thus I recommend using one of the modern third party carrying systems that put the weight on your shoulders rather than your neck.

The autofocus system is quick, silent and accurate. In some cases it is wise to limit the autofocus range and the EF 300mm f/2.8L IS USM comes with 3 ranges to choose from (full, close-up and long distance). The lens allows manual override during autofocus operation so that you don't have to switch to manual mode before you can interfere. The focus ring is 1.3 " long and has a nice slip-proof feel to it. All buttons and switches are positioned just right and feel good and solid. A classy metal name plate shows the world what a fancy lense you hold in your hands.

A word on filters

Unlike most other lenses the EF 300mm f/2.8L IS USM doesn't take regular screw in type front filters. I guess a 5 " filter would be hard to get anyway. Without protection from a front filter the lens's front element is more likely to get scratched and thus Canon have set it back by around 0.8 " even when used without hood. If you spoil it anyway Canon's repair service can replace it for you. While you are lacking the protective features of a front filter Canon have provided a way to give you the optical features of filters by using drop in type filters. Near the lens mount there is a tight drawer for drop in filter holders and the lens ships with one gel type filter holder. This filter holder takes any gel filters that are cut to the right size. Please note that the lens's dust and moisture seal requires a filter to be present. Therefore if you are not using a gel filter you will have to use the manufacturer provided clear glas filter that fits into the gel filter holder. If you prefer using regular screw in type filters over gel filter you can buy a special filter holder for those types of filters that replaces the gel filter holder and that allows you to use regular 52 mm screw in type filters. However the screw in filters must be of the slim type to fit into the drawer (e.g. "F-PRO" filters from B+W).

If I haven't lost you by now please consider the implications of using a circular pole filter that needs to be rotated according to the angle your camera has to the sun. For those types of filters the only viable solution is to use the original Canon circular pole drop in filter that's available as an accessory . This filter comes in a special drop in filter holder that has a little jog wheel so that you can rotate the filter from the outside.

When using the EF 300mm f/2.8L IS USM with a camera that has a builtin flash the filter (holder) cannot be replaced without first removing the lens from the camera because the flash obstructs the filter holder. But at least the circular pole filter's jog wheel is accessible with any camera.

Lens cap

When you are not using your lens you might want to protect it with a lens cap. While Canon do not provide a reqular lens cap with this lens they do provide a sort of leather pouch that can be slipped over the lens either without the hood or when the hood is attached in reverse position. This is not a lens case but just a rather complicated (albeit stylish) way to protect the lens's front element when the lens is not in use.

I recommend using (ugly) plastic accessory lens caps instead. Check out this link to a set of two lens caps - one for the front element (for when the lens is stored without hood or with the hood in reversed position) and one for the hood itself (for when it is attached to the lens in active position). These caps are mounted within seconds and keep dust out at least as well as the original leather pouch.

Beauty Case

Usually high-class Canon lenses come with a lens pouch but in case of the EF 300mm f/2.8L IS USM the manufacturer thought of something more valuable: a rugged hard-top lens case that by itself weighs around 5.6 lb. It has its own lock with keys and looks very much like a beauty case. But if you are thinking of using it as checked luggage think again: it's a nice looking case with a Canon logo and the number 300 printed all over it. I am sure some thiefs will consider this a personal invitation. For carry-on luggage it would be OK but I still prefer putting the lens in a camera backpack together with other stuff.

Image stabilizer

The builtin image stabilizer provides an f-stop gain of 2 f-stops and detects the use of a tripod automatically. It can be set to panning mode by switching to stabilizer mode 2 which will enable smooth image stabilizer operation while following a fast moving subject horizontally or vertically. More modern image stabilizers detect this movement automatically and do not require the user to activate a different mode. The EF 300mm f/2.8L IS USM's image stabilizer is noisier than modern implementations but still silent enough not to disturb.

Special Features

If you'd like to photograph a bird while landing on a birdhouse you can store the exact focus setting for this very distance in a focus preset and recall it later. While you are waiting for the bird to come you can shoot other stuff and when the bird arrives a little turn of the metal ring for focus preset recalls will get the focus to exactly where you want it within a fraction of a second. This could come in handy as well if you are aiming for an exact photo finish in sports photography.

Wildlife and sports photography usually require frequent changes of focus so using the AI servo focusing mode (that never stops focusing) is quite common. But if occasionally you'd like to first focus on something and then modify the composition by moving the focused subject around the image frame without refocusing you will have to stop the autofocus operation. Similarly if you try to manually override the autofocus with manual operation your override will be overwritten by the autofocus just an instant later if you are in AI servo mode. A solution is switching to one shot autofocus mode (or switching the lens to manual focus mode altogether) but as wildlife and sports photography often only give you a second to decide what to do you are more flexible staying in AI servo mode. Modern cameras address this problem by allowing you to assign an autofocus stop function to certain buttons on your camera (e.g. the AF-ON button). If your camera does not provide this flexibility the EF 300mm f/2.8L IS USM still has a solution for you: it comes with a couple of AF stop buttons positioned neatly around the front end of the lens.

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Handling

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Image Quality

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Conclusion

 

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