**This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking through my links.

Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM Lens Review

The Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM is a very popular consumer zoom lens designed for full frame Canon DSLR cameras and can also be used on Canon APS-C bodies such as the Rebel series of camearas. The Lens features Canon’s Image Stabilization (IS) technology allowing photographers to hand hold the lens at up to 4 shutter speeds slower than the 1/focal length guideline. Of course image stabilization won’t help with moving subjects and due to the lens’ relatively slower variable max aperture of f/4-5.6, you will need to increase the ISO sensitivity to keep shutter speeds higher in lower light situations.

Pricing*

  • Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM - $649.99

*Pricing from Manufacturer's website - Current selling price may be different.

Check current pricing from these affiliates

Image quality

Overall image quality is decent for a consumer grade 70-300mm lens. Canon does produce an “L” series version of the 70-300mm and it is sharper, although at over twice the price that is to be expected.

Sharpness

From 70mm to 200mm the Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM Lens is pretty sharp, but at 300mm the lens does show some softening. This is not uncommon in this class of lens as I have seen similar performance in the other consumer grade 70-300mm lenses.

Center Samples – click for 100% Crops

center--70 mm--1-160 sec at f - 4.0
center–70 mm–1-160 sec at f – 4.0
center--70 mm--1-40 sec at f - 8.0
center–70 mm–1-40 sec at f – 8.0
corner--70 mm--1-20 sec at f - 11
corner–70 mm–1-20 sec at f – 11
center--100 mm--1-125 sec at f - 4.5
center–100 mm–1-125 sec at f – 4.5
center--100 mm--1-40 sec at f - 8.0
center–100 mm–1-40 sec at f – 8.0
center--100 mm--1-20 sec at f - 11
center–100 mm–1-20 sec at f – 11
center--135 mm--1-100 sec at f - 5.0
center–135 mm–1-100 sec at f – 5.0
center--135 mm--1-40 sec at f - 8.0
center–135 mm–1-40 sec at f – 8.0
center--135 mm--1-20 sec at f - 11
center–135 mm–1-20 sec at f – 11
center--200 mm--1-80 sec at f - 5.0
center–200 mm–1-80 sec at f – 5.0
center--200 mm--1-30 sec at f - 8.0
center–200 mm–1-30 sec at f – 8.0
center--200 mm--1-15 sec at f - 11
center–200 mm–1-15 sec at f – 11
center--300 mm--1-50 sec at f - 5.6
center–300 mm–1-50 sec at f – 5.6
center--300 mm--1-25 sec at f - 8.0
center–300 mm–1-25 sec at f – 8.0
center--300 mm--1-13 sec at f - 11
center–300 mm–1-13 sec at f – 11

Corner Sharpness – click for 100% crops

corner--70 mm--1-160 sec at f - 4.0
corner–70 mm–1-160 sec at f – 4.0
corner--70 mm--1-40 sec at f - 8.0
corner–70 mm–1-40 sec at f – 8.0
corner--70 mm--1-20 sec at f - 11
corner–70 mm–1-20 sec at f – 11
corner--100 mm--1-125 sec at f - 4.5
corner–100 mm–1-125 sec at f – 4.5
corner--100 mm--1-40 sec at f - 8.0
corner–100 mm–1-40 sec at f – 8.0
corner--100 mm--1-20 sec at f - 11
corner–100 mm–1-20 sec at f – 11
corner--135 mm--1-100 sec at f - 5.0
corner–135 mm–1-100 sec at f – 5.0
corner--135 mm--1-40 sec at f - 8.0
corner–135 mm–1-40 sec at f – 8.0
corner--135 mm--1-20 sec at f - 11
corner–135 mm–1-20 sec at f – 11
corner--200 mm--1-80 sec at f - 5.0
corner–200 mm–1-80 sec at f – 5.0
corner--200 mm--1-30 sec at f - 8.0
corner–200 mm–1-30 sec at f – 8.0
corner--200 mm--1-15 sec at f - 11
corner–200 mm–1-15 sec at f – 11
corner--300 mm--1-50 sec at f - 5.6
corner–300 mm–1-50 sec at f – 5.6
corner--300 mm--1-25 sec at f - 8.0
corner–300 mm–1-25 sec at f – 8.0
corner--300 mm--1-13 sec at f - 11
corner–300 mm–1-13 sec at f – 11

Distortion

Most telephoto lenses give decent distortion performance and the Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM is no exception. At 70mm there is a slight amount of barrel distortion that evens out around 140-150mm then there is slight pincushion out to 300mm. The distortion is automatically corrected when shooting on Canon EOS bodies that support lens corrections when enabled and in JPG mode, while many RAW conversion programs such as Lightroom have a lens profile for this lens.

Build Quality

The build quality is decent and comparable with other mid-level consumer lenses. The lens does feature a focusing distance window and appears to be made from mostly high quality plastics and a metal mount.

What I Like

  • Image Stabilization
  • 58mm filter size

What I Don't Like

  • Not internally focused (front element rotates when the lens focuses)
  • Does not use Canon’s better quality USM focusing system making the lens a little louder and slower to acquire focus.
  • Does not include a lens shade (Canon only includes them with their “L” series lenses)

The Bottom Line

Other than the Micromotor USM and rotating front element, the Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM lens is a pretty good performer. However, when compared to the Tamron 70-300mm f/4-5.6 VC USD the value starts to drop. The Canon is sharper than the Tamron up to 200mm, but at 300mm the two lenses perform about the same, and let’s face it, most people purchase 70-300mm lenses to use at 300mm. The Tamron does use a better autofocus system that features an internally focusing lens group, full time manual focus override, includes a lens shade, and a slightly better feeling lens build. However, the Tamron is a little larger than the Canon, and uses a non-standard (for Canon) 62mm filter thread, but at $200 less makes it a slightly better value. Canon does make an “L” version of the 70-300mm lens that is fantastic, but costs quite a bit more. Canon also makes a unique “DO” (Diffactive Optics) version that features about the same image quality, but better build and autofocus than the 70-300mm IS, but in a more compact package. However, the DO version costs about the same as the “L” version making the choice between the two alternate Canon options pretty much a no-brainer.

Overall User Rating

4.54 out of 5

based on 1958 user reviews online.

: 63% (1237.3)
: 31% (599.2)
: 4% (74.3)
: 1% (28.1)
: 1% (19.1)

Shop

Specs

Focal Length 70 - 300 mm
Max Aperture f/4-5.6
Minimum Aperture f/
Minimum Focus distance 59.04 inches
Maximum Magnification 0.26x
Number of Elements 15
Number of Groups 10
Aperture Blade Design Rounded
Number of Aperture Blades 8
Filter Size 58 mm
Diameter 3.0 in.
Length 5.6 in.
Weight 1.39 lbs.
Lens Mount Construction Metal
Tripod Collar None
Weather Sealed No
Distance Scale Yes - No Hyper Focal Markings
Image Stabilization Yes
Lens Shade Optional

Leave a Reply