Review Canon 300mm f/4L Review

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#1
As part of my reopening of my website (not had enough time for the last year to sort it out after it went kaput) I have decided to write a few reviews of my kit to hopefully drive a few people to it:shrug::LOL:. So the first review is my Canon 300 f/4L that I got a few months ago (this is the non IS version).

So to the review...

Looks


The 300 f/4L is one of the white lenses in the Canon range (almost all L telephotos over 200mm are) and as such is very conspicuous, especially when the (built in) lens hood is pushed out. It is not a big lens compared to a lot of the longer telephotos in Canons line up, but next to a normal zoom/prime it is substantial, with dimensions of 9x21cm. Weight wise its size makes it appear heavier than it actually is, with a weight of 1165g, it is actually pretty light for a lens of this range, mainly due to the reasonably small f/4 aperture. The newer IS version is actually of a very similar size and weight, at 9x22cm and 1190g.

Mechanical Qualities

The lens itself is very well built, with an almost completely metal barrel, except for the focus ring and lens hood grip and looks (and feels) like it could survive a lot of tough love. The focus ring is just right, although perhaps a tad on the light side and the focus guide is also a nice contribution. On the side there are two switches, one to switch from autofocus to manual focus (although this lens allows full time manual focus, which means you can adjust the focus without having to switch it to manual focus), and the other a focus limiter, allowing the focus to hunt from either 2.5m (the closest the lens will focus) to infinity or 6m to infinity. I usually leave the focus limiter on 6m to infinity as there doesn't seem to be a huge time difference between them, unless I know I won't need to focus that close.

Autofocus speed is good (on the 400D), and a lot faster and quieter than the 75-300 IS. When used in AI servo it appears to keep up with panning over a landscape with near and far objects to the point I didn't notice any out of focus parts, add that to the almost silent AF and it appeared almost like it wasn't doing anything at all, which is mightily impressive. Keepers from birds in flight rose massively using this lens over the 75-300 (which would spend a lot of it's time hunting for focus, from ballpark figures of around 20% to 80%). Having said all that, I have found, with fast moving subjects moving towards the camera (i.e. a dog running) that the lens can't quite keep up and subsequent shots appear to be focused just behind the head. I don't know if this is due to the lens, the camera or just the user...

The lens also comes with a tripod ring (useful for a lens of this length, and sometimes missing on L zooms, such as the 70-200 f/4L) and a black, round hard leather case for storage. The leather case is a little too large to use for carrying it around in though, and I am thinking about buying the fabric case that comes with the newer IS version (as both are almost identical in size I see no reason why it wouldn't fit perfectly).

Optics

The 300 f/4 L is argued to be slightly sharper than the IS version that replaced it (the reasons given being the extra elements needed for the IS version), but from if there is there is very little in it from what I have seen. Optically though both lenses are reputed to be two of the sharpest telephoto lenses around (the 300 f/2.8L is reputed to be even sharper) and I have no quarms with the performance of my lens. At f/4 there is a little softness there, but as soon as you hit f/5.6 any softness there was disappears. Above that I doubt there will be any difference in sharpness until you hit diffraction, however I haven't actually taken any shots other than lower than f/5.6 so I don't know (I doubt many people will use a smaller aperture regularly with this lens either). Distortion and Chromatic Aberrations (CAs) are not visible to my eye.

Summary


The Canon 300 f/4L is a superb lens and I'm very impressed with it. Compared to the long end of the 75-300 IS it is a stop faster and so much sharper before even considering the focus speeds. The lack of zoom means it can be a bit harder to get shots from closer objects but for most of the time this lens will be used for small creatures anyway, and to this end I am planning on getting a 1.4x TC, to make it a 420mm f/5.6. The only other major drawback of the lens is the lack of IS, which can be a godsend in low light (afternoon/evening and even overcast days), but it can be worked around, I have just bought a monopod for just this reason, however if you have the money, the newer IS version is probably the better bet as size and optical quality wise there is practically no difference.

Further Reading

For more technical details these sites are very good:

Photozone Canon 300 f/4L review

Photozone Canon 300 f/4 IS review

The-Digital-Picture Canon 300 f/4 IS review
 
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#3
I used to have the Canon 300 F/4L and I can agree that it is very good quality and very hardy. I think its the best value telephoto on the market today. I bought mine for around £300* - the Nikon 300 F/4 i recently bought cost me £700*.... I believe that the Nikon is a little sharper and more contrasty but is it over 2x better? Not on your nelly!

Great lens at a fantastic price!

*second hand prices.
 
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Amp34
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#7
thank really thinking in the lens
Glad someone found it of use.:)

(I have actually got a couple of test photos on my blog, but never got round to ammending this post.:bonk:)

I used to have the Canon 300 F/4L and I can agree that it is very good quality and very hardy. I think its the best value telephoto on the market today. I bought mine for around £300* - the Nikon 300 F/4 i recently bought cost me £700*.... I believe that the Nikon is a little sharper and more contrasty but is it over 2x better? Not on your nelly!

Great lens at a fantastic price!

*second hand prices.
Good to know i'm not way off the mark,:LOL:
 
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