Lens Review: Canon EF 300mm f/2.8 IS II USM

Wilky Orelien (18) chases down the blocked punt during the college football game on September 7th, 2013 at Alumni Stadium. the St. Joseph's Puma's won 34-31 over the Valparaiso Crusaders

Canon EF 300mm Review

Last fall I rented a Canon 300mm lens and a camera for an early football weekend. I wanted to see what I could get with one of these prime lenses. Would the results be different than putting a teleconverter on my 70-200mm lens? The answer was yes. I loved the creamy bokeh in the background, and it seemed as if I was really making some great pictures with this lens. I borrowed it from LensRentals.com, and I really did not want to give it back when my time was up. It felt great shooting several sports, and it did not take long to get used to shooting with a monopod.

This is not a review where I get out charts and see what the lens can do in a lab. I borrowed the lens, and shot the heck out of it for several days to see what it could do in certain situations. The first day that I had the lens I was not actually planning on shooting with it very much. I was out using the 5D Mark III that I had rented making some pictures of windmills. I saw a hawk on a telephone pole, and I knew that I had a chance to try out this lens. I pulled it out of the back of the car to try it out. I was very happy with the photo of the hawk that I was able to make. That night I took it to soccer mounted on my Canon 60D with the 1.4x teleconverter attached. I quickly realized that I was too close to the action, and I ended up just shooting the 300mm on the Canon 5D Mark III. Once again I was getting great results, and I knew that I was in real trouble. I wanted one of these very badly.

The next night I found myself on the Purdue soccer pitch. The combination of the 5D Mark III and the 300mm lens at f/2.8 was giving me results that I had not seen come from a camera of mine yet. I was able to really reach out into the dark night to make some great photos. Before this combination I would have to get what I could while the light was still good, and then just shoot close to the goal with my 70-200mm lens. Now I had the power to really reach out and make some images. I was now really in trouble as I wanted the lens and the 5D Mark III.

Saturday was a doubleheader for me. At noon I had a college football game to shoot, and then roller derby back in Lafayette that night. I was very excited to try the lens out at the football game. This was what I had rented it for in the first place. I tried every combination that I could there with great success. It worked well with the 1.4x extender and without it. It also gave me some great photos on the 60D as well as the 5D Mark III. I made some portfolio images that day that still remain in my portfolio. There was something about the quick focus combined with the creamy bokeh that really made for some great photos. I had such a good time shooting with it that I decided to try it at the roller derby bout that night. I was great for close ups, but it really did not work well to capture the action of roller derby. I like to get more than a trading card shot in roller derby, and that is all that I could really get there.

Sunday found me at another Purdue soccer match. Now that I knew what I had I could perfect my technique a bit. I was able to reach in very close and make the images that I wanted to make. One final soccer game on Monday confirmed what I knew early on in this process. I needed to have a longer lens. For most sports you can get in close, but when you are dealing with field sports you need to get in on the action. You cannot zoom with your feet like you can on a landscape shoot. You need the glass to reach out to where the action is. In most cases this lens could do that for me.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Great bokeh
  • Image stabilization
  • Solid Construction
  • Weather Sealed
  • Pulled me in closer to the action then I was used to getting.
  • 420mm with a 1.4x tele on the full frame
  • 480mm on my Canon without a tele, 672mm with the 1.4x tele

Cons

  • Price tag ($7,300)
  • Size of lens compared to my 70-200mm
  • Weight of the lens for extended periods of time
  • Sometimes came up short shooting soccer and football. A 400mm or a 600mm would be ideal.

Sample Images

Here are a few images that I have made with the Canon 300mm lens



Alphonso Hines (81) tries to evade a defender during the college football game on September 7th, 2013 at Alumni Stadium. the St. Joseph's Puma's won 34-31 over the Valparaiso Crusaders



Jessie Pourch (12) receives a kickoff during the college football game on September 7th, 2013 at Alumni Stadium. the St. Joseph's Puma's won 34-31 over the Valparaiso Crusaders

 

Final Verdict

If you have the means this is a great lens for you to buy. The $7,300 price tag is pretty steep, but the results are great. I did not end up purchasing this lens. Late in the football season I rented a Sigma 300mm f/2.8 lens from LensRentals.com. The lens was very comparable to the Canon version at less than half the cost. This past spring I bought the Sigma version. I think that the build quality was better with the Canon lens, but for what I shoot I could not justify the price.

3 Replies to “Lens Review: Canon EF 300mm f/2.8 IS II USM”

  1. Do you feel the teleconverters (which I assume are not prime) can detract from the Prime lens benefit? And do you need a specific sized teleconverter to match what ever objective size you’re using? (I’m not familiar with these, but am a bit intrigued IF they maintain clarity with the added magnification….) M

    1. The tele can cause some loss in quality. Whenever possible I try and just use my prime lens to capture the action. With some instances like wildlife you have to just use it, and take the small loss. I have a 2x tele that matches my Sigma 300mm, and it is not as sharp, but does turn my lens into a 600mm lens. If I wanted to try a fine art wildlife shot I would not want to use the tele, but for just messing around I love the reach that it gives me. It is definitely better to use a prime and a tele than a variable zoom lens from what I have seen.

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