All rights reserved by Teresa Teixeira
I purchased this lens primarily for hand-held bird photography for use on my Canon 40D DSLR. The lens is typical of Canon’s L-series “white” family of professional level telephoto lenses, having very high standards of construction and superb optical performance, even with a 1.4X teleconverter, when conditions allow.
This lens is known as the “overlooked” Canon telephoto, since it does not garner the glamor of its cousins, the really long, heavy, faster, and vastly more costly professional telephoto lenses. It is also known as the “toy lens” by bird photographers who mostly use those really Big Berthas for long-distance close-ups with blurred-out backgrounds.
I selected it for the high image quality wide-open, relatively light weight, and shorter physical length, allowing both hand-held and tripod mounted use, as well as its modest cost (compared to all high quality alternatives). The image quality is extremely high, even wide open at f/5.6, although it does improve slightly stopped down a notch or two. The image contrast, flare resistance, and color saturation are also excellent for a telephoto lens of its “older” fixed focal length optical design.
It doesn’t have image stabilization (IS), which maintains the reasonable price, but I don’t consider that much of a handicap using Canon’s DSLR’s, which allow low-noise high ISO settings for higher shutter speeds under decent lighting conditions. Braced against a tree, fence post, etc., and especially in a sitting position with arms resting on knees, for example, the lack of IS is simply not an issue. The focus is extremely fast and accurate with the 40D’s sensitive all X-type focus points, and the quickly removable tripod mount is of an excellent design that all tripod mounts should have.
As a bonus, on the 40D, the lens has the equivalent field of view of a 640mm f/5.6 telephoto lens! When a high quality teleconverter can be used, this becomes almost a 900mm f/8 telephoto (actually 896mm)! Not to exaggerate the point too much, but that’s starting to get into the Big Bertha focal length range, under the right lighting conditions. Other pluses include the handy built-in sliding lens hood and the very high quality included lens case, which are extra cost items for Canon’s non-L lenses.
The 400mm and 500mm zooms all seem to suffer from image softness at their maximum focal lengths, which I would be using 90% of the time anyway, so I elected to simply get the highest quality fixed 400mm I could find for a reasonable price. I also decided that I could live with 1 f-stop less than the much more expensive f/4’s, since this lens can be shot wide-open at the same high quality as the f/4’s stopped down – thus resulting in f/5.6 anyway.
This reasoning is even more appropriate when including the slightly less expensive, still high-quality, third party lenses, such as Tamron, Tokina, Sigma, etc. I reasoned that since I plan to use this lens for the rest of my life, why compromise in image quality for a few percent lower initial cost? I’m not slamming third party lenses in general by any means (I own a few), just in this case of comparing available alternatives (including other Canon’s) to the selection of this particular Canon 400mm and its intended use.
I was blessed with several excellent bald eagle shots on what I had expected to be just an initial “practice with the new lens” outing. Because of this excellent lens, it turned out to be a very productive shoot. I would include a thumbnail photo of one of these shots, except I can’t seem to be able to “paste” a small image into Amazon’s review window.
For one that is willing to accept and operate within the parameters of this lens, that photographer will be handsomely rewarded by Canon’s 400mm f/5.6L telephoto lens. In my case, it is exactly what I was looking for and it is exceeding all my expectations.
Click Here to learn more about the Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L
My preferences are tele and macro photos, currently I use an EOS 50D body and as a backup an EOS 450D (Rebel XSi). After several thousand shots out in the wilderness the 300 mm/ f4.0 IS USM turned out to be my favorite lens – to my own suprise even for macros if I cannot get quite close. It’s closest distance of 1.5 m makes it very useful for that purpose. In particular it is interesting to compare it with another lens that I use in such “keep distance” macro situations: Tamron’s 70-200 mm f/2.8 macro as this zoom has an excellent optics and is very sharp (according to many reviews sharper than Canon’s 70-200 mm f/2.8 L IS USM). But it has a disappointingly old fashioned, slow, loud and inaccurate autofocus (AF) drive, combined with the lack of any image stabilization.
So I end up to only use this zoom if I have enough time to focus manually and I carry a mono- or tripod with me. Shooting with the EF 300 mm beams me then from the stone age of photography to the current state of the art. It is such a pleasure to use! It is still light enough for hand-held shots, the AF is so quick that you really can try to catch flying birds, and it works silently and precisely. The IS system is not Canon’s latest generation but very reliable. In practise you win about 2-3 aperture stops, i.e. even hand-hold shots at about 1/100 s are basically sharp (if the subject isn’t too fast of course).
The most important argument in favorite of the EF 300 mm f/4L IS USM is its superiour picture quality. In particular I love it’s soft, harmonic bokeh (background blur). The Tamron zoom does not meet this nice bokeh completely though it is not bad and – like many zooms – it can produce some visible chromatic aberration (CA) under bright contrasty conditions. With the EF 300 mm you never have to worry about CA. Since the pictures are so sharp I can well accept in macro situations, that Canon’s 300 mm provides “only” a 0.24 magnification (the Tamron 1:1), because crops of the 300 mm tele pictures still look very good. Personally, I can accept light-hardedly the limitations of a prime lens. If I cannot catch the whole bird within the frame I shoot its portrait and am happy with the fantastic result.
– extremely sharp already with open aperture
– no issues with chromatic aberration
– no issues with vignetting (at least not with a crop DSLR such as a EOS 40/50D or a Rebel body)
– wonderful bokeh (background blur)
– silent, fast and accurate AF
– very good 2-mode IS (one mode for standard situations, one for quickly moving objects)
– professional L quality, perfect look & feel
– closest distance of 1.5 m opens up serious macro potential (versus 2.5 m of the faster and bigger 300 mm f/2.8 L IS USM)
– makes effectively a decent 480 mm tele lens on a crop DSLR with a smaller sensor (such as the 50D)
– still light enough for hand-held shots
– nice retractable “slide and screw” lens hood
– very well balanced in the hand, even with a small rebel body
– expensive, but still good price-performance ratio.
– AF sometimes hunts if the background is vivid: therefore I programmed my 50D so I can stop this with its AF-ON button
– f 4.0 is okay but faster f 2.8 would be, of course, sometimes better (freezing fast movements in particular drives crop DSLR users quickly to noisier ISO 800+ settings)
– well, finally: it’s a pity that physics will never allow to create any zoom with such a prime lenses’ amazing image quality!
So, if you can accept the limits of a prime lens and it’s price level, I can highly recommend you this 300 mm tele.
Click Here to learn more about the Canon EF 300mm f/4L IS
All rights reserved by Amine Benboubker
Everything you’ve read is true. Beautiful sharpness and clarity, great bokeh, superb low-light capabilities.
NOT the lens for group shots in smaller rooms on 1.6 crop. Otherwise, BEAUTIFUL for portraits.
Virtually silent and almost instant AF.
I love the control over DOF by choosing the aperture you want. Easily isolate your subject in foreground, mid-distance or background for impressive effects. Or open it wide to 1.8 and isolate just one EYE in a portrait, if you prefer. Stop it down and add whole new dimensions for landscapes.
For even more control, I’m a big fan of back button focusing on my 40D. (Visit the forum of your DSLR brand and <SEARCH> “back button focus” to customize and learn to use this invaluable feature.) Separates focus from metering (often combined in half-pressing the shutter) to give ABSOLUTE control over focus point without risk of AF shift — except when you want it, as in continuous focus. Virtually eliminates out-of-focus (OOF) rejects.
Always-on MF on this lens is also convenient for tweaking AF, though I rarely use it.
Not a true macro lens, but captures GREAT closeups and can be used with extension tubes, as others note.
I like this focal length A LOT on a 1.6 crop. It’s effectively 135mm, so you can stand well back from subjects and not intimidate them at all. (Though the lens hood makes it look formidable.) Terrific reach for candid street shooting, indoor sports, club and stage performances.
Sharpness and quality, especially in RAW, as magnified for post-processing in Photoshop, is stunning.
Always with me in my walkaround bag and usually on camera. My first thought in ANY situation is, “Can I use the 85?”
By far my favorite lens.
Click Here to learn more about the Canon EF 85mm f/1.8
I bought this lens because I wanted a good, fast prime lens for indoor use on my 50D. I also own the EF 50mm f/1.4 which I love, but indoors I find it less useful due to the crop frame sensor of the 50D.
I knew I wanted something in the wide angle range (due to the 1.6x crop frame of the camera) so I looked at the EF 28mm f/1.8 USM and the EF 35mm f/2.0. Based on reviews here at Amazon as well as outside websites I decided to go with the 35mm f/2.0 because the 28mm seems to have consistently negative reviews. I was also able to pick up this 35mm for about $130 less than the 28mm so it seemed to be a better investment.
I have now had the 35mm for about 1 month and taken over 300 photos with it on my camera. All in all I am happy with the lens and it has been on my camera nearly the whole time I have owned it. The images are sharp and the color is good. This is a fast lens and you can get some great bokeh when you open it up wide which is nice when you want to get creative with your photos.
However, I am more than frustrated with the auto focusing with this lens. It does not seem to want to focus on the subject of the frame, many images end up out of focus if I let the camera do all of the work. When left to its own devices, many times this lens will not produce images that are in focus, or at east not what you wanted in focus.
The only way I can get the great photos that this lens is capable of is when I take control of the focusing points and select exactly what I want in focus for each shot. This is not overly difficult and I am used to it because I am generally selecting the desired auto focus point for each shot, but this lens seems to be abnormally challenged at focusing on the desired subject on its own.
This has been a major disappointment because unfortunately I know that when someone else (who is not familiar with how to use the camera) picks it up it is 50/50 whether the photo turns out, especially in low light situations.
I feel that this is a problem if you are looking at this lens to be a good all around indoor prime for candids and family shots and especially if you want to be in some of the photos.
This is a good lens if you are familiar with how to use the auto focus selectivity features of your camera. The image quality is good, similar to the 50mm f/1.4, and definately better than any kit lens you may have, but don’t expect to put this lens on your camera and never have to learn how to really use it on your camera.
Click Here to learn more about the Canon EF 35mm f/2
The only gripes I hear are: bokeh, build quality, focus motor, and telephoto focal length.
(1) bokeh – I don’t mind pentagonal bokeh. This means that when you shorten the field of focus and the lights in the background get blurred out, they come off as pentagons. If that matters to you, you are probably a big enough photography nut that the 50mm 1.4 or 50mm 1.2 (which cost > 5x and 10x, respectively) are reasonable purchases.
(2) build quality – Canon has been producing this model in its plastic mount for years. The first one I used was my dad’s metal-mount model that he bought 12 years ago – heavier and very solid. However, I don’t know a single person who has had a build issue with this plastic-mount version. It may not feel as nice as the metal-version, but it lasts regardless.
(3) focus motor – Yes, this can be annoying in ultra ultra low light. I’m talking about taking pictures of friends in a long corner booth in a dark dive bar with a candle on the table a light bulb on the ceiling 10 feet away. If you flip to manual focus, you might be able to force the shot through. But as you get to know your camera better, you’ll be able to set up the shot to help the focus out. But yes, this $100 lens has a slow focus motor.
(4) telephoto – This issue does cut into my use of the lens. I have a Canon 500D/T2i, which means this 50mm lens is equivalent to an 85mm lens on a full frame camera. That’s really not a big deal for a lot of uses – portraits, sports, general outdoor photography. In the aforementioned dive bar booth though, you’d better hope it’s a big booth, or be prepared to walk out of the booth to take the picture.
BOTTOM LINE: This is an amazing lens that is sharp as ninja sword, incredibly portable and TOO CHEAP NOT TO BUY.
Click Here to learn more about the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II