Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM £7499

5th Oct 2011 | 10:08

Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM

What price for perfection in a super-fast telephoto camera lens?

TechRadar rating:

5 stars

Like:

Spectacular optical performance; Great build quality; Super-fast and accurate autofocus; Power Focus and Focus Preset modes; Image Stabiliser lives up to 4-stop claims;

Dislike:

A bit heavy for prolonged handheld use; Expensive to buy;

Overview and features

The Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM is one of the latest telephoto and super-telephoto lenses to hit the market, or perhaps we should say to clobber it, given the size and weight of the 300mm and its even bigger 400mm brother.

A fully professional telephoto lens, aimed predominantly at sports and wildlife photographers, the Mark II edition of the EF 300 f/2.8L is certainly no lightweight, at 2.4kg. That's despite an all-new magnesium alloy body with titanium components that shave 8% off the weight of its predecessor.

It measures 128mm in diameter and is 248mm long, extending to 374mm with the lens hood fitted.

As one of Canon's top-notch professional lenses, the EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM has just about every feature you could wish for. Ring-type USM autofocus is of the highest standard, and comes complete with Power Focus mode and a Focus Preset facility.

Select Power Focus from the three-position AF/PF/MF switch and a separate focus ring, called the Playback ring, enables dual speed motorised focus adjustments – ideal for video shooting.

The Focus Preset button enables you to store a focus position in memory, then return to it at any time by pressing the button again. As well as on/off positions, there's an additional 'on' setting that gives you a confirmation beep.

A three-position focus limit switch enables you to select the full focus range or limit it to 2-6m, or 6m to infinity.

There are also four AF Stop buttons around the lens' circumference, forward of the focus and Playback rings, which are useful for locking focus in AI Servo mode.

The Image Stabiliser (IS) is updated in the Mark II lens to give a 4-stop benefit, compared with its predecessor's 2-stop stabiliser.

It also comes with three separate modes. Mode 1 is for regular shooting, Mode 2 is for panning in either landscape or portrait orientation shooting, and Mode 3 only applies stabilisation during actual exposures, which works well when you're trying to track erratically moving objects.

Other features include a drop-in 52mm filter holder at the rear of the lens, strap mounts, a carrying strap and a rotating tripod mount. The tripod mount's locking knob also includes a Kensington lock facility for securing the lens, like those often fitted to laptop computers.

Build quality and handling

Canon ef 300mm f/2.8l is usm

Build quality of the Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM is everything you'd expect at the price, befitting a professional super-telephoto lens designed for the rugged outdoors.

Environmental seals guard against the ingress of dust and moisture, complete with a rubber O-ring in the mounting plate where the lens fixes to the camera.

The use of expensive fluorite lens elements aims to maximise image quality, while the front and rear elements have fluorine coatings on their outer surfaces to enable easier cleaning.

Canon's SWC (SubWavelength Coating) is also used to reduce ghosting and flare.

Not-so-little extras include a whopping lens hood, a soft fabric wraparound lens cap and a custom-made 300B hard case, which is similarly well made and nicely padded.

Switches and control rings all have a high-precision feel to them and handling is excellent, despite the size and weight of the lens.

Performance

Canon ef 300mm f/2.8l is usm and ef 400mm f/2.8l is usm

The Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens performs stunningly in every respect. The ring-type USM autofocus is blazingly fast and accurate, while the 4-stop image stabiliser makes for consistently sharp handheld shots.

Even so, the 2.4kg weight of the lens can make prolonged unsupported photography a bit of a strain.

Image quality is spectacular with pin-sharp results from corner to corner. Contrast is great, even when shooting at the widest aperture of f/2.8 in dull lighting conditions.

Distortion, vignetting and chromatic aberrations are all negligible, while the 300mm super-telephoto lens is also remarkably resistant to ghosting and flare.

On a full-frame DSLR camera such as the Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III or Canon EOS 5D Mark II, the fast maximum aperture not only enables you to freeze the action even under gloomy lighting, it also enables a really tight depth of field.

Indeed, shoot at a focus distance of 10m at f/2.8 and the depth of field is just 18.3cm. At the closest focus distance of 2m, depth of field shrinks to just 6.4mm.

Mount the lens on an APS-C-sized body such as the Canon EOS 7D, and the effective focal length extends to 480mm, while the depth of field at 10m and 2m drops to just 11.6cm and 4.1mm respectively.

Sharpness and fringing test

Sharpness

As part of our test of the Canon EF 300mm f/2.8 IS II USM we've shot our SFR Plus chart at every aperture to check for sharpness and fringing across the frame. The resulting images are then fed through the Imatest Master software.

The graph below shows the results of the test, with each of the coloured lines depicting the lenses performance at the centre (in blue), and an average of the results for the middle of the frame (pink) and the image edge (yellow).

Canon ef 300mm f/2.8l is ii usm sharpness

The graph shows that the Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS USM performs well across the aperture range, with the best results for sharpness achieved between f/4 and f/7.1.

As usual the lens performs best at the centre, but at most apertures the edge performance is not far behind.

Fringing

Canon ef 300mm f/2.8l is ii usm fringing

This graph shows that signs of fringing are low across the aperture range. Despite the expected rise at the edge of the frame the amount of fringing is still very low.

Sample images

Canon ef 300mm f/2.8l is ii usm

Taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II, f/2.8, 1/1000 second

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Canon ef 300mm f/2.8l is ii usm

Taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II, f/8, 1/125 second

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Canon ef 300mm f/2.8l is ii usm

Taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II, f/8, 1/200 second

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Canon ef 300mm f/2.8l is ii usm

Taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II, f/5.6, 1/250 second

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Canon ef 300mm f/2.8l is ii usm

Taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II, f/5.6, 1/160 second (1.6x crop factor)

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Canon ef 300mm f/2.8l is ii usm

Taken at f/2.8 with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II

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Canon ef 300mm f/2.8l is ii usm

Taken at f/4 with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II

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Canon ef 300mm f/2.8l is ii usm

Taken at f/5.6 with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II

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Canon ef 300mm f/2.8l is ii usm

Taken at f/8 with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II

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Canon ef 300mm f/2.8l is ii usm

Taken at f/11 with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II

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Canon ef 300mm f/2.8l is ii usm

Taken at f/8 with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II

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Canon ef 300mm f/2.8l is ii usm

Taken at f/8 with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II

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Verdict

Splash out the current selling price of around £5,590 on a DSLR lens and you expect fully professional quality. Even so, the Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM is something rather special.

The wide-ranging features all work brilliantly, and build quality is excellent in every way.

Ultimately, however, image quality is the most important factor and it's here that the lens really excels.

We liked

Stunning image quality and top performance in every area, from super-fast autofocus to extremely efficient image stabilisation.

We disliked

It's a little heavy for handheld use over long periods of time.

Verdict

The Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM super-telephoto lens amply demonstrates what Canon's current range of DSLR cameras are really capable of.

Canon EF f/2.8L IS II USM lenses camera lenses
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