New zoom lens

rc car

There are currently 2 topics I wanted to talk about, the first one is the situation in the US, the second one is photography. I feel there is enough depression and sadness around there to skip the first topic and focus on the second for now. And I’ll soon be travelling to the states and I’d rather avoid having an advanced screening when landing, let’s be honest, there are more interesting prospects, like a fresh beer.

I recently upgraded my telephoto lens to a canon EF 70-300mm F/4-5.6L. My current camera body is an EOS 80D, which means the crop sensor is giving me an actual 100-480mm range which is a really powerful zoom. I ended up putting a Hoya UV filter on it to protect the entry lens.

I’ve been fumbling with it for a few weeks and had a mitigated Point of view on the resulting pictures: some of them were awesome, some of them were barely medium, quite fuzzy. This week end, I decided to give it a better shot and spent a few hours playing with it, first in the city then with my boy playing with his RC car. The initial idea was to get a set of raw picture to do some post-processing using lightroom and actually start to be able to use it, but the jpeg from the camera were mostly good enough that I decided to post them.

It’s time for some conclusions about this new lens:

zurich train station

  • the lens is long and heavy, there is no point denying it. You can’t hold the camera with a single hand, the total body + lens is more than 1.5kg. Be ready for your back, neck and hands. I currently have a camera dedicated backpack and I end up picking the right subset of gear depending on where I’m going and what I plan to shoot.
  • 480mm (300mm * 1.6 due to crop sensor) is a very long equivalent focal. Even with f/5.6 and an impressive IS (stabilisator), it’s easy to have fuzzy pictures due to shaking.
  • IS has 2 modes: 1 is for all direction stabilization, 2 is for vertical only. Choosing the right one is key if you want to have a decent picture (the stabilisator will actually kill a smooth horizontal movement and make a moving subject fuzzy). Typical example would be the RC car, travelling pretty darn fast.
  • it has a really nice bokeh
  • it’s weather sealed, so no issue going outside in a drizzle (not that you want to shoot picture in these conditions usually unless you’re in the gloomy grey style…)
  • It’s NOT compatible with focal multiplier from Canon, so don’t expect a cheap super long zoom on full frame
  • it has no ring to attach to a tripod, this is an optional accessory that canon is selling independently. That’s quite cheap from Canon IMHO and this ring is nigh impossible to find in Switzerland. It however comes with lens hood and a nice pouch for storage, albeit not really protective (no foam or dampening material)
  • It’s not constant aperture, which is a pain when shooting manual (need to tune speed when changing zoom) but what you lose in feature, you gain in weight, size and money.
  • this lens is full-frame compatible and is my first step toward that direction.

I managed to shoot a few decent pictures (actually, more than I expected), but mostly:

  • even in broad daylight, don’t hesitate to crank up ISO. I often ended up at 250/320 which allows to reduce the exposure. With zoom fully extended, shooting at slower speed than 1/250 always almost lead to not perfectly focused pictures (hopefully, not because I have Parkinson disease)
  • 300mm and f/5.6 gives a very shallow field of depth. That can be good for portraits (especially due to the nice bokeh) but you definitely want to close a bit if you’re unsure about focus (and there you go, boosting ISO again then)
  • shooting inside is mostly a no go (aperture is not bright enough) but using an indirect flash, it actually produce marvels.

Pictures here are some examples (cropped or reduced in size), a much bigger set can be found in the dedicated google photo album. I would not call this article a review as the issues I’ve had are mostly from the operator, not the hardware, but I’m definitely super happy about the purchase and the result I have with it, highly recommended. Despite the price ticket, this has convinced me to focus on the “L” lenses for future purchases.


2 thoughts on “New zoom lens

  1. You and I definitely don’t have the same definition of “crank up ISO”: my camera is typically set in auto range “100-800” by default, cranking up the ISO is setting it to “100-3200” 😉


    1. bruce

      I usually fix iso and aperture and let the camera tune (only) the speed. Older camera had awful noise in higher ISO (from 600) and I still don’t fully trust them with high ISO, even if it’s much better now.


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