Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM review

Matthew Richards puts Canon’s oddball luxury 70-300mm telephoto zoom to the test

Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM review
(Image: © Future)

Digital Camera World Verdict

We were highly skeptical at paying such a high price for a 70-300mm f/4-5.6 lens when this lens first came out over a decade ago. Especially, when optically stabilized telephoto zooms were available that cost substantially less. But its quality wins out – it only took us a few minutes of using this L-series lens to fall in love with it. The build quality and optical prowess are excellent, and in today's market this now-old lens is now something of a bargain compared to some mirrorless lenses.


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    Top optical quality

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    Rugged professional build with seals


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    Tripod collar costs extra

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For decades, telephoto zoom lenses were divided into two categories. Budget-friendly consumer models were reasonably compact and tended to have a maximum aperture of f/4-5.6 as you stretch through the zoom range. Professional lenses were bigger, heavier, had higher-grade optics and usually boast a faster maximum aperture of f/2.8 or f/4. The maximum aperture also remains fixed throughout the zoom range, earning them the ‘constant-aperture’ moniker. The Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM broke the mold - offering a half-way house between the two types.

Despite having a fairly modest filter diameter of 67mm, 10mm less than the fast Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS II USM lens, the lens barrel is almost the same width. At first the 70-300mm L looks like a budget telephoto zoom packed into an oversized full metal jacket. Look deeper, though, and you’ll find a full raft of Luxury-series finery. Build quality feels rock solid, there’s full environmental sealing to guard against moisture and dust in adverse shooting conditions, and all switches and moving parts feel of fully professional quality.

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Matthew Richards

Matthew Richards is a photographer and journalist who has spent years using and reviewing all manner of photo gear. He is Digital Camera World's principal lens reviewer – and has tested more primes and zooms than most people have had hot dinners! 

His expertise with equipment doesn’t end there, though. He is also an encyclopedia  when it comes to all manner of cameras, camera holsters and bags, flashguns, tripods and heads, printers, papers and inks, and just about anything imaging-related. 

In an earlier life he was a broadcast engineer at the BBC, as well as a former editor of PC Guide.