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

Review Date: Aug 15, 2011 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,499.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Build quality, size, weight, center sharpness, Very good IS
Aperture at 300mm, cost, corner sharpness on full frame, copy variation!

Let me just start this off by saying how good this lens is, because it has really surprised me coming from the older 70-300 non-L. As sharp as the 70-200 F4L IS is, this lens matches it at all focal lengths and focuses faster than I expected! But, there is a caveat...I tried two copies of this lens in a camera store and the first was simply not sharp beyond 200mm, even in the center, with too much CA across the frame. I was deciding between the 70-200 F4L IS and this lens; the 7-2 was very sharp on my 7D, but I really wanted the extra range. I'm very glad that I picked up another 70-300L to test because it was very sharp, as good as the 70-200 F4L IS and the IS felt better; it feels like it 'starts' quicker and makes almost no noise. On a crop sensor this lens is extremely good, corner or corner with absolutely awesome contrast. The 70-200 F4L IS or F2.8 II has a corner advantage on full-frame, but I think everyone knows this. The weight of this lens is perfect, and it feels very good in your hand. I thought it might require me to use my 7D with the grip, but it just wasn't heavy enough or front-balanced to require it for comfort.

Everyone has said this lens is built like a tank, and they are correct. I was a little worried about the extending-zoom design of this lens and the ability to be weather sealed, but this lens simple exudes quality and tight tolerances. I'm willing to bet that dust and moisture are non-issues for most people. Physically, the 70-200s could be sealed better than this lens, just by design, but I don't know if they really are. Unlike my 15-85, the rear element of the 70-300L barely moves when zoomed, and I don't feel any air being pushed into the camera body (like the other extending zoom lenses do).

Many reviews online say this lens is as sharp as the 7-2 F4L IS, and many others say it is just a step-below it--the first one I tested was probably two steps below... I'm willing to bet, maybe because of the design, that there is more copy variation in these than in any of the 7-2s. I did a few tripod tests when I got the lens home of targets at 5 and 15 feet and this lens is razor sharp in the center at 70 and at 300.