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Canon EF 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6L IS USM

Review Date: Nov 13, 2004 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $2,250.00 | Rating: 6 

Pros: Superb zoom range, solid construction
Push-pull zoom control awkward, switches for AF and IS are easily moved inadvertently, weight, cost.

I bought this lens to fill a gap in focal length coverage. I already owned the 17-40mm F/4L lens and the 100-400 f/4.5-5.6L IS lens and wanted to fill the gap with an L lens. While this lens does that job admirably, I probably should have bitten the bullet and purchased two lenses instead: The 24-70mm f/2.8L and the 70-200mm f/2.8L IS. The total for the two would have been about $2,600 (I paid $2,250 for the 28-300) and although having two lenses would necessitate lens changes, the lighter weight of the 70-200 f/2.8L IS and the larger maximum aperture of both lenses would probably have cancelled out that negative. There was that $400+ bump in cost however.

The 28-300mm is heavy, very heavy, and makes panning at a race track a dicey proposition. The mode-2 setting for the IS does help with getting panned shots without vertical blurring (in mode 2 the lens senses that you are panning and applies no horizontal stabilization). The problem is that taking the lens out of its case can cause the IS switch as well as the AF switch to slide to the "off" positions.

The "push-pull" zoom control is very awkward. There is a ring just below the manual focusing ring which tightens or loosens the resistance of the slider. Using this is awkward as well and if it is not fairly tight, the lens flops out to the 300mm setting with a "thunk" if the camera is inadvertently pointed downward (which can't be good for the lens internals). Depending on how tight or loose this ring is adjusted, zooming becomes a rather jerky affair. This increases the time required to frame a shot, not a good thing for motorsports photography, and to a degree negates having such a wide focal length range.

The position of the tension ring causes the manual focusing ring to turn with it and since this is a full-time manual focus lens you can inadvertently change the focus. Also, this is not a true zoom lens: It's what is described as a variable focal length lens. If you zoom in tight on a subject to focus, then zoom out to compose the shot, the focus changes and you must refocus. Since the zoom control is separate from the focusing ring, this can be a pain (AF not-withstanding).

While it is certainly true that the wide focal range of this lens allows one to avoid lens changes (which at a dusty race track with a digital camera is something to be minimized) the shear weight of the lens hanging around the neck becomes painful (literally) after a rather short time. I purchased a hand-strap with a Velcro wrist strap (C.Grip PH) to mitigate this problem and it does help. It transfers the numbness from the neck to the wrist.

The lens hood is barely sufficient at 28mm and almost completely irrelevant at 300mm. It is also awkward to mount and dismount and seems very fragile.

The included tripod collar is appreciated since it makes using a monopod easy and allows easy re-orientation of the camera.

One nice touch is a switch which limits the minimum focusing distance. The two settings are 0.7m to infinity, and 2.5m to infinity. The purpose of this switch is to speed auto-focusing.

The lens case which is included is of good quality with the exception of the belt loop, which is not wide enough to get a camera belt-buckle through without removing the buckle and sliding the belt through. The shoulder strap for the case is super narrow and will definitely pinch a nerve if you carry the lens case around your neck or shoulder.