Lens Data – Canon EF 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 DO IS USM Review

The Canon EF 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 DO IS USM,
is Canon’s only diffractive optics zoom; a Fresnel design made to make lenses smaller. Different from refractive glasses, these diffractive
optics feature microscopic concentric lines, to focus the light in a much shorter path;
allowing for much smaller lenses. Compared to regular 70-300mm zooms, this DO
is 28% smaller, despite offering similar apertures. So it’s welcomed on most kits, especially
those working on site. At 82 x 99mm of 720gr of mostly metals, indeed
the first thing we notice on the EF 70-300mm DO IS USM is the size; compact as a short-telephoto
prime, but fat as a large-aperture one. This is the main selling point on the lineup,
as it will certainly go where other 70-300mm lenses won’t. This DO fits standing on the backpack, on
the same block as a prime lens, and can be used everywhere; an exclusivity on the market. The operation is also fairly standard, despite
the different Fresnel design. The rear zoom ring extends the two-barrel
optical groups at about 10cm, again, shorter than other zooms. While it does feel a bit heavy when compared
to various lenses, it’s well made; nothing wobble or feels misaligned. At the front, the manual focusing ring is
also somewhat different, with a large plastic piece partially covered by a rubber; almost
the whole front moves while manually focusing. But it is paired to an all-internal ring-type
USM, and features full-time operation. Inside Canon fits this motor to a centered
focusing group, that is silent, fast, and precise. It’s remarkable how I managed to shoot action
with the EOS 5D Mark II, and it shows Canon’s “no-compromisse” policy when it comes
to AF; it’s always perfect. And also inside, it fits a third-generation
IS, image stabilizer, with up-to three stops of compensation; near mandatory at these focal
lengths. Finally at the front, this 70-300mm DO accepts
smaller-than-usual ø58mm filters, that fix over the first optical element, that itself
sits inside the supplied-in-the-box lens hood. And at the rear the metal mount doesn’t
feature a rubber gasket, for weather sealing, nor supports the EF extenders. Overall it feels fairly premium, as the price
suggests, despite not being on the L-series. It does gain a green ring at the front, exclusive
to the Diffractive Optics lineup. With an 18 elements in 12 groups optical formula,
sporting two DO lenses to fix for both resolution, axial and lateral aberrations, and reduce
the lens size, what the EF 70-300mm DO IS USM delivers optically is excellent; a different
performance from most 70-300mm zooms, but on a 28% smaller package. Let’s begin with the goods. The images are high-resolution and high-contrast
at most focusing distances, perfect for the everyday usage on landscapes, street photography,
product photography and portraits; that shows the same clarity we get from higher-end zooms. It’s amazing up-to this date to pair it
with high-resolution digital SLRs, for ready-to-print files and, myself owning both the 70-300mm
L, NANO USM and the 300mm f/2.8 prime, I can assure you; this 70-300mm DO delivers the
goods on most shots. But on extreme cases, it does fall apart on
the image quality. On example is the pronounced vignetting, that
looses about 2-stops or light, even at f/11; due to the smaller-than-usual glasses; we
can’t bend the laws-of-physics after all. Also near the closest focusing distances,
at a minimum of 140cm, the images can bloom, killing details like feathers, hair, patterns
and textures, as this is not a macro lens, and it demands care when shooting details. And finally the flaring and the bokeh can
display the patterns from the diffractive optics, noticeable when working backlit, or
with strong highlights, that render the light path. But in honesty, this isn’t really how you
should be using this lens: wide-open for close-ups. For 90% of the shots, the contrast and color
saturation are excellent and, paired to full-frame cameras, you get the same benefits of other
70-300mm lenses; here 28% shorter. So this is the reason I kept mine up-to this
date; there are situations where it simply master the usability, where no other telephoto
zoom can deliver. So if you find it on the used market, and
are looking for something nice to have, this is a good lens on Canon’s lineup. So just add it on your kit and have fun with
it, and nice shooting!

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