Friday, November 07, 2008

Gear Bag Friday: Reaching Out Long With The Canon 70-300mm DO IS Lens: A Review

Good Morning Everybody,
Well the weekend is nearly upon us and I have another double-header tomorrow. I'm going to try to be a bit more careful than the last time I did two jobs in one day. So what's some of the gear I'm going to be shooting with tomorrow. Let me tell you, on with another episode of Gear Bag Friday...

Reaching Out Long With The Canon 70-300mm DO IS Lens
I picked this lens up about three years ago as kind of a Christmas present to myself. I had seen some images over at created with the lens and thought I would give it a try. The lens was image stabilized and I was looking for that 300mm going through that 1.6x magnification factor on my 30D at the time. You can do the math yourself - 1.6x300mm = 480mm focal length!!! Man, guys and girls, that's a pretty long reach.

Some of you may ask that if I already owned the 70-200mm IS lens, why did I opt for this optic. The choice was clear, I was building another gear bag for a second shooter and instead of a repeat performance with the 70-200mm IS (and to save about $500) I went with the longer lens to add a little more variety to the mix.

The first time I used the lens, I was blown away by how close I could get to the subject when I racked that baby out to 300mm. I was also extremely amazed at how good the image stabilization was on the lens since I don't take a tripod to a wedding with me anymore and shoot everything handheld. This image is actually from the first wedding I photographed using this lens with shutter speed at 1/25 second.

I was pulling off some shots down to 1/20 and 1/8 second routinely. The ring-bearer image is at 1/8 second and the priest with couple is at 1/20 second.

I decided to make it my default lens for the ceremony shots when the action was slow and I need to get in close. The lens was much lighter that my 70-200mm IS, which I still love, by the way, and was just easier to carry around my neck.

I've also used it on my full frame 5D when I wanted that background to go really out of focus. The longer focal length of the lens allows the background to go even softer than I would have achieved with my 70-200mm lens. I've even used it on some family portraits for that same effect - I really wanted to separate the subject from the back ground. Check out the two images that follow here.For most wedding and family shots, I usually shoot the lens at F5.6. For low light wedding shots, I shoot at ISO at 1600. Normally the wedding images I produce using this lens will be 5x7 or smaller size in their wedding albums, so a little noise reduction works just fine here. Under higher ambient light conditions like the bridesmaids and family group above, I would use the appropriate ISO for the shot - ISO 200-400.

I have also used this lens as the sole optic for a day or two of shooting while either on vacation or as a special project just for getting those brain juices flowing.

WOW! What an experience it is to zoom in tight on the subject matter just isolating a bit of it in my composition. I've just found it's a new way of thinking photographically with this lens as my only choice during some of these shoots.

The bottom line is this - I love it for weddings. It's my lens choice while capturing close up images and balcony shots when the motion is subdued. I love it's "reach out and touch somebody" available light candids I get from the side aisles during the services (In Catholic services - where I can roam a bit more freely.) And, I love it for capturing unique and exciting travel images.

I know what you are think, "What did I get LaDawn that year for Christmas?" Well, my staff says you always get your girl something that sparkles under the Christmas lights. I agreed, took there advice, and got her the 24-105mm IS lens - You should see how that front element reflects the light. Boy, did LaDawn have a great look of Christmas surprise on her face that year ;~)

Hey gang, that's it for me today - I'm charging batteries, mine included, cleaning sensors, and clearing cards. Everybody have a Pixel-Perfect weekend and I'll see you next Monday, eye in tact - hopefully. See ya' then, -David


  1. Very informative review of this lens David. I had always wondered what folks used this lens for. Thanks.

  2. I bought this lens for identical reasons, the IS and the extra reach on a cropped sensor (I've got a 350D).

    I also read a couple of reviews that said that on the crop sensor the quality wasn't far short of L series glass either.

    For the price it's a real bargain and in many situations it will always be my go-to lens


  3. Good information in this review. I have Nikon's similar lens. 70-300vr and love it for getting in tight and for that extra reach. I have used mine at 1/15 second [hand-held while leaning on a balcony] and it produces amazing results. I often use it for portraits and it produces a beautiful 'blurred out' background.

  4. David,

    Posting for first time, have been reading your blog for some time, GREAT STUFF and lot of information. I had attened one of your tour sessions here in Northern Virginia. Thank you for sharing your expirience and knowledge.

    I do not have this lens. I do have 70-200 f4L. I was reading reviews and some people have complained about the zoom being little tight? People who own the lens here has that bothered you at all?

    Thank you,

  5. Hello David,

    As someone interested in adding a telephoto zoom lens to my bag, I wonder if you'd share what one of these Church exposures looks like right off the camera? Personally I think I rely too much on my amateurish Lightroom skills to fix underexposed images indoors without a flash. So, I'm especially interested in seeing what one of these images looked like right off the sensor, before you worked any required magic in post.


  6. I just have to say that them kodak moments I've been looking at brings back happy memories!
    I sit back with excitement and tears looking at this priceless art! It's funny how a simple picture when seen can tell a whollllleeee story! haha well hey guys thanks so much for sharing, sometimes people need an enlightment of visual beauty to uplift the soul, and this sure did do the job!