Last weekend I attended the Wings Over Houston air show and used a Canon EF 300mm f/4L IS USM lens for most of the day. Normally for an event like this I’d shoot with a telephoto zoom but in this case I wanted to try out Canon’s 300mm prime to see just how sharp this lens really is.
All I can say is Wow!
This lens is incredibly sharp as you can see in the image below. It’s also fairly light (2.6 lbs), relatively small (3.5″ x 8.7″) and very easy to hand hold for long periods of time. The ring-type USM drive is whisper quiet and fast. I used this on AI Servo mode for almost six hours and got some incredibly sharp images at the air show. One thing I didn’t like about this lens was the built-in lens hood which would not stay extended when I panned up to follow a plane in flight. However, that may have been due to the fact that this is a rental lens and has seen considerable use.
My only other gripe is that this lens uses Canon’s first generation “IS” (Image Stabilization) with Mode 1 (stationary) and Mode 2 (panning) operation and provides roughly a 2 stop gain. Newer lenses like the EF 200mm f/2L IS USM use Canon’s third generation “IS” technology and provide 4-5 stop gains. I’m a little surprised that Canon hasn’t updated this lens but I suspect it has to do with it’s very (VERY) reasonable street price of $1200 (USD).