As some people who I keep in touch with regularly know, last year I ordered the Canon EF 300mm f/2.8 L IS II USM lens. It was not a cheap purchase by any means but I definitely think it was well worth it. The only problem is now I feel like I need to upgrade my camera as well (the noise levels on the Canon 7D are really poor). So I ended up with the lens numbered 8000000069 so I assume that means it was the 69th off of the production line = pretty cool!
Anyway down to business so let's start off with the weight. There was much talk by Canon and by others that this lens was going be lighter than the predecessor and all I can say is it is a pleasure to hand hold. After a long period, of course your arm starts to shake a little and it gets a little more difficult to keep it steady but for most people it is really not a problem. It is extremely comfortable in the hand and it seems perfectly balanced when attached to a 1D series camera or a Prosumer body with a battery grip. The build quality is second to none and the front glass is miraculous, it just seems to clean itself with only the very rare dusting required.
So onto the focus and clarity of the lens, well the auto-focus is extraordinarily fast, so fast it seems as if the Canon 7D just cannot hack it, so fast that the slightest movement in AI Servo mode and the lens has gone after it. Again a shame my 7D is just poor in so many ways, if only I have a 1DX or perhaps the new 5D Mk III. The picture quality (when the camera decides to co-operate) is absolutely stunning and in low light the wider apertures are extremely useful, enabling me to get some great images. I am hoping to head to Kenya again at the start of next year and take a whole selection of new camera gear. There are some examples of the images I have managed to take with the lens below so please do take a look.
The one thing I have not done much of with this lens, which it was partly designed for, is video work. The stuff that I have done is of a great quality and hopefully in the future I will use this lens for this more and more. The 3 different IS modes all work a treat and they give some great results.
I am not going to go into too much detail or technical information about this lens because this is all availabe elsewhere, I just wanted to let you know what my experiences have been like with it in the field. I hate studio controlled tests as it never really gives you a good indication of the lens' true characteristics. All I can say if you have a lot of spare cash and are looking to spend it on a new bit of Canon photography gear then you really cannot go wrong with the Canon EF 300mm f/2.8 L IS II USM lens.
I wanted to show you all the photograph above, not only for the sharpness and the clarity, but for the depth of field. This was in a crop field behind my house and the lighting could not have been better. This species of daisy was growing up through the crop isolated and it made such a stark contrast to its surroundings. Once I had taken the shot I could not believe just how good the background blur was, especially at f/5 and at quite a distance from the subject.
Again the image above shows the clarity of the lens even at a relatively slow shutter speed. The image stabiliser was not in use here as I was using a tripod. The DoF (Depth of Field) is absolutely wonderful, this was only taken at f/4.5 and the Rabbit just seems to pop out of the picture, imagine what it could have been at f/2.8. Trust me when I say that even at f/2.8 it would have still been pin sharp, that is unless the camera failed to get a lock!
I wanted to show you a shot to show the high speed focus capabilties with this lens. If your camera body has a top notch AF system, then you shouldn't miss a shot, it will keep up with the fastest body and be pin sharp. This Pied Wagtail was moving at an astonishing rate, it took me around 20 minutes before I could judge the point of take off and then the lens was producing superb results. You really can't fault the lens, it is so quick and after nearly half an hour holding the lens up, towards the rooftops, my arm was not aching and I was ready for more.
One last shot for you to give you an idea of its great contrast. This has been slightly adjusted in Lightroom but no drastic changes have been made. This was a really gloomy day in the Masai Mara and the lion was moving straight towards me, with such poor light and a subject that was a similar colour to the environment the lens still managed to provide great contrast and it was pin sharp (notice the theme).
All in all then, this lens is lightweight for such a great piece of glass, in fact I don't think you will find a lighter lens providing f/2.8 at 300mm. Just to ensure that the weight wasn't enough of a reason to buy the lens, I think it is marginally sharper than its predecessor, and the ergonomics of the lens have been greatly improved, including the tripod collar/foot. This les is smoother and just much more comfortable to hold then the EF 300mm f/2.8 IS USM, it is a joy to hand hold for lengthy periods of time.
As you can see from the photographs I have posted, the image quality and DoF is fantastic and wherever you have placed the focus point the lens is there and spot on, no focus lag and great results everytime. It is a steep learning curve from more affordable lenses but before long you can master it and take some great images. The price is, well terrifying, but just think this isn't something that after a year you will need to replace, this lens will keep you going for a long long time and once you have splashed out, your other lenses will feel completely and utterly inadequate.