This lens’s predecessor was an important lens for Canon, and although the Image Stabiliser part of the Canon 75-300 f4-5.6 IS was excellent - Unfortunately the lens itself wasn’t so good. Like most 70 or 75-300’s it’s performance at the longer end of the zoom range was average, at best. That lens was also designed for film, so is the new Canon 70-300 IS a better choice for digital SLR cameras?
Changing from the old 75-300 f4-5.6 IS USM to the new Canon 70-300mm f4-5.6 IS USM may seem like a relatively minor upgrade, but this is in fact an entirely different lens. To aid performance the new lens has a UD element in it’s construction and this does make quite a difference to performance overall. Where the old lens amounted to impressive technology mounted on a normal Canon 75-300 f4-5.6 USM lens - the new Canon 70-300 f4-5.6 IS USM is a completely new optical design coupled with an upgraded 3 stop image stabiliser. The lens feels very well made and at 630g isn’t a lightweight - the normal Canon 75-300 USM weighs 480g. Unfortunately, as usual, Canon don’t provide a lens hood - that’s an expensive extra. Really a lens like this needs a hood, and for a £ 370 lens, in the UK, that does seem a bit mean.
Controls feel fine, although not silky smooth, and there is a zoom lock switch. On the side of the lens barrel are the Image Stabilisation controls - off/ on and the Mode 1 / Mode 2 selector. Mode 1 is for normal static subjects, and corrects all shake, while Mode 2 only corrects vertical shake to allow horizontal panning. Canon claim a 3 stop gain in steadiness with the IS system. In use the Image Stabilisation can make looking through the viewfinder slightly strange, as it produces very noticeable drag as you look around, taking a split second to catch up each time you reframe the shot. Otherwise the Canon 70-300 f4-5.6 IS USM feels pretty much like a normal 75-300, and seems well balanced with my Canon EOS 20D camera bodies.