Need info on the older Canon 100-300mm 5.6 "L" lens

Discussion in 'Canon EOS' started by robert_thommes|1, Feb 26, 2014.

  1. I realize that this is an old lens now. But I also occasionally hear that it's still very much worthy of it's "L" reputation. I'm looking for a good zoom lens in this range and have found a couple of these very lenses in a local camera shop, rated around "E" or "E+" for a very reasonable amount. I've also seen samples on Pbase taken with this lens( with much more current cameras), and they look stunning. I shoot with a T2i. What can I expect from this lens and this camera? Is the older "L" technology now a dated thing? Is it something I should avoid at all costs? Or would this lens do just fine for me today?
  2. is always a good place to start for fairly "objective" tests:
    Their summation is
    The Canon EF 100-300mm f/5.6 L can still convince optically with very high resoltion figures, low distortions and quite low vignetting (on APS-C). However, mechanically the lens is totally outdated and clearly substandard compared to current Canon L lenses. In fact most of today's consumer zooms are better in this respect. If you cannot afford the new EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 USM IS the ancient EF 100-300mm f/5.6 L remains still worth a serious thought regarding its much lower price tag on the used market and it still puts most other xx-300mm zoom lenses to shame specifically regarding contrast. [emphasis added, JDM].​
    It's been selling at around US$200 and up on eBay, just now.
  3. I had one. Optically it's pretty good, mechanically it's from the 1980s. Personally I'd go for a good modern stabilized lens like the Tamron 70-300 VC.
    The only reason to buy an old 100-300/5.6L is if you can't afford the $350 that a lens like the Tamron will cost you and you can find the 100-300 really cheap.
  4. The Canon museum page has specs,
  5. I still keep mine around because the resale value is so poor. As Bob says, optically it is quite good. Definitely still deserves that L.
    Mechanically...well the AF is loud, the AF is slower than I'd like, and the front element rotates complicating polarizer use. It is also a
    push/pull zoom, and at this age many of them are a little (or a lot) loose.

    If you only photograph stationary subjects or very slow moving subjects, this can still be a good choice. For example, if you were using it
    for landscape photography or similar as a substitute for a 70-200 or 70-300, I don't think you'd miss the newer lenses except for that darn
    rotating front element. Now if your subjects move...forget it. I've used mine for a little birding (back several years ago when it was my only
    telephoto) and while it can focus fast enough for perched or flitting birds, it isn't ideal. It did better at a zoo, where the animals were big
    and stationary. I rarely use mine, but I also rarely use this focal length range.
  6. I bought one recently. It is much smaller and lighter than any modern full-frame lens which goes to 300mm! Image quality seems good, not pixel-peeping-perfect, but sharp enough and with good contrast. I got as far as taking a handful of photos ( when the diaphragm broke, so it won't stop down beyond f/5.6. This lens shares parts with the non-L 100-300 f/5.6, which is optically much worse but mechanically the same, so when I get an hour or two I will attempt to replace the diaphragm with one from the cheaper lens.
    So just check that the aperture stops down reliably, and of course make sure you are getting the 'L' and not the cheaper variant...
  7. pge


    Hand holding a 300mm lens, not even counting the crop factor, is essentially impossible. However IS made it possible again. IMO, the 200mm to 300mm range of this lens must be thought of as tripod or monopod only. If I were you I would save up for a lens with IS.
  8. I still have this lens and dig it out for occasional use (once a year or so). I can't quite bring myself to get rid of it as it still functions well and is compact compared to the other lenses I use most often in this range (70-200 F4L IS & 100-400L). I second the observations made here - it a good optical performer but makes a very mechanical buzz when using AF (definitely not ultrasonic!). Probably not the first choice of lens these days but good value at the right price.
  9. Not impossible. I use the 300 f4 IS lens and never use IS for soccer or sports since my shutter speed is generally 1/500 or shorter. In fact I've only used the IS once for a non-sports shoot, that is in 6 years of heavy use. The tripod collar is in the drawer gathering dust. I also have the older 100-300 4.5-5.6 lens and similarly can easily hand hold if shutter speed is high enough. People that talk about IS improving sports photography don't know what they're talking about unless we're talking about candids on the sidelines.
  10. I disagree. If you have a newer camera body (such as any of Canon's current full-frame models) then you can happily set it to ISO 1600 and handhold this lens on a sunny day. In a way, though, it is better suited to tripod or monopod use, in that it's not a fast-focusing lens and so best used with slow-moving subjects.
  11. Phil, that's absolutely incorrect. The popularity of the non-IS Canon EF 400/5.6L for birds in flight photography being a prime example.
    This lens (100-300/5.6L) certainly can be used handheld, even on a crop body, provided the user pays attention to when there is
    insufficient light for handholding an f/5.6 lens.
  12. pge


    Perhaps I put my point to strongly. However IS is very useful in many different situations and I would not be without it on a long lens, in fact anything 105mm or over. Yes there are situations where it is not useful, BIF being a good example where your subject is moving so much that camera shake is not the issue that must be overcome. However all too often there is not enough light to go around and IS is a godsend, or at least that is what I find.

Share This Page