Canon EF 300mm f/2.8 L IS II USM Lens Review

Canon EF 300mm f/2.8 L IS II USM Lens Review

The Canon EF 300mm f/2.8 L IS II USM Lens may reach as close to optical perfection as any Canon DSLR lens made as of review time. Combine top-of-the-line build quality, lightning-fast AF and image stabilization to this optical quality and you get one of the best lenses ever made. Of course, as with all Canon Super Telephoto Lenses, the price of the 300 IS II is going to represent a noticeable setback for many.

Canon EF 300mm f/2.8 L IS II USM Lens Angle View

The Canon EF 300mm f/2.8 L IS II USM Lens is far from the first 300mm f/2.8 lens Canon has made and the second image stabilized 300mm f/2.8 lens. The original Canon EF 300mm f/2.8 L IS USM Lens was a very impressive lens itself - I often used it as my reference lens for DSLR reviewing. Because this lens was so good, I was not overly excited about the version II lens being announced. That said, I am very happy with the new lens - especially from optical and build quality perspectives.

This review will sound similar to the Canon EF 400mm f/2.8 L IS II USM Lens review as these are similar lenses - primarily separated by their focal lengths and the size/weight these dictate. These lenses arrived within a few days of each other and I've been interchangeably using both for many weeks now.

As with the 400 L IS II and as with the previous version of this lens, owners of the 300 L IS II will primarily be professional and serious amateur photographers (or wealthy photographers). Due to the moderately long focal length and very wide max aperture (widest available at 300mm), this lens will primarily be used for sports, wildlife, fashion/portrait and photojournalistic pursuits.

APS-C camera body owners will likely find the 300mm focal length to be long for portraits.

When shooting action sports (or most other subjects for that matter) with this lens (or its predecessor), I rarely use an aperture other than f/2.8 on this or similar lenses. The extra stop of light over what the longer lenses offer (f/2.8 vs. f/4) allows action to be stopped in 1/2 as much light. And this extra stop of light can make the difference between getting a great shot and getting blur.

If shooting sports events indoors or outdoors under the lights, f/2.8 is often the bare minimum max aperture you can stop motion with (f/2 is much better in these venues). An outdoor night soccer game I shot required ISO 3200 and f/2.8 to get a very-marginal-for-stopping-action 1/400 shutter speed under the lights. Even this setting resulted in some underexposed shots - depending on the output of the flickering field lights at the moment of the shot and the players position on the field (relative to the lights).

The f/2.8 aperture at the 300mm focal length provides an addition feature strongly desired by sports photographers. With a reasonable close subject shot at f/2.8, the background is rendered a strong blur by this lens. Sports events are especially known for having very distracting backgrounds - advertisements, fans, apparatus, gear, etc. When strongly blurred, the distractions melt into a colorful, smooth background that allows the subject to pop into the viewer's attention. Note that while a 300mm f/2.8 lens can strongly blur the background, the Canon EF 400mm f/2.8 L IS II USM Lens can blur it even more strongly.

Here is an aperture comparison created using the 300 L IS II and a Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III DSLR (full frame).

Aperture Comparison

 
Canon's more affordable professional grade 300mm lenses, including the Canon 300mm f/4 L IS USM Lens, have a max aperture of f/4 or f/5.6. The difference between 300mm f/2.8 and 300mm f/4 is noticeable.

Once again, reviewing a high performance lenses means getting the kids to gallop their horses to provide a great AF test subject for me - and I of course I get pics that are especially endearing to me. Bouncing horses galloping at near-30mph provide a huge challenge for the camera, lens AND photographer. Here is one of my favorites taken with this lens as of review time:

Sample Picture

Even at the moderately long focus distance required to properly frame an American Quarter Horse and her rider, the background is strongly-blurred.

Our late-day summer horse photography go-to location once again worked well for me. The 300 L IS II was mounted to a Canon 1Ds Mark III. AI Servo AF was used to track the rider.

As I have said before, it is not hard to make a web-sized image look good, but this lens will make even huge prints look amazing. Here is a 100% crop from the above image:

Sample Picture - 100% Crop

Using settings of 1/1250, f/2.8 and Canon's Standard Picture Style with sharpness turned down to only "1" (on a 0-10 scale), ISO 500 delivers the above. Between the shots I took with this lens and the 400 L II IS I was testing at the same time, I have so many great horseback riding shots that I'm having a really hard time eliminating the excess (a good problem really).

A new lens feature I was also testing on the horses was Canon's new Mode 3 IS. Mode 1 image stabilization is practically a standard feature on lenses introduced at this time. I find IS to be a hugely valuable feature.

The Canon EF 300mm f/2.8 L IS II USM Lens' IS is rated at a best-available-at-review-time 4-stops. "The Image Stabilizer ... has been enhanced through the incorporation of a rolling-ball-friction system in place of sliding parts in the compensation optics barrel for a minimum-friction structure" [Canon USA]

Under good conditions (stable footing, no wind), I am able to get consistently sharp handheld results from the 300 L IS II at 1/25th of a second for close to the advertised 4 stops of assistance. It is always fun to see how long of an exposure I can get a sharp image at - here is a reasonably sharp 100% crop from an ISO 200 1/5 second shot:

Image Stabilization Example

 
Mode 2 IS is used for panning with a subject. In this mode, only 1 axis of stabilization is provided - allowing the linearly-moving subject to be tracked.

The new mode 3 is used for tracking action. In mode 3, image stabilization is active and ready for use the moment the shutter releases, but actual stabilization is not in effect until that precise time. The view seen through the viewfinder is not stabilized. This means that you are able to follow your erratic-moving subjects without fighting against image stabilization trying to prevent you from doing the same. IS Mode 3 is designed to detect panning motion and when detected will only apply Image Stabilization at right angles to the direction of the detected movement (like IS Mode 2).

I immediately began using the new IS mode 3, though I was not completely convinced of my need for it when shooting action. If the action is fast, my shutter speed is generally fast enough to stop any camera motion present, so I shot action sports with IS turned off on the original 300mm f/2.8 IS Lens.

Especially when the light gets very low, I am indeed seeing some benefit from Mode 3 IS. My percentage of sharp shots has been noticeably higher than without Mode 3 IS in low light circumstances and I am also seeing fewer self-caused blurred shots even under normal shooting circumstances. So, I do see value in Mode 3 and now use it 100% of the time when shooting action.

You will hear some clicking and whirring when IS is active, but the IS implementation is very well behaved. By this I mean that the image in the viewfinder does not jump around when the system activates. In Mode 3, IS sound will be heard when the shutter release is half-pressed, but the image is not stabilized until the precise moment that the shot is taken.

Unlike the 400 f/2.8 IS version I, I frequently handheld the much lighter and smaller 300 f/2.8 IS version I. This lens was not light, but I had no problem getting the handheld pics I wanted from this shooting method. So, unlike with the 400 f/2.8 IS version I, I found the 300 f/2.8 IS version I's IS to be very helpful. With its new lower weight (more about this later in the review) and improved IS feature, this is the most handholdable 300mm f/2.8 lens ever.

Wildlife tends to be most active in the low-light hours of the day, and Wildlife photographers capturing less-active subjects will find plenty of use for IS in this lens - even when shooting from a tripod. Canon's super telephoto lenses have a secondary IS mode that automatically senses a tripod being used and focuses on eliminating mirror slap, shutter and tripod vibrations.

Photojournalists and fashion/portrait photographers will also reap the benefits of IS.

Canon EF 300mm f/2.8 L IS II USM Lens Side View on Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III DSLR Camera

For action sports, I would only need an f/2.8 aperture available in my 300mm lens. This of course places great importance on the wide open aperture image quality. Only the best lenses have excellent image quality at their widest apertures and I am happy to report that my retail-purchased Canon EF 300mm f/2.8 L IS II Lens has simply incredible image quality at f/2.8. This fact is probably not a surprise to any of us familiar with the 300 IS I as it was an impressive lens and we didn't expect image quality to take step backwards in the new lens.

Canon's theoretical MTF charts strongly hinted that the Canon EF 300mm f/2.8 L IS II USM Lens' image quality will be exceptional - like the other version II super-telephoto lenses being released in 2011.

Canon EF 300mm f/2.8 L IS II USM Lens MTF Charts

Canon EF 300mm f/2.8 L IS II USM Lens 300 II | 300 II + 1.4x III | 300 II + 2x III | 300 I
Canon EF 400mm f/2.8 L IS II USM Lens 400 II | 400 II + 1.4x III | 400 II + 2x III | 400 I
 

Real life performance: At f/2.8, the Canon EF 300mm f/2.8 L IS II USM Lens is impressively razor sharp right into the full frame corners - There are few lenses this sharp at their wide open apertures. Stopping down to f/4 makes little difference in image quality other than some vignetting clearing in the corners. About 1.4 stops of vignetting is present in the full frame corners at f/2.8 - similar to or slightly less than the 300 f/2.8 IS I - with a slightly smoother transition. Less than 1/2 as much vignetting remains at f/4.

I generally don't like vignetting, but as I said in the 400 IS II review, I don't mind having some vignetting from this lens. Sports action and wildlife shots seldom have a primary subject (or a primary subject's face) in the corner of the frame. So the vignetting-darkened borders can serve to draw the viewer's attention to the subject and their face. You can see the effect from vignetting in the aperture comparison earlier in this review.

The 300 f/2.8 IS II is practically distortion-free and practically CA (Chromatic Aberration) free.

Shooting backlit subjects? The 300 IS II shows a far greater resistant to flare than the 300 IS I Lens. I highly recommend avoiding a mid-day sun in the frame with a telephoto lens, but here is a flare comparison between the two lenses using the sun as a light source. The new lens is a much better choice for strongly-backlit subjects.

In regards to bokeh (quality of the background blur), I like what I'm seeing. And this lens can create a significant amount of background blur. The 300 IS II employs a 9-blade circular aperture. When stopped down to a narrow aperture, an odd number of aperture blades will create stars from specular highlights that have twice the number of points as aperture blades present (even numbers of aperture blades will create the same number of points as blades).

"The optical elements also feature Canon’s latest Super Spectra Coatings, optimized for both the position and type of each lens element. A SubWavelength Structure Coating (SWC), which uses microscopic cone-shaped structures smaller than a wavelength of visible light, reduces ghosting caused by light bouncing back from the imaging sensor. Fluorine coating is also used on the front and rear elements of the lenses, repelling dust and dirt for clearer shots. The coating is also water repellent, keeping the front element free of water marks and smearing by ensuring water runs off the lens quickly." [Canon UK]

I'm convinced that the SWC coating works - in addition to the reduced flare, the 300 f/2.8 IS II turns in very impressive contrast and great color - even at f/2.8. The Fluorine coating benefit is easy to see from a cleaning standpoint - fingerprints specifically are much easier to remove from the lens.

300 f/2.8 IS II Front View 3

In regards to autofocus, all Canon super telephoto lenses turn in best-in-class performance. Driven by Ring USM (Ultrasonic Motor), they focus extremely fast and very quietly. Some quiet shuffling movement can be heard inside the 300 f/2.8 IS II during focusing if you listen carefully, but I don't even notice it when shooting.

All Canon super telephoto lenses focus internally and have FTM (Full Time Manual) focusing available.

These lenses also include a Focus Preset feature. Set the Focus Preset to a specific distance and when your shooting needs require that specific distance, simply turn the white spring-loaded knurled playback ring on the end of the lens. The Focus Preset switch settings include an audible focus confirmation setting.

The 300mm f/2.8 IS II L's manual focus ring is very nicely-sized, is properly damped, has a very nice rate of adjustment and is very smooth with no play. The subject size in the viewfinder does change somewhat over long focus pulls, but the change is solid and predictable.

New on the 2010-announced super telephoto lenses is the third focusing mode: "PF" or Power Focusing.

"Helping moviemakers achieve smoother and more appealing focus shifts when filming on EOS DSLR cameras, Canon has included a new Power Focus (PF) mode on the Company's two new super telephoto lenses. This mode allows manual rack focusing to be operated smoothly by turning a playback ring that is normally used for the focus preset function. Both low-speed and high-speed focus shifting are available." [Canon USA]

Turn the ring slightly to get the low speed electronically-driven AF and turn it to a greater degree to obtain the higher speed. The direction of ring rotation determines the direction of focus distance change. The feature works nicely, but as I said in the Canon EF 400mm f/2.8 L IS II USM Lens review, you are going to need a solid tripod setup and a steady hand to not induce movement while turning the ring. The electronic focusing is very quiet, but image stabilization needs to be turned off if recording sound at the camera.

A 3-position focus limiter switch allows focusing distances to be limited to a specific distance range - or to be unlimited: 6.56 - 19.7' (2 - 6m), 19.7' - ∞ (6m - ∞) or 6.56' - ∞ (2m - ∞). Limiting the focus distance range can improve focus lock times and reduce focus hunting. Autofocus Stop buttons near the objective lens allow autofocus to be temporarily stopped. I use AI-Servo focusing mode for shooting sports, but like to shoot a focus-and-recompose portrait at times during the event. The Autofocus Stop feature makes it easy to obtain focus lock, turn off autofocus and recompose for a framing that places the active focus point(s) off of the subject.

As always, the greatest image quality will quickly be negated by focusing errors. AF accuracy is extremely important for the Canon EF 300mm f/2.8 L IS II USM Lens - especially AI Servo AF accuracy. With a shallow DOF (Depth of Field), even small focusing errors will ruin the shot.

The 300 f/2.8 IS II has received some AF upgrades from the 300 f/2.8 IS I - new dedicated AF algorithms and a new high-speed CPU. How well they work is of course what is important.

When I first created this review, I used three different Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III DSLR bodies behind the 300 IS II and 400 IS II and shot numerous sports events (as well as galloping horses and running kids at home). To be honest, I felt that I had a somewhat better AI Servo in-focus rate when using the original version 1 IS lenses. No current lens delivers 100% accurately focused results in challenging conditions, but I was getting some OOF shots that I thought should be in focus. The problem was not with the focusing speed - these lenses focus incredibly fast and the misfocusing was both in front and behind the subject - and could be so in neighboring frames. Slowing the AF Tracking (custom function) seemed to have helped this issue somewhat.

I had been trying to get more information from Canon in this regard, but were non-responsive. One Canon rep PhotoPlus Expo booth thought the 1D III-series AF was the fault. Perhaps the new lenses require different AF settings on the camera for ideal performance? Perhaps the Canon EOS 1D Mark IV is better-tuned for this lens? Perhaps the at-review-time-announced Canon EOS 1D X DSLR is the answer?

The AF reports I was receiving from those with other camera models were all positive. I of course pulled this lens out immediately upon receipt of the Canon EOS 5D Mark III and used it exensively for autofocus performance testing for the 5D Mark III Review. And the good news is that the Canon EF 300mm f/2.8 L IS II USM Lens performs exceptionally well in all regards, including AF, when used in front of the 5D III. And likewise with the 1D X. I'm very impressed.

Canon super telephoto lenses are not known for their MFDs (Minimum Focusing Distances). The 300 f/2.8 IS II does improve on its predecessor by a welcome 19.3" (500mm) in spec - or closer to 13" (300mm) of improvement in actual manual focus testing. A .18x MM (Maximum Magnification) does not make this a good close-up lens, but those shooting full frame portraits and close wildlife are going to be very happy with this improvement. Following is a comparison table showing the recent, current and near future Canon super telephoto lineup as of Canon EF 300mm f/2.8 L IS II USM Lens review time.

ModelMFDMM
Canon EF 200mm f/2.0 L IS USM Lens74.8"(1900mm)0.12x
Canon EF 200-400mm f/4 L IS USM Ext 1.4x Lens78.7"(2000mm)0.15x, 0.21x
Canon EF 300mm f/4.0 L IS USM Lens59.1"(1500mm)0.24x
Canon EF 300mm f/2.8 L IS II USM Lens78.7"(2000mm)0.18x
Canon EF 300mm f/2.8 L IS USM Lens98.4"(2500mm)0.13x
Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 L IS USM Lens70.9"(1800mm)0.20x
Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM Lens137.8"(3500mm)0.12x
Canon EF 400mm f/4.0 DO IS USM Lens137.8"(3500mm)0.12x
Canon EF 400mm f/2.8 L IS II USM Lens106.3"(2700mm)0.17x
Canon EF 400mm f/2.8 L IS USM Lens118.1"(3000mm)0.15x
Canon EF 500mm f/4.0 L IS II USM Lens145.7"(3700mm)0.15x
Canon EF 500mm f/4.0 L IS USM Lens177.2"(4500mm)0.12x
Canon EF 600mm f/4.0 L IS II USM Lens177.2"(4500mm)0.15x
Canon EF 600mm f/4.0 L IS USM Lens216.5"(5500mm)0.12x
Canon EF 800mm f/5.6 L IS USM Lens236.2"(6000mm)0.14x

 
All Canon super telephoto lenses are compatible with the Canon EF 12mm Extension Tube II and the Canon EF 25mm Extension Tube II. Using the ETs improves the 300 IS II's MM specs to .22x and .28x respectively. I use extension tubes more with super telephoto lenses than with any other lens type. That extra reduction in minimum focusing distance can be especially helpful with these lenses when photographing wildlife. Infinity focus distance is of course lost when using ETs.

All Canon super telephoto lenses are also compatible with the Canon Extender EF 1.4x III and the Canon Extender EF 2x III. The resulting lens combinations are impressive - relatively compact 420mm f/4.0 IS and 600mm f/5.6 IS weather-sealed lenses that autofocus on all current-at-review-time Canon EOS bodies.

When the series III extenders were introduced, much was made about their performance with the new series II super telephoto lenses. "These new extenders have been designed to provide faster autofocusing and improved autofocus precision with compatible EF lenses" and "Each extender also features a newly developed microcomputer that increases AF precision when the extenders are used with a IS Series II EF super-telephoto lens." [Canon USA]

The 300 f/2.8 IS II and 400 f/2.8 IS II were the first two such lenses to hit the streets, so the potential with-extender performance from this lens was of particular interest to me. In the lab, the image quality results from 300 f/2.8 IS II lenses with extenders mounted are very, very impressive. This might be the best-with-extender-performing Canon lens available at review time - you are going to like what you see.

I used the Canon EF 300mm f/2.8 L IS II USM Lens with the Canon EF 2x III Extender as a lightweight, handheld bird photography lens on a photo trip to Florida and found the results to be quite impressive.

The Canon EF 800mm f/5.6 L IS USM Lens served as my primary tripod-mounted birding lens for this trip (the perfect full frame choice), but the 300 L II, along with a 1.4x III and a 2x III filled the handheld and wider focal lengths needs. And did so remarkably well.

I am not a big extender user, but the Canon EF 300mm f/2.8 L IS II USM Lens is so amazingly sharp that the with-extender results are still remarkable. And I had no problems handholding the with-2x-resulting 600mm f/5.6 L IS USM Lens.

I have uploaded a sample picture from this combination for your review. The Brown Pelican image was captured near sunset at f/8 (f/5.6 results are not as sharp), 1/250 with a handheld Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III in RAW format using the Neutral Picture Style (lower contrast for better histogram). The JPG sample was processed in DPP using the Standard Picture Style, sharpness set to "2" (low) and saturation set to "1".

Here is the with-extender sample: JPG (11.0 MB) | RAW (26.4 MB) (License granted for personal gear-review purposes only)

On the Canon EF 300mm f/2.8 L IS II USM Lens, the 1.4x III very slightly reduces wide open image sharpness and contrast, and increases barrel distortion slightly. Stopping this combination down changes the results very little. The sharpness fall-off with the 2x III is more noticeable than with the 1.4x III and some increased CA is visible, but little distortion is added with this extender. An f/8 aperture delivers a noticeably sharper image than f/5.6 when the 2x extender is in place.

Note that the Canon USA press release does not specifically say that the series III extenders would deliver better image quality (though features were added that could) - but that they would deliver better AF performance. Although the AF improvement will not result in better than the optical capability of the lens-plus-extender combination, better AF performance does indeed deliver better image quality overall.

The with-extender III autofocus performance I am experiencing from the 300 IS II is excellent. It is hard to tell that the extender is even there in regards to AF. I am quite pleased with the with-extender action sports image quality I am getting from this lens.

Note that Canon Europe CPN has stated "To get the best out of the new lenses and the Mark III extenders photographers must ensure they attach the extender to the lens first, before attaching the whole unit to the camera. This ensures that the combined lens information is transmitted correctly to provide the optimum image quality and focus performance."

Canon EF 300mm f/2.8 L IS II USM Lens Side View

As a member of the most elite group in the Canon L Lens Series, the Canon Super Telephoto Lens Series, the 300 f/2.8 IS II comes with high expectations from a build quality perspective. These lenses are expected to deliver ultimate performance in the most adverse environments. They have to be rugged and sealed against dust and moisture - and the 300 f/2.8 L IS II is both.

Note that the version II super telephoto lenses do not have the protective meniscus front lens element that the older super telephoto lenses had. I'm sure that removal of the protective lens lends to the weight reduction that I enjoy very much. With the large lens hood in place during use, the front element is already very protected on the Canon super telephoto lenses. Also note that weather-sealed does not mean waterproof (or submersible).

According to Canon USA, the overall durability of the Canon EF 300mm f/2.8 L IS II USM Lens over the previous model has been enhanced through increased usage of robust and lightweight magnesium alloy and titanium for lens barrel components. The previous 300 f/2.8 IS had no problem handling the rigors of professional outdoor use - I don't see any reason why the version II lens will prove to be lessor in this regard. This is a solid, quality-built lens.

Canon EF 300mm f/2.8 L IS II USM Lens Product Images

 
I love super telephoto lenses.

Here is a table of comparable Canon telephoto lenses with the weight specification included.

ModelWeightDimensions w/o HoodFilterYear 
Canon EF 200mm f/2.0 L IS USM Lens5.56 lbs(2520g)5.0 x 8.2"(128 x 208mm)DI 52mm2008
Canon EF 200-400mm f/4 L IS USM 1.4x7.98 lbs(3620g)5.0 x 14.4"(128 x 366mm)DI 52mm2013
Canon EF 300mm f/4.0 L IS USM Lens2.63 lbs(1190g)3.5 x 8.7"(90 x 221mm)77mm1997
Canon EF 300mm f/2.8 L IS II USM Lens5.19 lbs(2350g)5.0 x 9.8"(128 x 248mm)DI 52mm2011
Canon EF 300mm f/2.8 L IS USM Lens5.63 lbs(2550g)5.0 x 9.9"(128 x 252mm)DI 52mm1999
Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 L IS USM Lens3.04 lbs(1380g)3.6 x 7.4"(92 x 189mm)77mm1998
Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM Lens2.76 lbs(1250g)3.5 x 10.1"(90 x 257mm)77mm1993
Canon EF 400mm f/4.0 DO IS USM Lens4.28 lbs(1940g)5.0 x 9.1"(128 x 232mm)DI 52mm2001
Canon EF 400mm f/2.8 L IS II USM Lens8.49 lbs(3850g)6.4 x 13.5"(163 x 343mm)DI 52mm2011
Canon EF 400mm f/2.8 L IS USM Lens11.85 lbs(5370g)6.4 x 13.7"(163 x 349mm)DI 52mm1999
Canon EF 500mm f/4.0 L IS II USM Lens7.04 lbs(3190g)5.7 x 15.1"(146 x 383mm)DI 52mm2011
Canon EF 500mm f/4.0 L IS USM Lens8.54 lbs(3870g)5.7 x 15.2"(146 x 387mm)DI 52mm1999
Canon EF 600mm f/4.0 L IS II USM Lens8.65 lbs(3920g)6.6 x 17.6"(168 x 448mm)DI 52mm2011
Canon EF 600mm f/4.0 L IS USM Lens11.83 lbs(5360g)6.6 x 18.0"(168 x 456mm)DI 52mm1999
Canon EF 800mm f/5.6 L IS USM Lens9.86 lbs(4470g)6.4 x 18.1"(163 x 461mm)DI 52mm2008

 
For many more comparisons, review the complete Canon EF 300mm f/2.8 L IS II USM Lens Specifications using the site's Lens Spec tool.

Lens size and weight is always relative. I do not consider the 300mm f/2.8 IS II to be a small or light lens, but it is far from the largest and heaviest available - it is more of a mid-weight lens. The change in weight from the previous model is a big advantage the 300 f/2.8 IS II has. I can easily handhold this lens for a significant amount of time.

I still use a tripod or monopod with this lens when I can - and lighter weight makes adjusting/moving such supports easier. Lifting the monopod off the ground to track action handheld is easy and fast to do. Use the monopod to rest the setup between breaks in the action.

Like all of Canon's review-time-current super telephoto lenses, the 300 IS II utilizes 52mm drop-in filters. Included is a gasketed (sealed) drop-in gel filter holder with a glass filter installed. This glass filter is helpful in that it catches dust before it drops deep inside the lens. A Canon 52mm Drop In Circular Polarizer Filter is available.

Canon EF 300mm f/2.8 L IS II USM Lens Compared to other Canon Super Telephoto Lenses

Positioned above from left to right are the following lenses:
Canon EF 200mm f/2 L IS USM Lens
Canon EF 300mm f/2.8 L IS USM Lens
Canon EF 300mm f/2.8 L IS II USM Lens
Canon EF 400mm f/2.8 L IS II USM Lens
Canon EF 400mm f/2.8 L IS USM Lens
Canon EF 500mm f/4 L IS USM Lens

The same lenses are shown below with their lens hoods in place.

Canon EF 300mm f/2.8 L IS II USM Lens Compared to other Canon Super Telephoto Lenses with Hoods

Canon's new-for-2H-2010 white color is very nice - it makes the older lenses appear dirty. You can better see the color change in the larger images available in the large lens image comparison tool. The design refinements are also better seen in this tool.

Unlike the 300 IS I, the 300 IS II's tripod ring is not removable, But notice the new placement of the tripod ring knob. This location is much easier to reach when using the lens on a tripod or monopod.

Switches

The image above shows most of switches and buttons discussed in this review. Also shown in this image is one of the two attachment points for the included lens neck strap - which is shown below.

Neck Strap

The lens strap now attaches to the tripod ring instead of directly to the lens barrel. This attachment location allows the camera to be rotated without the neck strap following the rotation. The tripod ring has also been updated over the previous version. It is now smoother and features 90° detents for perfect framing orientation - and has a modernized shape.

There is one threaded tripod/monopod insert on the 300 IS II tripod foot, so any lens plates used should have anti-rotation features. As you see in the product images on this page, I have a Wimberley P30 Lens Plate attached to my 300 f/2.8 IS II for quick attachment to my Arca-Swiss compatible monopod and tripod head clamps. A Wimberley P20 Lens Plate would work fine on this lens, but I like the extra lens plate length for adjustment on the tripod/monopod, for flash brackets and - for use as a handle.

A good tripod head such as the Arca-Swiss Z1 should be used when this lens is tripod-mounted. Even better would be the Wimberley Tripod Head II, but the 300 IS II is small/light enough to get by with just a quality ball head if care is taken to prevent lens flop or other unbalanced setups. When properly attached to the Wimberley Head, the 300 f/2.8 IS II can be positioned using only two fingers. This is the tripod head seen in the product pictures throughout this review.

New for the 300 IS II is that the tripod ring has a slot for a Kensington-type wire security lock. A flip-open cover on the tripod ring tightening knob reveals this slot.

Lens Cap

Canon's previous model super telephoto lenses came with a large leather-like lens cap that completely covered the reversed lens hood and was held in place with a drawstring. The drawstring was not needed as these covers were difficult to get off.

The new lens cap design, shown above, is a huge improvement. The entire lens hood is no longer covered, but the padded nylon cover can easily be removed with one hand - simply pull the Velcro-attached tab. The cap can be attached with the hood in ready to use or reversed positions and, if you pull the Velcro tab tight enough, the cap can be attached directly to the lens without the hood being there (though I doubt that it was designed for this). The lens cap has a padded-but-hard back to protect the front lens element.

Canon super telephoto lenses come in a nice, very protective, lockable (keys included) lens trunk. The IS II cases are redesigned with a nice, more-modern appearance. Here is the included Canon Hard Case 300C.

Canon Hard Case 300B

 
This is a relatively small case measuring 10.5 x 10 x 15.25" (267 x 254 x 387mm)(DxHxW). The 300C weighs 5.35 lbs (2.4kg) empty.

The new case features a side-mounted carry handle and feet on three sides of the cases including that opposite of the carry handle. Missing to me is the handle that lifts the case straight up from the most-flat storage position (the previous 300 hard case had this handle). Same-sized Canon hard cases will stack - but new models do not stack with old models. The 300C case comes with a removable shoulder strap as seen below.

Canon Hard Case 300B Neck Strap

The hard cases are nice for storage and are very protective, but I find some of the nicer soft cases (such as some of the smaller Nikon super telephoto lens cases) to be nicer for transport. At review time, I'm using a Think Tank Photo Glass Taxi for transporting this lens mounted to a Canon pro body - even with extenders attached.

The 300mm IS II does not come with a paper manual. Instead, a CD with all of Canon's lens manuals in PDF format is included - a great move in my opinion. Links to these lens manuals are found at the top of most Canon lens reviews on this site.

300 IS II Front View 2

As I said in the Canon EF 400mm f/2.8 L IS II USM Lens review and as is the case with all Canon Super Telephoto lenses, the price is going the be the biggest road block for most people to obtain the amazing Canon EF 300mm f/2.8 L IS II USM Lens.

There is no arguing that the Canon EF 300mm f/2.8 L IS II USM Lens carries a very high price tag, but as I've reported before, my experience with Canon Super Telephoto Lens ownership has been a positive one financially. Quality Canon lenses taken care of retain their value very well. You can usually get most of your money back at resale - or even make a profit as new lens prices increase. This makes overall cost of ownership very low.

My big white Canon lenses have actually proven to be a better investment than my 401k fund in the last few years. I sold my being-replaced Canon Super Telephoto Lenses prior to the new ones becoming available to be able to fund the new lenses. Even selling my four mint, used lenses at very-good-for-the-buyer prices, I still made a significant amount of profit (4 figures) after getting years of use from them.

I of course cannot predict the future, but history is often a good indicator of it. What I can tell you that I'm having much more fun with my 300 f/2.8 IS II than with my 401k investments. And the images I've captured are priceless to me.

If the price makes the Canon EF 300mm f/2.8 L IS II USM Lens unobtainable for you, consider renting one for your special events. If you are not shooting professionally, consider getting other parents to share in the rental expense in exchange for photos of their kids.

300mm IS II Front View

Those pursuing professional sports photography will likely find the 300 f/2.8 IS II to be a career requirement along with the 400mm IS L II. Wildlife photographers will like the small size and the with-extender performance of this lens. The amazing 300mm image quality will make this lens a favorite of fashion and portrait photographers wanting to create a compressed look to their portraits. Photojournalists will surely be frequent users of this lens.

The Canon EF 300mm f/2.8 L IS II USM Lens is an incredible lens. It has landed a permanent role in my kit.

Bringing you this site is my full time job (typically 60-80 hours per week). Thus, I depend solely on the commissions received from you using the links on this site to make any purchase. I am grateful for your support! - Bryan

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My Recommended Retailers
Where you buy your gear matters. You expect to get what you ordered and you want to pay a low price for it. The retailers I recommend below are the ones I trust for my own purchases. Get your Canon EF 300mm f/2.8 L IS II USM Lens now from:
B&H Photo
Adorama
Amazon.com
Beach Camera or BuyDig.com
the Canon Store (new or refurbished)
(Using the links on this site to make any purchase provides support for this site)
Rent the Canon EF 300mm f/2.8 L IS II USM Lens
Do you need/want the Canon EF 300mm f/2.8 L IS II USM Lens for only a short period of time? Or, would you feel more comfortable buying after having a hands-on trial period? Consider renting. Renting is fast and easy. The rental companies I recommend below are excellent to work with. Schedule your rental now:
LensRentals.com
LensProToGo
(Using these links for your rental supports this site)
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