Canon EF 70 – 300 4.5-5.6 DO IS USM / Comparative test
By Matjaž Intihar /Translated by Gregor Borosa
Jun 3, 2004, 17:51


The great thing with the lens EF 70 - 300mm 4.5 – 5.6 DO IS USM is it's extreme compactness. It is very easy to recognize it with it's thin green line, marking that the lens is made using new DO (Diffractive Optics) technology.


The lens has a long name, but every letter and number is significant. Many Canon SLR users are already familiar with labels, however the DO marking and the green line are something new for most of them.


In photography, continual inovations and technical improvements are always needed. A photographer expects higher and higher quality and usefulness of his equipment, but more and more often it is the usefulness of the equipment that really counts, even if it means a slight loss in quality.


DO series lenses are an excellent compromise among the price, usefulness and quality. Back in 2001, Canon has introduced a new technological solution DO (using diffractive optical elements), that makes lenses using a special glass cutting which reduces the number of elements in a lens. The lens itself then becomes about a third smaller and lighter than a lens made by traditional procedure. I will write more about this technology in one of the next articles, as the usefulness of this lens is my primary concern at the moment. For a hobby photographer, the technical procedure of manufacturing is probably not so important as is the quality of the lens. I have compared the new DO lens with some of it's competitors so it is quite easy to see what is this lens made for. However as always, each user has his own criteria.


Comparing different sizes. The actual size of a lens can be important for the quality of the lens. Using DO elements, Canon managed to achieve high quality and small size at the same time.


At 300mm, the compactness and construction are even more obvious.


The new DO and the older 75-300mm IS share the same filter mount of 58mm. However the DO lens is much thinner.


The new DO lens (left) uses an IS (Image Stabilization) system of a new generation.


First lens is glued. In the middle of the lens, a special glass cutting is visible, that diffracts light differently than classic lens and which reduces the number of lens elements needed for correcting other lens elements. You can see engraved circles in the lens.


The DO signature and the green line are a trademark of this series.


Comparing prices

Canon EF 70 – 300mm 4.5 – 5.6 DO IS USM costs about 1200 EUR, which places it in the high price class.


For about 300 EUR we can buy a very compact Tamron AF Aspherical XR 28 – 300mm 3.5 – 6.3 Macro.


A bit more expensive, about 500 EUR, is the lens Canon EF 75 – 300mm 4 – 5.6 IS USM, which is at the first glance, regarding the focal lengths and IS technology, very similar.


From L series, there are two comparable lens, the EF 70 – 200mm 2.8 L USM for about 1200 EUR and the EF 70 – 200mm 2.8 L IS USM which costs about 1700 EUR.



I made a comparison with EF 70-200mm 2.8 L IS USM. For longer focal lengths, I also used a 1.4x teleconverter.


Usefulness and friendliness of a lens


Of course there are many comparable lens out there. I have placed some of them side by side and it is easy to see some interesting points.


EF 70 – 300 DO IS USM is much smaller than other Canon lens in this range – all because of the new technological solution. It is only 99.9mm long and weights only 720g.


Tamron offers wide angle with it's 28mm as well as very narrow angle with 300mm. It is only 83.7mm long and weights only 420g.


EF 75 – 300mm IS USM has 137.2mm in length and weights 650g.


EF 70 – 200 L USM is quite long, it has 193.6mm in length and weights 1310g, IS version has 197mm and 1470g.


I was most curious how it compared to EF 75 - 300mm 4 – 5.6 IS USM.


Zoom lens can't compare with fixed focal length lens EF 300mm 2.8 L IS USM.


First comparison


Tamron  is definitively the cheapest one, has the longest focal range, is the smallest and the lightest and it can focus from only 49cm. All these characteristics make it a very compact lens with lots of attractive things. But at the end, everything is a sum of compromises.


EF 75 – 300mm IS USM costs less than a half of EF 70 – 300mm DO IS USM. It is 37mm longer and 70g lighter. I am using this lens for a few years now and that is why I especially wanted to compare it to a new DO lens. And the difference is not only in compactness.


EF 70 – 200 2.8 L USM lens is a great choice for users, who need a fast f2.8 lens to achieve short exposure times. Version without IS is the same price as is the DO lens, but IS version is about 500 EUR more expensive.


The main benefits of the new Canon lens EF 70 – 300 4.5-5.6 DO IS USM lies in it small size and relatively high quality. You can decide if it suits your needs and if you are ready to pay that much money only after testing it's optical quality and it's general operating.



Basic motif shot with different lens at 70mm and f5.6 and f11. Below are links to 1:1 crops.



Link to crops at 70mm f/5.6 and f11. Comparison among 1 : 1 crops.



Basic motif shot with different lens at 135mm and f5.6 and f11. Below are links to 1:1 crops.



Link to crops at 135mm f/5.6 and f11. Comparison among 1 : 1 crops.



Basic motif shot with different lens at 200mm and f5.6 and f11. Below are links to 1:1 crops.



Link to crops at 200mm f/5.6 and f11. Comparison among 1 : 1 crops.



Basic motif shot with different lens at 300mm and f5.6 and f11. Below are links to 1:1 crops.



Link to crops at 300mm f/5.6 and f11. Comparison among 1 : 1 crops.



Photos speak about quality

Quality of a photo is a very subjective factor. It depends on the viewer and what attracts him personally. There are many psychological factors from artistic and technical point of view that influence the definition of a good photo. Looking strictly at the technical details, we can observe many differences on enlarged photos made with different lens. At small sizes, photos do not differ as much, except for Tamron 28-300, which however has other benefits that can be of great importance to a less demanding photographer. I will review this lens in one of the following articles.


EF 75 – 300mm IS USM does not differ from EF 70 – 300mm DO IS USM only by it's size, weight and price. In the range of 200mm to 300mm, the DO lens is much much better. The IS system in the new lens is also improved and can be used for panning or mounted on a tripod, too. Focusing is also faster, because the new DO lens uses internal focusing, which as a side effect spends less energy.


None of 70-200mm f2.8 L lenses offers 300mm. They are heavier for 590g and 750g, longer for 94mm and 97mm, but they are much more durable than the 70-300mm DO IS USM. Also, they do not change their length while zooming. The lens 70-200mm L without IS has maximum aperture of f2.8. However the DO lens has IS, which enables us to use shorter exposure times. Which means that aperture f2.8 is usable for achieving shorter exposure times and smaller depth of field. 70-200mm L IS costs about 500 EUR more and is actually from another world.




Tamron 28 – 300mm is an excellent decision for those who want all-in-one lens for a low price. It is very compact and it's optical quality is attractive for undemanding hobby photographers.


EF 75 – 300mm IS USM is much cheaper and optically not that worse than the DO lens to suit those, who are interested at the low price and are not concerned about compactness, focusing speed and excellent quality of enlarged photographs.


Both lenses 70 – 200mm 2.8 L are especially from 135mm onward better than the 70-300mm DO. However it is probably not visible for an average user who doesn't print large format photos. For a hobby photographer and normal size prints, there is hardly no need for a L series lenses, which are made for professionals and advanced amateur photographers who are looking for no compromises and price, size and length are of no concern.


After my reviewing I can confirm that EF 70 – 300mm 4.5 – 5.6 DO IS USM is an excellent lens from many perspectives. It's main benefits are compactness, fine quality, second generation IS and fast focusing. The dilemma starts with it's price. Is it really that much better than EF 75 – 300mm 4 – 5.6 IS USM. There is no simple answer. It is something one must evaluate for himself. Of course the 70-300mm DO is better, but at the end you have to ask yourself if you are willing to pay it's price and if you actually need it's characteristics.


It is easier to advise regarding the EF 70 – 200mm 2.8 L USM. Their prices are similar and so we have two interesting competitors. 70 – 200mm lacks an extra 100mm and has no IS, but it has maximum aperture f2.8. We can achieve shorter exposure times, but we also reduce depth of field. However optical quality of L lens is superior and it can also focus easier in darker environment. 70 – 200mm 2.8 L with IS makes it possible to use longer exposure times, greater depth of field and focusing in the dark. But there is an extra 500 EUR of price to pay for it.

My colleague, who was at the time of this review using EF 70 – 200mm 2.8 L IS USM and 1,4X teleconverter, was keep asking me to switch his lens for my DO. It's weight and compactness are main arguments for buying it.




Photos made using above lens and cameras EOS D60, EOS 10D, EOS 1D Mk.II and EOS 1Ds.



My personal opinion

DO lens are a definitive future for Canon. Olympus is dictating trend of compact, lighter and high qualitiy lens with their 4/3 system. The DO technology makes these things possible from another perspective. DO lenses are still full-frame and are also small and light. And they still offer high quality of capturing light. Since Canon is keeping their full-frame sensors, I think that DO lenses will be the prefered lenses for future Canon cameras.


Professional photographers and their backs will be grateful if long f2.8 telephoto lens will be made with DO technology. Hobby photographers will also be happy if their favourite lenses will reduce in size and gain in optical quality.

At the moment, the only DO zoom lens is exactly where it's price puts it – among Canon lenses of middle class and top-notch L series lenses. For me, each camera body has it's corresponding class of lenses. With the launch of EF 70 – 300mm DO IS USM lens, there is an obvious gap between EOS 1Ds/Mk.II and EOS 10D. L series lenses are great on 1D. 75 – 300mm IS is suitable for 10D. And EF 70 – 300mm 4.5 – 5.6 DO IS USM lens should be mounted where? 1D is too heavy for me to carry it all day long. EOS 10D does not offer me enough and I am not going to trade it for my D60. Which leaves... 3D (?). It should be the right body for my needs and just perfect for this DO zoom lens. It's just that Canon says there is still no need for a body like that.


Unfortunately I had this lens for too short time to find out why there are such strong circles showing in the out-of-focus areas.


After a short test I can only say it is most likely connected to this new manufacturing procedure of the lenses.


An interesting observation. Photographing from the distance of 2.2m at 300m. With lens EF 75 - 300mm 4 - 5,6 IS USM we get this picture.


Under the same conditions, but made with EF 70 - 300mm 4.5 – 5.6 DO IS USM. With nearer motifs the angle of view is wider.


Canon EF 70 – 300mm 4.5 – 5.6 DO IS USM


Canon EF 70 – 200mm 2.8 L IS USM


Canon EOS 10D, EF 70 – 300mm 4.5 – 5.6 DO IS USM. Below is a 1 : 1 crop.


Crop of the above photo in 1 : 1.


Reviewing was quite extensive. I will write more about other lenses and cameras in the following articles.

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