To be honest I bought this lens because it was on sale for $100 in my local camera shop and the longest lens I had was 85mm. My main requirement in a zoom lens was that it let me capture some reasonable wildlife and landscape shots while I was on my travels through some of the National Parks of the American Midwest and Western Canada. I knew the likelihood of it getting broken before the end of the 6 weeks of travel was fairy high (as a combination of road-trip and backpacking it wasn’t exactly gentle travel) so there was no way I was going to spend several hundred (or even thousands) of dollars on one of the high-end lenses.
The Canon EF 100-300mm f/4.5-5.6 USM Telephoto Zoom Lens (as it is called on the box) usually retails for between $250 and $300 so I figured if I could pick one up for $100 it would be worth it even if it only lasted a couple of weeks. But I didn’t exactly have high expectations which might be why I’m so happy with this lens. First off it has proved to be a hardy little bugger, I don’t have a camera bag large enough to hold extra lenses so I used a spare toiletry bag which was waterproof but offered little else in the way of protection. The lens held up brilliantly and through a variety of bumps, bangs, and TSA-inspections has not a scratch on it and remains in perfect working condition.
Performance wise it’s done remarkably well too. The lens uses ultrasonic motor focusing and has full-time manual focusing as well, it uses rear group focusing (so the front elements of the lens never rotate when it’s focusing which keep filter effects in tact). Although the manual focus is a bit fiddly (at least until you’ve had a bit of practice with it) the autofocus functions well. It features an 8-blade aperture so it’s not really a fast lens and at 300mm a tripod is preferable to get blur-free shots (although having said that I did manage some decent daytime shots at 300mm without a tripod). The lens measures 121.5mm and weighs 540g, so while not lightweight it is easy to fit in a daypack and take on a hike.
Overall this lens proved exceptional value for money (at $100 but I think I would have been happy had I paid the $250 price), a practical, easy to use, sturdy zoom lens. I would definitley recommend this to someone who wants to own a zoom lens but perhaps isn’t going to be using it particularly often or is on a limited budget. Definitely a lens that travels well too, mine survived the trunk of my car, the overhead bin of an aeroplane, and the onboard locker of an Alaska state ferry – you can’t ask for more than that!
If you have experience with this lens (or other comparable lenses) please share in the comments section.