In many ways a 300mm f2.8 lens ideal for the aviation photographer who requires the best optical quality and AF speed and who I prepared to sacrifice the adaptability of a zoom lens for the benefits of a prime lens.
With my equipment switch from Nikon to Canon, one of my saddest losses involved was the parting of company from my AF-S 300mm f2.8 VR lens. Combined with a teleconverter, I find 300mm f2.8 lenses an ideal walkabout lens. They really aren't too heavy and when combined with a good optech neoprene strap. In reality, you really won't be holding the camera up to the eye for prolonged lengths of time. Sling the strap over your head and shoulder or round your neck, and you can walk around all day with the combo.
To replace my Nikon, the Canon EF300mm f2.8 L I.S. USM is a perfect replacement. There really isn't much to choose between these two flagship lenses on any level, although similar to my EF600mm f4, the exceptional performance of the EFII 2x teleconverter does edge overall flexibility in favour of Canon.
The lens comes in the CS30028 case, which is a compact version of the one supplied with my 600mm f4 lens and looks a bit feminine if truth be told (reminds of a vanity/make-up case that an ex used to have), in anycase, this item is destined for a life in the attic. Also supplied is the obligatory slip-on lens cover, the E-145 in this case. Fortunately this is a non-elasticated cover, so not quite as awkward to remove as some. The Canon EF300mm f2.8 is also supplied with the ET-120 lens hood.
For transportation, I like the Nikon CL-L2 soft case. With this, you can transport pro body attached to the lens (with hood attached) and a 1.4x teleconverter... although not a 2x, but you may get away with a 2x if you have a slim non-pro body.
Controls & Operation
As with other Canon I.S. lenses, there is a comprehensive control panel to the side of the lens body.
Uppermost on the switch control panel of the Canon EF300mm L I.S.lens is the focus limit control. 3 options here, the 2.5 metres - infinity (full) setting allows the lens to focus from minimum distance to infinity. Then the 2.5 metres - 6.4 metres and finally 6.4 metres to infinity. Basically, if you're target is expected within a known distance from you, it speeds up autofocus if the lens isn't hunting through it's entire range to get a lock-on.
Next is the AF/MF switch. Says it all really, though you can always operate the camera in manual focus even if it's set to AF, being FTM (full time manual) design.
Next we have the magic switch, Image sabilisation on or off. After countless questions from people, can I just say here that the I and 0 originates from binary, I is on and 0 is off.
Underneath the I.S. on or off switch, we have the Image stabilisation mode. mode 1 controls movement vertically and horizontally, mode 2 just counteracts vertical movement... so as to allow you to pan along with a subject without the I.S. system trying to compensate., this is particularly useful for aviation photographers for the flypasts.
Lastly in this panel is the focus preset functions. Basically, you can set a focus distance on the lens, press 'set' and you can recall this distance at any time via the twist ring (the ring with the serrated edge) just in front of the focus ring. It's handy feature if you're likely to be shooting at 2 vastly different distances. I would prefer it if focus recall was an option on the 4 focus lock buttons and in a really ideal world, a focus recall button would be situated far closer to the camera body, or indeed controlled via the camera itself, as many lens functions are on the Canon 1Ds MkII and other pro body Canon cameras.
The tripod collar can be simply removed from the Canon 300mm f2.8, and this is my choice for use as a walkaround lens, as i don't find the tripod foot any aid in handholding.
Canon 300mm f2.8 L I.S. USM in Use
This lens has the reputation as being one of the sharpest lenses available, and with the Canon Pro bodies, it has the fastest AF anywhere. Over the last 6 months, I can vouch for it, in that it does live up to its massive reputation. With the Canon 1Ds MkII and the newer 1D MkIII, it has performed spectacularly at airshows, even combined with the EFII 2x extender (teleconverter) it can bring home the goods in terms of clarity/sharpness of image.
I.S. does have some benefits for aviation photography, but it is certainly not vital. In mode 1, it can be useful for aircraft coming directly towards you. In mode 2 it can be used for flypasts parallel to you. I have to say, in general, I have I.S. switched off for aerial work.