Last Tuesday I received my Canon EF 70-300 f/4.5-5.6 DO IS lens, which I purchased for our upcoming trip to South America. Naturally, it was raining, and chasing the cats around made me sad, we lost one of ours a week prior. Fortunately a break in the rain in the early evening allowed me to get out on Wednesday and check this lens out. While driving through Golden Gate Park trying to think of where I should go, I found myself near the Strybring Arboretum and next to a parking space. Decision made!
This lens is one of two in Canon’s “DO” (Diffractive Optics) lineup, the other being the considerably larger and more expensive EF 400mm f/4 DO IS. The purpose of the DO technology is to produce high-quality lenses that are smaller & lighter than would otherwise be possible. I’ve long been interested in the 70-300 DO lens because it is very compact and seems like it’d be a great travel lens. The compromise is that these DO lenses are expensive, and are reported to be prone to flaring and occasionally odd-shaped out-of-focus highlight spots. You can see an example of these spots in the second gull photo below, where the highlights on the water have a sort of donut-shaped appearance.
First impressions are that it is very compact indeed, but heavier than one would think judging from its size. When zoomed out to 300mm it is fairly long, especially with the hood attached. The zoom action is pretty stiff, but I imagine it may loosen up with a little time. It fits easily into my Adorama Slinger travel bag, along with my Canon 30D body and EF-S 17-85 IS lens with room to spare for a flash if I so desired. Having two lenses cover the range from 17mm to 300mm is very appealing, of course, although I’m giving up some reach, as I usually do wildlife with my Canon EF 300mm f/4L IS lens with a 1.4x teleconverter attached. Canon’s 1.4x TC is not compatible with this 70-300 lens, and even if it were, I’d have to tape the pins or autofocus would be disabled. I’ll leave further discussion about this lens for another post when I have had more time to use it, and better weather!
At the wooden bridge in the arboretrum, along with the expected Mallards and American Coots I saw several Western Gulls, one Glaucous-winged Gull, and a small flock of Mew Gulls.
The skies were gray and dark, hardly ideal conditions for sussing out a new lens, and I wound up shooting mostly at ISO 800 and up. The image stabilizer seems to work extremely well – it felt more effective than the one on my 300mm f/4L IS lens, and I was able to get reasonably sharp shots at as low as 1/100sec at 300mm, which is nice, since this lens doesn’t have a tripod collar, and for its intended application, I would prefer not to bring a tripod or monopod anyways.
I checked out the “giant sequoia” to see if the sometimes-reported Red-bellied Sapsucker was present, but this would-be lifer remains at-large to me. Things weren’t very birdy at this point, with only our common year-round birds seen, other than the Mew Gulls.
It was getting dark and I had to get to my ornithology class, so I started to make my way back. Along the way the birding picked up a bit, with many calling American Robins, which nest in the arboretum, a Great Blue Heron bringing sticks for a nest at nearby Stow Lake.
A California Towhee, my first of the year, foraged by a bench, and allowed close photos, although in this light, I had to shoot at ISO 1250, which still only got me a 1/250sec shutter with the lens wide-open at f/5.6.
I was also pleased to find a small group of Cedar Waxwings, another year bird, and these allowed me a much closer view than my previous looks at them. They’re adorable little birds, and they didn’t mind my presence at all, which let me futz with camera settings until I got some decent pictures. Photographing these birds against an even gray sky required a good deal of exposure compensation, as the camera didn’t want to blow out the sky, but that left the birds too dark.
The gate I’d entered was now locked, a sure sign it was time to leave, so I headed to the after-hours exit and went on my merry way. This was a nice little outing, and I was happy to take advantage in a break between storms (which are still dumping rain and heavy winds on us as I type).
Location: Stow Lake/Arboretum, GGP
Observation date: 2/20/08
Number of species: 16
Mallard – Anas platyrhynchos 10
Great Blue Heron – Ardea herodias 1
American Coot – Fulica americana 15
Mew Gull – Larus canus 6
Western Gull – Larus occidentalis 5
Glaucous-winged Gull – Larus glaucescens 1
Rock Pigeon – Columba livia 7
Mourning Dove – Zenaida macroura 2
Anna’s Hummingbird – Calypte anna 4
Black Phoebe – Sayornis nigricans 3
+ Western Scrub-Jay – Aphelocoma californica 3
Common Raven – Corvus corax 10
Chestnut-backed Chickadee – Poecile rufescens 2
American Robin – Turdus migratorius 10
+ Cedar Waxwing – Bombycilla cedrorum 7
+ California Towhee – Pipilo crissalis 1
+ = year bird
This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(http://ebird.org)