Canon EF 100-300mm f/5.6 L - Review / Test Report
Lens Reviews - Canon EOS (APS-C)
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Review by Klaus Schroiff, published December 2005

Special thanks to Guillaume May for providing this lens!


The Canon EF 100-300mm f/5.6 L is ancient lens released back in 1987 so it saw its first light with the birth of the Canon EOS system. It is low discontinued but still pretty popular on the used market - no surprise because it is one of the very few Canon L (Luxury) lenses within the reach of budget users. On APS-C DSLRs the field of view is equivalent to 160-480mm. It's a full frame lens and as such compatible to all EOS cameras out there.

The optical design is made of 15 elements in 10 groups with one CaF2 element one UD element so despite its (originally) low price tag it is a true L lenses here. The lens features 8 aperture blades. Size-wise it remains in line with other xx-300mm zoom at 75x167mm. It is slightly more heavy than average at 695g. The minimal focus distance is 1.5m resulting in a max. object magnification of 1:4.

The lens has a push-pull design as you can see in the product images above and it extends towards 300mm. The inner lens tube is also moving when focusing adding a little to the max. length. The push-pull mechanism is a little unusual these days but it has the advantage that you can change the focal length very fast (at cost of zooming accuracy). The build quality is just soso with plastics all over the place. It is certainly not comparable to today's L lenses here. The lens shares the mechanical construction with a consumer lens, the (much worse) EF 100-300mm f/5.6, which is surely the reason for the substandard quality here. While you may get used to the push-pull zooming but the focus ring is absolutely dismal with a very coarse, almost sandy and wobbly focusing action. Manual focusing is no fun here. Unfortunately the lens has rotating front element so using a polarizer tends to be cumbersome.

The focus range can be limited to either 1.5m-∞ or 2m-∞. Usually it is a good idea to prefer the latter because the AF speed is average at best and it lasts ages if the camera thinks that it needs to hunt through the focus range. The lens has a conventional micro motor (Arc Form Drive) - a rather noisy variant.