HomePhotography Index



Canon EF 300 4L USM

Petite Great White Lens

Peter Kun Frary

The EF 300 4L USM is my only white lens and, thus, my largest and heaviest optic. It's my favorite beach lens and is perfect for shooting surfing and candids along the waterfront. It's a beefy chunk 'o glass but balances well on my EOS 3 or 5DII. It feels unbalanced on a light camera like an Elan 7E or Rebel XTi.

EF 300 4L USM • Mini Great White Lens

Construction Quality

Construction is burly metal. You won't want to drop this baby on your foot. The 77 mm filter size makes filters expensive, but I don't use filters much on telephotos. Finally, the slide out hood is handy and, unlike the EF 200 2.8 L USM, is big enough to do its duty.

When using large lenses, lift the rig by the lens, not the camera, or you may stress the camera's lens mount. It's also a good idea to not use a shoulder strap on the camera. Instead, put the strap on the lens or use a bag. A few pounds of metal and glass bouncing up and down all day isn't good for your camera's lens mount or optical alignment.


Rear element focusing insures that the front element does not rotate and barrel length remains constant. AF rips due to silent ring-type USM and rear focus design. It has an AF distance limiter, but I've found it unnecessary as AF is extremely accurate when mounted on my A2 , Elan 7E, EOS 3 or 7D. AF sucked wind on my EOS 1N due to the old style AF sensor (needs F2.8 to fully enable the center AF cross). Like all ring-type USM lenses, it has FT-M and a distance window. The manual focusing ring is wide, gripable and turns almost as smooth and precise as a manual lens of yesteryear. My main complaint is that it only focuses down to 2.5 m, close enough for head and shoulder shots, but not close enough for small mammals and birds.

Hand Holding

During daylight, I can handhold this puppy with consistent results if I brace myself against something or sit down. However, this lens is at its best on a tripod. The detachable tripod mount takes the weight and stress off the camera and allows a rapid transition from horizontal to vertical framing. Unfortunately, the jumbo size and off-white finish often attract attention, so it's difficult to use this lens when stealth is required.

Runner at Sunset • EOS A2, EF 300 4L USM, Bogan Tripod & Fujichrome

Optical Quality

I've found this eight-element design to be extremely sharp, contrasty (Photodo 4.3 MTF) and flare resistant. The newer IS version of this lens is said to be a level down in terms of sharpness (Photodo 3.4 MTF), but focuses to 1.5 m. My "Runner at Sunset" image is a testimony to the EF 300 4 L USM's amazing resistance to flare. Believe me, I could not have gotten a clear shot of this eye-sizzling sunset with any zoom, L or otherwise. My zooms have major ghosting problems with shots like this, usually several mirror images of the sun in the frame (yes, I remove filters before shooting sunsets).


I sometimes use this lens with the Extender EF 1.4x L, resulting in a sharp, close focusing and compact 420 mm F5.6 lens. However, the EF 300 4L USM/Extender 1.4x combo will flare a little easier than without the extender under extreme conditions, e.g., Hawaiian sunsets. Nevertheless, it still has less flare than most zooms.

Surfer GirlEOS A2, EF 300 4L USM, Fujichrome, LS-1000 Scanner

Final Words

The EF 300 4L USM is tough, fast focusing and offers up amazing image quality. For outdoor sport shooters, birders and serious amateurs this lens deliverers quality without breaking their shoulder (and bank) and can take the knocks they dish out. Plus, it works equally well with both film and digital bodies. The EF 300 4L USM lens is discontinued, but used samples appear for $500-800 depending on condition. If you find yourself mainly using the long end of a 75-300 telezoom, the EF 300 4L USM may be your ideal lens. Highly recommended.


Focal Length: 300 mm

Aperture: F4

Lens Construction: 8 elements in 7 groups with 2 UD elements

Min. Focusing Distance: 2.5 m

Filter Size: 77 mm

Diameter & Length: 90 D x 213.5 mm L

Weight: 1300 g

Included Accessories: Hard Case

Cost: $400-800 depending on condition

6/21/2001 • Revised 11/14/2010

©Copyright 2001-2012 by Peter Kun Frary • All Rights Reserved


HomePhotography Index