This post is a bit of an oddity. Usually the only older lenses I play with are vintage manual focus lenses from the film era – Zuikos mostly – but this is a discontinued film era Canon EF autofocus lens from around 2000. EXIF info for once is quite welcome.
Why bother? Well it’s more or less the same zoom range as a 24-105L F4, it’s much cheaper (£130 second hand vs £500 second hand for the “L”) and importantly, it’s much lighter (201g vs 670g). Filters are much cheaper at 58mm than 77 mm though it has no IS like the ‘L’. Also I’ve got on loan and I’m curious!
It’s constructed with a tough plastic exterior and a two barrel zoom action, the minimum focus about 50 cm (marked as ‘macro’) and the USM focussing is smooth, quick and quiet. It feels quite tough if a bit brittle, but it is fifteen years old. This is the earlier model, an improved model (1999-2002) made some minor improvements.
To be clear from the start, this isn’t the sharpest lens around so I won’t do a lengthy series of test shots. At 28mm the edges are soft wide open, things improve through the mid focal lengths then decline as 105mm is reached. However if you keep it at f56-f11 it will produce decent images at all focal lengths which are more than adequate for most purposes as the following should demonstrate.
Two huge enlargements from the first image are below – the tower and some of the gulls shot at 105mm @f5.6. DXO Optics 9 has already tried to remove CA from these images but a small amount remains, even if it is only a few pixels.
Colours are generally good though as with all older lenses, a quick ‘auto levels’ is always useful.
Flare is quite well controlled even without a lens hood. This was metered without the sun in the shot, the exposure ‘locked’ using the ‘*’ button, then recomposed.
Macro mode is reasonable too with some slightly busy bokeh. The auto levels has produced some rather grungy colours in the lower right but other than that not too bad.
An extreme chromatic aberration test here looks good – though this is more down to DXO Optics than the lens itself. Turning off CA correction in DPP produced some nasty purple fringing on the sunlight reflections.
All in all quite a reasonable all-rounder for the price. It would make a good starter lens while you saved up for a better general purpose zoom and would be useful on shoots where kit might get dirty or damaged. Old zoom lenses from the film era are rarely as good as modern ones but this one is better than most.
At this point you’re probably thinking I’ll come up with some killer reasons to use this lens. There really aren’t any other than the price and weight. It’s ‘OK’ for most purposes but fifteen years have seen some serious improvements in lens technology and digital imaging is much more demanding than film. If you’re not going to print past 10×8 it’s fine – otherwise something more modern may be in order. I really like the light weight and the convenience though!
If you’re interested in using other old lenses on your DSLR have a look at the other reviews on the film, camera and lens review index tab.
Thanks for looking – hope you find this useful.
Excellent post Rob. Smashing pictures and lots of useful information!
At 28- and 35mm and f/8 it almost matches the 16-35/4L IS at f/4 (both center and edge).
At 70mm f/8 it almost matches the 70-200/2.8L at f/2.8 and f/4 in the center; at the edge it actually beats the L zoom.
At 105mm f/8 it almost matches the 70-200 at f/2.8 and f/4 in the center, but is beaten at the edge.
Still very useful due to the low weight and size. The best lens is the one you have with you.