While vacationing on the Colorado River, I was told of a lovely white egret. I thought to myself, “This will be a great test for the Canon 100-300 F5.6L.”
It’s a 30-years-old lens. It was one of the first two L lens for the Canon EF lens mount. It didn’t get the standard L series weather sealing. It was pretty much the same lens as the EF 100-300 F5.6 only it had a red ring around the lens. Canon also upgraded the lens elements for the L model. It had synthetic fluorite lens elements in the first lens group and ultra-low dispersion elements in the 2nd group.
It’s hard to find one that hasn’t been abused during the past 30 years, most have some scratches, and the push-pull zoom design weakens over time and you tend to get barrel creep so if you are shooting at an angle; the lens will zoom-in or zoom-out depending if you have it tilted up or down. Some sound like they are dying as they try to seek auto-focus. I looked at two or three of them and walked away, actually I might have ran away because I didn’t want to catch whatever lens fungus was growing in them.
Then, I saw one for really cheap on eBay. At the price it went for I figured even if it’s as bad as the others, it’s still a decent price. I was shocked when I got it. The rubber ring had some oxidization, but the lens elements were clean and clear, it came with the hood, and the barrel was tight. It was like I had bought a goat to clear the blackberry bushes from my yard and instead they sent me a goat unicorn. One thing to note: unicorns and Canon 100-300 F5.6L lenses do not have Lightroom correction profiles. But it’s not a huge deal because the lens has the least distortion of any lens I own. Since it’s a full frame lens, you won’t get much vignetting on a crop sensor. But the AF speed is horrendous, and if the light is bad, it will search and search and search.
This egret was the bane of my existence the week I spent there. He loved to hide under an outcropping to bask in the early morning sun. I couldn’t approach him from the sides since the outcropping as surrounded by water and it was an overhang he would hide under. I’d sneak up on him, and away he would fly. Then he would go hide in a cove I couldn’t reach. We played that game every morning for three days, then he decided to find somewhere else to get his morning sun.
So I was a bit sad I didn’t get the picture of the egret’s face. On the last night, we headed out to dinner at one of the floating bars on the river on a friend’s boat. I took a few picture of the bars with the Canon 100-300 f5.6L. At 695 grams, it’s not too lightweight. But for a telephoto zoom with L glass it’s a good balance.
The sun was just starting to set as the boat went around the last bend headed back to home. Just as I was finishing putting all my gear back into my bag, someone started tugging on my arm and pointing wildly. I looked up from closing my bag and there the bird was resting on the bank. I reopened the bag and put the adapter on the Canon M5 then attached the lens, knowing the egret was going to fly away while I was playing with my gear. But finally, it was all assembled and I dialed in the settings. The AF locked onto the bird, and I took two shots as the boat passed him.
I’m not happy about the leaves behind his head, but at least he gave me a side shot of his face and that golden light is fairly decent. But I was happy with the quality of the picture. The details in the rocks, the feathers in the shadows show up, the AF worked. I was happy I had a set of lenses that let me cover just about any situation in my bag.
Would I recommend a Canon 100-300 F5.6L to someone? With the caveat the AF is slow, it doesn’t like to AF in low light, and the barrel sliding around might drive you crazy. For less than $300, it’s an incredible set of optics. For more than $300, you can probably do better.
As for the moral, sometimes when things look like they are over, they aren’t. You can apply that to both the Egret and the Canon 100-300 F5.6L.