Pros:good zoom range, light
Cons:slooowwwww (high max aperature), no IS system.
The Bottom Line: There are better choices. If you need high focal length a single lens may be a better choice. Not up to Canon's usual high standards.
I bought this lens at the same time I bought my digital rebel body because I wanted a somewhat long zoom for shooting the tigers at busch gardens (from several hundred feet up on the bridge). For what I wanted it for, 300mm just isn't quite enough even though on the Rebel the effective zoom is closer to 480mm (because the image sensor is smaller than a 35mm frame). My old HP 850 effectively gets closer to the subject, especially when using digital zoom mode.
There's only two complaints I've had with this lens, it's slow (high minimum aperature--i.e. needs a lot of light) and it doesn't have the IS (image stabilization) capability. I've taken a number of pictures with this lens and I haven't noticed any really bad ones that I would "absolutely" blame on lens properties but after my other 28-135 that does have the IS system, this lens is just plain disappointing. I wish I'd read the reviews on this lens before I bought it, it just doesn't seem to be up to Canon's usual good standards.
What's it good for?:
This lens is fine for outdoors shooting on bright sunny days or in any situation where you've got a lot of bright light. Because of the large minimum aperature, especially at the higher end of the zoom range, it's just NOT suited for indoor shooting with flash unless you're using a lot of very bright stationery lights (and even then it might be questionable unless you kick the ASA/ISO up a lot and then you risk grainy images).
The lens is quite lightweight, the lack of the IS system accounts for a lot of weight in these lenses. This lens has one switch like most non IS autofocus EF lenses, that changes between manual and autofocus. While it has a USM lens motor, as far as I can determine it is the lesser quality USM motor that doesn't allow for full-time auto focus. I.e. you have to hit the switch if you want to manually focus, unlike a few other EF lenses that have the superior USM motor in them that allows for manual focus even if the switch is set to autofocus.
I've noted that in the high zoom range I get a fair number of "less than sharp" pictures, especially at maximum aperature. I'm not sure if I'm just not steady or if the lens optics really leave that much to be desired. There's a lot of reviews of this lens that more or less say to avoid it. If you do get this lens you might want to invest in a monopod to help you keep it steady while shooting.
For most of us, this lens is probably fine for typical family shooting but there are better choices. It's unfortunate that Canon refuses to license its camera protocols to third parties. Which basically means that third party lenses from Sigma or Tokina are a crapshoot that might work for now but not later if you buy a new camera body that might have slightly different communication protocols in its firmware.
A single focal length lens will always be sharper than a zoom lens, just because of the mechanics involved in building a zoom lens. If you need high focal lengths (300mm+)for far off subjects, a single focal length lens is a better choice, if your subject moves around a lot then the zoom is a better choice but be aware you are going to sacrifice some of the quality.
Today's fairly high megapixel digitals allow for a fairly impressive amount of zooming and cropping without much loss of image quality; this is something to keep in mind while choosing lenses, you might not need as much zoom as you think you need! Overall this isn't a bad lens but compared to my 28-135 with IS this lens is a disapoinment.
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