Review

Canon 300mm Lens Rental & Review

18-135mm Lens @ 135mm f/5.6 1.6 sec 1600 ISO

I have always been fascinated with space especially the moon because it's always reminded me of the Death Star. When the news would come on talking about solar eclipses and lunar eclipses I would be intrigued with the science about the amazing phenomenon. Last April I wanted to shoot the moon's phases of a lunar eclipse. I used my 18-135mm Kit Lens that came with my Canon EOS Rebel T4i and the images weren't the best. I knew what I needed was a better lens but it would be expensive to buy even a used lens. My only option was to rent a lens.

The Lens:

From Canon's website: "Compact L-series telephoto lens with an Image Stabilizer which compensates for camera shake with the equivalent effect of a shutter speed two stops faster. Two Image Stabilizer modes are provided: Stabilizer Mode 1 (the same mode featured on the EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM) and the new Stabilizer Mode 2 which steadies the image during horizontal or vertical panning. Mode 2 detects the panning direction automatically. The closest focusing distance is 4.9 feet (1.5 m)."

The Rental:

Renting a lens might be a a common practice for some photographers,  but it was something new for me. I found a great website that specializes in rentals for photography and film, BorrowLenses.com. BorrowLenses is actually close to where I live and I figured it would be my best bet to rent a lens on such short notice. This was the first time I would rent a lens and BorrowLenses made it very easy during the whole process. I selected the lens, indicated how many days I would need for the rental, and what day I wanted the lens to arrive. 

Day 1. The Blood Moon:

Every website I looked at was telling me the Blood Moon would occur on October 8th at night but, as the date got closer I noticed that it was going to happen from 1 am to 6 am and the lens was due to arrive the following afternoon. I missed my opportunity to shoot the Blood Moon with the 300mm lens. I told myself to at least use the lenses that I have and do the best I can with what I've got. The 50mm f/1.8 is the sharpest lens in my bag but, it doesn't get close to the moon. The other lens I have is the 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens that came with my camera, it gets closer to the moon but it isn't that sharp. The 300mm lens showed up 12 hours after the Blood Moon and I decided to take some pictures of the moon to see how much more detail I can see with the lens.

Before the moon was out I wanted to see what kind of pictures I could get from the 300mm lens. How far can I focus? How close is too close? I was only able to take a few photos because I was at work when I received the lens.

All three images are cropped at 100%. Click the image to enlarge.

Above is a comparison of the three lenses. The 18-135mm lens shows a lot more detail than the 50mm lens but, isn't as sharp. The image from the 300mm is amazing, I could see craters, a much more detail, and I could use the lens without a tripod. As a film maker I wanted to see what this lens was really capable of, so I decided to shoot a short video.

I was blown away by the quality this lens was giving me not only with photos but video as well. I felt like I was shooting a movie from the 80's or early 90's. 

Day 2: At Home and In Town

So I missed the Blood Moon and I had a few days left with my rental so I figured I would take pictures of my dog, Chewy. Taking pictures of my hyper dog was interesting to say the least. To shoot pictures indoors was difficult because I had to stand across the room from Chewy to get a shot of him with some background in the image. I stayed at f/4 with the lens to get more light in the photos and surprisingly they turned out great. In town at night the streets are mostly empty after nine o'clock so I was able to stand in the middle of the road and frame up my shot. The downside is I wasn't able to get a variety of pictures due to me standing far away from any subject.

I was going to shoot the moon rising even though it wasn't the blood moon, I have never made a time lapse of the moon. I turned my camera to video mode and locked it down on my tripod.

Day 3: At The Golf Course

At the beginning of the day I was set out to see what kind of pictures I can achieve with the 300mm lens. The golf course was nice and open so I could walk around and get different angles without feeling closed in like at the house. It's a good thing golf is a slow sport unlike bowling where I feel like I need to look in every direction so I don't miss the moment. I was able to bring my tripod, setup my framing while my dad and his friends were practicing, and make sure all my settings on my camera were right for the real swing. 

After taking a few pictures I thought of only shooting a few minutes of video but, it turns out I was really liking the quality so I was able to shoot a short film.

Color Grading:

Image courtesy of thetransformers.net

Color grading is basically adding a look and feel to the film. For example when watching a Michael Bay film like Transformers you will notice the shadows have a blue tint and the actor's skin has an orange tint. Color grading is fairly new to me, but I think I did an o.k. job. I might go back and try to regrade the footage and see what kinds of looks I can get. The 300mm's glass has no tint and it makes it easier for me color grade a flat image. Below I show a before and after shot of color grading.

Final Results:

The Canon 300mm f/4 lens is an amazing piece of glass, editing the images feel like I am a pro photographer, and shooting a short film is night and day compared to my 18-135mm zoom lens that came with the Canon T4i. When I was first thinking about buying a lens I would always hear from the more experienced photographers that "it doesn't matter what camera you buy, the only thing that matters is the glass you put in front of the camera." It was very apparent that the photographers I listened to where telling the truth and the moment I first put the 300mm lens on my camera I noticed a big difference when I was reviewing the shot on the small LCD screen of the T4i.

This review isn't over. To hear my final thoughts check out my video review below:

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