Canon EF 100-300mm & One-Touch Zooms On Digital SLRs

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The Canon EF 100-300mm f/5.6 "One-Touch" Zoom Lens Works GREAT On Canon EOS Digital SLRs

What ever happened to those super fast zooming “One-Touch” Canon lenses of yesteryear?
Modern zoom lens design has completely shifted to the "two touch" or “twist” style zooms, while the venerable “one-touch” models have been all but forgotten. Am I all alone here, or are there other photogs out there who miss the speed and accuracy of a good “push-pull” zoom lens?

Back in the days of Canon FD mount manual focus lenses, prior to 1987, the “one touch” zoom lens was king. We could zoom AND focus simultaneously. It was extremely easy to frame a shot and manually find the perfect focus point, all in one completely natural motion. We were able to get some very interesting “artistic” effects by zooming and adjusting the focus, while the shutter was open, to create some really interesting images.

When Canon introduced the EOS system in 1987, we were treated to a new selection of “One-Touch” EF mount zooms, but they all had the added magical feature of full auto-focus mode. This seemed to be the absolute best of both worlds. Making the transition to the new EOS camera felt comfortably familiar, while opening us up the convenience of fully automated focusing. Then, one-by-one, all of the “one touch” models were discontinued, unceremoniously replaced by the “modern” rotating zoom models. These were, and are, some great new lenses, but somehow we never quite forgot how naturally and quickly the older lenses responded to our every command.

Now, we skip ahead 20 years and we find ourselves in a brand new “Digital” world. The “One-Touch” lens is all but a distant memory. Except for one thing, THE EARLIER EF SERIES “ONE TOUCH” EF  LENSES WORK GREAT ON THE NEW DIGITAL SLR BODIES! I bought a Canon EF 100-300mm f/5.6 Macro Zoom lens on eBay. When I mounted it on to the EOS 10D I quickly discovered that old familiar magic again. For the price, this lens has fantastic optics! With a constant aperture of 1:5.6 and with that slick action sliding zoom mechanism, I was back to creating the same types of shots that I had loved so many years ago. This is an excellent lens for outdoor sports, bird watching and nature photography.  Especially when you have to "frame" a shot on-the-fly, this is the quickest lens you could use.

Canon EF 100-300mm f/5.6 "Macro" Zoom Lens

On the technical side, the Canon EF 100-300mm f/5.6 is constructed with 15 lens elements arranged in 9 groups using "Super Spectra" coatings. It accepts the most common and affordable 58mm filters and accessories. The AFD (Arc Form Drive) auto-focus system is not as fast or quite as the USM drive, but it is plenty quick enough for most applications, including sports. However, I often use this model in manual focus mode because of the effortlessness of the combined zooming and focusing action. That is what attracted me to this "old timer" in the first place.

This model features an outstanding  eight-blade EMD aperture for excellent performance and absolutely beautiful "background blur". It is surprisingly light for the focal range that it covers, weighing-in at under 26 ounces. The length varies, depending upon both the focus setting and the focal range, It measures 6.75 inches to a maximum of 8.75 inches when set to full macro and extended all the way out to 300mm.

I have no idea why this type of lens design suddenly fell out of favor. I guess that some things just get “uncool” after a while. Whatever the reason, I don’t really care. I totally enjoy the fusion of the old zoom style with the infinitely more versatile digital cameras. One of the biggest advantages is that those earlier models can now be found at very affordable prices on eBay. Better yet, some of you might simply be able to dig your old copy out of storage and put it back into service. I also own some new “L” lenses, and I like them a lot, but for shear fun and creativity, I am having a blast with my old style “one touch” lenses. These can be nearly as sharp as the new "L"s, not quite equal, but surprisingly close. Fortunately, the "old timer" is much lighter, to make up some of the difference.

There are quite a few versions of this design from which to choose. There is the EF 35-105mm f/3.5-4.5 "Macro", EF 35-135mm f/3.5-4.5 "Macro", EF 50-200mm f/3.5-4.5 “Macro”, EF 50-200mm f/3.5-4.5 L “Professional”, EF 70-210mm f/4 “Macro”, EF 100-300mm f/4.5-5.6 “Macro” and the EF 100-300mm f/4.5-5.6 L “Professional”. All we have to do is to convince a few more owners of these fine models to either put them to good use again or to sell them to us! I have used almost all of these models (except the  EF 50-200mm f/3.5-4.5 L . They are like old friends whom I had not seen for many years, but when we got back together, it was as if time had stood still. We “picked-up” right where we had left off and we are better "friends" now than ever before.

I very strongly recommend that you check out at least one of these models, just to see if they might be a comfortable “fit” for you too. I think that you might realize that some “retired” technologies still deserve a prominent place in the modern world.

It still amazes me that Canon had the genius and foresight to develop an auto-focus camera system that allows these ancient workhorses to function perfectly on their newest and most advanced camera bodies. The old adage “they don’t make ‘em like they used too” has been proven to be correct... AGAIN. It is a wonderful revelation to find that we are able to use these superior quality lenses to their fullest advantage, some twenty years later, AND even save a few bucks to boot!

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