Canon EF 70-210 f/4 & One-Touch Zooms On Digital SLRs

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The Canon EF 70-210 f/4 "One-Touch" Zoom Lens Works GREAT On Canon EOS Digital SLRs

Maybe I am just an “old fogie”, but often I wonder; 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; the “one touch” was king. We could zoom AND focus simultaneously. It was extremely easy to frame a shot and 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 about 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” LENSES WORK GREAT ON THE NEW DIGITAL SLR BODIES! I resurrected my "antique" Canon EF 70-210mm f/4 Macro from the closet, locked it on to the EOS 10D and quickly discovered that old familiar magic again. WOW, that lens has great optics! With a respectable constant aperture of 1:4 (just like the new EF 70-200mm f/4L) and with that slick action sliding zoom mechanism, I was back to creating the types of shots that I had loved so many years ago.

Canon EF 70-210mm f/4 "One-Touch" Zoom Lens

On the technical side, the Canon EF 70-210mm f/4 MACRO is constructed with 11 lens elements arranged in 8 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 usually 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  8-blade EMD aperture for excellent performance and absolutely beautiful "background blur". I have seen this model specified with a 6-blade diaphragm, but all of these that I have tested definitely have the superior 8-blade design. This may have been a "unannounced" upgrade (which Canon does do from time to time), but I recommend that you check any of these lenses that you might find to be certain that it actually does have the better aperture diaphragm with eight blades, not six.

There is an eBay Guide to show you how to determine exactly how many aperture blades are in your lens. That Guide is available here:

How To Inspect Canon EOS Camera EF Lens Aperture Blades

This lens is surprisingly light for the focal range that it covers, weighing-in at under 22 ounces. The length varies, depending upon both the focus setting and the focal range, It measures 5.75 inches to a maximum of 7.8 inches when set to full macro and extended out to 210mm.

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, like I did. I also own the new “L” lens, and I like it a lot, but for shear fun and creativity, I am having a blast with my re-born “one touch” lens. It is nearly as sharp as the new "L", at least until you zoom all the way out. Fortunately, the "old timer" is just a bit longer, 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, but my favorite is still the outstanding EF 70-210mm f/4. It is like a friend 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 one of these models, just to see if it is 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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