The Canon New FD 100-300mm f5.6L is a compact 3x telephoto zoom lens with a macro function between 100-200mm allowing reproduction of 1:3. As an L series lens it features 1 element of UD (ultra-low dispersion) glass and one fluorite element, promising very good correction of aberrations.
|List Price when new||¥95,000|
|Angle of view||24°~8°|
|Optical Construction (Groups / Elements)||10 / 15|
|Minimum Focus||2m (normal) 1m (macro)|
|Maximum Macro Magnification ratio||Normal 0.18 / Macro 0.3|
Background and availability
Canon’s famous L series lenses are generally very highly regarded for offering exceptional performance at a premium – often with fast maximum apertures suited for sports. This lens, generally, is regarded as somewhat of an exception to this rule.
It looks almost identical to the Canon FD 100-300mm f5.6 lens, except for the standard red ring indicating that it belongs to this prestigious line of lenses. In this case, the lens has 1 flourite and 1 UD element to drastically reduce spectral aberrations and ensure sharpness across the frame. This lens, therefore, has one of each which does set it apart from the standard lens in the same focal range.
As far as I can tell this lens is very rare – in that all the time I have been looking at lenses I have only seen three for sale (in the UK at least). Indeed, the rarity of reviews / sample images suggests that not many CSC users have this lens in their arsenal. The non-L version fetches only a modest price, with the L commanding a considerable premium, but even still the lens is not expensive.
The lens accepts a bayonet fit deep hood (Canon BT-58) which is very common as it is also used on the FD 70-210mm and the FD 80-200mm. You can pick them up for around £20 on buy-it-now or you can either wait for a cheaper auction listing or search for a battered FD lens fitted with the hood which would sell for less and you can then sell or bin the lens.
Performance and handling
The Canon New FD 100-300mm f5.6L is a strange lens. It seems to offer very good images between 100-200mm, with very good ‘macro’ performance, yet at 300mm it seems to be hard to get sharp images – as if the focus throw is too short to focus accurately. Some users seem to have had a similar performance, others claim it is tack sharp at 300mm, I’m still uncertain as to how good it is at 300mm – with regards to sharpness at least. I’ve owned 3 copies of this lens and due to it’s versatility I used it a lot as my standard hiking wildlife lens – whilst also shooting a lot of landscape as well.
In terms of general performance, the lens has a lot going for it. It focuses closely between 100-200mm, offering macro reproduction of 1:3 at 200mm, and performance is very good at close focus distances. It also controls CA and purple fringing very well, making it an excellent long portrait lens that produces sharp photos that don’t require a lot of processing to remove fringing. It is fairly light and compact and offers a nice zoom range, with decent close-focus for most bugs and flowers. In my camera bag this lens has replaced a very sharp Tamron Adaptall SP 300mm f5.6 Flatfield macro lens (1:3.3), which although it was very sharp at 300mm, suffered a lot from purple fringing, lacked the flexibility of a zoom and didn’t actually offer as impressive macro reproduction as the Canon.
I can recommend this lens, with the caveat that I’m still not convinced by it at 300mm, but with the knowledge that between 100-200mm this lens offers good macro performance which improves its versatility as a walkaround telephoto. Having said all of that, I did get some sharp and very good shots at 300mm – you can make up your own mind from the extensive gallery below.