The Canon New FD 300mm f4L was a high-end prime telephoto lens using two UD (Ultra-low Dispersion) glass elements – although neither of them is a fluoride element as featured in some other L lenses from the period. Internal focusing helps the lens smoothly focus and a substantial tripod mount offers support for the lens.
|List Price when new||¥186,500|
|Angle of view||8°|
|Optical Construction (Groups / Elements)||7 / 7|
|Maximum Macro Magnification ratio||1:11|
|Filter Size||34mm (rear)|
Background and availability
The Canon New FD 300mm f4L is probably a lens that needs no introduction, given that there are plenty of user reviews and sample images online for this lens. At one point it seemed fairly common – albeit reasonably pricey (although it could be argued it is still great value for the quality, speed and focal length), but in the last year or so very few copies have come up for sale, with people – understandably – reluctant to give up the lens.
The lens was introduced in 1980, a year after the 300mm f4, and was over twice the price (186,500 yen vs 89,000 yen) of the non-L version. It features two UD (Ultra-low Dispersion) glass elements not present in the non-L version making it 7 elements in 7 groups for the L version vs 6 in 6 in the non-L. The number of aperture blades (9) and the minimum focus distance (3m) remain the same – meaning the lens cannot focus as closely as the Tokina AT-X SD 300mm f2.8 or Tamron Adaptall SP 300mm f2.8 LD IF (60B), which can both focus down to 2.5m. Naturally the f4 lens is considerably lighter than the faster lenses, weighing in at just over 1kg, vs just over 2kg for the Tamron and 2.7kg for the Tokina (thanks to a huge metal hood and a tank-like build quality).
The lens comes with a built-in lens hood and a tripod ring – which is removable, so you may find a copy without it which should be cheaper to buy.
Performance and handling
Relatively lightweight (in comparison to 300mm f2.8 lenses), beautifully built, smooth to focus with plenty of throw. The main drawback – for my use, anyway – is the relatively long minimum focus distance of 3m, greatly reducing how useful the lens was to me in the field. I like a lens that can focus closely for insects, butterflies and dragon flies, which the 3m focal distance is just too long to fill the frame adequately. The other issue I had is that I found the lens hard to focus with, with a lot of shots just off. Things just didn’t snap into focus as they do with other lenses in this focal length.
When focus has been nailed, the lens is very sharp with CA and purple fringing reduced to an absolute minimum (very impressive on digital) and it is a great lens for the majority of users. For me, it just didn’t focus closely enough and I normally opted for lenses that offered 300mm with a closer focus distance.