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Technical

June 2011

Things have been typically busy for me but, whatever my assignments are, lens choice is always important. While all of my lenses are typically f/2.8s or, if not, f/1.4s – the kind of lenses I like to use as I prefer to work at close range to the subject with a wide angle – I do carry an EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM, which is a great lens, but it can be too heavy for working quickly when in amongst the action.

© Ziv Koren/Polaris Images

Couple amongst 50,000 people participating in a costumed, street ‘Purim’ party in Tel Aviv, 18 March 2011. Shot on the EOS-1D Mark IV with an EF70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM lens, the exposure was 1/320sec at f/5.6, ISO 125.

So, when Canon’s EF70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM came along at first I was sceptical; then I was extremely surprised by the lens in terms of how light and compact it was, and then I was very impressed by the level of quality of results produced when shooting with it.

I’ve discovered it’s a very useful lens to carry around because if you need to travel, carrying all of your kit on your back can become a major issue. You really have to think twice if you want to carry a 300mm f/2.8 telephoto, or something similarly large, because you need to calculate the size and weight of the equipment you need to carry with you, particularly when shooting fast moving action or situations that demand you move quickly. It really needs to be thought through properly.

Using the 70-300mm and shooting in daylight – it doesn’t matter if I’m shooting an assignment covering military or photographing extreme sports – the image quality is great; it’s sharp and it is fast to use. I now take the lens with me for almost every such shoot.

© Ziv Koren/Polaris Images

Palestinian stone throwers clash with Israeli troops near the Qalandiya checkpoint between the West Bank city of Ramallah and Jerusalem on the 63rd anniversary of Nakba Day, 15 May 2011. Shot on the EOS-1D Mark IV with an EF70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM lens, the exposure was 1/400sec at f/11, ISO 200.

I’ll give you two recent examples of the sort of work that I can be doing:

The first, a street festival that I photographed, was populated by hordes of happy people having fun and large colourful street parties that cried out to be photographed. The second was where I was shooting riots between Israelis and Palestinians when a big rally had turned very nasty and violent with tear gas being fired and stones being thrown.

For the festival the relatively compact size and focal range offered meant I could get close without being intrusive; not spoiling the fun I was trying to shoot. For the riot it allowed me to get close, record the action, and keep moving quickly amongst the dangers of Molotov cocktails, tear gas and flying stones. This lens gives you the flexibility this kind of event requires and makes a big difference in these situations.

For both the festival and the riot, I immediately found the 70-300mm to be much more flexible than a fixed, large-aperture 300mm lens. First, because it has a better focal length range – the extra range can make a big difference when you want to get close, yet avoid incoming stones or tear gas – and because it is smaller and lighter.

© Ziv Koren/Polaris Images

Israeli soldiers from the Special Forces’ Rescue Unit ‘669’ during training over the Mediterranean Sea, 11 April 2011. Shot on the EOS-1D Mark IV with an EF70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM lens, the exposure was 1/1000sec at f/6.4, ISO 100.

Another factor shooting in such conditions is the lens’ strength. If I compare the 70-300mm with some of the older Canon lenses they were simply not as solid and strong, so this lens ‘wins’ here too and has meant it has become a real option for me.

While it might not be good for everything that I photograph, for example for shooting a portrait I would still use a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens, for shooting out in the field I find that the 70-300mm is ideal. For example, for a recent shot I took of Israeli Special Forces training with a helicopter I couldn't predict the distance between myself and the helicopter, and it is very hard to shoot this kind of shot with a heavy lens, so the 70-300mm was a perfect choice for shooting this kind of image.

Backing all of this up is the lens’ image quality. It’s an L-series lens so you’d expect it [quality], but the quality really stands out. Let me put it this way… When I test a lens, it’s not really like a laboratory test with four lenses at the same focal length, on the same subject, and at the same ISOs to see the exact changes between the lenses on a given subject. No; I prefer to ‘go with the flow’.

© Ziv Koren/Polaris Images

Palestinian stone throwers clash with Israeli troops near the Qalandiya checkpoint between the West Bank city of Ramallah and Jerusalem on the 63rd anniversary of Nakba Day, 15 May 2011. Shot on the EOS-1D Mark IV with an EF70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM lens, the exposure was 1/500sec at f/11, ISO 320.

I’ll take it [the lens] with me and just see how smooth it is and how quickly the lens can get into the ‘pipeline’ of my work; it is much more emotional. It’s not about the exact differences between depth-of-field at varying f-stops, it’s about how the image looks, how the lens handles and how I feel about it.

The EF70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM is the complete package because it fits in well with my work. Add to that (even though I have a rock steady hand), the built-in Image Stabilizer (IS) and that it also becomes more adaptable if you use it on a camera such as the EOS-1D Mark IV, where the difference in sensor size from, say, the EOS 5D Mark II means the focal range effectively becomes 91-390mm.

A friend recently asked me which lens I'd recommend for his trip to Africa. He needed a lens that would be compact and lightweight for travel; tough and especially good for shooting during the day at longer focal lengths – I recommended he get the EF70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM.  

Biography: Ziv Koren

Ziv Koren

Hailing from Israel photojournalist Ziv Koren has been a photographer for the Israeli army, the Israeli government press office, newspaper Yedioth Achronoth, and has been freelance since 1998. In 2000 his image of a bus bomb was chosen by World Press Photo as one of the 200 best photographs of the previous 45 years. Currently represented by Polaris Images he became a Canon Ambassador in June 2008 and, as well as his photojournalistic assignments, he is currently working on a long-time project photographing the Israeli Army's Special Forces.



Showcase

Palestinian stone throwers clash with Israeli troops near the Qalandiya checkpoint between the West Bank city of Ramallah and Jerusalem on the 63rd anniversary of Nakba Day, 15 May 2011. Shot on the EOS-1D Mark IV with an EF70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM lens, the exposure was 1/500sec at f/11, ISO 320.