Putting Canon EF 70-210mm F4 Lens to Test

I like old lenses. They are cheap, usually well-built, and optically – in everyday use – no worse than their modern super expensive siblings when used correctly. I had been lusting after the Canon EF 70-210mm f4 lens ever since I tried out the FD version on my old AE-1 Program. I’m usually big on prime lenses and I’ve convinced myself that primes have better image quality for lower price than zooms, so when I put the first roll of film through my AE-1, I expected the photos that I took with the FD 50mm 1.8 to be more to my liking than the ones taken with the zoom, but I was actually blown away by the sharpness and contrast of the zoom. Considering what the EF version of the lens goes for, it would have been a shame not to get it.

I think a lot of people shy away from the old lenses, especially lenses as old as the 70-210mm f4 that has been out of production for a while. They have none of the modern bells and whistles such as image stabilization and ultrasonic motor. They really do sound loud compared to modern lenses when focusing, and I have two of them – the 50mm f2.5 macro and now the 70-210mm f/4 zoom – so I know what I’m talking about. But none of that really bothers me. In addition to that, the 70-210 has push-pull zoom that many people frown upon these days. For me, the push-pull zoom is actually a positive rather than a negative. It maintains focus throughout the zoom range so you can create really fun photos with it.

My new-old 70-210 lens arrived today, and I put it through a quick test run outside while waiting for my oldest one’s bus. It certainly didn’t disappoint. It’s as sharp as you can wish for a lens to be for everyday use, and it is as nice and contrasty as it’s FD counterpart. It’s certainly $59.00 very well spent!

Just to show what it’s capable of, the below images are unaltered by post-processing.

(210mm, ISO 200, f/4.5, 1/1000 sec)


I created the below two images by zooming out (first image) and zooming in (second image) while having the shutter open. This first image is of my car’s driver’s side headlight. There is something attractive about this image for me.

(180mm starting point, ISO 100, f/29, 1/10 sec)


Clearly I should have had the camera on tripod for this last image for it to really turn out the way I imagined it in my head – it’s impossible to have anything sharp at any point while handholding a large non-image-stabilized lens with an already somewhat heavy camera at 1/5 sec – but I think you get the general idea of some of the types of things you can do with a push-pull zoom that maintains focus throughout the zoom range.

(177mm starting point, ISO 100, f/32, 1/5 sec)



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