Diffractive optics worth the price?

I own an old Canon EF 100-300 f/4.5-5.6 USM lens, which is badly damaged from fungal growth. I want to buy a new telepohoto lens for my Canon EOS bodies, and, until a few days ago, I was pretty sure that what I really wanted was the Canon EF 70-300 f/4.5-5.6 DO IS USM lens. I definitely need the image stabilisation feature, since most of my telephoto shots involve birdlife in not always ideal light conditions. This lens is built with diffractive optics, which offer “more compact size than other zoom lenses with equivalent focal lengths and aperture”. In fact, the lens is extremely compact when set at its minimum focal length. The average price for this little creature here in Sydney is about A$ 1,950. Of course I would like one of the L series telephoto lenses, but they are usually too large and heavy, and, most importantly, I cannot afford them.

Last week I read about the newer EF 70-300 f/4-5.6 IS USM, which is very similar to the DO lens in all respects except for the diffractive optics. This one presents the elongated shape more typical of a 300 mm lens. The second difference is that it retails at about A$ 995, that is, half the price.

So, what do you think? Is it worth spending twice the money just to get diffractive optics and a small size? Do diffractive optics have any other advantages?

I also considered buying a prime 300 mm lens just for the sake of gaining a few aperture stops, but all of them are L series, the cheapest one being an f/4 at about A$ 2,500.

Please leave your comments.

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