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Canon EOS 70-200mm L Lenses (Updated)

by Philip Greenspun, 2001

A lake just above Rocky Gorge, off the Kancamagus Highway, New Hampshire You cannot be a professional photographer without a high-quality, high-speed telephoto zoom lens. Within the Canon EOS system, three such lenses are available:

  • 70-200/4L
  • 70-200/2.8L
  • 70-200/2.8L image-stabilized

All of these provide very high image quality. All have ultrasonic motors and allow for full-time manual focus. This article is intended to help you decide among these three lenses.


The f2.8 aperture is essential to throw the background out of focus, especially for portraiture at around 100mm. Note that the Canon L zooms are probably too sharp for flattering glamour portraits of most people without either professional makeup at exposure time or a little PhotoShop afterwards.


IMTA Show 1995 Manhattan I was covering the IMTA convention in Manhattan, where several thousand aspiring fashion models converge on the Hilton with their agents/handlers/schools (hoping to be discovered by agents in Japan, Europe, and maybe even New York).

Ben, one of my 18 y.o. students from MIT the preceding semester, had to leave New York that week and, his going-away present was to come along as an assistant on this job. [I think he was satisfied; as we waded through the sea of 14-17 y.o. flesh at the juniors swimsuit competition, I had to repeatedly hoist his tongue back into his mouth.]

Every now and then we'd find a really beautiful contestant and drag her outside for better light. This usually attracted a crowd. At one point, I decided to change the 70-200/2.8L for a 50 macro. I started to unmount the 70-200 and then realized the camera bag wasn't open. In the back of my mind, I didn't trust Ben to do anything so I moved my hands to open the camera bag. The month-old 70-200/2.8L (non-stabilized) dropped from waist height (1 meter) onto concrete with a horrifying "thunk".

No damage. [Of course, the gods punished me for writing the above. In October 1997, I was in Northeast California and the lens became hard to focus manually (but was fine in AF mode). A couple of days later, I noticed that the front and back halves of the lens were no longer securely connected. It went to Canon for a $100 worth of service and I'm still using the lens in 2001.]

AF Speed

Pig racing at the New Jersey State Fair 1995. Flemington, New Jersey. Chocolate Labrador Retriever

Autofocus with these lenses is nearly instant. This makes the 70-200s great lenses for street photography, even if somewhat obtrusive. Despite the lenses' near-instantaneous focusing, Canon included a focus range switch. The settings are "1.5m to infinity" and "3m to infinity". In theory, if you were photographing lions in Africa, you'd want the 3m-infinity range set so that when the camera lost focus it would spend less time hunting. In practice, what happens is that I always knock the switch to the 3m-infinity range by mistake. Then I'm photographing my friend's kid on a carousel and wondering why continuous AF tracking is working so poorly. I waste about five frames before I think to take my eye away from the camera and reset the AF range switch. Canon bodies should have a custom function to disable these lens switches but they don't.

Above images were taken with continuous AF, EOS-5 body set to choose by itself among the 5 AF sensors. Non-stabilized 70-200/2.8L. Fuji Super G + 400 neg film..


You turn a ring to zoom this lens. If you have the lens on a tripod pointing down a bit, that means that the focal length doesn't creep as it would with a push-pull zoom. Much nicer. The Canons also come with a removable tripod collar. The bayonet plastic lens hoods work well also.

Oh yeah, the image quality

Swans on the River Boyne. North of Dublin, Ireland. These lenses are so good in terms of flare, contrast, and sharpness that it is tough to find anything to criticize. However, if you look at Lens Work II, the book of optical formulae published by Canon, it is pretty clear that any of the prime telephotos (including special-purpose lenses like the 100 macro and the 135 SF) outperform the 70-200 in terms of modulation transfer function (resolution/contrast). So if you are obsessive about image quality, you can save yourself a lot of cost and weight by going with an 85/1.8, 100/2, 100 macro, 135/2.8SF, 135/2L, 180 macro, 200/1.8, or 200/2.8.

Teleconverter Compatible

Some kind of monkey. Seattle, Washington Unlike its 80-200/2.8 predecessor, all of the Canon 70-200 L lenses are compatible with the Canon 1.4X and 2X teleconverters. The photo at right was taken with the 70-200/2.8L and 1.4X converter (Kodak E100 film, EOS-5 body, ARCA Swiss ballhead on Gitzo carbon fiber tripod). Note that the resulting effective 300mm lens wasn't really long enough for this medium-sized animal, even though his home is the Seattle Zoo. Image quality is quite high though you are definitely going to lose a lot of sharpness with a 2X converter.

How Well Does Image Stabilization Work?

Our first tests of the 70-200/2.8L IS lens were very encouraging. Here are some images taken with a Canon D30 body, standing up, with the zoom set to 200mm, of a building in New York City:

unstabilized stabilized
1/15th Digital photo titled windows-15-unstabilized Digital photo titled windows-15-is
1/30th Digital photo titled windows-30-unstabilized Digital photo titled windows-30-is
1/60th Digital photo titled windows-60-unstabilized Digital photo titled windows-60-is

Here are some images taken while sitting down of a flower, also at 200mm:

1/15th 1/30th 1/60th
Digital photo titled flowers-15-is Digital photo titled flowers-30-is Digital photo titled flowers-60-is

The bottom line seems to be that acceptable results are obtainable at 1/30th of a second. That's 3 f-stops better than you'd expect from the "1/focal-length" rule of thumb.

Deciding Among the Versions

If you're going backpacking with a tripod, save your back and get the 70-200/4L. For studio portraits that will be lit by electronic flash, get the 70-200/2.8L (non-stabilized). For all-around high-performance, you definitely want the IS version of the 70-200/2.8L.

Only if you're on an extremely tight budget should you consider the anicent Canon EOS 80-200/2.8L lens. This lens does not allow for full-time manufaul focusing. Also, the old lens design also is incompatible with teleconverters.


I like using the 70-200 on a tripod to isolate patterns in landscapes. I'll have the lens stopped down to at least f/11 for wide depth of field but I still appreciate the f/2.8 maximum aperture because it keeps the viewfinder bright and makes it easy to focus manually.

Here are some snapshots from my excursions to foliage country...

Not your average covered bridge photo. New Hampshire. Maple trees near Peacham, Vermont

And a few from California...

Venice Beach, California. Sequoia National Park, California Sunset. Big Sur. California.

And a few from Italy...

A couple hanging out near the Campo de Fiori (Rome)

Where to Buy the Canon 70-200 L series lenses

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Text and pictures copyright 1995-2001 Philip Greenspun. Top photo is Brother Adrian at Mission Santa Barbara.

Article created 2001

Readers' Comments

Add a comment

Wee Keng_Hor , February 27, 1997; 12:22 A.M.

I've been using this lens for almost half a year and as Philip had said, I've forgotten about the pain of the high price that I've paid for it.

This is an upgrade from my Tamron 70-300mm lens. I shot a roll of silde to compare the image quality of both lenses. At wide apeture, the L lens really stands out in image quality! However, as I stopped down the apeture to f8 and smaller, I can't really tell the difference when I looked at the slides from the lupe.

This lens is also huge and heavy and I find it difficult to control the focusing ring when my hand shifts from the zooming ring.

What I liked most about this lens is that it allows me to use wide apeture for minimun depth of field and fast shutter speed for handheld shots. Images are excellent even when wide open.However, sometimes the deth of field might be so shallow that it spoils the whole image.

Another advantage about this lens is that it screams out loud to others that I'm a pro! On several occassions, I might not be allowed to enter the scene to take photo had I not been carrying this lens.

Wee Keng_Hor , August 03, 1997; 02:44 A.M.

Just to add one more point about using a Canon 2X converter with this lens.
The AF tend to search more often under certain conditions. However, most of the time, the AF is still pretty fast.
You have to be careful if you stack more than 1 filter with this combo. When I stack a cokin 81B warm filter with the normal UV filter, images can never be sharp, especially at the 400mm end.

Paulo Bizarro , March 06, 1998; 10:46 A.M.

This is the lens I tend to use the most, especially for portraits. At 2.8 it is sharp, and the range allows for careful framing. Sure, the 1n+booster+70-200 = 3kg, but I don't care, the results are impressive enough. I have portraits of my kid taken with this lens that will always be on the wall, and this is priceless.

Magnus Aldemark , March 16, 1998; 04:54 P.M.

First of all, I love this lens! But... When shooting (hand held) in dim light, the weight becomes pretty disturbing. I think it's much easier to get a sharp image using a 85, 135 or 200 at f/2.8 than it is with the 70-200. Sure, it may seem obvious, but I really didn't think of it when I bought mine.

David Lewiston , March 24, 1998; 09:56 P.M.

Just received my test roll of K25 from the processor. Interesting results. I test lenses the old-fashioned way -- a two-page spread of fine print from Shutterbug taped to a wall. Camera on tripod, aligned for perpendicularity using a mirror. Made comparison shots with the 70-200 on my EOS A-2; my trusty old 90mm and 200mm prime lenses were placed on a New Canon F1 (1979 model). Cable release with the F1, mirror lockup and self-timer on the A-2.

At 200mm, the 70-200 zoom and the Canon 200mm f2.8 FD lens were hair-sharp at all four test apertures, f2.8, f5.6, f8.0, and f16.0.

My 90mm prime is a Vivitar Series 1 f2.5 macro. Interesting comparison. At 90mm, the zoom was hair sharp at all four apertures. But the slides made with the Vivitar looked _terrible_. Huge suprise for me. I've had marvellous results in the 18 years I've used it. In fact, I think of it as my money lens. However, in this test the results at f2.8, f5.6, and f8.0 were unacceptable. At f16, it was fair. I'm not sure whether it's the fault of the lens, or of my deteriorating eyesight -- the main reason I've taken the autofocus plunge.

Finally, I took the same sequence of shots with the zoom at 70mm. Lousy (unusable)at f2.8, f5.6, f8.0, mediocre at f16.0.

Guess I won't be using it much at this focal length!

Colin Barschel , April 02, 1999; 01:14 P.M.

I use this lens for more than 3 years and it was my first "L" lens. It is simply a PERFECT lens and incredible sharp! I also make some pictures with the equivalent Sigma and Nikon but it was not possible to observe the same sharpness and contrast as with the Canon one. It is also the lens witch I use the most and give me the best photos. I think that the price is not so expensive regard to the performance. Colin

Juan Luis Polo , October 11, 1999; 01:48 P.M.

I have been owner of a Canon 80-200 2,8L during 2 years. After that I changed to different lenses from independent manufacturers, I thougt that there was no so much difference between them. The result: 1 year suffering shot after shot: autofocus, quality of the lenses, quality of the photos... Now the 70-200 2.8 L to the rescue!: I have to take photographs from diferents parts of the world. And, of course, this is the lens for me. ?Heavy? sure, but you forget it when after the trip you see the material: quality and more quality, everything is razor-sharp, the autofocus is there: fast and accurate... ?and the optics? like my eye, what I see is what I get: no color dominants... Wonderful lens, believe me. If you need results this is your lens!

Stephen Rohrbacher , December 02, 1999; 11:19 A.M.

I have had this lens for 2 months now and am crazy about it. I had the Canon 75-300 non-USM before this and have two years worth of mediocre pictures. Used it recently at my older daughters HS graduation in an auditorium using a 540ez from the balcony and got great results from 50 feet away. Took some more the next day at my youngest daughters dance recital in another auditorium, no flash allowed. I braced myself on the rail, spot metered, and the results were also good, though the dancers blurred in some shots. I highly recommend this lens. (12/2/99: Still love this lens. My wife needed some portraits for her new career in Real Estate, when the rest of the office saw them they wanted theirs done. And all I used was an on camera 540EZ bounced off the ceiling and walls.)

Bill Mallin , January 11, 2000; 06:56 P.M.

I bought this lens originally thinking that this was going to be a good "all around" lens for fashion. At first, I was very pleased with the images, as they were definitely a step up from the consumer type zooms I used previously. As time went on however, I found that I was much happier with prime lenses like the 50/1.4, the 85/1.8, and the 100/2.0. They focused better in poor light, adding filters wasless costly in terms of money and light loss, and the lightness made photography much more spontaneous and fun. This is really a lens more for a photojournalist.

Patrick Wong , February 28, 2000; 08:45 P.M.

I have the Sigma 70 to 200 F2.8 HSM. It is correct for the UK magazine Pratical Photography to rate the lens higher then the Canon. It is razor sharp, it is the one lens I use full time on my EOS 3 and have many rolls of film to prove. It HSM (similar to Canon USM) is quiet, fast, and deadly accurate plus you focus maunally without pushing a switch. This is one the few lens that really give Canon or Nikon a run for there money, I save about $1000 CDN price different. There is a down side to the lens, for what ever reason the lens happen to slip of the mount and hit the floor, major damage. To make a long store short I cause about $300 in damage which Sigma USA agree to cover (normal they don't) plus it take three month to fix which was a PITA. I have one question is the Canon repair much faster, would Canon fix it for free and is the Canon that much more duriable. ( when I say Canon I mean Canon Canada).

Michael Giuliani , April 24, 2000; 06:37 P.M.

Pictures with Sigma 70-200 f2.8 HSM EX .

Canon or Sigma? What is the dilemma!? For as long as I have been involved in this beautiful hobby I noticed that one of the hardest aspects of it, it is buying the right equipment. There is a lot of good products out there that make the choice even harder. To discuss now about the two lenses mentioned (Canon 70-200L USMf2.8 and Sigma HSM 70-200 EX f2.8), after the experience I have had with both of them, I ended up buying a Sigma. Why? I mainly shoot action sports (motocross, desert racing, and horse jumping) to sell pictures, and everything else for stock. The two lenses perform vrtually the same. AF speed is critical in the sports I shoot, and the two AF motors HSM and USM are equally fast. If AF speed is a concen, and you own any Canon below the EOS 3 and want to buy the Canon USM lens, don't be a fool! Buy the Sigma, save the difference in cost, and upgarde your camera body ... it is the camera that auto-focus, not the lens. The lens has only the motor, and as I mentiond above the HSM and USM motors are equally fast (don't tell me that the USM is 1 nanosecond faster, please!) Image quality ... well, it is probably the same and maybe the Sigma is slightly better. Construction ... the Canon feels stronger, but it is just a feeling that you are getting because of its metal barrel. Keep in mind that the paint on the Canon will chip a lot easier than the one on the Sigma. They are both very well sealed against dust and to me this is a concern, since I shoot in very dusty places(Desert,sand,dirt traks). If you drop it is only important to know how lucky you are!(Either lens will suffer equally) Price ... well, Sigma wins big time by being cheeper. Resale ... they will sell fast because they are both excellent lenses in great demand, and the depriciation is proportionally equal. In conclusion, both are excellent lenses that can produce equally excellent pictures that you could sell even to National Geographic or Sports Illustrated (the only limit would be your own ability to take great pictures). I have choosen the Sigma because it makes more sense to me! I had the money for a Canon, but I saved the difference to buy other equipment. I hope this will help you in your research. Photography is about taking great pictures, and the ability of the person behind the camera that makes it happen! Yes, the right equipment is important, but don't buy a "white" lens because it will make you look like a pro ... work on your skills, not on your look. Good luck!

Susan Butler , May 26, 2001; 12:48 A.M.

My "Claim to Fame"

Photo above: Dan Butler, Grand National Dirt Track Rider #22 - shot with Canon A2 and 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM (IS turned OFF). Shutter priority 1/60, Kodak Royal Gold 400, approx 60 mph at 30 ft - no digital mods made to image.

I just added the 70-200mm f/2.8L to my collection. Most of my photographic shots are of motorcycles and people as you can see above. This shot is one of my favorites.

After seeing the results of my first 5 rolls of motocross photos (not shown), I am convinced that the quality of this lens is superior to that which I was using (Canon 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM) along with my Canon A2. For whatever reason, the 28-135mm was not as sharp as my previous 35-85mm (bought with the Rebel XS in '94 as my first camera). It didn't matter if I was using a filter or not, the images never seemed to be as clear as I had been able to obtain repeatedly with a different lens.

Opting for the 70-200mm range was perfect for the typical distance between me and the bikes and of course, I have noticed the weight (I only weigh 125 lbs so this lens is a boat anchor for me to haul around) but I think this means I should start working out for the long hot dusty weekends at the race tracks!

I love this lens and now, will be using it with my Canon EOS 1V HS for more motorcycle action. I had no difficulties with my A2 & this lens regarding AF and I suspect the performance will be even better with the 1V.

More photos will soon be available on http://www.butler22.com from my new 1V and 70-200mm combo (with and without Canon EF 2X Extender).

Lee Shively , May 28, 2001; 09:19 P.M.

I bought this lens in March and have been using it a lot since. It is every bit as good as I had heard. In April, I went to the Texas Hill Country to photograph wildflowers--an annual trek for me. I used the 70-200 with the EF 1.4X Extender for about 75% of my shots. I used a tripod often but, due to the constant Texas wind, I also shot handheld wide open at a high shutter speed. The results were very pleasing. Combined with an extender or the 500D close up lens, it is a great alternative to carrying a macro. Anyone using the Canon EOS system would find this a very useful lens and, although expensive, it is money well spent.

Wee Keng_Hor , September 09, 2001; 01:46 A.M.

70-200L f4 @ f4, Fuji NPS

Bought the smaller f4 version recently. Pictures are very sharp and the lens is so much lighter than its 2.8 brother. Although f4, depth of field is still shallow and renders out of foucs objects nicely. Easier to carry around and pack. Moreover, I don't need heavy duty accessories (bags / tripods..) to support its usage.

Tony Zipple , December 10, 2001; 01:41 P.M.

My 70-200 f/2.8 has been my favorite lens for the past few years. Sharp, fast, contrasty.... it is everything that I could want in a zoom except for light and cheap. However, I recently sold it and bought the IS version of the 70-200 zoom. Optically it is also a remarkable performer and every bit as good as the non-IS version. IS adds a great deal to the lens, however. It lets me shoot slower film and sharpens up many of my shots.

The headline it that it makes handheld shots (most of my work) much better. Is it worth the $750 + what I got for my old lens? To me it is.

Nigel Nagarajan , December 17, 2001; 08:50 A.M.

Glad to see that this page has now been updated to include the f/4L and f/2.8L IS versions of this lens. It would be useful to see a further update with more information on the optical characteristics of the different lenses and their relative performance. Optically, these are three quite different lenses, e.g. because the f/4L version has a flourite element which the two f/2.8L versions do not, also the f/2.8L IS has a more circular diaphragm than the non-IS version. So let's see some numbers, or at least some anecdotal evidence.

Jeffrey Siegel , December 22, 2001; 10:51 P.M.

I recently purchased the 70-200 F4. This is my first higher end zoom lens and, like the comments suggest above, it is tack-sharp, very well built and a pleasure to use. I would also like to say that even though I got the smallest lens of the lot, it is still quite long especially with the hood attached (~10"). It won't fit in my current camera bag (a kinesis belt system). I know that it is lighter than its bigger brothers, but I found it a little awkward to balance on the tripod without the tripod collar. I know that many people buy this lense for backpacking, and it is a great lens for this purpose, but be aaware that it is still quite substantial.

kyle martens , December 29, 2001; 09:35 P.M.

Canon has been slowly implementing the IS technology into their various lenses and although the 70-200 2.8 IS looks really nice, I am holding out till the inevitable 4.0 IS comes out. It should be the best bang for my buck.

Andrew Grant , December 29, 2001; 10:57 P.M.

I have the 70-200/F4. Aside from being much lighter than the other two it is also much cheaper. Phil did not mention cost issues in his comparison. The F4 version costs less than $600 with rebate, the F2.8 is over $1,100, and the 2.8 IS is around $1,800. For the difference in price between the F4 and the 2.8, I could buy a nice portrait lens or even the 100/2.8 macro. For the difference in price between the F4 and the F2.8 IS, I could buy the 300/F4 IS prime.

I use the F4 on a D30 body. At 200mm (320 effective) out of focus backgrounds are not a problem. However, in low light AF can be. I currently use a 50/1.4 (80mm on the D30) as a low light portrait lens. When Canon has a full frame digital, I will need that portrait lens.

jack's dad , March 09, 2002; 12:47 A.M.

Counterpoint to the comment above: I own the 70-200mm f4 and a 50mm f/1.4, too. I actually find that the 70-200mm f4 focuses much faster on my D30 (due to the ring USM versus the micromoter USM?) than my 50mm 1.4 in low light. It does not hunt the way that the 50mm 1.4 often does in low light, low contrast situations. Are you SURE that your f4 is worse in low light? For those of you worried about the f4's relatively small aperture and autofocusing problems on the D30, don't worry. You, too, will be surprised by how quickly it focuses in low light.

Stephen Lutz , April 16, 2002; 10:49 A.M.

Civil Rights rally, January 2001, Louisville, KY

Let's not forget the 80-200 2.8L. While it may be "ancient" without "Full Time Manual" and USM, it does take extremely good photos. Here's one taken with an Elan II and 380EX flash, with Portra 400NC. Very sharp wide open at f/2.8. If you don't mind buying used, this is the lens to get for 2.8.

Evrim Icoz , October 21, 2002; 04:34 P.M.

The Canon 80-200 2.8L is termed ancient, however, it is an excellent lens. I had the 70-200 4L and I prefer the 80-200 2.8L. The focus is not bad at all, and the colors have that 3D pop to them that I didn't find with the 4L.

Mike Nunan , October 22, 2002; 09:38 A.M.

I have recently acquired a brand new 70-200 f/4 IS, and I'm rather shocked by its tendency to flare. I set up a shot on Saturday where the model stood in front of a skylight-type window, which offered a view across the building's roof (it was actually a converted church) with the top of a tree occupying most of the background. The tree was being side-lit by direct sunlight, and was fairly bright. The difference between the inside and outside ambient lighting was probably around 3-4 stops, and I was planning to use a little fill-flash to balance the lighting. However, the flare in the viewfinder was so severe that I immediately switched back to a prime lens. Looking at Evrim's fine image above, I cannot imagine my lens dealing with this situation successfully. Obviously the IS lens contains many more elements than the old 80-200, but this result does seem a bit extreme. Is this normal or is my lens likely to be a lemon?

nitin goje , October 19, 2003; 06:28 A.M.

dear sir i really shocked to read that u said in ur gallery section that u prefar 2.8 aparter for brighter view rather than 8 aprture u said it 2.8 gives me brighter viwfinder as u know i think whatever the aparture in nowadays cameras vivewfinder only shows 2.8 brightness it s only when dimmer when u keep ur aparture on eight and click depthof field preview.iam poor in english but i hope i conveyd my message.

Vincent J M , January 21, 2004; 05:21 A.M.

The best decision I made was to trade in some assorted lenses (100-400L and a couple of others) for the beautiful 70-200/4L. This is one of the loveliest zooms Canon has made. The 100-400 used to stay at home most of the time, thanks to its weight and bulk. Now the little 70-200/4 goes with me almost everyywhere. It's easy to hand hold even on a light body like my Elan-7, Image quality is top notch. I wouldn't trade this in for anything, except perhaps a 70-200/4 IS if it ever comes out.

Helen B. , January 24, 2004; 07:30 A.M.

I have a "cheaper one", 70-200/4L on my EOS33 (=Elan 7) The lens is *NICE*: sharp even wide-open, immune to flare (with no filters attached), fast AF thanks to USM (if limited to +3m - +INF), 67mm mounting thread is compatible vs. EF24-85, hood supplied.

But there are also some weakenesses: first, after 1 year of not too intensive usage i have to contact service center because the entire optical block has been "unscrewed" for a unknown reason, and locked zoom position at ~73mm. One month required to reassemble the lens completely.

Then, an expert who did the repair said that "not the entire lens tube is metallic, but some rear parts are plastic". That's funny!

Generally the entire built is very solid, lightweight if compared to f/2.8L (IS), rubber-coated focus & zoom rings both are very usable. Of course, it's not intended for portraiture works so its bokeh is more "repartage-like" instead of beatifaul backgnd blur - which is delivered for example by 100/2.8 Macro (not a portrait one, too, but bokeh is really wonderful)

The detail level especially @200 mm is exceptional - i have some shots of a 15th century church all made from the distance of 20-30 meters (Fuji Reala 100); when printed as 20x30 cm (8x12 inches) it is possibly to distinguish even where the rust is and where is not, each of bricks, and feathers on a small bird sitting on the roof.

Morten Hansen , September 12, 2004; 04:59 A.M.

I was sadly aware that the 70-200mm f4L suffers from Backfocus-problems on left side of image, when used on a DSLR (mine is the D30). This is more pronounced @ 200mm and f4.

This is described in great detail by Peter Kun Frary, Hawaii here: http://emedia.leeward.hawaii.edu/frary/canon_ef70-200usm.htm

Has anyone else observed this?

I just received my lens from B&H, NY. and had to return it immediately due to this problem. I hope my next specimen does not suffer from the same problem. What a drag...

What is going on with Canon's quality control??? This lens is not a new kid on the block and DSLRs have been around for many years... Have nobody else ever checked this out.

I'm puzzled

Andrew Robertson , September 19, 2004; 08:17 A.M.

I have used the 70-200 f/4L for well over a year now. It's a nice lens, but it isn't perfect. My sample is uniform in its sharpness, and works great, but comparing images shot with it to those shot with the 135mm f/2.8 SF makes me wish I had the 200 f/2.8 instead. The 135 has much better contrast and color saturation, and is sharper to boot! Lately the L has been sitting in the bag, as I use the 135 SF and the 100 USM Macro more and more.

To expect a zoom to outperform a prime is expecting too much, though. For what it is, it's great! I would recommend this lens to anyone who would be able to appreciate a finely crafted but inexpensive tele zoom. I wouldn't recommend it to someone spoiled on primes, though. The 135 f/2.8 SF, for less than half the price, is a much better performer!

Gary Rowan Higgins , December 23, 2004; 11:40 P.M.

What a cracker! Refer MTF curves for both tele and wide ends (70, 200mm) published by Canon (Lens Work Vol. III) for this puppy. Very telling of UD and CaF2 glass and giving DO elements are beating. Brilliantly endowed, this pup shamelessly flirts in the sun beside its ultra-expensive (and heavy) 2.8 brethren. Snappy contrast and consistent centre-to-edge resolution are bang on form which means have no fear in A3+ enlargements from 35mm (assuming you use a tripod, mirror up and expose precisely). Slim and inviting, smooth and well-weighted, this lens is a treat 'on the go'. Noteworthy is background blur from f5.6 to about f9.5; beautifully delineated--a true 'L' series hallmark; only the TS-E 24mm f3.5L (in retrograde or tow tilt) can take it further. If you're a bushwalker / traveller, get this beauty over the f2.8. Recommended as an excellent bridging zoom for the equally flash 17-40mm f4.0L. Note re FILTERS: Resist putting cheap filters on this (or any 'L' series) lens. Use a filter(s) by Canon, Hoya Super HMC, Pro or Ultra type or B+W MRC and ONLY one on this lens at a time. If using a Polariser, a B+W Kaesemann-type (ultra-thin and unfortunately ultra-expensive) specifically for highly-corrected apochromats (as this lens is).

Anand Srinivasan , December 18, 2005; 08:21 P.M.

I am trying to decide between buying a Canon EF 70-300/4-5.6IS USM and a EF 70-200 F/4.0L USM. Both are comparable in terms of price but former has Image Stabilizer and the latter is lens from L series which is generally known for sharper picture. Any recommendations one way or the other?

Raymond Wong , April 04, 2006; 02:26 A.M.

I currently own the 70-300 is but I'm going to sell it and get the 70-200/2.8 instead.

70-300 is wonderfuly sharp and the contrast is awesome but it's 4 ~5.6 so it really depends if you need the 2.8, i was shooting with my friend's 2.8 it was pretty sweet but it's a lot bigger and heavier

tradeoffs =)

Fabrice Muller , August 13, 2006; 10:46 A.M.

I use Canon 30D and I have an hesitation between 70-200 2.8L IS USM with an Extender 1.4x and 100-400 4.5-5.6L IS USM. Has somebody compare these 2 options ?

David Magradze , July 18, 2007; 04:19 A.M.

EF 70-200 L f/4 EOS 30 Fuji Reala 100

70-200 f/4 is a good lens. However, f/2,8 (both) are way sharp.

David Magradze , July 18, 2007; 04:21 A.M.

More pics

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Mark Lee , December 12, 2007; 08:23 A.M.

Canon 40D : 70-200mm f/4L IS USM @ ISO 100, 70mm B&W

Just purchased 70-200mm f/4L IS not too long ago. I did not need the f2.8.

Eli Ninor , December 21, 2007; 02:50 A.M.

I am a amateur , I have a Canon EOS 30D mounted with Tamron 17-50 mm (if) . I regret having not bought a Canon 17-40 L series . With 70-200 mm L series will my equipments be enough . I am considering buying a Canon Rebel Xti . I want to used it as a multipurpose lens . Please let me know whether it supports macro also . Please suggest!!

Kamran Efendiev , February 23, 2008; 06:19 P.M.

Dear Rohit this lens doesn't support macro, that means you can't come close enough but even then the results are perfect and you may need to add only canon close-up 58mm for closer shots... I will not bet that it's sharper than the 100mm f2.8 for macro shooting but if you consider the oveall sharpness and contrast of this lens you'll be satisfied... I was considering to buy 100mm macro but now I will only use my 70-200 and soon will share the outcome with you...

Here I present my recent photo taken with 70-200 f4 L IS with marumi protector lens only... it's not even a raw file it's a jpeg image only with in camera settings... absolutely no chromatic aberrations...

And by the way in www.the-digital-picture.com you can find the iso 123 (or wahtever) crop chart comparison of various lenses including some sigmas... According to that chart it's sharper than any lens you can show... it's obvious... just check it...

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Richard Crowe , June 18, 2008; 08:14 P.M.

This lens is so sharp that I have to be careful that I don't cut myself when opening an image. I use this lens 3-4x more often than I ever used the non-IS version. The non-IS model was not an all-around, go-to lens. It was a lens that I used in bright sunlight or used on a monopod or tripod. I carry the 70-200mm f/4L IS around with me everywhere as half of a two body, two lens system along with another great lens: the 17-55mm f/2.8 IS.

The IS is fantastic, I shoot at 200mm using 1/60 second at f/4 and expect sharp imagery 99% of the time (the 1% I miss would be due to operator error). I can shoot at 1/30 second at f/4 with an expectation of a very creditable percentage of keepers. Due to my growing older, I used to want to keep the non-IS version up around 1/500 second when at 200mm.

The lens is expensive but, you are getting value for your purchase price. I am using a lens costing twice as much, three to four times more often.

Now that I have a 40D, I will appreciate the weatherproofing, especially on my upcoming trip to Alaska this summer.

Barry Carper , January 17, 2009; 10:47 P.M.

Young George Washington

I am looking forward to an up to date review of these lenses including the incredible 70-200 f/4L IS (separate reviews and strings?). It is now my favorite on a 40D - ok I still love you 17-40L.

Ian Luyt , October 06, 2009; 06:29 P.M.

I have a bit of a "knock" on my 70-200 IS. Seems the front and back halves move slightly. Almost a very slight wobble. Can't say I've noticed this before, and haven't had an incident of damage. Any thoughts from anyone please ?

KARL BLACKWELL , October 21, 2009; 07:58 P.M.

I've noticed a few people have mentioned problems with the canon L series 70-200mm F4 lens. I've had mine for 5 years and have dropped it on one occasion, but that was 4 years ago... now, and only now do i notice the left hand side of pictures shot at infinity (especially) are not sharp, even when the rest of the picture is sharp... Does anyone know what sort of a problem this is and if it' s the sort of repair that one can do oneself? Many thanks

paul langereis , April 23, 2010; 01:40 A.M.

When I got back into photography, I bought a 40D, a Sigma 18-50 2.8 macro, and the canon 55-250 zoom.  After a while, and after reading reviews on the canon 70-200 f4L IS lens, I decided to sell the 55-250 and get one.  What a difference!  Not only is the IQ unreal, but the IS is also outrageous.  I recently went to Hawaii for spring break, and we spent our final week on Kauai.  We took a 65 foot catamaran tour to the Napali Coast, which was spectacular, except for the 10-15 foot swells.  Well, I started with the Sigma lens, and inevitably went to the 70-200.  I was able to get quite a few good shots even in these huge swells.  The lighting was also not great as it was overcast, and fairly dark.  To me that was the true test of this lens.  Here are a couple of shots from that trip.  Granted I would not consider these tack sharp, but try shooting in swells like that and tell me you can get tack sharp!

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Christine Wing , May 29, 2010; 11:31 A.M.

I personally LOVE this lens, and have been using it primarily for weddings and basic portraiture.  Really gives me that special quality and pop that I like!  Only had it since March this year though so I'm still breaking it in, and learning how to get the most out of it!

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Robert Birtles , October 11, 2013; 05:58 P.M.

I have had this lense for the last 13 years and the feelings i get when using it and seeing the lovely sharp images with great colour and contrast just never go away.

This is the lense that my sister in law does not let me use when taking photos of her (too sharp). 

Yes, it is a bit heavy but the results speak for themselves.  Lovely boceh if you open the lense up to 2.8 at 200 for portrait photos with great blurred backgrounds.

As other people have also stated the additional brightness the 2.8 gives you in the viewfinder is always a bonus.  I will never let this lense leave my collection.



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