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Canon 70-200 f/4 IS vs. f/2.8 vs. 2.8 IS

Michelle Jachimowicz , Aug 08, 2007; 05:13 a.m.

Hello, I want to get into nature photography. I will especially be taking pictures of wildlife in all sorts of conditions all over the world. I have a Canon 30D and would like to get a good lens to compliment it. I want to get a 70-200, but don't know which is the best option. I also want to add a teleconverter to it. Have been contemplating between canon f/4 IS, f/2.8 or f/2.8 IS. 1) is it worth spending the extra money for the f2.8 over the f4 2) is it worth spending the extra money for the IS 3) if i could only do either the f4 IS or f2.8 non-IS, which is better 4) can I use a TC with any of these lenses 5) I am worried about the weight of the 2.8. I am a small female with not such a great back (5'4'', 115 lb) Any other suggestions are also welcomed. Thank you for your help.


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Douglas Herr , Aug 08, 2007; 08:54 a.m.

A 200mm lens is likely to be disappointing. If you're not averse to manual focus consider the Leica 400mm f/6.8, which can be easily adapted to fit your camera. It's very light. much quicker-handling than most manual-focus lenses and can produce excellent results. Canadian photographer David Young uses this exact combination of Canon 30D and Leica 400mm f/6.8 for many of his wildlife photos: http://www.telyt.com/

Lee Shively , Aug 08, 2007; 09:08 a.m.

I stumbled in here so take what I say with a grain of salt since I'm not a real "nature" photographer.

If you intend to use teleconverters with the lens (by all means use the Canon extenders), either of the f/2.8 zooms will be a better option than the f/4 versions.

Mätt Donuts , Aug 08, 2007; 09:45 a.m.

My vote is the 70-200 F2.8 IS for the following reasons

1.) You need a shallow DOF and you can't have fast enough. More importantly your camera has a "crop factor". That normally means your DOF will be larger at the same aperture setting, which is not a good thing for wildlife. What I'm saying is, your camera taking a picture at F2.8 will have about as much DOF as a full frame camera taking the same picture at F4.5. You can read here where they compare a full sensor vs. a 1.5x and notice the difference in the blurry backgrounds and how much blurrier the bigger sensor one is. There are cases where yours will be better, if you're both at the same focal length taking a picture of the same subject but you'll both also be taking different pictures.

2.) I recommend the IS version as the non-IS 70-200 2.8 doesn't have rounded aperture blades and I find the bokeh of the 2.8 IS version oustanding. Stabilization is always useful, especially with a TC and a crop factor.

Anyway, that's why my vote goes for the 70-200 2.8 IS version. The F4 version also has a nice bokeh and rounded aperture blades but, because of the

Mätt Donuts , Aug 08, 2007; 09:52 a.m.

Oops... let me finish my post. Because of the crop factor I think you're best with the 2.8 That arcticle also talks about how nice having more DOF is, but that depends on what side you look at. For wildlife & portraits more DOF is a bad thing. For landscapes it's probably good.

Mark Chappell , Aug 08, 2007; 10:13 a.m.

I will especially be taking pictures of wildlife in all sorts of conditions all over the world.

As Doug says, 200mm, even on a 'crop' camera, is not nearly enough for most wildlife -- although that depends on one's definition of 'wildlife' (I mean birds and mammals). Adding a 1.4X TC helps but probably won't be enough. Adding a 2X TC will almost certainly degrade image quality to the extent you'll be disappointed (2X TCs can work OK on prime lenses but generally are a disaster on zooms). Instead of the Leica lens Doug recommends (which is slow at f6.8, manual focus, and manual diaphragm), I'd suggest either the Canon 400/5.6L or the Canon 300/4 IS + 1.4X. Both are optically excellent, both are autofocus with easy manual focus, both have automatic diaphragms, and the 300/4 has the great benefit of IS.

If your prime interest is wildlife, either of those will serve you much better than a 70-200. But ideally you would have a 400-ish lens and the 70-200/4 IS, which is small, light, and weathersealed. It's DEFINITELY worth spending the extra money on IS unless you want to carry a tripod. That's one reason many folks go with the 300/4IS + 1.4X instead of the 400/5.6L

Ross Murphy , Aug 08, 2007; 10:47 a.m.

I would 2nd the 300 f4 IS, it is a superb lens, still a little short for birds (you need 400+ for birds)but fine for most mammals if your doing long hikes stay away from the 70-200 2.8 and get the f4 it is just as sharp, if your always on a tripod you dont need IS, but if you can afford it get it cause its great. I have the 2.8 IS it is great, but will be getting the f4 IS for my long hikes it is almost half the weight

Douglas Herr , Aug 08, 2007; 11:04 a.m.

The f/6.8 aperture of the Leica lens is deceptive: because this lens has only 2 air/glass surfaces the light lost from internal reflections is much less than with a more complex lens so its net light transmission is very close to that of an f/5.6 lens with multiple air/glass surfaces. The 300mm f/4 IS + TC is effectively an f/5.6 lens with 30 air/glass surfaces. If you keep the sun behind your back flare is less of an issue but with backlighting it's likely those 30 air/glass surfaces will cause much more flare than the 2 surfaces in the Leica lens.

The Leica lens' image quality at full aperture is good enough that the only reason to stop it down is for DOF, so the manual diaphragm isn't an issue 99% of the time, and the shoulder stock originaly sold with the lens makes it usable at 2 to 3 stops slower shutter speeds in my experience. It's also light enough to carry backpacking.

Mark Chappell , Aug 08, 2007; 11:44 a.m.

The Leica lens' image quality at full aperture is good enough that the only reason to stop it down is for DOF, so the manual diaphragm isn't an issue 99% of the time,

Everybody does things their own way but I'm very often stopping down -- considerably -- for DOF when shooting wildlife. And let's not forget that Michelle has a 30D, which is not well-suited for manual focus, especially with slow lenses, but has very good AF even at f5.6.

Any lens can flare under extreme conditions but modern coatings work wonders. Here's a strongly backlit image (sun is just out of the field of view) shot with a lens- converter combination with more than 30 glass-air surfaces:

Douglas Herr , Aug 08, 2007; 11:55 a.m.

here's a photo made under similar circumstances using a lens with 2 air/glass surfaces:

The photo made with the complex lens has lot a lot of detail in the bird due to flare.

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