I needed a telephoto zoom for sports action and portrait work, and came to the classic toss-up between this lens and the less (but still very) expensive Canon EF 70-200mm F/4.0 L IS USM Lens
. I ruled out the non-IS versions due to lack of weather sealing. The pros/cons of each have probably been mentioned before, but here's a quick summary:
F/2.8 IS II Pros (vs F/4.0 IS):
- Lets in a stop (double) more light wide open - for sports action, f/2.8 really is the minimum, f/4.0 is just too slow unless it's a bright sunny day or you are able to rely on flash. I'm sure there are loads of people shooting sports action at f/4.0 and getting great results, but would they prefer an f/2.8 if they had the funds? Every time.
- Ability to blur the background to a greater extent, to better isolate a subject
- Better autofocus performance (arguably not noticeable until the low light gets the better of the f/4.0). I should stress this is REGARDLESS of what your aperture is set to; the lens is always 'wide open' when you're looking through the viewfinder. This also results in a brighter viewfinder, which is easy on the eyes.
- A tripod collar is included with the F/2.8, this might not sound like much but after you spend all your money on the F/4.0, are you going to cheap out with a third party collar that might let you down? No? Then add the cost of a genuine Canon one onto the price of the F/4.0 ... look it up, they're not cheap.
F/2.8 IS II Cons (vs F/4.0 IS)
- Its obscene cost
- It's heavy ... okay, this one is more of a subjective thing. I'm in my early twenties, medium build, work out a couple of times a week and have no problem running around a rugby pitch for 80 minutes with this lens + a battery gripped 7D and a 580 EX speedlite. If you are a 12-year-old girl or a 65-year-old gent with unstable angina, it's going to be really heavy. If you're hiking or carrying this lens all day, I'd invest in a better strap than the standard Canon one.
- If you point it at the sun, it will flare more than the f/4.0. There's a lot of glass in this lens, 4 extra groups containing a total of 3 extra elements versus the f/4.0. Considering that though, flare is well controlled and about a million times better than the original 70-200 f/2.8 IS.
- It's huge ... but let's be honest, the bigger your lens the cooler you look. And the f/4.0 is hardly inconspicuous.
F/4.0 IS Pros (vs F/2.8 IS II)
- Arguably a better landscape lens because landscape shots are most often taken at small apertures. At F/11, you're not going to be able to tell these lenses apart, so what's the point in having F/2.8? And the F/4 will flare less for those shots with the sun in frame. And it's lighter to carry.
- Most of the other pros have already been alluded to by the cons of the f/2.8, i.e. it's cheaper and lighter.
F/4.0 IS Cons (vs F/2.8 IS II)
- If you're 'umm'ing and 'ahh'ing about which of these lenses to pick, you will probably always wish you'd saved a bit longer for the F/2.8. Saying that, resale values on L lenses are particularly good, meaning you could always sell it and buy the F/2.8 if your needs change (e.g. more action photography, fewer product shots)
- A relatively minor one, but the f/4 uses 67mm filters, which would be annoying for me because all of my other lenses, including the f/2.8, use and share 77mm filters. 67mm filters are a little bit cheaper though.
So there's my slightly eclectic review. Oh, and the tulip-shaped lens hood for the F/2.8 is much cooler than the F/4.0 variant.