on 3 September 2011
I have been using the Canon EF 70-200mm f/4 L USM Lens for a year now. I am so much pleased with the superior clarity and build quality it offers, that I feel I am aquainted enough to write a review about this amazing lens.
The lens is very well constructed - faithfully stands up to what the magical letter 'L' denotes.
a) Barrel: The lens barrel and the mount are made of metal. The barrel is painted in off-white and bears the adorable red ring at the end. The lens is sure to make heads turn but when you look at the pictures that this lens take, you would forget to notice the attention you are getting.
b) Rings: The zoom ring feels smooth and softly damped when turning. Unlike some non-L series lens, the ring does not stutter/lock when it is turned from its initial position. There is no backlash between the rings (zoom and focus) and the lens barrel.
c) Switches: There are 2 switches, one for selecting the focussing mode (auto/manual) and other to select the focus range (1.2m-infinity and 3m-infinity). The use of former switch is self explanatory. The latter switch is used based on the distance between the camera and the subject. This helps the lens to focus quickly depending on the situation. Please bear with me while I try to explain. If the subject is present within 3m from the camera, the first position (1.2m-infinity) is selected. In this mode, the lens starts to attain focus from minimum focus distance to the subject. Else, the other position (3m-infinity) is used. In this mode, the focus range of 1.2m to 3m is ignored and the lens starts to focus from 3m onwards thereby reducing the time required to attain focus on the subject. Many would be aware of it, however it is better to let the others know about it.
d) Dimensions: Weighing at 630g and measuring 172mm long, this lens is slightly heavy for my 450D but feels perfectly balanced in hands. It's neck can be used to mount the lens (instead of the camera) onto a tripod using a tripod ring. The lens does not extend while zooming or focussing so remains as-is at all times.
2. Image quality (IQ):
This is the best part that I enjoy writing. The image quality is excellent. The difference between the IQ of this lens and that of standard kit lens (I know it is not fair but just for sake of comparison) is astronomical. Even when shot wide open (F/4), the image is so sharp with rich tone and contrast throughout the frame (center, border and corners). I never hesitate to shoot wide open unlike other lenses which need to stopped down (F/8, etc) to produce the best quality possible. I haven't noticed flare (whitish bloom like effect when a bright light source is in the frame) or CA (reddish or bluish fringes) in any of my pictures. Wide open and sometimes even narrower (based on the distance from the subject), the out of focus (a.k.a bokeh) clarity is too good. On a normal day with enough light, you would need a shutter speed of 1/70 sec at 70mm and 1/200 sec at 200mm to shoot without shake. Though not always, nature has been favourable to me in this aspect. I have this lens fitted to my 450D (crop sensor) so I cannot comment on any vignetting or light fall off issues which 'might' exist if used on a full frame sensor.
3. Zoom range:
On a crop sensor camera (like my 450D), the 70-200mm focal length range equates to 112-320mm (1.6x) which is abundant enough to reach closer to subjects, example of such situations being sports and wildlife photography. It is definitely not a walk-around lens (at least on a crop sensor camera). On a tripod, it can also be used for shooting the sky at night.
4. Auto-focus speed and accuracy:
Auto-focus is extremely fast, quiet and most importantly accurate. Make sure you make use of the focus switch to ensure quicker focussing.
The lens, belonging to 'L' family, comes packaged with a grey leather pouch and a hood. Like most of the hoods, this hood can be joined to the lens in inverted position thereby making the lens compact to carry.
- Excellent image quality in terms of both sharpness and color tone/saturation (in fact astronomical if you are moving from kit lens)
- Beautiful and uniform out of focus (a.k.a bokeh) making best use of the wide aperture and long zoom range
- Solid built quality
- Compact when compared to lenses of similar focal lengths
- Excellent resale value if life doesn't treat one well
- Slower for low light situation (not a con for me as I clearly understand the situations wherein this lens has to be used and also that I don't see myself realising the potential that the premium price difference between the non-IS and IS version (or the F/2.8 variant) would offer. I have come across few situation where I felt that it could be little faster but in those cases, I increase the ISO and/or shoot in RAW to improve it later.
- None in my opinion, considering the image quality and resale value (in case life becomes busy to carry on photography as a hobby).
1. To people who may be stuck up in deciding between Canon EF 70-200mm f/4 L USM Lens and Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM Lens:
Before buying this lens, I had gone through the tough time of deciding the better of the aforementioned two lenses. I am glad that I bought the L one. The 70-200mm L is a bit longer (172mm) and heavier (705g) than the 70-300mm (142.8mm and 630g) but feels perfectly balanced in hands. And the image quality, WOW! I was amazed at what my 450D was able to deliver in spite of being a 12MP sensor. I then realized that it is not the sensor that primarily matter but the lens.
In most of the forums, the most common advice that professional photographers give to amateurs/hobbyists (like me) is that once you start using a 'L' series lens, anything less than a 'L' lens is less. And I completely agree to it. After experiencing the 'L' effect, I have even changed my standard kit lens (18-55mm IS) to 17-55mm IS USM (way superior to the standard kit lens, but that's not important for this review). So take it from me - anything less than 'L' is indeed less!
3. Understand the lens:
During my analysis before buying this lens, I had read many reviews by professional photographers favouring this lens. On the other hand, I had also gone through contrary reviews by people complaining about the slow F/4 aperture speed. I am thankful to the former because they knew what they were talking about. Photography is my hobby and I don't see myself needing the IS or the wider aperture of the elder siblings of this lens, or simply affording them. So when you buy this lens, make sure that you understand what this lens is capable of.
4. Accessories recommended:
Definitely buy a good UV or protector filter (Hoya). You do not want a scratch on this beautiful lens. A lens pen (Hama) is recommended to keep it clean and ready for next use.
5. Accessories to avoid:
If you are interested in tripod rings, make sure that you buy a genuine Canon make. Third party makes are inferior in quality and tend to damage the paint coating of the lens. Also avoid a polariser filter on this lens when there is only just enough light. It reduces the light entering the lens by a stop or 2.
Highly recommended for anyone who do not need IS.
on 27 May 2010
I struggled for weeks justifying the cost of this lens, heck it's expensive. However, I bit the bullet, bought one and all I can say is WOW! I use it on a 5D MKII and the sharpness is simply jaw-dropping, I've never seen anything like it before.
Is it heavy...
Is it big...
Is it worth it...
All of these questions are things I considered, but now I own the lens and have seen the results, I don't care about its size or weight. This is now the standard lens fitted to my camera. It's great for shooting birds, wildlife, portraits and just about anything except macro. Having said that, you can get within a distance of around 1.5 metres and when cropped the detail is just awesome.
Sharpness, IQ, colour, contrast and bokeh are all superb, I'm really pleased I invested in this lens and I'm sure I'll keep it for years and years and years.
Yes, it's a lot of money, but if you can bring yourself to part with the cash, I promise you, you'll be smiling from ear-to-ear when you see your pics, it's just a beautiful piece of kit.
on 18 November 2005
The ef 70-200/f4 is a fabulous lens. It's very sharp, has good depth of field at f4 and is a joy to use.
The focus can be set to 3m to infinity or 1.2m to infinity. The shorter length is very good for close ups of flowers or similar. If its left on 1.2m it may hunt when trying to focus. You can also set to manual focus.
One issue with the lens is back focus, if you are shooting at something when there is a bright, or high-contrast background, you may find the camera has focussed on the background.
I use my 70-200 f4 on an EOS20D, I have taken thousands of shots with that combination, photogrphing; cricket, riding, birds, flowers, people, aircraft and stars. Other than the minor issue of back focus, I have had trouble free shooting. The lens is well worth getting.
on 1 December 2011
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.
on 17 February 2007
As a photographer who swears by prime lenses, I've never really adopted zooms as part of my essential kit. This lens, however, has changed my mind. It's very fast, autofuses superbly and produces the most uniform bokeh (back- foreground blur) I have seen in my work. I have the stunning 85mm 1.2, and the 70-200 competes - in terms of bokeh - with this.
Lens weight never worries me - being a youngish, fit male - but be aware that this lens is large (because it's well made) and unless you're very strong, you wont be hand-holding this for long stretches of time. When this lens is mated with my 1DS, with flash attached, it's impractical over long periods of time (like weddings) without monopod support.
But in terms of what you get for that extra weight: it's a stunning piece of glass and the results speak for themselves: superb contrast and colour; pin sharp, even wide open; silent, rugged and above all, it replaces several lenses in one go. I use this for portraits, landscapes and all manner of people related photography.
This competes with my 85mm in terms of usage times.
If you're unsure about whether you should buy this - don't be. From the minute you review your first series of images you'll love it.
on 28 October 2010
Hurry up and buy!
This lens is a varitable boon! Stop thinking about it, as this is the last review you need if you've read loads already trying to make your mind up. Here's a useful tip - there aren't many reviews for this lens on UK amazon but on .com there are TONS of extremely positive reviews.
I seldom bother writing reviews because I'm lazy, but I'm so impressed by this lens that I felt that I would be punished in Hades for eternity or something if I didn't help the evangelism about this brutally good piece of kit.
In terms of my suitability to give reasoned comments on it, I haven't been into photography for long - a mere 3 years or so compared to some people that have reviewed this model after a career's worth of knowledge and practise. It doesn't compare, yet I still know enough to know that this lens is so fantastic that I suspect it has actually been designed by a collaboration between Nasa, the people at Tefal, and captured alien technology from Area 51 in the Nevada Desert. Honestly, it's shirt burstingly good.
In the past 3 years I've owned a 300D, 450D, and most recently a 500D (possibly a 400 as well but I think I imagined that). I've had quite a few lenses in that time to help get the feel of what's what and to help me learn the pros & cons of various kit, along with what works for me personally. I mostly do landscape pics, and casual shots of my kids etc. In the past I've owned (amongst others) an EFS 55-250 IS, an EF 28-135 IS USM, an F1.8 50mm, a 500mm mirror lens, a nasty quality 70-300mm USM lens, the kit lens, a lovely 24-105 L series F4 lens, and most recently my superb walkabout workhorse, the EFS 17-55 IS USM F2.8 lens.
I recently upgraded to a 7D which meant flogging a load of my gear to raise the money so I only kept the 17-55mm IS lens since it's a brilliant all rounder. This left a bit of a hole in terms of the focal range I could now shoot so after raising a bit of money I began looking into a telephoto to complement that.
I began looking at the F4 non IS 70-200mm L series, since I had about £400 to spend and could get a used one for that, albeit being slightly worried about the F4 aperture now I've been spoiled by a constant F2.8 on my other lens.
Then I was lucky and 'er indoors bestowed me with some extra money that I wasn't expecting, meaning I could afford the IS version after all.
This presented a difficult proposition. For around £800 budget should I get the F4 IS version, or the F2.8 non IS one? This question has been agonised over since before the dawn of time itself, indeed there are said to be cave paintings of dinosaurs having philosophical disputes over which one was better, and I could see the pros & cons of both options in many such debates online (albeit not by dinosaurs).
Basically as everyone else says, the 2.8 is better if you intend to do stuff frequently that's moving in poor light. For everything else, get the F4, and certainly the IS one if you can afford to get it. The extra cost over the non IS version is disturbing and wrong, but it really does work better than any human technology has any right to. I had IS on other lenses but the pale into insignificance and gimmickry when compared to the power of the IS on this beauty.
Don't get me wrong, I'd have loved F2.8 but there were so many reasons to go for the F4 it ended up being a really easy choice in the end. One that I'm extremely happy with.
Extra stop to enable capture of faster subjects, or of moving subjects in low light.
Great if you want to show off and get people to look at you and say "Wow, they must be good". I'm not for a moment suggesting that's why most people buy it although I'm sure one or two will, and like it or not it will draw attention to you.
You can get a brand new one for the cost of a used 2.8 Non IS - full warrantee for peace of mind. Mine cost me a smidge less than £800.
Weather sealing. The IS ones have it and the Non IS ones don't (or do but it's not as good - I can't recall the specifics). I don't use my gear in the rain really, but dust is a worry at times. Not with this.
Weight - it's about half the weight of the 2.8. The F4 is skinnier than my 17-55 and not that much longer. I was surprised it wasn't bigger. It's heavy enough to feel very reassuringly solid, like it could be repeatedly used as a 'blunt instrument' and still work reliably, but not heavy enough to be something you resent lugging around.
Cheaper filters (being 67mm instead of 77mm).
Size. It fits in my tamrac backpack easily. Pretty certain the 2.8 wouldn't, meaning I then have to spend another £100 or so on a bigger bag - more bulk etc.
It's still that telltale whiteish colour but is WAY less conspicuous and will draw less attention to you than the 2.8.
SHARPNESS! I have never owned a lens remotely as sharp as this. It is very noticeably sharper than the 24-105 L that I used to own, and also better than the 17-55 IS that I currently have. My pants nearly fell down when I received it and did a couple of idle test shots with it, so amazed was I at the incredible resolution & clarity. It is renowned as being the sharpest of the 70-200 range, and additionally it's often described that at F2.8 on those bigger lenses, they're a bit soft, which to me kind of negates the main benefit of having that extra stop if that is true.
For instance, I took a photo of my daughter where her face took up most of the frame. When I then zoomed in on one of her eyes (after uploading to my laptop) I could see clearly reflected in her pupil (which was a miniscule crop of the full pic) me taking the picture, the sofa I was sitting on, two pictures on the wall behind me and an upright lamp, and the separate colours of the walls & ceiling in my living room. I've never seen anything that's presented this incredible level of detail before, when you consider that the pupil of the eye is a really miniscule proportion of the whole picture in question.
And this was from a handheld shot indoors using the IS function! I'm genuinely so aghast at the pictures this lens can create that I nearly burst into flames, and my hat fell off.
When all is said & done, there's no arguing that if you NEED the 2.8 aperture for the pictures you take then that will of course be the better lens for you, and no amount of praise for the F4 IS will make it suitable if it's not. It would be pointless, futile, and plain stupid to try and claim to the contrary. So if the F2.8 is what you need because of a job necessity, or a repeated specific subject that calls for it then buy that and enjoy it - I'm sure it's fantastic.
If on the other hand you're an amateur like me, that wants a razor sharp telephoto, but is willing to make a slight compromise/tradeoff in flexibility to benefit in numerous other aspects then it would be fiendish and sinful not to buy the F4 IS.
If you're hovering around like so many of us clearly have been before buying, and you can't decide between these two, then it probably means you just want a 70-200 telephoto for 'general' use rather than with very specific needs in mind, and if that's the case I would put my money (well, no, your money actually) on the F4 IS being the right one for you. I'm sure that people who genuinely need that extra aperture size know very well that they do, and don't need to ponder too much about this.
Yes the difference in cost between the IS and non IS versions is pretty despicable, but you also get the weather sealing, and allegedly better optics, and the IS in this case really is some sort of technology brought back from the future, probably taxed off a terminator or something. It's unfeasibly effective and I love it to bits.
Now you see now, when I die, I want this lens to be buried with me so that A) if there is a next world I can use it there, and B) so that no-one else can have it when I've paid for it. It's mine, you hear me!
I saw one person comment in a review that people who speak out against the 2.8 version are bitter that they couldn't afford it. That's just silly. The 2.8 is I'm sure a superb lens if you need the extra stop, but if you don't genuinely 'need' it then the F4 IS has numerous advantages that as I've listed.
Each to their own, and worst case if you find that you do end up getting the one that doesn't suit you , you don't need to fret as long as you haven't paid shedloads above the going rate. The L series lenses hold value well and are always sought after, so it shouldn't be tricky to sell again without a big loss, then you can get a different version.
One last thing, at first I was strongly considering the Sigma equivalent of the 2.8 as it had brutally good reviews and was much cheaper. Ultimately though I read in a few places that it does not autofocus on the 7D, so a huge no-no! Don't do it if you own a 7D!
Sorry for the waffle but hopefully this helps to convince you just how worthy this item is. Hurry up and buy!
on 28 July 2011
It took a lot of courage for me to drop so much money on this lens and I was back and forth for a while, but the more I read and the more samples I saw the more I wanted it! I even tried Google searches for "focus problems" and "bad copies" etc and other very negative phrases because frankly the hype seemed too good to be true. I figured no-one wanted to admit to spending a ton of cash on a bad lens, sort of a mass denial!
I didn't find anything, so in a fit of courage I picked up one of these bad boys, slapped it on my 7D and headed straight to the new Riverside Transport Museum in Glasgow. I figured it's best arena is low light, since the big price comes in part from the big apeture and funky 4-stop stabiliser, so I set about taking some abstracts of vehicles from through the ages, some candid portraits and some close-ups in the muted lighting and busy environment.
Simply different class. My abstracts were punchy and sharp, the vehicles shots looked like something from a car mag and my portraits were moody and intimate, with the clutter and the crowd blurred out of existance and the frame filled with facial expression.
I have a few L lenses in my collection, but I've never used a lens remotely this good before. It isn't the most discreet lens in the world and caught the eye of many passers-by, but what caught my eye was the stunning images I was getting.
The backgrounds are defocussed in the creamiest fashion, the in-focus areas are razor sharp even at the widest apeture (fantastic!) and the colour & contrast are amazing.
Handling of the lens is stellar. It gets heavy on a long day out but I expected that. The autofocus (especially with the 7D) is lightning quick and totally dead on. I had noticed some slight softness issues in outdoor/ high contrast scenes when pixel-peeping, but I figured out it was due to the cheaper Jessops UV filter I had on it, which had a really obvious effect, probably because of how well the lens could render the errors on the sensor! I switched it for a Hoya Pro-1 Digital UV and the results are even sharper rendering with even smoother background blur. In short don't skimp on your filter if using one because this lens will punish you for it!
I've found myself addicted to the look of the images produced and I take the lens everywhere. It's so much fun to use - best fun-to-price ratio of any lens. It is a great inspiration and a joy to use. I've reconnected to photography in a new way thanks to this lens. I can't over-sell it. It really is as good as everyone says.
on 20 March 2009
I bought this after reading reviews and after having discovered quite how good L series lenses could be. I kind of gulped at the price and trusted what people consistently say about it (just google reviews). The definition it delivers is just amazing (hairs on the legs of a bumble bee from 15 feet, see yourself reflected in the eye of your dog when you view an image at 100% on the computer: that kind of thing), and the contrast and colour is delicious--colour perhaps just a tad less saturated than some other Canon lenses, but entirely natural. It focuses more or less instantly in almost all light conditions including situations where most other lenses would hunt. The round diaphragm gives really good background blur, and the image stabilization does (almost unbelievably) do exactly what Canon claims it does. I can get usable images at about 1/20th second at full zoom. Not all the time, but most of the time. And at 1/60th it's close to 100% of the time. The IS does make a noticeable whirr, but I doubt it would put off any but the shyest subjects. There is also a faint rattle if you shake the lens, but this is not a problem. All the L series lenses are heavier than the cheaper Canon lenses, and feel a little lens heavy with on small light bodies like the EOS 450D; but this lens is remarkably light considering its quality and range, and I could happily carry it around for a day. It's so sharp that even people who are quite fussy about quality should be able to crop images from it on the computer and get an effective zoom range significantly above 200mm (provided you're not printing out in A3). I think it's genuinely amazing. You pay a lot for the IS. If you can afford it, it's really worth it.
on 4 June 2009
This is my first L lens and it has exceeded my expectations. Before buying it, I worried for a long time that the difference in image quality wouldn't be obvious to me, or that it wouldn't be worth the money even if it was obvious. Having bought it, I have no regrets -- the quality is breathtaking (and I am using it on a humble 450D).
The results are superb. In the shop I compared it with the Canon 70-300 f/4-5.6 IS, and the difference in image quality was overwhelming even when viewed on the modest LCD of a 450D.
It is easy to worry obsessively about sharpness -- no need with this lens, it is wonderfully sharp. Where it really shines, however, is in the colours it reproduces. Saturation is really good. If you, like me, have never tried a professional lens before, you really will notice the difference. The IS is very useful -- it makes low-light shots at 1/15 easily possible, provided your subject is still. It certainly gives you at least a 3-stop shutter-speed advantage if you have reasonably steady hands. I have not noticed any chromatic aberration, even in circumstances that would normally be very harsh for a lens.
I don't really have any criticisms. It is a beautiful lens and it helps to produce beautiful photos. It isn't noticeably heavy (at least to me) -- the f/2.8 versions are a lot more bulky. Of course you sacrifice something by choosing f/4 over f/2.8, but the bokeh on this lens is lovely nonetheless. It is a bit long on a crop-sensor body to be a general walkaround lens, but it really shines for portraits (head-shots particularly).
I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it. In my opinion, it is easily worth the money.
on 2 September 2008
I wasn't sure whether to go for this or its considerably chunkier mate, the f/2.8 IS. For my purposes I made the right choice. Here's why.
1. It's lighter - much lighter, and when you're taking it in a lowepro case in a rucksack up a mountain that matters a lot.
2. At f/4 it's not a particularly fast lens for low light - but the 2nd generation IS (with dual mode stabilisation) is worth a good 3-4 stops which offsets that.
3. For those of you geeky enough to look at lens charts, this is actually a crisper, sharper lens than the f/2.8 if you study the graphs. But graphs are graphs and there's no substitute for taking pictures with it, and i've done that with fine results.
So, in summary, I simply cannot believe that the f/2.8 version can possibly be £500 better than this. Very highly recommended indeed.