Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 USM L IS II Review

Canon's "white lenses" in the 70-200mm range run the gamut from the somewhat affordable to the ostensibly expensive. If you pay more you get more:

  • 70-200mm f/4
  • 70-200mm f/4 IS
  • 70-200mm f/2.8
  • 70-200mm f/2.8 IS

Of course, it's the last one that gets all of the attention. Let's put it this way: most photographers don't aspire to own a full frame camera to shoot with a basic f/4 lens...

The example that you see here is version II of the f/2.8 IS lens. It doesn't come cheap at an MSRP of $2,499 USD. For that price, it's naturally very well built and is a delight to use. There is a lot of glass inside this lens, so its understandably heavy to hold. Hand-held shooting means having a very stable left hand under the lens. When mounted on the 5DmIII, there's a fair bit of heft, which is not necessarily bad as mass means inertia, and that does tend to mitigate handshake somewhat. Until your arm gets tired, that is.

Autofocus operation is quick and reliable with absolutely no hunting. This is basically the "pro" aspect of a lens like this. If you are shooting for a living, you want the autofocus to work so well that its operation is basically transparent to you so that you can concentrate on other things.

The image quality is simply stunning. The 70-200mm f/2.8 IS basically has no weak point: it's just as sharp at the wide end as it is at the long end, and f/2.8 is as sharp as any other aperture stopped down from there. (More correctly stated, this lens has a very flat field of curvature through its zoom range.) Vignetting is noticeable at f/2.8, but that's about it; lateral and longitudinal chromatic aberration is tightly controlled.

This is what the bokeh looks like through the aperture range at 200mm:


The quality of the bokeh at f/2.8 is not quite as smooth as what a dedicated fast prime could achieve, but it's good nonetheless. Note the relatively circular rendition of the highlights in the background, and the lack of fringing. The contrast and detail rendition improve upon stopping down, but only incrementally so as the lens is already excellent wide open.

Very good and very expensive is the only way to describe this lens. Its the sort of thing that everybody aspires to, but only a few will be able to afford or justify. However, as a photographic tool, this is about as good as it gets for a 70-200mm.

With thanks to Broadway Camera.

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