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

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Category: Interchangeable Lenses
Product: Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L USM
Price: £979.00
Rating: 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5

Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM Lens Review - Gary Wolstenholme reviews the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM lens. Although lacking stabilisation, is it an ideal alternative for those on a tighter budget?

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Handling and features
Performance
Verdict
Specification
Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM Lens
Being priced at around £980, this older 70-200mm lens may lack stabilisation but does include weather sealing and fast, silent ultrasonic focusing at a much lower price, making it an interesting alternative for those on a tighter budget.

Those with more money at their disposal, will probably consider Canon's latest image stabilised 70-200mm f/2.8 optic, which costs around £1800.

Sigma's current 70-200mm f/2.8 costs around £1000 and sports silent focusing plus a four stop stabiliser, but no weather sealing.

Tamron's SP 70-200mm f/2.8 Di LD only costs around £630, but lack the weather sealing and silent focusing of the Canon optic.

Due to the lower price tag than the image stabilised version, this lens often makes an interesting choice. In this review we'll investigate how it performs.

Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM: Handling and features
Weighing 1310g, this lens is a little lighter than the image stabilised equivalent, but without sacrificing build quality. High quality materials have been used throughout but the lens lacks a rubber gasket around the lens mount, which is a feature often found on more modern lens designs to keep out dust and moisture.

The lens balances well on the EOS 5D MkII used for testing with the centre of gravity being just a little forward of the zoom control. Zooming is smooth and a minimal amount of force is required to move through the range. Even with this light zooming action, the lens did not suffer with zoom creep during testing.

As focus and zooming actions are performed internally, the front filter thread does not rotate, making the lens ideal for use with polarising and graduated filters. A petal shaped lens hood is supplied, which attaches to a bayonet fitting around the front.

Focusing is very quick and virtually silent on the EOS 5D MkII used for testing. At the minimum focus distance of 1.5m, the lens would occasionally miss-focus, resulting in soft images, especially at 200mm. At greater distances, the lens focuses with reassuring accuracy.

Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM: Performance
Shooting wide open at 70mm, sharpness in the centre of the image area is already very good, but the sharpness towards the edges of the frame is quite poor. This characteristic will suit those shooting subjects such as portratiture, where the subject is often in, or close to the centre of the frame. Stopping down the lens improves sharpness across the frame and by f/8 the edges are approaching good levels of sharpness, whilst sharpness in the centre is outstanding. Peak quality across the frame is achieved at f/11, where the clarity is very good across the frame.

Images taken at 135mm show similar characteristics to those taken at 70mm, with high levels of sharpness in the centre at maximum aperture, although the quality towards the edges is slightly improved. Again, peak quality across the frame is achieved at f/11, where sharpness in the centre is excellent, and very good towards thee edges.

At 200mm, the high levels of centre sharpness are still maintained, although the edges are visibly softened at all apertures. Here peak quality in the centre is achieved at f/8, where the levels of sharpness are outstanding, but the quality towards the edges only reaches fair levels by f/16.

Resolution at 70mm   Resolution at 135mm
Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM Lens Resolution at 70mm   Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM Lens Resolution at 135mm
Resolution at 200mm  

How to read our graphs

The blue column represents readings from the centre of the picture frame at the various apertures and the green is from the edges. Averaging them out gives the red weighted column.

The scale on the left side is an indication of actual image resolution. The taller the column, the better the lens performance. Simple.

For this review, the lens was tested on an Canon EOS 5D MkII using Imatest.
Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM Lens Resolution at 200mm  

Chromatic aberrations are well controlled throughout the range, with fringing not reaching one pixel width throughout the range. These levels are so low, they shouldn't pose issues at all, even at very large print sizes, or in harsh crops.

Chromatic Aberrations at 70mm   Chromatic Aberrations at 135mm
Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM Lens Chromatic Aberrations at 70mm   Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM Lens Chromatic Aberrations at 135mm
Chromatic Aberrations at 200mm  

How to read our charts

Chromatic aberration is the lens' inability to focus on the sensor or film all colours of visible light at the same point. Severe chromatic aberration gives a noticeable fringing or a halo effect around sharp edges within the picture. It can be cured in software.

Apochromatic lenses have special lens elements (aspheric, extra-low dispersion etc) to minimize the problem, hence they usually cost more.

For this review, the lens was tested on an Canon EOS 5D MkII using Imatest.
Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM Lens Chromatic Aberrations at 200mm  

Falloff of illumination towards the corners can be quite pronounced at bright apertures. At 70mm the corners are 1.91 stops darker than the image centre at f/2.8 and 2.7 stops darker at 200mm. Visually even illumination is achieved at f/5.6 throughout the zoom range.

Distortion at 70mm is very well controlled. Imatest was only able to detect 0.251% barrelling, which is an extremely low amount of curvature. At 200mm, pincushion distortion of 1.58% is present, which may be noticeable under certain circumstances. Luckily the distortion pattern is uniform across the frame, which should make corrections in image editing software afterwards straightforward.

The Super Spectra coatings do a decent job of limiting flare and retaining contrast under most conditions. When shooting directly into a bright light source, some flare and loss of contrast may occur, especially at wide apertures. The supplied petal hood does an excellent job of shielding the front element from extraneous light.

Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM Lens Wide-angle   Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM Lens Telephoto
Wide-angle – ISO100, 1/400, f/5.6, 70mm   Telephoto – ISO100, 1/400, f/5.6, 200mm
Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM Lens Bokeh   Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM Lens Maximum magnification
Bokeh – ISO100, 1/250, f/4, 200mm   Maximum magnification – ISO100, 1/800, f/8, 200mm

Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM: Verdict
Although technically not the best lens optically, the high levels of centre sharpness will please those whose shooting style often results in their subject being isolated near to the centre of the frame. The reasonable price and excellent build quality should also ensure this lens is a good investment, being more than capable of taking the rigours of daily professional use in its stride.

If however, you often shoot flat objects that fill the frame, or simply require excellent sharpness from edge to edge, say for landscapes, then this lens may not be for you.

The lack of image stabilisation may also be an issue for some, especially those shooting in low light, where stabilisation can really help to increase your chance of producing a sharp image. Those who mainly shoot in daylight, or that shoot fast moving subjects such as sports can probably live without.

Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM: Pros
Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM Lens Good value
Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM Lens Excellent Build Quality
Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM Lens Very good sharpness in the centre of the frame
Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM Lens Fast focusing

Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM: Cons
Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM Lens Loss of sharpness towards the edges of the frame
Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM Lens Falloff of illumination towards the corners at 200mm

FEATURES Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM Lens
HANDLING Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM Lens
PERFORMANCE Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM Lens
VALUE FOR MONEY Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM Lens
SPECIFICATION Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM Lens

Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM: Specification
Price £980
Contact www.canon.co.uk
Filter size 77mm
Format Full-frame
Construction 18 elements in 15 groups
Angle-of-view 34° - 12°
35mm equivalent focal length (on APS-C body) 112-320mm
Internal focusing Yes
Image stabilisation No
Minimum focus 1.5m
Maximum aperture f/2.8
Minimum aperture f/32
Weight 1310g
Size (lxw) 84.6 x 193.6mm
In the box Lens hood, tripod collar, lens caps

The Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM lens costs £980 and is available from Warehouse Express here:

Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM



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Comments

dudu_911
dudu_911  3 Hungary
4 May 2011 - 8:05 PM

I use this lens for 5 years now. My best bergain it is! I shoot with EOS 20D and 50D still. It is an excellent quality objective. All the pics I'd shot perfect also at extreme lights. This is my etalon however I know Canon started to issue really good quality series of lenses, since. But they have not been on the market earlier and costs 2 to 5 times the price of 70-200/2.8. It is still not a cheap lens, but it's a must for those who spend for "glass" and quality pics not only for camera bodies running out of date within 2-3 years.
The reliabiltiy and lifetime of this lens pays back the price, not like my Tokina went wrong within 2 years having no spare parts available around. One time I've fallen on ice in my hand my cam and telezoom. As I couldn't hold it got fall into to ground straight by the front of 70-200/2.8. Thanks to Lord I always use the hood and in hard landing I could see as this plastic hood was deformed more than 2 inches by the shock. When I could breath after the salto I realised that lens was the same quality as before. From that point I understand the 40$ price of that kind of plastic hood saved my telezoom and camera together. Have nice lights! Dudu911

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