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

John Riley has put the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III USM lens to the test to find out if it's a lens photographers should make room for in their kit line-up.

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Canon Ef 70 200mm F2,8L Is III Usm Front Oblique View (Custom)

Hot on the heels of the excellent Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM, reviewed last month and awarded an Editor's Choice accolade, we have the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III USM, the big brother of the pair, with its fast, bright f/2.8 maximum aperture. We can also add weight and cost to the equation, so it will be very interesting to see the outcome, and tested using the same Canon EOS 5DS R 50mp body as for the previous review.


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Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III USM Handling and Features

Canon Ef 70 200mm F2,8L Is III Usm Side View (Custom)

As expected, the lens is significantly heavier than the f/4 version, weighing in at 1480g. Perhaps surprisingly though, it seems relatively compact and is very manageable when mounted on the Canon EOS 5DS R. The lens came with us to the Gwrych Castle Medieval Fayre and it was absolutely fine carrying it around all day, using a camera sling for comfort. This is a full frame lens, but it can also be used on APS-C format camera bodies, where the equivalent focal length range becomes 112-320mm.

Starting our tour of the lens, we have a generously sized bayonet fit lenshood, with a locking catch. Within the bayonet fitting on the lens, there is a conventional 77mm filter thread. Towards the front of the lens is a wide manual focus ring. This affords an excellent grip and is active during AF operation, so tweaks can be made to the final focus position. Focusing range is down to 1.2m, a maximum magnification of 0.21x at 200mm. This is a useful close focusing distance, but not quite as close as the f/4 lens. Focusing is internal, and manual focus is not electronic so continues to work with the camera power switched off. The action is very smooth and has just the right amount of damping. AF utilises a ring-type USM motor and is fast, accurate and silent. The lens utilises Canon's Air Sphere Coating, and there is also a Fluorine coating on the front element to repel dust and moisture. The lens is also sealed against dust and moisture.

Behind this, we have a small plastic window that houses the distance scale, marked in feet and metres. There are IR focus correction marks for 70mm and 100mm, but no depth of field scale.

On the side of the lens at the same point are a series of switches. First is the AF limiter switch which offers a choice of full range or infinity down to 2.5m. The second is the AF on/off selector. The third is the optical stabiliser on/off. Advice is to switch this off when using a tripod. The fourth is the stabiliser mode switch. Position 1 is for static subjects, position 2 is for panning.

Canon Ef 70 200mm F2,8L Is III Usm Without Hood On Canon 5dsr Top View (Custom)

Closest to the camera body is the zoom control, clearly and accurately marked at 70, 100, 135 and 200mm. The action is smooth but firm enough so focal length is not accidentally changed. There is a rotating tripod mount, as the increased weight compared to the f/4 version means that ideally the lens should be supported on the tripod rather than the camera carrying all the weight on its mount.

Optical construction is 23 elements in 19 groups, with an 8 bladed diaphragm to enhance the bokeh of the lens.

The lens is compatible with Canon's extension tubes and extenders. Extension tube EF 12 II offers a magnification range of 0.28x – 0.06x. Tube EF 25 II gives us 0.36x – 0.14x.

There are two compatible extenders. EF 1.4x III results in a 98-280mm range with a maximum magnification of 0.30x. The aperture range becomes f/4 – f/45.

EF 2x III gives us 140-400mm with apertures from f/5.6 to f/64 and a maximum magnification of 0.44x. Both extenders support AF operation.

Do we need f/2.8 is probably a basic question to ask because it carries the penalties of weight and cost to a significant degree. There is no doubt that this f/2.8 version is ergonomically superb, but it does take more wielding than its smaller brother. However, it does feel very well balanced on the 5DS R, and for some photographers that f/2.8 aperture may well be needed.

Canon Ef 70 200mm F2,8L Is III Usm Rear Oblique View (Custom)

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SteveBB 17 31 United Kingdom
21 Aug 2018 9:03PM
Wondering what the differences are between this lens and the USM II version of the same. If you have used the previous version and following your review, how did you find the usability ? Was it faster to focus while panning for instance ? Smile
21 Aug 2018 9:50PM
Minor improvements to coatings and speed of AF, but unfortunately Gary reviewed the Mark II version and I reviewed this one, so a total comparison is not possible. In terms of optical quality the formula hasn't changed, so both are very capable of producing superb results. I'm sure that somewhere on the web someone will have used both.
8 Dec 2018 5:07PM
I bought the EF 70-200 2.8L IS mk11 when it was first released, having owned the Mk1 previously.

In my opinion there was a noticeable improvement in quality and therefore worth the outlay. So my $64K question is if you have the mark 11, is it worth going for the mark 111 instead?

Any views appreciated.

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