Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS II USM Lens Review

The 70-200mm lens range is a popular choice for photographers so is the Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS II USM lens up to the mark? John Riley finds out.

| Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS II USM in Interchangeable Lenses

Handling and Features

Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS II USM Lens Review: 1/6 sec | f/16.0 | 78.0 mm | ISO 100

70-200mm lenses are one of the most sought-after choices in any range of lenses, but full frame f/2.8 models do have the drawback of being big and heavy, as well as expensive. The option of a lower cost, lighter, more compact f/4 version is a very attractive one and here we have exactly such an optic in the Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS II USM. Let's see if it delivers the goods, using the full frame Canon EOS 5DSR 50MP body for this review.


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Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS II USM Handling and Features

Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS II USM Lens Review: 1/4 sec | f/16.0 | 78.0 mm | ISO 100

First impression is of a sturdy, well-made optic that is very compact and very light for its focal length range. It still weighs in at 780g, not exactly light, but in context positively svelte compared to its f/2.8 alternatives. Carrying it for a full day in sweltering heat at 30C for a Run for Life event certainly reinforces the point. 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 lens hood, with a locking catch. Within the bayonet fitting on the lens, there is a conventional 72mm 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 1m, around 39.37 inches, a maximum magnification of 0.27x at 200mm. This is a very useful close focusing distance. Focusing is internal, and manual focus is not electronic so continues to work with the camera power switched off. Nonetheless, 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.

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 3m. 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 and position 3 is for irregular moving subjects.

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 the focal length is not accidentally changed.

Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS II USM Lens Review: 1/6 sec | f/16.0 | 40.0 mm | ISO 100

Optical construction is 20 elements in 15 groups, two of which are UD (Ultra Low Dispersion) elements that approach the performance of fluorite but at a lower cost. This is further enhanced by the use of one fluorite glass element. There is a fluorine coating on the front element to repel dust and moisture, and the lens itself has a weather resistant construction. There are 9 aperture blades which should help to enhance the bokeh of the lens. Canon uses its SSC (Super Spectra Coating) technology to control ghosting and flare.

The lens is compatible with Canon's extension tubes and extenders (teleconverters). Extension tube EF 12 II offers a magnification range of 0.34x – 0.06x. Tub EF 25 II gives us 0.43x – 0.14x.

There are two compatible extenders (teleconverters). EF 1.4x III results in a 98-280mm range with a maximum magnification of 0.39x. The aperture range becomes f/5.6 – f/45.

EF 2x III gives us 140-400mm with apertures from f/8 to f/64 and a maximum magnification of 0.59x. Both extenders (teleconverters) support AF operation, but for EF 2x III a camera body capable of supporting f/8 AF will be needed.

In the field, the lens is superb ergonomically, operating flawlessly. The success rate with action shots is very high as the AF locks on efficiently. The stabiliser is also highly efficient, although as it takes a small but finite time to lock on it may be useful to sometimes switch it off. It obviously does nothing to reduce subject movement.


Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS II USM Lens Review: 1/6 sec | f/16.0 | 68.0 mm | ISO 100

Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS II USM Performance

Sharpness at 70mm gets us off to an excellent start. Results are excellent both centre and edge from f/4 through to f/8, very good at f/11 and f/16, fair at f/22 and soft at f/32. The evenness from centre to edge is commendable.

At 100mm, centrally we have excellent sharpness from f/4 to f/11. This remains very good at f/16, falling to fair at f/22 and soft at f/32. The edges almost perfectly mirror this, being excellent from f/4 to f/8, very good at f/11 and f/16, fair at f/22 and soft at f/32.

At 135mm, the centre is excellent from f/4 to f/11, very good at f/16, good at f/22 and soft at f/32. The edges are close, being excellent from f/4 to f/11, very good at f/16, fair at f/22 and soft at f/32.

At 200mm the centre is excellent from f/4 to f/11, very good at f/16, good at f/22 and soft at f/32. The edges are very good at f/4, excellent from f/5.6 to f/8, very good from f/11 to f/16, fair at f/22 and again soft at f/32.

Apart from avoiding f/32 unless absolutely necessary, the lens performs superbly well throughout its range and can be used with total confidence.

Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS II USM MTF Charts

How to read our MTF charts

The blue column represents readings from the centre of the picture frame at the various apertures and the green is from the edges.

The scale on the left side is an indication of actual image resolution as LW/PH and is described in detail above. The taller the column, the better the lens performance.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Canon EOS 5DSR using Imatest.


CA (Chromatic Aberration) is extremely well controlled at all focal lengths, especially in the centre, where is it close to zero throughout the focal length range. The edges are equally impressive and it is only at 200mm that figures start to climb at the edges. Even here it is much better than many competitive lenses and can always be further corrected in software.

Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS II USM Chromatic Aberration Charts

How to read our CA charts

Chromatic aberration (CA) 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 Canon EOS 5DSR using Imatest.


Distortion measures at -1.57% barrel at 70mm. At 100mm correction is close to perfect, measuring +0.21% pincushion. This slowly increases, showing pincushion distortion of +1.26% at 135mm and +1.94% at 200mm. This is still pretty good for a zoom of this specification and can always be further reduced in software.

Flare is not a problem, not having shown itself in even the most demanding backlit shots.

Bokeh is very, very smooth and offers beautifully attractive out of focus backgrounds, ideal for flower studies, portraiture and many other applications.

The claim for the stabiliser is 5 stops. This is totally realistic, not for every shot perhaps, but for a very high percentage. Critically sharp images can be obtained at ridiculously slow shutter speeds, which is an amazing advantage.

Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS II USM Sample Photos


Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS II USM Aperture range


Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS II USM Portrait images


Value For Money

The Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS II USM lens is priced at £1299.

Competitive lenses might include:

There are also plenty of f/2.8 lenses, but generally, this can almost double the price.

Overall, it may well be a fair price, offering closer focusing and improved stabilisation over the previous model.

For more options, have a look at the Top 15 Best Canon EOS lenses.


Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS II USM Verdict

A well crafted photographic tool that does its job flawlessly is always a pleasure to use, and this new lens can be fairly described as just that. Fair enough, we lose a little of the ability to throw backgrounds out of focus by sacrificing the usual f/2.8 aperture, but we gain portability, a lower cost and there is really very little sacrifice in terms of narrow depth of field. The f/4 70-200mm lenses, in general, look an attractive proposition and the Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS II USM is a particularly good example.

Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS II USM Pros

  • Compact and light
  • Excellent sharpness throughout
  • No flare
  • Very low distortion
  • Very low CA
  • Close focusing
  • 5 stops stabilisation
  • Excellent ergonomics
  • High-quality manufacture

Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS II USM Cons

  • Loses f/2.8 aperture
  • Higher price than the previous lens

Overall Verdict

With thanks to CliftonCameras who provided the Canon EOS 5DS R used for testing. 

Own this lens? Let us know what you think of it in the EQDB

Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS II USM Specifications

Lens Mounts
  • Canon EF
Focal Length70mm - 200mm
Angle of View12° - 34°
Max Aperturef/4
Min Aperturef/32
Filter Size72mm
35mm equivalentNo Data
Internal focusingYes
Maximum magnification0.27x
Min Focus100cm
Box Contents
Box ContentsNo Data

View Full Product Details

Spotted a mistake? Let us know in the EQDB.

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