The fast, full-frame 70-200mm f/2.8 telephoto zoom is a very popular lens. We test five of the best proprietary and third-party versions
Announced in January 2010, the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM is a direct replacement for the EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM from 2001. Today, the difference in price between the two lenses is considerable.
On the surface, the lenses appear virtually identical, but considerable work has been put into the innards, with new lens construction and AF motors.
Sporting Canon’s off-white metal barrel, the newer lens has an excellent weather-sealed build. Like the Nikon lens, the lens mount has a rubber ring to prevent moisture and dust entering.
Focus and zoom rings have a tactile, ridged rubber surface. Along with the Sigma lens, the Canon zoom ring has the most narrow turn from its 70mm to 200mm position, of approximately 60°. This is handy for quickly snapping between each end of the focal range, but makes more precise adjustments harder to achieve.
The focus ring is very deep at around 45mm, and is therefore easily located even with one’s eye to the viewfinder.
Four switches on the side of the lens adjust the AF and stabilisation modes. As with the Nikon and Sony lenses, these switches vary in size to make it easier to tell them apart without a visual check.
Switches include a focus limiter to 2.5m or the full range down to the minimum 1.2m (which, along with the Sony lens, leads the group), AF/MF, stabiliser on/off and the two stabiliser modes: one for static subjects and the other designed to counteract panning movement.
The petal lens hood measures 95mm deep, is lined with felt to reduce reflections and has a lock to prevent the hood from being knocked off accidentally. Its ends are flat, which means the lens can be stood upright when the hood is attached.
As with the Sony model, the sturdy collar can only be removed when the lens is not mounted to a camera.
Handheld testing going through the shutter speeds at the 70mm, 135mm and 200mm focal lengths shows that the 4-stop Image Stabilizer is consistently effective for up to 4EV. For example, eight out of ten shots were sharp when taken at 200mm and 1/15sec, which is impressive stuff!
The complex lens construction comprises 23 elements in 19 groups, five of which are ED elements and one is fluorite. This is the only lens with eight diaphragm blades, but a round aperture is still created and the out-of-focus areas are pleasant, regardless of which aperture is used.
Canon’s Ultrasonic Motor (USM) provides quiet and reliable AF. The Canon and Nikon lenses top the group for speed.
Image: Taken at f/5.6, the out-of-focus lights show slight polygonal edges rather than being completely round
Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM specifications:
Street price: Around £1,800
Filter diameter: 77mm
Lens elements: 23
Diaphragm blades: 8
Minimum focus: 1.2m
Lens mount: Canon EF