The Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM ($2,499) is a lens that you’ll often see attached to the cameras of wedding and event photographers, photojournalists, and sports shooters. It’s got a very useful short telephoto to telephoto zoom range, a maximum f/2.8 aperture throughout its focal range, and an image stabilization system. It puts all this in a package that, while on the heavy side, is compact for a telezoom, and its sharpness is impeccable. It’s priced according to its performance, but Canon shooters who rely on their equipment to pay the bills will recognize the value packed into this lens. It’s a clear Editors’ Choice winner for telezoom lenses.
The 70-200mm clocks in at 7.8 by 3.5 inches (HD) and 3.3 pounds, but its diameter is increased if you opt to use the included tripod collar. Its front element accommodates 77mm filters; it doesn’t rotate, nor does the lens extend, when adjusting zoom or focus. The zoom ring is placed toward the base of the lens, with markings for 70, 100, 135, and 200mm. It’s covered with a ribbed, rubber grip and turns smoothly. The manual focus ring is closer to the front and is covered with a similar texture. The focus throw is long, requiring about a 120° turn to go from the minimum 3.9-foot focus distance to infinity. The ring continues to turn, even after you’ve hit the minimum or maximum distance, so you can make quick racks in focus without worry of hitting a hard stop point.
Of course, autofocus is supported as well. The 70-200mm uses what Canon calls an ultrasonic motor. It lives up to its moniker with quick and quiet focusing. There’s a limiter switch on the barrel that lets you choose between the full focus range or to limit the autofocus system from 2.5 meters to infinity. Other control switches toggle the focus mode, enable or disable the stabilizer, or change the stabilizer mode; Mode 1 should be used most of the time, but you’ll want to switch to Mode 2 if you are panning the camera along with your subject when shooting subjects in motion.
I used Imatest to check the optical performance of the 70-200mm when paired with the full-frame Canon EOS 6D. The lens has no issues with sharpness at any focal length or aperture. At 70mm f/2.8 it scores 2,618 lines per picture height on our center-weighted test, noticeably better than the 1,800 lines that we require to call an image sharp. That quality extends to the very edges of the frame, which show 2,242 lines. There are modest improvements when narrowing the aperture; the lens peaks at 2,790 lines at f/5.6.
At 135mm f/2.8 the sharpness is 2,590 lines, with edges that hit 2,300 lines. There’s a very minor jump in resolution when the aperture is narrowed. At 200mm sharpness is still great; the center-weighted score is 2,691 lines at f/2.8 with even performance from edge to edge. Again, stopping down improves performance by a little bit, but you won’t miss any details by using the zoom at its maximum aperture—you only need to adjust it to control depth of field to your liking.
There is a little bit of barrel distortion at 70mm—about 2.2 percent—which gives straight lines a slight outward curve. For event coverage and reportage it won’t be a big deal, but if you are using the lens for a critical landscape or architectural image it’s easy enough to correct for using Lightroom or a similar application. Distortion is a nonissue at 135mm and 200mm; the lens shows less than 1 percent pincushion distortion at longer focal lengths.
Aside from its asking price and weight, it’s tough to find anything wrong with the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM. The lens is sharp from edge to edge throughout its zoom range, optically stabilized, and the f/2.8 aperture allows for both a shallow depth of field and handheld use in low light situations. It’s a great all-arounder for event shooters, and an easy pick for our Editor’s Choice award. Some photographers may prefer the extra reach that another winner, Sigma’s excellent 120-300mm F2.8 DG OS HSM, provides, while Canon shooters on a budget can sacrifice some sharpness and light-gathering by opting for the EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM.
|Lens Mount||Canon EOS|
|35-mm Equivalent (Telephoto)||200 mm|
|Dimensions||7.8 x 3.5 inches|
|35-mm Equivalent (Wide)||70 mm|
|Optical Zoom||2.9 x|
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