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Podcast 235 : Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS II USM Lens Review

On March 19th, 2010, Canon released the updated version of their famed workhorse, the EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS II USM lens. I have spent the last three days taking mine through its paces, and today I'm going to share my findings. [smart_track_player url="https://www.podtrac.com/pts/redirect.mp3/traffic.libsyn.com/mbppodcast/mbpp_ep235" src="https://app.fusebox.fm/embed/player.js" class="mbp-ignore"> I've been waiting for this...

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Martin Bailey
Martin Bailey is a nature and wildlife photographer and educator based in Tokyo. He's a pioneering Podcaster and blogger, and an X-Rite Coloratti member.
33 Comments
  • Koop
    Posted at 00:17h, 26 March Reply

    Have you tried this lens with the Canon teleconverters? I am looking for an alternative to my 100-400 and would be very interested in your experience as both approach 400mm. Great podcast and now great blog! Thanks very much.

  • Martin Bailey
    Posted at 14:45h, 26 March Reply

    Good question Koop!

    I haven’t tried it yet, but I will do very soon. I also sold my 100-400 after getting the original 70-200mm F2.8, as it worked reasonably well with the 1.4X Extender. Both became too soft though as I started to use it with the 21MP cameras.

    I do hope the 70-200mm F2.8L II works well with the Extender, as that does make it much more versatile. I’ll check it out soon and report back.

    Thanks for the kind words about the Podcast and blog! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Martin.

  • eric
    Posted at 09:03h, 28 March Reply

    After I got my 5DII, the choice of lenses was not easy. Beside my 100mm macro I had a gap between 35mm and 300mm. I was looking as some options but I think your review help me find the missing link.

    Thank you very much for your podcast.

  • Nancy Lehrer
    Posted at 09:54h, 28 March Reply

    Thanks for the review, listened to it this morning while at the gym. Not only did I learn how to test a lens from this review, I learned that the f/4 I version of the lens has a fluorite element while the f/2.8 I doesn’t. Thank you again for your generosity in sharing.

  • Martin Bailey
    Posted at 14:49h, 30 March Reply

    Koop, in case you didn’t see this, I did the Extender tests, and released a follow up Podcast/Blog post, based on your suggestion. Thanks!
    https://martinbaileyphotography.com/2010/03/29/podcast-236-the-ef-70-200mm-f2-8l-is-ii-usm-lens-with-extenders/

    Eric, I’m please that this review has helped. This lens sure has met and beaten my expectations. Even more so now that I know I can use my Extenders with it again!

    Nancy, you’re welcome. Your F4 version is one sharp fellow (or fellowette!) and that fluorite lens element is the main reason. I’m really pleased they dropped one into the Version II F2.8 as well!

  • Neil
    Posted at 23:55h, 30 March Reply

    Martin,

    Have you noticed any vignetting problems with the new lens? I picked one up just before a trip to Death Valley and was surprised by the amount of vignetting I experienced. It’s easily correctable in Lightroom, but it was far more than I ever saw on the previous version.

    Neil

  • Martin Bailey
    Posted at 10:29h, 31 March Reply

    Hi Neil,

    I haven’t noticed any vignetting “problems” as such, and certainly no more than the previous version of this lens. Sure, there is a slight darkening of the corners when you shoot wide open, if you compare to a shot that is stopped down some, but I can only see this when I’m cycling through shots like the tests I did for this review, and it certainly isn’t to problem levels.

    Take a look at the oilseed rape shot above for example. You can see that there is possibly some darkening, in the top right and left corners, but this is about the same as most lenses when shooting wide open, and to be honest, I never correct this in post. I like the corners to be a tad darker, as it keeps the user “in” the image.

    I might be weird, but I actually add vignette to some shots for this same reason. ๐Ÿ™‚

    If you are seeing considerably more vignetting than you can see images above (except the 100% crops of course) then you might want to take your copy of the lens back to have it checked.

    Let us know how you get on too. I’d be interested to hear if you have a bad copy.

    Cheers,
    Martin.

  • Carl
    Posted at 01:51h, 03 April Reply

    Great job Martin I enjoied your review of the canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS II USM Lens. I have the same problem with my old Nikkor 180mm in sharp shots when I use wide open F 2.8.

  • Ryan
    Posted at 00:31h, 08 April Reply

    Excellent review! Thanks so much for taking the time to write it.

  • Arthur Feng
    Posted at 19:05h, 15 April Reply

    Whew!!! Thank you Martin. I am really surprised of the huge difference in terms of resolution. I am rather disappointed that apparently Canon has been holding back that much on building us the best product for our money. I am saying that because all the theory of optics and manufacturing technology have been with us if not from the end of WWII, at least for the last 10 years. Other lens maker like Leica or old C Zeiss have been known to have overbuild their system to perfection. And after all, we are talking about comparing the same professional series L lens.

    The way you compare it via this animation is a very nice touch.

    Which start me thinking that I should seriously consider that carl zeiss 50mm on 5dm2 or even some older camera lens originally designed for film… Am I wrong again?

  • Gail B
    Posted at 20:07h, 16 April Reply

    Thank you Martin – fantastic review that has made me want one! However, do you find that the weight is heavy for ladies? I’m in two minds whether to go for this new version f/2.8 L II or buy the f/4 70-200. As it will be used for such varied photography including low light I know the recommendation would be to go for f/2.8. BUT….. as I stated above would the weight be an issue as I would have to carry it around for a number of hours, using it on a 1Ds MkIII. Do you know any ladies who do and don’t have an issue with this!

  • Martin Bailey
    Posted at 22:53h, 16 April Reply

    Thanks for the comments everyone!

    Arthur,

    This is about what I was expecting, or at least hoping for. ๐Ÿ™‚

    I wouldn’t say Canon have been holding back that much. The technology hasn’t really been there that long. They know use computers to map how the light will travel through each lens element then all of them as a group, and it’s much easier now to create quality lenses than it was say just 10 years ago, probably even less.

    The other thing to bear in mind is that when these original lenses were designed, they only needed to resolve enough detail for a good quality 35mm film image. Now the demands on the lenses are so much higher, with 21MP being much more punishing. Plus, for better or worse, people can now check the quality of the lens themselves much more easily.

    I think the Zeiss 50mm would be worth thinking about. I’ve heard a lot of good things about that lens, but I would definitely not go to older lenses designed for film. As I say above, they simply were designed to resolve light as much as is currently required.

    Gail,

    I’m afraid I don’t know of any ladies that have first hand experience with this particular lens, though there is a lady in the forums, that routinely shoots with a 100-400mm, which is a similar weight, and she gets by fine apparently.

    I think if you wanted the extra stop, you would manage with the 70-200mm F2.8, but you’d need to make sure you found a good way to carry it while you are not shooting, so that you don’t get too tired. For example carry it over your shoulder instead of around your neck while you are walking between shooting. This will help.

    I’ll ask Marisa in the forums to see what she says too.

    Cheers,
    Martin.

  • Marisa
    Posted at 23:34h, 16 April Reply

    Gail:

    For carrying the lens around longer than 1 hour I would say the 70-200 f/4 IS L is a good about 1.5 lb less (1.7 lb f/4 vs 3.2 lb f/2.8) and it’s an incredibly sharp lens. Now, if you’re going to be indoors most of the time and you don’t use flash and like natural light, then get the f/2.8. But I warn you that 3.2 lbs plus the weight of the 1Ds MkIII for more than 1 hour continuously will have an effect on shoulders and wrists particularly. The 70-200 f/4 IS is a very lightweight and sharp lens and I highly recommend it to people who have weak shoulders and wrists. I’m also an OTR (Occupational Therapist).

  • Martin Bailey
    Posted at 15:40h, 20 April Reply

    Thanks for the follow-up Marisa! I really appreciate it.

    Cheers,
    Martin.

  • Gail B
    Posted at 05:15h, 21 April Reply

    Hi Martin and Marisa,

    Many thanks for your replies – it is much appreciated. Sorry I’ve not replied before now but I was moving house over the weekend and have just powered up my laptop and lo and behold 2 posts to my question!

    I have tried both lenses on my camera out this afternoon and found as you say that the 2.8 will be heavy to carry around for a while – especially as I want to take other lenses with me at the same time. I’m just about to do a final search on the internet to see how people have found the f/4 with the 1.4x and 2x extenders. I know that the 1.4x will be acceptable but I’ll have a quick search to see how people have found the 2x – I can see me finding a use for the 2x occasionally. It may be that the 2x will be too soft for my images I need to take but I have finally made my mind up to buy the f/4 with 1.4x!

    The f/4 feels easy to handle with my camera and if I buy this one I can replace my 100mm macro to the IS version. I love macro photography and the IS will allow me to keep the ISO low in more situations.

    One comment Marisa -“I highly recommend it to people who have weak shoulders and wrists”. You are right to say this. I am now in my 50’s and do in fact have started to have weak wrists and my shoulder does occasionally play up! The 70-200 will be a lens I will keep for a while and I will get much more use out of the f/4 version in the years ahead.

    Thank you both again for your replies. Isn’t the internet a wonderful thing. I do hope I can be of use to others like yourselves at some time or other.

    Regards,

    Gail

  • Martin Bailey
    Posted at 13:47h, 21 April Reply

    Hi Gail,

    You’re welcome, and congratulations on your move!

    I’m sure you’ll be very happy with the F4. I haven’t tried that lens myself, but I’ve heard lots of great things about it. Very sharp, and much lighter than the F2.8.

    Enjoy!

    Martin.

  • W
    Posted at 11:57h, 02 August Reply

    Thanks a ton for this detailed review and comparison. Really helped me a lot in choose to trade up from my mk 1

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