Pros: Superior optical quality, 4-Stop Image Stabilization, Tank-Like Build Quality
Cons: Switches can be accidentally switched, New kids on the block
The Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM II has some big shoes to fill. Its predecessor, the Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM Lens was previously the bread and butter for countless types of wedding photographers. It is nearly impossible to go to a wedding, and see a wedding photographer without a 70-200mm lens. Every single one I have personally seen always had the flagship image stabilized variant. As I have mentioned in my review of the predecessor, there were some factors that ended up being shortfalls of the lens. For instance, the wide-open optical performance often left some quality to be desired. I found that at events, I would often have soft looking images. After using the Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM II, it turned out that it was not due to the fault of my technique. While the predecessor performed quite well with wide-open portraits, the Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM II offered an obvious edge in terms of optical performance. The successor also has some additional features that give it an edge over its older counterpart. It was quite a leap in price when I decided to sell my Canon Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM Lens, and purchase the Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM II. But at the end of the day, I am sure glad I did!
This review will be divided into two-parts. The first part will assume that the consumer is a very wealthy individual who wants to purchase this lens, and the second part will be for people familiar with photography.
Canon - This lens is made by Canon. It is designed for Canon EOS cameras.
EF - This lens uses the Canon EF mount. There are two types of mounts available for lenses. The standard EF which has been around since the 1980s and the much newer EF-S mount. So what's the difference? If you have an EF-S lens, which means you can only use it on an APS-C camera, which ranges from the Canon Digital Rebel bodies up to the current Canon EOS 60D and Canon EOS 7D. It will therefore work on the consumer and prosumer bodies, but not with a semi-professional camera like an EOS 5D Mark II or professional Canon EOS 1D body. An EF-S lens will also not work with any film bodies. But luckily, since this is an EF mount lens, it will work on any Canon EOS auto-focus camera body, whether it is an APS-C camera, film camera, or professional body. You have the ultimate versatility with this lens, as well as room to grow in the future.
70-200mm - This is the focal length range of the lens. 70mm is the widest the lens goes, while 200mm is as far as the lens goes. One thing you should understand is that the focal length range of the lens does not determine the price of the lens. Therefore, even though the lens costs about 12x as much as a Canon EF 75-300mm f4-5.6 III Lens consumer lens that extends 100mm farther, the Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM II is superior in terms of optics and just about everything else. The Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM II does not make a very good wildlife lens which the ##-300mm consumer and prosumer lenses are decent for, instead it serves a different purpose. For indoor events like parties, the 200mm reach works very well. There are other wide-aperture options for shooting farther indoors (other than the "third party" 70-200mm zooms), yet they are very expensive. All other options exceed the $3,000 and higher mark, and I will mention them later. On full-frame, the 70-200mm focal length range is quite a pleasure to use. 70mm is quite wide and comfortable for events. The 200mm isn't exactly the longest, but does produce a decently long range for those needed telephoto shots. Due to the very good image quality, you can also crop shots taken at 200mm if you need a closer view. In terms of utilizing a smaller sensor APS-C camera (Canon EOS Digital Rebel, Canon EOS ##D, or Canon EOS 7D), 200mm is still quite far, and you can simply move closer if you need more reach when needed. The 70mm on an APS-C camera works very well for across-the-table headshots or head & shoulders portraits. For general walking around or very small dinner parties, a smaller lens like the Canon EF-S 17-55mm f2.8 IS USM Lens, Canon EF 24-70mm F2.8L USM Lens, or Canon EF 24-105mm F4L IS USM Lens would serve you well. The Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM II should be a part of a kit, since it is too long to serve as a general purpose lens (Except for large venues perhaps, even then a wider lens still works better in many situations).
F2.8 - What does this number mean? This is the maximum aperture of the lens. The aperture is what lets in light. The lower the numbers, the larger the aperture. Compared to the prosumer Canon EF 70-300mm f4-5.6 IS USM Lens which I used to use, the Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM lets in 2x as much light at 70mm @ f2.8 compared to the 70-300mm at 70mm @ f4.0. At the extremes of the zoom range, the Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM lets in 4x more light at 200mm @ f2.8 versus the 70-300mm at 300mm @ f5.6 (Hmm... Not a fair comparison necessarily.). What does this all mean for you? It means that when you crank the ISO on your camera, you can take ambient light photos which good sharpness thanks to higher shutter speeds since the f2.8 maximum aperture allows so much more light. This lens maintains a constant f2.8 maximum aperture throughout its entire focal length range, so that even at 200mm, you can take good ambient light photographs. Using a lens with a maximum aperture of f4.0 or greater would require flash to stop action, or Image Stabilization would be required to take sharp photos of inanimate objects. There is nothing that substitutes for a physically larger aperture, and this is a necessity for many photographers, especially that shoot indoors. The downsides to this are that the lens is considerably more expensive and is also much heavier. Since the f2.8 aperture helps get photos that are otherwise not possible, this is all worth it in my opinion.
L - This is part of Canon's L-Series of lenses. This stands for "Luxury." It has the red ring around the barrel to show for it. Also, the Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM II sports a gorgeous off-white color finish. Are there advantages to paying so much money for an L-Series? Yes. The lens offers superior optics inside, which are comprised of ultra low dispersion glass, aspherical lens elements, as well as fluorite lens elements. The lens also is fully weather-sealed (Only when used with an EOS 1 body) and is made of high-quality magnesium which sports tank-like build quality. This should be able to handle quite a bit of abuse, while providing excellent looking results.
IS - The Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM II uses something called image stabilization. On the bottom of the lens barrel where the camera attaches to the lens, it says in gold letter, "Image Stabilizer." What is this exactly? This is a gyro-system located in the barrel of the lens which helps counteract camera shake. What this allows you to do is help avoid camera-shake induced blur when shooting at long focal lengths or shooting at lower shutter speeds. Typically, photographers are able to help counteract camera-shake induced blur when shooting at a shutter speed of 1/FOCAL LENGTH. Image Stabilization allows you to shoot slower than that while maintaining sharp images. This is very helpful in low-light environments, especially when shooting in ambient light. However, Image Stabilization does NOT stop action. So if you're attempting to shoot people, they must remain very still or else they will appear blurry. Everything else around them will be sharp, but since image stabilization works by allowing the use of a lower shutter speed, you will not actually stop peoples' movements. This is where the maximum aperture of f2.8 shines, no pun intended. It can allow higher shutter speeds at higher ISO levels, and Image Stabilization helps ensure a sharper image if you have shaky hands or what not. The Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM II utilizes Canon's 3rd generation 4-stop Image Stabilizer. In practice, it is a considerable improvement from the 2nd generation 3-stop Image Stabilizer on the Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM Lens. Not only do you have one stop of improved functionality, but it also is much quieter and you can barely feel it, unlike its predecessor.
USM - This stands for "ultrasonic motor." This is Canon's high-speed autofocusing system. There are two types of USM, micro and ring. Ring is the fastest and is silent, and of course this lens has the latter. When using the Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM II in low-light situations without flash, I find the focus to be fast and spot on 95% of the time. When I used my old Tamron SP AF17-50mm f/2.8 Di-II LD Lens, I found the lens to hunt quite a bit despite having the wide maximum aperture. When using the flash assist from my Canon Speedlite 580EX II Flash, I had absolutely no issues with autofocusing. If you need high-speed focusing, this lens does quite well in the department.
II - This stands for the fact that this is the "Mark II" version of this lens. The original lens is the Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM Lens, which still by today's standards is a great piece of glass. Is the new Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM II worth purchasing over the significantly cheaper (second hand) predecessor? I will of course get into this later, but if you're itching to know, YES, it is well worth it.
The Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM II is part of an interesting breed of lenses, especially among the Canon lineup. You have the option to get a significantly cheaper lens with comparable performance with a maximum aperture of f4.0 at a fraction of the price. It's also a very large lens, which can confuse some consumers... Well, all I can say is that you should check out a couple of the misconceptions.
1. This lens is superior in every way to the Canon EF 70-200mm F4L IS USM.
I'm guessing that some people might believe that the amazing Canon EF 70-200mm F4L IS USM lens is inferior to the Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM II simply based on the maximum aperture. Yes, f2.8 offers a significant advantage to f4.0 in some regards. It lets in twice as much light, so it offers better performance in low light conditions. Also f2.8 will generate nicer bokeh (background blur) versus the lens with the narrower aperture. Unfortunately, when you have an f2.8 lens, you will pay for it in terms of weight (and money). But how does the OVERALL image quality stack up? An f2.8 aperture does not necessarily mean that it will have better sharpness, contrast, distortion control, and other important factors compared to an f4.0 aperture. In fact, the Canon EF 70-200mm F4L IS USM provides improved optical performance versus the original Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM Lens in optical tests. Therefore, if you are planning on using this lens for event or other photography and are not necessarily concerned about background blur (or plan on using the lens stopped down beyond f4.0), then it may be wise to consider the cheaper lens.
2. You can take pictures from a mile away with this lens!
If you seriously don't know photography, the large size of the lens might make you think that this lens goes very far. I have had people ask me if I can see the moon with this lens. I think many people would be surprised that the Canon EF 75-300mm f4-5.6 III Lens, Canon's lowest-end consumer telephoto zooms in quite a bit further. Once again, this is not really intended as a wildlife lens. So if you are reading this and don't know what I'm talking about, then don't buy this.
Those are some misconceptions to be aware of. The last one I posted is a bit silly, and is almost unfounded. However, the top one is a very important aspect of the F2.8L vs F4.0L argument. By the end of this review, I hope that many people will understand how they are dramatically different lenses.
The Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM II has a whole lot to offer. All in all, the lens is significantly improved compared to its predecessor, the Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM Lens. If you are looking for a great people lens to use for portraiture or weddings, this is definitely a lens to look at. While the lens is significantly more expensive than purchasing the predecessor second hand, it is definitely worth it if you are looking for significantly better image quality, especially from f2.8 to f4.0. There are new kids on the block to look at too. Sigma now has an image stabilized competitor, the Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 APO EX DG HSM OS FLD, which seems to give the Canon lens a run for its money. At $1,399, it is nearly half the price of the Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM II! While I have never used the Sigma, it does not appear to have the same level of optical quality when reading online reviews. If you are looking to spend more and are a bodybuilder (or use a monopod/tripod support system), then you should also check out the Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 AF APO EX DG OS HSM. It's like having a 300mm f2.8 prime lens and the 70-200mm lens (minus 50mm on the wide-end) all in one! Yes, it is more expensive at $3,199, but this is not significant when you're already in this price range. The biggest drawback to the Sigma is that it weighs twice as much as the Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM II, so it is more difficult to hand hold and carry for long periods of time. If you do want the extra reach and don't mind the weight or use a support system, I'd really give the Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 AF APO EX DG OS HSM a serious look. If you do not need an f2.8 lens, look no further than the Canon EF 70-200mm F4L IS USM. Excellent optical quality at a great price, in a lighter package! You can also check out the L-Series 70-300mm and 100-400mm lenses... So many to choose from when f2.8 isn't your most important factor! Ultimately though, all in all, is the Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM II worth it? By all means yes. This lens will not disappoint in any shape or form.
Now read on further to see what this lens has to offer...
--FOR PHOTOGRAPHERS FAMILIAR WITH THE SLR FORMAT--
The Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM II is carrying on the torch from the original Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM Lens. The 70-200mm is an indispensable tool for many photographers, so it is important for the successor to such a great original lens to live up to its reputation. How does the Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM II fare? Let's find out...
-Who this lens is for...
Yes, this is a very large lens. But if you try capturing animals in the wild, you will be disappointed. Even at the zoo, you might be disappointed depending on how far the animals are. So yes, it might be large, but the 200mm maximum focal length range doesn't get too far for that type of thing. So... What is this good for then? Well, when you use this at large parties and weddings where you are able to shoot from a distance, the 200mm range works extremely well. Now, combine that with a large maximum aperture of f2.8, which is as fast as any Canon zoom goes, and then 4-stop Image Stabilizer, and you've got yourself the ultimate weapon for conquering indoor venues. This lens has superb low-light capabilities. Also, the f2.8 aperture allows for very diffuse bokeh, some of the best that I have ever seen, when it comes to shooting portraits. This lens provides excellent results for those that make a living by shooting pictures of people. The lens' f2.8 maximum aperture also allows it to be used effectively with the Canon Extender EF 2x II on any EOS body while maintaining autofocus and Image Stabilization. This allows the lens to become a cheap super-telephoto zoom for those that occasionally distant objects. Compared to being used with the original Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM Lens, the Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM II offers significantly better performance with teleconverters. The "Mark III" variants are now available, which have better image quality than previously. In conclusion, this lens is a must-have in any wedding photographer's or people photographer's kit. This lens works very well when complemented by a Canon EF-S 17-55mm f2.8 IS USM Lens on an APS-C camera, or by a Canon EF 24-70mm F2.8L USM Lens on a full-frame body like an EOS 5D or EOS 1D series camera where the focal lengths of the two lenses seamlessly connect.
Currently the Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM II is the most expensive Canon zoom lens available... Once the 200-400mm lens comes out, that will take the crown, but in the meantime, this is it. It is also the flagship 70-200mm lens, being considerably more expensive than either the Canon EF 70-200mm F4L IS USM or the non-stabilized Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L USM. If you are comparing it to the second hand Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM Lens available on eBay, the new lens will cost significantly more. Some may wonder though, is it worth the price? Initially I thought that I was getting soft results at ~f2.8 due to technique with the original lens, but once I started using the Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM II, I realized that this was definitely not the case. When shooting wide-open or at wider apertures (larger than f4.0), the Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM II performs significantly better. As the original Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM Lens is stopped down, then performance will become similar. Therefore, if you are a photographer who is planning on utilizing the f2.8 to its fullest advantage (portraits and modeling work), then it is worth paying up more money for the Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM II. I'm not talking about pixel-peeping either. There are those photographers who will pick out the tiniest details when zooming up close in an image, and while I do that for testing purposes, most people won't know in the real world. The Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM II does offer a significant advantage where it's not pixel-peeping, but if you were to point it out to someone not familiar with photography and point out sharpness and contrast, they would probably be able to tell the difference. Now don't get me wrong, the original lens is still very good and produces fine professional results, but for those that need the best quality shots at wide apertures, the Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM II will undoubtedly perform better than the original lens.
Unlike the original lens that really had no true competition (yes there were 70-200mm lenses from Sigma and Tamron, but they did not have image stabilization. Nikon or other "brand name" lenses don't count since they are not for the Canon EF-mount), the Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM II enters into a tighter more competitive space. Previously when looking at the Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM Lens era, the only lens manufacturers putting out 70-200mm lenses were Sigma and Tamron. They are geared toward professionals, but lack an important feature, image stabilization. For anyone using a tripod or monopod, this is not an issue, but for those that do, this was a deal breaker. Even though the Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM Lens was nearly a grand more than the Sigma or Tamron, it provided the one feature people couldn't get elsewhere. At that time, I was also considering the original Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 EX DG IF HSM APO lens. A zoom going all the way to 300mm with a maximum aperture of f2.8? Awesome! There was one big problem... No image stabilizer, and I'm definitely not the one to shoot with a tripod or monopod. The lack of image stabilization killed it for me, and I'm sure for many others too.
So yes, back in the day, the Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM Lens had no competition. This is no longer the case for the Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM II. Now Sigma has an image stabilized 70-200mm lens, the Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 APO EX DG HSM OS FLD which is significantly (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) cheaper than the Canon lens at only $1,399 versus $2,499. I am a fan of Sigma and their EX line of lenses. I have not had the opportunity to personally try this lens, but have read reviews on it. The Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 APO EX DG HSM OS FLD does apparently fall short of the Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM II in reviews I've read. Therefore, if the Sigmas are consistent across the line and perform accordingly to the reviews, then they should have softer looking results wide-open. So if you are a portrait or wedding/event photographer looking for the sharpest looking results wide-open, then you would probably be better off investing more money into the Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM Lens. If you can deal with lesser performance but save a whole load of money, then the Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 APO EX DG HSM OS FLD isn't such a bad idea!
Sigma does have one other lens up its sleeve, and this one might really tickle the fancy of many photographers. A long time ago, I came across the Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 EX DG IF HSM APO lens. I thought the lens was perfect in many ways, except for the lack of image stabilization which killed it. When shooting events and portraits (and not sports), the lens isn't as useful since tripods or monopods are not comfortable to use in the field. If I were a sports photographer, I would have adopted the lens a long time ago, but I'm not, so it just didn't work. I had dreams about the day that the 120-300mm lens would have image stabilization. Well one day, Sigma made the announcement, and it became reality! I thought the lens would be outrageously priced versus the original (which was around $3,000), but surprisingly the lens was priced at an affordable $3,199. The lens, the Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 AF APO EX DG OS HSM, has a new improved optical formula and Sigma's 4-stop Optical Stabilizer. While I have not used this lens, I have seen people comparing it to lenses such as the Canon EF 300mm F2.8L IS USM (the new one is around $7k!), and they both leap frog each other when it comes to pixel peeping. Ultimately, the Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 AF APO EX DG OS HSM gives you much of the range of the Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM II with superb optical quality combined with a 300mm prime lens all in one! So for those who do portraits at maximum focal lengths, this lens might be a good idea. What's the biggest drawback? It's very heavy! It's roughly twice the weight of the Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM II, and even that lens can already be quite heavy after a while! I'm also a bodybuilder, so this is definitely something to take into consideration. Despite the Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 AF APO EX DG OS HSM being able to do so much, the weight is its Achilles heel. Definitely check it out, because when you're already in this price range, the Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 AF APO EX DG OS HSM won't cost significantly more money.
Overall, the Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM II will offer excellent performance in many respects, building onto the weaknesses of the original Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM Lens. While the newer version might cost you hundreds more, you should think of it as an investment, and a worthwhile one at that. While there is some additional competition, both cheaper and more expensive, the Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM II will be worthwhile for the $2,499. It's a high initial price to pay, but in return, you get exceptional quality. You will not be disappointed.
When looking at the Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM II, it doesn't look very different than the Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM Lens. The only obvious change is the focus and zoom rings, which has a slightly different rubberized grip. Otherwise, the lens is just like its predecessor, where it is built like a tank!
The body itself is made out of magnesium. It is built to withstand abuse. I do baby my equipment, especially a lens this expensive, so as of yet it has not been dropped. I am grateful for the metal body, since I know that if it does accidentally fall, it won't be the end of the world. The lens is an off-white color. Many people complain about this because it says it attracts thieves. This is just like any other flashy luxury item. It stands out where you want it to, and it stands out where you don't want it to. This lens definitely gets attention from people outside! Therefore, there is a good psychological feeling about using it. The same kind you get when driving a Ferrari. Just be careful in areas where there might be thieves though.
The lens comes with a lens hood and tripod collar. Unlike the ET-86 lens hood that came with the Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM Lens, the new lens hood is the ET-87. The plastic on the outside is different than the plastic on the ET-86, therefore it will not show scratches easily at all. Another big change is that the ET-87 does not simply twist off like the ET-86, it has a tab for the release mechanism. You must push it in before twisting off the lens. This is nice since the hood will not start twisting in the field. Like the original ET-86, the inside part of the hood has a felt material so that it can better absorb stray light. If you are buying a non-Canon replacement lens hood, I do not think that there is a felt material.
The lens has a 77mm filter thread. There are photographers that use filters and some that don't. I have UV filters for protection on all of my lenses. If you use the highest quality filters (B+W or Heliopan), then you shouldn't see any noticeable degradation in image quality. I have B+W MRC 010 UV filters on all of my lenses. I suggest you do the same.
The lens has two rings for control. Nearest to the camera body is the zoom ring, and furthest from the body is the focus ring. This is the typical setup on Canon L-Series lenses, and it is the opposite on the consumer grade lenses. Both of the rings are large in size and rubberized to provide excellent grip. The Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM II has a slightly different grip than the original Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM Lens, but there isn't any significant advantage (or any at all, it's just different) to this. Both of the rings turn very smoothly. I am able to easily move the focus ring with the tip of my finger if I need to manually fine-tune focus. The zoom ring also moves very smoothly with virtually no resistance. I am unable, however, to move it with the tip of my finger. It is not "sticky" in any way, but it's a bit heavier than the focus. I have used consumer lenses where effort was required to push the zoom ring, and the Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM II fortunately moves smoothly.
The Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM II is by no means a light lens. It is in fact quite heavy, and is better balanced on a larger camera bodies such as the Canon EOS 1D or 5D series cameras. On a Rebel series camera, the lens might feel a bit awkward and front heavy. However, you do get used to the lens, despite its weight. I do find it to be very handhold able, even for long periods of time. Though, you can feel pain after that. The Canon EF 70-200mm F4L IS USM is considerably lighter thanks to its smaller aperture, so if you do not need the low-light capabilities offered by the larger aperture of the F2.8L variant, then you might want to look into the F4L since it is more handhold able, especially if you are using a very light body such as a Rebel.
The lens also has numerous switches which allow you to switch the minimum focusing distances, AF/MF, as well as the Image Stabilizer. The switches are not fully recessed, just like the Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM Lens. There have been moments where I accidentally switched the lens into manual focus, turned the Image Stabilizer off, and switched the Image Stabilizer into mode "2." So be aware. I think that Canon did improve the switches from the predecessor (I don't remember that exact details very well), but this is still an issue. This is a very annoying issue that can have costly consequences. This is why many professionals jam in tooth picks or tape them to make sure they don't get moved. I have never had any issues with this. But if you want to be cautious, you can tape this over.
The lens is fully-weather sealed. On the rear mount, there is a plastic gasket which is supposed to fit seamlessly with the fully weather-sealed Canon EOS 1D body. So while the lens is weather-sealed, it will not be fully sealed unless you are using a 1D series camera. If you are using a Canon EOS ###D or EOS ##D or even an EOS 5D Mk II or EOS 7D, the whole set-up will not be completely sealed. I was caught in the rain with the Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM Lens and have taken the Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM II to the beach. Sand got onto the gasket, but I ran the lens under the faucet. Am I crazy?! No, there are professionals who wash these off with water hoses! The lens is still as perfect as it was when it was new. I have never had any issues after it has gotten soaked, though I try to avoid this if you can. There are professionals using 1D series cameras in the pouring rain with these lenses. I do not condone taking the lens into bad weather. Do it under your own risk. But with my own experiences so far, the lens held up well. With an EOS 1D body, assuming everything works properly, you can shoot effectively in rain and other less-than-perfect conditions.
The Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM II sports tank-like build quality that is meant to hold the lens up to some serious abuse. Whether you are an amateur or professional, you will appreciate the incredible build quality of the lens. It should be able to handle whatever conditions you throw at it, and provide excellent image quality at the same time. Just be aware of the switches, which are still susceptible to being switched just like the original lens. It can be concluded that you get what you pay for with this lens in terms of build quality, and that ends up being a whole lot.
The Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM has numerous features which help to make it into one of the most versatile lenses out there.
*Fast Maximum Aperture - The Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM II has a constant f2.8 maximum aperture throughout the entire zoom range from its widest point at 70mm, all the way to its longest point at 200mm. This is ideal for indoor photographers, especially those that enjoy working with ambient light. Unlike the Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM Lens0, the new lens will provide extremely high image quality from the get-go at f2.8, which really allows the photographer to take advantage of what the lens has to offer. The large aperture is the lens' greatest advantage over the F4L variant. Even though the Canon EF 70-200mm F4L IS USM has 4-stop Image Stabilization, it still can't stop action in places whereas the F2.8L variant can. If you are deciding between the two variants, you should decide whether having twice as much more light at the maximum aperture is worth it. For people like me or those that shoot indoors, it can be the difference between a good shot and a missed shot. The f2.8 aperture is also great for portraits. I find the bokeh produced to be incredible. In case you are unfamiliar with the term, bokeh is the blurring of the background when you isolate the subject. I have done a portrait shoot for a friend in a garden, and people asked me what "background" I used and where they could buy it. They could not believe that the creamy smooth "stuff" in the background was actually flowers! Therefore, if you shoot portraits, especially outdoors, the Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM II is an excellent choice. Another added benefit to the f2.8 aperture is that the lens can be used with the Canon Extender EF 2x II (now the Mark III is available but much more expensive!) with any EOS body, whether consumer or professional while maintaining autofocus. The F4L can only be used with this extender on the EOS 1D body to maintain autofocus. Usage on another body will result in AF that does not work. Therefore, if you can afford to spend over $1,000 on a telephoto zoom, the 2x Extender is a great option with this lens. Unlike the original lens, the new one has significantly improved performance when coupled with the extenders. I was amazed at the difference, and any amateur would also be able to tell quite easily.
Unfortunately, there are two downsides to the larger aperture. The first is that the lens becomes significantly heavier. This is a very heavy lens, which can become very uncomfortable after extended use. I would like to mention that I am a weight lifter, yet the lens is still uncomfortable! So please be aware of this! When you see the results in your images, you will realize that the lens is definitely worth it.
*Image Stabilizer - The Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM II features Canon's 3rd generation system which allows up to four f-stops of handhold ability. The system is a big improvement over the Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM Lens, in which a 2nd generation system is providing three stops. The greatest difference is that the 2nd generation system would very slightly jerk when started, and it would be rather loud (relatively speaking) and obvious when on (comparing it to the newest lens). With the new lens, the system is virtually silent and you barely hear it. It also features two modes. The first mode ("1") is intended for general use, while the second mode ("2") is intended for panning. I typically leave it in the first mode, but have used it in the second mode when following a moving subject. When combined with the large aperture, the lens is capable of getting me very sharp shots at slower shutter speeds than 1/FOCAL LENGTH. This is also very beneficial at longer focal lengths when the lighting is less than optimal. Image Stabilization is especially beneficial when shooting inanimate objects in low-light. I am able to use very slow shutter speeds and maintain sharp results. Unfortunately, Canon's Image Stabilizer does nothing to stop action. Action can be stopped with faster shutter speeds, and IS works its magic with slower speeds. That's why I feel image stabilization is the added bonus after the larger aperture. In terms of my images, I have had very few images that have been subject to camera blur. My keeper rate is very high, and I would not have purchased the non-IS lens otherwise.
So how does it handle in real life? Before owning this lens, I own(ed) lenses that used both 1st and 2nd generation Image Stabilizer systems. First and foremost, the Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM II provides a much better system than that of the Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM Lens. As I mentioned above, the older lens had a 3-stop image stabilizer that would be loud (relatively speaking) and very slightly jerk when started when comparing it to the system on the newest lens. The newest 3rd generation system is better behaved, and produces superb results. The Canon EF-S 17-55mm f2.8 IS USM Lens, my main lens that I used extensively before selling, has Canon's third generation system. It works very well. The system is also dead-silent and hardly vibrates when in use. It also does not cause the frame to skip, except for when I try panning with the lens. The system produces very effective results. My old main lens, the Canon EF 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM Lens, featured the first generation system. It was loud, you felt it vibrate, and the frame skipped when it turned on. It also was not very effective compared to that on the 17-55mm lens. I still had blurry results in the end, especially when shooting indoors. I might have had better results now since I have become more experienced.
The Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM II uses Canon's 3rd generation system. It provides up to 3 f-stops of handhold ability. It also features the panning mode, which I have found to be useful. Nonetheless, I have had excellent results with it so far. I find camera shake induced blur to be completely absent when I hold the camera still land use realistic shutter speeds. Also at long focal lengths shooting less than 1/FOCAL LENGTH, I still have very sharp results. The system also behaves far better than the first generation mechanism on the 28-135mm lens and even the 2nd generation system found on many other lenses, including its predecessor. It is very quiet, though audible when you put your ear fairly close. Also, the frame doesn't jump when starting up IS. Overall, it is a nice improvement from the 2nd generation version of the previous lens, and it does a very fantastic job and allows me to achieve the good results I need.
*Ultrasonic Motor - The Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM II features Canon's USM mechanism. It uses the ring USM mechanism, which allows for full-time manual focusing. The focus is also lightning fast and virtually silent. The hit rate is very good. I would like to note that I always use the center focus point selected in my camera. Even in darker settings, the lens focuses very well without hunting. This was an issue I encountered with my old Tamron lens. The focusing does slow a bit in lower light when using the Canon Extender EF 2x II. In optimal light, I find focus to be very fast nonetheless. If you need a lens that focuses very quickly and is dead-on-target 99% of the time, you've got it right here.
*77mm Filter Size - The Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM II lens shares the same filter thread size as many other L-Series lenses. Therefore, you can share polarizing filters among the different lenses in an effort to save money. I use the B+W MRC 010 UV filter with the lens for added protection. I recommend always using a filter as protection, since this is very expensive glass, and it would be a shame if it got scratched or broken.
*ET-87 Lens Hood - As an L-Series lens, it comes with the Canon ET-87 lens hood. The hood is made of tough plastic, and has the felt material on the inside. It is an improvement over the original ET-86 lens hood that came with the Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM Lens. The ET-86 would scratch very easily on the outside. The ET-87 also has a tab that needs to be pressed when you want to release the hood. This gives it a tighter fit. It helps to reduce flare and also works as added protection. I always use the hood with the lens. Since it doesn't seem to flare significantly, I can imagine that you use the lens without the hood if you need to.
*Canon Tripod Collar - The Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM II comes with a tripod so that if you use a tripod, you can attach the lens, and not camera to the tripod. This makes sure that such a heavy lens doesn't rip the lens mount out of your camera. This may be an issue with cheaper plastic bodies like a Digital Rebel. I do not use a tripod and leave the collar off when using the lens.
*Lens Case - And it just keeps coming! The Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM II comes with a fairly large and nicely-made case so that you can carry the lens. It includes zippers, so unlike an over-sized pouch, it is secure. I'm not a fan of the peach color, however. But it is nice for Canon to include it. The lens lives at the bottom of my LowerPro 200AW bag, so the case sits in my closet for now. Nonetheless, it is a nice addition for those that wish to carry the lens separately. I have seen photographers attach it to their belts and carry it on their sides.
When I first began using my original Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM Lens, I noticed that the lens itself had psychological implications on my photography subjects as well as my own self. The same holds true for the Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM II, as people have the same responses to my current lens as they did to my last, since they do essentially look nearly identical.
I like to take my camera every time I go to an event with people. Usually I take it with friends, and they know I like taking pictures. Sometimes I take it to family events, and they know I like to take pictures. I also took it to other events with people I know, but not that I know very well. On two occasions, when I took the lens out, people were shocked by it. They made comments saying, "Are you trying to take pictures of the pores on my face?" as well as other similar things. People were made so uncomfortable by this lens that they would cover themselves up if I wanted to take a picture. Therefore, on two occasions, my camera found itself in my bag for the rest of the night.
I am not saying this as a joke or I'm not trying to be funny. But seriously speaking, this lens can make many people feel uneasy. The Canon EF-S 17-55mm f2.8 IS USM Lens that I used to own as well as the current Canon EF 24-105mm F4L IS USM Lens that I use already made some people feel uncomfortable because of large front element and large lens hood. The 70-200mm does this even more due to the off-white color, large front element, and its massive size. Since many people assume it's a super telephoto because of its size, they may become even more uncomfortable.
Therefore, when taking pictures with those unfamiliar with SLR's, you might get a bit of a backlash. Believe me, this can be an intimidating lens if you do not understand what exactly it is.
--The Good Stuff--
When you're paying $2,499 for a single camera lens, I think that you would expect it to perform exceptionally well, especially when it costs hundreds more than purchasing a second-hand version of its predecessor. The Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM II certainly does not disappoint in this area, and undoubtedly proves its worthiness of being at this high price point.
*Color Rendition - The color rendition from the Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM II is excellent, and is consistent with the other high-quality L-Series glass that I have used. Switching from the original Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM Lens, I have not noticed any difference in the colors. I would like to point out that I shoot RAW and process colors in DXO Optics Pro under a specific color profile. The JPEG rendering if you were to use a camera's very own processor can yield different results depending on the camera model... But when it comes to professionals shooting in RAW and then post-processing, the lens is perfectly capable of producing vibrant colors while being able to realistically depict human skin tones (crucial for wedding photographers).
*Sharpness - I was still rather new to photography when I took the plunge and purchased the original Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM Lens. I noticed that when I was shooting events, the lens would typically yield softer results under f4.0. While they were still extremely usable for professional standards, I was expecting a little better. At first I thought it was my technique, but it turned out that the lens wasn't as sharp as others had hoped wide-open. The Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM II takes care of this. Since a lot of my work is done at f2.8 (wide-open at maximum aperture), I noticed a dramatic improvement, especially with event photography. Even in portraits and modeling images that are softened, I still noticed that they looked better. So while the difference may not be so dramatic for softened images, it is extremely important for event photography. This improvement at wide apertures will finally seal all the weaknesses that were exhibited by the previous Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM Lens. I'm not saying that the original lens is bad in any way, but looking backwards now, I see that the wide-open performance was its greatest weakness. For my people photography work, the Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM II is extremely sharp when being used wide-open in the center. While I do not care so much for the corners, I did test them, and the lens does show excellent performance across the entire frame, when being tested on a Canon EOS 5D Mk II which I currently use as my main camera. So whether you are shooting people or landscapes (or any other type of subject that requires adequate sharpness in the corners), the Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM II will provide stellar performance all the way from f2.8, and will only get sharper as you close the aperture.
*Bokeh - The greatest advantage to using an f2.8 versus f4.0 variant of the 70-200mm series lenses is that you will get softer and creamier looking bokeh. Bokeh is the blurring of the background when the subject being photographed is isolated. Good bokeh is when the small circles are smoothly rounded, harsh bokeh is when there are rough edges. At f2.8, the lens helps create dreamy smooth bokeh. The bokeh is made up of perfectly rounded circles, so that there is no harshness in it. Cheaper lenses will produce a more "jagged" looking bokeh. When using the lens wide-open at 200mm, you will get the best level of subject isolation and bokeh. This is what you pay for, and the Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM II in no way disappoints. I have taken many portraits and modeling shots with amazing results that are complimented tremendously. Without a doubt, this lens helps to create phenomenal portraits, and if you shoot portraits a lot, it is worth purchasing over the F4L variant due to the better quality bokeh that it can produce.
*Macro - The Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM II is not a dedicated macro lens, though at 200mm it can create decently close shots of objects at the minimum focusing distance. If you were to add extension tubes, you can decrease the minimum focusing distance and get marco-types of shots. I do not do this personally, however, if you are looking at serious marco photography, I would recommend a dedicated macro lens.
*Teleconverter - When I used the original Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM Lens with the Canon Extender EF 2x II, I found the results to be mediocre, and barely acceptable for any professional work. Color saturation remained very good while sharpness and contrast took a hit. I still found sharpness to be acceptable when using the lens at f8.0. On the contrary, the Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM II exhibits significantly improved performance with the teleconverter. I have had very acceptable results wide-open at f5.6 (the 2x teleconverter gives it a two f-stop penalty, while a 1.4x teleconverter gives it a one f-stop penalty giving it a maximum f4.0 aperture). When stopped down, the results improve. The sharpness and contrast undoubtedly take a hit, but this can be corrected in post-processing. Combining the lens with a 2x teleconverter is a way to get a super-zoom lens out of 70-200mm you already own, and while it's not going to have the same level of optical quality as the Canon EF 100-400mm F4.5-5.6L IS USM, it is actually much better than that of the previous lens combined with the same teleconverter. You may or may not get professional quality results, but I was actually satisfied with some images I had with a telecoverter mounted. If you use a 1.4x teleconverter, you will achieve better quality results, which should definitely be acceptable for professional work. The teleconverters work seamlessly, where the EXIF data is relayed. If you are using RAW conversion software that utilizes specific lens modules, such as DXO Optics Pro, then you will be out of luck since it will be read as a "140-400mm" lens.
--The Bad Stuff--
No lens is perfect, but the Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM II is pretty close!
*Sharpness - The original Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM Lens was lacking in this department when shooting from the f2.8 to f4.0 apertures. The lens was very sharp at f4.0 and performed extremely well after. The Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM II addresses and seals this weakness. The lens is sharp from f2.8 across the entire frame.
*Chromatic Aberration (CA) - This is the fringing of colors. This is a defect. CA makes images seem softer due to the color fringing. Chromatic aberration is minimal and very well-controlled in this lens. I am able to get rid of it when using the specific lens module in DXO Optics Pro. Though if you are shooting straight JPEG, it should be a non-issue.
*Distortion - In order to test for distortion, I looked at the image before and after in DXO Optics. There is virtually no barrel distortion with this lens. Therefore, if you are shooting straight JPEG, this should also not be an issue.
*Vignetting - Vignetting is the darker corners that you see at the edges of the frame. There is no visible vignetting present in the photos that I have taken on the Canon EOS 5D Mk II.
*Lens Flare - Lens flare is very well-controlled. The hood does a very good job. I have only received lens flare when pointing the lens directly into sunlight or bright lights, which should produce flare in any lens. I would also like to note that I am always using a 77mm B+W MRC 010 filter on the lens, and despite the extra lens element due to the filter, there are still no apparent flare problems.
Overall, the Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM II builds on the one big weakness that the original Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM Lens had, which was the softer results at wide apertures. The Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM II has excellent sharpness and other characteristics, which allow it to provide the highest quality results for any professional.
Unlike the previous Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM Lens, the Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM II has some more competition that is quite competent. Here is a run through of some other lessons that you may consider:
*Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM Lens - This is the predecessor to the Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM II. If you purchase it on eBay second hand, it will be hundreds of dollars cheaper. While the lenses look nearly identical, there is a significant difference when it comes to optical performance. The new lens performs better wide-open producing sharper results and more contrast. If you are doing primarily portraiture where you soften images anyhow, the Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM Lens might not be a bad idea since you're not looking for tack sharp photos there. On the other hand, if you are shooting many events such as weddings and find yourself in low ambient light conditions, then the Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM II will give you much better optical performance at the wide apertures. The original lens is good, but the new one is just that much better. They are both good though, however, I am happy that I switched to the Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM II.
*Canon EF 70-200mm F4L IS USM - Is this really a competitor? I don't know, it's for you to decide. The F4L variant provides superb image quality, just one stop smaller. Therefore, the lens will perform worse in low-light conditions and will not produce the same level of background blur. Therefore, if you are primarily shooting events where you shoot at f4.0 or narrower, then this might be a good choice, especially since it's lighter. Otherwise, if you are shooting portraits, you will want the Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM II. Spend the extra money, it's worth it for the results! So if you need f2.8, the Canon EF 70-200mm F4L IS USM is not a competitor. If you don't need f2.8, then this might be an excellent lens choice.
*Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 APO EX DG HSM OS FLD - At $1,399, this lens is a bargain! I have not used it, but have read reviews, and apparently it does not quite stack up to the Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM II optically. The wide-open performance is supposed to be weaker. Therefore, if you are treating your lens as an investment, and despite my love for Sigma EX lenses, I'd say that the Canon will be the way to go. The Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM Lens might also be a good option in this case if you do not want to drop $2,499.
*Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 AF APO EX DG OS HSM - This lens was a dream come true for many photographers, since it is so unique. While I was interested in its predecessor, I absolutely needed image stabilization. Now the lens has it, and is priced significantly cheaper than any 300mm f2.8 prime lens. When comparing it to the Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM II, you are getting a longer lens (giving up the wide end) with a 4-stop image stabilizer and lots of awesome lens elements to give a strong competitor. It is priced higher at $3,199, but still easily in the reach of photographers who are also dishing out $2,499 for the Canon. While the Sigma looks perfect on paper, in the field it might have its own issues. The lens weighs twice as much as the Canon! The Canon can already tire me out after a long while of use. Now imagine carrying two of them mounted to the same camera. Therefore, the Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 AF APO EX DG OS HSM might simply be too heavy for some photographers to use. When shooting portraits or events, I do not use monopods or tripods, so the weight might make using it prohibitive. Otherwise, it is supposed to produce wonderful results, and is definitely worth looking into.
The Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM II was anticipated by many photographers to succeed the previous Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM Lens which was the bread and butter for many professionals. The lens was received with great excitement. Was the excitement warranted? By all means yes! The Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM II builds upon the weaknesses that the predecessor has, and positions itself as a much better lens. The lens is extremely well suited for professional event or portrait photographers. The lens produces extraordinarily good results wide-open at f2.8 across the entire frame, and only gets better from there. While the sharpness and contrast are excellent, then lens also tends to lack many optical flaws. Therefore, if you are a photographer that shoots JPEGs, then this lens should yield excellent results straight out of the camera. Otherwise, when using a RAW converter, you can make some great magic. The lens still has switches that can easily be moved accidentally, so take care in that regard. Another weakness is that there is now more competition against it, from both Canon with the original lens and some of Sigma's new offerings. Sigma's newest 70-200mm, based on reviews, does not maintain the same level of performance as the Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM II. On the contrary, the Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 AF APO EX DG OS HSM is very good, but the size and weight (and even price) might be an issue. Is the Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM II worth purchasing over the original lens second-hand? I think so. The lens will provide you with the absolute highest quality from the maximum aperture. You pay good money to have a zoom lens with an f2.8 maximum aperture, so why not get the best results? Canon has a real winner here, and I know that a lot of professional portrait, wedding, and even photographers are happy. I know there are also a lot of photographers who are happy with the Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM Lens. But you know what, if they buy the Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM II, then they will be just that much happier!
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