First look at Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 and f/4 L series telephoto lenses
Canon unveils new EF 70-200mm F/2.8 IS III USM and f/4 II IS USM L Series telephoto lenses for enthusiast and professional photographers.
Canon’s 70-200mm telephoto lenses have long been a staple for the advanced enthusiast and professional photographer. They have a sterling reputation in the industry, with outstanding optical design, sheltered within a robust, weather sealed body.
The f/4 version is small and lightweight – popular with landscape photographers (portability) and anyone looking for that extra quality that L series offers. It has also proved to be a popular wildlife lens for anyone shooting on Canon APS-C sensors, such as the Canon EOS 80D.
The f/2.8 offers extra low light performance, and impressive bokeh – fantastic for event photography and portraits.
While they’ve been going steady, Canon have decided it’s time to update – the current f/4 was released in 2006, and the f/2.8 (mk ii) in 2010. We’ve got our hands on some pre-production versions – we’re not allowed to share any pictures taken with it (although you can find plenty on Youtube, if you’re curious), but here are our first impressions.
CANON EF 70-200MM F/4 L IS II USM LENS – WHAT’S NEW?
Improved Image stabilisation
Let’s start with the big one – Canon have improved the Image Stabilisation from 3 to 5 stops of correction. This will allow more flexibility for taking sharp shots without a tripod in low light – allowing you to boost your shutter speeds when you otherwise wouldn’t be able to.
The f/4 now has a third IS mode option on the exterior of the lens (one of the few physical changes in appearance):
1. Mode 1 – for still subjects
2. Mode 2 – for panning
3. Mode 3 (new) – erratic movement tracking
The new erratic movement tracking will no doubt be handy when shooting subjects with unpredictable movement – wildlife and live performers spring to mind.
Operational noise has been reduced on the IS – this will be music to the ears of gig and event photographers everywhere.
Minimum Focus Distance
Minimum Focus Distance has been improved, from 1.2 to 1 metre. A significant improvement, offering extra flexibility if you are shooting at close quarters.
New Super Spectra & Flourine coatings
So the layout, distribution and physical glass elements themselves appear to be the same, so what do the new coatings offer?
The Super Spectra Coating is designed to reduce flare and ghosting – particularly in heavily back-lit situations. Air Sphere Coating has been added to the latter optical elements to reduce reflections.
A new Flourine coating on the front and rear glass elements enhance lens durability – specifically helping moisture droplets to run off the lens, and making grease easier to remove (even the most diligent photographer’s fingerprints are greasy, whether you like it or not!)
CANON EF 70-200MM F/2.8 L IS III USM LENS – WHAT’S NEW?
The f/2.8 is so highly regarded that when the announcement was made, we wondered how Canon would look to improve on the Mark II. The changes are marginal, so we suggest you view this more as a refinement of a winning formula, rather than a re-write of the rule book.
The f/2.8 features the same new coatings as the f/4 – so there is the reduced ghosting and flare, and the fluorine coatings still offer that extra robustness.
The image stabilisation has actually dropped from 4 effective stops to 3.5 – we’re not quite sure why this is. The lens itself is also a new shade of white, although even side-by-side with the mark ii, we struggled to notice (or be fussed) about this.
We know they look the same – but how about handling? The focus rings are marginally more comfortable, but other than this they handle much the same.
We still love that they both feature an ‘internal zoom’ – so the barrel does not extend if you point the lens down. And the build quality feels superb still.
Playing about with both these lenses together certainly offers a real appreciation of how small and light the f/4 version is compared to the f/2.8.
Performance – Autofocus
We’ve not offered an in-depth review here – for a start we had pre-production models and cannot show you photos. But we did take both lenses and test the autofocus locking, tracking and panning capabilities against a moving BMX.
Both lived up to the high expectations we had –tracking even when shooting through foreground objects (we were in a meadow with a path in it, shooting through foreground vegetation).
Portrait shooting and isolated close-up shots of flowers produced crisp results with smooth bokeh backgrounds that you would expect.
So our verdict after our first play?
The f/4 version clearly has more noticeable improvements, whereas the f/2.8 should be considered more of a refresh of a winning formulae. Our hands-on play was limited, but both lenses met our (high) expectations.
Anecdotally (Youtube, of course!), we’ve seen claims that both lenses offer higher resolution than their predecessors. This could be explained if Canon took the same approach as they did with the EF 11-24mm f/4L USM – the lens was optimised for performance on high-resolution cameras, such as the Canon 5DS. However, this is anecdotal, so please don’t take it as fact!