***Older review... still holds true today***
There are times when you need a little extra reach, and a 200mm lens can do the trick. I’ve owned the Canon 70-200L IS F/2.8 MK1, and it was a great lens. This lens, at 200mm is sharper than my 70-200L was. If you are in the market for a nice telephoto lens, and you want something very close in performance to the Canon 135L but with more reach, then you should continue reading this review.
After purchasing the Canon 5d MK2 camera I ran into a situation where I was having troubles trying to get the most out of my zoom lenses. The Canon 70-200L F/2.8 IS MK1 lens is a great lens, and it served me well. On the 5D classic, I never had an issue with the camera/lens combo. Moving to the 5d2 I wasn’t comfortable trying to micro adjust my camera to the lens somewhere in the middle of what I thought might be acceptable. I just couldn’t trust it. This isn’t to say 5D2 owners with zooms have had the same experiences I’ve had with my camera, or we would all be shooting primes. I’m just stating I lost my appeal for zoom lenses on my 5D2.
I decided to sell the 70-200L and I wasn’t sure if buying the 200L F/2.8 was going to be a good move or not? I own the Canon 135L and it’s a stellar lens and I thought 135mm was more than enough range to keep me happy. Well, I found myself wanting a little more reach. Like most of you, I researched the net, read the reviews and looked at some sample photos and charts. Which is essentially what I’m posting, just with my thoughts about how the lens has performed.
Charts… they serve a purpose. If you are a charts person, fantastic! I’m not one. I want to see how the lens performs first hand. How is the color, the contrast, is it sharp and how fast is the focus. How loud is the lens. You would be surprised at the noise some lenses produce.
The only time I’ve used charts would be a focus chart. Each lens I purchase I use Lens Align Pro to adjust the camera, by micro adjustment settings, to the lens. This takes all the guess work out of wondering if the lens is performing as it should when it comes to focus issues.
I took the leap and instead of buying a Canon 1.4x teleconverter to turn my Canon 135L into a 189mm lens, I purchased the Canon 200L F/2.8 instead. Which, by the way, can use Canon’s teleconverters to extend the reach.
It’s not much bigger than the Canon 135L. It’s very well built as you should expect the Canon “L” series lenses to be. The weight of the lens isn’t bad at all. I think it balances very well with the 5D2 and a battery grip. The one thing I like about my particular lens lineup is all of them take filters at 72mm. This saves me money in the log run as I do not have to buy multiple filters for different lenses.
Speed/focusing. When shifting from close subjects, the lens has a minimum focusing distance of about 5ft, to far subjects the lens is very quick. I think this would be a dream setup on any of the Canon cameras geared for fast moving subjects. I used it recently with the splash dog's event. It’s a quick lens, not as fast as the Canon 200mm F/2.0 L IS and if you have $6K to invest, this might be the lens of your choice. If not, the Canon 200L F/2.8 is very reasonably priced for such a quality lens.
Color/Contrast/Sharpness. The colors/contrast are right up there with the Canon 135L. Love the look this lens has for portraits. It is very sharp wide open and only gets better stopped down. You get nice compression from the lens which in most cases is very flattering in portraits.
Here is a 100% crop from a portrait session. You can see the lens is sharp and shows a lot of detail.
Both images were shot F/8.0 for head shots. Post processing was an import to Lightroom, tonal/exposure adjustments, sharpening set to 55 then exported to what you see here.
Here’s a shot of a burrowing owl at F/4.0 same post work as mentioned above.
And to see how the lens handles colors and how it destroys backgrounds (in a good way), here is a shot you might enjoy. Shot at F/3.2...
I’ve found the lens to be a great replacement for my 70-200L zoom. Yes… I’ve lost 70-199mm’s in the process…and image stabilization… but.. my feet now provide me with all my zooming needs, and a monopod lends a had when needed.
Not to get in a prime vs. zoom debate. For my shooting style, I’ve found primes have made me a better photographer. I have to move around more, and by doing so, my compositions change, and I see things I might not have seen just standing in one place with a zoom. Don’t get me wrong, I do love the flexibility of a zoom. But…for me… it was the right move.
This is a winner of a lens for the money you will invest. Very solid performer! Easy to hand hold, super sharp wide open. The colors are great, and you won’t get tired holding it all day long like the big 200mm’s out there. It’s black and small, so it doesn’t draw a lot of attention.
If you are on the fence, think about renting one first to see what you think. It doesn’t have image stabilization like the big 200’s, so you need to pay a little more attention to your shutter speeds in low light situations. This is where the tripod collar comes into play. I use mine on a monopod a lot. It keeps things very steady… which helps keep the images sharp.
If I were to complain about the lens, it wouldn’t be the lens, it would be the price of the tripod collar which is sold separately. It’s $140… not cheap! Useful for sure, but an extra expense if you feel you need it.
All in all… very happy to have this lens in my collection. It’s a great tool! I think if you give it a try, you will fall in love with it.
If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to post them below. I’d be happy to chat with you.