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Canon EF 70-200 f/4 L (non-IS) vs. Canon EF 70-210 f/3.5-4.5

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Thread started 12 Jun 2007 (Tuesday) 15:25   
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In2Photos
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*First let me start by saying that I have never done a head to head comparison before. I have read many, especially those by our own Lightrules, so I tried to follow what I saw on these reviews.

The following is a head to head comparison of two lenses:

EF 70-200 f/4 L USM (Approx. $529.95 new at the time of writing this review)
EF 70-210 f/3.5-4.5 USM (Approx. $165-$225 used depending on condition and included accessories)

Background

I first purchased the EF 70-210 around March of 2006 as my first telephoto. It has served me well over the past year, allowing me to learn some long lens technique and continually evolve in my photography. Lately though, I have been wanting something better. While the lens has produced some wonderful images I felt that it was limited in what it could achieve and as a result so was I. This led me to look at the EF 70-200 f/4 L and the EF 200 f/2.8 L. I chose the zoom for flexibility but have no doubts that the prime is a wonderful lens. At the time of this review I have only had the L for less than a week but can tell you that it is everything I was hoping for and more. When I announced that I would be geting this lens several people asked me to do this comparison, so here it is.

Initial Impressions and Build Quality

Since both lenses vary so much in price it is quite obvious that the consumer grade EF 70-210 is not built as well as the L. For starters the zoom ring grabs when rotated and this can lead missed opportunities. The lens has a plastic feel while the L has a nice solid metal feel. The two lenses are just about the same weight though, and have almost the same length when extended (see the images below). The EF 70-210 also has what is known as zoom creep. When you hold the lens upright it will zoom in or out with just a little movement. So when walking with this lens attached to your camera and your strap around your neck, don’t expect it to stay at 70mm. It will certainly creep to 210mm easily. The L does not have this problem as it has internal zooming, so it does not extend. Overall the L wins this category hands down.

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Post #1, Jun 12, 2007 15:25:08


Mike, The Keeper of the Archive

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In2Photos
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AF Speed and Accuracy

Since both lenses employ Canon’s ring type USM they are surprisingly close in this test. The L edges out slightly in accuracy and is overall less noisy but speed is about equal. Both are fast enough to keep up with moving targets and are quick to lock on to stationary objects as well.

Image Quality

Sharpness – As the images below show the L again wins in this category. From 70-135 it has an overall better sharpness than the EF 70-210, especially at wider apertures. But the EF 70-210 is still no slouch. I have many images taken with this lens that are extremely sharp which is why I was able to use it for a year before buying the L. At 200mm however the L really shines. When adding the Tamron 1.4x TC to both lenses I was surprised to find that the EF 70-210 held pretty tight to the L at apertures of f/8 and f/11.


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Post #2, Jun 12, 2007 15:25:43


Mike, The Keeper of the Archive

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In2Photos
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Sharpness (cont.)

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Post #3, Jun 12, 2007 15:26:05 as a reply to In2Photos's post 22 seconds earlier.


Mike, The Keeper of the Archive

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In2Photos
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Sharpness (cont.)

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Post #4, Jun 12, 2007 15:26:54 as a reply to In2Photos's post 49 seconds earlier.


Mike, The Keeper of the Archive

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In2Photos
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Color and Contrast – One of the first things I noticed about the L my first day using it was how much more vibrant the colors were and how much contrast the lens had. I initially thought that maybe I just had really good light that day. But after doing this review I found that the L is, once again, way better at rendering colors and contrast. You could see some of that in the sharpness test shots but it is also evident in the picture of the flower below. The pink is much more vibrant, as are the greens.

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Chromatic Aberrations – One of the flaws that I noticed with the EF 70-210 was the CA. I had to be careful with certain shots as high contrast areas would glow purple especially when using the Tamron 1.4x TC. It was usually correctable in post processing but I like to do as little PP as possible. The following pictures show the side of my daughter’s swing set against an afternoon sky. The L exhibits very little, if any, CA, while the EF 70-210 prominently displays its purple hue. It gradually decreases as you stop down but still never goes away.
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Post #5, Jun 12, 2007 15:27:18 as a reply to In2Photos's post 24 seconds earlier.


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In2Photos
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Bokeh – I am a firm believer that any lens can render a decent background. Once you know the limits of your lens you can choose your background to suit the strengths of the lens and hide its weaknesses. That being said I have always felt that the EF 70-210 produced decent Bokeh, even in the extremes. The L is even better. The shape of the L is slightly oval while the EF 70-210 maintains a more round shape, but the L evenly flows from the center to the edges with no real outline, unlike the EF 70-210 which has a slight outline. The result is a more pleasing look to the L.

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Conclusion

I am very excited to now be an owner of such a wonderful lens. I can’t wait to use it more and more and be blown away by the images captured with the lens. The EF 70-210 has been a wonderful lens too though. One of my favorite images was taken with this lens and it hangs proudly on my hallway wall. At less than $200 it is wonderful lens, one that, in my opinion, is hard to beat for its price. The L is a boetter lens is every category and well worth the additional $300. Both lenses seem to hold their value as well.

Post #6, Jun 12, 2007 15:27:42 as a reply to In2Photos's post 24 seconds earlier.


Mike, The Keeper of the Archive

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Buttkicker
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Hi
hope you enjoy your new lens
I had the 70-210 about 12 years ago... and let me tell you it cost a lot more than 200 bucks then
I remember having a disscusion with my wife about spending so much on 1 lens LOL

times have changed

however I got some really decent pictures with it... the biggest bugbear for me was the 'zoom creep' it used to be terrible for it
I recently saw one on ebay for about $60 which is a complete gift in my opinion
any way good post Mike
thanks for the reminding me about lenses of yester year
regards Chris

Post #7, Jun 12, 2007 16:02:13


5D3 - 1 Dmk2N - 40D - 24-70 F2.8 - 50mm 1.8mk2 - 85mm 1.8 - 70-200mm F2.8IS - - 200mm F1.8 - Canon 300mm F2.8IS - 400mm F5.6 - Nissin 866 - PW Flex/Mini - New Purchases pending :lol:
http://www.airteamimag​es.com/chris-procter_pid42.htmlexternal link

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mrfourcows
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thanks for the test. looks like i may be itching to pick up an L pretty soon too, even though i don't really shoot telephoto.. :rolleyes:

Post #8, Jun 12, 2007 20:32:47 as a reply to Buttkicker's post 4 hours earlier.


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joshandlauri
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mike, you work for detroit too??

Post #9, Jun 12, 2007 20:36:30


Canon 350/xt ,50mm 1.8, Sigma 17-70mm, Sigma 70-300mm DG Macro, Sigma Super Flash Canon Backpack, Ebay tubes (awesome), Cheap tripod and a Sony DSC-S40 and a lot of hope and dreams of more gear.

And in 3 Months either a Canon 70-200 f/4 or a 70-300 IS still debating.

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LightRules
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Well done, Mike! Nice comparo. Now tell us truthfully, how do your eyes feel right about now. :lol:

Post #10, Jun 13, 2007 00:34:46 as a reply to joshandlauri's post 3 hours earlier.




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In2Photos
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Buttkicker wrote in post #3366039external link
Hi
hope you enjoy your new lens
I had the 70-210 about 12 years ago... and let me tell you it cost a lot more than 200 bucks then
I remember having a disscusion with my wife about spending so much on 1 lens LOL

times have changed

however I got some really decent pictures with it... the biggest bugbear for me was the 'zoom creep' it used to be terrible for it
I recently saw one on ebay for about $60 which is a complete gift in my opinion
any way good post Mike
thanks for the reminding me about lenses of yester year
regards Chris

No prblem Chris. Glad you enjoyed it.

Jaetie wrote in post #3367244external link
thanks for the test. looks like i may be itching to pick up an L pretty soon too, even though i don't really shoot telephoto.. :rolleyes:

You are welcome.

joshandlauri wrote in post #3367274external link
mike, you work for detroit too??

Sorry, I don't think I follow. Could you elaborate?

LightRules wrote in post #3368410external link
Well done, Mike! Nice comparo. Now tell us truthfully, how do your eyes feel right about now. :lol:

Thanks Jojo. My eyes are fine.:rolleyes: :lol:

Post #11, Jun 13, 2007 07:05:14


Mike, The Keeper of the Archive

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goatee
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Nice comparison. Many years ago, I had a Canon 70-210mm lens - it had a bad push pull zoom, and focussing sounded like a couple of bees buzzing as hard as they could to slowly turn the focus ring! Image quality was fairly poor, but then it could equally have been my technique, or the cheapo film developers I used :).

Nice comparison- especially telling is the colour / contrast difference. This also has a massive effect on perception of sharpness, so not only does the lens capture more detail, but with more contrast as well.

Post #12, Jun 13, 2007 07:14:29


D300, 50mm f/1.8, 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5, 70-300mm f/3.5-5.6 VR, SB800
http://photography-on-the.net/forum/showthre​ad.php?t=552906flickrexternal link

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In2Photos
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goatee wrote in post #3369520external link
Nice comparison. Many years ago, I had a Canon 70-210mm lens - it had a bad push pull zoom, and focussing sounded like a couple of bees buzzing as hard as they could to slowly turn the focus ring! Image quality was fairly poor, but then it could equally have been my technique, or the cheapo film developers I used :).

Nice comparison- especially telling is the colour / contrast difference. This also has a massive effect on perception of sharpness, so not only does the lens capture more detail, but with more contrast as well.

Thanks. Was your version the f/4? I heard it was not as good as the f/3.5-4.5 version.

And yes, the color and contrast is a huge difference and plays on the sharpness of an image. I guess that is why I was happy with the 70-210 because I just added some saturation and some contrast to every image. Hopefully my PP time will be cut in half.

Post #13, Jun 13, 2007 11:51:44


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slipper
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thanks for the review.

Post #14, Jun 13, 2007 16:09:13




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goatee
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In2Photos wrote in post #3370816external link
Thanks. Was your version the f/4? I heard it was not as good as the f/3.5-4.5 version.

And yes, the color and contrast is a huge difference and plays on the sharpness of an image. I guess that is why I was happy with the 70-210 because I just added some saturation and some contrast to every image. Hopefully my PP time will be cut in half.

Yup - found some piccies at http://www.mir.com.my .../EF80200mmf28L/inde​x1.htmexternal link and yes, it was the f/4 one. Brings back bad memories ;).

Post #15, Jun 14, 2007 06:32:47


D300, 50mm f/1.8, 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5, 70-300mm f/3.5-5.6 VR, SB800
http://photography-on-the.net/forum/showthre​ad.php?t=552906flickrexternal link

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Canon EF 70-200 f/4 L (non-IS) vs. Canon EF 70-210 f/3.5-4.5
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