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Canon EF 70-200 F4L - Review

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Thread started 30 Aug 2004 (Monday) 04:12   
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RichardtheSane
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OK, as some of you will know I recieved this lens yesterday after a small battle with UPS. While the lens is still fresh and new I decided to post my first impressions of it.

Why did I choose the lens
I had identified a need for a lens in that range. I have recently started doing some pet (mainly doag at the moment) photography and I was finding 28-75 a bit on the short side and 100-400 a bit on the long side. So from that you can see why I chose a 70-200 lens.
My next dilemma was which 70-200 lens.
This is where I though about usability, I would like a lens that is small enough and light enough to carry for extended periods, and that is comfortable with out without the battery grip. I take my 10D everywhere (almost) and I prefer to have a lenger lens with me.

Based on this I chose the EF 70-200 F4 L

First Impressions

Packaging was typical L quality, even the box felt like it was good quality! The lens was well packaged inside, so I was happy that despite a trip over the atlantic that all would be well. I let the lens warm up a little as it had been sat in a cold UPS van overnight, opportunity to have a flick through the booklet. Brief and too the point about sums it up, but that is good.

The lens is about the size and weight I expected. The weight of the lens feels about the same as the 10D body, and I would say half the weight of the 100-400L. And also being a significant amount smaller than the 100-400L it has already met two of my criteria for buying it.

On the 10D it feels good. I tried it without the grip first, and it didn't feel bad at all. The balance is fairly good, certainly much better than the 100-400L! Putting the grip on at it feels really at home. The balance is fantastic, I was able to carry the camera just with the hand strap for a while and when it came to shooting then I found the whole system to be very usable. This lens has just become my walkabout lens!

Performance is good too. For me AF speed was important, and I have found that it is about equal to my 100-400L which is great. The AF is quick and accurate, I am yet to fully test AI servo, todays experiment went wrong when our hound decided he didn't went to do his usual sprint circuit.

Sharpness and contrast are easily at the standard of my 100-400L, so very pleased there. Build quality is nice to. AF is silent, and the zoom and manual foocus are smooth.

One thing I have learned is IS makes for bad technique if you are not careful. I'm having to brush up on my technique to minimise camera shake, but for me that is a good thing!

So far, I can't believe such a good lens is such a good price, I do plan on adding more to this review as I use the lens more.

Post #1, Aug 30, 2004 04:12:51


If in doubt, I shut up...

Gear: 40D, 12-24mm AT-X Pro, 17-85mm, Sigma 150mm Macro Sigma 100-300 F4, 550EX, other stuff that probably helps me on my way.

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samdring
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RichardtheSane wrote:
Sharpness and contrast are easily at the standard of my 100-400L, so very pleased there.

Good report - thanks Richard - the quoted point impressed me - am looking ever more seriously at this lens.

Did you make much saving over the average £500 it costs in UK?

Post #2, Aug 30, 2004 04:29:53


Have a Care
Sam

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aam1234
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Received mine on Wed. and tried it on Thu. I agree to all you said.
The weight is nice, not too heavy not too light.

Post #3, Aug 30, 2004 04:33:54




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RichardtheSane
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Mine cost me about £440 imported from the states including shipping and import duties. But I recieved it quicker from B and H then a number of UK suppliers could have done it!

Post #4, Aug 30, 2004 04:33:59


If in doubt, I shut up...

Gear: 40D, 12-24mm AT-X Pro, 17-85mm, Sigma 150mm Macro Sigma 100-300 F4, 550EX, other stuff that probably helps me on my way.

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cmM
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banned

congrats on your purchase.
I might own one of these 70-200 at some point, but right now I need the longer 100-400 and a new body, so I guess it'll be a while... it never ends.

Post #5, Aug 30, 2004 08:00:09




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Belmondo
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I guess we're going to have to start calling you 'Richard Lindley'.

You're have correctly observed that a large part of the L experience is tactile. It has a lot to do with the feel, heft, finish, and overall quality you experience even before taking a single photograph. I never thought much about the quality of the boxes, but now that you mention it, I recall the resentment I felt when I had to cut holes in them to remove the UPC code for the rebates. :x :x

I'm enjoying your review, Richard. I look forward to more.

Post #6, Aug 30, 2004 08:04:08


I'm not short. I'm concentrated awesome!

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kiwimichael
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samdring wrote:
RichardtheSane wrote:
Sharpness and contrast are easily at the standard of my 100-400L, so very pleased there.

Good report - thanks Richard - the quoted point impressed me - am looking ever more seriously at this lens.

This is observation is also verified on the Photodo website http://www.photodo.com​/nav/prodindex.htmlexternal link

I'm very happy with the quality of my 7-200L f4.

Cheers
Michael

Post #7, Aug 30, 2004 12:26:21




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Sketcher
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Richard,

I enjoyed reading your review. The 70-200 f/4 was my first "L" and I regret having sold it. Such a light, sharp and solid lens. I completely agree that the balance of the f/4 & 10D w/grip is fantastic.

Looking forward to your continued review.

Post #8, Aug 30, 2004 13:15:42


It is what it is...

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roanjohn
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From somebody who had recently pruchased the 2.8 version, I just can't imagine letting go of my f4 version.

I LOVE IT SO MUCH!!! The weight and etc..........its the best.

CANON!!! Please come out with an IS version of this lens.

...........I am begging you!!!!

Ro1

Post #9, Aug 30, 2004 18:15:39




www.pbase.com/roanjohnexternal link

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Mitch
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The 70-200L f4 is fantastic.

About 4 months ago I was all set to plunk down $1,750 at Samy's in Costa Mesa for a 70-200L 2.8 IS. I had deliberated on it for the prior 6 months. I walked into Samy's, walked up to the counter and said "I'd like to buy the 70-200L 2.8 IS, but first can I try it on my 10D?" They said sure. They handed my the lens and then... BA BOOM! I said to myself "My God, this this monstrocity weighs a ton!" I knew right then and there that the 2.8 IS was way, way, way too heavy. I tried it on the 10D and it confirmed my apprehensions. It was in fact too, too heavy. The darn thing is so heavy that it increases hand shake significantly.

I told the counter guy that I really had to rethink this whole thing. Just out of curiousity, I asked him to show me the 70-200L f4...at 1/3 the cost of the 2.8. He handed it to me and my immediate reaction upon his placing it in my hand was ...mmmmmmm, that's much, much better. I took a few shots with it and I knew immediately that that was the feel I liked and wanted. No question about it. It feels like part of the camera. It' so light and solid feeling that I liked the fit and feel and the fact that I could hold the camera with that lens so much steadier than the 2.8 IS. I bought the f4.

Three weeks ago I had a wedding shoot at a very dimly lit restaurant in Fullerton, CA. The place was illuminated with 60 watt bulbs and Christmas tree lights and no windows. The B&G wanted me take a shot of them in a loft. I had to shoot from the opposite side of the room from another loft, about 50 feet away from the B&G. I set the 70-200L f4 at 200mm f4, put the 10D on ISO 400, set the shutter speed at 1/90, propped my left elbow on a bannister rail and held the lens with my left hand, set the 550EX on ETTL and took five of the best shots of the entire evening. Didn't need the 2.8 f-stop, didn't need the IS. I am 57 years old and my hands aren't as steady as 25 year old, but, man, that is one great lens. You couldn't sell me the 2.8 IS for the same price I paid for the f4. Actually, I rented the IS version once, took it to the wedding and never pulled it out to use it, it just didn't feel light enough to use.

By the way, I was a gymnast for 9 years and weigh the same in college as I do now, I have always stayed in shape by lifting weights since I was 22 and I can still do four hand stand pushups unassisted, so strength and balance are not an issue.

Post #10, Aug 30, 2004 20:05:14




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RichardtheSane
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[added to the bottom of the original review on suggestion of our esteemed and respected mod :)]

I've now had the lens for two weeks and have used it enough in that time to add a bit more to my review of it. I'll break it down into sub sections that indicate how I have been using it and I will also compare it to my 100-400L in each section.

Portability
I chose the F4 version of this lens based on two things. Price, and Portability. I was looking for a tele-zoom that I could easily sling in a bag over my shoulder and take everywhere. Over the past two weeks I have done just that and not had any comfort problems. I stopped doing this with my 100-400 because it is a lot of extra weight, and also if the bag should bang against anything there is more momentum to cause damage. The 70-200 F4 is half the weight of the 100-400L and so it doesn't hit as hard. I mention this because I am being realistic, I am careful with my gear but accidents do happen and a heavly lens is more likely to get damaged than a light one even in the best padded bags out there!

Usability
First thing I have notices about the 70-200 F4 is the fact that is feels less conspicous when you take it from the bag that my 100-400L. Sure, it is still white and sticks out like a sore thumb but in more public places I was getting less attention using it.
Now I mentioned the lens is half the weight of my 100-400L, but is is not too light at 3/4 of a kilo. This is a good think because when handholding a 200mm lens a bit of extra weight help keep it steady. Another point here is what I call 'Grab Shots' - the weight reduction had meant that I have nailed a couple of shots one handed (dog on lead in the other hand...) that I would not have achieved with my 100-400L.

The Shots

OK, I've waffled a bit about the lens, but what people really want to know is how it handles on the camera, image wise. I don't the measurebator stuff, I like to see how a lens works by gettin gout there and shooting stuff. I've done a bit of wildlife shooting and also photographed a gig in poor light this week, so I am going to use an example or two from those now I am used to the lens.

The outdoor shot (Wildlife and more to follow).
Below is an image I took of a swan. It is not a very good composition, but technically it is about spot on.

IMAGE: http://www.richardlindley.co.uk/images/swancrop.jpg

The shot was a quick point, focus & shoot shot so I spent very little time setting it up. I had the focus on the full range from 1.2m to infinity and used AI Servo. Auto Focus is really quick on this lens, I am confident that if I have the subject on the active focus point then focus will be correct quicker than I can think about it. Here I focused on the eye with the point 2 above centre in portrait.

The 100% crop below shows the sharpness of the lens, I developed the raw to a jpeg in C1 and then cropped from the jpeg and resized for web.

IMAGE: http://www.richardlindley.co.uk/images/swancrop1.jpg

Here's where the lens shines. I nailed the focus quickly so I was happy it was spot on. Look how sharp and contrasty that is. I really don't think I need say more except that quality is consitant with every shot I have taken with the lens. (Would it help if I setu up & posted a link to a gallery with full images an 100% crops of each image?)

So I am blown away by the perforamnce of the lens for outdoor nature shots. In two weeks time I will be shooting a dog show with it, so I'll update the review then.

The indoor shots (Punk Gig)

On friday night this week I took the lens to a punk gig in a local boat club event hall. The lighting was horrendous, the layout was dreadful, but the music was great.

The lens was also great, and performed admirably.

My biggest problem with concerts is AF, so normally I shoot manual focus (unless using the 50mm F1.8) as I know it will be reliable every time. With the 70-200 F4L I was able to use AF at all times, and it only hunted once which was impressive. I did a few shots without flash, but there was even too little light to gt a decent shutter speed with the50mm F1.8 @ ISO 1600... so 550Ex here.

I can't say much more, but the AF nailed it every time even in poor light. The clarity of the images is superb, and I didn't come away with the arm ache a 70-200 2.8 would have given me!

IMAGE: http://www.richardlindley.co.uk/images/singer.jpg

IMAGE: http://www.richardlindley.co.uk/images/bassist.jpg

IMAGE: http://www.richardlindley.co.uk/images/drummer.jpg

So two weeks down the line and the lens has been used as the opposite ends of the spectum, and so far no weaknesses in either. I have been impressed with AF, sharpness and usability.

In fact the lens is a JOY to use. A perfect compromise between a lightweight lens and a quality L series zoom. My only gripe is the tripod ring costs a bloody fortune!

I know the review is not as long as some, so I hope it is all useful.

Post #11, Sep 05, 2004 11:38:08


If in doubt, I shut up...

Gear: 40D, 12-24mm AT-X Pro, 17-85mm, Sigma 150mm Macro Sigma 100-300 F4, 550EX, other stuff that probably helps me on my way.

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elfyrulz
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wait!.. 70-200mm f/4 has an "IS"?? :shock:

Post #12, Sep 05, 2004 13:41:15




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RichardtheSane
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elfyrulz wrote:
wait!.. 70-200mm f/4 has an "IS"?? :shock:

No it doesn't ?! :shock:

I think you have read what I said wrong.

I am used to IS, and now I am using a lens that doesn't have it I am having to brush up on my hand holding technique.

Post #13, Sep 05, 2004 14:13:43


If in doubt, I shut up...

Gear: 40D, 12-24mm AT-X Pro, 17-85mm, Sigma 150mm Macro Sigma 100-300 F4, 550EX, other stuff that probably helps me on my way.

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Persian-Rice
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Congrats and great review. I have seen a couple head to heads of the 70-200 L' and the F4 seems to always come on top of the others when it comes to image quality............Oth​er then when you are using the 2.8 IS full zoom handheld.

I guess you have now added that it handles better too, and at the price, I think this might be Canons best value high quality lens...............

Cheers.

Post #14, Sep 05, 2004 15:22:23



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Savagelogic
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Persian-Rice wrote:
.......Other then when you are using the 2.8 IS full zoom handheld.

Are you saying that between the f/2.8 IS and the f/4, the 2.8 IS will handhold the best at 200mm? When I say "best" I mean getting the most usable sharp photos. I take it this is due to IS obviously?

I've only hand held the f/2.8 non-IS version very briefly, so my experience with it is very limited. What I'm really interested in is not how much the IS helps vs the f/2.8 non-IS version, but how much better is it vs the f/4 version which is much lighter. I really want to know which one will I get the best results out of shooting hand held at their respective max aperature. Any thoughts anyone?

Post #15, Sep 05, 2004 18:32:01




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