I don't know why I never got around top putting up a review.. I guess theres' not much else to add to this legend. Better late than never.
pros: The "HOLY GRAIL" Optically this lens stands alone. Don't question the myth, it's all true.
Cons: Niche lens, heavy, cumbersome, with limited application. There are far easier to deploy lenses whose compromises look very good in comparison. If you think you need this optic, first try the 135mm f/2L
I purchased the 200mm f/1.8 "Holy Grail" of Canon lenses under a mistaken assumption.
I shoot wildlife primarily, but also shoot a lot of indoor performance/events in the Theatre I work in.
Low light events, dance, ballet, fashion shows.
My experience with the 70-200mm f/2.8 told me that 200mm was the absolute longest focal length I'd ever need, and that f.2,8 was still too slow often enough.
It was with this in mind that I began the search for the Holy Grail.
The 200mm f/1.8L is obviously legendary.
It took me no time to realize the reputation is warranted.
Upon arrival, I was however shocked at the size. A the time I was shooting my wildlife primarily with a Sigma 500mm f/4.5 EX HSM. This 200mm is nearly the same weight and has the same diameter front element.
i.e.: it's the size of a sawed off 500mm!
But oh what images!
No lens I had used is this sharp wide open!
Later I'd be shooting the EF 500mm f/4L IS as my main gun, and found that this amazing detail and clarity is the hallmark of the Canon Big Guns.
But the 200mm is still special, it's light gathering ability is just huge!
Removed from the camera, just looking through the bare lens, one can see details in the tiny image that you will not see in other lenses.
And that razor thin depth of field!
Wide open we are talking small fractions of an inch!
It is this hyper thin DOF that is the lenses hallmark , and contributes to the "3D" look we see in the photos. The area in focus leaps off of the page, leaps from the areas out of focus...
Laying on of Hands:
Ergonomically, I like the lenses controls.
Canon did a redesign of there basic lay out for the big primes with the introduction of the 300mm f.2.8L IS, which they have applied to all of the later IS Super tele primes.
In using the 200mm, I feel they made some errors.
The twist ring for the focus preset return is superior to the 4 little buttons.
The lens collar/tripod foot is mounted towards the front of the lens, creating a much better balance on the collar, allowing easier smoother turning than we get on the current crop of super teles.
SIGMA and Noink also use this forward mount and it is superior.
AF is a little shy of the newer generation like the 500mm f/4L IS and the 300mm f/2.8L IS, but very fast, and accurate.
The images I have taken with this lens are nothing short of amazing. If I do my job, the optic will always show us what it’s made of.
The Fisher King
The downside? Back to my opening story, I thought I’d be using it for venue shooting.
Well, it’s not been the perfect lens I thought it would be. From a practicality standpoint, it’s bordering on ridiculous to use for the purpose I had envisioned. I later got a 135mm f/2L, and frankly this was the lens I needed.
Swinging a huge white 6+ pound lens around back stage and during rehearsals is limiting.
Hand held is nearly out of the question at this weight for any duration.
The 135mm was much more suited to the task, used alongside a 70-200mm f/2.8L IS, and either a 28mm f/1.8 prime or the 24-70mmm L zoom I have much more flexibility and more opportunity to get the shot.
The point? people often mention this is a niche lens, and that it’s applications are rather specific. This really is true.
I have ended up using it more often for wildlife. Lacking the reach of the 500mm I use primarily, it is very limited in that application as well. But there are times it’s length and light gathering are perfect.
If you have the need for the specific applications where this lens excels, there is no better option. If your seeking the Holy Grail, than search no further, this lens is it.
Just be advised that as a tool this is a tight fitting wrench, it’s not an adjustable “do all”.
For samples I’ll show you first two I got from it in the theatre, (I need to up some larger copies and crops, these really are too small)
Next, here is a series of a hunting Great Blue Heron I took a few years back.
This shows the overall image quality quite well, detail sharpness and color quality;
Here you can see the razor thin depth of field, look at the sand, what parts of the fish are in sharp focus, what is out..
Some more with 100% crops from the series.;
The whole series can be seen here;