Canon 70-200 Lenses f2.8 f4
Canon's 70-200 lenses, and a Sigma thrown in for good measure. Not to scale.

Best 70-200mm Lenses for Canon : Comparison

Which 70-200 Lens Should I Buy? A Quick Guide

With the release of Canon’s latest offering, the EF 70-200 f2.8 USM IS II, Canon has at least 5 pro-quality lenses in the same focal length range. If you include the original EF 80-200 f2.8 from the 1990s (now discontinued, but still available used), the count is up to 6. And then there are the offerings from Sigma, Tamron, Tokina, and the other third parties. Tokina’s lens in this range, now over 8 years old, has fallen out of favor, and I’ll leave it out of this comparison. Tamron’s offering is very impressive optically, but does not currently have image stabilization. Sigma has recently announced the addition of a new, image stabilized version of their very popular lens (and we can hope for some minor improvements to image quality that is already very good).

As expected, with the differences in features, the prices run the gamut, from a very reasonable $700 to a very hefty $2500. The chart below should cover many of the details.

 Canon EF 70-200mm f/4 USM L ISCanon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 USM L ISCanon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 USM L IS IICanon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L USMSigma 70-200mm F2.8 EX DG APO Macro HSM IISigma 70-200mm F2.8 EX DG OS HSMTamron 70-200mm F/2.8 Di LD (IF) Macro
Price : Amazon$1130$1899$2069$1300$790$1699$769
Weight (g)760g (1 lb 10.8 oz.)1470g (3 lb 3.85 oz.)1490g (3 lb 4.55 oz.)1310g1369g1430g1150g (2lb 8.6oz)
Dimensions76 x 172mm3.4″ x 7.8″ / 86.2mm x 197mm3.5″ x 7.8″ / 88.8 x 199mm85x194mm86 x 1843.4" x 7.8" / 86.4 x 197.6 mm3.5" x 7.6" / 89.5 x 194.3mm
IS Performance4 f-stops3 f-stops4 f-stopsnonenone4 f-stopsnone
Motor TypeUSMUSMUSMUSMSilent WaveSilent WaveStandard Micro
Minimum Focal Distance1.2m1.3m1.2m1.5m1.8m1.4m.95m
Filter Size67mm77mm77mm77mm77mm77mm77mm
Lens HoodET-74 (Cost: $55)ET-86 (Cost: $65)ET-87 (Cost: $74.95)ET-83II (Cost: $65)IncludedIncludedIncluded
Tripod Collaryesyesyesyesyesyesyes
Internal Focusingyesyesyesyesyesyesyes
70mm RESOLUTION
MTF at Center and Edge at f8
2092 , 1993.5
(excellent)
1868, 1866.5
(excellent)
2394, 2376
(excellent)
1908.5 , 1990.5
(excellent)
2029 , 1972.5
(excellent)
70mm RESOLUTION
MTF at Center and Edge at f4
2090.5 , 2004.5
(excellent)
1917.5, 1827.5
(excellent, very good)
2530, 2437
(excellent)
1930.5 , 1922
(excellent)
1984 , 1813
(excellent, very good)
200mm RESOLUTION
MTF at Center and edge at f8
2084 , 2047
(excellent)
1880.5 , 1873.5
(excellent)
2319, 2298
(excellent)
1956 , 1812
(excellent, very good)
1772.5 , 1801
(very good)
200mm RESOLUTION
MTF at Center and edge at f4
2024 , 2018.5
(excellent)
1735.5 , 1682.5
(very good)
2499, 2318
(excellent)
1987.5 , 1894.5
(excellent)
1748.5 , 1635
(very good)

The MTF 50 numbers provided are all from independent tests (photozone.de) on similar equipment. I’ve refrained from providing MTF data for the other lenses (which are not currently tested at photozone.de) because MTF numbers are notoriously poor comparatives when testing conditions are not identical. Keep in mind that in each case, higher numbers are better, and the somewhat arbitrary cutoff point between the attribution of “excellent” and “very good” is 1850.

For what it’s worth, tests on the latest Canon lens (the mark II) have produced very impressive results. In addition to the improved IS, the image quality is now remarkably high; so high, in fact, that DPreviews give it a “best in class”, as it outperforms even the latest comparable Nikon lens.

How to Decide?

Determinations on what to buy will most likely come down to three factors. The most important is probably subject matter, followed by output type, and finally, your budget!

All of these lenses are designed for use in low light situations, with either a large maximum aperture, image stabilization, or both. Additionally, all of these lenses are designed for full-frame sensor cameras (such as the Canon 5D MarkII) but will also work on APS-C sensor cameras (like the Canon 7D, T2i, 50D, etc). With the APS-C models, you’ll benefit from the sweet-spot effect and get the least vignetting and most consistent sharpness from center to edge.

You can choose a lens with a slightly smaller aperture (f4) but with IS :

  • if you shoot in low light but photograph subjects that are not fast moving. An image stabilized f4 lens will give you the equivalent of 3 times more light (3 f-stops) in a situation for hand-holding, but since your shutter speeds will still be slower you won’t have action stopping power.  If an f2.8 lens were shooting at 1/250th of a second, an f4 would need to shoot at 1/125th. A non-IS 200mm lens should not be hand held below 1/250th sec, whereas an IS lens can safely be held at 1/30th in many cases.
  • if you primarily shoot scenics, architecture, etc, or shoot tripod mounted. If you use a tripod, then the matter of image stabilization is moot, and the aperture is much less important.
  • if you don’t shoot in low light. Canon’s f4 IS lens has amazing resolution and is relatively inexpensive, so unless you need the single extra f-stop, it’s a great choice.

You can buy a non-image stabilized lens :

  • if you primarily shoot from a tripod or monopod, or need to stop action. Sports photographers and wildlife photographers will not benefit as much from image stabilization because they’re required to shoot at high shutter speeds to stop the action, which already reduces the need for IS. Although IS does help sometimes, it can also sometimes make small adjustments in composition slow or otherwise awkward, too.
  • if you shoot with flash, or in bright light. If you shoot with flash but want to keep bright lights/windows etc in the background sharp, IS can be handy, though.

You should buy an f2.8 image stabilized lens :

  • if you can afford it. They are the most expensive, but give you the most flexibility.
  • if you frequently shoot in low light, especially with high ISO, and with relatively slow moving subjects. News and Wedding photography really require this type of flexibility, unless you’re a heavy flash user/strobist.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

What have your experiences been with these lenses? Although I’ve used most of them, I have not tested many of them thoroughly. I’d be interested to hear your stories and recommendations!

Editor-in-Chief

35
Leave A Comment

avatar
5000
15 Comment threads
20 Thread replies
2 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
15 Comment authors
KarenLucy ThompsonDanielDanielMike Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
Notify of
Karen
Guest
Karen

Help… I would like to start taking photographs of my grandsons who team rope and show cattle in livestock competitions. I have an older canon t2i camera. Would I need to upgrade my camera? What is a decent lens I could use?

Lucy Thompson
Guest

My very first venture into the L series lens. I just purchased the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 USM L IS II. Wow, it is a very heavy lens. I am trying to decide if I should return the lens and further research my options. I do both outdoor (Primarily) and indoor portraits and about 6 weddings a year (by choice). I really need and want to take my work to the next level. I especially need the new lens for low light wedding ceremony and venue situations. I take the close up ceremony shots from an unpredictable distance and my second takes the wide angle shots. (and not to add boo hoo comments, but I am a partially disabled photographer…stage 3 colon 10 year cancer survivor with permanent neuropathy, Walking alot helps me tremendously, however, with my camera and lens bag, due to the numerous abdominal surgeries, was just told if able have my customers carry heavy items.) So sorry for all the backstory, just added to help you with recommendations. I have a Canon 80D and almost purchased the Sigma 50-100mm F1.8 Art DC HSM Lens, but that too weighs 3 lbs. Help and thank you.

Daniel
Member
Daniel

Hi Matthew,

So here’s the situation. Hopefully you can assist.

I want to shoot sports and wildlife, I have about 4 years experience and I currently own an EF-S 18-200mm f3.5-5.6 with a Canon 7D and whilst this lens has taken some nice shots, in all honesty it’s really just not good enough. I other worlds I’m looking for a decent upgrade.

I have been told a prime lens such as the 400mm f5.6 would not be appropriate because its not very flexible. Would you agree with this for this?

Here are the zoom options and why I like/dislike them. My two biggest factors will be durability/weather resistance and focal length if this helps.

* 70-200 f2.8 IS I (With 1.4x or 2x extender) (Probably my favourite, however reading this review maybe not)
* 70-200 f2.8 (With 1.4x or 2x extender) ( No IS could be an issue and no weather resistance) (At least the price is good)
* 70-200 f2.8 IS II (With 1.4x or 2x extender)
* 70-200 f4 IS (With 1.4x or 2x extender)
* 70-300L (It has had good reviews, but the aperture is annoying for the price you pay)
* 100-400 I or II (Both great because of the range, but not good in low light and version one is a bit average)

Very importantly, how do these lens operate with the two Canon teleconverters?

In particular between the 70-200 and 100-400 which would you prefer? I’m been doing research for months and I starting to struggle. I find an excellent lens, but then find out the price, or like the look of a lens, but then it too short or poor light. I really need a hand.

Thanks in advance,

Daniel

msowsun
Member
msowsun

Why did you list the prices for the Canon hoods? (they are included for free with the lenses)

Daniel
Member
Daniel

Hi Neil,

If you purchase one of these lenses used it may not come with a lens hood.

Neil
Guest

I hired the 70-200mm f/2.8 IS II for a wedding and regretted it to an extent, for two reasons. Firstly, the depth of field was so shallow at f/2.8 that while I usually had the eyes of the main subject in shot, other important elements were out of focus, so I was often stopping down to about f/4 anyway. On a good body, the loss of a stop in aperture is easily compensated by adding a stop to ISO. Secondly, with two camera bodies on my person the whole day, the extra weight of the 70-200 was a real issue.

Next time I hire, I’m going for the 70-200mm f/4 IS to save the weight (and money), and remove the temptation of going too shallow in depth of field.

Foto nunta Brasov
Guest

I love this lens. I was torn between this and the 2.8, but ultimately I couldn’t convince myself to spend twice as much. Maybe sometime. Anyhow, this lens is sharp, AF is very fast, and its not really all that heavy. Very happy.

Rob
Guest
Rob

Hi I am really stuck and a little confused, I would like a canon 70-200 but not sure which one to choose? my camera is the 7D with the Tamron sp 70-300 f4-5.6 ” tamron is ok but too slow I feel”
I go to airshows twice a year for a total of about 7 days & shoot about 2500+ images of slow and extremely fast aircraft.
I am also going semi pro/pro for portrait & weddings.
I would like a lens that will accommodate both of these aspects of photography, I do not mind what it costs but I need to make sure that I do not make a costly mistake.
I keep leaning to the 70-200 F2.8 IS ii but still do not know if this is the right choice

Any help would be really appreciated

VicGuy
Guest
VicGuy

Matthew,

Between the 70-200 f4 L IS USM or f2.8 L II USM (no IS), which would be better?

Paul Petrut
Guest

Hello Matt and happy birthday ! Thank you for all the advices you gave me ! It means a lot to me ! You see more realistic then me ! In Romania everything happens quickly at wedding ! For the artisic session with the groom and the bride you have only half an hour ! Sometimes 45 minutes ! And very rare an hour ! Every body are stressed and you know well is hard to work under this condition ! I wish to do more and better but without time we can’t do always something special ! For next year i put the condition to receive more time otherwise i will refuse ! But you said something very right , it is better to have an assistant ! I hope i’m not boring you and maybe ,when you have the time , you will critic more of my photos ! I wish you a happy new year ,a better year with much more achievements ! Thank you for your time ! All the best…Paul

Paul Petrut
Guest

Hello Matt ! I just wanted to say hello and give you a link where you can see a little of my work,because you told me to post some pictures ! I want your critics ! It is important to me to know a pro sincere opinion ! Excuse me of i make mistakes in my writing ! Thank you , respect ..Paul http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v37dGzsU6rA&feature=youtube_gdata_player

Paul Petrut
Member

Thank you very much Matt ! You solved my dilemma ! I’m going to buy the tamron 70-200 and sail my 28-200 Sigma ! And on 50d ,i keep my Sigma 18-125, for now ! I will not hesitate to ask your advice again ! You will get tired of me !  … Thanks

Paul Petrut
Guest
Paul Petrut

hello ! My name is Paul, i’m a wedding photographer ! i have a canon eos 50d and a 5d mark 2 camera ! i want to buy a tele lens and and a wide lens ! i don’t have the money for a canon 70-200 at 2.8 and i have a dilemma to choose between a sigma or a tamron both at 70-200 at 2.8 . i’m interest in image quality not high speed focusing or silence ! Also i want to ask about the canon lens 24-105 at f4 and sigma 24-70 at 2.8 if is it ok ?! Thank you !

Luna
Guest
Luna

Sigma 70-200mm F2.8 EX DG APOMacro HSM II
To me the scores on the table look quite good. Would anyone buy this lens? I would like to buy the Canon F4 without IS form my needs, but with the price of the Sigma I can afford the 2.8. I do not know any lenses outside the normal 18-75mm, Sony I have.

Sasi Subramaniam
Guest
Sasi Subramaniam

Hi Matthew..
I’m new for photojournalism..And I going to buy a 70-200 f2.8 non IS lens(including Law lit works).I also like to do some micro photography..then I need to buy canon 100 2.8 micro.. can I do some micro works with 70-200 f2.8 lens? How is canon 70-200 f4 non IS + canon 100 2.8 micro.If I buy both lenses for canon 70-200 f2.8 price,I can do some indoor micro works with canon 100 2.8 micro.What is your Idea..I am not doing more indoor shootings.

NYArtboy
Guest

Hey Matthew, I am a first time reader of your blog and happy that I found you. I shoot a wide spectrum of photography at the moment as I started shooting professionally about 3 years ago. With budget concerns of starting up I have choose to use the Canon 50D with a mix of L and EF-S lenses. One of the lenses I am using is the EF 70-200 f2.8 USM lens (without IS). I primarily bought it for low light portraits and fast action however, because it has proven to be my ‘best’ lens in my arsenal I have been using it for my Wedding Portraits as well. However, when I use it for weddings I use it hand-held. Though most weddings are during the day, and I use anywhere from 1-3 580EX flashes for the formal shots, it really does get the job done. However the other day I was shooting some business portraits. The shots were done inside and I was mixing flash and sunlight to get the effect I wanted. However I had to shoot at almost 1/80th AND I did not have my tripod handy. (One of my stands I use for my flashes failed and I used a 580EX with the tripod mount with my tripod) I got less then exciting results. Most of the shots were blurry when magnified. Though they looked ok at smaller sizes (even in print). If this becomes a trend I assume you would recommend trading up to the IS but would my money be better spent on the f4 IS? Let me know what you think. I appreciate it greatly!!

More Stories
Review: Cecilia Messenger Camera Bag