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Photography Question 
Mikelin VanDyck

The Best Canon 70-200mm Lens?

I am torn between the Canon 70-20mm IS f/2.8 or the IS f/4. I have talked to people who have shot with both and, of course, the answers vary. Just yesterday, one person told me that he felt the f/4 took sharper images than the f/2.8. I mainly shoot portraits and nature/travel photos. Needless to say, I do not want to buy one of the lenses and regret not getting the other. Your opinions would be most appreciated!
Thank you.

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7/18/2010 7:25:22 AM

Carlton Ward
BetterPhoto Member Since: 12/13/2005
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  Camera girl
Camera girl
Canon EOS 5D Mark II, f/4.5 @ 150 mm, 1/125, ISO 800, Flash (70-200mm f/2.8L IS)
© Carlton Ward
Canon EOS 5D Mark ...
Hello Mikelin,
I had the 70-200 f/4 (non-IS version), and it is a sharp lens and one of the best bargains around for $600. The f/4 IS and the f/2.8 non-IS are in the $1200 range, and the 2.8 with IS is about $1900. I bought the 2.8 IS when I sold my f/4 version and do not regret that decision as the 2.8 IS is highly regarded and many pros who shoot portraits for a living use this lens. They now have a newer 2.8 IS II for about $2500. I have not tried this lens and doubt that I will upgrade as I am very happy with my lens.
My opinion is that you can't beat fast glass (lenses with a wide maximum aperture), and 2.8 is faster than f/4. Plus, you get better performance in low light and a shallower DOF when you want it. I just shot a bunch of low light and portrait photos at a music festival and used the 70-200 f/2.8 IS for 80% of my shots.
Good Luck.

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7/19/2010 8:04:21 PM

Ken Smith
BetterPhoto Member Since: 6/11/2005
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  I have the f4 version and the 100-400mm which I really like. The f4's quality is fine and it's lighter weight than the f2.8. If you think you'll be shooting in low light, then the 2.8 would help. It really comes down to money. If money isn't an issue, then get the 2.8. But you might double-check the 100-400mm L lens, especially if you shoot wildlife. Or get them both ... the cheaper f4 70-200 (portraits) and the 100-400mm. :-)

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7/19/2010 9:18:42 PM

Lynn R. Powers   First of all, unless there is a defect from the factory, all of the Canon 70-200 lenses are great. The "plain Jane" version, f4 USM, is one of the best deals in the lens world.
I had the f2.8 IS and, although a great lens, it is better suited for the full frame cameras than it is with the cropped cameras - i.e., Rebel series, xxD and 7D, because it balances better. There is a lot of weight up front and it can become awkward to use especially for car racing where panning is involved.
The f2.8 versions are heavy.
According to one review, the f4 IS is the sharpest of the four lenses. That is, until the MarkII version came out. I saw a photo taken with that lens with a 1DS MarkIII and it was amazing. With a cropped camera, I doubt if you would be able to tell much difference.
I no longer own a 5D but am using a 40D with the f4 IS and I can carry this around all day without getting tired. It balances very nicely on this camera. The f2.8 versions will focus a bit faster in very dim light. If the light is that dim, I will usually manual focus my camera and have it on a tripod anyway.
I do the same type shooting as you do and when I checked the EXIF data I had only used f3.5 four times in a year with the f2.8 version with the remaining being at a smaller f stop. However, if you have a full frame camera and the money, I would recommend the MarkII version.

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7/20/2010 9:55:37 AM

Mikelin VanDyck   Thank you all so much. Your advice and opinions have been very helpful!


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7/20/2010 5:09:37 PM

Carlton Ward
BetterPhoto Member Since: 12/13/2005
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  I would like to second Ken's recommendation for the Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS lens - it is one of my very favorites and even though a bit of a light hog, I have captured some incredible & tack sharp images. After 6 years it is still one of the lenses I never leave home without.

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7/20/2010 8:06:31 PM

Peter K. Burian
BetterPhoto Member Since: 4/8/2004
  I agree that the 100-400mm lens is very versatile but apparently some models of this lens are better than others.
My friend Ellen Anon has one for bird photography, and she is nowhere near as satisfied as Carlton is with his 100-400mm lens.
According to

The Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 USM L IS is a very good performer with few weaknesses … that’s assuming you get a good sample – the first tested sample was mediocre whereas the second one performed very fine.

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8/2/2010 9:15:31 AM

Mikelin VanDyck   Thank you for this additional insight.


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8/2/2010 9:21:38 AM

Bunny Snow
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/16/2004
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  I assume weight is not a problem with you, as it was with me. Needing a total knee replacement due to injury, when I made the decision of which lens to purchase, I also looked at the weight of the lens.

The 70-200mm f4L costs $649 and weighs 1.56 lbs. While the 70-200mm f2.8L IS 3.2 lb without tripod collar; 3.5 lb with tripod collar, and the price is closer to $2,000 ($1,899.00).

Hence, when a good traveling lens came in my mind, the weight of carrying the lens as well as the body and a tripod all figured into the picture.

However, even with that in mind, there were times when I wished I had the f2.8L lens for lower light photography because tripods are not acceptable inside many cathedrals in Europe, as I learned after the fact.

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8/31/2010 2:33:59 PM

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