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The best Canon 70 - 200 lens reviewed and compared

Updated on April 14, 2013

Which Canon 70 - 200 lens should you buy?

The 70 - 200 zoom lens is considered to be the most useful be many photographers and as such, zoom lenses of this focal length are very popular. 70 - 200 lenses are very versatile and can be used for all types of photography including portraiture, sport, journalism, travel and for general walkabout photography.

If you want a Canon made 70 - 200 lens for your Canon digital SLR camera there are effectively four different variants available to buy. But, which one is best? Which one should you buy? For some advice please carry on reading

Canon 70mm - 200mm f2.8L IS USM Lens

The Canon 70 - 200 f2.8L IS USM is the top of the range of Canon's 70 - 200 zoom lenses. Boasting a wide maximum 2.8 aperture as well as image stabilisation technology this lens helps to ensure you don't get blurry images as a result of camera shake. The image stabilisation will give you a four stop advantage, which is simply awesome.

The image quality of this lens is simply superb with sharpness from the centre of the frame all the way to the sides with minimal barrel distortion or vignetting.

This lens is a professional grade lens, which means it is tough, durable and weather sealed so you can use it outdoors in all seasons and all weather conditions, although you will still need to use a lens jacket in extreme conditions.

The Canon 70 - 200 f2.8L IS USM lens is a heavy beast compared to the other Canon 70 - 200 lenses, and this is its biggest downfall. That said if you are used to using long zoom lenses, i.e. 300mm plus, you shouldn't have too many problems. Alternatively, you can use a tripod or monopod. Just remember to use a tripod collar to ensure the lens remains balanced.

The wide maximum aperture and image stabilisation technology makes this an excellent lens for sports photography and bird photography where it is essential to keep the shutter speed up to freeze the action.

As you'd expect the Canon 70 - 200 f2.8L IS USM lens isn't cheap but being the top of the range you can't really expect it to be. With such a hefty price tag many people are put off by this lens as they can't justify the cost, however if you do have the budget available this is the lens to buy.

Hands on review of the Canon 70 - 200 F2.8L IS USM

If you want to see what the Canon 70mm - 200mm F2.8L IS USM lens is capable of check out the following review, courtesy of Youtube.

Canon 70mm – 200mm f2.8L USM Lens

The Canon 70 - 200 f2.8L USM lens doesn't have the image stabilisation feature, so you can't benefit from the four stop advantage. This lens still has a wide maximum aperture of 2.8, which means you will still be able to get a fast shutter speed even in low light conditions.

The image quality of this lens is as good as the 70 - 200 f2.8L IS USM with edge to edge sharpness throughout the frame, vibrant colours and accurate saturation.

This lens is tough, durable, weather sealed and more than capable of withstanding daily use. This is a lens you can use outdoors in all seasons, although you will still need to use some lens jacket or cover in extreme conditions to make sure it remains fully protected.

The Canon 70 - 200 f2.8L USM is cheaper than the version with image stabilisation however it is still not cheap. Unless you need the advantages associated with image stabilisation this version of Canon's 70 - 200 lenses is the one to go for.

Canon 70mm – 200mm f4L IS USM Lens

The Canon 70 - 200 f4L IS USM lens is another one of Canon's 70 - 200 lenses with image stabilisation technology built in to it. Once again, this image stabilisation offers a four stop advantage so camera shake should not rear its head too often.

As its name suggests the maximum aperture is f4, which is quite a bit narrower than the f2.8 versions. This lens is smaller and noticeably lighter than the f2.8 versions, even with the image stabilisation technology. The smaller size is obviously advantageous but is it worth losing the wider maximum aperture? The answer on this will vary from person to person.

The image quality of this lens is great, as you would expect from a professional grade lens. There is edge to edge sharpness, bright and vivid colours and accurate saturation. The image quality of this lens is not as good as that of the f2.8L or the f2.8L IS USM however it is not far off. In fact, the difference is negligible and unless you start pixel peeping or blowing up prints to larger than poster sizes you are unlikely you even notice.

The Canon 70 - 200 f4L IS USM is considerably cheaper than either f2.8 versions and there are plenty of deals to be done and bargains to be had if you know where to look. The Canon 70 - 200 f4L IS USM is an excellent purchase that represents great value for money and it is a lens that is well worth looking in to.

In depth review of the EF 70 - 200 F4L IS USM lens

If you want the most bang for your buck the Canon EF70mm - 200mm lens is the one to go for. The f4 maximum aperture is wide enough in most situations, the image stabilisation technology is great for tack sharp shots and the image quality is simply stunning.

For an in depth and hands on review of this excellent lens check out this video, courtesy of Youtube.

Canon 70mm – 200mm f4L USM Lens

The Canon 70 - 200 f4L USM is like the Canon 70 - 200 f4L IS USM but it doesn't have the four stop advantage image stabilisation technology. Since there is no image stabilisation this lens is noticeably lighter.

Providing there are no problems with camera shake the image quality of this lens is identical to that of the Canon f4L IS USM with edge to edge sharpness, bright and vivid colours and accurate saturation.

Like all the professional 70 - 200 lenses made by Canon this lens is tough, durable and weather sealed, which means you can use it when and where you want. It is best to use some kind of lens cover or rain jacket in extreme conditions though.

The Canon 70 - 200 f4L USM is the cheapest of the bunch that this doesn't mean it isn't a top performer. It may not be as good as the other 70 - 200 lenses in Canon's line up but it is better than the third party 70 - 200 lenses made by the third party manufacturers like Sigma and Tamron.

In depth review of the 70 - 200 f4L USM lens

For an in depth and hands on review of the Canon 70 - 200 f4L USM lens, i.e. the one without image stabilisation technology make sure you check this out, courtesy of Youtube.

Full line up of Canon lenses

If you want to view the entire range of Canon lenses, both prime and zoom, in one convenient place please click here

How to keep your Canon 70 - 200 lens clean

If you want to get the most out of your Canon 70 - 200 lens you need to make sure you keep it dirt free, dust free and spotlessly clean. No matter how good you are with photoshop, or any other photo editing software, you will never get rid of a blemish caused by a dirty smudge or greasy fingerprint on the lens when the photo was taken. Therefore, you need to make sure you keep your lens immaculate at all times.

For a detailed video demonstration on how to clean a lens check out the following video footage, courtesy of Youtube.

Which Canon 70 - 200 is the best buy?

The best Canon 70 – 200 lens has to be the f2.8L IS USM however it is also exceptionally expensive meaning this lens is out of the reach of all but the wealthiest photographers. If you do have the spare cash available and the budget to buy one then you can’t go wrong with this lens and you will be amazed by the results.

The Canon 70 – 200 lens that offers the best value for money and gives the most bang for the buck is the Canon 70 – 200 f4L IS USM. Whilst it may not have the wide f2.8 maximum aperture most people will find f4 more than enough in most circumstances. The four stop image stabilisation is simply awesome and really helps to avoid blurry photographs as a result of camera shake.

The best Canon 70 – 200 lens for you will depend on your specific circumstances and what you want to use it for. However, whatever Canon 70 – 200 lens you buy the truth is you will not be disappointed with either the build quality or image quality of these lenses.

How to protect your Canon 70 - 200 lens - A UV filter

Canon 70 - 200 lenses are expensive and you want to make sure they remain safe and sound at all times, right? The easiest and cheapest way to protect the front element of your lens is to use a UV filter. These screw-in filters are cheap, effective and will keep the front element of your Canon lens in tip top condition.

For some top rated UV filters to order from Amazon please click here.

Canon 1.4x Extender

If your Canon 70 - 200 lens hasn't got enough reach for you it is possible to increase the focal length by using a lens extender, which is a cylinder you put between the camera body and the lens.

There are two types of lens extender, being 1.4X and 2X. The 1.4X extender increases the focal length by 1.4, therefore making the 70 - 200 an effective 98mm - 280mm. The 2X extender doubles the focal length, therefore making the 70 - 200 an effective 140mm - 400mm. A lens extender can be used with other Canon branded lenses, but not all, so it is a versatile bit of kit. A lens extender reduces the amount of light by one stop when using a 1.4X, or two stops when using the 2X.

Canon branded lens extenders are the best for the 70 -200 lens and with the Canon models you will retain autofocus. The build quality of the Canon models is superior to others, which is to be expected, but the Canon branded extenders are also more expensive. The additional cost of the Canon lens extender is well worth it though.

Canon is now on their third generation lens extenders although the second generation is still available. In fact, I would recommend buying the second generation extender as there are plenty of deals to be had and the difference in performance to the third generation is negligible.

Kenko 1.4x Extender for Canon

If you are on a budget and can't afford, or justify the cost of the Canon branded lens extender there really only is one alternative, and this is the Kenko lens extender.

The Kenko lens extender is also available in 1.4X and 2X so the focal length increase is the same. The Kenko lens extenders are good performers but they are not quite as good as the Canon lens extenders in build quality or image quality.

Another thing you need to know about the Kenko lens extenders is they ar only available in black, and they look strange when used with the white Canon 70 - 200 lens.

If you have any thoughts, comments, ideas or advice on buying 70 - 200 lenses pelase feel free to note them down here.

I welcome your comments

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      David 2 years ago

      Your articles are for when it abylsuteol, positively, needs to be understood overnight.