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Canon EF 70-200mm 1:2.8 L IS USM review

May 2008 | By Andy Westlake


The EF 70-200mm F2.8 L IS USM was introduced way back in August 2001, supplementing (but not replacing) the non-stabilized 70-200mm F2.8 L USM in Canon's highly regarded telephoto lineup. This is a lens which can truly be described as a professional workhorse, with robust build (including dust and moisture resistance), wide F2.8 maximum aperture, fast and silent ultrasonic autofocus motor, and optical image stabilization for hand-holding at slow shutter speeds. The optical design is somewhere on the far side of complex; it features 23 elements in 18 groups, with 4 UD elements to provide compensation for chromatic aberration. According to Canon, this gives a 'high-resolution, high-contrast optical capability', as demanded from a lens which needs to perform all day, every day in the hands of professional photographers across a wide range of subjects and conditions.

The 70-200mm is an EF lens, and has presumably been designed from the outset for optimum performance on Canon's professional 1-series DSLRs, with their full-frame 35mm and 1.3x crop (APS-H) formats (indeed the original EOS-1D was announced just a month after this lens, with the full-frame EOS-1Ds following a year later). However it's also fully at home on all of Canon's APS-C DSLRS, here providing a 112-320mm equivalent angle of view.

Of course Canon's use of multiple sensor formats across their DSLR range has until recently been unique, and raises some interesting questions with regard to lens design, given the different demands of each format (35mm full frame requires consistent sharpness across a 43mm diameter image circle, but APS-C demands higher spatial resolution within its 28mm image circle). Canon have also, with successive generations of the EOS-1Ds series, pushed the megapixel race ever-further into territory once the sole preserve of medium-format digital backs, and with the 21Mp Mark III have maintained their position as the undisputed champions of absolute image quality in the 35mm DSLR format (at least until Sony's 24Mp sensor makes its way into a production camera). However there's arguably little point in ever-inflating pixel counts unless the lenses can deliver the resolution to match, and the 70-200mm F2.8 L IS USM is likely to be a key weapon in the armoury of many a full-frame shooter; so can it deliver the image quality required?

Headline features

  • 70-200mm focal length range; fast F2.8 constant maximum aperture
  • Optical image stabilization – 3 stops
  • Ring-type USM focusing with full-time manual override
  • EF mount for Canon 35mm full-frame and APS-C DSLRS

Angle of view

The pictures below illustrate the focal length range from wide to telephoto, on 35mm full-frame and APS-C camera bodies:

70mm (full frame) 200mm (full frame)
70mm (APS-C; 112mm equivalent) 200mm (APS-C; 320mm equivalent)

 

Canon EF 70-200mm 1:2.8 L IS USM specifications

Street price • US: $1700
• UK: £1250
Date introduced August 2001
Maximum format size 35mm full frame
Focal length 70-200mm
35mm equivalent focal length (APS-C) 112-320mm
Diagonal Angle of view (FF) 34º - 12º
Diagonal Angle of view (APS-C) 23º - 8º
Maximum aperture F2.8
Minimum aperture F32
Lens Construction • 23 elements/18 groups
• 4 UD elements
Number of diaphragm blades 8
Minimum focus 1.4m
Maximum magnification 0.17x at 200mm
AF motor type • Ring-type Ultrasonic Motor
• Full-time manual focus
Focus method Internal
Zoom method Internal
Image stabilization • 3 stops
• Dual mode - Normal and panning
Filter thread • 77mm
• Does not rotate on focus
Supplied accessories • Front and rear caps
• ET-86 Hood
• LZ1324 Soft Case
Weight 1570 g (55.4 oz)
Dimensions 86.2 mm diameter x 197 mm length
(3.4 x 7.8 in)
Lens Mount Canon EF only
Other Dust and moisture sealing
Supplies distance information for E-TTL II flash metering

* Supplied accessories may differ in each country or area

Foreword / notes

If you're new to digital photography you may wish to read some of our Digital Photography Glossary before diving into this article (it may help you understand some of the terms used).

Conclusion / recommendation / ratings are based on the opinion of the author, we recommend that you read the entire review before making any decision. Images which can be viewed at a larger size have a small magnifying glass icon in the bottom right corner of them, click to display a larger image in a new window.

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Dpreview use calibrated monitors at the PC normal gamma 2.2, this means that on our monitors we can make out the difference between all of the grayscale blocks below. We recommend to make the most of this review you should be able to see the difference (at least) between X,Y and Z and ideally also A, B and C.

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