Conclusion - Pros
- Superb build quality
- Highly effective image stabilization
- Excellent autofocus and manual override
- Consistently high image quality across almost all of the range
Conclusion - Cons
- Slightly soft wide open (most notably on APS-C)
- Average close-up performance
- Somewhat susceptible to flare with direct light sources in or close to the frame
The Canon 70-200mm F2.8 L IS USM is quite simply an excellent lens, which will reward users with quality images in almost every situation. On full-frame 35mm, sharpness is very good even wide open, becoming excellent corner-to-corner when stopped down. In addition, chromatic aberration is remarkably low, distortion well under control, and vignetting no worse than we'd expect in this class. Considering that this lens also has build quality at least on a par with anything comparable (including dust and moisture sealing), plus superb autofocus and image stabilization systems, it seems fair to say the it's probably the most all-round accomplished full-frame 35mm fast telezoom currently available. The only real negative is a certain susceptibility to flare with strong light sources either in or close to the frame, as can only be expected from such a complex design.
However this excellent full-frame performance does come at some cost to APS-C users; perceived sharpness is reduced (due simply to the extra magnification imposed by the smaller sensor), and this amplifies the impression of softness wide open. Of course on APS-C the lens still benefits from the 'sweet spot' effects of extremely low distortion and negligible vignetting, so in the grand scheme of things this is something of a case of swings and roundabouts, with different benefits enjoyed by users of each format.
A comparison to Nikon's AF-S VR 70-200mm F2.8G is particularly interesting. The two lenses are near-identical in specification and price, but their characteristics are substantially different. The Nikon lens clearly outperforms the Canon for sharpness on the smaller DX/APS-C format, however this comes at the cost of rather compromised performance on full frame, with significantly higher distortion, vignetting and chromatic aberration, plus extremely soft corners. This leads us to conclude that the two lenses were optimized differently, the Canon for full frame and the Nikon for DX, and illustrates how the different demands of the two formats appear difficult to reconcile in a single lens design.
Ultimately, the biggest factor against the Canon 70-200mm F2.8 L IS USM is its price, especially given the three other 70-200mm lenses in Canon's lineup (F2.8 non-IS, F4 IS, and F4 non-IS); if you really don't need IS, or can make do with an F4 maximum aperture, then the cheaper options will serve you well. However the F2.8 IS version covers all the bases, and for Canon users seeking a top quality telezoom, it is quite simply peerless.
Rating (out of 10)
|Ergonomics & handling||9.0|
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Canon 70-200mm F2.8 L IS Review Samples