70-200 2.8L non-IS

Started May 27, 2012 | Discussions thread
mmullen Veteran Member • Posts: 4,285
Re: 70-200 2.8L non-IS

Dan, I've known and respected your opinions on this forum for many years. You give knowledgeable and straight forward, practical advice without intentional bias. I nearly always agree with your opinions. But in this case I believe you are biased due to not having used both these lenses on a high pixel density APS-C camera and also not for fast action. The lenses have many notable differences.

gdanmitchell wrote:

I make very large size prints on an in-house Epson 7900, so I have a bit of experience with this. Photographs from any of the 70-200mm zooms will, depending upon the skill of the photographer, produce outstanding prints at large sizes.

All of them make nice large prints, true. And the difference in sharpness will be quite small, especially as I see you shoot A FF (5D, 5D II).

Your notions about large difference in "contrast and color" in "moderate sized prints" are completely unfounded.

(If you don't believe me, there are quite a few very well known and very successful photographers who shoot the f/4 versions of the lens.)

I shoot the 70-200 f/4 IS and the 70-200 f/2.8 IS II and I actually prefer the f/4 IS. All of these lenses have a different look to them even when shot at the same aperture. When I am reviewing shots taken a year or more ago, I do not generally remember which lens I used for which shot but the 'look' almost always gives it away. This is true even when viewing large thumbnails and when the lenses are shot at the same aperture. Light makes the photo and the light is defined more by color and contrast than ultimate sharpness.

There is no question that the f/2.8 II version is a fine lens and that it measures "better" in some ways. However, here we are not talking about the difference between good and bad - we are talking about the difference between really excellent and a slightly improved version of excellent.

Again, on a FF camera like the 5D, I would agree with you in terms of sharpness (unless you need sharp corners, an area that is significantly better on the Mk II). But, in some areas, it's more than slightly improved, even on FF. For example, flare resistance for shooting backlit subjects. While the 70-200 f/4 IS beats them all in this regard, the Mk II is a significant improvement over (even) the non-IS f/2.8. And for that reason (and to a lesser degree the sharper corners) the Mk II is a significantly better landscape lens, even on a FF body. I take many landscapes looking towards the light.

Again, when it comes to selecting from among the Canon 70-200mm zooms, image quality is just about the last thing to consider since all of them are very good.

Not in terms of flare and contrast of backlit subjects. As to sharpness, on a FF body I agree but the high pixel density of modern APS-C sensors reveal much more about the finer points of a lens. Have you ever made large prints from a 18MP APS-C sensor? Believe me, the differences in sharpness will show, let alone color and contrast.

There are other significant differences among these excellent lenses that can be important to the photographer: price, IS, maximum aperture, size, bulk, and so forth.

Yes, but you forgot one of the most notable differences, especially when comparing to the much older non-IS f/2.8: Auto focus speed and accuracy. Not too important for landscapes but many of us use these lenses for fast action and wildlife.

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Mike Mullen

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