70-200 2.8L non-IS

Started May 27, 2012 | Discussions thread
gdanmitchell Veteran Member • Posts: 7,730
Re: 70-200 2.8L non-IS

mmullen wrote:

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.

However, I repeat, any differences in "contrast and color" are largely imaginary and are swamped by other factors causing such differences, including the variations in light color in your photographs. All of these lenses produce excellent color and contrast that rivals the quality of fine primes. (I shoot some of those, too.)

A few people who have mentioned in their own posts that they make significant use of the f/4 version of the 70-200mm lens. For example, Michael Frye has written that he mainly relies on two lenses - the 70-200mm f/4 and the 17-40mm f/4. I've shot with him when he was using the f/4 70-200mm to photograph birds. I was wimping out at the time and using the 100-400...

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.j

Corner sharpness:

This is a 100% crop of the lower right corner of a low-contrast landscape subject shot with this lens. Here is the full image:

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.

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.

I have not made large prints from an 18MP cropped sensor camera, since I don't own one, but I have made very large prints from 12MP and 21MP FF cameras, so I know something about pushing the upper boundaries of print size from these lenses.

... 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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