Wednesday, February 17, 2010

First Look: Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM II – Perhaps Canon’s greatest lens!

I had the good fortune today to get my hands on a pre-release copy of the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens. This lens features improved glass elements, faster auto focusing and amazing image stabilization improvements. It’s crazy here at the Olympics so I don’t have much time, but this is a case where a picture is indeed worth a thousand words.

I present to you images taken handheld from a man with carpal tunnel syndrome and tendonitis on my Canon 1D Mark IV using this amazing lens: (click for originals as these screen shots are low res samples with compression artifacts)

Click for original image 
Screenshot of a 100% Crop (200mm @ 1/60 sec ISO 400 – no flash)

Click for original image
Screenshot of a 100% Crop (200mm @ 1/15 sec ISO 100 – no flash)

Click for original
Screenshot of a 100% Crop (200mm @ 1/15 sec ISO 100 – no flash)
Click for original
Screenshot of a 100% Crop (200mm @ 1/8 sec ISO 50 – no flash)

These photos were shot as RAW and ZERO post-processing has been done on them. I simply exported them (without cropping or alignment) as JPEG from DPP (provided by Canon USA on site) from a Lenovo W700ds (replaced by the W701ds – the best photography computer in the world) and uploaded them to Smugmug. What you see is as raw as it gets, and the screenshots from Lightroom above shouldn’t be judged too harshly as they are low quality representatives of the originals.

In my online gallery, I’ve even included some shots where people were blinking to prove that these weren’t static subjects – they were indeed talking, breathing, blinking, etc… There are no monopods, tripods, or support used for these shots – simply freehand point and shoot in manual mode with auto ISO. IS was on and set to mode 1 and I used non-center AF points for most of these shots.

The 1/8 sec image probably impresses me the most given the fact this is nearly a 10 pound setup being hand held, and I have a result that can EASILY be sharpened to perfection. In fact, if I didn’t have to go down to ISO 50 (which is interpolated rather than a true ISO 50), I think the results would have been better. The images at 1/60 were clearly phenomenal and at least 2 stops better and several times sharper than what I would get with the original 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM.

More to come when things aren’t so crazy. Time to eat! :-)

While you are here, take a look at the great discount coupon codes and other great articles on this blog.


If you have the 1D Mark IV then I recommend you check out my Canon 1D Mark IV New Users Guide / Shoppers Guide. I am still in love with my 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM and feel it is the best lens Canon has made under the $5000 price point. It’s just an amazing piece of glass that was made to go with the Canon 1D Mark IV!

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Jon said...

When things get less crazy, if you still have access to the new lens, there's something major missing in your post. Sure the close-ups are nice, but it's a new version of an existing lens -- so, the one thing that I'd expect any review to show is comparison shots w/ the old version. Just a thought for a future, more detailed, review. said...

I agree, and I hope to get a chance to do that today before I have to return it. It's been a super busy week so I haven't been able to enjoy this lens as much as I would like.

More content will be added to this article!

Anonymous said...

What was the appertures used in those shots?

Anonymous said...

What f-stop was used for these images? How can we evaluate the images without that info? said...

F-stop isn't super important here, but you can easily view most of the important EXIF data by doing the following:

1. Click the image which will take you to smugmug and show you an original.

2. Click on the image to close the lightbox and then hover over the image to the right to see a fly out menu which will have a Photo Info link.

Alternatively, you can just go to and hover over any of images 1-13 and click on Photo Info.

Anonymous said...

The details is simply amazing... Wish my bank would allow for such equipment... said...

I hear you MrSkinny! I anticipated this would be a good one so I sold my original 70-200 f/2.8L IS USM last November. It's been hell living without it, but it's given me some time to save some extra pennies to try to make up the price difference.

Still, it may be Ramen noodles for dinner for a few months after getting this one - ha, ha!

jfretless said...

Yeah... Forget about the real world samples, like the ones you provided, we want pictures of focusing charts and cats next to our computer keyboards!

Moffat Creative Images (MCIPhoto) said...

Ron, great info, and good examples.
Yes - noodles for a while, but worth it!

Moffat Creative Images (MCIPhoto) said...

Ron, - thanks for this info - great samples (Tessa!)
Yes - noodles for a while, but it looks to be worth it!! said...

jfretless - Ha, ha - yeah, I didn't get a chance to do those.

I do have some comparision shots taken with the old and new lens that I still need to get online, but I haven't had a chance to do that.

Check back from time to time (or subscribe to this blog) as I will get those pictures online.

Andrew Jennings said...

For those who may be too lazy to look up the exif, I'll post the aperture value for each photo here for you (hope you don't mind Ron)

(In the order above)
1 - f2.8
2 - f2.8
3 - f2.8
4 - f2.8

I think I see a pattern here hahaha

Thanks for the comments and raw jpgs. Looks like something for me to save up for as well, 1/15th or 1/8th of a second is pretty darn convenient. said...

Thanks Andrew!

If you look at the last shots in the gallery you'll see some a f/5.6(or f/6.3 I think) with this lens, but yeah in general I shoot at f/2.8 @ 200mm a lot with this lens.

Outside in the wind on a less stable surface my results weren't as good as they were indoors, but still I've never pulled off a 1/8 or 1/15th before this.

Heck, I think I've even blown shots at that speed on my tripod due to letting the camera strap move, so to get them by hand was a real thrill for me! :-)

Anonymous said...

Does this lens beat the 135mm F2? said...

RE: 135mm - In sharpness, yes I think it is at least as good as the 135mm. However, with respect to bokeh I didn't have enough work with this to make the tall claim that it could beat the 135mm f/2's dreamy bokeh. My guess would be no, which is also true of the wonderful 200mm f/2L IS USM too.

Lucas said...

1/15 @ 200mm, that's really remarkable. When they said four stops stabilization, they weren't kidding.

The image quality is excellent as well. One could easily think that a prime lens was used to take those snaps.

Anonymous said...

Seriously tho, with the new sensors you really don't need to waste the money on lens.. I mean my current 70-200mm IS will suffice and Id rather spend the money on a better low light 1ds IV when it comes out ;-)
Its all a balance of power and Id rather have the newer body. said...

"Seriously tho, with the new sensors you really don't need to waste the money on lens..."

I strongly disagree with your comment, but I published it anyway.

Modern sensors are starting to outresolve older lens designs so the new lenses are indeed necessary to get the most out of what your sensor can deliver. Furthermore, you'll get better results with this lens on a 5D Mark I than you will with the older lens on a 1Ds Mark IV because both bodies can benefit from the added sharpness this lens offers. Even if you exclude sharpeness from the equation, the significantly improved image stablization and auto focus performance are advantages that you'd realize on very old cameras like a 10D or Rebel XT. Furthermore, 4 years from now that 1Ds Mark IV will look antiquated next to the latest Rebel body whereas this new lens will still be a king in Canon's lens line up.

As I say elsewhere on this blog, your body is only as good as its lens - just like your stereo is only as good as its speakers.

Anonymous said...

The images look very good but I would not agree that they are as sharp as if they were taken with a sharper Canon 135 mm even wide open.
Looking at the 100% scrop, the brows and eyes do not look as sharp as with a 135 mm lens. said...

... the brows and eyes do not look as sharp as with a 135 mm lens.

Remember, these are the slow shutter speed - hand-held shots at 200mm. Had I bumped up the shutter speed to 1/160 as I had done in other shots, the sharpness goes up as I freeze the subject and further eliminate motion introduced by camera shake (IS is amazing, but the faster shutter speeds will always improve).

The Canadian Flag shot in my Topaz Adjust 4 review is an example of a high shutter speed shot with this lens that is pretty sharp. If you click on the image you'll get a larger version (don't forget to view it at 100% in Internet Explorer as its default behavior is to fit to the window). You can make out threads and fibers if a fast moving flag.

Dallas Portraits and Headshots said...

For my headshot and portrait photography studio, I appreciate this lens and it is a workhouse. Thanks for the ISO comparison! I generally use between ISO 200 and 320 and you can see the results here: