The 70-200mm focal length f/2.8 lens has become a staple in the photography world with each camera manufacturer offering their variant on this now-classic design. The history of the autofocus-capable 70-200mm f/2.8 lens within the Canon universe stretches all the way back to 1989 with the introduction of the Canon 80-200mm f/2.8 L lens, whose high quality and innovative design went a long way in cementing Canon’s strong market position heading into the 90’s.
This lens was updated six years later with the legendary Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 L USM lens which featured not only fantastic image quality but also a fast and quiet internal focusing motor with instant manual focus override. This model became an instant classic and has since been updated three times, first in 2001 with lens stabilization, then with the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 L USM IS II in 2010 featuring a new optical formula and better stabilization and now again in 2018 with the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 L USM IS III which adds new coatings to the 2010 model.
Today, I will be reviewing the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM, whose introduction in 2010 ensured that one of Canon’s most popular lenses would be able to keep up with the megapixel rich sensors which would follow in the coming decade. Compared to its predecessor, the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 L USM IS II features a complete optical redesign aimed at improving the image quality of the lens at wide-open apertures and especially at the 200mm focal length where the original IS model fell short of expectations.
Chromatic aberration should be significantly mitigated thanks to the use of one fluorite glass element in the optical design which also features 5 UD glass elements. The lens also receives Canon’s 4-stop Image Stabilization system. Canon also stated an improvement in the build quality of the lens with better weather sealing and better durability. I obtained a copy of the lens four and a half years ago, and it has been my companion on several trips across the world over that time. I first paired the lens with Canon’s 1DIII body and later a Canon 1Dx.
Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM Specifications
- Mount Type: Canon EF
- Focal Length Range: 70-200mm
- Maximum Aperture: f/2.8
- Minimum Aperture: f/32
- Lens (Elements): 23
- Lens (Groups): 19
- Compatible Format(s): EF, APS-C
- VR (Vibration Reduction) Image Stabilization: Yes
- Diaphragm Blades: 8
- UD Glass Elements: 5
- FL Glass Elements: 1
- Autofocus: Yes
- USM (Ultra Sonic Motor): Yes
- Internal Focusing: Yes
- Minimum Focus Distance: 3.94 ft (1.2 m)
- Focus Mode: Manual, Manual / Auto
- Filter Size: 77mm
- Dimensions: 3.5 in. (88.8 mm) x 7.8in. (199mm)
- Weight (Approx.): 3.29 lb (1.49 kg)
Build Quality and Handling
As part of Canon’s top of the line L series telephoto lenses, the EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II has a superb build quality. It features a sturdy, all-metal body that is weather sealed throughout. This guarantees that it holds up to the rigors of professional usage. Measuring 88.8mm in diameter, 199mm in length and weighing 1490grams, the EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM IS II is a heavy lens and honestly, it feels more substantial than its weight would suggest.
Akin to its predecessors, the lens does not extend during zooming nor focusing. There is no play or wobbling whatsoever, and the rubberized 137°-rotating focus ring operates very smoothly. The weather sealing is very effective, and after repeated usage in different weather conditions, including getting caught with the lens in torrential rains while hiking in Costa Rica, I can say that it functioned flawlessly and at no point did it seem as if any extraneous material was entering internally.
The lens’s front element doesn’t feature fluorine coatings (something Canon addressed with the Mark III model released this year) that make it easier to wipe off dirt and fingerprints from the front element. Even without these coatings, the front element of the EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM IS II is very easy to clean off.
Both the rotating zoom and focus rings are very smooth, with the former a bit tight when initially receiving the lens. A counter-clockwise zoom ring rotation selects the focal length. The zoom ring is smartly located towards the rear of the lens and behind the focus ring, which is functionally ideal as you never inadvertently bump the focus ring while changing the focal length.
At the front of the lens is a filter-friendly non-rotating 77mm filter thread, surrounded by a bayonet mount for the ET-87 lens hood supplied with the lens. The push-button release allows the hood to stay locked into place and is much more secure than the old lens hood which used a screw-into-place design that loosened over time. The hood’s interior has anti-reflective flocking which helps reduce any stray light.
Four switches adorn the side of the lens barrel and sit right below the distance scale window. The first switch is a focus distance limiter with a couple of options; 1.2m- infinity and 2.5m- infinity. The latter is especially useful for speeding up the focus for sports and wildlife photography. The next switch is a simple AF/MF switch. The last pair of switches control image stabilization. The first actives and deactivates the IS system (ON/OFF) while the second selects the image stabilization mode. Mode 1 is the ‘standard’ setting that stabilizes in both dimensions and is best suited for general use. Mode 2 automatically detects panning and turns off stabilization in the direction of movement.
Towards the back of the lens barrel is a removable collar that holds the tripod mount foot. The foot rotates smoothly, but it, unfortunately, lacks click-stops at the 90-degree marks for portrait and landscape positions. I’d have loved to see Canon implement a built-in Arca-Swiss style quick-release shoe to complement the foot and make it easier to operate on a tripod.
Overall, the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM IS II handles beautifully, with its all-metal, weather sealed design easily holding up under inclement weather conditions and in demanding environments. Both the zoom and focus ring operate very smoothly, with the focus ring especially well dampened. I also like the new design of the hood which makes it much easier to mount. The EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM IS II is undoubtedly a heavy lens, and you’ll surely feel your neck after carrying it around for a whole day, but it’s a small price to pay given the quality of its build.
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