It would have been foolish for Canon to update the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM IS I without fixing some its image quality letdowns, particularly at the 200mm focal length. Thankfully, I can report that the Canon EF 70-200mm F/2.8L USM IS II is not only able to outperform its predecessor at the 200mm focal length but throughout the entirety of its range. This is most noticeable at the extremes of the focal range at max apertures.
At 70mm and f/2.8, the EF 70-200mm F/2.8L USM IS II performance is nothing short of astounding, with tack sharp central sharpness and very strong corners. Things marginally improve one stop down at f/4, with the image now virtually tack sharp throughout the entirety of the frame. At 70mm, the lens is clearly capable of producing a prime-like performance right out to the very corners of the frame. At 135mm and f/2.8, the lens remains excellent in the center of the frame, with the overall resolution just slightly behind the 70mm focal length. Image quality in the periphery of the frame is a bit weaker here though it remains on a very high level. At 135mm and f/4, things significantly improve, with both central and corner sharpness getting a noticeable boost. At this setting, the overall sharpness very nearly matches the extremely high level found at the 70mm and f/4 setting.
The 200mm focal length is usually the weakest on the 70-200mm focal length lenses and this was an especially noticeable issue with the EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM IS I lens. At 200mm and f/2.8, the EF 70-200mm F/2.8L USM IS II performs admirably, with central sharpness remaining very high and good sharpness in the corners. At 200mm and f/4, things noticeably improve in the center of the frame with sharpness again reaching very nearly tack sharp levels. The corners improve but not as noticeably as the center of the frame, with sharpness in the periphery of the frame remaining on a reasonably high level.
The EF 70-200mm F/2.8L USM IS II is at its sharpest at the f/4 and f/5.6 apertures, with the effects of diffraction becoming noticeable by f/11. Overall, the sharpness of the EF 70-200mm F/2.8L USM IS II is truly outstanding in the center of the frame at all focal lengths, with the 200mm offering a marginally lower performance. Sharpness in the periphery of the frame is also very good and even excellent at the wider end of the focal range.
The Canon EF 70-200mm F/2.8L USM IS II is also compatible with Canon’s 1.4x and 2.0x teleconverter’s, but the image quality takes quite a hit. With Canon’s 1.4x Teleconverter mounted and the lens used at f/4, the sharpness in the center of the frame is now just on a good level with contrast a bit on the low side. The corners of the frame fare worse, with details becoming quite mushy. Thankfully, things significantly improve just one stop down at f/5.6, with the center of the frame now very sharp indeed and the corners looking much better. Sharpness marginally improves at f/8 with the f/5.6 and f/8 apertures providing the sweet spot for the combination.
When the lens is used alongside the Canon 2.0x Teleconverter, the overall sharpness further degrades with this much more noticeable at the 200mm (now 400mm) end of the focal range than at 70mm (now 140mm). At 400mm and f/5.6, the overall image is not very sharp, with mediocre resolving power in the center of the frame and a nearly unusable performance on the edges of the frame. Thankfully, things improve dramatically in the center of the frame just a third of a stop down. At f/6.3 and 400mm, the sharpness in the center of the frame is now highly usable. Unfortunately, the corners of the frame remain quite weak. By f/8, sharpness in the center of the frame is further improved with mid-frame sharpness also becoming quite usable. The quality in the image periphery improves only slightly and never reaches a reasonable level at any aperture combination.
The EF 70-200mm F/2.8L USM IS II comes with Canons 4-stop lens stabilization system which doesn’t disappoint. I have found the vibration reduction system of the lens to be excellent and it has enabled me to take some handheld shots that shutter speeds that are far below what I would usually go for with the older generation telephoto lenses which only had 2 stops of stabilization. There are two stabilization mode settings to be found on the lens. Mode 1 is for stationary subjects, and it does a phenomenal job of both reducing vibrations in the viewfinder as well as the actual image itself. This is my go-to mode when I am handholding because it makes it much easier to frame and keep track of your subject as it moves across the frame. Mode 2 IS is used for panning with a subject. In this mode, only 1 axis of stabilization is provided – allowing a linearly-moving subject to be tracked. Overall, the image stabilization system on the lens is excellent and makes an already versatile lens that much more flexible.
The quality of the bokeh of the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM II is excellent. Out-of-focus highlights are almost perfectly circular in shape throughout most of the image frame, with the quality in the corner remaining very solid. This lens is perfect for portraiture and subjects stand out beautifully from the background when using this lens at f/2.8. The quality of the blur is not quite as good as the best primes, but I would rate it as among the best I have seen on a fast aperture zoom lens.
The EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM II exhibits a moderate amount of vignetting that improves as the lens is stopped down. At the 70mm focal length, there is very little vignetting at f/2.8, and it becomes nonexistent one-stop down. At the 135mm and 200mm focal lengths, there is about a 1.5 stop of darkening in the corners at f/2.8 and about half a stop at f/4. By f/5.6, vignetting becomes almost negligible at all focal lengths.
The Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM II handles flare quite well and much better than its predecessor. The original lens struggled mightily with handling brightly lit objects in the frame and the new lens offers a much better resistance in this regard. It doesn’t mean that you don’t have to be careful when shooting against the light but contrast remains very good and internal reflections are handled well enough for a lens of this type.
Modern lenses have become increasingly good at mitigating chromatic aberration, and the EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM II shows very little even when shooting in high contrast situations. The performance is best in the midrange of the lens 100mm-150mm where you will be hard-pressed to find any chromatic aberration in even the most extreme situations. Chromatic aberration is more noticeable on the extreme ends of the lens, namely at 70mm and 200mm, but even here it is very well controlled. Lateral chromatic aberration is also very well corrected on this lens and only begins to become pronounced when adding teleconverters. Adding the Canon EF x1.4 Teleconverter adds a bit more chromatic aberration though it remains easily fixed in post-processing. With the EF x2.0 Teleconverter, the amount of chromatic aberration increases noticeably, with visible magenta-colored halos around high contrast areas and in the periphery of the frame.
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