Comparsion between all EF 70-200L lenses

During my photography journey I've chance to experience all versions of Canon EF 70-200L lenses. This is not technical review. This is quick summary of my personal experience with each of them. Their strenghts and weakneses especialy for animal photography.

EF 70-200/4L USM

For many of us this is usualy very first L telephoto lens. Improvement in colors, contrast and sharpens over cheaper kit lenses is easily noticable. Overall optical performance is very good for its price. However I suggest closing aperture to f/5.6 for slightly more sharpness. This lens is not weather sealed and require additional care and protection. Missing IS can be cause of hand shake blured images even on quite high shutter speeds like 1/400s. It happened to me quite often on EOS 40D with 10 megapixes. Cameras with higher resolution will be even more affected. This lens is best value for landscape photographers with sturdy tripod who doesn't mind to close aperture a bit. Not very suitable for hand hold practice and so for animal photography but it's way to go when you are on budget.

EF 70-200/4L IS USM

This lens is definitely best value from all versions. It's sharper on f/4 than non-IS version and it's weather sealed. Four stop enabled Image Stabilisation is huge help especialy for animal photography. I would preffer this lens more than non-IS f/2.8 and even than first version of IS f/2.8 versions due better optical quality.  It's also quite light lens. You could carry it all day long on your neck unnoticable. Smaller form factor helps with traveling as well.

EF 70-200/2.8L USM

Personaly I would avoid this lens. For same price as IS enabled f/4 version this lens brings worst image quality, isn't weather sealed and missing IS will be cause of many missed shot. Man! I could tell you how many oportunities I've missed thanks to this lens. Performance of f/2.8 on APS-C cameras is horrible. A lot of color casting in bokeh and image is not what I would call very sharp. Close to f/4 brings much better image but why invest into f/2.8 when it is mostly unusable? I was very unhappy with this lens.

EF 70-200/2.8L IS USM

My experience with this lens is short but overall I think optical performance is better than non-IS version but still not perfect. However weather sealing and Image Stabilisation is huge plus. If it is the best you can afford and you want f/2.8 for ocassional usage then go for it.

EF 70-200/2.8L IS USM II

This lens is clear winner when it comes to optical performance. Extremely sharp even on f/2.8, even more than f/4 IS version. Five steps Image Stabilisation and Weather sealing makes this lens best option. Only disadvantage is weight and price. Twice as pricey as f/4 IS version and twice as heavy. This lens is for serious photographers who wants deliver best image quality and have all bell and whistles that could come with this favorite zoom range. For somebody who likes travel light - especially for moutainers I would probably recomend f/4 IS version. Image quality is not so far away and you'll save almost 1kg of weight. I could imagine hike with f4 version hanging on my neck all day long. f/2.8 could quickly become unpleasant sinkstone.


In overall you cannot go wrong with any of this lens. All lenses perform better on Full Frame cameras than on APS-C. Their optical strenght and weakneses are even more exposed.  f/2.8 versions require better AF system to benefit. Some old cameras could even perform worse with f/2.8 than f/4 versions when tracking movement. I had huge problems tracking movement with non-IS f/2.8 on EOS 30D.  All f/2.8 support 2x Extender but I would be to pair it with non-IS or first IS version. Results are discutable especaly on APS-C cameras. f/4 lenses are compatible with 2x Extender if you camera AF can handle f/8. Like 1D bodies, 5D mark III or 7D mark II. This combination is not very reliable because AF become too slow and non-IS lens become even more not hand holdable. Lenses sorted by my preference:
  1. EF 70-200/2.8L IS USM II
  2. EF 70-200/4L IS USM
  3. EF 70-200/2.8L IS USM
  4. EF 70-200/4L USM
  5. EF 70-200/2.8L USM

Tags: , , ,

Categorised in:


  • of all the lenses you’ve ever used, which one do you like best ???

    • lweek says:

      Hello Sofyana,

      I’m sorry for late answer. It really depends on your budget and goal. I think that new EF 70-200/4L IS USM II is best travel companion. It’s very light, sharp and its stabilisation is best in whole line. If you prefer best sharpness and bokeh, then EF 70-200/2.8L IS USM II or III are the best choice. It really doesn’t matter which one. Both are almost identical. Third version is slightly better but is it worth extra money? I don’t know. However this lens is much heavier and its stabilisation is two stops less effective. My current champion is EF 70-200/4L IS USM II.

      I hope this will help. I wish You good light.

      Best regards, Vladimir

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

July 26, 2016 1:12 pm 2 Comments