Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM Lens Review

by admin on January 30, 2012

Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM Lens

Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM Lens

The Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II telephoto zoom lens is a revision of the legendary 70-200mm f/2.8L IS. Professionals and many amateurs have long turned to the Canon “L series” and specifically the Canon 70-200mm lineup when they demand nothing less than the best results. Many photographers felt that the older 70-200mm f/2.8L IS lens was perfect. Fortunately, with this new revision, Canon bettered perfection.

While meeting the high build quality standards of the “L series,” the EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II offers a new revision of optical image stabilization and additional optical elements. These new elements create an image sharpness, contrast and performance improvement over the 70-200mm’s older Canon sibling. To the surprise of many photographers chromatic aberration is nearly non-existent with this lens. At the time of this review, this lens stands as one of the highest rated, best performers in Canon’s lineup.

If price is a non-issue and you need the ultimate lens for a wide range of applications at the 70-200mm focal length, this is your lens. It shines when utilized in nature photography, sports, action, landscape and portrait photography. The quality of this lens is high enough that photographers adapt applications to this lens rather than choosing a different lens for a specific application.

The Canon 70-200 f/2.8L IS II is one of Canon’s highest quality and most versatile lenses. As a wedding and portrait photographer, this lens is an invaluable addition to my camera bag, and one of my favorite to shoot with. Inside the box is, of course, the lens itself, along with the ET-87 hood, a tripod mount collar, and a large, zippered pouch.

Lens Specifications

 Focal Length & Maximum Aperture:  70-200mm 1:2.8
Lens Construction: 23 elements in 19 groups (1 Fluorite and 5 UD elements)
Diagonal Angle of View:  34° – 12°
Focus Adjustment:  Inner focusing system with USM. Full-time manual focus available.
Closest Focusing Distance:  1.2m/3.94 ft. (maximum close-up magnification: 0.21x)
Filter Size:  77mm
Max. Diameter x Length, Weight: 3.5 x 7.8 in./88.8 x 199mm; 52.6 oz./1490g

Physical Attributes

The first thing you’ll notice about this lens is that it’s large. And heavy. Weighing in at over three pounds, it is no lightweight. The reason for the heft is because of the large amount of glass and metal that makes up its superb build quality. It is weather sealed, so it can withstand the rigors of professional use.

Starting from the bottom of the lens is the EF mount compatible with all of Canon’s digital SLRs, whether it be full frame, APS-H, or APS-C sensor sized bodies. It is also compatible with both of Canon’s 1.4X and 2.0X extenders, as well as either of Canon’s extension tubes. The space for the tripod mount collar comes next. A series of pins keep it from sliding up and down the shaft of the lens, although you can loosen the knob and swivel the camera from landscape to portrait mode while keeping the lens attached to the tripod. The lens must be taken off from the camera to remove the collar, however.

Canon 70-200 f/2.8L II USM Lens

Whats in The Box

Moving upwards is the zoom ring, which is a nice, grippy rubber surface. It has a smooth resistance to its rotation, so it is less likely to inadvertently zoom if you brush it against something. From there, we find four switches. The first limits the minimum focus distance from 1.2 meters to 2.5. This is helpful if you know you won’t be photographing anything from 1.2 to 2.5 meters, because it limits the amount of focus hunting the lens does if auto focus can’t be attained easily.

Canon 70-200 f/2.8L II USM Lens

The next switch is AF/MF, for switching between auto focus and manual focus; pretty self explanatory. The next switch toggles the image stabilization on or off. Canon claims the IS on this lens as 4-stops. Assuming your subject isn’t moving itself, something you would photograph at 1/100th, you can now photograph around 1/10th. A very helpful and strong feature of this lens. I have handheld photos with this lens lower than 1/10th @ 200mm with usable results using the IS. While not every photo with a shutter speed that slow will be a keeper, the IS on this lens is very impressive. The last switch toggles between two modes of image stabilization. The first being “normal” mode, and the second being “panning” mode, which limits the IS to one plane of motion. This is very helpful for panning a car, motorcycle, or bird in flight.

Still moving upwards is the focus ring. It has the same rubberized surface as the zoom ring, although it isn’t dampened as much as the zoom ring. It has a slick, smooth feel to it. All that’s left at the very top of the lens is the bayonet mount for the petal hood. Unlike many of Canon’s other hoods, this has a small button that should be pressed in to release the hood from the lens. It has a positive ‘click’ when in position, and is very secure at the end of the lens. At the very end of the lens are threads to accept a 77mm filter.

Canon 70-200 f/2.8L II USM Lens Size Comparison

Size Comparison

Performance and Image Quality

The sharpness of this lens is, for a lack of a more technical term, fantastic. It is sharp from center to edge, from maximum to minimum aperture, and from 70-200mm. When shooting with it, I never think “I should stop down a little because I want it to be super sharp.” Images at its maximum aperture of 2.8 are plenty sharp.

Canon 70-200 f/2.8L II Lens Focus Regions

Smooth out of Focus Regions

Auto focus is very fast, and very accurate as well, thanks to its ring-type USM system. Shooting moving subjects is no problem, assuming you can keep up with them. The focusing mechanism is contained within the lens, so nothing, including the filter threads, move, which is helpful if using a CPL filter. It has full time manual focus as well. Images that have been taken with the 70-200 II have excellent color, contrast, and bokeh qualities. It has 8 rounded aperture blades that make for smooth out of focus regions. And the maximum aperture of 2.8 is unchanged throughout the entire focal range, which allows you to create very blurred backgrounds, provided you have the space.

Canon 70-200 f/2.8L II USM Lens Image Stabilization

Image Stabilizer on/off

Color and contrast are superb, as one would expect from an L series lens of this price. Chromatic aberration is hardly noticeable at all, and only visible when viewing at 100%. Only the most picky of users will this be an issue for. Flare resistance is good, although flare certainly can become apparent under the right circumstances. A bright source of light just outside the frame will likely cause a loss of contrast, and a bright source of light within the frame will likely result in heavy flare. The hood is deep enough to shade the lens under most circumstances though.

Canon 70-200 f/2.8L II USM Lens Distortion


Canon 70-200 f/2.8L II USM Lens Focal Length Perspective


Canon 70-200 f/2.8L II USM Lens Chromatic Aberration

Chromatic Aberration Handled Very Well

Compared To Other Lenses

When compared to Canon’s 70-200 2.8L IS I, there are several changes and improvements that make the version II worth getting over the version I. First and foremost, the version I has been discontinued. It can still be purchased new from several retailers, but in if you’re looking for the “latest and greatest” then the version II is your only option. The optical system in the version II has been redesigned with better handling of chromatic aberration, sharper images from edge to edge, and yields a slightly higher level of contrast in its images. The minimum focus distance has also been reduced to 1.2 meters, slightly closer than the version I’s 1.4 meters. Auto focusing and image stabilization has also been improved – the version I has 3 stops of IS, while the version II has been improved to 4 stops. AF with the version II is also quicker and more accurate. On the outside, it looks fairly similar, but there are several changes here as well. The switches don’t protrude from the body of the lens quite as much on the version II, reducing the chances of hitting a switch accidentally. The focus ring has also been widened, providing a larger surface to grip when using MF. So are these changes worth the several hundred dollars difference in price? If you’re either a working professional or have plenty of money to burn, then I’d say yes. If you’re on a budget, you may want to consider the version I. And if you don’t need the extra stop, you may also want to consider the 70-200 f/4L IS. Aside from the obvious difference between f/2.8 and f/4, it is smaller, lighter, and less expensive. The sharpness and IS on the f/4 is also very good though, and certainly a good option if you don’t need f/2.8.

Pro’s and Con’s

Pros: Cons:
Build Quality Size/Weight
Sharpness Price
Chromatic aberration Flare resistance


Read More Customer Reviews

Sample Photos

Canon 70-200 f/2.8L II USM Sample Photo

Canon 70-200 f/2.8L II USM Sample Photo

See More Sample Photos


On retail sites like B&H, Adorama, and Amazon, the reviews are excellent. Based on the five-star rating system that the majority of retailers use for their customer reviews, the 70-200 2/8L IS II consistently rates around 4.9/5.0 stars. Its users seem to love it, and for good reason. Overall, I can’t say enough good things about this lens. It definitely lives up to the L-series reputation that Canon has for their professional-grade lenses. Yes, it’s big, heavy, and expensive, but those contribute to its excellent image characteristics and build quality. There’s a reason it’s become a staple of the wedding and portrait photographer. It is very sharp wide open, the 4-stop IS is extremely helpful, and the weather sealed construction gives me the peace of mind when shooting under harsh conditions. I give it two big thumbs up.

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