Canon EF 70-200mm f/4 L IS USM vs. EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM

There are many great reviews of those lenses, some links are provided at the end of this post. Focus of this non-scientific mini test is to add information  how the two lenses compare in aspects that I did not find elsewhere and which were important for my type of photography. This is a comparison of one copy of each lens only, if there are any pictures to show characteristic behavior, they were shot several times and best examples were picked.

Weight and size considerations

EF 70-200/4 IS is small and light and EF 70-200/2.8 IS II is big and heavy. The difference was very obvious during the side by side tests. 70-200/2.8 IS II is used by professionals everywhere, but if you consider switching from 70-200/4 to 70-200/2.8 for light travel with lots of hiking or walking all day around cities, make sure you try the lens first.

Image stabilizer

The IS seems to be equally effective on both lenses. The EF 70-200mm f/2.8 lens has quieter implementation – no clunking sounds when it disengages.

Color and contrast (200mm)

The EF 70-200mm f/2.8 lens makes a bit darker pictures, which makes it difficult to compare such things as contrast and color. But the f/2.8 lens seems to be more vibrant on equal apertures.

Full frame (almost – some distracting foreground features were cropped out), click to enlarge.

100% crop from 21MP, default LR settings.

Sharpness at 200mm – handheld with IS on

So far tested on 30 ft or greater distances only. The 70-200/2.8 seems marginally sharper. 100% crops from 21MP, default capture sharpening in LR (click to enlarge).

Sharpness near minimal focusing distance (70mm and 200mm)

The following two images show sharpness at MFD at 70 and 200mm, both shot wide open, that means, f/2.8 on one lens and f/4 on the other.

Sharpness at 100mm

70-200/2.8L IS II vs. 70-200/4L IS at f:4 and f:8

All shots tripod mounted. Distance of the DVD sleeve is about 10ft/3m.

EF70-200mm f-4L IS USM at f/4 IS on

EF70-200mm f-4L IS USM at f/4 IS off

EF70-200mm f-4L IS USM at f/4 IS off

EF70-200mm f-4L IS USM at f/8 IS off

EF70-200mm f-2.8L IS II USM at f/4 (IS off)

EF70-200mm f-2.8L IS II USM at f/4 (IS off)

EF70-200mm f-2.8L IS II USM at f/8 (IS off)

70-200/2.8L IS II compared to Zeiss 100/2 Makro-Planar at f:2.8

All shots tripod mounted. Distance of the DVD sleeve is about 10ft/3m.

Makro-Planar at f:2.8, actual pixels from 21MP

EF70-200mm f-2.8L IS II USM

The zoom at 100mm and f:2.8, tripod mounted with IS on

The zoom at 100mm and f:2.8, tripod mounted with IS off

Focusing speed and accuracy

Tested on EOS 5D2, the focusing speed of both lenses is about equal, but the AF feels smoother on the f/2.8 lens.  While the f/4 sometimes needed 2 (fast) attempts, the f/2.8 needed only one.

To be continued.


Interactive comparison of both lenses on The Digital Picture

User reviews on Fred Miranda

Review of 70-200/2.8 IS II on DPReview

Review of 70-200/2.8 IS II on Diglloyd (requires subscription)

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