Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM
June 4, 2010
By Dan Havlik
This long-awaited follow-up to the previous 70-200mm f/2.8 with Image Stabilization was announced during a muddle of consumer product releases at CES earlier this year, and Canon’s been strangely low-key about promoting it. The older lens came out nearly nine years ago and given how quickly this follow-up sold out everywhere when it began shipping in April, it’s clear that photographers were clamoring for it.
Though it’s impossible for me to do a direct comparison to Nikon’s latest 70-200mm f/2.8 VR II—positively reviewed back in the January 2010 issue of PDN—since I no longer have that lens on loan, let’s just say that the new Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM puts them on even ground and bests the Nikon in one significant category.
As a close-up, portrait lens, the new Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 IS II has reduced the minimum focusing distance to 3.9 feet from 4.6 feet on the previous model. This is superior to Nikon’s new 70-200mm which has a minimum focusing distance of 4.6 feet.
Along with helping with portraits by letting me get closer to my subject, the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 IS II was a surprisingly decent macro lens. I got wonderful close-ups of spring flowers, with the lens’ f/2.8 aperture providing pleasing blurred backgrounds. I also used the lens to shoot images of a new robotic self-leveling tripod head for a PDN Gear Guide story and was impressed by how much sharpness I was able to pull out of such flat-looking subject matter.
Shooting portraits in difficult lighting and under tricky circumstances was also no problem with the new lens. I played paparazzo in New York City on a recent overcast day, and was able to shoot across 8th Avenue in Manhattan to catch shots of the star of a cable TV series as he worked through a scene. Though taxis and buses were whizzing by and I had no tripod, images were tack sharp at 200mm while shooting with a Canon 1D Mark IV. Even at the maximum focal length with the Mark IV set to ISO 3200, noise was low and my celebrity shots were entirely usable.
Canon has added a fluorite element and a fifth UD element in the new lens and there’s a noticeable improvement in image quality from the previous version. I experienced virtually no distortion or chromatic aberrations even in high-contrast subjects, such as branches against a white sky. In typical shooting conditions this translates to reliable image quality with excellent color especially for skin tones, and superior sharpness.