Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L USM

Lens Review

Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L USM on Canon EOS Rebel 400D/XTi.

Introduction

The Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM is perhaps one of Canon’s most favored lenses by professionals and serious amateurs alike. Great range, internal focusing, weather sealing, great build quality, heavy duty, and a maximum aperture of 2.8 makes it a great lens for portraits, sports, and even landscape.

The two major reasons why anyone would choose the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L‘s little brother, the Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L is: 1) weight and 2) value to cost.

Weight and Dimensions

2007-01-21 - Canon EF 70-200mm L USM - 001The Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L USM weighs in approximately at 705g (1.6lbs) versus its bigger brother, the f/2.8L at 1,473g (3.24lbs)! So the f/4L is definitely a lighter and more convenient lens to carry around especially if you’re going hiking or doing a lot of walking.

This lens is almost 7 inches long (6.8 inches) with a 3 inch diameter with a 67mm filter size, unlike the normal 77mm filter sizes on all the other Canon L lenses. This lens fits snuggly into my Lowepro AW 200 slingshot backpack with the Canon EOS Rebel 400D/XTi attached. The 70-200mm by itself fits perfectly in, making it easy to pack along as an additional lens and still have room to bring a few other lenses.

Construction

As with all of Canon’s L, or Luxury, line of lenses, it’s almost exclusively made of magneisum alloy making it very durable and able to stand up to punishment. I personally would never want to do a drop test to see how rugged it is, but if Ken Rockwell’s test on Karl Grobl’s dropped Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM is any indication of its well built quality, then I’m sure this guy will take a bit of a beating and keep on kicking.

The only major difference between the f/2.8L (IS version) and the f/4L‘s construction is that the f/2.8L (IS version) is weather sealed while the f/4L is not, but the f/4L IS version is. This may not make a whole of difference to most people, but worth mentioning just in case.

2007-01-21 - Canon EF 70-200mm L USM - 002Another thing I’ll mention here is the color. I have always been under the impression that all of the L line lenses are white (except for the smaller focal lengths), it’s not paper white. It seems (I’m not 100% sure, based on observations) that the only paper white L lenses are the 400mm, 500mm, and 600mm. The Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L and f/4L are more of a putty color. Originally I thought maybe it was because it was an older lenses or faded, but I’ve compared it to other 70-200mm both f/2.8L and f/4L and they are in fact all putty color. Odd. If someone knows the answer to this, please email me with the explanation as I’m curious. I do in fact know why Canon makes the L lenses “white”, what I’m not sure of is why some are putty and others are actually white.

Field Test

The Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L USM is a great carry around lens because of its size and is almost as good, if not just as good, as its big brother, the f/2.8L. The most amazing thing about this lens is the bokeh produced. The background blurs to such a smoothness that I could never quite achieve with any of my Nikon lens, even the Nikkor AF 180mm f/2.8D ED-IF.

The pictures taken with this lens is very crisp and sharp and the colors are excellent. The Fluorite elements, in terms of the picture quality and clarity, are absolutely amazing!

Because this lens has the more expensive ring USM focusing (versus the micromotor USM), focusing is superbly fast and precise with FTM (full time manual) focus. If you’ve never used a ring USM lens, once you try it, you’re sold.

The major drawback of this lens for me is the maximum aperture of f/4, while this is not super bad considering you are getting f/4 through the entire range, it does have limitations in low light such as indoors photography. This probably wouldn’t be an ideal lens for indoor sports photography, but it is still usuable, the ISO just has to be increased to 800 or 1600 to get speeds necessary to hand hold at f/4. I have seen pictures of people using this lens at indoor high school basketball games and what-not and it seems to be fine, but grain is noticeable at higher magnification. But out doors on a sunny day, it works great!

Overall Thoughts

This is a great lens to have, especially for its cost in relation to its value. It’s relatively light, built like a tank, optically superb, and definitely draws stares and gawkers because of the famous “white” Canon lenses.

Even though I have the 70-200mm range covered with this lens, I will eventually get the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS. There are many situations in which I need a higher maximum aperture than just f/4, such as indoor sports photography or just indoors shooting. The image stabilization (IS) definitely doesn’t help do stop action sports photography, but will definitely come in handy for pictures of singers at concerts. And even though I would get the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM, I would still keep the f/4L because it’s a great lens and more portable than its f/2.8L brother.

By the way, I highly recommend getting the Canon tripod ring. It doesn’t come with it, and will set you back another $120, but it is well worth it because it keeps the lens and camera more balanced on a tripod. You could get a black one, it cost some $30 less, made of the same material (magnesium alloy), but doesn’t look as appealing. The Canon tripod ring also fits the Canon EF 300mm f/4L USM. It also comes with a nice Canon suede pouch to carry the lens in.