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.

Nikkor AF 80-400mm f/4-5.6D ED-IF VR

Lens Review

Nikkor AF 80-400mm f/4-5.6D ED-IF VR on Nikon D100.

Lens Specifications

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Introduction

2006-12-27 - Nikkor 80-400mm VR lens - 010I had the opportunity to try out this lens for about a day. I rented it for $30/day from Calumet, partly out of curiosity and for future reference. I had some high hopes for the lens for many reasons, two of which being: it is a professional level lens (as indicated by the gold band on the front) and superb focal length (80-400mm).

Lens Construction

I was expecting the entire lens to be made of metal, its not. It is mostly made of metal, but some parts such as the focus ring, focal ring, and lens hood are all made of plastic. The tripod mounting foot and most everything else is made of metal.

It does a decent feel when one is holding the lens. It does partly make sense to go with plastic where Nikon can to save in weight, but for the price you’re paying for one of these pro lenses, you would expect it to take some beating.

When I first held the lens, I was surprised that it is not as heavy as I thought it would be. It is double the weight of my Nikkor AF 180mm f/2.8D ED-IF (760g) and almost a third of the weight of the Nikkor AF-S 500mm f/4D ED-IF (3,430g), so it’s definitely not too heavy to hand hold. The vibration reduction (VR) does help a bit especially on the longer focal lengths.

Auto Focus Performance and Speed

2006-12-27 - Nikkor 80-400mm VR lens - 006The speed at which thing focuses is a bit slower than my Nikkor AF 28-105mm f/3.5-5.6D IF on my Nikon D100. The primary reason for the slow auto focusing is because the Nikkor AF 80-400mm lens does not contain an internal focusing motor, but rather relies on the camera’s screw drive motor. This is fine for those who have a Nikon SLR with the AF screw drive motor, but for those who have the new Nikon D40, this lens will not be usable in auto focus mode. I’m sure on a pro camera such as the D1 series/D2 series and so on, the lens would probably focus much faster.

Another reason for the slow auto focus is the focal length. Going from a focal length of 80-400mm and everything else in between, the camera’s matrix meter has to hunt for the focus from a pretty wide available focus points. There is a focus limiting switch which will help speed things up a bit. How that works is that if you know you’re going to be focusing on far distance objects, you can set the switch to limit so it doesn’t try to hunt at closer focus points.

Another reason for the slow auto focusing, but somewhat of a moot point because you could always increase your ISO, is that the maximum aperture is f/4. So this lens wouldn’t be too ideal in low light conditions.

Overall Thoughts

2006-12-27 - Nikkor 80-400mm VR lens - 002I did like this lens. I didn’t think it was great as I originally thought it would be, but its not horrible either. It is a good, almost great, lens with good optics.

This lens is definitely not a good sports lens because of its slow AF speeds. I was having a difficult enough time trying to focus on birds flying around and capturing shots of airplanes in the middle of the day with pretty decent lighting.

This is definitely a good lens if you need a good focal range. It was nice to be able to focus past 200mm and onwards to 300mm and ultimately to 400mm. I think this lens would do decently for concerts because of the focal range and it is relatively *light* weight. And I mean good for concerts in a way in which you are sitting near the nosebleeds or in the nosebleed sections. Obviously if you were hired by the artist to do photography, you would not need a lens like this.

All-in-all, it is a good lens, but it wouldn’t be the first, second, or third choice of lens purchases because of certain limits (maximum aperture is f/4, it isn’t too practical of an everyday carry around lens, it cost more than $1500) and for what I usually like to shoot, this lens wouldn’t see much action.