Shooting with Canon’s 70-200mm f/4L Lens

Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM LensAs most of you know, I shoot regularly with Canon’s EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM and have found it to be an incredible little lens. I’ve recently found that I needed a little more “reach” in certain landscape and commercial situations so I decided to try out one of John O’Connor’s favorite telephoto zooms, the EF 70-200mm f/4L USM and it’s younger brother the EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM.

I’ve always loved Canon’s telephoto zoom lenses in the “70-200mm” range and shot extensively with an old FD 70-210mm on my F-1N body in the days before digital. The EF 70-200mm lenses are both extremely sharp throughout their zoom range as you can see below in the MTF charts. I’d have loved to have evaluated the f/2.8L version of this lens but the price and size/weight convinced me to stick with the f/4 version. I finally settled on the newer, image stabilized lens so I could use it for landscape and commercial (hand-held) work.

Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM MTF Charts

I’ve got to say that this is one impressive lens. The size and weight are just about perfect for my 5D2 body and using the “Tripod Mounting Ring A II” the combination balances effortlessly on my Gitzo tripod. This is probably the sharpest Canon zoom I’ve ever shot with and the extra “reach” really helps cover those shots I was missing before.

Lower McKinney Falls – Austin, Texas
Copyright © 2009 Jeff Lynch Photography
Shot taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II set on manual (M) using an EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM lens tripod-mounted. The exposure was taken at 85mm, f/20 for 0.4 seconds at ISO 100. All post capture processing was done in Adobe’s Lightroom 3 Beta. Click on the image above for a larger version.

No lens is perfect but this little beauty is close. My only gripes are that the image stabilization system is somewhat loud compared to my EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM and my EF 300mm f/4L IS USM lenses and that the ET-74 lens hood is very narrow and deep. This makes adjusting a CP filter a bit of a pain when shooting.

And finally, the price difference between the “IS” version and “non-IS” version is just plain wrong ($1135 versus $589). The two lenses are optically very similar and I just can’t imagine that adding image stabilization could double the price. I suspect that Canon has been selling the “non-IS” version at too low a price for many years now and is trying to make up some of the profit on the “IS” version.

Other than that, Canon’s EF 70-200mm f4L lenses are absolutely superb in terms of sharpness, size/weight and value (especially the non-IS version at less than $600 USD) and I highly recommend either of these two lenses for landscape, portrait or commercial photography. You won’t be disappointed.

13 thoughts on “Shooting with Canon’s 70-200mm f/4L Lens

  1. Hello Jeff.

    My kit right now is a Canon 7D + 50mm f1.8, and my primary interest is travel photography, but also street and architectural photography. I am not a professional photographer of course but have always thought that I want to do a particular thing well rather do everything and produce average work. (The 50mm at an effective 80mm on a 7D isn’t even a natural-perspective landscape lens)

    My dilemma here is choosing between the 10-22 and 70-200f/4 non-IS – which might sound like comparing apples with oranges – but I am getting these lenses at almost the same price online here in India. With the wide angle 10-22 I imagine I could really capture the rugged country, but it is not a lens with any ‘reach.’ the 70-200 on the other hand feels a bit not here nor there, in the sense that I can’t go truly wide to landscapes or zoom to wildlife. From all reports, the 70-200 is great optically, but I am struggling to find a dedicated use to it.

    Or maybe I am looking at the wrong lenses altogether? Unfortunately I have such broad interests and can only afford one lens right now! Should I specialize or go general?

    • Vinay,

      Thanks for reading. Both lenses will work great on your 7D but for very different purposes. I have used both lenses on my 40D & 50D and they are exceptionally sharp on a crop-body camera like your 7D. The decision on which to purchase is the same dilemma we all face. The choices are endless but the budget is fixed. I’m sorry but I can’t really offer any advice as both lenses are superb choices.

      Jeff

  2. I am a very amateur photographer and am looking for a little help / advice. I am just about to shell out for a Canon 50d and am having a slight dilemma over the lens packages available. There are a number out there, but after much hunting and searching the 70 – 200 seems to be getting some great reviews. For evenings / low light i already have an IS 18mm – 55mm, so am looking for something suitable for bright / sport photography. My question is regarding the 70mm – 200mm f4L v’s the IS version. There is a massive difference in price – one i feel that i can not justify (or that my wife will be best pleased with!) In people experience – how important is the use of a tripod with the non IS version in a bright high speed environment?? Obviously i don’t want to have to be carrying a tripod around everywhere i go if possible. Am i going to be better off looking at buying the Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS Lens?? I know it all boils down to personal opinion – but finding out from other experience (or in this case expertise) will really help!!

    • David,

      Thanks for reading. The rule of thumb to get a sharp image without a tripod is to use a shutter speed that is the inverse of your focal length. For example, if you are shooting at 200mm then your shutter speed should be no lower than 1/200th of a second. Image stabilization changes that rule considerably and you can usually shoot at 2 stops slower, in this case it means shooting at 1/50th of a second. The best advice I can give you on lens selection is to rent the lens first before making your decision. Try it out in real world situations and see if it suits your style of photography. I rent from lensrentals.com or lensprotogo.com.

      Jeff

  3. Pingback: 214. McKinney Falls « 365 Things To Do In Austin, Texas

  4. I love this waterfall shot. A faster shutter speed would freeze the water to much, but this is a really nice “silky” feel.

  5. I’ve decided to buy that lense as well, because the f/2.8 lense is to heavy for me. However, Canon will release a new lense, the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM. Do you think they will soon release a new f/4 one as well?

    Corinne

    • Corinne,

      The EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM lens design is only a few years old and I don’t think Canon has any plans to update it in the next few years. I could be wrong but they have so many other lenses that are older designs I suspect the f/4 version will be continued for a long time.

      Jeff

  6. I have the 70-200 f/4L myself and I love it. Out of my collection of lenses, it’s far and away my favorite. The autofocus has completely ruined me for everything else, which is a little annoying because it’s my longest lens and also my nicest and quietest one. 🙂

    One of these days I may have to break down and get that 24-105 f/4L IS as well.

    • David,

      Thanks for reading! I’m amazed at how sharp the EF 70-200mm f/4 lens is. I’ve also used the f/2.8 version but I think the f/4 is sharper.

      Jeff

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