Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 USM L IS II - Full Format Review / Test Report
Lens Reviews - Canon EOS (Full Format)

Review by Klaus Schroiff, published April 2010


Fast tele zoom lenses a la 70-200mm f/2.8 are one of the key players in a lens lineup. These lenses are used by many profession photographers, especially photo journalists, and they're also very popular among "prosumers". Canon dominated the market in the early AF years - the EF 80-200mm f/2.8L and EF 70-200mm f/2.8 USM L were pretty much legendary and excelled most of the competition at the time. In 2001 Canon shocked Nikon & Co. by releasing the first IS lens in this segment - the EF 70-200mm f/2.8 USM L IS. Initially the lens was perceived with some enthusiasm but soon thereafter it became also obvious that it wasn't able to match its non-IS predecessor in terms of quality especially at 200mm (where it counts the most with respect to tele-converters). A few years later Canon released the EF 70-200mm f/4 USM L IS which proofed to be a vastly better lens and the community started to get a little impatient. In early 2010 Canon listened to the calls by releasing an improved EF 70-200mm f/2.8 USM L II featuring a next generation IS and, of course, a supposedly better performance. Well, so let's have a look ...

The build quality of the 70-200mm f/2.8 USM L II is truly superb. It's mostly made of tightly assembled metal parts - there's no wobbling whatsoever and the rubberized control rings operate very smooth. Just like its predecessors the lens does not extend during zooming nor focusing. Thanks to an IF ("inner focusing") system the front element does not rotate so using a polarizer is no problem.

The lens incorporates a new third-generation Image Stabilizer (IS) with a claimed gain of 4 f-stops for hand held photography (at cost of shutter speed). This is indeed achievable in field conditions. Unlike the consumer variants the IS system has 2 modes - a normal one for static shooting (horizontal + vertical stabilization) and a panning mode (horizontal OR vertical stabilization - the panning direction is automatically detected). It also features tripod detection so the IS can remain activated here.

Typical for most modern EF lenses it features a ring-type USM drive which offers near silent and extremely fast AF operations. The AF accuracy was great during our field tests. The 70-200mm mk II is compatible to both the EF 1.4x (-> 98-280mm f/4) and EF 2x (-> 140-400mm f/5.6) tele-converters. Live-View AF is decently fast although not comparable to the normal phase detection AF - this is more a limitation by the camera rather than the lens though.

The similarities between the various 70-200mm f/2.8 variants are quite interesting so let's have a short look at the paperwork here before going on to the test results.

Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 USM L Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 USM L IS Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 USM L IS II
Release Date 1995 2001 2010
Elements/Groups 18/15 23/18 23/19
Special Elements 4x UD 4x UD 1x CaF2 + 5x UD
Image Stabilizer Efficiency (*) none 3 f-stops (with tripod detection) 4 f-stops (with tripod detection)
Aperture blades 8 8 (circular) 8 (circular)
Min. focus (magnification) 1.5m (1:6.25) 1.3m (1:5.9) 1.2m (1:4.8)
focal length @ min. focus (200mm) 178mm 161mm 172mm
AF motor ultrasonic with FTM ultrasonic with FTM ultrasonic with FTM
Zoom type "true" IF "true" IF "true" IF
Size 85x194mm 86x197mm 89x199mm
Weight 1310g 1470g 1490g
Filter size 77mm 77mm 77mm
water/dust protection no yes yes
approx. Price (EUR) ~1200€/US$ ~1850€/US$
(now discontinued)

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