Saturday, July 24, 2010

Which 70-200mm Canon Lens - You Can't Miss

Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS HSM

With five (count 'em - 5) separate 70-200mm Canon Lenses, how do you choose a winner? Is there a single most fantastic lens in this category?

It's a valid question. As a matter of fact, this question has been bantered about among photographers and online photo forums since the second 70-200mm lens was produced .

Let's get one item out of the way . Every photographer that uses Canon photo equipment needs a 70-200 Canon lens . This should be the second lens you obtain, after you get your basic all purpose . The focal range it covers is in the medium telephoto range, a very important area that you unquestionably want to cover with your lenses .

It has so many uses. You can use it for portraits, street photography, nature shots, some close up work (even though it is not technically a macro lens), and whatever your creative eye can come up with. It is just a great general purpose shooter.

Gattlinburg Church - Canon EOS 30D and
70-200mm f/4.0
Actually portraits is one of the most popular uses. The optimum focal length for portraits is 100mm, which is right in the "sweet spot" for this zoom lens.

Now, back to the question, which one is best...

Still, before getting to that, professionals agree on two benefits that apply to all the lenses mentioned here. The first benefit is superior image quality - they are all virtually the same on that point. And the second is the HSM(hypersonic motor) feature that provides really fast focus speeds.

The 70-200mm lenses from Canon are their "flagship" lenses. They are proud of them, and they should be. They are each fantastic, whether it is the cheapest or the most costly of the category.

See the "L" in the title of each one? L is attached to only the best build quality lenses made by Canon. Every photographer wants at least one L lens.

One more thing, and this should have been mentioned with the benefits of all lenses in this category. The aperture, whether it is 2.8 or 4.0, is constant throughout the entire focal range. With zoom lenses, this is not always the case . This characteristic adds value because you do not sacrifice quality or shutter speed by using the zoom.

There are five lenses to choose from made by Canon. There are also third party manufacturers which are really well made, too. However, for this article, we will focus only on the "home-grown" choices.

Now for the benefits of each offering.

Starting with the least complex, which is also the cheapest:

  1. Canon 70-200mm f/4.0 L HSM - a highly regarded lens, even though it is a fraction of the price of the more advanced choices. It is the lightest but it still turns heads because of the tell-tale light grey color which is typical of all the lenses in this category. Lacking in IS(image stabilization) it is recommended for use with a tripod if the light is not really bright.
  2. Canon 70-200 f/4.0 IS L HSM - add IS (image stabilization) to the mix and you can shoot hand-held images at lower shutter speeds, negating the need for a tripod. The IS feature does add a couple of ounces in weight, but the size is identical to the other f/4.0 lens. Price almost doubles though.
  3. Canon 70-200 f/2.8 L HSM - the larger aperture of 2.8 is a huge plus to some photographers. This alone adds value in terms of being able to shoot at lower light levels with confidence that shutter speeds are fast enough to prevent image blur. The larger aperture adds length and weight to the lens, but it turns out to be about the same price as the previous model.
  4. Canon 70-200 f/2.8 IS L HSM - this is the big brother of the group. The most complex lens has the most desired capabilities. Shooting at 2.8 apertures with IS gets you into very low light shooting without the aid of a tripod. This may include night scenes and concerts. It is a heavy lens, and it is the most expensive of the group. However, many photographers are totally convinced it is the only one to have.
  5. There has been an upgrade to the top of the line - Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 IS L HSM II - same fantastic lens with better technology and a slightly higher price tag.

ONE of these lenses in your camera bag is a given. Given the fine quality of each one of these lenses, it boils down to either your desire for the most advanced gear or your pocketbook. The ultimate choice has to be your own.

As you continue your quest for great Canon lenses, make sure to check lots of photography forums, blogs, and information websites. provides a run down of the most sought after lenses for your Canon EOS digital camera.

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