Canon EF 70-200mm F4L IS II USM Review
Canon EF 70-200mm F4L IS II USM Introduction
The Canon EF 70-200mm F4L IS II USM is a new updated version of the classic f/4 L-series telephoto zoom lens for Canon's full-frame and APS-C DSLR cameras.
This weather-sealed lens features a constant aperture of f/4 throughout the range, built-in 5-stop image stabilisation system with three different modes, and minimum focus distance of 1m and maximum magnification of 0.27x.
There's also an ultrasonic focus motor for quiet and fast AF operation, Super Spectra coating to help minimize ghosting and flare, a fluorine coating on the front and rear lens elements, and a dust- and moisture-sealed construction.
The optical formula is comprised of 20 elements in 15 groups with one fluorite element and two ultra-low dispersion glass elements, and it has an iris diaphragm with nine rounded aperture blades. It's also fully compatible with the optional Canon 1.4x and 2x teleconverters.
The Canon EF 70-200mm F4L IS II USM lens officially retails priced at £1299.99 / $1299.99 in the UK and USA respectively.
Ease of Use
The Canon EF 70-200mm F4L IS II USM is roughly half the weight of its f/2.8 sibling, the Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS III USM, that we recently reviewed, weighing in at 780g and measuring 176mm in length. What you lose in maximum aperture, you gain in size and weight.
As demonstrated by the product images, it's a very good match for a professional-grade, full-frame camera like the Canon EOS 5DS R that we tested it with.
The EF 70-200mm F4L IS II USM also feels well-balanced on a smaller APS-C body, even without a battery grip attached to the camera. Note that the focal length will also change, becoming 112-320mm, although some may users regard this as a positive.
The lens has a non-retractable design, so it does not extend at all when zoomed out from 70mm to 200mm.
Build quality is excellent, with a weather-resistant design that protects the lens from dust and moisture. The lens has 20 elements in 15 groups which are made of high-grade glass, with one fluorite element and two ultra-low dispersion glass elements.
In terms of features, the Canon EF 70-200mm F4L IS II USM offers most of the the things that you need from a professional telephoto zoom lens, with the notable exception of a tripod collar, which is only available as an optional extra.
Focusing is internal and manual focusing is possible when set via the Focus switch on the lens barrel. Full-time manual focus override is also available by at any time simply by rotating the focus ring to make fine adjustments.
The Canon EF 70-200mm F4L IS II USM lens has a generously sized focus ring, which is ridged for easier grip. There are hard stops at both ends of the range, making it easier to set focus at infinity. Polariser users should be pleased that the 72mm filter thread doesn't rotate on focus.
When it comes to auto-focusing, this lens is a quick performer, taking about 0.2 seconds to lock onto the subject when mounted on the Canon EOS 5DS R that we tested it with. We didn't experience too much "hunting", either in good or bad light, with the lens accurately focusing most of the time. It's also a fairly quiet performer, thanks to the built-in ring-type USM (Ultra Sonic Motor).
The focus limiter switch has two settings, Full and 3m-infinity, which helps speed up the auto-focusing if you know how far your subject is from the lens. A clear distance scale in both feet and meters runs from the closest focusing distance of 1m to infinity.
Built-in vibration reduction is activated by the Stabilizer switch on the lens barrel, which offers around 5 stops of compensation. The OS system has three modes - mode 1 is suitable for general photography, mode 2 operates only during the exposure, and mode 3 is best for panning shots.
The Canon EF 70-200mm F4L IS II USM is not supplied with a tripod collar in the box. The lens does ship with a good quality padded case and a large, lockable round plastic lens hood (ET-78B). The lens is fully compatible with both of the optional EF 1.4X and EF 2X teleconverters.
Chromatic aberrations, typically seen as purple or blue fringes along contrasty edges, are well controlled with this lens, so much so that we could only find a few examples in our test shots.
The Canon EF 70-200mm F4L IS II USM offers a classic focal range for full-frame DSLR owners.
Light Fall-off and Distortion
With the Canon EF 70-200mm F4L IS II USM wide open at f/4, you can see some noticeable light fall-off in the corners at both ends of the zoom range. Stopping down helps, although to completely get rid of this phenomenon, you will need to use an f-stop of f/8 or smaller.
The Canon EF 70-200mm F4L IS II USM is not a macro lens. The close-focus point is at 100cm / 3.28' from the film/sensor plane and the magnification ratio is 0.27x at 200mm. The following example illustrates how close you can get to the subject with the lens set to 200mm to aid magnification, in this case a CompactFlash card.
Bokeh is a word used for the out-of-focus areas of a photograph, and is usually described in qualitative terms, such as smooth / creamy / harsh etc. One of the reason to buy a fast lens is to be able to isolate the subject from the background. Canon have employed an iris diaphragm with 9 rounded aperture blades for a fairly pleasing rendering of the out-of-focus highlights. Below you'll find some examples, but you are also encouraged to check out our sample images.
In order to show you how sharp this lens is, we are providing 100% crops on the following pages.