Canon EF 70-200mm f/4 USM L IS - Retest @ 15mp
Lens Reviews - Canon EOS (APS-C)
Article Index

Review by Klaus Schroiff, published August 2009

Special thanks to Johannes Matzke for providing this lens for testing!


The Canon EF 70-200mm f/4 USM L IS has already been tested on the old EOS 350D @ 8mp so this is only a retest based on the EOS 50D@ 15mp (APS-C). Therefore you may forgive us that we simply reused portions of the old article.

Canon users were always gifted with a broad range of excellent tele lenses, especially zooms. When the Canon EF 70-200mm f/4 USM L hit the market back in 1999 it was another milestone but there was one itch left: wouldn´t it be nice to have this lens with an image stabilizer ? In late 2006 Canon heard the calls and released the Canon EF 70-200mm f/4 USM L IS so there´re now no less than -4- 70-200mm L variants in the lens line-up. However, some user calls probably went silent after seeing the price tag at around the one grand (€/US$) barrier. Still for many a wish came true so let´s have a look at this baby within the usual APS-C scope where its field-of-view is equivalent to 116-320mm on full format cameras.

The optical construction is made of 20(!) elements in 15 groups, including 1 CaF2 and 2 UD elements. The min. focus distance is 1.2m resulting is a max. object magnification of ~1:5 at 200mm. The lens features 8 circular aperture blades. The filter size is 67mm.

The lens is pretty compact for a moderate aperture tele zoom with a size of 76x172mm and a weight of 760g so unlike its f/2.8 brothers and sisters it doesn't feel like a brick in your camera bag. Adding the (included) barrel-shaped hood increases the length substantially as you can observe in the image above.

The lens does not extend during zooming and thanks to its inner focusing system the front element does not rotate so using a polarizer is no problem - unless you attach the hood of course. The build quality of this lens is excellent - no wobbling and smooth controls. The lens features a ring-type USM drive resulting in a near silent and very fast AF. Typical for modern L zooms the lens is compatible to the EF 1.4x (-> 98-280mm f/5.6) and EF 2x (-> 140-400mm f/8) converters. Please note that Canon consumer DSLRs will not provide AF with the latter combination due to the small max. aperture.

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). 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). Unlike the 1st generation IS the latest variant features tripod detection.

By default the EF 70-200mm f/4 USM L IS does still NOT come with a dedicated tripod mount but it is available as an option either in black or white. The lens may be relatively light-weight but used on a tripod the camera-lens balance is quite bad so if you intend to use here the optional tripod mount is a good investment.

The similarities between the two 70-200mm f/4 variants are quite striking so let's have a short look at the paperwork here.

Canon EF 70-200mm f/4 USM L Canon EF 70-200mm f/4 USM L IS Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 USM L IS
Elements/Groups 16/13 20/15 23/18
Special Elements 1x CaF2 + 2x UD 1x CaF2 + 2x UD 4x UD
Image Stabilizer Efficiency (*) none 4 f-stops (with tripod detection) 3 f-stops (with tripod detection)
Aperture blades 8 8 (circular) 8
Min. focus (magnification) 1.2m (1:5) 1.2m (1:5) 1.3m (1:5)
AF motor ultrasonic with FTM ultrasonic with FTM ultrasonic with FTM
Zoom type true IF true IF true IF
Size 76x172mm 76x172mm 86x197mm
Weight 705g 760g 1470g
Filter size 67mm 67mm 77mm
water/dust protection no yes yes
approx. Price (EUR) ~570€/US$ ~1040€/US$ ~1600€/US$

Disclosure: When you click on links to various merchants on this site and make a purchase, this can result in this site earning a commission. Affiliate programs and affiliations include, but are not limited to, the eBay Partner Network and Google Adsense.