Canon EF 70-200mm f/4 USM L IS II Review
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Review by Klaus Schroiff, published August 2018


The Canon EF 70-200mm f/4 USM L IS was the sharpest zoom lens that we ever tested on 21 megapixels and it "was" certainly one of the best zoom lenses ever made. However, the king is dead ... but there's a new one around - you guessed it - it's the Canon EF 70-200mm f/4 USM L IS II. Now some of you may now stare in disbelieve regarding our statement about sharpness, right? However, a f/2.8 zoom lens is much more difficult to design than the f/4 variant. Optical aberrations increase exponentially the faster the lens. Of course, diffraction plays a role as well but a 70-200mm f/4 is in a sweet spot as far as optical design is concerned. That being said it is a different question whether a 70-200mm f/4 can be "the best" zoom lens because a max. aperture of f/4 is simply a limiting factor when it comes to shallow depth-of-field and that's combined with a zoom range that isn't all that broad. Another side effect of the moderate aperture is the price tag. The Canon EF 70-200mm f/4 USM L IS II is certainly not cheap at around 1300USD/EUR but it is several hundred bucks more affordable than the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 USM L IS III.

The build quality of the 70-200mm f/4 USM L IS II is superb and, of course, up to professional standards. It's mostly made of tightly assembled metal parts plus improved weather sealing. The rubberized control rings operate smoothly. Just like its predecessors the lens does not extend during zooming nor focusing. The lens is very light-weight at just 780g thus it's almost half as heavy as its f/2.8 counterparts. It does come without a dedicated tripod mount but if needed there is one available for about 170USD/EUR. A deep, barrel-shaped lens hood is part of the package.

Thanks to a new CPU, Canon claims that the Image Stabilizer (IS) is now good enough for a gain of up to 5 f-stops. As usual, we advise you not to exploit this to the max though. Unlike previous IS versions, this one has three modes:

  • IS mode 1 for static objects
  • IS mode 2 for panning (action photography)
  • NEW: IS mode 3 - the IS will get active upon pressing the shutter button only. According to Canon, some users may prefer this if the subject moves erratically. This feature is not available on all EOS cameras though.
  • Typical for most modern EF lenses it features a ring-type USM drive which offers near silent and very fast AF operations in standard AF mode. Live view AF isn't all that hot but that depends on the base camera (the EOS 5Ds R doesn't feature Dual-Pixel AF). The tested sample had a bit of a back-focusing issue, unfortunately. The EF 70-200mm f/4 USM L IS II is compatible to both the EF 1.4x (-> 98-280mm f/5.6) and EF 2x (-> 140-400mm f/8) teleconverters.

    Optical construction20 elements in 15 groups including 2x UD and 1xCaF2 element
    Number of aperture blades9 (rounded)
    min. focus distance1m (max. magnification ratio 1:3.7)
    Dimensions80 x 176mm
    Filter size72mm
    Hoodbarrel-shaped (bayonet mount, optional)
    Other featuresweather-sealed, image stabilizer, fluorine coating, optional tripod mount

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