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

Review by Klaus Schroiff, published August 2011

Special thanks to Markus Stamm for providing this lens for testing purposes!


In certain aspects Canon users are certainly among the lucky ones - they can e.g. enjoy the luxury of being able to choose between no less than 4 different 70-200mm versions. In the center of interest are certainly the highly popular EF 70-200mm f/2.8 USM L IS II and the EF 70-200mm f/4 USM L IS. The non-IS variants of these lenses have a much lesser visibility these days but they have a significant advantage - they are much more affordable at almost half the price of their respective IS counterparts. In this review we will focus on the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 USM L which is almost a legend - back in 1995 it was the first professional grade tele zoom lens featuring a blazingly fast ultrasonic AF drive which made and still makes it a workhorse lens among sports and press photographers.

Typical for most designated Canon L-grade (Luxury) lenses it provides an excellent build quality based on an tightly assembled metal body and smoothly operating zoom and focus control rings. The physical length remains constant regardless of the zoom or focus action. The front element does not rotate thanks to an inner focusing system so using a polarizer is no problem - that is unless you attach the deep petal-shaped plastic hood, of course. The supplied tripod mount is detachable.

As already mentioned it features a ring-type USM drive with and extremely fast and virtually silent AF. The tested sample focused accurately during our tests. The AF speed is slightly reduced when combined with the Canon EF 1.4x (III) or EF 2.x (III) converter - this is a side effect of the smaller effective max. aperture. It's also worth to note that Canon advises to use the central AF sensor only when using this lens combined with tele-converters (the flanking sensors may cause focus errors).

The similarities among the various 70-200mm f/2.8 incarnations 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$ DISCONTINUED ~2300€/US$

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