Canon 70-200mm f/4 L
Full-Frame EF (1999 - )
Canon EF 70-200mm f/4 L (covers all formats, 67mm filters, 25.1 oz./711g, 4'/1.2m close focus, about $599 new or $475 used). enlarge. I'd get it at Adorama, at Amazon, at B&H or at Crutchfield, or used at eBay if you know How to Win at eBay.
This ad-free website's biggest source of support is when you use those or any of these links to my personally-approved sources when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live. Canon does not seal its boxes in any way, so never buy at retail or any other source not on my personally approved list since you'll have no way of knowing if you're missing accessories, getting a defective, damaged, returned, store demo or used lens. Buy only from the approved sources I use myself for the best prices, service, return policies and selection. Thanks for helping me help you! Ken.
70-200mm f/4L IS (2006-)
70-200mm f/2.8L IS II (2010-)
70-200mm f/2.8L IS (2001-2010)
70-200mm f/2.8L (1995-)
80-200mm f/2.8L (1989-1995)
100-400mm IS L II (2014-)
100-400mm IS L (1998-2015)
Canon currently makes four 70-200mm lenses. Take your choice of f/4 or f/2.8 and with or without image stabilization.
This is the least expensive: the f/4 without stabilization.
This is the lens to get for daylight use where you want the lightest, least expensive tele zoom yet still want a fast and excellent lens. It is ideal for daytime sports because of its very fast focusing and great image quality. You don't need IS and don't need f/2.8 for action in daytime. Personally I'm addicted to IS for hand-held shots of still subjects in any light, so I bought the 70-200mm f/4 L IS version for myself.
● Instant manual-focus override.
● Excellent build quality.
● Fast focusing.
● Close close focus: 4 feet (1.2m).
● Inexpensive (for this class).
● Lightweight (for this class).
● Easy to zoom with one fingertip.
● No Image Stabilization.
This is a full frame lens, and I'm reviewing it as such.
It works great on APS-C cameras, too, on which you may make the usual inferences, however for APS-C you might prefer the 55-250mm IS STM for half the price that adds Image Stabilization and a broader zoom range.
Canon calls this the Canon Zoom Lens EF 70-200mm f/4 L USM.
EF: Electronic Focus. All modern Canon lenses do this.
L: Expensive as L.
USM: Ultra-Sonic Motor: The focus motor operates silently.
Canon 70-200/4 L USM construction. Fluorite and UD elements.
16 elements in 13 groups.
One fluorite element for extreme sharpness.
Two UD ultra-low dispersion elements, which help reduce color fringing.
Stops down to f/32.
70 ~ 200mm.
Used on a 1.3x camera it sees angles of view similar to what an 85 ~ 250mm lens would see on a full-frame or 35mm camera.
On an APS-C camera it sees angles of view similar to what a 114 ~ 324mm lens sees on a full-frame or 35mm camera.
See also Crop Factor.
Angle of View
34° 〜 12° diagonal.
29° 〜 10° horizontal.
19°30' 〜 7° vertical.
Infinity Focus Stop
Depth of Field Scale
Infrared Focus Index
3.9 feet (1.2 meters).
Maximum Reproduction Ratio
1:4.76 (0.21 ×).
Plastic 67mm filter thread.
2.992" maximum diameter × 6.710" extension from flange, actual measured.
75.99 mm maximum diameter × 170.7 mm extension from flange, actual measured.
25.080 oz. (711.0 g) actual measured weight, lens only.
Rated 24.9 oz. (705 g).
Made in Japan.
Canon's Model Numbers
2578A002. (2578A001 in Japan.)
$599, June 2017.
$710, April 2012.
$675, November 2011.
$640, March 2010.
$600, December 2006.
The 70-200mm f/4 L is an easy lens to love. It just works.
It focuses by moving an internal lens group. Nothing changes on the outside.
AF speed is fast, regardless of the camera on which I use it.
Sound and Noise
It's almost silent in AF, sounding like plastic rattling on plastic. It goes so fast it snaps the insides around pretty quickly.
It sounds like plastic on plastic during manual focus.
Easy: all it takes is one stiff fingertip. Manual focus overrides the AF instantly.
There's no need to flip the switch from AF to MF unless you want to.
Focus breathing is the image changing size as focused in and out. It's important to cinematographers because it looks funny if the image changes size as focus gets pulled back and forth between actors. If the lens does this, the image "breathes" by growing and contracting slightly as the dialog goes back and forth.
Breathing is a motion picture term which refers to what happens as you pull (change) focus from near to far. In movies we do this as the conversation goes from one actor to the next. As a viewer you don't notice it because your eyes are also going between actors, but if you pay attention, you can see focus move from near to far. There are people called focus pullers whose sole job is to do this.
It doesn't matter in still photography, but I still look for it.
Ideally nothing happens and the image size doesn't change when focus is pulled from near to far. This distracts audiences if the image changes size slightly as the conversation goes from actor to actor.
The image size does change as you focus with this lens.
Bokeh, the feel or quality of out-of-focus areas as opposed to how far out of focus they are, is good. It's very neutral.
Here is the background, at 15 feet, with the lens focused at 7 feet. These are the full images reduced to fit the screen.
Here's the same thing from the same position at 70mm. For each image I cropped the middle third (1,529 x 1,019 pixels from the 4,368 x 2,912 pixel image of my Canon 5D).
Here's the proverbial Bad Photographers' Wall of Shame (f/7.1, 1/320, ISO 50):
At 70mm on a 5D. Roll mouse over to see after correction in Photoshop.
If you need low distortion without Photoshop, shoot at around 100mm. At 135mm it's almost as bad as at 200mm:
At 200mm on a 5D. Roll mouse over to see after correction in Photoshop.
Here are the results of my research. Plug these into Photoshop's lens distortion filter to correct the distortion. These figures are for you to enjoy in your photography. This is all © and registered, so you'll need permission to use these figures for anything else. Thanks! Ken.
The good news is that, like most tele zooms, it's trivial to correct if you have Photoshop CS2 or newer.
Zooming is great. One touch from a fingertip is all you need, regardless of the direction in which the lens is pointing.
The zoom range is evenly spaced on the zoom ring:
Focus Shift while Zooming
Focus shifts a little bit from one end of the range to the other. Be sure to focus after you zoom.
Focal Length Encoding
Compared to the indications on the zoom ring, 70mm was encoded as 70mm, 100mm was encoded as 98mm, 135mm was encoded as 131mm and 200mm was encoded as 200mm.
Falloff is minor.
I've greatly exaggerated the falloff by shooting a gray field and placing these on a gray background:
As a tele lens, there' no issue with what kind of filter you use, regular or thin.
Since the lens look relatively straight through the filter, instead of out the corners as a wide angle lens does, there's never a problem.
Go ahead and use your standard rotating polarizer and grad filters.
Ghost at 200mm, f/8 at 1/800, ISO 50, Canon 5D.
This is fairly typical of the 70-200mm f/4 L when pointed into the sun. It does the same thing with or without a filter.
This is a dangerously bright sun. This ghost probably wouldn't be visible if photographing an ordinary sunset.
If sunsets are your bag I'd try a different lens, or try this one carefully.
Built-in flashes are often so close to the camera that some lenses can see far enough down to see their shadow cast by a built-in flash.
Even at its close focus distance of 4 feet (1.2m) I can't get any shadows from the built-in flash of my Rebel XTi.
I don't see any. Lawn furniture photographers rejoice!
At 4' (1.2m), 200mm, full image from a Rebel XTi.
Metal, or so I can gather peering into it.
The serial number is engraved on the outside bottom of the lens barrel, near the mount.
It is filled with black paint.
Noises when shaken
A lot of clunking (this is normal).
The sample I borrowed needs to visit a service facility. It is out of alignment, so the entire left side is blurry at large apertures when tested. Therefore I'll skip my usual details until I get another sample.
For normal, three dimensional subjects, like people, it's very sharp, and you'd never notice a problem. Here's an example:
Red Tree, 70-200mm at 113mm, f/7.1 at 1/320, ISO 100, full image, Canon 5D.
100% crop, sharpened, from center right of above.
This would print 44" wide at this magnification. How did I get these colors? Simply by being observant and setting my 5D's saturation to +2 or +3. It goes to +4. This is exactly how it came from the camera.
Canon's MTF charts at 10 cycles and at 30 cycles per millimeters at f/4 and at f/8.
This 70-200mm f/4 L has NO image stabilization.
IS does nothing if you're shooting moving kids and sports. It does everything if you're shooting still subjects in dim light without a tripod. I prefer the latter, so I love IS and would want one of the IS lenses.
If you're shooting action, this non-IS lens and I just saved you a thousand dollars.
TIP: In dim light, fire several shots and pick the sharpest. Blur is a random event, so if you fire enough shots, you'll eventually get a sharp one even at long speeds!
See also Why IS is Important.
This is a high quality, fast focusing tele zoom. Get it if you want a budget price for a super quality optic and can survive without IS or f/2.8.
This is an ideal lens for daytime sports because you don't need IS (Image Stabilization) or the f/2.8 speed of Canon's other 70-200mm lenses, and this one retains the super-fast focusing and excellent image quality you do need.
Be certain that you get a good one. Mine appears to have been dropped or otherwise misaligned. Go on top of a mountain and make some shots at f/4. Each side needs to be as sharp as the others. If they differ, something isn't straight inside the lens.
Personally I'm a slave to IS because I won't use a tripod, so for myself I bought the 70-200mm f/4 L IS version with IS.
The very best protective filter is the Hoya multicoated HD3 67mm UV which uses hardened glass and repels dirt and fingerprints, and is also multicoated.
Filters last a lifetime, so you may as well get the best. The Hoya HD3 stays cleaner than the others since it repels oil and dirt.
This ad-free website's biggest source of support is when you use those or any of these links to approved sources when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live. Canon does not seal its boxes in any way, so never buy at retail or any other source not on my personally approved list since you'll have no way of knowing if you're missing accessories, getting a defective, damaged, returned, store demo or used lens. I use the stores I do because they ship from secure remote warehouses where no one gets to touch your new camera before you do. Buy only from the approved sources I use myself for the best prices, service, return policies and selection.
Thanks for helping me help you!
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15 June 2017 reformat, November 2011, 06 Dec 2006