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Canon 70-200mm f/4
(L, non-IS)

© 2006 KenRockwell.com

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Canon 70-200mm f/4

Canon 70-200mm f/4 L (covers all formats, 67mm filters, 25.1 oz./711g, 4'/1.2m close focus, abotu $630.) enlarge. I'd get it at Adorama or Amazon. It helps me publish this site when you get yours from these links, thanks! Ken.


NEW: Canon 70-200mm f/4 L IS. I personally own the newer IS version because IS, Image Stabilization, is very imporant in tele lenses so we can shoot them hand-held.


November 2011, 06 Dec 2006      Canon Reviews    Canon Lenses    All Reviews

See also:

Canon 70-200 Comparison Table.

Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II (2010-)

Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS (2001-2010)

Canon 80-200mm f/2.8L (1989-1995)

Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L (1995-)

Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS (2006-)



Top   Specs   Performance   Recommendations

Adorama pays top dollar for your used gear.

B&H Photo - Video - Pro Audio

Ritz Camera

Canon currently makes four 70-200mm lenses. Take your choice of f/4 or f/2.8 and with or without image stabilization. I also have a detailed review of the 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS and 70-200mm f/4 L IS version.

This is the least expensive: the f/4 without stabilization. It sells for around $640.

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 it's 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, which costs about $400 more.

Good News:

1.) Excellent build quality.

2.) Fast focusing.

3.) Close close focus: 4 feet (1.2m).

4.) Inexpensive (for this class).

5.) Lightweight (for this class).

6.) Easy to zoom with one fingertip.

Bad News:

1.) The one I borrowed, which looks new, was seriously misaligned and rendered the left sides of images very softly at large apertures.


That's about it. Canon makes this clear: get this if you want an easy-to-carry high quality tele zoom and can forego IS.



Top    Introduction   Performance   Recommendations

Name: 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.

   USM: Ultra-Sonic Motor: The focus motor operates silently.


Focal Length


Used on a 1.3x camera it gives angles of view similar to what an 88-251mm lens would give on a 35mm film camera.

On a 1.6x camera it gives angles of view similar to what a 114-324mm lens would give on a 35mm film camera.


Maximum Aperture




16 elements, 13 groups, including one fluorite element and two of UD glass. UD glass is the same as Nikon's ED glass, which helps reduce color fringing.



8 blades, stopping down to f/32.


Filter Size



Close Focus

3.9' or 1.2m from the image plane (the back of the camera).



2.992" diameter x 6.710" extension from flange (75.99 x 170.7mm), measured.



25.080 oz. (711.0 g), measured, naked.









September 1999.


Price (USA)

$640, March 2010.

$600, December 2006



Canon's published curves look great.



Top    Introduction   Specs   Recommendations

Autofocus   Bokeh  Color  Color Fringes   Construction    Distortion

Falloff  Filters   Flare   Flash  Macro  Serial #  Sharpness  IS  Zooming



The 70-200mm f/4 L is an easy lens to love. It just works.



back to Performance. back to Introduction. back to top.

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.

Manual Focus: Plastic on plastic.

Autofocus: About the same: plastic rattling on plastic. It goes so fast it snaps the insides around pretty quickly.

Autofocus Accuracy

It looks great in actual use, but I get poor results deliberately testing at f/4. On my Canon 5D It often focuses behind the subject at 70mm at far distances (100', 30m). It's OK at close distances (10', 3m).

I suspect the lens I borrowed from a friend needs repair. I would suggest you test any lens you buy to ensure you're happy with it. I wouldn't be satisfied if I bought a lens like this.

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.

canon 70-200mm focus switch

Focus Breathing

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.



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Bokeh is good. It's very neutral.

Here is the background, at 15 feet, with the lens focuses at 7 feet. These are the full images reduced to fit the screen.

Full image, 5D, 200mm at f/4
Full image, 5D, 200mm at f/5.6

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).

Central third, 5D, 70mm at f/4
Central third, 5D, 70mm at f/5.6


(Lateral Chromatic Aberration or LCA)

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I don't see any. Lawn furniture photographers rejoice!

70mm 200mm
Full image, 70mm
Full Image, 200mm


70mm crop

100mm crop
100% crop from 5D at 70mm
100% crop from 5D at 100mm


135mm crop
200mm crop
100% crop from 5D at 135mm
100% crop from 5D at 200mm



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I see no differences from my other Canon lenses.



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It has no rubber gasket on the lens mount like the 17-40mm L and 16-35mm L have to keep blowing crud out of your camera.

Exterior: Metal.

Filter Threads: Plastic.

Switches: Plastic.

Mount: Metal.

Internals: Metal, or so I can gather peering into it.

Noises when shaken: a lot of clunking (this is normal).

Made in: Japan.



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Distortion is typical for a fast tele zoom: barrel at wide, pincushion at tele.

Here's the proverbial Bad Photographers' Wall of Shame (f/7.1, 1/320, ISO 50):

70mm distortion

At 70mm on a 5D. Roll mouse over to see after correction in Photoshop.

At 100mm, full-frame 5D
At 135mm, full-frame 5D

If you need low distortion without Photoshop, shoot at around 100mm. At 135mm it's almost as bad as at 200mm:

200mm distorton

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 CS2'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.

50' (15m)

The good news is that, like most tele zooms, it's trivial to correct if you have Photoshop CS2.


FALLOFF (Darkened Corners)

back to Performance. back to Introduction. back to top.

Here are shots of my Expodisc. This is a tough test which shows even the slightest falloff. You'll almost never see this in normal photography. Ignore the minor exposure variations between frames.





AHA!! See how the apparent center of illumination is shifted to the upper left? See how the lower right corner is darker than the others? This confirms my suspicion that this particular sample of lens needs collimation (adjustment).



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67mm. 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.



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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.



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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.



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At 4' (1.2m), 200mm, full image from a Rebel XTi.

This is as close as it gets with a 1.6x camera. It will be less close with a 1.3x or full-frame camera. More at Crop Factor.



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The serial number is engraved on the outside bottom of the lens barrel, near the mount.

It is filled with black paint.



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The sample I was loaned 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

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.


IS (Image Stabilization)

back to Performance. back to Introduction. back to top.

This 70-200mm f/4 L has NO image stabilization. There is another 70-200mm f/4 L IS and 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS that do have IS. They cost more, but I prefer them.

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.



back to Performance. back to Introduction. back to top.

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.

canon 70-200mm 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.



Top    Introduction   Specs   Performance

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.


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Mr. & Mrs. Ken Rockwell, Ryan and Katie.


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