Need help with the decision to purchase Canon 70-200mm 2.8L IS

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by Bokser, Aug 5, 2008.

  1. Bokser Guest

    Hi everybody!

    Just wanted to let you know that this forum helped me immensely with the transition to Mac OS X and with the decision to buy a Macbook Pro :)

    I decided to ask a question regarding the lens I plan to buy, here as well...;)

    So, here it is, I have two options:
    1) Canon 70-200mm IS 4L ~1100$
    2) Canon 70-200mm IS 2.8L ~2000$

    These are both expensive lenses and are supposed to be superior, this is why I wanted to invest "in glass", which I will use with my modest Canon XSi.

    The question really is which lens should I buy, and if the 2.8L worth the extra 900$? I shoot portraits, indoor, outdoors, nature. I am not a professional photographer, however I believe one doesn't have to be one to enjoy the sharpness and quality of L lenses.

    The 4L version of the 70-200mm is much more attractive in price, and it is said on many forums that it is actually sharper at apertures>4 than the 2.8L version at equal apertures. Weight of both is not a factor for me.

    What do you think is the smart move here?
    On the one side I want to save some money, on the other side I want to get the 2.8L so that I dont regret later and psychologically know that I got "the best". But is it really "the best" :confused:

    Thanks so much in advance :)
  2. taylorwilsdon macrumors 68000


    Nov 16, 2006
    Bay Area
    Take advantage of the exchange rate and buy from someone in the US. You can buy a lightly used 70-200 f/2.8 IS for $1500 in the US.

    That will make your decision easier, I think.

    The F/4 version is actually sharper, but... you can't shoot at f/2.8, so if you need low light, you need f/2.8.
  3. apearlman macrumors regular

    Aug 8, 2007
    Red Hook, NY
    Two thoughts

    First, consider that the 2.8 is a considerably bigger and heavier piece of gear. You might look at them in a store to make sure you'd be willing to carry it around. An f4 in your bag is much better than an f2.8 that you left at home.

    Second, given how well these lenses hold their value, you could buy the less expensive one and use it for a few months, and then if you really wish you had the extra speed of the 2.8, sell your f4. You won't lose much money to depreciation, and you can make your decision based on your own experience, rather than other people's.

    Take these suggestions with a grain of salt, though, because I don't own either of these fine lenses.

  4. Bokser thread starter Guest

    Thank you for quick responses ;)

    It is a good idea to buy from the US, but even when ordering new from B&H, I calculated (through that after duty the price will be +-100 the same if I just buy it in a local store, the only thing is that a used lens might be a good idea, but I would rather have a new item, if it costs only 200$ more.

    Actually I did look at the 2.8L version at the store today. To be honest I expected it to be heavier, after reading raving reviews about its weight :)
    The tripod collar is nice, the glass is beautiful, but one thing is - I didn't have a chance to shoot with it. Tomorrow I am planning on bringing my XSi and taking some shots.

    I think it is more of a perception issue now :) Maybe tomorrow after I test the 2.8L I can finally decide...

    If anybody has experience with either of the lenses - let me know! ;-)

    Thx again
  5. tonie macrumors 6502

    Mar 29, 2008
  6. ghostguts macrumors regular

    Feb 11, 2008
    With lenses, your next purchase is always to better yourself. With the two options on the table and one clearly better, I think the choice is pretty obvious, go with the 2.8L.

    While the 4.0L is certainly solid, like you said, you'll always have the "what if?" question in the back of your mind and have some regrets when the lens can't snap something fast enough. Moreover, chances are, you'll end up getting the 2.8L down the road, if not now; thus, spending more money (getting the 4.0L and 2.8L in succession, rather than just the 2.8L now).
  7. OreoCookie macrumors 68030

    Apr 14, 2001
    Sendai, Japan
    How about taking picking up Tamron's 70-200 f/2.8 zoom instead? It retails for about $900, its optics are great and it's sturdily built.
  8. MacNoobie macrumors 6502a


    Mar 15, 2005
    If you're even considering getting the 2.8 then why ask about the f4?

    Granted the f4 is way lighter then the 2.8 but the 2.8 is well.. a 2.8 so if you plan on shooting in low light then the fast aperture comes in handy. The other thing is resale value I'd imagine the 2.8 would hold up better then the f4 due to people that have the f4 wanting to upgrade to the 2.8 so you'd probably find more people wanting a faster 2.8.

    If you can justify the extra $900 for the 2.8 then definitely go for it!

    I wouldnt go with anything other then the Canon lenses especially for L stuff since Sigma/Tamron lenses are cheaper and the grinding noise on Sigma's I cant stand.
  9. AlaskaMoose macrumors 65816

    Apr 26, 2008
    That's exactly what I would do if it was me trying to decide. I would buy the f/2.8 and be done with it.
  10. Bokser thread starter Guest

    Thank you so much for your replies guys!

    I was in the store today and had a chance to try out both 2.8L and 4L, to be completely honest - I have noticed a big advantage going for the 2.8L lens in the lighting that we had in that store. As for the better sharpness of 4L...well, I don't know, but indoors I would say it performs worse, especially if you are shooting handheld and without flashes.
    As for outdoors - I was Very impressed. The weight - only adds to its perceived value in my head :)

    Thank you very much for all your responses, they helped me to make my mind - I am going to purchase the 2.8L IS version, as soon as my cheque gets deposited :rolleyes: and now I know I won't have any regrets not going for the 4L version.

    Some photos I shot today with the 2.8L IS on my camera, while in the store:


    How much sharper can it get?

    (if interested here is the crop 100% version for the traffic light pole):

    Indoor shooting:

    Please leave a comment!
  11. AlaskaMoose macrumors 65816

    Apr 26, 2008
    Excellent choice! I would have done the same as you. While both may be as sharp, the f/2.8 is sharper under low-light conditions. It should also be faster-focusing under the same conditions (low light). The f/4 is good, but the f/2.8 is better, and that's why it costs more.
  12. Bokser thread starter Guest

    Thanks for making me even more confident in my decision to purchase. :)
    Appreciate your comment.

    How did you find the photos, guys? Do they really reflect the "L" quality, or is it just me who thinks they are good in comparison to my Kit 18-55?
  13. Rotary8 macrumors regular

    Oct 24, 2006
    wow that first image is nice. She's nice too LOL

    Btw I'm a nikon guy and waiting tO buy a 70-200 vr it's worth every penny I think
  14. Col127 macrumors 6502

    Sep 13, 2003
    if you don't mind the weight of the 2.8, it's definitely the way to go. the extra stop will help huge for low light and give you much better options for your photography in the future. :)

  15. tonie macrumors 6502

    Mar 29, 2008
    The weight of the lens is just a bandwagon so don't worry about it.
  16. pprior macrumors 65816

    Aug 1, 2007
    Common question to have.

    The F4 version is a bit sharper, much smaller and lighter.
    The 2.8 version is faster and more expensive.

    For me, I shoot almost EVERYTHING at F2.8 or less (with other lenses) because I love bokeh and natural light. If you're doing studio portrait work with strobes at F8, then it's not the right lens.

    For -me-, I don't mind the weight or size, and the money gives me the extra speed when it's needed. Tradeoff is a bit of sharpness, but not enough that I think it shows in actual prints.

    The 70-200/2.8L and the IS version (I've owned both) is one of -THE- classic lenses in the canon lineup and one that I would wager almost every working pro owns. When I bought my first one (it was my first L lens) I was absolute ga-ga over the quality of my pictures.

    Something that -might- be important - you can put a 1.4 teleconvter on the 2.8 and still have a F4 lens which will do decent autofocus. Also, many canon bodies will only activate all of the AF sensors at F2.8 aperture glass or faster AND you'll have an easier time focusing in low light because of the increased light going through the fast glass.

    If you can get your hands on both, put them on your body and walk around, they are totally different lenses. Me, I think the F4 is a girlie-lens and real men only shoot fast glass :p
  17. jampat macrumors 6502a

    Mar 17, 2008
    I went with the 2.8 so I could use a doubler for my 20D. I know I lost some sharpness and contrast, but I was shooting small things far away and a crop would have looked worse. If you are hand holding it, it does start to get heavy after a few hours. If you plan on taking candid shots, the f4 is much less imposing (it's still huge and white, but doesn't look like a cannon). With the 2.8 people notice it and look at you quite quickly. I have never regretted the extra money for the bigger glass. Does th f4 not come with the tripod collar? That thing is worth it's weight in gold. Being able to reorient the camera on the tripod without having to get it into a slot on the ball head is almost worth the extra money. You can take some really interesting shots by spinning the camera with the shutter open too. Good luck.
  18. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    People worry about used equipment. But I'll tell you that every new lens I bought is now a used lens. The "newness" is gone when you open the box. Hardly worth it to pay extra for something that vanishes so fast.

    As for f/2.8 or f/4. If you like the shallow DOF of an f/2.8 lens then you need the f.2.8 lens.

    One other question. for your subjects why do you want the IS lens? Can't all those subjects be done with a tripod? Portraits, landscapes and nature are all best shot with a camera support. News and sports and other subjects that you have to chase with your feet would be the best use of IS.

    Another way to save money and get an even faster than f/2.8 lens is to buy a prime or two. A 50mm 1.8 is a good portrait lens and is much faster than the 70-200 and sells for $100. That's what I did. I rearly need a telephoto lens so I have a cheap f/5.6 tele but faster f/1.4 and f/1.8 primes.

    More more point. If you ever want a really, long lens the f/2.8 lens can be used with a teleconverter and still be reasonably fast. the f/4 lens is not so fast even with a 1.4X TC.
  19. mlemonds macrumors 6502a


    Apr 9, 2008
    Lexington, KY
    where did the photos go?

    i have the f/4 and am happy with it, but really wanted the 2.8
  20. digitalfrog macrumors regular


    Nov 26, 2007
  21. nutmac macrumors 68040

    Mar 30, 2004
    I am an f/4L IS USM owner. I have debated long and hard over this purchase a couple of years back. Ultimately, my telephoto needs did not call for frequent indoor shooting. And with a flash (580EX II) and ISO set to 400-800, I get very good results indoor at f/4 or narrower aperture. And in my experience, f/4L IS USM isn't a lightweight lens. My neck starts hurting within an hour carrying the lens around.

    If 200mm more than satisfies your telephoto needs, f/4L IS USM's extra sharpness probably won't be appreciated over f/2.8L IS USM, but if you find yourself reaching for more, it can be quite beneficial. I frequently crop images to "gain" additional focal length. By nearly all measures, f/4L IS USM represents the finest zoom lens Canon has ever produced. Even at pixel peeping 100% magnification, images are as sharp as 50mm f/1.4L USM with minimal chroma aberration all around.

    In addition, f/4L IS USM's image stabilizer has 1-stop advantage over f/2.8L IS USM. Of course, f/2.8 is 1-stop faster than f/4 with advantage of freezing subject in motion but if you are shooting a still subject, there shouldn't be any difference, other than better bokeh due to narrower depth of field.
  22. wheezy macrumors 65816


    Apr 7, 2005
    Alpine, UT
    I picked up a used 135F2L for about $850 a few years back, but even new I think it still comes in below $1000. It was my first L and it's just a gorgeous lens. I don't mind not having the zoom part, but I don't pay attention to times where it might come in handy; I just shoot with what I have.

    That said, the bokeh is beautiful, and it's a very sharp lens. But... you already bought the 2.8L IS, so my advice is nil. You still got the better buy out of the 2, that's for sure! Good job! Be sure to post pictures in the photo of the day threads and such, share the love.
  23. MacNoobie macrumors 6502a


    Mar 15, 2005
    I'd say go with either.. the f/4 has IS built in so you're covered when it comes to holding it steady in less then ideal situations. The 2.8 IS is what I have and its definitely a lot heavier then the f/4 (if you plan on carrying it around for hours at a time the weight might bug you). I do shoot a lot of concerts and venues so the 2.8 was kind of a no brain'er right there but for portraits I find myself shooting at 5.6-8 so the f/4 can easily fit the bill right there.
  24. MacNoobie macrumors 6502a


    Mar 15, 2005
    The bigger question is why wouldn't you want IS on a lens? I yurn for the day I see IS built into the 24-70L and IS is always helpful no matter what the situation is. When you're dealing with outdoor portraits where you've got time a tripod might make sense but still thats one extra thing to distract you and weigh you down when moving around. It distracts you from capturing that funny outake of someone laughing and getting different angles easily.

    Honestly as much as I love tripods nothing replaces IS for having that 2-3 stop advantage and still getting a usable shot while mobile, focusing on the subject and their personality.
  25. Bokser thread starter Guest

    Thanks for bumping the topic guys, I appreciate all your replies. I have no idea why my photos were deleted (!) not only from here, but also from the "Photo of the day - August 2008" thread, indeed strange. I will post some new ones here though, so no worries :)

    Col127, tonie
    I don't mind the weight at all now, of course I am not able to continually hand-hold it but I quickly "recharge" bracing it against my knee or arm and then I am ready for using it again :)

    pprior, digitalfrog, nutmac
    Since I have already bought the 2.8L IS, I must say I have no regrets about it. I know that according to tests and numbers the 4L IS is slightly sharper. But, for me the 2.8 aperture makes taking pictures possible indoors. Plus, it really separates the subject from the background - so it was worth it for me to overpay. I DID take some test shoots with the 70-200 4L IS just before deciding to hand over the 600$ on top of it for the 2.8L. The first couple pictures indoors (in store lighting) made me understand that without having a tripod there is no way that the 4L is going to make a shoot as good as 2.8L did under the same conditions. The portrait I took of another customer was at f/4.0 and 1/40 shutter speed, which even with IS enabled made the picture not as nice as on f/2.8 and 1/60 speed. Plus, the 2.8L version autofocuses much faster under inferior light conditions.

    The tripod mount is great, but I still haven't bought a decent tripod to go with it, so that will be my next purchase :)

    ChrisA, wheezy
    I think that you are right, but for me the 70-200 cannot be replaced by one prime lens, for the telephoto needs. I think that journalists MUST have the ability to quickly zoom in/out, as there is not enough time or space to move back/forth physically. But, now I am thinking about buying the Canon 35mm 1.4L lens, to satisfy my "prime" quality needs as well as have a relatively "wide" angle on my crop Canon 450D (Xsi).
    The 135mm 2L is really a nice lens, from what I have heard- but now owing the 2.8L zoom, I think it would be silly for me to get it, unless money is burning my pocket, which it doesn't :)

    Yes, I have already got the 70-200mm 2.8IS USM one, and I agree that if you ever plan on using the 2.8 aperture, it is a no-brainer. However for some, they always shoot in better light conditions, so the choice of 4L is appropriate as well.

    The Photos I have taken recently:

    Who knows what bird is it?

    A squirrel just outside my house:

    My sister's cat, or lioness should I say :)

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