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Thread: Which flavour of canon 70-200 lens?

  1. #1

    Which flavour of canon 70-200 lens?

    Hey Everyone,

    I was wondering if anyone had any input on this.

    I shoot a bit of everything, but mostly landscapes and portraits. I am considering the 70-200 f4 IS and the 70-200 f2.8 for a crop sensor (canon xsi). The dilemma is whether the f4 has enough bokeh for portrait shots, and for bokehed landscape shots, and whether the f2.8 would be manageable for landscape photography without a tripod.

    Which of these two lenses do you think would be more useful to me? Also,
    would it be worth it to invest in the f2.8 IS?

    Currently, I only have the kit Canon 18-55 IS. I will probably remain on crop sensors for a long time to come. In the future, I will probably also purchase a 50mm 1.4, any maybe later on a 10-22. If I go with the f4, I might consider the 85mm 1.8 for bokeh shots instead of the 50mm 1.4 or maybe both.

    I would like to be able to operate nicely for a long time with just my kit lens, the 70-200 in question and maybe a 50mm 1.4.

    Thank you for all of your help,
    Alex

  2. #2

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    Re: Which flavour of canon 70-200?

    Hi Alex,

    Welcome to Cic

    To be honest, what you ask has become the age-old dilema - the answer to which really depends on a number of things. I'll give you some things to think about.

    - In terms of F2.8 -v- F4.0, a 1 stop difference isn't a lot; as a test, stop down one of your lenses by 1 stop and then repeatedly press and release the depth-of-field preview button to see the "difference" 1 stop makes. Hardly even noticeable to the human eye is it?

    - In terms of Bokah, the lower the F-Stop, the more out-of-focus the background will be, but other factors also come into it - like distance from camera to subject to background ... so if you go for the F4 version you may well be able to compensate through changing other parameters to a degree.

    - In terms of weight, some complain about the weight of the F2.8 version; personally it doesn't bother me in the slightest - and that's with a 1Ds3 on the end and often a 580EX II flash on top - so perhaps those who are bothered by the weight need a gym membership more than a lighter lens

    - In terms of IS -v- non IS, IS wins - BIG TIME. Some will say that the IS version isn't as sharp due to the extra element in the lens; ignore that advice - it's about as relevant as the amount the ocean rises when you throw a stone into it. IS does nothing to freese subject motion, but it does LOTS to reduce camera shake. Assuming that IS buys you a 3-Stop hand-holding advantage then a shot you'd previously need a 1/200th shutterspeed to capture could now concievably be captured at 1/25th - and that's a BIG deal. Additionally, you can always turn off IS if it's not needed; you can't turn ON IS if you need it, but don't have it.

    In summary ...

    If you can afford the F2.8IS version - and the weight doesn't concern you - then I'd recommend getting it - if that's off the menu then I'd go for a F4IS version over a F2.8 non IS version (side note: the IS unit in the F4IS version is a later version that what's in the F2.8IS version - so although you lose a stop of light, you can essentially "get it back" by virture of the fact that the later generation IS unit buys you an extra stop of hand-holdability (kinda / sorta: only works for hand-holding - doesn't help freeze subject motion, as mentioned above). Also, bumping up your ISO 1 stop when using an F4 version effectively equalises the two in all areas relating to exposure.

    Final thought - if you take more "conventional" portraiture like me then you won't want to be shooting too open anyway - Although I use the F2.8IS version, I wouldn't be overly concerned shooting portraiture at F4, even on a crop camera (even with lenses like my EF85/1.2L it still gets used mostly at F2.8 -> F8.

    Is this helpful as a starting point?

  3. #3

    Re: Which flavour of canon 70-200?

    Thank you for the warm welcome, Colin.

    Your advice aligns with what I was sort of leaning towards - f4 IS. It is said to be sharper than f2.8 (though both are sharp enough), it has circular aperture blades (not really important due to low bokeh, lol) and what you say about the importance of IS confirms what others have suggested. Perhaps the most enticing facts are its size/weight and the fact that I would probably find IS more useful than f2.8.

    But what do you mean when you say "more conventional portraits"?

    The one main drawback I see of the f4 IS is that I really don't feel the bokeh is strong enough for portrait shots. Even at 200mm f4 with the background being a fair distance behind the subject, the blur is not quite as strong as I would like.

    If I were to purchase the f4 IS and would also like to do portraits with strong bokeh, what would you recommend in addition to the 70-200? Would the 50mm 1.4 be satisfying to me? Perhaps a 85mm 1.8? I have never tried portrait photography with primes, but I believe I might miss the convenience of a fast zoom lens.

    Any thoughts?

  4. #4

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    Re: Which flavour of canon 70-200?

    Quote Originally Posted by alextor View Post
    Thank you for the warm welcome, Colin.
    You're very welcome - thanks for joining us

    Your advice aligns with what I was sort of leaning towards - f4 IS. It is said to be sharper than f2.8 (though both are sharp enough)
    I hear this kind of thing ad-nausium. At 200% on a monitor it may (or may not) be true, but in "real world" comparisons you won't be able to detect any difference. (I'm reminded of a recent test where industry professionals couldn't tell the difference between a bunch of prints taken on a (I think) a 48MP MF camera and a Canon G10 P&S - what does that tell you?

    But what do you mean when you say "more conventional portraits"?
    Take a look through the family & personal images section of my gallery for a few family "typical" portrait shots, but to answer the question, ones with full in-focus facial features, but "bokahed backgrounds", and soft/even lighting. Lenses like the 85/1.2L @ F1.2 have a D of F of just a few millimeters which some use to good effect in portraiture, but that's not the style I like (too old for this modern stuff!).

    The one main drawback I see of the f4 IS is that I really don't feel the bokeh is strong enough for portrait shots. Even at 200mm f4 with the background being a fair distance behind the subject, the blur is not quite as strong as I would like.
    Judgement call - at the end of the day being on a crop camera will cost you the equivalent of approx 1 stop in the D of F dept - and then the F4 - F2.8 another; so at the end of the day, F2.8 on a FF camera is going to be noticeably "tighter" than F4 on a 1.6x crop, unfortunately. The other thing to keep in mind that the 70-200 series are fantastic general purpose lenses, with venerable reputations ... but ... they're not specialty portrait lenses. I've shot many portraits with mine - and the results are very very good, but at the end of the day, the 85/1.2L (even at F2.8) wins hands down with noticeably superior contrast and sharpness (on the other hand, as a general purpose zoom, the 85/1.2L sucks badly! ... horses for courses ... and there's no problem that money can't solve!).

    If I were to purchase the f4 IS and would also like to do portraits with strong bokeh, what would you recommend in addition to the 70-200?
    Depends on your shooting style ... faces? 3/4? Full Length?

    Would the 50mm 1.4 be satisfying to me? Perhaps a 85mm 1.8? I have never tried portrait photography with primes, but I believe I might miss the convenience of a fast zoom lens.
    Both are very popular, but personally, I haven't used them. L-zooms are more than adequate for the job, but don't discount fixed lenses too much either - it's really only a problem when you've got a large mis-match between what's ideal and what you have (eg having only a 50mm for closeups).

    Hopefully others will chip in with some thoughts too

  5. #5
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    Colin Southern's post is excellent...

    Colin Southern's posts are excellent and I totally agree with his statements.

    I switched from a non-IS f/4L to the f/4L IS and use my present lens 3-4x more often than I was able to use the non-IS model because of the IS assistance.

    I can hand hold the lens on my 30D or 40D cameras at 1/60 second (cranked out to 200mm and at f/4) and can expect nearly 100% shake free sharp imagery (the few exposures that are not 100% sharp can be attributed to user error - not IS failure). I can shoot at 1/30 second and get a very respectable percentage of sharp images. This frees me from needing bright light for every hand held telephoto shot.

    I also leave the IS on when shooting with a lightweight hiking and boonie tromping tripod. I modified a SLIK Pro 330D with a shorter center column and an Adorama F-1 ball head (the combinaton weighs 1 lb., 14 oz.). I have not made tests with the IS on and off in high winds but, the imagery with the IS on is just great.

    I carry the 70-200mm f/4L IS everywhere in conjunction with my 17-55mm f/2.8 IS lens on a 30D and a 40D camera. The f/4L IS WITH the extra camera is not terribly much heavier than the f/2.8 (IS or non-IS) lens alone.

    I cannot hand hold the f/2.8 lens at 1/120 second shooting at 200mm (a comparative exposure to 1/60 at f/4) and expect 100% shake free images and I cannot get any sharp images using 1/60 second at f/2.8. So I can hand hold the f/4L IS lens at lower light levels than the f/2.8 non-IS model, despite the one stop advantage of the f/2.8 aperture.

    I love my f/4L IS and I use this lens with a screw-in round hood rather than the big OEM Canon hood. The screw-in hood is smaller and less conspicuous. I carry the 30D with lens and hood attached (along with a hand grip) in a TAMRAC Zoom 19 holster case, I can get the camera/lens into action faster than I can describe it to you. The round screw-in filter protects as well from flare, doesn't vignette, at least on a 1.6x body, and protects the lens very well against physical damage, I fell one day and the force of my 200 pound body crashed the lens with screw-in hood into the concrete. The hood was toast but, the lens was unscratched. That six dollar hood was a pretty damn good investment and saved a thousand dollar lens. Additionally; the screw-in hood makes using a CPL much easier since you just twist the hood to turn the front element of the CPL in order to adjust the polarization.

    I seriously doubt if you could tell the difference, in day to day shooting, in image quality between any of the various Canon 70-200mm family members. Both my non-IS and my 70-200mm f/4L IS lenses produce awesome imagery and I have seen images from both the f/2.8 versions which are also great..

    The bokeh of the 70-200mm f/4L IS lens is nice and like Colin states, can be controlled by camera to background distance and focal length. However, I will frequently use my 90mm f/2.8 Tamron Macro lens for head and shoulders portraiture. The bokeh of that lens is exceptionally creamy.
    Last edited by rpcrowe; 17th April 2009 at 08:46 PM.

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    Re: Colin Southern's post is excellent...

    Quote Originally Posted by rpcrowe View Post
    I also leave the IS on when shooting with a lightweight hiking and boonie tromping tripod.
    Just a little "side note"regarding this ...

    There's often big debates surrounding whether or not to turn the IS unit off when the lens is mounted on a tripod - I wanted to get a better understanding of this, and ended up exchanging a couple of eMails with Canon's CHuck Westfell. In short ...

    - Older IS units don't have any kind of tripod detection, and can introduce movement when "looking for trouble, but not finding it"

    - Newer IS units have tripod detection circuitry, but they don't switch the IS off - they only put it into a standby mode (tips the image down after about a second, and actively tries to keep it there); whereas if the IS is switched off (at the switch) then the IS element is LOCKED in place.

    - Latest units in long lenses can even compensate for mirror slap even when tripod mounted.

    Personally, turn mine off if tripod mounted on a calm day, and leave it on on windy days.

  7. #7

    Re: Which flavour of canon 70-200 lens?

    Thank you both for the advice. The f4 IS does seem to be the most versatile.

    I will probably purchase one in a month or so. I'll be sure to let you know how I'm finding it.

    I think the depth of field may not be totally sufficient for the type of portraits I wish to take... but if I find that's true, I will probably spring for a fast prime for the DOF.

    Again, thanks for the help.
    Alex

  8. #8

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    Re: Which flavour of canon 70-200 lens?

    You're very welcome Alex,

    Be sure to post some sample images when you've had a chance

  9. #9

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    Re: Which flavour of canon 70-200 lens?

    Hello,

    Usually I find either that the subjects are indoors and moving (playing instruments or something) and the main issue is to freeze the motion in the available light, in which case you need speed rather than IS, or that the subject is positioned specifically for a photograph, in which case you can use a tripod or flash. So to me speed is important, zoom is not particularly important (because at these ranges you can generally reframe by moving around a bit), and IS is not an issue. However for landscape and scenery the situation is quite different so a high quality IS zoom would be very beneficial I should imagine. 'L' construction quality would be more of an issue then too I suppose.

    So personally I tend towards the primes. I have the 50/1.4, and also the 100/2, which is very similar to the 85/1.8 that you mention. Both of these are fine at F2. By the time you stop them down to F2.8 and certainly F4 any residual vices have greatly diminished and they're quite excellent (but really F2 is perfectly usable under most circumstances). The 100 also gives very fast and reliable autofocus; the 50 a little less so, but not bad. If you open the 100 up you can turn the background to a silky blur if you want to (I'll see if I can post an example). DOF is dominated by magnification more than by aperture, so the one-eye-in-focus look at F2 (say) really applies mostly to head-and-shoulders pictures. Other considerations that might be relevant are that they're fairly small, so the handling might be easier on a smaller camera, and they're not all that expensive, as lenses go.

    I find the current cheap plastic IS zooms good enough for those occasions when I do want a zoom, especially after DPP has had a go at the raw files. But of course it depends on what you mainly do. That's just my (amateur) experience. If I had to start again I would still invest in the primes.

    Regards,
    Will

  10. #10

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    Re: Which flavour of canon 70-200 lens?

    If you are still interested, here are some samples of a fairly busy background at different apertures (2.0, 4.0 and 2.8), taken with a 100mm lens. In each case the invisible subject is a little over 2.5 metres away. The tree that is towards the left hand side is about 13 metres away (the brown line at the very left of the 2.0 image is just the edge of a curtain).

    Regards,
    Will
    Attached Images Attached Images

  11. #11

    Re: Which flavour of canon 70-200 lens?

    Thanks a lot, Will.

    As I suspected, there is a large difference between f4 and f2.8. In my opinion, f2.8 is generally around the sweet spot of bokeh. For some reason, I find that too much more is distracting.

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