When we are at the stage of expanding our zoom lens collection, one of the staples is the 70-200mm lens. Wide-angle and a middle-of-the-road lenses are great, but for telephoto shots, you can’t beat high-quality 70-200mm lenses to deliver the goods.
One of the standout points of this type of lens is versatility. Covering a focal range that is good for portraits, up to wildlife and sports events, a modern-day 70-200mm covers a lot of ground.
Many of today’s models feature things like image stabilization and a fixed focal length of f/2.8 or f/4 at their widest. Which version you choose depends on your individual brand of camera, with high-quality third-party makers producing just as high-end optics with the same level of advanced features. There’s plenty on the market to choose from, so let’s have a closer look at the best 70-200mm lenses currently available.
1. Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III USM (Overall Winner)
Being a Canon user myself, I’m a little biased in this area, but the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III USM has the quality and features you would ever need in a 70-200mm lens. Image stabilization with four stops of compensation, focus limiting, and tried and tested in the harshest of environments.
Weighing in at 3.3 pounds, it’s not exactly lightweight, but the tripod mount can alleviate some of these issues. With advanced optics and a Fluorine coating means super sharp and detailed images every time. The stabilization system is highly effective and works especially well at the very telephoto end of the scale. The aperture of f/2.8 is wonderful in low light and can also produce excellent bokeh effects. As an all-round 70-200mm lens which has been thoroughly tested in the field, this one is hard to beat.
If you cannot justify the cost of the full-blown f/2.8L version of the 70-200mm, then the Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS II USM is a good option. Just like the f/2.8L, the f/4 has been slowly upgraded over the years, with the ‘II’ model being the latest. Featuring image stabilization, solid build quality and one Fluorite and two UD elements, means this lens still provides top-notch quality.
The f/4 version may have a smaller aperture than the f/2.8, but when both lenses are lined up at f/4, sharpness is comparable. The f/4 version is also lighter weight which makes for a great solution for wildlife and sports events, unless you’re approaching the darkest of conditions. This lens has fantastic quality all round and is a great solution for Canon owners who don’t necessarily need f/2.8 or the extra cost and weight.
The rather long titled Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR (I wish lens makers would just call new lenses Fred or Bert) is the cutting edge if you’re on the Nikon platform. This lens is built like a tank, with a fast f/2.8 aperture, high-quality lens elements, AF Lock and image stabilization with four stops of compensation.
The minimum focusing distance is excellent, with minimal focus breathing and the bokeh being outstanding. Images are rendered extremely sharp and bright, even with the aperture wide open. You can’t fault the quality of this lens, with the only real downside being its high price tag.
Just like the Canon variants, Nikon produce a f/4 version of their 70-200mm lenses in the form of the AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/4G ED VR. Lighter weight than the f/2.8 version, the f/4 has four stops of vibration reduction, a minimum focus distance of 3.3ft. and is useful on both the FX and DX-format cameras.
This one is extremely fast in focusing, producing super sharp images every time with a lovely degree of contrast and detail. Many Nikon owners buy into this lens as it weighs nearly half the amount of the f/2.8 version, which means it’s ideal for travel and lightweight excursions. A very high-quality lens which justifies its price point.
There are many reasons why you may want to opt for the Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Sports over other camera brand lenses. This 70-200mm lens is available for the Canon and Nikon mount, featuring optical image stabilization, excellent optics, and a close focusing distance of 4.73ft.
Weighing in at over three pounds, its quite a heavyweight lens, but the image quality justifies the extra poundage. Extremely sharp throughout the aperture range and coupled with the f/2.8 width, an excellent choice for low light shooting. Image quality is almost on a par with the Canon and Nikon f/2.8 versions, with a more sensible price point. If you can’t justify the extra cost of the Canon or Nikon, then the Sigma is a good option.
Sony’s G master lenses bring the same level of optical quality as experienced from other makers, in the form of the FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS. Standout features include the circular 11-blade aperture, Optical SteadyShot stabilization and fully weather sealed body. The close focusing distances is 3.2 feet, while the standard 77mm filter thread, which is nonrotating, accepts a wide range of common filters.
This lens produces excellent image sharpness across the aperture range and is equally useful for both video and stills. The 11-blade aperture produces excellent bokeh, while the Nano AR coating and XA (extreme aspherical) element ensure minimum reflections and quality renditions every time. An expensive lens, but an ideal choice for the Sony platform.
7. Tamron SP 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 (Budget Winner)
The Tamron SP 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 is another third-party lens, which is a good option over same brand offerings. Fantastic value for money, featuring up to five stops of vibration compensation, f/2.8 aperture, fluorine lens coatings, and a tripod mount that accepts the Arca-Swiss release plate.
Autofocus is very quick and is only tripped up in the lowest of light conditions. This is a great lens for capturing action and although it has a touch less quality than the offerings above, it’s a very good choice for the money.
Choosing 70-200mm Lenses
New mirrorless offerings like the Canon RF 70-200mm are a different breed, but the list here covers the most popular camera makes, while also focusing on the best of current optics. There may be cheaper 70-200mm lenses on the market, but it’s better to save that little bit longer to afford far better optics that don’t just produce higher image quality but are also built to last the duration.
All these lenses have full weatherproofing and built to take on the worst of the outside elements. As many will be using these lenses for areas such as outdoor sports and wildlife, it’s not just about quality optics, but also durability.