When it comes to lens focal lengths, 70-200mm lenses are the typical workhorse zooms used for anything from portraits to action, events, wildlife, and weddings. High-quality versions usually come with a fast f/2.8 or f/4 constant aperture and in many cases image stabilization and rock-solid build quality.
These lenses can be used on full-frame as well as APS-C camera bodies, providing an equivalent focal length of 112-320mm for the latter, making them an excellent choice for action and wildlife photography. While these lenses are extremely versatile with high-quality optics, they are also large and quite weighty. This is why many of them come with their own tripod mount.
Canon 70-200mm lenses are quite costly, but the price, size, and weight are insignificant when matched against their overall usefulness and fantastic image quality. As the 70-200mm lens is such a popular choice for Canon mounts, there are a good bunch to choose from coming not just from Canon, but also third-party makers.
To help you filter through the best of the bunch, we’ve compiled together the best Canon 70-200mm lenses. These include both native and third-party lenses.
1. Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III USM (Overall Winner)
It’s no surprise that the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III USM hits our top spot with its fine optics and features. Now in its third version, this lens benefits from a fast f/2.8 aperture, image stabilization, and solid L-series build quality.
The optical design is wrapped around 23 elements arranged in 19 groups. It includes five ultra-low dispersion glass elements and a fluorite element, plus Air Sphere Coatings (ASC). Externally, the lens consists of a multitude of switches, which include a focus limiter, AF/MF switch, stabilizer on and off, and a switch for the two stabilizer modes.
The stabilizing system offers 3.5 stops of compensation, with the two modes of operation consisting of a single shot mode and another which is optimised for panning. A traditional distance scale has also been included, along with a detachable tripod mount.
The autofocusing system, which uses a ring-type Ultrasonic Motor (USM) with full-time manual override, is extremely fast and efficient and there’s no faulting the image quality from this lens. However, it is the most expensive lens on this list and while the others are only a tad behind in optical quality, the Canon can’t be faulted for its overall solid workings.
There’s the included benefit of previous versions of this Canon 70-200mm lens coming in at lower price points. This means if you shop around, there should be a copy out there that will fit your price point.
It has to be said that if it wasn’t for the Canon 70-200mm lens above having such a solid reputation and optics, the Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM would fit our number one listing.
This lens is around an optical design of 24 elements in 22 groups. These include nine F Low Dispersion (FLD) elements and one Special Low Dispersion (SLD) element, along with a Super Multi-Layer coating. The front and rear elements are treated to an oil and water repellent coating, while inside the lens comes an 11-blade rounded diaphragm and an integrated Hyper Sonic Motor (HSM).
The lens features three AF-stop buttons, a focus limiting button, and image stabilization switches with static, panning, and custom modes. The lens design is fully weatherproofed, and it has additional rubber seals to keep out dust and moisture.
Image quality and sharpness are outstanding from this lens, even with the aperture wide open. The autofocus system is fast and accurate in all shooting modes. Essentially, if you cannot afford the higher price of the Canon above, the Sigma is a good second option.
It’s usually the case that people opt for the Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS II USM when they cannot afford the f/2.8 version or simply don’t need as wide an aperture. However, the f/4L has loads of optical quality, along with useful additions such as image stabilization.
A smaller aperture size also means lighter weight, which in this case is only 780g and the front element comes in at a smaller 72mm. Just like the f/2.8 version, the f/4 has had progressive updates over the years, now with a far better overall optical design, fluorite and two ultra-low dispersion glass elements, and Super Spectra coating.
This Canon 70-200mm lens features an optical stabilizing system that offers up to five stops of compensation, with three distinct modes of use. The lens also features a focus limiting switch and the classic L-series build quality.
Sharpness is wonderful from this lens, being comparable to the f/2.8 at f/4. It’s also quite a pricey number, costing as much as the Sigma above and the Tamron below. If you only need f/4 workings and don’t want to stray from the Canon camp, then this lens is a viable option in the 70-200mm department.
All the other options on this list are great solutions for DSLR cameras, but if you’ve already jumped ship to the Canon EOS R, then the Canon RF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM is an obvious but expensive choice.
This Canon 70-200mm lens may have the same f/2.8 aperture, but the dimensions are far smaller than a traditional 70-200mm f/2.8L. This also makes it much lighter, in this case weighing in at 1070g. Optically, the lens consists of one Ultra-Low Dispersion (UD), one Super UD element, two aspherical elements, plus an Air Sphere Coating (ASC).
The Dual Nano USM autofocus motor is a great addition that is virtually silent and works great for video applications. The five stops of image stabilization provide more versatility than the DSLR counterpart and overall image quality is fantastic.
As with all the f/2.8 offerings on this list, bokeh, or background blur, is extremely high quality, easily separating subjects from the background. This lens is an extremely pricey proposition, but will most likely become the standard for future Canon mirrorless cameras.
5. 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 offering with a fast f/2.8 aperture that is reasonably priced considering its optical quality. This lens comes with five low dispersion (LD) elements and one extra-low dispersion (XLD) element for reducing lens anomalies. Plus, eBAND, BBAR, and fluorine coatings to reduce the effects of flaring and ghosting, while also increasing the contrast.
There is a vibration compensation (VC) image stabilization system included with five stops of compensation and three separate modes of use. These being: mode one for general use, mode two for panning, and mode three for stabilization at the moment of exposure.
As the lens weighs nearly 1.5 kg, it has a built-in tripod mount, with an Arca-Swiss compatible foot. Although this lens is not fully weatherproofed, the lens is sealed for dust and moisture resistance.
Autofocusing on the Tamron is very precise, with very few lens anomalies when the aperture is wide open. Sharpness may be just a touch below the Canon or Sigma above, but this lens packs in a lot of quality considering its price.
Finding the Best Canon 70-200mm Lenses
While a high-quality Canon 70-200mm zoom may not be a cheap lens solution, its overall image quality and versatility more than make up for the initial money outlay. All the examples on the above list, Canon brand or other, will provide excellent image quality, along with ample amounts of image stabilization for most situations.
The f/2.8 versions provide the widest scope of use for things like indoor sports and fast action. But, if you don’t need the extra-wide aperture for its low-light capabilities or speed, then the Canon f/4 version has heaps of image quality with a lighter weight, price, and overall mass.