The Canon EF 200mm f/2L IS USM lens replaces the discontinued Canon EF 200mm f/1.8L USM lens, but does it have what it takes to fill those legendary shoes? This is a professional lens, and it comes with a professional price tag, as well as a host of features and top-class optics.
Though this is a medium telephoto prime lens that is perhaps not massively versatile, it is fantastic for those who want to use it for capturing fast-action sports, portraits with beautiful background separation, wildlife, and weddings.
Let’s see how this Canon heavyweight stacks up in design, handling, and image quality.
The Canon EF 200mm f/2L IS USM is Canon’s largest aperture telephoto prime lens, and at around 2500g in weight, you will know you’re carrying it in your gear bag! Fortunately, you can forgive the hefty weight when you realize it contains seventeen elements in twelve groups that give some serious-quality optical performance in a prime lens.
It’s actually built for lightness, with a magnesium body and leadless glass, and it weighs half a kilo less than the Canon EF 200mm f/1.8 L USM. It comes with shoulder strap mounts, which are advisable to use as it’s too heavy to be carried on your camera constantly in case you damage the mount.
The huge expanse of glass on the front tapers down to the all-metal barrel which includes a metal non-removable tripod collar and focusing ring. The lens comes with some heavy-duty weather sealing, and it’s designed for a tough life in different weather conditions.
There’s not one, but two, image stabilizers on the EF 200mm. Mode one operates in all directions, and can be used for general photography, while mode two is used for panning shots, and will only stabilize in one direction.
The stabilizer can detect the camera orientation, and switches off the stabilizer in the direction of the panning movement. Underneath the stabilizer mode switch is the on/off switch for operating the stabilization.
The stabilizer can cut up to four stops in shutter speed off normal shooting speeds, which makes this lens invaluable for shooting in low light conditions and reducing camera shake.
Further down the barrel of the Canon EF 200mm f/2L IS USM is the focus preset slider, which can be used in three positions. This allows you to preset a specific focusing distance in both AF and MF modes by turning the switch on and half-pressing the shutter button to get focus. You then press the focus preset button, and if you’ve set it to beep, you’ll hear a sound each time the lens locks on focus.
Focus preset is very handy when you need to shoot in a hurry. The lens memorizes a specific focusing distance, and there is a special focus preset ring in front of the manual focus ring that allows you to recall that focus at any time just by turning it.
The wide rubber-coated focusing ring is ridged, and gives a firm grip in all weather conditions.
A metal lens hood is supplied with the lens, which attaches via a locking knob and can be reversed onto the lens barrel when not in use. The lens cap (E-145B) is actually a round leather bag with a drawstring at the top and a well-padded base that slips over the lens.
The two Ultra-Low Dispersion elements and one fluorite element get rid of chromatic aberration, and the rounded eight-blade aperture gives smooth and creamy bokeh at any f-stop.
The Canon EF 200mm f/2L IS USM in Use
Most photographers will use the Canon EF 200mm f/2L IS USM mounted on a tripod, but it is possible to shoot handheld down to fairly low shutter speeds thanks to the image stabilizer.
Starting with the autofocus system, the performance is very, very fast, as expected. The USM motor makes focusing almost silent, and you can override the AF results just by turning the focus ring. You can also suspend the AF operation temporarily by using one of the three focus hold buttons at the end of the lens.
The Canon EF 200mm f/2L IS USM is incredibly sharp over all areas of the image. Even when used at f/2, the sharpness goes from edge to edge. At f/4, sharpness is as crisp as it can possibly be, although diffraction begins to set in at f/16. It’s possible to use this lens at f/32, but it is significantly softer than at other apertures.
Distortion is almost nonexistent, but when used on a full-frame body there is some vignetting at f/2, although it’s gone by f/2.8.
Contrast and saturation levels straight out of the camera are outstanding, even when shooting at f/2. Both lateral and axial chromatic aberration just aren’t an issue with this lens; it really is that good.
How Does It Compare?
There isn’t much out there to compare the Canon EF 200mm f/2L IS USM with! Neither Sigma or Tamron currently makes a 200mm lens of this quality, but if you don’t require a lens that can do everything that the Canon EF 200mm does, then there is another Canon 200mm prime lens option that is much, much cheaper.
This is the Canon EF 200mm f/2.8L II USM lens, which sells for significantly cheaper and is good value for an ‘L’ series lens.
The EF 200mm f/2.8L doesn’t offer image stabilization or dust-and weather-resistant gaskets, and at f2.8 is a whole stop slower. If none of that matters to you, then the EF 200mm f/2.8L is a very good lens at an even better price.
Sharpness is good and chromatic aberration and vignetting are low. If you aren’t willing to spend thousands on one lens and don’t mind it being a bit slower, then the EF 200mm f/2.8L is a good, affordable lens alternative to the EF 200mm f/2.
|Canon EF 200mm f/2L IS USM||Canon EF 200mm f/2.8L II USM|
|Optics||17 elements / 12 groups||9 elements / 7 groups|
The Canon EF 200mm f/2L IS USM is superb, but the price puts it beyond the reach of many photographers. It’s a specialized lens, so most will be better off with a trusty 70-200mm zoom lens, but if you earn a living from sports photography, wedding photography, or have the spare money to use it for portrait photography, then you really can’t get a better prime medium telephoto lens.