As you have stumbled across this article about the best third-party 70-200mm lenses for Canon cameras, we’re presuming you have an inkling of an idea of what this type of zoom lens is capable of. We are also making the presumption that if you are looking at third-party versions of the 70-200mm, then you have already checked out Canon’s own offerings.
Canon’s own versions of the 70-200mm are usually the first port of call, but these lenses can be on the expensive side, especially if you want to dive into the latest mirrorless versions. On that note, it’s still early days for third-party RF-mount 70-200mm lenses to generally hit the market, so we are focusing on DSLR versions here.
As 70-200mm zoom lenses are generally classed as a professional solution, there aren’t heaps of examples on the market, but they are out there. Luckily, the examples that are available are extremely high-quality and in some cases can be an equal match to the same-brand versions.
This is the area where those who haven’t experienced the latest third-party lenses before gets a nice surprise. Especially if you are an older photographer who remembers the very early days of third-party zoom lenses.
These days, even the manufacturers who are known for very budget options are starting to produce premium lines. So, if you’re careful with your choices, you can end up with a lens with equal optics and functionality and at a much better price point.
1. Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Sports (Overall Winner)
It’s almost getting to the point with the Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Sports where I’m sounding like a broken record. Mainly because the Sigma keeps popping up as the number one choice as a 70-200mm solution. This is the only negative to this lens, as in every other respect it’s truly an amazing lens.
Sigma clearly knew when they first released this lens that it had to equal Canon’s own offerings in all departments. This starts with an f/2.8 constant aperture, wrapped around an optical design of 24 elements in 22 groups, with a Special Low Dispersion and nine F Low Dispersion elements. A Super Multi-Layer Coating has been applied to all elements to reduce lens flare and ghosting, along with the front element being treated to repel oil and water.
The lens also features an 11-blade rounded diaphragm, Hyper Sonic autofocus motor (HSM) with full-time manual override, and a highly capable optical stabilization system. The lens has also been sealed against dust and moisture and is compatible with Sigma’s 1.4x and 2x teleconverters to further extend its capabilities.
This lens is wonderfully sharp at f/2.8 and is very easy to produce quality bokeh, especially at 200mm. Colors and contrast punch through with rich depth to the point where you won’t be wanting for any type of prime lens to fill in the gaps. Essentially meaning, that if you can’t justify the Canon versions, the Sigma is the next best option.
The Tamron SP 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 is generally considered the other main third-party option against Canon’s top line 70-200mm lenses. Just like the Sigma above, Tamron has crammed in everything you need at this focal length, with the usual goodies like image stabilization and heaps of fancy optics.
The lens consists of 23 elements arranged in 17 groups, with an extra-low dispersion, five low dispersion elements, and eBAND and BBAR coatings. A ring-type USD autofocus motor has also been included, wrapped around a fully sealed dust and moisture resistant lens barrel.
The optical stabilization system is the best on this list with five stops of compensation and three modes of operation, covering general use, panning shot, and one for at the point of capture. There’s also a bunch of other useful features such as a focus limiting switch, AF/MF, and one for moving through the different modes of stabilization. The lens can also be used on APS-C cameras providing a 112-320mm equivalent focal length.
This lens is super sharp throughout the aperture range and has no problem with freezing the action with fast-moving objects. From indoor sports events to distant shots, the Tamron worked without a hitch, producing professional results every time.
If you are not exactly enamored with the latest and greatest versions above, then slightly older third-party 70-200mm lenses for Canon can still fit the bill. The Sigma APO 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG OS HSM works equally well on crop sensor camera bodies providing a 112-320mm focal length and constant f/2.8 aperture.
This 70-200mm isn’t short on glass. It has 22 elements arranged in 17 groups, with two F Low Dispersion, three Special Low Dispersion elements, and a good application of Multi-layer coatings. The lens also features a Hyper Sonic autofocus motor, along with an optical image stabilization system with two modes of operation.
Considering that this lens costs less than $1000, it can provide wonderful detail down to f/2.8. It may not have the absolute resolution of the two lenses above, but if you land on a respectable copy, it is definitely worth its asking price.
4. Tamron SP AF 70-200mm f/2.8 Di LD (IF) Macro (Budget Winner)
For roughly the same price as a high quality prime lens, the Tamron SP AF 70-200mm f/2.8 is an older style design, which also benefits from a very useful macro mode.
The chunky lens barrel consists of 18 elements in 13 groups, featuring two LD glass elements and an internal focusing mechanism. The macro workings aren’t a true 1:1 ratio, but 1:3.1 at 200mm, with a maximum magnification of 0.32x. This means that it’s more of a backup macro lens than anything else. The lens also doesn’t benefit from any type of image stabilization.
The main criteria here is its 70-200mm capabilities, which the lens can cover extremely well. The lens is definitely sharp throughout the aperture range, just not to the same levels of refinement as you would find from the top contenders. Also, the autofocus system is respectably fast and the f/2.8 aperture is very good at handling indoor sports events to wildlife shots.
Rounding up, this lens is a good solution if you need a quality 70-200mm zoom at f/2.8 with the most cost-effective price point.
Summary of the Best Third-Party 70-200mm Lenses for Canon
As previously stated, the best third-party 70-200mm lenses for Canon cameras have to be at least a near match to same-brand offerings to cut the mustard. This is why there is usually only one or two options on most people’s shortlist. As shown above, there are other candidates which largely come into focus on a tighter budget.
As with any high-quality lens purchase, it’s always advisable to save up first, then buy into your ideal lens. This is especially true when you’re working professionally and need the very best results.