When photographers need the help of a telephoto zoom lens, all roads seem to lead back to the tried and trusted 70-200mm lens. Canon’s own version now comes in the form of the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III USM, being the third iteration of this lens.
Equally capable on full-frame and crop sensor camera bodies, this version of the 70-200mm zoom features the latest and greatest features. But why use a 70-200mm lens in the first place?
The simple answer is versatility and the focal range slots in nicely with the other two common zoom lens offerings of 18-35mm and 24-70mm. The 70-200mm range has the ideal reach for portrait shots and medium telephoto work, while the longer end is great for everything from wildlife to sports. The f/2.8 aperture is wide and fast enough for low light conditions, while also producing wonderful bokeh effects.
At this point, you’re probably already aware of the usefulness of this lens, so let’s check out the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III USM to see what new things this lens brings to the table.
There’s no mistaking a Canon L-series zoom, with its white lens barrel and distinctive red line. For Canon users, this is the stamp of quality for a fully weather-proofed design and go-anywhere build.
The basic specifications of this lens include an internal optical design of 23 elements in 19 groups, with five ultra-low dispersion glass elements, a fluorite element, and an eight-blade rounded diaphragm. The front filter size comes in at 77mm, with a close focusing distance of 1.2m, built-in image stabilization, and a healthy aperture size of f/2.8.
The Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III USM lens weighs in at 1480g, which may seem heavyweight compared to smaller sized zooms, but it is actually in the middle of the pack compared to other 70-200mm lenses. On a crop sensor body, this lens provides a 112-320mm reach. This camera set up may be front-heavy, but it’s still equally as capable.
Focusing on this lens is performed via the amply sized focus ring, which has a full manual override and a very smooth operation. There are hard stops at each end, making it far easier to set to infinity. Autofocusing duties are performed by Canon’s tried and tested Ultra Sonic Motor (USM).
The lens barrel features a plethora of switches, starting with the focus limiter which has two settings of 1.2m-infinity and 2.5m-infinity. The usual AF/MF switch has also been included, along with two switches for the stabilization system.
The first switch is a simple on and off switch, while the other is for choosing the two modes of operation. The first mode is for general usage, with the other mode for panning shots. The total compensation from the stabilization system comes in at 3.5 stops.
One needed inclusion for a hefty lens like this is a tripod collar. This Canon 70-200mm lens features a Arca Swiss compatible and standard socket. A chunky locking knob is provided to allow the lens to be positioned either vertically or horizontally.
The lens comes with a petal-shaped Canon ET-87 lens hood, lens caps, and a Canon LZ1326 lens case which adds an extra level of protection.
The Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III USM in Use
With such a wide focal range, lens anomalies are usually the first nasties to spot, but luckily the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III USM keeps everything in check. Chromatic aberration, or blue and purple fringing, is impressively low, only showing minuscule amounts on very high contrast areas at f/2.8. Essentially, low enough levels to be easily removed in post-processing.
Vignetting can be seen when the aperture is wide open at the extremes of the focal range. But, stopping down to f/5.6 clears up the corners nicely throughout the focal range. Barrel distortion is also slight and can be easily corrected with a good lens profile in your favorite editing software.
One aspect that this lens has is the ability to produce great bokeh effects at a moment’s notice. It’s very easy to punch out the subject from the background with this lens, providing clean separation and lovely smooth background blur. The bokeh may not have the fine characteristics of a high-end prime lens, but for a wide-ranging zoom, there are no complaints in this department.
As this lens is a standard workhorse zoom, it’s expected to deliver super sharp images every time. This definitely is the case, starting at 70mm where the frame is sharp from the center to the edge at f/2.8 all the way up to f/11. Diffraction starts to take a toll after this point, with the most usable zone going up to f/16.
In the middle of the range at 135mm, the results were largely the same having fine detail with the aperture wide open. It follows the same story at 200mm.
Canon has clearly done something right in this respect as it was really down to my own focusing abilities that resulted in a sharp final image. The autofocusing system is quiet and fast, with only some evidence of focus hunting when the light levels were extremely low.
Overall, the build quality of the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III USM is fantastic and the resulting images are super detailed, with just the right amount of contrast and color saturation.
How Does It Compare?
If the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III USM lived in a world on its own, it would be a simple recommendation. However, the 70-200mm focal range is a popular choice. One excellent third-party alternative is the Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Sports.
The Sigma 70-200mm lens has image stabilization, but also other goodies like an 11-blade diaphragm, MO focus mode, and custom settings. It’s also considerably cheaper than the Canon.
But just as much cheaper than the Sigma, the Tamron SP 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 is also a good alternative. This lens has great optics and image stabilization. While the Tamron does provide wonderfully sharp images, the Canon and the Sigma provide that extra sliver of optical quality.
If price is your main consideration in this department, then the Sigma is a great choice. However, if you can afford the extra cost, there’s nothing like using what feels like the “real deal” of the Canon, especially with its full weather-proofing.
|Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III USM||Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Sports|
|Optics||23 elements / 19 groups||24 elements / 22 groups|
|Diaphragm Blades||8 rounded||11 rounded|
The Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III USM is not exactly a major overhaul over the previous version, but there are enough upgrades to make this lens a tempting offer.
For those who already own the Mark II version of this lens, there may not be enough additions to warrant an upgrade, but for those who need a quality 70-200mm lens, this piece of glass should be on your shortlist. The lens is extremely sharp throughout the focal and aperture range. The image stabilization system is a much-needed helping hand, and the lens is built to take on all weather conditions.
There are of course third-party alternatives that are very capable, but for Canon owners who want a native workflow, the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III USM carries on the solid reputation of the 70-200mm lens.