26 May 2008

Canon 70-200 f4 L IS review

Canon 70-200mm f4 L IS USM is a lightweight L Series telephoto zoom lens with Image Stabilizer. The optical Image Stabilization (IS) in the lens provides up to four stops of shake correction. The use of fluorite lens elements provides excellent optical performance in terms of resolution and contrast.
In many reviews we can read about this lens. Is it really so good?
In short – the answer is yes. It is not just good, it is excellent.
Until this spring I used non-IS version of this lens. I was satisfied with optical and build quality, but I missed image stabilization (especially on wedding portraits). I talked with my wife and she approved trading. I bought some my last photo equipment at Isarfoto and I can only recommend this store. They are very reliable with quick response and authorized Canon dealer located near M√ľnchen (Germany). When package arrived I noticed that lens was damaged. I send an e-mail to Isarfoto and they react immediately (the send me a new lens the same day).
Let’s look at some lens specialty.
The sharpness – this lens is very sharp from f4 to f11. We can compare sharpness with fixed lens in this class. It is sharp on center and on corners.
Chromatic Aberration (CA) – Color shadows at harsh light transitions are often problems with cheap lenses. For Canon 70-200 we can say that CA is at least good if not very good. Without going to deep control pixel for CA, I didn’t notice it. So in normal use, you can’t expect any troubles with CA.
Distortion – I didn’t notice distortion, but I don’t take many potential “distortion” photos.
Image stabilization – Canon’s latest IS is fantastic. They claim that lens provides up to four stops of shake correction. I can get really sharp images with cca. 1/50 at 200 mm. And this is why I choose this lens (over the non-IS version). IS without doubt improve sharpness in hand-held shots. This lens has two mode of image stabilization (normal and panning mode). I didn’t find any differences between these two modes, but I didn’t make any tests. IS switches off automatically when the camera is mounted on a tripod, thus preventing feedback loops between the IS sensor and internal motor vibrations. Example from low light sport hall:
AF Operation - AF operation with this lens is fast, accurate and quiet. It can focus fast in low light situation. Manual focusing works with AF either on or off, a nice feature of Canon's ultrasonic motor technology. When close focusing is not required, a switch for »3m-to-infinity« limited focusing range is available to decrease focusing times.
Build and quality – it is very similar to non-is version. It is very good build, zoom and focusing rings have good grip and are smooth to operate. Yes – it is L quality.
Conclusion – I'm sure that this lens is one of the best telezoom on the market today. Lens has very good performance in all categories. Optically is excellent and the build quality is very good with the new sealing. Image stabilizer with an efficiency equivalent to four stops (at cost of shutter speed) is very useful. With 8-blade aperture you can expect very good bokeh results.

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