Sunday, September 28, 2008

EF70-200mm (F/2.8L IS USM vs F/4L IS USM)

When I first got started with photography, I'm always being amazed with all the white lenses which Canon had been offering in the past 2 decades. These lenses do not come in cheap price and most Canon shooters often drool over them. Two years back, Canon had 3 variants in the 70-200mm range: EF70-200mm F/2.8L IS USM, EF70-200mm F/2.8L USM & EF70-200mm F/4L USM. The most expensive being the F/2.8L IS USM version (RM6200) while the cheapest being the F/4L USM (RM2700). During that time, I wished Canon came out with EF70-200mm F/4L IS USM because I simply couldn't afford the F/2.8L IS USM version, and IS (Image Stabilizer) certainly increases the chance of getting sharp picture at lower shutter speed. 

My wish came true, Canon launched the EF70-200mm F/4L IS USM on 24th August 2006. It has basically the same construction as the F/4 USM (non-IS) with additional 4-stop IS module. In addition, the optics are better, resulting higher resolution. And finally, it reached our shore in November 2006. Without waiting any further, I ordered the lens and got it immediately. The lens has a manufacturing code of UU10XX which indicates that it's made in October 2006 - spanking new! 

On an APS-C body such as my EOS350D, the effective focal length is 112-320mm. Pretty suitable to be used for zoo trip or racing events. Being just 760g, you won't feel tired even if you carry it all day long. The zoom ring has sufficient grip and makes zooming easy and comfortable. The 4-stop IS is very efficient as I could get sharp still photos even at 1/8s @ 70mm (112mm equiv). The image produced at wide open F/4 is stunning, and it doesn't improve much even if I futher stop down the lens to F/5.6 and F/8. Since this lens was used on an APS-C body, the DOF is pretty deep and we couldn't expect an F/4 lens to give smooth creamy bokeh an F/2.8 lens. 

I hungered for less DOF as I shoot more with a 70-200mm and that triggered me to upgrade to EF70-200mm F/2.8L IS USM. To fund for this lens, I sold my F/4L IS but at the same time I was so reluctant because I really love that lens. The benefit of using a F/2.8 lens on my previous EOS30D is that it will activate the extra sensitive center AF sensor. This makes AF more precise especially under low light condition. At wide open F/2.8, the image is sufficiently sharp and DOF is significantly shallower. I'm able to separate the subject from background easily with this lens. Something which I didn't really consider before buying this lens was the weight. It's freaking heavy at 1470g! When coupling this lens with a EOS5D, it became worse as the body itself is already 850g. The good thing about this combination is that the DOF is extremely shallow. Effective focal length is back to 70-200mm as the focal length multiplier on a fullframe body is x1.0. This focal length range is very suitable for small event coverage, portrait and landscape. 

Due to its weight and size, lately I realized that I hardly use it. Lugging it around for a few hours is enough to cause my arm to be sore - also due to lack of exercise. The lens hood is also a pain to be stored. When I use this lens for automotive shots, I usually stop down to F/8 - F/11 to gain more details. Also I realized that when I need extremely thin DOF, I would opt for my EF85mm F/1.8 USM or EF135mm F/2L USM.

The funny thing is I started to give the F/4L IS lens a second thought. On the EOS5D, the DOF is pretty shallow even at F/4, especially at the end of the telephoto focal length range. To handhold this lens, I don't need the vertical grip which weighs another 200-400g. In fact, it's just 10g heavier than the EF135mm F/2L USM. Simply an ideal travel lens! Though I lose a stop of light, but I feel that the recent launch of the EOS5DMkII has about 2 to 3-stop of improvement in terms of sensor noise level. At 100% crop, I notice that ISO6400's output on the EOS5DMkII easily outperforms the output of the old EOS5D at ISO3200. This gives me the idea that F/4 lenses eventually will be very popular among photographers, especially when they just cost a fraction of what F/2.8 lenses cost. 

I picked up my EF70-200mm F/4L IS USM from the Canon Pro Center yesterday, did a series of focusing and sharpness test to ensure that the copy I got is a "sharp copy". Now my dry cabinet has 3 white lenses and I guess very soon I have to part with the F/2.8L IS...Just the matter of the price I can let go...



Blogger Khee Kuan said...

Hey Zey,

can i learn more from u how would u do the focusing & sharpness test on any lens? any ways to get it calibrated?


7:49 PM  
Blogger Zey said...

Hi KK, I follow test procedure to determine the focus accuracy while I shoot real life subjects to determine sharpness. If your lens is miscalibrated, you have to send it back to Canon for calibration, usually will take less than 24 hours. :)

11:26 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home