Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L Best For The Money Telephoto!

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By Canon "L" Class standards, the EF 70-200mm f/4 L USM lens is simply the "best buy" in the entire Professional lens lineup.

It isn’t cheap, but especially if you shoot outdoors, this is the ultimate EOS tele zoom lens for the money. (In fact, it was actually under $700.00 brand new)

CANON EF 70-200mm f/4 L USM


In the world of Canon EOS EF lenses, there are three primary levels of quality classifications. The inexpensive low end models are commonly referred to as “consumer grade” lenses, designed primarily to meet competitive price points. The upgrade models are known as “mid grade” lenses. These can be very respectable in optical performance, but they are not as durable as the pro gear.

The top level is reserved for true working professionals, and those who are very dedicated to the art of photography. These are the “L” Series Professional lenses (the “L” in the nomenclature stands for “luxury”). Most “L” lenses are designed with very effective weather & dust seals and special optical elements to deliver superior performance and the ultimate in rugged reliability. “L” models are easily identified by a bright red ring around the front of the barrel.

As an amateur, who takes photography fairly seriously, this was only my second hunk of "L" glass. It is quickly becoming my favorite lens. I have found many of the mid-grade models are quite capable of producing excellent results, but for outdoor applications where dust, sand or moisture might be encountered, the “L” lenses are the best choice. I don’t often encounter these adverse conditions; I can usually just stay home and wait for a nicer day. Professionals, on the other hand, have to be ready for any situation that might come along or forfeit the paycheck.

This telephoto “L” is a great choice for bird watchers, hikers, street photographers, adventurers and parents of budding sports stars. This is a fantastic indoor lens too, but there are some less expensive alternatives for these applications.

There are actually four variations of this lens, but this one is the least expensive of the group. The new EF 70-200mm f/4 L IS USM sells for about $1,000.00 US “street price”, the EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L USM is about $1,100.00 and the EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS USM is available for approximately $1,650.00. The two newest models offer "IS" (Image Stabilization) technology to reduce “camera shake”. These are fantastic lenses, but they are a bit beyond my meager budget. Besides, I am not a huge fan of Canon's IS technology, since I found that it could cause some image problems that are more troublesome to me
than low light camera movement. The "faster" version has a maximum constant aperture of 1:2.8 and it is absolutely wonderful in low light situations, but the resolution and image quality is really quite comparable among all four of these models.

You really command respect when you whip out your Canon EOS with this big white bazooka locked ‘n loaded. You instantly become the “Pro” (whether you actually are or not). It is quite gratifying to watch the crowds part to let “the real professional” get a little closer to the action. If you prefer to avoid calling attention to yourself, avoid this lens! Otherwise, be prepared for the envious stares from the guys with the long skinny black lenses.

On Canon EOS Digital Rebel XTi, XSi, EOS 40D, 30D, 20D and 10D Digital SLR camera bodies, this becomes more like a very long 112mm to 320mm super zoom in its Field Of View (FOV). These particular models all share one very important attribute; they have a digital image sensor that is smaller than the physical dimensions of a full single frame of 35mm film. Consequently, these cameras all have a “crop factor” of 1.6 X, which must be considered carefully as you are choosing a lens for any particular application. The focal length of any lens that will be used on these camera bodies must be multiplied by 1.6 to reveal the true “Effective Focal Length”. When you need a longer telephoto lens, this can be a huge advantage, because the additional apparent focal range is provided at no extra charge!

This is a real rough & tumble lens, with optics delivered directly from the great glass gods. It will keep functioning properly when the rain or snow begins to fall during the last quarter of a game or out on a long nature hike, unlike the consumer and mid-grade lenses. I am speaking specifically about my previous long lens, the EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM, which just seized-up and died under damp conditions (It wasn’t even a heavy rain, just a cold drizzle). I have not put the “L” to the ultimate weather test yet, but this special capability was one of my main motivations for upgrading to the EF 70-200mm f/4 L.

However, there are several other reasons to commit to this fairly costly model. The optical resolution is superb and chromatic aberrations are extremely well controlled. There is almost NO DISTORTION visible through this lens, at any focal length. This is especially true on a smaller frame digital camera because these bodies take advantage of the lenses “sweet spot” by primarily using the glass near the center portion of the lens. The Canon EF 70-200mm f/4 L USM produces incredibly sharp photos time after time, after time, after time...

 The optics are made-up of 16 elements arranged in 13 groups, including Super UD (Ultra-low Dispersion) and Fluorite elements, with superb correction capabilities. The minimum close focus distance is only 47 inches, very reasonable for a lens of this size. It is amazingly light, at just a feather over 25 ounces (760 g). The length is only 6.8 inches regardless of the focal length setting.

The aperture features eight diaphragm blades for wonderfully pleasant “bokeh”. With eight aperture blades, not just five or seven, it will give you incredible out-of-focus backgrounds. This effect is known as “bokeh” (Japanese for background "blur") and it creates beautifully rounded “circles-of-confusion”. Fewer blades create out-of-focus geometric shapes instead of smooth natural circles. This feature will make your close-ups and portraits look almost three dimensional, with the main subject very distinctly separated from the enhanced background.

This model is threaded for 67mm filters which are fairly "pricey". You may have to buy some relatively expensive filters that will only be usable on this one lens, like I did, but it is definitely worth it. The front element is always stationary, so using a circular polarizer is never a problem (except when the bill for that filter arrives, ouch!). The zoom and focus rings are plenty wide enough, even for the most gorilla-fisted photogs out there, and yet, both rotate as smooth as a well-powdered baby’s behind.

There is no doubt that this is a real "L" lens! It is just oozing with that magic "luxury" stuff that makes it such a great optical instrument, as well as a very good investment. Considering how close it is in performance and the additional cost for each of its "one stop faster" siblings, I would call this one a real bargain!

CANON EF 70-200mm f/4 L USM LENS


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