Lens review

Canon EF 70-200 mm f/2.8L IS II USM

3 November 2010
Szymon Starczewski

3. Build quality and image stabilization

Let’s start by comparing the parameters of the tested lens to those of its predecessor and its stabilized rivals. The appropriate comparison is presented in the following chart.

The first thing that sticks out is the minimum focus distance, very favourable for the Canon, as it amounts to 1.2 meters. It is better than the predecessor’s and the competitors’. In order not to paint a too rosy picture, though, it should be reminded here that the Tamron 70-200 mm f/2.8 has minimum focus of 0.95 meter and the Sigma 70-200 mm f/2.8 Macro – that of 1.0 meter. The new Canon is also optically the most complex instrument of all because it consists of 23 elements, one more than the new Sigma and two more than the new Nikkor. What’s interesting, the number of elements is exactly the same as in the previous version of this lens. Despite the complex optical construction the Canon EF 70–200 mm f/2.8L IS II USM is physically lighter than its predecessor and than the Nikkor. The Sigma weighs the least but the difference between it and the Canon is really slight.

The photo below shows the new Canon positioned between the new Sigma 70-200 mm OS (on the left) and the older version of the Canon 70-200 mm f/2.8 without stabilization.

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Canon EF 70-200 mm f/2.8L IS II USM - Build quality and image stabilization

The new lens is a bit bigger than its stabilized predecessor but the differences amounting to 2 millimeters are difficult to notice. When you look at the lens it is hard to say at first glance whether you deal with version I or version II, as both are very much alike.

The lens starts with a metal bayonet mount. Inside, there is a hidden rear element with a diameter of about 2 centimeters. It doesn’t change its position either on zooming or on focusing and it makes the lens fully sealed.

Canon EF 70-200 mm f/2.8L IS II USM - Build quality and image stabilization

Right behind the mount, already on the cream-gray barrel made of mag-alloy, we can find a golden inscription IMAGE STABILIZER, meaning that in this instrument an optical image stabilization was used. Even further on there is a place where you can attach a ring-type tripod collar, included in the box. Above it, there is a zoom ring, 4 centimeters wide. It is rubber-padded, ribbed and it allows a very comfortable grip and highly precise work. The ring is really beyond reproach as, additionally, its movement is smooth and well-damped in the whole range.

Then we can spot a distance scale behind a window, expressed in feet and in meters. On its left you find a whole series of switches. The first one is the focus limiter with two ranges available: from 1.2 meters to infinity and from 2.5 meters to infinity. The next switch allows you to choose the focusing mechanism’s mode – AF or MF. Even further we can see a stabilization switch, turning it on and off (STABILIZER ON/OFF) and allowing us to choose its mode of work (STABILIZER MODE 1 and 2).

Canon EF 70-200 mm f/2.8L IS II USM - Build quality and image stabilization

Next on the barrel there is a manual focus ring, almost 4.5 centimeters wide. It is comfortable, ribbed and very precise (and it is completely mechanized both in MF and AF mode). Running through the whole scale takes a turn of almost 180 degrees. Behind the ring we can also find the red inscription ULTRASONIC, which indicates that an ultrasonic autofocus motor was implemented, a red strip, characteristic for L-series lenses and a silver strip with the name of the lens. The instrument ends with a non-rotating filter thread 77 mm in diameter which surrounds an immobile front element, almost 7.5 centimeters in diameter.

Canon EF 70-200 mm f/2.8L IS II USM - Build quality and image stabilization

As we mentioned earlier, the Canon EF 70–200 mm f/2.8L IS II USM consists of 23 elements in 19 groups. The fact that the number of elements is the same as in the case of its predecessor might seem to be strange. The construction is completely new, though, because the number of groups is different and the producer used one fluorite element and as many as five low-dispersion UD glass elements. The predecessor didn’t boast any fluorite elements and had only 18 groups. Inside the lens there is also an aperture with eight diaphragm blades which can be closed down to f/32.

The buyer gets a cream hard case, characteristic for the L-series devices, a lens hood, a ring-type tripod collar and both caps included in box.

Canon EF 70-200 mm f/2.8L IS II USM - Build quality and image stabilization


The previous model of the stabilized Canon 70-200 mm f/2.8 was launched when 2 EV was a typical value of optical stabilization and any sensor stabilization was the matter of plans in the near future. Small wonder the declared 3 EV in the case of the predecessor was a really impressing result (in our test we assessed that value as 2.6 EV). Currently the efficiency on the level of 3-4 EV is a standard value for the highest class of lenses and exactly those 4 EV are declared by the constructors of the EF 70–200 mm f/2.8 IS II USM model. Of course we didn’t omit to check these claims.

In order to do so we set the lens at 200 mm and took several dozen photos for every exposure value ranging from 1/250 to 1/5 of a second, with the stabilization on and off. Then, for each series of pictures we assessed the percentage of fuzzy photos. On the graph below we presented that percentage as a function of the exposure time, expressed in EV; the zero point of the scale is the equivalent of the 1/160 of a second.

Canon EF 70-200 mm f/2.8L IS II USM - Build quality and image stabilization

Such a view makes us only clap and cheer involuntarily. The maximum distance between two curves reaches about 4.3 EV. It means that we deal here with the most efficient image stabilization we have tested so far. No other device, be it a sensor or a lens, hasn’t reached such a high result in our tests. It’s worth reminding here that the newest Nikkor 70-200 mm VR II had stabilization on the level of 3.1 EV and the Sigma 70-200 mm OS reached 3 EV. A round of applause for the Canon!