Review Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 mk2

Canon 70-200 mm objectief

The 70-200 mm f/2.8 is probably the most used telephoto zoom amongst professional photographers. This time, we reviewed the Canon EF 70-200 mm f/2.8L IS II USM, a top-end/professional lens for full-frame cameras, on a Canon 5D mark II.

This type of zoom lens is especially popular among professional photographers, especially among photojournalists, due to the useful zoom range and because at full aperture you have so much background blur that you can easily separate a subject from the background, but also because the lens is relatively easy to carry, and that thanks to the image stabilization you can shoot really well by hand. The Canon telephotos are creamy white and thus quite recognizable: officially because the lenses then remain cooler in the sun, but in reality a superb marketing gimmick!

Canon 70-200 mm objectief

Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 mk2 and Canon 5D MK3

Canon 70-200mm panning
Canon 70-200 practice shot with 1/180 second at f/13. At such a shutter speed, you get a nice motion blur in the background. With longer shutter times, it’s generally true that only a part of the subject is sharp. The focal distance was 70 mm. The image stabilization of the Canon 70-200 mm f/2.8 IS has a separate setting whereby the image stabilization only occurs vertically, so that even when you’re tracking a moving subject with your camera, you benefit from field stabilization.

Build and auto focus

Everything indicates that the lens is built with the photo journalist in mind. There is a lot of attention paid to a robust construction and a good seal against dust and moisture. This lens can take a jolt! Both the zoomring and the focusing ring have generous dimensions and can be operated with gloves. Unfortunately, that doesn’t apply to the AF/MF switch, which you can only operate even without gloves with difficulty. You can, though, “turn through the AF” by hand. The lens is pretty heavy (more than 1600 grams) and long (19 cm). There is an enormous tripod collar on the bottom that can’t be removed easily. Of course there’s image stabilization, which can be applied in various situations. To prevent exaggerated “seeking”, you can select for the Autofocus from the whole distance range, or a limited range. The shortest distance setting (for all zoom settings) is 117 cm.

Canon is the pioneer of the Ultrasonic motor, a circular motor that works on the basis of piëzo electricity and works not only very fast but also practically noiselessly. In combination with the 5D body, the lens focuses from 8 m to 1.2 m in less than half a second. As important as this focus time is the effectiveness, i.e. the number of “misses”, in particular under bad lighting conditions. The combination scored here in our experience very well.

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This lens scores not only well on the mechanical points: it means the highest optical demands. At full aperture, there is noticeable vignetting (see the picture), but after stopping down one stop, this lens scores very well, and with the aperture of f/8 (optimal for many situations) is even very good, especially in JPEG, where the body applies some corrections.


The advantage of working with a large aperture is the limited focal depth. That allows you to “free”, or isolate, a subject from the background, as in this picture that was made at full aperture and 1/5000 second. A limited degree of vignetting is of course no problem at all in such a situation.



There is practically no zoomlens that does not suffer from any distortion, from barrel-shaped (“ball”) in the wide-angle to pincushion-shaped (concave) in the telephoto setting. The Canon 70-200 f/2.8 also scored well but not flawlessly. In JPEG, the distortion was almost completely eradicated.




We had to work hard to find a situation in which there was a sign of flare. This picture, with the setting sun fully in frame shows some orange flecks at the upper left. That is hardly a scandal: all the other shots were clean.




The resolution of this lens is at a very high level, especially in the center, at all focal distances and apertures. As usual, the optimal resolution is around f/8. The corner sharpness is more than sufficient for a zoom lens. Where many telephoto zooms are less sharp at the longest focal distance, the Canon 70-200 mm f/2.8 IS II puts forth very good performance at 200 mm, and it’s therefore better than its predecessor.



A studio-shot of a fruit basket. Due to the sharpness depth at the aperture setting of f/22, the shutter time was 2.8 seconds. Razor-sharp and outstandingly reproduced from front to back.

Chromatic aberration

In the practice shots, we found absolutely no chromatic aberration. The use of special types of glass and coatings in this expensive lens bears fruit here. The picture shown here is a detail from the corner of a shot of tree branches; such a contrast-rich subject is always a very critical situation for CA. CA-voor-web-klein


Bokeh, the quality of the blur, is important primarily for studio shots. Ideally, a blurred light source is shown as a round, evenly white disk without rings and sharp edges. The more aperture lamellae, the rounder the disk. Here, too, the Canon scored very well.

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Conclusion Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 mk2 test with Canon 5D MK3

Canon 70-200 mm  objectief IS

Look in our list of all reviewed lenses or the lenses we have reviewed with a Canon mount in order to compare the performance of this lens with other lenses.

ECWYSIWYG score: This table shows the performance of this lens if you save the files in the camera as jpg with all available in-camera lens corrections applied. This score gives you for this lens/test camera combination: “What you see is what you get”.

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ECPure RAW score: This table shows the performance of this lens if the file is saved in the camera as RAW file. This score approaches the intrinsic quality of the combination of lens and test camera.
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  • Outstandingly built, meets the highest quality standards
  • Very good optical performance
  • Good Auto focus
  • Good image stabilization


  • Not cheap
  • Big and heavy

The Canon 70-200 f/2.8 is not unusually popular among photojournalists and other (professional) photographers without a reason. It may be one of their best lenses. The lens meets the highest quality demands, both mechanically and optically. It’s a challenge to discover drawbacks. For many amateur photographers, the price is probably an objection.

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