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Canon 100mm Zooms

Canon 70-200mm vs Zooms at 100mm – Canon Lens Wars Episode 14

By Pye Jirsa on February 7th 2014

Canon 100mm Zooms

Welcome to Part 2 of the 100mm focal range of the Canon Lens Wars series. We have a total of 6 lenses in this grouping and in the first part we discussed just the 100mm primes. In this part 2, we are going to be covering the zoom/telephoto lenses that cross the 100mm focal range.

Finally, in Part 3, we will again give our 100mm focal range conclusion.

For those that are new to the Canon Lens Wars series, be sure to check out the teaser video where we introduce the series and our testing methodology as well as all the other videos on each focal length.

Watch the 100mm Canon Zoom Lens Wars Video

Equipment Used in Canon 100mm Comparisons

Canon 100mm Zoom Lenses Tested

Image Quality of Canon 100mm Zoom Lenses at Wide Open Apertures

Again, we are going to start with each lenses Wide Open Aperture (WOA) by doing some basic visual comparisons by viewing the images full screen on my Dell U2713HM 27″ IPS monitor. When we did the 70mm and 85mm focal range zoom lens testing, we ended up with the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L II and the 70-200 f/2.8L without IS as our two favorite lenses for their overall look and image quality. Let’s see if the same holds true within the 100mm zoom focal range as well.

Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L at f/2.8

Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L at f/2.8

Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L II at f/2.8

Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L II at f/2.8

In viewing each image at full screen at their respective Wide Open Apertures (WOA), we notice the exact same phenomenon that we saw earlier, where the super “versatile” lenses like the Canon 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6L ended up having noticeably lower image quality, clarity and sharpness than when compared to the 70-200 zooms.

Canon 24-105mm f/4L at f/4

Canon 24-105mm f/4L at f/4

Canon 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6L at f/5.6

Canon 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6L at f/5.6

Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L at f/4.5

Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L at f/4.5

Sharpness Comparison for Canon Zooms at Wide Open Aperture

When we zoom into the images at their WOA, we can see that the 70-200 f/2.8L IS Mark II and the non-IS version of the same lens take the lead in terms of sharpness and clarity.

WOA detail Canon 70-200mm f2.8 II 70-200mm f2.8

And right behind the two 70-200 f/2.8s is the 70-200mm f/4L.

WOA detail Canon 70-200mm f2.8 II 70-200mm f4

Now when it comes to the Canon 24-105mm, 28-300mm, and 100-400mm, all of them appear to be a bit soft.

WOA detail Canon 24-105mm f4 28-300mm f3.5-5.6

WOA detail Canon 24-105mm f4 100-400mm f4.5-5.6

Contrast, Color, and Bokeh Comparison at Wide Open Aperture

While the lenses all have good contrast and color, once again the 70-200s including both versions of the 2.8 and the f/4 stand out with contrast and color that is slightly above the rest. Additionally, the larger f/2.8 aperture advantage for the 70-200mm f/2.8 zooms allows better separation of the model from the background.

WOA head 70-200mm f2.8 II 70-200mm f2.8

WOA head 70-200mm f2.8 II 70-200mm f4

Image Quality Comparison of 100mm Canon Zooms at Widest Common Aperture at f/5.6

Once we step up to a Widest Common Aperture (WCA) of f/5.6, the visual differences between each lens appear to equalize for the most part.

Contrast and Color Comparison at Widest Common Aperture

What still differentiates the two 70-200 f/2.8s from the other lenses is a slight bit better contrast and color.

WCA head Canon 70-200mm f2.8 II 70-200mm f4

WCA head 70-200mm f2.8 28-300mm f3.5-5.6

As you can see in the image below, of the 6 Canon zoom lenses, the 24-105mm f/4L and the 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L have the softest image with the least amount of contrast and detail.

WCA head 24-105mm f4 100-400mm f4.5-5.6

Bokeh Comparison at Widest Common Aperture

Even when shooting at the common f/5.6 aperture, the two 70-200mm f/2.8 lenses still have a bit more bokeh in the background.

WCA bokeh Canon 70-200mm f2.8 II 70-200mm f4

WCA bokeh 70-200mm f2.8 28-300mm f3.5-5.6

WCA bokeh 24-105mm f4 100-400mm f4.5-5.6

Detail Comparison at Widest Common Aperture

In addition, upon zooming into our model, we can once again see just how much sharper the 70-200 f/2.8s are above the other lenses.

WCA detail Canon 70-200mm f2.8 II 70-200mm f4

WCA detail 24-105mm f4 100-400mm f4.5-5.6

WCA detail 70-200mm f2.8 28-300mm f3.5-5.6

Once again, for center sharpness, I would put the 70-200 f/2.8L II in first, then the 70-200 f/2.8L non-IS in second place.

WCA sharp Canon 70-200mm f2.8 II Canon 70-200mm f2.8

Also comparable to the 70-200mm 2.8’s in regards to sharpness is the Canon 70-200 f/4.

WCA sharp Canon 70-200mm f2.8 II Canon 70-200mm f4

However, the Canon 100-400mm, the 24-105mm, and the 28-300mm are all noticeably less sharp when zoomed in. Of the bottom 3, the 100-400mm and 28-300mm are both pretty similar in sharpness.

WCA sharp Canon 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 28-300 f3.5-5.6

Finally, I would say that once again the 24-105mm f4 falls into last place, as you can see in this image comparison with the 70-200mm f/2.8L II.

WCA sharp Canon 70-200mm f2.8 II Canon 24-105mm f4

Edge Comparison at Widest Common Aperture

When it comes to edge sharpness, the the 70-200 f/2.8L non-IS is slightly ahead in terms of edge sharpness when compared to the 70-200 f/2.8L IS Mark II, but just very slightly.

WCA edge Canon 70-200mm f2.8 Canon 70-200mm f2.8 II

The 70-200mm f/4’s edge sharpness is also pretty decent as well.

WCA edge Canon 70-200mm f2.8 Canon 70-200mm f4

While most of the lenses were pretty solid in terms of edge sharpness, two lenses performed noticeably poorer when it comes to edge sharpness and those were the 24-105mm f/4 and the 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6.

WCA edge 24-105mm f4 100-400mm f4.5-5.6

100mm Canon Zoom Lens Recommendation

The Best Canon Zoom Lens at the 100mm Focal Length

Canon 70-200mm f2.8 II So, time for our conclusion. Once again, the lens that I would recommend the most is the $2,499 Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS Mark II.

This lens simply outperform all of the other telephoto and zoom lenses in the same focal range in terms of overall amount of bokeh, quality of bokeh, sharpness, contrast, clarity and color.

The Best Zoom Alternative to the 70-200mm f/2.8L II Lens

Canon 70-200mm f2.8 If you are on more of a budget, go for the non-stabilized Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L at $1,449.

This non-stabilized f/2.8 lens matches the sharpness, bokeh quality, color, and contrast of the more expensive 70-200mm f/2.8L II with image stabilization.

So if image stabilization is not as big of a concern, then this lens is your best value.

The 70-200mm Zoom That We Can’t Really Recommend

Canon 70-200mm f4 While the Canon 70-200 f/4L also provides great image quality, at $1,349, it is right around the same price as the non-stabilized 70-200mm f/2.8L.

That means that unless you absolutely need the image stabilization, I would rather go with the non-stabilized 70-200mm f/2.8 version of the lens that will give you a better overall look and low light performance.

The Two Versatile, But Compromised Lenses

Canon 100-400mm f4.5-5.6L Lenses like the Canon 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6L and the 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L are extremely versatile because of their focal range flexibility. Just remember that you are always going to compromise image quality for the flexibility in their range.

In addition, at around a wide aperture of f/5.6 and f/4.5 respectively, the 28-300mm and 100-400mm’s low light performance falls behind the 70-200mm f/2.8 zooms by around 2 stops.

Canon 28-300mm f3.5-5.6L So between these two lenses, if I were going on a trip and had to choose a single lens to accompany me, I would probably go with the $2,689 Canon 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6L over the $1,699 Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L. The extra 100mm focal length on the 100-400mm is nice, but I think most users would find much more use in the 28-100mm focal range in the 28-300mm than the 300-400mm focal range of the 100-400mm.

The Zoom Lens to Avoid

Canon 24-105mm f4 Once again, the one lens that I really can’t find much merit in recommending is the Canon 24-105mm f/4L.

As we have shown at every focal length, when it comes to image quality this lens is consistently outperformed by the other Canon lenses across the board.

The only redeeming factor of this lens is that it has image stabilization.

At $1,149, it isn’t necessarily that inexpensive either. Instead of this lens, I would recommend either the Canon 24-70mm f/4L or the 70-200 f/4L. Both of are comparable in price to the 24-105mm, offer image stabilization, and will give you better overall image quality in every area.

Conclusion of the 100mm Canon Zoom Lens Wars

I hope you enjoyed the 100mm zoom/telephoto lens focal range in the SLR Lounge Canon Lens Wars series. Be sure to check out part 1 of the 100mm focal length shootout, as well as the rest of the SLR Lounge Canon Lens Wars Series.

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Q&A Discussions

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  1. Ed Rhodes

    amazing article! just came across it while google searching canon bokeh.

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  2. Marius Pavel

    I just bought Canon 70-200 f2.8 L IS II – and it’s exactly like all people say, a superb lens + tank build + super sharp. Great review! Thanks – i read the Canon lens wars series before i bought it – great help! Thanks again!

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  3. Jeff Lopez

    This is an excellent review. A perfect resource to help me decide between the 70-200 f2.8 and f4

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