Welcome to Part 3, the final part of the 200mm focal range of the SLR Lounge Canon Lens Wars series. Since we had 7 lenses in this grouping, in part 1, we compared the two 200mm primes, while in part 2 we compared the 5 different zoom and telephoto lenses that cover the 200mm focal length.
For those who are new to the SLR Lounge Canon Lens Wars series, be sure to check out the Lens Wars Teaser video, where we introduce the series and our testing methodology as well as all the other videos on each focal length.
Watch the 200mm Canon Lens Wars Conclusion Video
Equipment Used in Canon 200mm Comparisons
- Camera: Canon 5D Mark III
- Tripod: MeFOTO GlobeTrotter Carbon Fiber Tripod
- Remote Trigger: Vello Shutterboss Version II Timer Remote Switch
Canon 200mm Canon Lenses Tested
Let’s start from the top with their aesthetic quality and sharpness at their respective Wide Open Apertures (WOA). Once again, this is a visual test of differences, not a technical test. So, we are trying to distinguish differences in appearance while viewing images full screen on a Dell U2713HM 27″ IPS monitor.
One thing to note, there was a bit of change in the light between when the shots were taken, so let’s try to ignore that.
Bokeh Comparison of 200mm Canon Lenses at Wide Open Apertures
We can see in the images above that when compared to the other two lenses, the Canon 200mm f/2L at its WOA of f/2.0 produced the best bokeh. Even at full-size view, it is easy to see how it really crushed the background into a uber-soft and smooth bokeh milkshake.
It’s even more impressive when we zoom into the image itself.
But visually between the 70-200mm f/2.8L II zoom lens and the 200mm f/2.8 prime lens, the difference in the bokeh is really only noticeable when you compare both lenses’ images side by side. Both lenses are still excellent performers in bokeh rendering.
Vignetting Comparison at Wide Open Apertures
Finally, the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS Mark II has the least amount of vignetting out of the group.
Sharpness Comparison of 200mm Canon Lenses at Wide Open Apertures
Of the three lenses at wide open aperture, the 200mm f/2 is once again the sharpest lens in the group. This is is very clear to see when you zoom in and compare the our model and her dress in each image side by side.
Image Comparison at Widest Common Aperture
When stepping up to the Widest Common Aperture (WCA) of f/2.8 much of the visual differences in the bokeh equalizes a bit more. Nevertheless, it is still pretty easy to distinguish the Canon 200mm f/2L since its bokeh is still a bit stronger and smoother than the rest.
Additionally, the color and contrast renders a bit more accurately as well with the 200mm f/2L when compared to the other two lenses.
Image Comparison at f/4 Aperture
The aesthetic differences in bokeh are mostly equalized at f/4 and beyond.
From there it simply comes down to small differences in color, contrast and sharpness for which the 200mm f/2 still stays ahead of the other 2 lenses. The 70-200mm f/2.8L II stays in a close second, and the 200mm f/2.8L in third.
Canon Lens Recommendation at the 200mm Focal Length
The 200mm Prime Lens We Can’t Really Recommend
So as an overall conclusion, the Canon 200mm f/2.8L Mark II simply does not offer anything unique enough in terms of performance, aesthetics or function to merit a recommendation aside from it simply being cheaper at $819.
If you are looking to cover the 200mm focal length, we recommend saving up for the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L Mark II with Image Stabilization or its cheaper sibling, the $1,449 Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L without Image Stabilization.
The Wonderful, but Expensive 200mm Prime Lens
The $5,699 Canon 200mm f/2L has a beautiful look, and aesthetically, I would say that it is still my favorite lens of the 200mm focal range. But its size, limited focal range flexibility, and primarily its overall cost make it a specialty lens that really isn’t going to be useful enough for the majority of photographers.
The 200mm f/2L is a beautiful lens, but it is designed for those that absolutely need the additional 1 stop of light at f/2 at a 200mm focal length. That additional 1 stop of light is going to cost you $3500 over the 70-200m, which for most just isn’t enough of a reason to merit the cost.
If you want bokeh and low light performance, look to the Canon 85mm f/1.2L.
The Best Lens for your Money at the 200mm Focal Length
Of these three lenses, the $2,499 Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L Mark II is your best bang for the buck. It has a beautiful look and aesthetic quality when wide open, great overall contrast and color, wonderful low light performance and a flexible and effective focal length.
Additionally, it only falls 1 stop short of the 200mm f/2L in terms of low light performance.
[Related Article: 15 Photo Examples of the 200mm F/2.0 Lens]
I hope you enjoyed this conclusion to the 200mm focal range in the SLR Lounge Canon Lens Wars series. Be sure to check out part 1 and part 2 of the 200mm Canon Lens Wars shootout, as well as the rest of the Canon Lens Wars series.