Canon 200mm Conclusion Thumbnail

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.

In part 3, we are going to compare the two Canon 200mm prime lenses from both part 1 and the best Canon zoom lens from part 2 to come up with an overall conclusion.

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

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

Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L Mark II at f/2.8
Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L Mark II at f/2.8
Canon 200mm f/2.8L Mark II at f/2.8
Canon 200mm F/2.8L Mark II at f/2.8
Canon 200mm f/2L at f/2.0
Canon 200mm f/2L at f/2.0

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.

Bokeh of the Canon 200mm f/2L at f/2.0
Bokeh of the Canon 200mm f/2L at f/2.0

When we compare the Canon 200mm f/2L to the Canon 200mm f/2.8L, we can see that there is a bit less bokeh with the 200mm f/2.8L compared to the 200mm f/2L.

WOA bokeh Canon 200mm f2.8L 200mm f2L

The 70-200mm f/2.8L II also has far less bokeh than the 200mm f/2L.

WOA bokeh Canon 70-200mm f2.8L II 200mm f2L

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.

WOA bokeh Canon 70-200mm f2.8L II 200mm f2.8L

Vignetting Comparison at Wide Open Apertures

The 200mm f/2L actually has a significant amount of vignetting, although this actually works well with the look that you get when shooting wide open with the 200mm f/2L.

Vignetting of the Canon 200mm f/2L at f/2.0
Vignetting of the Canon 200mm f/2L at f/2.0

In contrast, the 200mm f/2.8L has a bit less vignetting with than the 200mm f/2L.

Vignetting of the Canon 200mm f/2.8L at f/2.8
Vignetting of the Canon 200mm F/2.8L at f/2.8

Finally, the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS Mark II has the least amount of vignetting out of the group.

Vignetting of the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L II at f/2.8
Vignetting of the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L II at f/2.8

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.

WOA detail Canon 200mm f2.8L II 200mm f2L

WOA detail Canon 70-200mm f2.8L II 200mm f2L

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.

WCA bokeh Canon 70-200mm f2.8L II 200mm f2L

WCA bokeh Canon 200mm f2.8L 200mm f2L

Additionally, the color and contrast renders a bit more accurately as well with the 200mm f/2L when compared to the other two lenses.

WCA detail Canon 200mm f2.8L II 200mm f2L

WCA detail Canon 70-200mm f2.8L II 200mm f2L

Image Comparison at f/4 Aperture

The aesthetic differences in bokeh are mostly equalized at f/4 and beyond.

f4 bokeh Canon 200mm f2.8L 200mm f2L

f4 bokeh Canon 70-200mm f2.8L II 200mm f2L

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.

detail at f4 Canon 200mm f2.8L II 200mm f2L

detail at f4 Canon 70-200mm f2.8L II 200mm f2L

Canon Lens Recommendation at the 200mm Focal Length

The 200mm Prime Lens We Can’t Really Recommend

Canon 200mm f/2.8L 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

Canon 200mm f/2L 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

Canon 70-200mm f2.8 II 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.

The 70-200mm f/2.8L II is truly a must-have lens, and it will do everything the 200mm f/2.8L prime lens can do and much more

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]

Conclusion

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.