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Canon 200mm Conclusion Thumbnail Inspiration

Canon Lens Wars 200mm Conclusion – Episode 18

By Pye Jirsa on February 13th 2014

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.

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About

Founding Partner of Lin and Jirsa Photography and SLR Lounge.

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Q&A Discussions

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  1. Zabu Mutua

    Thanks Pye for writing this awesome article, it took a lot of work, and it is appreciated. It really helped me decide on a 200mm f2. I was able to find one used for $495 a 35mm f2 for $200 and the 85mm 1.2 for $1400. You saved me from a money mistake! The 70-200mm is awesome but not that awesome. After I rented on and shot 5 models in a afternoon, my arm was  getting tired. That tipped me over the line especially when I realized I mostly only wanted to zoom in to 200mm all the time. I feel like I got the best bang for my buck to cover the focal ranges I care about. I won’t lie though I still want a 70-200mm because it looks awesome as the Optimus prime of lenes, but that is a stupid reason to spend $2000. Cheers!

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  2. norman tesch

    this was a good compairison however there is more photography out there than a pretty girl sitting on a branch. how do the compare for tracking for wildlife or sports? what about lens creep? i use pretty much just primes because i do allot of multi row panoramas. i like the length so i can get close to waterfalls, but if i take say 50 photos and the last 4 or 5 creeped i just wasted over an hour and ill never know till i get home. and for the cost can you buy an 85, 135 and the 200 cheaper than both the other lenses? while the 70-200 may be awesome i think its the lazy mans lens to rely on that lens only

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  3. Derek Schwartz

    Personally, i own (and love) the 70-200 f4 IS lens. Akin to what George Goetz says above, it’s light enough that if I have to lug it around all day, it’s not fatigue-inducing, being two full pounds lighter than the 2.8 IS. I’ve never found the IQ lacking (although, I am shooting with a 7D, so it might just be that the sensor isn’t pushing the lens), but I’ve never compared it side by side with the 70-200 2.8 of any variety, either. YMMV.

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  4. Hoya Eagle

    Nice article. Very helpful Thank you.

    Curious where the version 1 of the 70-200 f/2.8 IS would fit in here? Better than the non IS but below version II of the IS?

    I just picked up a used version 1 of the 70-200 f/2.8, and It is indeed soft wide open at 2.8 but sharpens up after that at various zoom lengths according to my test shots this weekend on both the 6D and the 70D.

    Would you prefer the non-IS for another $250?

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  5. George Goetz

    I respectfully disagree with “The 200mm Prime Lens We Can’t Really Recommend”. Let me give you my reasons.

    1) They say the best camera (and lens) is the one you have with you. My 200mm 2.8 and 6D make for a very light, compact, and stealthy combination. I can carry this around with me all day in super small (xs timbuk2 snoop) with no fatigue. When I pull it out I go completely unnoticed while shooting.

    2) In most comparisons the 200 2.8 and 70-200 2.8 have nearly identical image quality with the 200 occassionally coming out on top. The 200mm focal length works for me and I crop when I can’t get closer.

    3) Because of it’s small size I can carry an additional lens such as my 35is or 85 1.8 and still travel lighter than the 70-200is.

    Sometimes I carry all three and am reminded what it would be like to carry the 6D with the 70-200is alone attached.

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    • Tom Rose

      I agree. The 200mm f/2.8 Prime at least matches the 70-200mm f/2.87 in all aspects of image quality, and it has many advantages, not only the much lower price:

      1. It is much lighter
      2. It is smaller
      3. It is black

      And as a result of 2 and 3 it does not draw attention the way that the big white zooms and telephotos do.

      4. Some of us can work faster with Prime lenses than zooms … one fewer control to think about.

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  6. Rafael Steffen

    This article goes even deeper in understanding the small differences in lenses when it comes to this level.

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  7. JOHN CLIFFORD

    very informative

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