70-200mm Zoom Lens Reviews

70-200mm Zoom Lens Reviews

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In the latest Digital Photographer magazine (issue 60) there’s a helpful review of three 70-200mm f2.8 lenses.

The beauty of this type of lens is that it gives you a fast lens, wide enough focal length to be useful in many everyday applications, yet the reach to really zoom in on your subject at the 200mm end of the spectrum. They are also useful for getting some nice blur in the background when shooting a subject – leaving them as the clear focal point.

They are the:

A word of warning before we get into the review results – none of these lenses are cheap.

For the full reviews of each of the lenses you’ll need to get the magazine – but here’s a summary of each in the order that they were ‘rated’ by the reviewer:

Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G ED-IF AF-S VR Zoom

Rating – 93%

Description – the biggest of the lenses in terms of size but lighter than the Canon this lens is given 10/10 marks in the areas of Features and Quality of Results.

It has Vibration Reduction built in which eliminates camera shake well. It produces sharp images at all aperture settings along the focal range and is quick and quiet.

The only real downsides of this lens according to the review was it’s cost, weight and size. Apart from that it’s written up as the ultimate 70-200mm lens.

Following are three shots taken using this lens (source 1, 2, 3):

Nikon-1

Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM Telephoto Zoom

Rating – 88%

Description – I own this lens and rate it as the 2nd best lens that I own (I use my 24-105mm more – but this is an ideal companion). The review gives it a perfect rating (10/10) on a ‘features’ rating with it’s image stabilization boosting it’s rating (it has two modes of IS, one for everyday and one for panning). This is a fast lens – both in terms of aperture but also AF (although at times they say it ‘hunted’ for the right thing to focus upon. It’s also very quiet.

The downsides of this otherwise excellent lens again are cost and weight (it’s the heaviest of the three). It is two thirds of the price of the Nikkor lens which is nice – however still will hit the bank account hard. The review also found a tiny bit of softness shooting at 200mm at f/2.8 – but otherwise it produced beautifully sharp images.

Here are some examples of what this lens can do (sources 1, 2, 3):

Canon

Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG APO HSM Large Aperture Macro Zoom (Canon) and for (Nikon)

Rating – 83%

Description – while this lens came in last of the three lenses reviewed – it was also the cheapest (winning the ‘value for money’ section with a 9/10). This lens doesn’t have any form of image stabilization/vibration reduction – which puts it at a disadvantage in darker shooting conditions – however it also lightens the lens – both in terms of price and actual weight which makes it a more practical option for many.

The other plus of this lens is that it can focus as close as 1 meter (40cm better than the Canon and 50cm better than the Nikkor) which can be very useful.

The downsides of this lens center more around image quality. Whilst it produces good images, they’re not as ‘tack sharp’ as the other two tested. It is also a touch noisier and slower than the others.

Here’s how this lens performs (sources 1, 2, 3):

Sigma

All three lenses were highly recommended by the reviewer.

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Darren Rowse is the editor and founder of Digital Photography School and SnapnDeals. He lives in Melbourne Australia and is also the editor of the ProBlogger Blog Tips. Follow him on Instagram, on Twitter at @digitalPS or on Google+.

Some Older Comments

  • rinneprinne October 9, 2011 04:20 am

    I used a sigma 70-200 2.8 lens with a tripod, outside on a very nice day, highest quality next to raw. My pictures all turned out really hazy and when I zoom in on the pic, it is very pixel-y. The pictures look almost blurry despite using a tripod. I experimented using various f-stops/shutter speeds with all the same result. My camera kept saying "busy" and also, for whatever reason, I could not get my shutter speed any faster than 1/200. I have a canon Rebel T1i, and I am fairly new at photography. Can anyone tell me why this would happen? I hate to get rid of this lens if it is indeed as good as everyone is saying.

  • SYDNEY OLD WOMBAT April 4, 2010 01:23 am

    I am an amateur photographer using the telephoto AFS 70-200 f2.8G mounted on a D3x DSLR. It is one of my favorite lens even the above combination is quite heavy, but after a while I am getting used to it and can shot hand held, with the benefit of the VR feature.

    Recently I went to shoot a rodeo in Taralga, NSW, Australia, with the above set up combined with a Nikon Teleconverter 1.7x because the action is quite far away.

    The below shot is cropped 50%, f/8, ISO 400, 1/800s
    [eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/49002421@N06/4486382631/' title='GET YA ! - 620' url='http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4031/4486382631_b2b6034dcb.jpg']

  • lottadot March 7, 2010 07:33 am

    @vilas,
    1) maybe, probably
    2) maybe, but probably not. You get what you pay for. Extender's move your max from f/2.8 to f/5.6 when used a on a 70-200/2.8. I don't know what you'd get with an 18-55 or 24-105, but I'd be very surprised if you can match the real 70-200/2.8.
    3) maybe. questions kinda vague.
    4) probably

    As an example, I have a Canon 40D (and now 7D) that I use a Sigma 70-200 w/ a 2x Teleconverter (EX DG APO). Did I save money when I bought these two, versus the Canon 70-200 IS that I wanted but couldn't afford? Yes. Do I get mostly good results from this? Yes. Could I get better if I had real Canon gear? Maybe. Definitely if I bought the IS lens.

    But I can't see where an 18-55 w/ 2x EXT, or a 24-105 w/ 2x EXT is close to the 70-200.

  • freshgirl March 6, 2010 04:24 pm

    I have been contemplating between the IS version of the 70-200 2.8. When i went to my local camera, i tried both, and found that at 200mm, my hands were too shaky for a sharp, clear pic. the IS won, and that is the one i purchased. It has been less than 24 hrs, and I do not regret getting this version. I went to a park and shot a group of people playing soccer.. I was impressed. Whoa! this lens is expensive, but you definitely get what you pay for in quality.

  • Rocco de Wet December 2, 2009 09:46 pm

    I must state that my milage does differ a lot - I never get any hunting from my Canon EF 70-200mm f2.8 L IS. Even in low light. I press the button, and the picture ins in focus like magic.

  • vilas October 25, 2009 10:02 pm

    instead of using 70-200mm lens if I use 18-55mm or 24-105mm lens with 2x or 3x multiplier:-
    1) will it be cheaper cost wise
    2) will it give same results
    3) will it be user friendly
    4) will it be lighter in weight
    please advise.
    Thanx.

  • BlueBull74 September 29, 2009 03:21 pm

    I've been shooting with my Sigma 70-200mm II APO for more than a year. Simply love this lens And the photos it is giving me. Non VR or USM is not an issue as my camera holding basics are well observed each time I shoot. Definitely no regrets buying this lens back when I did and the savings compared to getting the Nikon version allowed me to get another lens and an additional Speedlight.

  • Jim News August 31, 2009 03:14 pm

    I use a Sigma 70-200 2.8, mainly on a Nikon D90 and I love it. I shoot sports everyday and this lense is a workhorse. It's quiet, quick and sharp. I always believe in buying the best glass and I consider my Sigma to be very good piece. With the huge amount of money I saved over the Nikkor, I bought a house!

  • alonzo May 26, 2009 10:39 am

    I just started to take pictures and am really new about it. I would like to do portraits pics and I don't to know wich lenses to use. (wich are the best?) Would you guys advice me on that....Would the sigma 70-200mm be a good lens. I was thinking of buying it.

  • alonzo May 26, 2009 10:32 am

    I'm a beginner and would like to know the same thing as "wal"...what’s the difference between the 70-200mm and the 70-300mm lens.

  • wal May 13, 2009 04:56 am

    I m a beginner and i've been doing some research on lenses. i mostly find people talking about 70-200mm ,but what about 70-300..? is this lense so bad nobody's talking about it..? do anyone have any experience to tell. what's the difference anyway between the two that the price for the 70-300 is way lower.?

  • Marti January 13, 2009 03:24 pm

    Nice review. Even nicer are everyone's comments and input as I'm saving for a nice zoom. Thanks everybody!

  • Tonya January 13, 2008 08:25 pm

    I like the pictures and the review is great, but I was looking for some pictures with the Olympus zoom lens! Does any one have any of those? I am looking to bye a Olympus E 510

  • Dan January 12, 2008 05:03 am

    I've owned both the Nikon 70-200VR and the Canon 70-200IS - they are both excellent lenses, as already attested to. In my mind, they are the two best zooms (in this range) that you can get. Both have excellent sharpness and contrast, even when shot wide open.

    There has been some talk about the Canon being a bit soft wide open at 200mm but I haven't really seen that in my shooting, but I'm sure they're probably some variation in lens copies out there.

    In terms of weight and size, the Nikon is a bit smaller in diameter and a bit lighter. I also prefer the Nikon hood to Canon's. The tripod ring on Nikon is also a better system - you can remove it w/o having to detach the lens from the camera body, unlike the Canon version.

    Asthetically, I do prefer the "look" of Canon's L lenses, if that counts for anything. But at the end of the day, it's the picture quality that we're all after and I would highly recommend either of these lenses w/o hesitation.

  • Pugglesnprose January 12, 2008 02:26 am

    A few months back I rented the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G ED-IF AF-S VR Zoom for my Nephew's first Yankees game at Yankee Stadium.

    In a word-- Amazing. I am certainly am an amateur, learning the workings of my Nikon D80, but really wanted a longer zoom and a faster lens for the game. This was all that was available to rent that weekend, and such a good decision. The photos are fantastic.

    Only down side is that the lens was super heavy on the light D80, and I don't have a steady hand to begin with, so I was real careful to limit user-shake when taking photos.

    The size of the lens did get some attention among fans, as well...

  • Chet January 12, 2008 01:58 am

    I have the Canon 70-200mm 2.8 IS lens. Never did I guess how much I would be using this lens. When going through my pictures from events and portrait sessions, I noticed that a fairly high percentage of my 5 star shots where with this lens.

    The point of this is that for those thinking about the Canon 70-200 2.8 IS, there is potentially a lot more value than perceived. The 2.8 IS version well out does the 4.0 version with or without IS (IS cannot stop motion) in terms of speed, which translates to more opportunities to use the lens (this for me effectively means lower cost ratio). The extra 2.8 allows me to use the lens indoors, use lower ISO, use higher shutter speeds, and avoid flash which allows faster shooting rate. This makes the lens extremely more versatile and useful in so many more situations such as indoor sports, concerts and theatrical type events, and pretty much any low light situation (longer shooting hours). So a better cost ratio plus a fairly high percentage of "keepers" and "5 stars" make this lens a favorite of mine.

    I don't really get the weight concern that other people have. I have walked around all day with the 70-200 and I never notice the weight of it... until the next day.... hehe. Seriously, I only notice the weight when I am running around all day gripping my camera with my hands and not using the neck strap. All the L lenses are relatively heavy anyway. If you're not willing to pack more weight for picture quality, the "L" series lenses may be overkill for you and therefore wasted money no matter whether you choose the IS or 2.8 vs 4.0 version.

    For me the real drawbacks are it's physical length and conspicuousness. It's long and it's white color really make it stand out. Too many people notice when you have the lens on and being larger in size, you have to get bags that will fit it plus it's wide lens hood.

    My bottom line is at the end of the day, how many "Wow!" shots do I have. Those shots deliver the rest of the package and give you your reputation. Most Canon photographers I know readily attest that the 70-200mm 2.8 IS significantly add to their number of "great" shots.

  • Lori P January 12, 2008 01:24 am

    Turns out I have different 70-200 than the one being discussed.

  • Lori P January 12, 2008 12:56 am

    I'm curious, I have this lense (recent purchase in the Virgin Islands), what about the 18-200mm lense? I was wishing I had gotten that one, but I didn't know about it, because it can take close up and far away. Any thoughts on that? I'm a newbee, so sorry if my question has an obvious answer to those of you who have been taking pictures for a while.

  • hfng January 12, 2008 12:26 am

    I have the 70-200mm f/2.8L IS on the 40D body. It produces terrific results despite having neck ache from carrying it around the whole day. For those thinking of buying it, get it, you won't regret it!

    Sample picture: http://www.reddotstudio.ch/pixelpost/index.php?showimage=210&category=6

  • Angela January 11, 2008 11:00 pm

    Holy cow.

  • photonovice January 11, 2008 06:20 pm

    I use the Nikon 70-200 with my D80 body. They don't balance in weight but I completely agree with Ed O'Keeffe's father: it's better to have the good lens than the body.

    It is extremely sharp even with wide open aperture, the bokeh is beautiful and I really enjoy using it.
    Great for portrait close-ups and many other things.

  • Darre O'Connor January 11, 2008 06:03 pm

    I'm receiving my Canon 70 - 200 F4 IS today. It would've been nice to get the 2.8 but the F4 is so much lighter. I don't do any sport photography so it will fit my needs. I've also heard the f4 is slightly sharper than the 2.8

  • Matthew Miller January 11, 2008 02:06 pm

    Of course, put it on a Pentax K10D or K100D and the Sigma *is* image stabilized. Maybe not as effective as lens-based stabilization, but with no extra cost in money or size/weight.

  • shane January 11, 2008 10:29 am

    I have the Sigma 70-200 for use with my Canon 40D. I *love* it. While I would also have loved the full IS canon version of it, I just couldn't justify the expense. If I ever make money from this hobby, I'll consider an upgrade. Until then the Sigma is cheaper and gives absolutely beautiful frames.

  • Jeremy Hall January 11, 2008 05:20 am

    I own the Canon 70-200 and it is phenomenal lens if you can justify the price and weight. I have used it in sports, concerts and even some portrait work on my 20D and 40D bodies.

  • Pete Langlois January 11, 2008 04:34 am

    The Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 is definitely on my list to buy this year and I'll most likely buy a TC14E with it as well to get the extra reach. The Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 is highly regarded and one of the best lenses you can buy. The Nikon will work with a D70s as well as the Sigma with the Nikon mount.

    I had the 55-200mm VR from Nikon and then traded it back after a couple of weeks and got the 70-300mm VR from Nikon.

  • Jamie January 11, 2008 04:05 am

    Nikon doesn't have a 70-200 without VR, but they do have an 80-200, which is excellent.

  • Derek January 11, 2008 03:38 am

    Not totally an apples to apples compairson since the Sigma isn't image stabilized. I don't know about Nikon, but I know Canon makes a non-IS version of the 70-200 f/2.8L.

    Either way, my guess is the Canon reviewed will be my next glass purchase.

  • Ed O'Keeffe January 11, 2008 02:48 am

    I think that Nikon will be the next lens I buy, I could upgrade my camera body from the D80 to the D300 for the price of the lens but my daddy always told me "son, its better to spend your money on good glass than waste it on the latest camera bodies"

    The canon and nikon 70-200mm lens are in my opinion the best pro zoom glass on the market for the money

  • Stu January 11, 2008 01:49 am

    I had the Nikon 70-200 VR, best lens I ever had unfortunately it was stolen at a secure press event in Glasgow along with my D200 a few months back.

    I didn't have insurance then, I do now, best advice get insurance on your gear its worth its weight in gold, as for a new 70-200 VR I'm saving for it having just bought a D300.

    Stu

  • EL January 11, 2008 01:23 am

    @Lori: the Nikon will, and you can buy the Sigma in a Nikon mount.

    Generally, I have seen the Sigma 50-150 2.8 HSM very well-reviewed too. The focal length seems unconventional -- except that the 70-200 length is a holdover from film camera days, and with crop factor 50-150 is the digital equivalent for most DSLRs.

    Lighter than the 70-200s, and a bit cheaper too -- I am looking at it as a candidate to replace my Nikon 55-200 once I can afford to. (Downside of Sigma is no IS/VR).

    EL

  • Pete Langlois January 11, 2008 01:15 am

    The Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 is definitely on my want list. It is razor sharp and one of the best Nikon Lenses out there. It will work on the D70s as well as any of the current Nikon's out there even the D40/D40x. I have a D50 and am very happy with it. I'd rather spend my money on better glass than spend 1000.00US on a new body.

    Pete

  • Joe January 11, 2008 01:05 am

    I love my 70-200/2.8 IS. It really is fast (both f/2.8 and AF). Its sharp and I really just enjoy shooting with it.

    It is a bit heavy, but I am young and I hike with it all the time. I will say though, 2 hrs in a botanical gardens butterfly exhibit, combined with a 40D and my hand started to cramp up from the weight. :) I guess I should start doing more wrist exercises!

  • Lori January 11, 2008 01:03 am

    This definitely will be on my wish list. This may be a dumb question but do these work on the Nikon D70s?

  • Richard January 11, 2008 12:19 am

    Must say I am seriously considering the Canon 70-200 f2.8L IS USM. I already have the 24-105 and am looking at something that zooms a little more.

    Not only does it do that (and cope well in low light), but you can put the 1.4 extender on it and still be able to use it at f4 like my 24-105mm which is great.

    Heard a lot of good things about it, although some find the 1.2kg to heavy for their liking. I dont think that weight will be a concern for me.

    Looks like a great lens, and Im fast running out of reasons not to buy it!