So, hit 29 this year. For a combined birthday present and business investment I decided the time was finally right to pick up the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II. As some may be aware, there is currently a $300 off sale going on from Canon that is reflected across all retailers. In addition, I found it on Buydig with another 5% off (plus 1% from my credit card), free shipping, a free multi-coated Hoya UV filter, a free cleaning kit and free 2 day shipping. The cleaning kit was kind of a joke and 2 day shipping didn’t matter since it came from NJ and had to wait until I was home to sign for it anyway, but the filter was a nice $60 bonus.
I got it on Friday after my birthday and just before Autotask’s summer engineering picnic. Wanting to give it a try, I swung by home and picked it up. It was a great day for really putting the lens through its paces. It was cloudy with on and off rain leading up to an all on down pour which gave me a chance to try out the weather proofing. I’m pleased to say it held up very respectably. I was using the 5D Mark iii with the battery grip on it (which notably does compromise the weather sealing a little bit, but only if water comes up from the bottom of the grip.) I did finally head for cover when it got to an all out down poor, but through multiple small to moderate rain showers I was able to keep shooting no problem.
The only problem I noticed with the weather sealing (and I’m not sure if it was the weather sealing’s problem or not) was that two minor very small spots of condensation formed under the top LCD panel where I’d been handling it. It was exceptionally humid though and the rain caused a very rapid temperature change, so I think this may have just been condensation and it evaporated within the hour with no ill effects. Otherwise, there were no signs of any problems from the rain. I’ll probably still pick up a rain coat for it for added protection, but it’s nice to know that the weather proofing really does work. (Plus it’s a bit fun to get weird stares from people wondering why you are shooting with an expensive looking camera in the rain without concern.)
Rain or shine, the focus was fast and very accurate, though I did find the limit of modern AF point selection. Since I was shooting mostly vollyball from fairly close (mostly individual player shots) and following the ball itself, I had to leave it on full autofocus. While the reject rate was only about 1 in 3, I was a little disappointed because I normally am aiming for closer to 1 in 5 or so. That said, I think it was probably an unrealistic expectation for conditions. Between the net, the ropes holding up the net and other players, there was a lot of movement and shifting the shot very fast and it still held up 2 out of 3 shots focusing on what I intended. Even on the shots where it didn’t focus on what I wanted, something was in sharp focus. So the camera doesn’t quite read minds, but it is very fast and accurate. This was also before I had a chance to micro-adjust the lens.
As far as sharpness goes, I was a little disappointed, though I think this was again a result of unrealistic expectations. I was comparing it to the results from my 24-70mm f/2.8L II which has got to be just about the sharpest lens on the planet. While, in my opinion, the sharpness of the 70-200 doesn’t even remotely approach the sharpness of the 24-70, it still isn’t anything to complain about. Reflections are still pretty clearly visible in people’s eyes at portrait distance. It’s also still easily twice as sharp as my 70-300 f/4-5.6 IS is, and as previously mentioned, the AF is so much faster and tighter. The full time manual focus, shorter minimum focus distance, fixed lens length and orientation and extra speed round it out to make it quite satisfying even if it isn’t as magic as the 24-70 was. (f/2.8 across the entire range is a beautiful thing.)
Since then, I’ve also had a chance to try it out a bit more for indoor work and flash work while doing a bunch of portrait work while my brother-in-law was jamming on his guitar. They really show the power of f/2.8 and the accuracy of the focus even in fairly dim conditions.
Looking forward to the first wedding I’ll be shooting with the lens on the 20th.