Canon 70-200 2.8L IS II Review. V1 vs V2 Comparison:

by Gavin Seim: Canon just released version II of the 70-200 2.8 IS, which may be their most legendary lens ever. My friends Ben & Molly from Nickles photography just got the new 70-200 2.8 IS II in their hands, so I went over for some tests (thanks for the help Ben). Being that the V1 is such a great lens, many (including myself) have been wondering how much it could be improved. And with a price tag of nearly $2500, it better offer something new. According to Canon the V2 “increases the speed, performance and optical quality of the 70-200, while maintaining all of the characteristics that have made it a legend“.

Well the images are in and so is this lens. I think Canon nailed it. Now granted their can be differences between one lens and another of the same model and my V1 lens is a few years old. It’s still in excellent working order however so I feel the comparison is pretty fair. These examples were all shot in RAW on the 5D MK2 under the same conditions and settings for each sequence. Images were processed in Lightroom 2, but no adjustments were added except that Camera Calibration in was set to Camera Standard.

Aside from the image quality I found a couple of interesting things. The V2 seems to shoot nearly 1/3 stop brighter and with a tad wider view than the V1. I checked this using a tripod for the detail tests to make sure the camera position would be the same. The V2 does indeed seem to be a few mm wider. I don’t know what that would be, I’m just showing what I found. I don’t see this as a big problem however. In fact the V2 letting in more light seems a good thing.

So far I’m impressed. See for yourself below. I’m posting full frames alongside tight details crops of each image. You can click any for a larger view,. You can also download the package of full res JPEG files at the bottom of the post if you want to take a close look. You can find this lens here on B&H or here on Adorama or here on Amazon. OK lets get started.

Image Stabilization Tests.
For each test I hand held 2oomm at 1/20th, supporting the lens barrel with my left and pressing the body firmly against my face. I took 5 consecutive shots for each comparison so I could account for variations in my own steadiness (or lack thereof). The results shown are the sharpest image from each sequence of five images, as well as crop zoomed in view of the same. While the V1 was good, the V2 of the lens was clearly better, producing consistently better IS performance.

It can't be said that IS is not useful. Even on the V1 it makes a huge difference. But on V2... Well read on.

Yes the V2 is better. It's amazing how clear this is for 200mm hand held at 1/20th. I'm impressed.

I knew IS was a good thing, but I was actually amazed how blurry the scene was without it. And just like the other sequences, this was the best of the five.

Contrast & Detail Tests.
Here are three comparison groups for image quality. Each group was taken exactly the same settings on a tripod with a cable release. Like I said before, my V1 lens, while is perfectly functional condition, has been heavily used for about 3 years. Though I don’t feel the use I’ve given it should have significantly effected the optics, since the glass in near perfect condition. The decision. I definitely found the V2 was better here as well. More contrast, about 1/3 stop more light let in and overall more detail, especially in certain area (like the camper in the second sequence). You can DL the full res pack below if you’d like a closer look.

The results are not widely different on this first test. The V2 seems to have a bit better contrast, but the detail seems fairly close on both the V1 and V2.

In this set I defiantly notice a difference in detail. Especially in the house numbers and the camper in the corner (which in V1 feels blurry by comparison).

Again, noticeably more contrast and detail in the V2 compared to my old V1. Neither are bad considering the zoom factor of the crop, but you can see it in the details. The V2 wins it again.

The Bottom Line.
I say the Canon 20-200 2.8 IS II nails it. It looks pretty much the same on the outside, but it’s what’s inside that counts. It also focuses slightly closer and best of all, contrast, detail and Image Stabilization are all improved. It is just a tiny bit fatter, but no big deal (specs on Canon’s site). Bottom line. I want this lens. While I love my V1, the V2 wins hands down.  If Canon maintains quality control I foresee this lens being king of the hill. Will I be upgrading? Lets just say I’d like to. It’s not at the top of my budget, but I could definitely see myself selling my V1 off for a V2.

You can find this lens here on B&H or here from Adorama or here on Amazon. Happy shopping… Gav

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