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

PinExt 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.

PPS 70 200 LR 001 600x400 Canon 70 200 2.8L IS II Review. V1 vs V2 Comparison:

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.

PPS 70 200 LR 003 600x400 Canon 70 200 2.8L IS II Review. V1 vs V2 Comparison:

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

PPS 70 200 LR 005 600x400 Canon 70 200 2.8L IS II Review. V1 vs V2 Comparison:

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.

PPS 70 200 LR 002 600x400 Canon 70 200 2.8L IS II Review. V1 vs V2 Comparison:

PPS 70 200 LR 004 600x400 Canon 70 200 2.8L IS II Review. V1 vs V2 Comparison:

PPS 70 200 LR 006 600x400 Canon 70 200 2.8L IS II Review. V1 vs V2 Comparison:

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.

PPS 70 200 LR 007 600x400 Canon 70 200 2.8L IS II Review. V1 vs V2 Comparison:

PPS 70 200 LR 009 600x400 Canon 70 200 2.8L IS II Review. V1 vs V2 Comparison:

PPS 70 200 LR 008 600x400 Canon 70 200 2.8L IS II Review. V1 vs V2 Comparison:

PPS 70 200 LR 010 600x400 Canon 70 200 2.8L IS II Review. V1 vs V2 Comparison:

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).

PPS 70 200 LR 011 600x400 Canon 70 200 2.8L IS II Review. V1 vs V2 Comparison:

PPS 70 200 LR 013 600x400 Canon 70 200 2.8L IS II Review. V1 vs V2 Comparison:

PPS 70 200 LR 012 600x400 Canon 70 200 2.8L IS II Review. V1 vs V2 Comparison:

PPS 70 200 LR 014 600x400 Canon 70 200 2.8L IS II Review. V1 vs V2 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.

PPS 70 200 LR 015 600x400 Canon 70 200 2.8L IS II Review. V1 vs V2 Comparison:

PPS 70 200 LR 017 600x400 Canon 70 200 2.8L IS II Review. V1 vs V2 Comparison:

PPS 70 200 LR 016 600x400 Canon 70 200 2.8L IS II Review. V1 vs V2 Comparison:

PPS 70 200 LR 018 600x400 Canon 70 200 2.8L IS II Review. V1 vs V2 Comparison:

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

Download Full Resolution JPEG Files ZIP

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  • Kevin Long

    You often can’t tell the difference when photo comparisons are put online, but you can clearly differentiate between even the low-res samples you’ve posted. Thank you, Gavin.

  • Robert Green

    That’s rubbish, I was really hoping you were going to say there was no difference but now I’ve got to convince my wife I need this lens as well!!! Canon have done a great job to improve a great lens. Top review Gavin.

    • Gavin Seim

      Haha, I hear ya Robert. I’m feeling the same way ;) Gav

  • Ryan

    Looks like I am going to finally be selling my 70-200 F4 IS L! Great Review, I have been wanting to see what this babies going to do! Now im in the same boat as Robert! But I think selling my other 70-200L and 135L well help convince! Try that Robert!

  • Joachim

    I bought the V2 IS two days ago and compared it with the original version without IS. For now only at 2,8. The original version has a bit less contrast, but perfect bokeh with perfectly smooth transition from sharp to unsharp. The V2 IS is crisper in the zone of absolute sharpness but tends to show very mild double lines in unsharp areas. Maybe just seeable in direct comparison at 100 %. If you push local contrast with USM and apply some more smart sharpening in PS (or use sharpness 7-8 in DPP) the original version is is as crisp as the new V2 but the smoothness of transition and bokeh stay slightly better. Initially I wanted to sell my original one without IS. Now I am thinking about keeping it for portraits and studio use. Please don´t misunderstand me. I am quite happy with my new lens which has a fantastic IS but I am astouned how good the very first version of the 2,8/70-200 is. Maybe I have a good copy. Ryan, don´t sell the 2/135L

  • Wing Liu

    The moving up from V1 to V2 is the best decision I have made (except for the financial side, a lot of folks are bitching about the high price – only a shade more than the Nikon VR II version but almost none of the Nikon community bitch about it???).

    Beside the improvement on contrast and overall sharpness, the 1.2 meter min focus is the best god sent feature for V2 – the 20cm difference from the 1.4 meter min focus is a life saver(in pro working situation anyway) that most people not recognizing between V1 and V2. It is between head and shoulder (V1) and tight face crop (V2) – do have to watch out for heavily uneven eyes if doing 3/4 faces with f2.8 – I would stop down to f5.6 if shooting people’s faces very close.

  • steve j

    Hi I was just wondering about the new F2.8 v2 compared to the f4 version,, I have always read that the f4 version was much crisper and sharper then the 2.8 v1, so how does it compare to the new v2.

  • Lake Tahoe wedding photographer

    That’s amazing. Canon made a great improvement!
    Thank you for uploading your images. I will definitely buy the new version of this lens.

  • Steve

    Do I dare say that in the last two shots, the bokeh looks much better on the V1?

  • Simon

    I must be dumb, I hadn’t actually realized that the Mk II had only just been released until recently… AFTER I ordered it, I asked for a 70-200 f2.8 IS on the basis of what I’d read about the Mk I and the guy surprised me when he asked “Mk II ?” and I just said “er… yeah”.
    Now I’m double-excited about collecting it next week after all the great reviews!! Mind you, I wondered why it was more expensive than I expected, I just thought I’d been pricing the wrong lens from the start!
    I was lucky to be in a position to order it along with a 5D Mk II with battery grip, a 24-70 f2.8L , 2x Mk II extender, 580EX Mk II flash and a new ball-head for my Manfrotto tripod. No, I’m not rich, I’ve waited and saved for 6 years while using my trusty 20D. Xmas has come at last for me hooray!

  • Prezent

    I see only that mk I is a bit darker and the mk II is focusing on a a different way.
    It looks like the sharpness of mkI is overal uniform, but on mkII is a range of more clear sharpness and the rest is softer, This can be seen in the images PPS_70_200_LR_08 and PPS_70_200_LR_010 from your test.
    Similar could be seen on PPS_70_200_LR_012 and PPS_70_200_LR_014.

    From this tests, mkII wins in my opinion, only indoor in the samples with that vegetables.
    Just my opinion.

  • http://deleted Prezent

    …and yes, because mkII is a bit brighter it reveals more shadows details, but loose some details on the highliths side.

    It could be interesting in shot side by side, using a corection for exposure, so that both to get the same light in picture, and to be compared only the details.

  • http://n/a Nick

    I’ve owned the 70-200 2.8L IS for a couple of years now and use it on a 5D with excellent results. The lens is used for portraits and weddings, both externally and with Elinchrom FX 400 flash units. I watched the launch of the Mk2 with interest and it seems from all the comments that the new lens is a significant step forward. It’s, also true of the 5D mk11 over the original, so now I face a dilemma. The outlay for both would be heavy, but an ideal solution, which would have to go via the committee, if you follow my drift. If it has to be one or the other, my feeling is that the greater benefit would be derived from the camera upgrade, which would then increase the performance of the Mk1 lens. I have to say though that the tests still show the Mk1 to be a great piece of kit and I’m wondering whether to retain what I have and love and go for the 16-35 2.8L to give me useful wide angle. The other lenses I use are 24-70 2.8L and 100mm 2.8 macro.

    Thanks for a great article and any comments and thoughts would be much appreciated.

    • Gavin Seim

      I would tend to agree Nick. While the 5D MK2 is certainly not perfect (focus still too slow, lenses detaching etc) It’s still a very effective tool and is great in terms if ISO. If you have the V! and are still on the orig 5D generation I’d say get a new body. As much as I like the V@ of thsi lens, I still have a V!. While I would like the new one it’s not ultra high on my budget list. Their both great lenses.

  • http://n/a Nick

    Thanks Gavin, much appreciated.
    The vast majority of the work I do calls for prints ranging from 6X4in to 12X8in and from what I’ve seen in terms of comparision, I doubt whether the majority of recipients would start to tell the difference. If I were to produce exhibition size work, then that would be a different matter. Also, I have a fairly good grasp of Photoshop and Unsharp Mask, or High Pass, used in the correct manner, can help to plug the gap to some extent. Having discussed the options with the committee, I have sanction to go for the 5D2 and may go for the wide angle instead.

  • Doug

    Thanks for the review. I pick up my new IS II tomorrow :-) I am sooo excited. It will be keeping my 24-70 L and 100 Macro L company in my camera bag.

    Thanks for the review – I don’t have a big budget but I’m getting older so I couldn’t wait any longer for this almost lengendary lens. I have one year to practice before heading to the Galapagos to use if for wildlife “portrait” work!

  • svx94

    Are you sure the v2 is better? :) The v2 pictures look a little over exposed and less saturated to me.

    • Gavin Seim

      V2 is defiantly better as far as I’m concerned. I still have not bought one as I have the V1 and have not spring yet, but it’s notable. The exposure is a little higher because as I mentioned this lens seems to let in a touch more light and for purposes of the test all the same setting were used. IN a real situation you would ideally be exposing bang on, and hence get the optimum tone ad well as taking advantage of the better detail and IS in the V2.

  • Portland wedding photography

    Being a sports photographer, IS is really important. I have until recently been renting the 70-200 2.8 IS v1, and am now in the market to purchasing one. I’m thinking of going the v2 route, any improvements in IS is huge to my field. I would only recommend the upgrade if you can afford or shoot fast action images. Nice blog post!

  • RCapra

    Brightness (like sex, animals and babies) sells. Most people today who compare LCD vs Plasma on the showroom floor immediately pick LCD because it is brighter. However, on closer inspection, the colors on Plasma TV are definately deeper and richer but the overal picture in a bright room is darker. I think the same has happened with this lens. The new version appears brighter but with some cost to the highlights (over exposed), and the bokeh (not as pleasingly smooth). The V1 lens, althogh a bit dimmer has an overall “creamy” appearance, while the V2 lens appears brighter but more starchy. If you have the V1, I don’t think it is worth an extra 500 bucks for the V2. The 500 would be better spent on the a newer version of PhotoShop.

    • Gavin Seim

      I think you understand R. This is no TV. The cameras were on the same settings. This one being brighter means the optics let in perhaps a tad more light. In a real situation the camera would expose accordingly, bit more lights in is a positive.

      As for the Bokeh, that would be subjective I guess, but I feel this lens is better on most levels. Probably not worth buying all over for most, but of your looking for a new 70-200 2.8 is a solid choice.


  • Charla Mason

    Hi Gavin,
    It does seem odd to get such a difference in brightness? Wish you had a little bit of 18% grey card in your test shots…

    Then the samples shots could be adjusted to match the grey ! IQ could be better compared for the two versions.

    Iam in the process of getting one of the two versions..

  • Stefan

    But what about the blur effect?… I read on the review of both lenses V1 and V2… and it seems that V1 is better at this, the blur is smoother … the V2 has like small hexagons when you crop… But you can see the difference, in favour of the V1 even from your last picture with the green roofing… Look at the background … the out of focus area.. it’s much more smoother on the V1..

  • Joe Dyer

    Thanks for the review. I have now changed my new set up. My camera body selection has been demoted to Canon 550D this will be my secondary body in about 12 months. The lense selection has changed to Canon 70-200 2.8L IS II plus the new 1.4 mk III extender. This is a major upgrade for me from a fuji HS10.

  • Carloz

    I am looking on a 22″ monitor and sorry, I fail to see that much of the difference in sharpness.
    The contrast difference is noticeable but nothing to write home about.
    After looking this and other samples I decided to postpone upgrading to MKII indefinitely.
    For the price difference I could buy a EF 200/2.8 prime !


    which do I choose the 70-200 or 70-300!!! using for rail photos I am a complete amature understand some of the jargon but not all

    • Gavin Seim

      Jenks the 70-200 is a great lens, but it sounds like you need to nail things down more before buying. Hard to say what best for you without know your situation more. I suggest you join the forums ( and give us some more details… Gav

  • Vance Zachary

    Thanks for the comparison. It is one of the best analysis I’ve seen. None of the improvements–sharpness, contrast, color, image stabilization, flare control (not addressed here) etc. is earth shaking. But taken all together, they do add up and can make a difference in one’s photos. Bokeh is subjective. One has to ask themselves what is more important to them: creamy smooth bokeh or a stop more of image stabilization; creamy smooth bokeh or a brighter more contrasty image. These types of questions help make the decision. The little differences do add up and can make a big difference. What did it for me was looking at all of the images I had made with this lens and asked myself could these improvements have made a difference. For me, the answer was yes.

  • Gavin Brooks

    Thank you Gavin for a great review. And for the comments from other readers.
    It helped me decide on selling my F4 IS and another 2 lens.
    Today (16 June 2011) I just bought a brand spanking new 70-200 mk II F2.8, Canon extender 2x III…
    With the 2x extender the focussing is just as fast and equally as sharp! According to my internal shots of wife and cat. It’s raining today so I have not done any outdoor photos yet. I am in UK, famous for it’s rainy weather!
    It is mounted on Canon 1D mk IV (4) which is also amazing.

  • Raleigh Wedding Photographer

    I have the V2 and it is my bread and butter lens for sweet bride and groom portraits.

  • Roman (Canon user)

    That’s right: version 2 is significantly better in terms of resolution, contrast and distortion. It is weird that the price for both lenses are still almost the same.

  • Alex Poke

    Indeed mkii is a bit better in tests and all, but on most reviews it gets faved because its the newer version, marketing, who would promote something old over something new. Anyway, lets stop analysing the market for a second. Between 2000-2005 buyers where referred as buyers and not as consumers. Now every buyer is considered a consumer, that makes me wonder, products made back then where made to last , tvs, amplifiers, cameras, etc. Now days every product has something written on the warranty card ” average lifetime of the product is 5 years or 7 in some cases.What does that mean? The so called build to last quality is gone, why? answer is simple, consumer needs to feed companies and the manufacturing policy has changed. And an off topic comment regarding 24-70 F2.8 L USM II , when you hold that lens in your hands it feels cheap comparing with the old 24-70 that was build like a tank. We will soon pay tons of $$$ for lenses with poor build quality as in materials ( not talking about quality of the glass) , if you drop it, game over.

    • Sebastian Monte Cristo

      Question: Tank criteria still a features of 70-200 2.8 ver 2 ?

  • 4 Minutes 25 Seconds

    Uh, you failed to mention that the V1 is HALF the price of the V2 (both brand new)

    Other than the fact that the V2 is slightly brighter (like 1/3 to 1/2 stop, maybe 1 MAX), there’s almost no difference, not a “hands down” difference. Not sure if it’s worth paying twice as much for a lens which is slightly brighter.

    Talk about pixel peeping, sheesh.

    • Gleb86

      The point of his post is for people that are considering saving money on getting the IS v1 vs the V2. Because of this, I’m definitely getting the V2 because the difference seems to be worth it.

  • Wepev

    Nice of you to post this information and share it. What I don’t like is your picture comparisons. How is that that even the watermarks, particularly the red of PPS, is even brighter and sharper on every single V2 image?!