So which 70-200mm zoom lens?
I’ll start off by saying I’m not writing this post because I’ve used and tested all the available zoom lenses and I’m here telling you which one to get and why. I haven’t purchased or shot with one yet. So this is based on research. I do know that I need a good zoom lens and I’m in the process of deciding what to save up for and get. So for now, by writing down all the research and thinking I’ve done on this subject, hopefully I can not only help you decide, but help me decide as well. Canon, Nikon, Sigma, and Tamron all make very nice zooms, but the quality and price differ.
I would like to rent two or three of these lenses to try them out before purchasing. Both Borrowlenses.com and Lenserentals.com have these lenses for rent. $125 for a week for the Canon 70-200 f/2.8. But by the time I’ve rented 4 lenses to compare I’ve spent $400, a sizable down payment. So I think it’s best to do ton of research and pull the trigger.
With any lens, what your needs are will play heavy on your buying decision. Wedding shooter? Indoor sports? You need f/2.8, period. Outdoor photography? Want something lighter? Cheaper? f/4 will serve you well. Want to extend the reach with a 1.4x or 2x teleconverter? You’ll want f/2.8.
Steadily working pros and/or trust fund kids look no further than these two lenses:
If you’re like me, you aren’t quite ready to plop down 2 grand on a lens. Here’s what’s available from Canon and other manufacturers. They won’t match the top dogs, but they are a very good and affordable stepping stone.
|Lens||Price New*||Price Used*|
|Canon 70-200 f/2.8 L IS USM Mark 1||$2100||$1400|
|Canon 70-200 f/2.8 L USM||$1500||$1000|
|Canon 70-200 f/4 L IS USM||$1400||$900|
|Canon 70-200 f/4 L USM||$700||$500|
|Nikon 70-200 f/4 ED VR||$1400||$1200|
|Sigma 70-200 f/2.8 APO EX DG HSM OS||$1200||$1000|
|Tamron 70-200 f/2.8 DI VC USD||$1500||$900|
|Canon 70-300 f/4-5.6 IS USM**||$649||$275|
|Nikon 70-300 f/4-5.6G ED IF AF-S VR**||$600||$320|
|Canon EF-S 55-250 f/4-5.6 IS II||$264||$139|
L: Canon’s pro line of lenses
IS: Image Stabilization
OS: Optical Stabilization
ED: Extra low dispersion
IF: Internal focus (end doesn’t rotate)
ED: Type of lens element
AF: Auto Focus
VR: Vibration reduction
USM: Ultrasonic Motor
* Prices as of 12/7/13
** Sigma and Tamron make 70-300mm lenses as well but are the same price as Canon’s.
Alright. Whew. I probably left out a few above, but you get the idea. The main decision is whether you need f/2.8 or will f/4 or higher do. For low-light situations, like shooting weddings on gym sports, you will really want f/2.8 to gain as much light collection as you can get. Also if you’re planning on using a 1.4 or 2.0 extender, that will cut your light as well. So you’d better start with a low f-stop. Not saying you HAVE to though. f/4 is only one stop of light less than f/2.8. Some of the newer cameras like the Canon 5Dmk3, 6D, and Nikon D800 have some terrific high ISO performance and can compensate for a f/4 lens indoors. Though you’d want a monopod or tripod to compensate. And IS or Image Stabilization really helps keep your shots sharp. If you’re shooting outside, like nature photography, then f/4 or higher will be okay.
What makes it hard is that we photographers never know what we’ll be shooting. If we buy an f/4 lens for bird photography, sure enough someone in our family is going to ask us to capture a cousin’s volleyball tournament. So if you just can’t justify the $2,000 plus pricetag of Canon and Nikon’s flagship zooms, my suggestion is go Tamron’s f2.8. Lately Tamron has been surpassing Sigma in build quality and IQ. Sigma’s lenses have been hit or miss. People talk on reviews about getting a “bad copy” sending it back and getting “another bad copy.” Then the “third time” they got a “good copy.” Eh. No thanks. And Sigma has a bad reputation when it comes to customer service. I’ve also read that the Sigma and Tamron aren’t quote 200mm. They’re actually more like 180mm. So you loose some of the great compression the Canons deliver at 200mm.
Sigma lenses also have some front focus and back focus issues. So my advice here is try and go Canon or Nikon’s lesser versions. Like Canon’s Mark 1 version of the 70-200 f/2.8. Or if you know you’ll be on a monopod, you can skip image stabilization. And if you need to save $1000 get the Tamron.
I asked other DSLR bloggers what they thought and here were their responses:
Deejay from DSLRfilmnoob.com
You can pick up a gen 1 Canon 70-200mm f2.8L IS used on ebay for around $1000 on ebay. It’s big it’s beautiful and it’s reasonably priced. If you plan to get a 1.4x or 2x adapter in the future you’ll want to have the f2.8. If you think you might want more reach from your lens in the future, you might consider using the 70-200mm with a 7d body effectively giving you 112-320 field of view. I would also consider the Canon 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 IS. This lens can also be had for just over $1000 used and is a great match for wildlife, outdoor sports, and even indoor sports with the 5dmk3.
On a full frame body I find 70-200 to be more of an all around general use lens, 70 isn’t extremely wide and 200 isn’t quite enough reach. Don’t get me wrong I use it all the time, it’s just that 200 isn’t nearly as telephoto as you would expect on a full frame body.
Hope that some of this helped in your decision process some. There are YouTube videos that get out several 70-200s and compare sharpness, weight, etc. So do watch some of those. I’m considering renting a few of these first to try them. And if I do, I will surely make a video on my results and feelings. Best of luck! Opinions are always welcome in the comments below. And as usual, anything purchased through my links helps keep the blog going.
So here’s what I’ve done for now. I went on eBay and ordered a Canon 70-300 f/4-5.6 USM lens used. You can get them for $250ish, which is a good price compared to them at $650 new. I believe this will tide me over until I can save for a 70-200 f/2.8 Mark 1 version, which go for just over $1,000.