Lens Test: Canon 70-200mm f/4L EF IS USM AF

Canon's latest image-stabilized zoom is a superb but pricey way to leave that tripod behind.

Hands on

Fairly lightweight for its size and construction, this lens balances well on midweight Canon DSLRs such as the EOS 30D, but is nose-heavy and ungainly on lightweights like the EOS Digital Rebel XTi. It has a very high level of fit and finish, with environmental sealing improved over the older non-IS version. Ribbed, rubberized focusing and zooming rings are well-damped and silky-smooth; focusing ring is a long reach. Focusing-mode and image-stabilization switches are well marked and positioned, but the flush-mount switches will be tricky for shooters wearing gloves. The very convenient removable tripod collar is a separate accessory ($115, street).

In the Lab

SQF results were Excellent at all three tested focal lengths — a big improvement over the pretty good non-IS version. Good distortion control, too, with Slight barrel distortion (0.18%) seen at 70mm, Slight pincushion (0.20%) at both 135mm and at 200mm (0.29%). Light falloff was gone by f/4.5 at 70mm, by f/6.3 at 135mm, and by f/5.6 at 200mm. This is no macro lens, although at 200mm it achieves a respectable 1:4.35 magnification (45.5 inches). At 135mm, it gets to 1:6.33; at 70mm, 1:11.4. With IS at 200mm: All testers could gain up to 3.5 stops. Lowest gain: 1.5 stops. Highest gain: 3.5 stops.


Optically excellent, superbly constructed, with 3 stops’ gain handheld, it’s well worth the price.


• 70-200mm (71.60-192.73mm tested), f/4 (f/3.54 tested), 20 elements in 15 groups. Focusing turns 150 degrees counterclockwise. Zoom ring turns 70 degrees clockwise. Focal lengths marked at 70-, 100-, 135-, and 200mm.
• Diagonal view angle: 34-12 degrees.
• Weight: 1.71 lb.
• Filter size: 67mm.
• Mounts: Canon AF.
• Included: Lenshood, softcase.
• Street price: $1,060.

What’s Hot
• Excellent optical performance and IS.
• Built tough and weather-resistant.

What’s Not
• Tripod collar is extra.
• On the pricey side.

Subjective Quality Factor