70-200 f/2.8L vs 70-200 f/4L: Bokeh and Hand-hold-ability

Discussion in 'Canon EOS' started by antonio_carvalho|2, Feb 3, 2011.

  1. Another boring equipment question:
    I currently own the 70-200 f/4L. While I appreciate the sharpness and focusing speed of this lens, I am quite disappointed with its bokeh. I have been offered an almost new 70-200 f/2.8L (without IS) at a good price. So, I would like to know from the colleagues at photo.net.
    Do you think that the bokeh provided by the f/2.8 lens version is better the one provided by the f/4L?
    Do you consider the extra weight to be exaggerated? Would you carry it on your backpack on a day long trip?
    Would you use the lens with a 2x TC?
    Is IS an essential feature for this lens (specially with the TC) or could you live without it?
    []'s
    Antonio
     
  2. I am very surprised to hear that you are disappointed with the bokeh of this lens. The f/4 can actually do quite well in
    this regard. I wonder if you need a prime?

    Dan
     
  3. It might help to clarify what you mean. Are you talking about the amount of background blur (its ability to separate the subject from the background when used wide open), or the visual quality of the background blur (which is what most people are referring to when they talk about "bokeh")? The first is going to be essentially the same for every lens of the same focal length at f/4. The second is definitely going to be different from one lens design to the next.
     
  4. I have the F4 IS and the F2.8 non IS. Of the two the image quality is almost identical and Bokah very similar. The f2.8
    lens is a better portrait lens due to it's shallower DOF. However, the difference is not that great. If you do not shoot
    sports I find the F4 IS to be the more versatile lens as it is much lighter and more compact. I personally bought the
    F2.8 non IS over the MkI IS lens as I found it sharper wide open (the Digital Picture tests show similar results). In
    terms of action sports and low light the F2.8 lens is much better than the f4 and in my case the lack of IS is not a big
    issue as I need to stop action. While I have the MkII 2x TC I do not like it much on either lens (you need a 1series
    body for AF with the 2x and F4 lens). The 1.4x works great on both lenses
     
  5. you first have to know how to manipulate your camera to subject and subject to background distances to maximize the bokeh. Great bokeh can be achieved with the f/4 if you know what you're doing, and if you don't, the 2.8 may not be much help. Here's an example of good bokeh with the 70-200mm f/4L, and its even at f/10. Notice the bird is near the min. focus distance and the leaves in the background are several feet behind the bird.
     
  6. whoops, here's the bird...
    00Y9fa-328535584.jpg
     
  7. and here's one taken with the f/2.8 version. With the subject far away and the background not too far behind him, there isn't much bokeh at all. I don't know what you're shooting, but the big advantage to the f/2.8 version is having the extra stop for low light capability, I'm not certain it would help with background blur. At fairly long focal lengths of 70-200mm, f/4 should create great bokeh if you set up the photo right.
    00Y9fd-328537584.jpg
     
  8. So many answers so fast. Thank you!
    I realized that I did not provide some vital informations for the answers. I photograph mostly landscapes and portraits. Most of my portraits are on location and not on a studio.
    @ Matt Laur
    I really love the visual quality of bokeh of the f/4L, but I would like more (amount of) bokeh. I was wondering if the f/2.8L would give me a much shallower DoF than the F/4L.
    @ G Dan Mitchell
    I wonder that too. The 85mm f/1.8 is the other option, but it is less versatile.
    @ Phillip Wilson
    That is exactly what I am looking for. A shallower DoF.
    @ Natan

    Very beautiful picture. I understand that if the nearer the subject and farther background, the best the bokeh is. However, sometimes I can not control these distances, so I was wondering if the f/2.8L would deliver a better bokeh (in terms of more amount of bokeh or a shallower DoF) than the f/4L.
     
  9. Hi Antonio,
    I have owned the f/4 and moved to the f/2.8. The above comments are on spot - the bokeh is very similar. The big difference is in the weight. I primarily do cultural photography so I'm walking around with the lens on my shoulder for up to 8 hours. I'm a pretty sturdy guy, so the extra weight isn't oppressive, but I won't lie; I can tell the difference. For me the extra aperture is worth it.
    In telling you whether to change or not, you need to ask yourself how much you'll be carrying it. Another thing that helped was the Black Rapid side sling which relieved the pressure from the weight. My advice - in an idea world you'd rent it for a day or two and make sure you can comfortably carry it.
     
  10. I was wondering if the f/2.8L would deliver a better bokeh (in terms of more amount of bokeh or a shallower DoF) than the f/4L.​
    If you use the f2.8 lens at f2.8 then yes you will get a shallower depth of field and 'more' bokeh because that is what f2.8 does compared to f4. If you use the f2.8 lens at f4 then no, both lenses will be the same.
     
  11. Antonio, I originally bought the f/4 and the quality is nothing short of superb. However without the IS I was occasionally missing the results I was looking for in what can be very indifferent light here in the UK. I decided to pick up the f/2.8 and it's just so much more versatile. Yes, it's way heavier but I do hike with it all day and for me it's well worth it. Indulgent as it is, I just can't bear to part with the slower lens and use it when I'm carrying a tripod.
    I have borrowed a 1.4x TC (or do they call them extenders? :) ) and find the results absolutely fine up to 12x8. Having read many other posts here I wouldn't entertain the 2x version because of the reported image degradation. As Matt says, if weight is an issue be very thoughtful before you commit to the lens though I assume that without IS it will be a deal lighter. There again, you might have to factor in the weight of a tripod.
     
  12. Antonio, I'm curious about what focal lengths in particular you use your 70-200 lens at. Depending on your answer to that, you may well be better served by a prime lens in that particular focal length...
     
  13. I like the bokeh on my f/4L IS:
    [​IMG]
     
  14. I often use my 70-200mm with the TC and in low light, so I wouldn't want it without IS.
     
  15. Antonio for shallow DOF the F2.8 lens is better. I bought this one first as I needed the speed for indoor sports. I found that it was a lot of lens to carry around when out. It is one of those lenses that you might need for landscape use or nature and might not. Thus I added the F4 IS to carry around as it is half the weight so you can carry extra wide angle lenses or similar without feeling overloaded.
     
  16. To follow up on my (much) earlier post in this thread, here is one example of many that I have using this lens:
    [​IMG]
    Dan
     
  17. Really, I see lots of great bokeh in this thread from the f/4, so what's not to like? How would you improve that bokeh?
     
  18. @ Matt Welsh
    I plan to carry the lens (in a camera backpack with other lenses) for the whole day for several consecutive days and weight is one of my concerns. Most of my pictures are made while I am on vacation and I am starting on the portraits fiels while I am at home. This year, I am planning to go to Spain, Hawai and the Inca Trail, so I will be in several beautiful places with my backpack for several days. I am wondering if I will be able to carry the lens all day long. I would like to rent it before buying to test, unfortunately, I can not rent it before buying, there are no lens rental companies in Rio de Janeiro, where I live.
    @ Mike Hitchen
    I am planning the use the 2.8L at f/2.8 most of the time.
    @ Jim McDonald

    The reports on the 1.4x TC (I don't know why Canon call them tele extenders) are very good with both lenses and the ones with the 2.0x TC are not so good, but I would like to reach 400mm.
    @ Mark Anthony Kathurima
    The focal lenghts I use most are 70mm, 85mm and 200mm. I could use the 50mm f/1.4 and two steps in the direction of the model, the 85mm f/1.8 which I am thinking about buying and a 200mm f/2.8L, but I think the zoom could be more versatile, do you agree?
    @ David Stephens
    Which TC do you use: 1.4x or 2x?
    @ Philip Wilson
    I am considering a two lens approach. The f/4L for landscape and travel, so I can carry it all day long in my backpack and the f/2.8L for portraits. The only con of this approach is price, so I am considering it carrefully.
    @ G Dan Mitchell

    Your picture of the flower is very beautiful. My first picture with the 70-200 f/4L is similiar to this one in terms of bokeh, but sometimes (specially with larger subjects, farther from the camera), I could not achieve a similar bokeh and I was wondering if that was because of the larger DoF of the f/4L when focused on a distant subject @ f/4.
    @ David Stephens
    I have pictures with great bokeh from my 70-200 f/4L and pictures with poor bokeh. I am not using my computer now, so I can not upload samples, but I will do so when I arrive home, so you can see what I am talking about.
     
  19. I use the 1.4x TC on my f/4L IS.
    For someone that doesn't own either yet and thinks they'll need 400mm, then they should seriously consider the f/2.8L IS II combined with the 2.0x TC III. I've seen a review of the new series III TC and it is considerably sharper than the old TC. That combination will give you 70-400mm that's fast enough to AF when you run across birds and wildlife. Of course, that begs comparison to the 100-400mm.
    Just fyi, I jump from my 70-200mm with the 1.4x TC to my 500mm f/4 and really feel no "gap". I've taken some pleasing bird shots with my 70-200mm 1.4x TC combo, but 400mm is really one of the sweet spots for birds. If I didn't own the 500mm, then I'd seriously be considering the f/2.8, but mainly for birds, not bokeh or speed.
     
  20. Antonio - for portraits consider the 85 f/1.8 and 135 f/2. Either one will get you more background blur than an f/2.8 lens for most camera->subject->background scenarios. (I say most because if the background is way off in the distance the 70-200 f/2.8 at 200mm and f/2.8 will actually give more blur. If the background is closer the other lenses will.)
     
  21. @ G Dan Mitchell

    Your picture of the flower is very beautiful. My first picture with the 70-200 f/4L is similiar to this one in terms of bokeh, but sometimes (specially with larger subjects, farther from the camera), I could not achieve a similar bokeh and I was wondering if that was because of the larger DoF of the f/4L when focused on a distant subject @ f/4.
    There are several factors that can affect the quality of the bokeh:
    • The aperture - larger apertures shrink the DOF and make subjects behind/before the focal plane appear more OOF.
    • The focal length - longer focal lengths have the effect of shrinking the DOF, for several reasons.
    • Camera to subject distance - the closer you are the narrower the DOF
    • Subject to background distance - the greater this is the more OOF the background will be.
    • The ability of the lens to produce smooth out of focus image - somewhat affected by number of aperture blades and their shape, along with other factors.
    When you ask about the difference between f/4 and f/2.8 you recognize one of these five factors. It can make a difference, but it is not necessarily a major one and it is not without its downsides. For example, when you open up to get more out of focus background, you do so because you narrow the DOF... which makes in harder to get your main subject (assuming it is not two-dimensional) fully in focus.
    So, in answer to your specific question, having only f/4 compared to f/2.8 can be a factor here, but the difference from this alone is not going to be that huge. When possible, you might want to think about the others, especially camera to subject distance and subject to background distance.
    If you want to see a truly significant difference in bokeh, you'll want more than a 1-stop difference. For that you'd want to look into primes.
    Dan
     
  22. @ G Dan Mitchell

    Your picture of the flower is very beautiful. My first picture with the 70-200 f/4L is similiar to this one in terms of bokeh, but sometimes (specially with larger subjects, farther from the camera), I could not achieve a similar bokeh and I was wondering if that was because of the larger DoF of the f/4L when focused on a distant subject @ f/4.
    There are several factors that can affect the quality of the bokeh:
    • The aperture - larger apertures shrink the DOF and make subjects behind/before the focal plane appear more OOF.
    • The focal length - longer focal lengths have the effect of shrinking the DOF, for several reasons.
    • Camera to subject distance - the closer you are the narrower the DOF
    • Subject to background distance - the greater this is the more OOF the background will be.
    • The ability of the lens to produce smooth out of focus image - somewhat affected by number of aperture blades and their shape, along with other factors.
    When you ask about the difference between f/4 and f/2.8 you recognize one of these five factors. It can make a difference, but it is not necessarily a major one and it is not without its downsides. For example, when you open up to get more out of focus background, you do so because you narrow the DOF... which makes in harder to get your main subject (assuming it is not two-dimensional) fully in focus.
    So, in answer to your specific question, having only f/4 compared to f/2.8 can be a factor here, but the difference from this alone is not going to be that huge. When possible, you might want to think about the others, especially camera to subject distance and subject to background distance.
    If you want to see a truly significant difference in bokeh, you'll want more than a 1-stop difference. For that you'd want to look into primes.
    Dan
     
  23. @ Mike Hitchen
    I am planning the use the 2.8L at f/2.8 most of the time.​
    Sorry, Antonio but I'm really puzzled why you are even asking the question in your original post:
    Do you think that the bokeh provided by the f/2.8 lens version is better the one provided by the f/4L?I​
    If you are going to use the f2.8 lens at f2.8 then the question of bokeh becomes irrelevant because the f4 will not do f2.8.
    Regards weight, the f4L (non-IS) weighs 705g, f2.8L (non-IS) weighs 1310g - the difference is the weight of a 60D body. If it was strung round my neck for a day that to me would be a whole heap of additional weight I did not need. In a backpack for a day on the hills it may be a different matter. But again, several days on the Inca trail would be a different mater. This comes down to how fit you are and how experiened a trekker you are.
    As for IS, to cover all the uses you mention my balance would be towards the f4 with IS rather than the f2.8 without IS. And for the difference in wieght get the 85mm f1.8 or 50mm f1.8.
    But you clearly have the dilemma of depth of field vs portability. If the f2.8 is a good price, then if your finances can afford it, I would buy it and if it does not suit you then you can sell it on at little loss (or maybe even a small profit).
    A tough decision.
     
  24. As Daniel suggests you may want to just add a prime for portraits. The 85 F1.8 is a great buy as is the 50 F1.4 (they give you 80mm and 136mm on APS-C). Bothe have great Bokeh and shallow DOF. In either case i suggest you also buy the lens hood.
     
  25. Simply put, the bokeh is better. I've used both, and I own a 2.8. While it is heavy, I carry it around all day long while I'm shooting weddings, and I wouldn't trade it for the f4 for anything. Simply put the images are far far far better, and that makes it worth the weight.
    Just my opinion. :)
     
  26. The bokeh of the 70-200mm f4 is very smooth and mostly pleasantly round at moderate apertures. And the IS version improves image quality significantly.
    The 70-200mm f4 IS has the best picture quality overall (including resolution and color through the range of apertures) amongst the four older 70-200mm ( 70-200 f4 IS, 70-200 f4 non-IS, 70-200 f2.8 IS and 70-200 f2.8 non-IS).
    I've tested all of them and I comfortably recommend the 70-200mm f4 IS to everyone.
    The 70-200mm f4 IS is the jewel of all zooms and it is a bargain at $1,200. The only one that rivals it is the new 70-200mm f2.8 IS II - but it is $2,300.
     
  27. @ David Stephens
    70-200 f/2.8L IS II + Canon Extender 2x III would be the perfect combination, except for my pockets ;-)
    @ Daniel Lee Taylor
    Buying the 85mm f/1.8 and keeping the 70-200 f/4L is the ideia which is struggling with buying the 70-200 f/2.8L
    @ J. Harrington
    Thank you for the samples.
    @ G Dan Mitchell
    The 85mm f/1.8 prime is a strong candidate for my next lens.
    @ Mike Hitchen
    I may have phrased my question in a less than perfect way. I simply wanted to know if I could obtain a better bokeh by changing this factor, moving from a f/4L lens (@ f/4) to a f/2.8L (@ f/2.8). Obviously, I can not use f/2.8 on my f/4L lens, that's why I am thinking about buying the f/2.8L, but if changing the only the apperture will not improve my bokeh that much, than I might consider other options (the 85mm f/1.8, for example).
    Buying the f/2.8L testing it and selling it if it does not fit my needs is another option that I am considering.
    It is really a tough decision.
    @ Philip Wilson

    Thank you for the suggestions. I use all my lenses with their hoods.
    @ Marcus Ian
    Thank you for your opinion.
     
  28. Mr. Mitchell (and others too) mentioned the special relationship between bokeh and a given lens' optical formula.
    A very fine technical paper on the subject was written by Harold Merklinger. In it he effectively describes this "signature" quality of a lens, its rendering of out-of-focus objects, the tendency to soften or harden blurred edges. Merklinger goes further in demonstrating how this rendering can change depending on whether the OOF subject / area is in front of or behind the plane of focus. The point is also made that the shape of these OOF subjects / areas can either complement or interfere with a lens' bokeh "signature" and this is where a photographer can visibly influence the end result.
    It's a good work, well written and illustrated.
     
  29. Considering your desire to take the rig trekking, I'd second the f/4L recommendation. I take mine backpacking all the time, and in addition to the considerable weight savings, there's the issue of bulk. The f/4 works for me hanging on my side or on a chest harness while backpacking, while the f/2.8 is just too bulky. The 85 f/1.8 is a wonderful portrait lens, too, so you'd not be losing anything at all there. You've gotten several excellent suggestions regarding bokeh, and I'd add one more--consult a DOF calculator for your camera body/lens/distance combos. I'd bet you'll find that your bokeh dissatisfaction issues are due to a background that is too close to your subject.
     
  30. If you shoot crop then consider buying a full-frame body. That'll give you shallower DOF with your current lenses.
    It's a cost + weight comparable option, compared to buying a 70-200/2.8
     
  31. @ Arie
    I am waiting for the 5D mk III.
     
  32. Why? What is it about the 5D2 that would limit you?
     
  33. @ Arie
    Nothing about the 5D2 would limit me, but since it seems to be at the end of its product cycle and a new 5D3 seems to be coming, I prefer to wait and buy a just released product, with new features to buying a product which will be outdated soon. I agree that the 5D2 is a fine camera and I would not use all of its resources before the 5D3 is release, but it is not inexpensive and it is already a few years old, so I will wait for the new one.
     
  34. I have the f4, a friend has the 2.8. The 2.8 feels a whole lot heavier to me just from picking up one in each hand. I wouldn't want the 2.8 for that reason (either does he, he's selling it and getting the f4 because of the weight). But I do landscape, still life, and architecture almost exclusively. So my problem is usually getting enough depth of field, not having too much. But I could see someone who did sports, portraits, etc. opting for the 2.8 because of the shallower depth of field.
     
  35. Your picture of the flower is very beautiful. My first picture with the 70-200 f/4L is similiar to this one in terms of bokeh, but sometimes (specially with larger subjects, farther from the camera), I could not achieve a similar bokeh and I was wondering if that was because of the larger DoF of the f/4L when focused on a distant subject @ f/4.​
    If your problem is with subjects further away from a new fast aperture lens probably will not help much. As the subject gets closer to the infinity focus distance of the lens the DOF increase tremendously making it difficult to impossible to get the effect you want.
    If the 70-200 couldn't do it at 200mm it is unlikely that the 85mm lens will solve the problem. The reason for that is that at 85mm at F4 will have more depth of field than the 70-200F4 will at 200mm. Yes the extra 2stops of F1.8 will help but there is a good chance that it won't be enough to get the Boken you want.
    i suggest you re-read the suggestsions from G Dan Mitchell:
    There are several factors that can affect the quality of the bokeh:
    • The aperture - larger apertures shrink the DOF and make subjects behind/before the focal plane appear more OOF.
    • The focal length - longer focal lengths have the effect of shrinking the DOF, for several reasons.
    • Camera to subject distance - the closer you are the narrower the DOF
    • Subject to background distance - the greater this is the more OOF the background will be.
    • The ability of the lens to produce smooth out of focus image - somewhat affected by number of aperture blades and their shape, along with other factors.
    If your subject is distant and you cannot get closer an 85 F1.8 lens won't help. Instead you need a longer focal length lens such as a 300F4 or 100-400 F4 to F5.6. Lets assum your subject is 20 feet away and the lens is wid open. Then for the following lenses your depth of field is
    • 85mm F1.8 depth of field is 1.13Ft
    • 70-200mm at 200mm F4 depth of field is 0.45Ft
    • 300mm F4 depth of field is 0.2Ft
    • 100-400mm at 400mm F5.6 depth of field is 0.15Ft
    Notice the DOF of the 85mm at F1.8 is greater than that of the others. Even though the slow F5.6 aperture of the 100-400 at 400mm, it still gives you the narrowest DOF. So for narrow DOF Bokeh the 85mm may not be the best choice. Yes it is the lightest and it has a fastest aperture but it won't give your a narrow DOF unless you get close to the subject. You might want to play with this on line DOF calculator.
     
  36. This DOF scenario above is not useful. You would never maintain a shooting distance of 20 feet, or any number of feet, with this wide range of lenses. Of all those listed, for a head and shoulders shot, the 85/1.8 will give the least depth of field. Go back through your DOF calculator with a subject height of say, two feet, filling your frame for each lens and each maximum aperture.
    As others have already recommended if you really want to isolate your subject then keep your zoom and add a fast prime. 50/1.2, 50/1.4, 50/1.8, 85/1.2, 85/1.8, 135/2, or at the ridiculous end the 200/1.8, or 200/2. Of course the 300/2.8 and 400/2.8 are awesome but too silly just for still portraits.
    No, you don't need IS, even with a converter, as long as you have enough light/ISO for 1/250 to 1/500 to freeze both the camera and the subject.
     
  37. Going by that logic you should not buy a 70-200/2.8 IS mk2. I'd wait for the 70-200/2.8 IS mk3.
     
  38. @ Steven F
    Thank you for the various DoF calculations and the link for the DoF Calculator (it is better than the one I am used to). My subjects are not distant, I usually shoot from a 8-10 feet distance. I will try to calculate which lens/appeture combination is better for me.
    @ John Crowe
    Thank you for the primes recommendations. I currently own 28 f/1.8, 50 f/1.4 and I am planning to add the 85 f/1.8 to the set.
    @ Arie
    The 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II is a new product. It was released in march 2010 to replace a product released in september 2001. I do not expect another upgrade soon.
    The 5D mark II was release in november 2008 to replace a product (5D) release in october 2005, so we might expect an upgrade soon.
     
  39. There's also the quality of the bokeh which apparently hasn't been addressed, @f4, the bokeh is often a bit jaggedy (which catches the eye) where as at f2.8 the same image will have a higher quality bokeh. This is especially noticeable in backgrounds with high contrast.
    The first image in the thread (posted by Nathan) highlights this tendency, if you see the area to the right of the beak, the green/blue is layered, (almost like you'd see reflecting off moving water) at f2.8, that background (I'd predict, impossible to prove since the hummingbird has flown away :) ) should be a much more mellow blend from green to blue, as opposed to the 'swirled' effect f4 gives.
     

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