L series lens - is IS worth the extra cash?

Discussion in 'Canon EOS' started by damian_rees, Dec 5, 2010.

  1. Hi All

    I'm still a relative beginner when it comes to photography, but I'd like to step up and take my photography more seriously so I have decided that with a recent bonus from work I will invest in a new lens and I've had my eye on the Canon EF 70-200mm f/4.0 L USM Lens. I am a bit of an all rounder and like to take lots of handheld shots, but I also enjoy taking a tripod out and shooting architecture and landscape too.
    I can afford the £500 for the lens just. But then I look at the IS version of the lens and see that a lot of people say to save up for longer and get that instead. It is however another £350 which is a hell of a lot of money. So my question is whether I will find the non-IS version is just not quite right. But to be honest I am nervous of spending £850 on what is essentially a hobby.
    Can anyone offer any advice on whether the non-IS version is likely to be good enough for me?

  2. I'm sure you'll get some comments that you don't really need IS with good light, fast shutter speeds or a tripod. And I'm certainly not disagreeing with those opinions.
    I have many lenses, and I've never once thought I "wasted" money on the IS versions. In fact, quite the opposite is true; I wish all of my lenses had IS.
  3. There are only few application where IS is not helpful (i.e., sports...). So if there is a stabilized version available, I would get the IS lens.
    Howver, if you cannot afford the IS version, I would rather get a couple of fast primes instead of a a slow zoom -- unless you need the flexibility.
  4. Honestly, I never missed IS on my 70-200mm L f/4, but then again I might be just lucky or clueless.
  5. I can only comment from personal experience. I bought the 70-200 years ago and it's a really beautiful lens in every respect. I became disappointed with the quality of one or two handeld portrait images while being used here in the UK ie sometimes poor light and decided to buy the /2.8 IS version. I've not been disappointed and have decided to keep both each for their own intrinsic worth. If I were starting again I'd save for the /4 IS. I don't own it but it's rated so highly and is so versatile. My experience of the 70-200's is and has been wonderful.
  6. I can only comment from personal experience. I bought the 70-200 years ago and it's a really beautiful lens in every respect. I became disappointed with the quality of one or two handeld portrait images while being used here in the UK ie sometimes poor light and decided to buy the /2.8 IS version. I've not been disappointed and have decided to keep both each for their own intrinsic worth. If I were starting again I'd save for the /4 IS. I don't own it but it's rated so highly and is so versatile. My experience of the 70-200's is and has been wonderful.
  7. IS is "worth" every penny (every photog needs to decide what dollar value to put on the word "worth" in that sentence). I wouldn't buy a lens without it if it was available.
    The issue is, as you mentioned, that to get it on this lens costs an extra $500 USD. I personally think it's outrageous of Canon to charge $500 for IS on this lens (or any other lens), but it doesn't matter what I think....they'll do it anyway. :)
    If that extra $500 is an issue for you like it is for me, start to hunt around for third party lenses with IS in this zoom range and compare the quality with the Canon. If you're happy with it, get the third party lens. If you're not, then there's no choice but to ante up the money for the Canon.
    In the end though, to answer your core question, IS is definitely a great technology that I personally wouldn't be willing to do without. I wrote about my reasons why on this post from my blog:
    I hope you find this feedback helpful.
  8. I find myself shooting frequently at the limits of equipment and light. When IS saves a shot it is wonderful. I guess since I'm an amateur the money I spend on IS is a luxury. I don't miss IS on my 10-22 and 24-70. I've used Zeiss lenses without IS also and love them.
    I'm using a 70-200 2.8 IS II for a couple of weeks and can't imagine this range without IS.
    Check out this link to some high quality used lenses... might be just what you are looking for.
    I rented many a lens from them and just a bought a used 300 2.8... (with IS)
  9. What do you shoot?

    For 80% of my shots with this lens; I don't need IS. But for that other 20%. . . .
    If the money is that tight => Huge expensive L glass is the wrong choice. It IS just a HOBBY you said. Consider the 70-300/IS. Many speak highly of this lens.
  10. Consider the 70-300/IS. Many speak highly of this lens.​
    yes, this 70-300 IS is great
  11. Thank you for all your advice. The 70-300 is this the canon model?
    While we are talking of alternatives, can anyone suggest a lens capable of rivaling the EF 70-200mm f/4.0 L IS USM that doesn't cost quite as much? Perhaps a solid third party alternative?
  12. Damian,
    I went through the same thing last year, when I was deciding between the 70-200 f/4 with and without IS. bought it with IS, and I don't regret it, despite the extra cost. (Unlike one poster, I have no idea what it costs to build IS into a lens, so I have no opinion about whether Canon is charging too much. )
    I suggest you think about two things in making the decision. One is how you are going to use the lens. If you are going to use a tripod or even a monopod much of the time, for example, you might find less value in IS (it has no value at all with a tripod, of course). If you are going to do handheld shots, it's another matter. The second issue is simply focal length. You did not say what camera you are using, but 200mm is quite long, and on a crop-sensor camera like mine, it is equivalent to a 320mm on a 35mm camera. The old rule of thumb is a shutter speed no faster than 1/FL, where FL is the 35mm equivalent focal length, so that means when racked out, I would need enough light for at least 1/320. Moreover, if you add a 1.4x teleconverter, which I sometimes do, you are dealing with a focal length of 280 or 448 mm. What speed you needs depends on your technique and stability, but I know from decades of experience that for me, these rules of thumb are about right. So that clinched the deal for me. Without IS, I simply would not be able to do some of the handheld work I do with that lens. In contrast, I don't often miss IS with my 28-75mm Tamron, although for a lens of that length, I will probably buy IS next time if it is available in a reasonable lens.
    BTW, from my relatively brief experience, I'd say that this lens lives up to its stellar reviews and reputation.
  13. stp


    I'm a tripod shooter 99.9% of the time. IS does not matter to me. I think trying to use IS, even a fast shutter speeds, to match the stability of a tripod is a gamble every time. I also use MLU to further remove sources of vibration, even at fast shutter speeds. I do everything that I can to achieve maximum stability. IS is a godsend if you handhold, but that's still a poor substitute for a tripod, IMO. On the other hand, you lose significant flexibility when using a tripod, and the shooting is a lot slower (which, to me, is a blessing).
  14. I use the non-IS version of the f/4 70-200 lens, and it is a fine performer. The IS version was not available when I
    bought mine. Although I most often shoot from a tripod, if I were replacing my current lens I would certainly get the IS
    version since there are times when I must hand hold the camera.

  15. I'm 100% with Mark Kissel's comments!
    I shoot both with and without a tripod, but for hand held, the IS is invaluable.
    I too wish all my lenses had IS! Actually, I wish they all had the newer generation IS!
    Jim j.
  16. Is is worth it on the 70-200mm f4, but is not necessarily worth it on lenses of shorter focal length in my opinion. I have to say though, that although I have the 70-200mm IS, I could survive without the IS on the 5dMKII since its high ISO performance is so good. It depends somewhat on your camera body.
  17. Seeing as this is a hobby and by your own admission you are loathe to spend 850 quid on the IS version, I would very seriously consider Canon's EF 70-300 IS. Not only is it far cheaper, it also gains you an additional 100mm of reach *and* is image stabilised. Before you go spending your bonus, a few questions for you: What camera do you currently have? What lenses do you have? Have you set any long-term photographic goals as far as style? You may well be better served by a getting totally different set of lenses altogether...
  18. The new Tamron AF 70-300mm f/4.0-5.6 SP Di VC USD XLD for the Canon mount seems to be getting quite good reviews and is slightly less expensive than the comparable Canon model. I'm considering buying this lens myself.
    The Tamron auto focus on this lens is supposed to be quite a bit faster than the Canon as well because the Canon 70-300 does not use Canon's best USM system. The Tamron might be worth a look....
  19. Thanks for all your advice. I think there are some excellent points here which make me question my choice of lens in the first place, so I set up a different thread here to focus more on the actual choice of lens:
  20. Damian,
    Something that no one has pointed out is that the two lenses are optically different. The IS version is superior in image quality even with both on a tripod and IS turned off.
    I've done quite a bit of testing/comparing as of late as I'm looking to replace a 70-200 f/2.8 with a 70-200 f/4. Fortunately I have friends who own both versions of the f/4 lens so I was able to make direct comparisons.
    I'd really recommend the f/4L IS. My wife has the 70-300IS that was suggested by another poster and the 70-200 IS with a 1.4x extender (280mm) is still sharper.
    Go for it.
  21. Damian
    I would take the Canon 70 -300mm (not the 75-300mm) My 70-300 does have IS onit. Quite frankly I am a tripod shooter most of the time as well. There are many articles out there saying that even on a tripod to shoot with IS on. I go either way. It is a nice smooth lens and I have never had a problem with mine. I myself have used Tamron and Sigma in the past. Needless to say all I have in my bag now is Canon. Other brands to me just dont add up, in either construction or quality of photo. Of course, this is just my opinion and experience.
  22. I have the IS and love it and use it a good bit; however, the main worry is out at 200mm when you need to shoot at shutter speeds under 1/200-second. Since you have a tripod, then you can fix that without IS. IS is indeed expensive relative to the lens cost of this lens. I'd hate for you to miss out on the wonderful sharpness and usefulness of this lens just because you can't afford the IS, so I vote for going ahead without the IS and being aware of when you'll need to lug the tripod along.
  23. A couple of years ago i bought a Sony a700 just for the fact that it was great camera and it has an in boby stabilizer,so now all of my leses are stabilized when not on a tripod,it works great whatever you decide to do...
  24. If you are watching the cost consider the Sigma 50-200mm F4-56 DC OS it is about $159 with stabilization at adorama and B&H photo. Not an L series but not bad either.
  25. The Tamron 70-300 f4-5.6 VC USD lens is definitely worth a look. I have recently bought one and IMO it is much better than the Canon 70-300 IS. Its cheaper, optically it is at least as good as the Canon and probably better, the build quality is better, it uses real ring USM for fast focus accurate focus, and the VC works really well.
    Basically now that Tamron has released this lens, I see no reason for anyone, anywhere ever to buy the Canon 70-300 IS ever again.
  26. I should add Canon deserve that we boycott lenses such as the 70-300 IS because of their stinginess in putting crappy micro USM in it - Nikon has ring USM in their equivalent. If it were a cheap lens, I could understand that but it is not.
    I am guessing Canon didn't put ring USM in it to differentiate it from their Ls, including the rediculously overpriced 70-300 f4-5.6 L, but I am not wearing that and neither are Canon's competitors now.
  27. I agree completely Geoff. If Canon were to put a ring USM in the 70-300, they would probably charge $800 for it. :)
    Everyone has their opinion (good and bad) about Canon and their lens prices, and my opinion is that what they charge to put IS and ring USM in their lenses is highly disproportionate to other equivalent lens manufacturers. As Tamron begins to ramp up their optical and mechanical quality (as they have been over the past few years), Canon will probably take hit from them and maybe then Canon will wake up a bit.
    Don't even get me started on the fact that Canon can't make a smoothly rotating zoom ring outside of their 'L' lenses (on which the zooms operate perfectly). Almost every non-L lens that I've touched from Canon had some type of zoom rotation binding somewhere along the zoom range. Nikon and Tamron piss on Canon in this area. In fact, Tamron's zoom action is terrific. My 17-35 zooms liquid smooth....
    But I digress.....
  28. Call me cynical but Canon can come up with cheap IS when needed. They put effective IS in the EF-S 18-55 and EF-S 55-250, for a pittance just when Sony and Pentax put IS in their camera bodies. Yet somehow the same technology adds $500 to the 70-200 f4 L.
    They put ring USM in the venerable $220 28-105 f3.5-4.5 USM, yet it is missing on the EF-S 18-135 f4-5.6 IS, EF-S 18-200 IS, and the 70-300 IS, which are all more expensive.
  29. I agree with the others to consider the 70-300 IS.
    Like you this is also a hobby and am not making any money on this and lust after the 70-200L 2.8 IS.
    But it's crazy money here in Canada.
    I opted for the 70-300 IS about over 2 years ago and have been very happy with it and have got many great shots. I think it's a great lens for the hobbyist. Someday if I am flush with cash I may get the L but until then I am content with the 70-300.
    Also don't forget you get more reach with the 70-300.
    Off course Canon now has a 70-300L! :)
    -- Sanjay
  30. I have had both lenses. I didn’t really find that the IS version was actually any sharper than the non-IS version. It was very beneficial at 200 mm though. With the crappy light you get in the UK , F4 isn’t as useful as it is here in Ontario (we are about the same latitude as Portugal/Spain in the south of the province).
    Being an ex-pat Limey I know that bright shooting conditions are at a premium in the Sceptered Isle.
    I’d either go IS or 2.8 or move!
  31. I have never been a proponent of IS other than for those that spend a great deal of time shooting still subjects in near darkness. My vote goes to the Canon EF 70-200mm f4 L.
  32. I have the Canon EF 70-200mm f/4.0 L IS Lens and LOVE IT. Now I understand the difference in quality of an L lens vs. a much, much cheaper lens. I love the photos that I get from this lens. For me, the IS is very important since I hand hold most of my photos.
  33. "Something that no one has pointed out is that the two lenses are optically different. The IS version is superior in
    image quality even with both on a tripod and IS turned off."

    Not in any significant way. All versions of the Canon 70-200 zooms produce excellent image quality, so IQ is basically
    irrelevant to the decision.

  34. I use the IS version of this lens mostly on the tripod with IS turned off shooting landscapes and nature. In my case, it is not essential, but I am glad to have it for the 5% of shots that I do take handheld. One argument for IS: with f = 4, it is not the fastest lens, and IS can compensate for that. One argument against: You can easily dial up the ISO if you use it handheld. Really depends what you shoot. If in doubt and you can find the extra $$ under the matress, go with IS.
  35. 2nd the Tamron 70-300 VC @ $399 before Xmas you can't go wrong. I also own the Sigma 70-200 F2.8 but just too big and heavy to carry very often.
  36. Great statement Chris. And Geoff, I do see your issue to a point. Yes Canon lenses are much more expensive, and this sucks. As far as rotating the barrel in and out for soothness, I have never had a problem. Could be you had a dud, I dont know, who knows. But from my experience, you buy for what you pay for. And for some reason this has proven a fact to me over and over again. I dont know. I do know that YES Canon and Nikon are in a competitive market and they better step it up some. And that does not include price. Before I end, the USM on my 70 - 300mm, I have had no problem with. Maybe on the slow side a touch. But for what I am shooting with it, it doesnt matter. Happy Times all.
  37. Does anyone know of a resolution chart comparison of the Canon 70-300 versus the new Tamron 70-300, like they do at the-digital-picture.com? That site doesn't yet have the new Tamron in their drop-down selection list....
  38. if you are looking at cheaper alternative to the 70-200 f4L and 70-300 f4-5.6 IS take a look at the EF-s 55-250 f4-5.6 IS. You are getting true 70-200 focal length plus more range. Assuming you are on a crop sensor body and if you have the kit lens you already have 18-55 covered. Now you have 18-250 covered all with IS.
    The difference to the 70-200 is
    a) you cannot use the 55-250 on full frame body (but chances are if you are a hobbiest you wont upgrade to 5d or 1ds)
    b) you lose the constant aperture of f4.
    c) 55-250 has IS
    d) 70-200 equiv focal length is 112-320mm.
    The difference to the 70-300 is
    a)again you cannot use 55-250 on full frame body
    b)70-300 equiv focal length is 112-480mm
    my suggestion if you want a real long telephoto go with 70-300IS. but if you want a cheaper alternative look at the EF-s 55-250 IS
  39. I have the 70-200 f4/IS. Most of my shooting with it is football, in bright sun.
    Even so - I find the IS invaluable and it helps me deliver more sharp shots than my previous 70-200 f/4.
    The only thing that stops me getting the f/2.8 IS is the additional bulk. The f/4 is nice, (relatively) compact & (relatively) light.
    If you can afford it; I'd go for it.
  40. I have owned the 70-200mm f/4L IS lens and, while it provided very decent IQ and great auto-focus, it was not the all-around lens that I wanted it to be, I was a slave to bright light when using the non-IS version.

    I use the 70-200mm focal length as my go-to long lens and it is half of my two camera, two lens kit (along with my 17-55mm f/2.8 IS) for travel and general photography. I hand hold these lenses in all kinds of light conditions and needed a lens with greater versatility than the non-IS F/4L in day-to-day situations. I came very close to pulling the trigger on the 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS lens when it was first introduced but, opted not to purchase that lens because of its focus problems at 300mm in the vertical position. By the time I decided to buy the lens anyway, Canon had recalled it and the 70-200mm f/4L IS was introduced shortly after Canon cleared up the 70-300mm focus problems. The IS version is quite a bit more expensive than the non-IS model, but I consider it money well spent.

    HOWEVER... You will read how pixel peepers consider the f/4L IS version sharper than the non-IS model. I sincerely doubt, if shown a series of real-life images shot with the IS and non-IS versions of the f/4L; that you could pick out which image was shot with which lens based on comparative image quality. The IQ of both lenses as well as the IQ of their f/2.8L (series) cousins is top-notch. I certainly DID NOT choose the IS version because the non-IS version was lacking in IQ.

    The 70-200mm f/4L IS lens allows me to shoot in relatively low light. I can hand-hold in dimmer conditions than I could with a non-IS 70-200mm f/2.8L lens. I get close to 100% sharp imagery shooting at f/4 and 1/60 second using 200mm. At 1/30 second, my keeper percentage goes down a bit, but is stil respectable and with some careful shooting, I have no qualms about shooting at that slow shutter speed. I could not get 100% sharp imagery using the f/2.8L non-IS lens at 1/60 second and could get no hand-held shots that are sharp at 1/60 second. These would be the comparative exposures using f/2.8 to the 1/60 and 1.30 using the f/4L IS lens.

    Since I ALWAYS shoot with a pair of cameras (I dislike changing lenses with the inherent danger of missing a shot and getting dust on my sensor when switching focal lengths in the field); the f/2.8 IS lenses are out of the question due to their weight. I can carry the f/4L IS AND A SECOND 1.6x CAMERA at the same weight as the f/2.8L lens alone. This weight disadvantage not only comes into play at during 8-12 hours of walk around shooting, it is also a problem when flying on aircraft with severely limited weight restrictions. I also carry a flash with each camera so the weight is further increased.

    The advantage of IS allows me to use my 70-200mm f/4L IS lens 4-5x more often that I ever used the non-IS version. With the addition of a second camera wearing the 17-55mm f/2.8 IS lens; I have the focal range of 17-200mm covered very well (I don't miss the 55-70mm gap at all). During my last trip to China in April of 2010; I shot thousands of images and 1/3 of those images were hand held with the 70-200mm f/4L IS. Due to the way I was traveling, a monopod or tripod was seldom an option.
    I would suggest that if the f/4L IS lens is beyond your budget, that you purchase the relatively inexpensive 55-250mm f/4-5.6 lens and use this while saving up for the f/4L IS. Who knows, the 55-250mm might just suit your needs and you will have saved some serious bucks.
    BTW: I never thought that I would consider IS in a shorter focal length lens a significant advantage. I was wrong! The IS capability and constant f/2.8 aperture of the 17-55mm lens makes it an excellent low light glass. The 70-200mm f/4L IS and 17-55mm f/2.8 IS duo is the best lens combination I have used in over 50 years of shooting.

    See my China images at: http://rpcrowe.smugmug.com/

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