Introduction

Canon EF 200mm f/2.8L II USM, first released in 1996, replaces the first generation EF 200mm f/2.8L. The lens is priced around US$650 (as of June 2007) and currently is one of the most affordable L lenses available on the market.

Optical construction of the lens consists of 9 elements in 7 groups, including 2 UD (ultra-low dispersion) glass elements. The build quality of the lens is superb and is very similar to that of other L marked Canon lenses. Outer barrel is made of high quality hardened plastic. Broad focusing ring is fully rubberrized and is easy to grip. The lens sports true inner focusing system (rear focusing to be precise), which means the lens cams do not extend out of the barrel during focusing. There's no wobbling whatsoever and the lens looks and feels very sturdy. Canon EF 200mm f/2.8L II USM offers both ring-type USM AF as well as full-time manual focusing system. Users can switch between auto and manual focusing using an AF/MF switch on the side of the barrel. The lens also includes a focus distance limiter which can help improve AF performance when shooting long range. The lens weighs 765g (1.7lb) and measures 83x136mm (3.3x5.4in), making it somewhat bulky for smaller dSLRs like 350D/400D Rebels.

The lens provides 0.16x maximum magnification at its minimum focusing distance of 1.5m (4.9ft).The minimum aperture is f/32 (as with majority of other modern Canon lenses, aperture settings are camera controlled, meaning there's no aperture ring). The filter size is 72mm.

 

Image

 

On an APS-C camera with 1.6x crop ratio, the lens will have a field of view similar to that of a 320mm lens on a full-frame body. The lens does not include a tripod mount ring, but having one (Tripod Mount Ring A) is advisable since the lens is moderately heavy and can tip a lightweight camera. The lens is also compatible with EF 1.4x extender as well as Canon's EF 12 II and EF 25 II Extension Tubes. The factory box includes Canon EF 200mm f/2.8L II USM lens, ET-83BII lens hood, LP1222 soft case, front and rear caps, manual and warranty card.

 

Summary
Lens Composition 9 elements in 7 groups
Angular Field 12 degrees
Minimum Focus 1.5m/4.9ft
Focusing Action AF/MF, USM
f-stop Scale f/2.8-f/32, camera-controlled
Filter Size 72mm
Lens Hood ET-83BII (included)
Weight 765g/1.7lb
Dimensions 83x136mm/3.3x5.4"
Lens Case LP1222 (included)

 

Field Tests

Canon EF 200mm f/2.8L II USM performed quite well in general field tests. Image quality held up nicely throughout the aperture range with no visual degradation around borders whatsoever. AF was quite fast and accurate. As is the case with most Canon lenses, EF 200mm produced color palette that was somewhat on the warmer side.

 

Vignetting @ f/2.8 - full frame vs 1.6x crop
Vignetting @ f/2.8 - full frame vs 1.6x crop

 

Vignetting was very negligible on a full-frame camera and pretty much non-existent on an APS-C camera. As expected from a telephoto fixed focal lens, barrel distortion was non-existent, and the lens held up quite well against flare. However, it fell prone to occasional color fringing as seen from the image below.

 

ISO 100, 1/1250, f/2.8, 200mm (100% crop)
ISO 100, 1/1250, f/2.8, 200mm (100% crop)
Sample images coming soon...

 

Lab Tests

Please note that MTF50 results for APS-C and Full-Frame cameras are not cross-comparable despite the same normalized [0:1] range used to report results for both types of cameras.

 

Canon APS-C: The lens showed very solid performance in the lab. Results were very evenly distributed across the entire tested aperture range, with center and border performance following each other neck in neck. This is clearly a welcome characteristic in any lens. And with no major fall-offs to speak about, the lens is capable of producing outstanding 19in and decent 24in prints at its peak around f/5.6. Conclusion? Overall performance is not necessarily jaw dropping, but that's OK - a lens does not need to have MTF curves that shoot off the chart. And in that sense, Canon EF 200mm f/2.8L II USM is an outstanding telephoto lens.

 

MTF50 (Line Width/Inch on the Print) @ 200mm
MTF50 (Line Width/Inch on the Print) @ 200mm

 

Normalized raw MTF50 @ 200mm
Normalized raw MTF50 @ 200mm

 

Chromatic aberration on an APS-C camera was pretty minimal, ranging from ~0.4px in the center to ~0.6px around borders (with a wide open aperture). Considering that we're dealing with a fixed focal telephoto lens, this comes as a no surprise.

 

Image borders @ 200mm (100% crop): f/2.8 vs f/8
Image borders @ 200mm (100% crop): f/2.8 vs f/8

 

Canon FF: The lens continued to show solid results with a full frame Canon 5D. Here the overall performance followed a trend similar to that of an APS-C camera, with both center and border performance very evenly distributed across the entire tested aperture range. Once again, peak performance is not the best I have seen in a prime lens, but certainly is very solid. Conclusion? 2:0 in favor of Canon EF 200mm f/2.8L II USM, and this means you should seriously consider this lens for your telephoto needs.

 

Normalized raw MTF50 @ 200mm
Normalized raw MTF50 @ 200mm

 

Like with an APS-C camera, chromatic aberration was well under control with a full-frame Canon 5D. CA was ~0.4px in the center and ~0.5px around borders at f/2.8 and even less so with stopped down aperture.

 

Image borders @ 200mm (100% crop): f/2.8 vs f/8
Image borders @ 200mm (100% crop): f/2.8 vs f/8

 

Alternatives

There are quite a few interesting alternatives available on the market when it comes down to telephoto lenses. If you need a portrait lens and are willing to use a slightly shorter focal length, then consider Canon's EF 135mm f/2L USM (review) or even EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro (review). In case you are looking for a longer range telephoto for wildlife or sports photography, you might want to consider Canon EF 300mm f/4L IS USM, Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS USM or even Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS USM, with the latter two costing a small fortune.

 

Recommendation

Given its performance/quality/price characteristics, Canon EF 200mm f/2.8L II USM lens can be considered a decent value among fixed focal telephoto lenses. The lens does not seem to have any major weaknesses and while it does not show the highest overall performance (in MTF50 terms) is certainly no slouch either. There obviously are other alternatives, but considering that the lens also held up its ground quite well in the general field tests and exhibited very low level of artifacts (such as CA, vignetting etc.), it should remain on your list of potential additions.