My New Canon Lens: Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L USM

Yesterday, I traded in my Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM lens at my local Penn Camera, in Rockville, Md. I was never happy with the lens, which focused slowly and produced too much noise. Yes, I know the photographer is always to blame. There are bum lenses sometimes, too.

As result, I relied mostly on my Canon EF 24-70 f/2.8L USM lens, which dramatically changed my shooting style. When I had the Nikon D70, I liked to hang back, typically relying on the Nikon 70-300mm f/4-5.6D ED AF Zoom-Nikkor lens. The Canon L lens means getting in closer. 

Still, I do like hanging back, and decided it was high time to get a new zoom lens. I decided on the controversial Canon EF 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 DO IS USM. The DO lens is small and compact, yet reaches 300mm—and there is image stabilization. The technology is a marvel, which accounts for the L lens-like price. But, based on web searches, there is conflicting opinions about the pictures produced by the technology.

Once at the store, the salesman stated a price for the trade-in and then hauled out the DO lens and two Canon L lenses, the EF 70-200mm f/4L USM and EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM (that dirty scoundrel). I have to say that I really liked the DO lens; carrying it everywhere was no difficult imagining. But the f/4 lens cost half as much, which struck me as an awfully good deal for an L. Apparently, the price has something to do with the 1972-era optics, or so said the salesman.

Trade-offs with the f/4 lens: Bigger size, 200mm instead of 300mm and no image stabilization. I seriously considered the f/2.8 lens, too. While much bigger, the more expensive L lens beckoned. I have 14 days to try out the f/4 lens, and I may yet trade up. What I like about both lenses: Excellent balance, which might help negate camera shake.

Snow Pets

Although fighting back a virus (that’s human, not computer), I took the lens out for a test run late this afternoon and early evening. I wasn’t really satisfied with the picture of the autumn leaves adorning the neighbor’s tree. At 100-percent size, the images look “off”—maybe noisy, maybe not sharply focused (even with a tripod, so no camera shake).

My biggest gripe shooting Canon is image sharpness. Even with lesser lenses, my Nikon D70 consistently produced sharper images than what I get from the Canon 20D. Still, I am more satisfied with the pictures of my daughter’s Littlest Pet Shop toys, which she demanded I shoot. Obviously, lighting conditions were different for both pictures.

The autumn leaves, which won’t win any awards for composure, were shot a 1/000 sec., ISO 800, f/9, and 200mm. I let the camera do most of the work. Fiddling will come with the next series of tests. The little critters: 1/100 sec., ISO 400, f/4 and 135mm. Sure, 135mm was overkill, but, heck, it’s testing! I easily cropped this image, preserving sharp detail. Sweet!