Adding the first time the workhorse... Canon´s RF 70-200mm L IS USM

November 29, 2019  •  Leave a Comment

Why?

Normally I refused to have "the holy trinity". I want to be different, having more options and to be able to break the barriers of the gold standard of this industry. That's why I have Zeiss lenses which not everybody has and why I love to shoot with f1.4 glass - or even faster.


 

The R-mount changed the game. The RF holy trinity is quite compact and has features no other system is offering today:

  • the ultra wide 15-35mm is the first ultra wide zoom in f2.8 with optical image stabilization (OIS) (Tamron has OIS, but it is 15-3mm)
  • the standard 24-70mm is the first lens with OIS from a camera manufacturer (Tamron has one, too)
  • the 70-200 is by fare the most compact and lightest 70-200mm lens on the market.

I decided to be different it makes sense to have the ultra wide as well as the tele zoom. And the 50mm f1.2 as a very fast lens in between...

Meanwhile my trinity is complete - and I am pretty happy...

The Canon EOS R with the 70-200 mm on the left and the 15-35mm on the right.....

This is the maximum performance I can carry inside of my business backpack... including a flash and a transmitter, battery charger, spare battery remote release....
 

 

The Lens

What's in the box....

Canon ships the Lens in a pretty large box, it comes with a huge lens hood and the Canon typical sack -which nobody really needs.... It is equipped  with a tripod mount adapter which is removable. Unfortunately this tripod mount does not come with Arka Swiss Geometry - you have to mount the Arka Swiss....

But since the lens is not that heavy It is not really necessary to use the tripod adapter... it is only balanced with the lens hood and at maximum length - which is the maximum focal length as well


The lens itself is comparably small. 


If you put the lenses side by side the lens is not much larger than  the RF 15-35mm L IS USM (where the review is already planned.... just some data

Some specs of Canon lenses

Lens RF 70-200 EF 70 -200 III RF 24-70 RF 85 f1.2 RF 24-240 RF 24 - 105
Diameter mm 89,9 88,9 88,5 103,2 80,4 83,5
Length mm 146 199 125,7 117,3 122,5 107,3
Filter diameter mm 77 77 82 82 72 77
Weight g 1070 1480 900 1195 750 700

This table shows how impressive this lens is in comparison with other Canon glass - especially in comparison with its EF or DSLR Rival. A clear advantage for the mirrorless system....

 

Build Quality

First of all: it is an L-Lens... This means it looks and feels solid. It has weather and dust sealing - but there is no spec according to IP standards available like Apple is doing it. 

This image shows the lens @ 200mm focal length with the "native" lens hood: yes it zooms out... for me not a big issue, my previous L-Zooms  (100-400; 28-300) did the same. The front rubber ring is the zoom ring, than you see the switches next is the manual focusing ring and behind the tripod mount adapter comes the control ring...

An interesting feature is the red mark close to slight "figure" in the lens body: the inner metal part moves out.... this is the point wehre you have to mount the lens to the body. I was missing the nob on the top of the lenses which you have in the former generations. This can work as well, but you have to get used to it. 

Unfortunately the control ring adapter is different....

Another interesting feature in the build are 2 marks for the orientation of the lens relative not the tripod mount.

This is the position for landscape orientation: there is a black mark in the adapter and a groove in the lens body...



For the portrait orientation there is a 2nd mark but this time it is litte ridge... easy to perform even in dark situations. 


The lens itself comes with a couple of control switches. From top to bottom:

  • length limitation
    • you can limit the focusing range from 2.5m to infinity which is handsome for sport and wildlife situations....
  • AF/MF switch
  • Stabilizer on/of
  • stabilizer mode switch with 3 positions
    • 1 is normal
    • 2 is for panning
    • 3 is for IS working only for the release of the shot....

The lens hood I huge. It has the advantage to have a little opening on the top for adjusting a polarizing filter. For my taste the lens hood is hard to carry...

Even in the reverse position the lens is huge:


 

My solution is different. The filter size is the same like the RF 50 mm f1.2 lens which I own and carry with me anyhow.

With this lens hood the lens looks mach more organic - and more compact. You can put the lens hood in reverse mode on both lenses, so this is the way I am going to use this lens. 

 

Image Quality

To evaluate lens image quality it is always the tricky topic. the easiest way to do it. The easiest way to do it is to compare the lens with a lens you know very well.  For the 70-200 lens I have chosen 2 lenses:

  • the EF 85mm f1.4 L IS USM
  • the EF 200mm f 2.8 II

The first one is a very good portrait lens - and on the lower end of the focal range. 

The 200mm f2.8 is a pretty old lens design from 1996 while the 85mm f1.4 is 20 years younger....  But it has still one advantage... its weight. This is only 765g....

The comparison I made is with no editing at all, only that was Lightroom does with RAW files....

Let´s look into it in several regards....

Color Rendering and Contrast

You never get a 2nd chance for the first impression. Therefore color rendering and contrast is something you see at the first look on an image. 

The first shows the comparison of old vs new.... @ 200mm focal length


The left image looks a bit muddy while the right one is crisp and clear. Interestingly it is very clear visible in the histogram as well:




The new lens shows you the hole spectrum while the lower image is not giving back dark areas of the shot....

With the new one, @ 85mm focal length the difference is notably less, but it is still there: the zoom pops out....



I know from the former reviews that the 85 lacks a bit in chromatic aberrations as well....

Sharpness

Everybody wants sharp images...  It is one of the main criterium for every photographer... but it is not everything...

The 85....

And let's start here with the newer lenses: the 2 year old 85mm f1.4 and the new 70-200... For the 85 an easy game - since the lens is already stopped down 2 f-stops....


In the center: well this looks pretty similar...


In the upper left corner the 85 looks a bit like the winner.... until....

You look in the lower right corner of the image - here starts the zoom.... I checked it stopped further down... it get´s less significant, but it still there...
 

The 200

The 200mm lens shows its age...  in many regards....
 


the 1st shot is @ f2.8. even in the center you see the softness, but you see color fringing as well....


 

For my taste the upper left corner is even weaker....


The lower right looks better for both lenses....


 

I made a comparion @ the lenses sweet spot: typically f8. The sharpness is equal. But the pop, the crispness of the zoom delivers much better images straight out of camera!!!

 

Bokeh

Bokeh is a very important topic for photos.... It is still the topic which makes a real camera stands out against the computational photography of smart phones....

 

I first wanted to know which is the right partner to compare: the Milvus or the EF-Lens. But since the Milvus already shows an octagonal shape in the bokeh balls I decided to use  the EF for this comparison...

In this distance the 85 performs with better vcontrast - and softer bokeh... especially if you look into the darker areas on the support right corner....

And even the 200mm prime shows a softer bokeh than the zoom lens... even if the lens isn't as sharp... 
 

Lens Flare

How das the lens compares in harsh backlight. This is a very interesting question. Normally I love to shoot against the sun... but in these foggy rainy autumn days sun is pretty rare....

191125_R_0467.jpg191125_R_0467.jpg
So fare: not much to see. I will try to deliver better samples as soon as I do get the opportunity to get better impression. 

But I did 2 shots on a late afternoon...

first the shot with the 200mm lens

Again the zoom has more contrast... But what astonished men even more was the 85mmm:

In this situation the 70-200 is a clear winner....
 

Image stabilization

Canon claims 5 stops.... for their newest iteration of optical image stabilization.... Let´s do a bit of "math" Assuming 200mm focal length the rule of thumb says: 1/200s.... (Keep in mind that's film resolution is maybe higher than digital)

  • 1 stop: 1/100
  • 2 stop: 1/50
  • 3 stop: 1/25
  • 4 stop: 1/13
  • 5 stop: 1/5

Just to give you an idea....

191125_R_0249.jpg191125_R_0249.jpg

The image above is shot @ 200mm with 1/5th s

191125_R_0246.jpg191125_R_0246.jpg

Again 200mm focal length and 1/8th sec. 

The lens proofs that it is delivering the 5 stops. Better than any other IS lens I own... 

Side note: I made a comparison to their Dual IS system which also claims 5 stops.... The result was not that much impressive than the OIS of this lens....
 

Real World Shooting Experience 

The next photos were taken during the limited time I do had the opportunity to shoot with the lens.... I hope I can add more and even more impressive stuff....

191125_R_0267.jpg191125_R_0267.jpg 191125_R_0275.jpg191125_R_0275.jpg 191125_R_0294.jpg191125_R_0294.jpg 191125_R_0304.jpg191125_R_0304.jpg 191125_R_0306.jpg191125_R_0306.jpg 191125_R_0308.jpg191125_R_0308.jpg 191125_R_0309.jpg191125_R_0309.jpg

This is a massive crop.... out of a portrait orientation.... to shoot the series was really fun... 

 

191125_R_0311.jpg191125_R_0311.jpg 191125_R_0313.jpg191125_R_0313.jpg

Bokeh and bokeh again.... This lens delivers beautiful creamy bokeh... 

191125_R_0317.jpg191125_R_0317.jpg 191125_R_0326.jpg191125_R_0326.jpg 191125_R_0400.jpg191125_R_0400.jpg 191125_R_0432.jpg191125_R_0432.jpg 191125_R_0461.jpg191125_R_0461.jpg 191125_R_0472.jpg191125_R_0472.jpg

This backlit shot I love... it just shows the sharpness, the crispness and the bokehliciousness of this lens....

 

Verdict: Stellar Performer

I never wanted the holy trinity. But even the EF 70-200 showed the limitation of the 20 year old 200mm lens... Especially the pop and the crispness of the lens...

So the RF 70-200 is a lens which comes with lot of potential for amazing shots. Especially the color rendition and the contrast is mind-blowing. The sharpness over the complex image circle is stunning. The OIS is delivering much more than I expected - and we can only wait until Canon comes out with in body stabilization. 

The zoom lenses will not replace the really fast lenses... especially the f1.2 - f1.4 ones.... But its versatility is just great.

I bet: the combo of this performance of OIS and Canon´s engineering skills will become the new benchmark.

I cannot wait to take this lens into the wild to deliver more stunning images.... and they will come...

 

Miscellaneous 

All Photos werde taken with the EOS R and the RF 70-200 mm f2.8 L IS USM - and the comparable lenses....

Only the product shots were taken with the EOS M6 MkII with the EF-M 32mm f1.4 and the  EF 100mm f2.8 L Macro IS USM. These images are jpg´s straight out of camera... (I shoot RAW, but here I used the wireless transfer to my iPad and the photo upload to Zenfolio... it´s fast - and shows the capabilities of Canońs jpg-engine....)

The sample photos of the lens - and a couple more - you find here.

There is also a link to the image quality comparison

Please have fun and enjoy.

Disclaimer

I bought this lens just for me....

There is money involved - the one I paid to Calumet. Therefore this is my honest opinion about this lens....


 


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