Further Down The Rabbit Hole
Perhaps a more appropriate title would be, "Further into the money pit." But I digress. It's a hefty price to pay but the quality of the product is evident in the below review.
I've spent a considerable amount of time mulling over the purchase of the Canon EF 70-200mm f 2.8 IS II USM Zoom lens. Perhaps too long. Not that I had any doubts about the quality or usefulness of one of Canon's top-of-the-line lenses, I tend to get hung up on ROI. "If I get this piece of gear, how will it benefit me in the long run?," is typically what runs through my mind for weeks on end. The fear of ending up with an abundance of gear and not enough work to compensate the initial financial loss can be an overwhelming one, especially for a freelancer. But so far I've been doing just fine and have yet to encounter buyers regret on any piece of photographic equipment I've invested in.
With that intro out of the way, let's get on with "the review." I'm not one of those nerds who drools, or even pays much attention, to "unboxing" blogs or videos so don't expect much in the lines of that. Forgive me if I get a bit technical down the line though.
What's In The Box?:
For everyone asking, "What's in the box?," this one's for you.
The answer is quite simple. Not much is in the box. The lens was there and that's all that mattered in my opinion.
After removing the packaging I immediately placed a UV filter on. There's nothing more terrifying then a scratch on the front element of an expensive lens. B&H had a deal going on at the time and the UV filter and a polarizing filter were included "free of charge."
I was pretty excited to see what this bad boy was capable of. I used one of it's predecessors a few years ago for a wedding but hardly had time to play with it otherwise.
Since it was after dinner time by the time I got home the only subject around was my fuzzy cat.
Naturally, she was immediately compelled to take my work chair the moment I stood up. But it made for some quite nice photos. The below image is my favorite from our "session."
I was amazed with the sharpness and contrast of this bad boy. The above photographs were shot at about 180 mm, f 2.8 and ISO 320. Let's take a closer look the last one.
Just look at that detail! You can even make out my messy apartment in the reflection of her eye!
Yes, all that detail is partly the camera and sensor but lets look at the focal fall-off for just a moment. I was using the auto focus and locked it to her eye. Being a good model, she didn't move luckily enough. The focus is razor sharp on her eyes and the fall-off is just subtle enough along her nose and ears. The Bokeh takes on an almost swirly shape in the further out of focus areas. We'll see more of that in a minute. At this point I haven't noticed any, ANY, chromatic aberration at all.
Since it was late I decided I needed to wait till the next day to get out and really put this lens through the ringer.
So the next day I called up my buddy Mike to head up to Prospect Park to do a little photo hunt. I've been working with him lately doing product photography for a company he works for and he's shown interest in learning photography himself. Mike dubbed the term, "Hunting" with the idea that we go out into the wild and shoot animals. With our cameras. Get it?!
Again, my goal was to shoot with this lens at its widest aperture (f 2.8) to see how well the auto-focus works and to evaluate that lovely bokeh.
As anyone with two (maybe one) eyes can see, this lens is a delight. We can see the squirrel in question is razor sharp and the bokeh takes on a bit of that swirly pattern again. The auto focus was quick and snappy albeit a little noisy.
We began to make our way through the park towards the Boat House where we ran into some finches and ducks.
Once again we can take note of the incredible contrast and bokeh in these images. I was really impressed with the speed of the auto-focus. As anyone who has ever seen these little birds knows, they move very quickly and almost robotic-like.
The separation between subject and background is certainly something to note. Even cropping in on the duck resulted in very little distortion.
I can see slight chromatic aberration along the beak and forehead but not enough to make me cry. In fact it's so minor even with this degree of cropping I'd be surprised by anyone who'd be upset. Chromatic aberration is not an easy thing for lens manufacturers to deal with. It's really an inevitability when talking about optics. But to be able to reduce it just that much is pretty amazing. And with a little work in Light Room I could remove what little trace of aberration is there. But it should be noted that with the wider shot above the aberration isn't even evident.
What I really like about this photo is how you can see the focal plane quite clearly. I'd bet someone out there could even take a measurement of how deep that focal field is. But in case you're wondering, according to dofmaster.com the depth of field is probably about .79'. I would have guessed a little larger but that sounds about right.
Again, the colors and contrast are incredible. And I would have no problem cropping this in even tighter if I wanted to.
Wow! What an accurate tool to now have at my disposal.
At this point I figured I snapped some good close up photos for now and wanted to try some wider, more landscape-y type photos. I wanted to see what this telephoto lens could do for me while still shooting at an f 2.8. Turns out the results were pretty epic to say the least.
If you've just skimmed through everything I just wrote, looking only at the pictures, and now you've found yourself here at the end of this blog entry, I don't blame you.
In a nut shell the Canon EF 70-200mm IS II USM Zoom lens is probably the best investment I've made so far (aside from my initial camera purchase of course). The color and contrast is enough to make anyone with an eyeball drool. The benefit of being able to open up to an f 2.8 resulted in a very fine, swirly bokeh and is something I can't wait to see behind my future portraits. The minimal chromatic aberration will also help keep my editing simple. For anyone wondering about the weight, I did find it to be a bit heavy. But really what would you expect from a ten inch long tube filled with precision glass?! I've read a lot of reviews from others crying about how heavy it is. To that I say, if you think this thing is to heavy to lift to your face a few times a day you should probably get to the gym as soon as possible.
I'm hoping the dent in my wallet won't last for too long but at the same time I know the enjoyment I'll get simply from shooting with this lens will be fulfilling enough.