The Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III: An Eight-Year-Old Lens With New Paint?

The Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III: An Eight-Year-Old Lens With New Paint?

Canon has announced their new top-tier 70-200mm telephoto lenses. The EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III and the EF 70-200mm f/4L IS II are finally here with their predecessors receiving updates eight and twelve years apart, respectively, but is the new flagship 70-200mm f/2.8 just a paint job?

After a flurry of rumors over the past several months, we finally have Canon's press release for the new lenses. It looks like the f/4 version received the most updates and advances moving forward as its designs were the oldest of the two. The EF 70-200mm f/4L IS II USM lens received a multitude of updates including new lens coatings, updated image stabilization of 5-stops, a new mode 3 switch for IS, 9 aperture blades (instead of the previous 8), and a closer focusing distance of 3.3 feet from the previous iteration's 3.8 feet. Lastly, the new f/4L lens also adds Canon's Super Spectra Coating to reduce ghosting and flare.

The EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III USM lens is a different story entirely with the only updates to the lens from its version II counterpart being the new lens element coatings (Super Sprectra Coating) and Air Sphere Coating to reduce flare in backlight situations. In addition, the lens will finally share the same shade of color as Canon's other super telephoto lenses. Otherwise, the optical formula is the exact same as the current EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens. The final additions to both lenses are an exterior fluorine coating on both front and rear elements to make cleaning and maintaining the lenses easier.

I personally use Canon cameras and have been a part of their Platinum CPS membership because I own so much of their gear. I'm not a fan boy in any way but I know that changing out of their system is cost prohibitive to me overall. The issue I have with the release of the version III 70-200mm lens is that it's not a version III lens. Marketing hype with Canon is becoming almost comical from a growing and ever annoyed group of photographers. We look at announcements with guarded hope because we know that Canon doesn't give away anything to their user base. In some cases they go backwards to differentiate their current line up like the Canon EOS 6D Mark II in terms of performance. Fstoppers wrote about the 6D Mark II being the worst camera of 2017.

In this case, Canon has made the assertion that adding a paint job and some new lens coatings to the EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II lens has now made this new improved version a completely new release and significant update to an eight-year-old lens and requires a version name change. Why couldn't they just update these components with little fanfare? The answer is marketing hype which Canon is good at. On paper the version III lens has lost a half stop of image stabilization as the testing for IS has been standardized since the 2010 version II release. 

So what does this mean for photographers looking at the version III? Do you shoot a lot of backlit portraits where you don't want flare? If the answer is yes, then this version III lens is for you. If you want the surface paint job to match your Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens or Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens then grab the new Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III USM for a matching set in August. Otherwise, pick up the EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM for a better price right now. It's still one of the sharpest lenses in Canon's lineup and is on many professional photographer's cameras 100 percent of the time. 

With calling this a version III lens, should Canon have at least reworked their image stabilization for the lens? Should Canon, again, at the very least be offering a lens hood with a window for rotating filters with the hood in place like the EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM?

What were you hoping for in the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III USM lens release?

JT Blenker's picture

JT Blenker, Cr. Photog., CPP is a Photographic Craftsman and Certified Professional Photographer who also teaches workshops throughout the USA focusing on landscape, nightscape, and portraiture. He is the Director of Communications at the Dallas PPA and is continuing his education currently in the pursuit of a Master Photographer degree.

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There's always the first time 70-200L buyer. The price difference of $300 between the II and III won't chase the new buyer to the II. And, Canon's v3 version is about $700 less that Nikons v3 version that put Nikon's latest 70-200 on an even playing field with Canon's v2 version. Maybe Canon should have called it 70-200 f2.8 IIx or something. It would have created a lot less angst among Canon regulars.

If anything this will give Canon users even more reason to step beyond their typical comfort zone and be more willing to give so-called 3rd party a try. Especially at the 70-200 level. Tamron in particular has stepped up their game both with their new f/4 entry and the now well known G2 version of their 2.8. And who knows what Sigma has up their sleeve, since their 70-200 ART is long overdue.

In any case it has become ever clearer that Canon's consumer based digital imaging division has become more of a hobby for the company, than it is something they truly take pride in. Their repeated deflections in the name of mirrorless and admissions to deliberately slow R&D only continue to underline this further.

I still have the Mark I, so I'm glad to hear this as I expect to pick up a nice used Mark II at a good price and have 95% of the Mark III in hand

I was disappointed. I was hoping for closer focus on the 2.8, with idea that I could have a fast telephoto at 70-200 but end up with a great 140-400 using a 2x. Basically I have used the 100-400 L II, and it is amazing but really a lot of lens. I was hoping to get two lenses for one if you will (using a 2x). I don't understand why they didn't at least update the stabilization. So for now, being a hobby photographer I will most likely get the latest 70-300 because it is way lighter and for my skill level and needs makes more sense than the new 2.8 70-200 or 100-400 L II.

Or go third party. Seriously. Don't miss out on good things just because it isn't Canon branded.

Do you realise the cost of white paint? They should have doubled the price.

you get what you pay for whether you're shooting in mother nature's ever questionable weather or in controlled lighting. personally i'll stick to my 70-200 f4 is L. its sharp. its been rained on during my countless shoots and it still works fine.

Canon's not doing anything that changes the current 70-200 f/2.8L IS 23 element 19 groups lens formula was the smart way to do a refresh for a class-leading lens design. Retaining the design formula that allows for and supports an industry standard level of fast and accurate focus across the 70-200mm zoom range with the least sacrifice in terms of focus breathing had to be the sine qua non in Canon's decision making processes.

It is arguable that the mark II to mark III branding change is not justified by modifications which involve only modernization of the lens's internal and external coatings. Labeling this 2018 iteration as 70-200 f/2.8L IS IIc USM would have been a more conservative, possibly better, choice. Canon has been successful using similar names in its past: FTb, AE-1p, EOS 1Dsฯ. Possibly the full mark III labeling ought to have been kept in reserve for at least a more extensive design change which included a level of upgrade to stabilization at least equal to that given the 70-200 f/4L IS lens. The new mark III would certainly have been merited by addition of an effective anti-gravity system to the 3+ pound behemoth.

If you don't want yours you can give it to me.