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Old Jan 21, 2006, 12:21 AM   #1
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I have an EOS 20D with the 17-85 IS which I am really enjoying. This represents a return to SLRs for me after a few years absence.
I have been digging into the telephoto options. Currently considering: 70-200 f/4L: quality, price, weight (but no IS, slow and bit bulky); 70-200 f/2.8L: great quality, fast (but heavy and large); 70-200 f/2.8L IS: great quality, fast with IS (but even heavier and larger; 135 f/2.0 L USM with 1.4x: great quality, fast, size, inconspicuous (but fixed focal length and reduced flexibility); OR: 70-300 f/4.5-5.6 DO IS: size, IS, good quality (but query DO effects, and a bit slow). (I have also looked at the Sigmas.)
The 70-200 f/4L has a number of attractions in terms of quality and focal range without the heaviness (but with some of the bulkiness) of the 70-200 f/2.8L lenses. I am seriously thinking this lens (perhaps with a 1.4x) would suit my needs. I have a preference for IS, having had some experience with it now on the 17-85. On my admittedly limited experience, I think it a real boon for handheld photography, particularly with a slower lens. This combined with the size and conspicuous colour of the 70-200 f4L leads me to explore other alternatives before I decide.
I was very close to going the f/2.8 for the flexibility the faster lens provides and the joy at being able to own such a quality product. But for my purposes (which include photographs during hikes as well as other opportunities that demand a more discrete lens) the size and weight is a bit overwhelming.
I am not a professional but enjoy quality images - but only if I can take the equipment to where I need to go. Sometimes I could handle the 70-200 f/2.8L size and weight and therefore enjoy the key benefits of these fine lenses, but in most cases I think I could not.
I am considering carefully the 70-300 f/4.5-5.6 DO IS due to its combination of compact size, (relatively) low weight, larger focal range, IS and higher quality. I am conscious of the softer image quality identified in many reviews and the concerns about some quirky aspects of the DO technology (bokeh and flare, etc). I also realise that teh price is high. But I have also seen a number of reviews suggesting thatwhile not L quality this lens provides a higher quality image than is available, for example in the 70-300 f4 IS or the older 75-300 (at an admittedly very high price).
One camera salesman queried why would I buy a non-L lens for the price of the f2.8L non-IS. The short answer is I don't think I could take the f2.8 where I would want to take it.
If portability is a key criteria, can owners of the 70-200s (particularly f2.8s) tell me how they can really serve the purpose? Can I seriously entertain taking such a very large lens on a serious hike or in other environments where portability is important? I want to be told I can (and be told how), because I am convinced on the quality issues and would love to own one. But when my wife, sons and most of my friends are ribbing me for lugging such a "monster" lens, have I got any answer other than to give a wry smile at their ignorance and my knowledge of the quality that I am carrying and the image quality I am producing?

Would welcome any thoughts on this decision.
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Old Jan 21, 2006, 1:24 AM   #2
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The 17-85 + 70-300 DO is a great light-weight travel kit.

In my experience reports of bokeh problems, flare, lack of sharpness are greatly exaggerated. I have never lost a shot to flare in about a year of shooting with it, and the bokeh is just fine.

It's a very good and very compact lens.

However, when I bought one there was no viable alternative that had good optical quality, top-grade IS and the proper HSM motor.

Now there is an alternative however, the new 70-300 IS is a very good lens, that is slightly bigger than the DO, but actually is a little lighter.

A word on sharpness & the DO. Michael Reichmann over at Luminous Landscape likes this lens very much, and his advice is that it can use some extra sharpening compared to a non-DO lens. This is my experience too.

Most of the pixel peepers who down-grade this lens are prone to testing it against non-DO lenses and posting 100% crops of the unsharpened file. They then complain that it's not sharp for the price. Frankly this method of testing is absurd; what counts for me is how good the PRINT looks, I process all my photos before printing, and I don't see that as a terrible flaw. From that perspective MR actually believes the prints he gets from the DO (after suitable processing) surpass what he is able to get from the 100-400 L.

Sharpness has two components, resolution and acutance. If a lens doesn't have the required resolution there's little to be done about that, but acutance can be increased by adding extra USM. The DO's resolution is perfectly in line with its price-tag, but it has lower acutance than non-DO lenses. So frankly it's no big deal at all, a bit of extra sharpening and the issue is moot.

All that said however, if I were buying today I would still be tempted by the DO, but would probably get the new 70-300 instead and put the not-inconsiderable difference in price into other toys, erm lenses.

For a fair number of samples with the DO, including some that I believe demonstrate it sharpens up just fine...


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Old Jan 21, 2006, 1:48 AM   #3
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Hey, peripatetic (?), this is a really useful response. Matches my impressions on the DO lens and thanks very much for the procesing tips.

The cost is clearly the big issue, but to go to the 70-300 (if I can afford the DO) seems to me to be a backward step on build quality.

Thanks again.
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Old Jan 21, 2006, 10:21 PM   #4
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The Canon 70-200 F4 lens hasa great build quality and is fairly light.

It's also probably about the maximum weight I'd carry around my neck for a whole day.

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Old Jan 22, 2006, 10:16 AM   #5
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I was looking at the same setup about a month ago. I had the 20D and the 17 -85 lens and looking to add a 70 -200 2.8 to my collection. I looked at the same lenses you have and then found the Sigma version. It is less expensive than the Canon and the optics and build are quite impressive. It does not have IS, but is lighter because of that and about $1000 less than the Canon with IS. I do like IS, but when the lens is so heavy that holding by hand is difficult and you start thinking about using a monopod or tripod most of the time, then you are losing some of the value of the IS. The Sigma is no lightweight, but it is smaller and lighter than the Canon 2.8. Since weight is an issue for me, the one lens that really caught my attention was the Canon 70 - 200 f/4. Definitely lighter and great optics. If the lower stop is not really an issue, that would be a great alternative. I bought the Sigma...

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Old Jan 22, 2006, 3:33 PM   #6
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Thanks Terry and bb for the suggestions about the 70-200 f4L. I am very mindful of that option and will go check it out in real life before I buy. My concern still remains that it is bulky (if not as heavy) and with a slower lens I thought IS would be quite useful.

As to the Sigma, if you mean the Sigma APO 70-200 f2.8 EX DG/HSM, I think that is too bulky and heavy for my needs (1270g/44.7oz), despite its f2.8 and strong reviews. Like the Canon f2.8Ls I think it does not meet my basis concern for those times when the bulk and weight does matter.

Thanks for the thoughts.
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