Canon EF 70-200mm

There’s only one ob­vi­ous dif­fer­ence in the new Mk III lens…

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We test Canon’s new EF 70-200mm Mark III tele zoom

acou­ple of months ago we re­viewed the new and im­proved Canon 70-200mm f/4l IS II USM, with its wealth of en­hance­ments and up­grades that in­clude a com­pletely re­designed op­ti­cal path and class-lead­ing 5-stop im­age sta­bi­lizer. By con­trast, the only ob­vi­ous dif­fer­ence in the new 70-200mm f/2.8l IS III USM is that, in the UK, it’s 34 per cent more ex­pen­sive than the pre­vi­ous edi­tion. You could ar­gue that, with the Mk II lens hav­ing been such a favourite of pro­fes­sional pho­tog­ra­phers across the world, there was lit­tle room for im­prove­ment. In­deed, the Mk III in­her­its the same blend of top-notch flu­o­rite and Su­per UD (Ul­tra-low Dis­per­sion) el­e­ments, and the same ro­bust, weather-sealed build qual­ity. The new lens also looks al­most iden­ti­cal, ex­cept that it’s painted a slightly paler shade of grey.

Ac­cord­ing to Canon, the Mk III is 10 grams lighter than the Mk II, but it’s still heavy for a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens, at 1480g. It’s al­most twice the weight of its new f/4 si­b­ling and comes with a tri­pod mount­ing ring. When shoot­ing hand­held or with a mono­pod, Canon has re­vised the rat­ing of the im­age sta­bi­lizer down to 3.5 stops, from the Mk II’S 4 stops.

Two up­grades con­cern coat­ings. Firstly, as in a grow­ing num­ber of high-end Canon, Sigma and Tam­ron lenses, flu­o­rine coat­ings are ap­plied to the front and rear op­ti­cal el­e­ments. This helps to re­pel mois­ture and grease, and makes for eas­ier clean­ing. Se­condly Canon’s high-tech ASC (Air Sphere Coat­ing) has been added to one of the in­ter­nal el­e­ments.

Here’s the sci­ence bit. ASC con­tains mi­cro­spheres of air over the va­por-de­po­si­tion lens coat­ing.

The in­side of the coat­ing is there­fore lined with spheres of air to give an ul­tra-low re­frac­tive in­dex and ex­cep­tion­ally high an­tire­flec­tive per­for­mance. The up­shot is a re­duc­tion in ghost­ing and flare.

Com­pared with Tam­ron’s di­rectly com­pet­ing G2 lens, the Canon has a less ef­fec­tive im­age sta­bi­lizer, with­out a third switch­able mode that ap­plies sta­bi­liza­tion only dur­ing exposures. This op­tion makes it eas­ier to track er­rat­i­cally mov­ing ob­jects. It also lacks a man­ual-pri­or­ity aut­o­fo­cus mode, fea­tured in some other com­pet­ing lenses, which en­ables man­ual over­ride in AI Servo mode in­stead of just One Shot mode.


The Mk II edi­tion of the lens was renowned for its su­per-fast aut­o­fo­cus sys­tem and the Mk III matches but doesn’t beat it. In our tests, the im­age sta­bi­lizer of both edi­tions of the lens proved equally ef­fec­tive. The down­grad­ing of the spec­i­fi­ca­tion to 3.5-stops seems sim­ply be­cause Canon, like var­i­ous other man­u­fac­tur­ers, has adopted Cipa-com­pli­ant rat­ings.

As you’d ex­pect, with lit­er­ally the ex­act same op­ti­cal path, the new lens is equally im­pres­sive in terms of good old sharp­ness and con­trast as the Mk II, along with sim­i­larly good con­trol over colour fring­ing and gen­eral dis­tor­tion.

The EF 70-200mm f/2.8l Mk III looks near iden­ti­cal, be­sides the paler grey paint job

Flu­o­rine coat­ings are ap­plied to re­pel mois­ture and grease

Just as with the Mk II edi­tion, f/4 is the sweet spot for sharp­ness at or near the 200mm fo­cal length

As with the pre­vi­ous edi­tion of the lens, sharp­ness is least im­pres­sive at the short end of the zoom

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