Review: Canon EF 70-200m 4.0L USM

Introduction

Sony A7rII with Sigma MC-11 and Canon EF 70-200mm 4.0 L USM
Sony A7rII with Sigma MC-11 and Canon EF 70-200mm 4.0 L USM

For a long time I have been searching for a lightweight telezoom with very good optical properties, well defined sunstars and a justifiable price. By chance I  came along some nice photos my friend Chris from Cologne took with his Canon EF 70-200mm 4.0 L USM and after talking to him he even offered to lend me the lens for a review. So find out if my search has finally come to an end!

Sample Images

canon ef 70-200 mm 4.0 l non is usm sony a7 series adapter mc-11 commlite
Sony A7rII |Canon EF 70-200mm 4.0 L | 165mm f/4.0
canon ef 70-200 mm 4.0 l non is usm sony a7 series adapter mc-11 commlite
Sony A7rII |Canon EF 70-200mm 4.0 L | 70mm f/11.0 | full resolution
canon ef 70-200 mm 4.0 l non is usm sony a7 series adapter mc-11 commlite
Sony A7rII |Canon EF 70-200mm 4.0 L | 70mm f/4.0 | full resolution

Specifications / Version History

In case you are a Canon shooter you have quite a lot of options when it comes to native 70-200mm lenses:

  • Canon EF 70-200mm 4.0 L USM (reviewed here)
  • Canon EF 70-200mm 4.0 L USM IS
  • Canon EF 70-200mm 2.8 L USM
  • Canon EF 70-200mm 2.8 L USM IS II

not taking into account the third party and some older (80-200mm) lenses you could also use. The 2.8 models are simply to heavy for my needs and as the A7rII has IBIS I was most interested in the 70-200mm 4.0 L USM without IS which is also the lightest and cheapest of the bunch and has the following specifications:

    • Diameter: 76 mm
    • Field of view: 34° to 12° (diagonally)
    • Length:  172 mm
    • Weight: 705g (without tripod collar)
    • Filter Diameter: 67 mm
    • Number of Aperture Blades: 8 (rounded)
    • Elements/Groups: 16/13
    • Close Focusing Distance: 1.2 m
    • Maximum Magnification: 1:4.8
    • Mount: Canon-EF

You may also have a look at Canon’s official page.

You can get one for 450-500$ on ebay.com (affiliate link) and for 400-450€ on ebay.de (affiliate link).

Thanks

to my friend Chris who provided the lens in combination with his Commlite AF adapter for roughly two weeks.

Handling / Build Quality

canon ef 70-200 mm 4.0 l non is usm sony a7 series adapter mc-11 commlite
Canon EF 70-200mm 4.0 L USM

The lens is part of Canon’s L grade professional lenses and also one of the cheapest L lenses you can buy. Most of the casing is made of metal, despite the plastic filter thread. It takes about 60° turning the zoom ring from 70 to 200 mm and about 120° for the focusing ring from infinity to 1.2 m. The focusing ring is not fly-by-wire and there is no slack when changing the direction of rotation (very) often seen on newer Nikon lenses.
Nothing moves externally and both rings are easily operated. There is also no zoom creep, no matter in which direction (up or down) you point the lens. In addition there is an AF <-> MF button and a focus limiter.
The lens hood is very big, very plasticy and feels quite cheap compared to the rest of the lens. A tripod collar is not part of the package but available as an additional accessoire.

canon ef 70-200 mm 4.0 l non is usm sony a7 series adapter mc-11 commlite
Canon EF 70-200mm 4.0 L USM with lens hood mounted

There is actually rarely anything bad I can say about the handling of the lens, only the position of the quite narrow focusing ring up front was not up to my taste, but your mileage may vary here.

Autofocus

canon ef 70-200 mm 4.0 l non is usm sony a7 series adapter mc-11 commlite
Sigma MC-11 and Commlite AF adapters

To make a long story short: I ended up testing 3 adapters here: Commlite* (65$), Viltrox II* (100$) and Sigma MC-11* (300$). With the Commlite my friend Chris who send me the lens got great results on the A7II with Phase-detect AF. With my A7rII the AF was quite ok below 135mm but above that completely unusable. Same story with the Viltrox II, which also had quite a wobbly connection to the Canon lens.
I did not want to put nearly 500$ for the Metabones IV Smart Adapter* on the table and decided to test the quite new Sigma adapter as I got word it works quite good with nearly all Canon lenses. So far I can say this is in fact very true (for the 70-200mm 4.0L and the 135mm 2.0L).
In good lighting conditions it actually is quite snappy, I am even tempted to say fast. There is rarely any hunting even when going from infinity to the minimum focus distance.
In the dark things don’t look as great: there is much more hunting, I got the impression the camera goes a little bit more towards contrast detect AF and it also missed the target on first the attempt a few times.
I am not so sure this is the adapter’s fault, as f/4.0 isn’t really that fast. I intend to use the adapter with some other (faster) lenses in the near future to clarify things here.
As of today I would still have no objections recommending the Sigma MC-11 adapter*, as it offers a (working) update function, works great with the new Sigma lenses but also very good with at least this Canon lens and is not as expensive as the metabones.
(*affiliate links)

Vignetting

canon ef 70-200 mm 4.0 l non is usm sony a7 series adapter mc-11 commlite vignetting

Even wide open there is hardly any vignetting visible. Stop down to f/8.0 and you can’t see any at all. There is also a Lightroom profile for correcting this.

Sharpness

infinity
canon ef 70-200 mm 4.0 l non is usm sony a7 series adapter mc-11 commlite

canon ef 70-200 mm 4.0 l non is usm sony a7 series adapter mc-11 commlite

canon ef 70-200 mm 4.0 l non is usm sony a7 series adapter mc-11 commlite
Center and midframe are pretty much excellent at every focal length and at every aperture setting (at f/16 you clearly see the effects of diffraction). The corners are best at 135mm where very good sharpness is reached at f/8. At 70mm and 200mm the corners are unfortunately best at f/16.
This is the first test with the 42mp A7rII on this site, keep that in mind when making comparisons to other lenses. I would have wished for a tad better performance at 70mm, but I consider the results good to very good nevertheless.

close focus

sharpness close focus minimum distance canon ef 70-200 mm 4.0 l non is usm sony a7 series adapter mc-11 commlite

With the 42mp A7rII you see some softness at the minimum focus distance in the 100% crop (shot at 200mm). Stopping down to f/8.0 and sharpness and contrast become excellent.

Flare resistance

canon ef 70-200 mm 4.0 l non is usm sony a7 series adapter mc-11 commlite
Sony A7rII |Canon EF 70-200mm 4.0 L | 70mm f/8.0 |

This is definetly the weak spot of the lens. With the sun inside the frame there is a tremendous amount of ghosts.

canon ef 70-200 mm 4.0 l non is usm sony a7 series adapter mc-11 commlite flare ghost
Sony A7rII |Canon EF 70-200mm 4.0 L | 70mm f/4.0 |

Distortion

Very minor barrel distortion at 70mm, a little pincushion distortion at 135mm and a little more pincushion distortion at 200mm. Easy to correct in Lightroom or Photoshop.

Bokeh

canon ef 70-200 mm 4.0 l non is usm sony a7 series adapter mc-11 commlite
Sony A7rII |Canon EF 70-200mm 4.0 L | 170mm f/4.0 | full resolution

Take a look at some of the sample images. The bokeh is not bad, but with a maximum aperture of f/4.0 there are of course faster lenses which will throw the background more out of focus.

Sunstars

canon ef 70-200 mm 4.0 l non is usm sony a7 series adapter mc-11 commlite
Sony A7rII |Canon EF 70-200mm 4.0 L | 135mm f/16 |

As the lens has an 8-bladed aperture diaphragm I was expecting very good sunstars but honestly I am not overly convinced here. With the newer Voigtlander or the Zeiss Loxia lenses the rays get narrower farther away from the center of the star. This is unfortunately not the case here and the rays tend to fray a little. These are definetly not bad, just not as good as I was expecting.

Chromatic aberrations

longitudinal

canon ef 70-200 mm 4.0 l non is usm sony a7 series adapter mc-11 commlite
Sony A7rII |Canon EF 70-200mm 4.0 L | 200mm f/4.0 | 33% crop, minimum focus distance

I did not encounter loCA in a mentionable amount. Very good performance.

canon ef 70-200 mm 4.0 l non is usm sony a7 series adapter mc-11 commlite
Sony A7rII |Canon EF 70-200mm 4.0 L | 200mm f/4.0 | full resolution

lateral


Sony A7rII | Canon EF 70-200mm 4.0 L | 70mm f/8.0 | CA 100% crop before/after extreme corner

The lateral CA correction is best from 135 to 200mm and worst at 70mm but still easily corrected in post as can be seen above.

Alternatives

Sony FE 70-200mm 4.0 G OSS:
This is the native E-mount option. I haven’t used this one myself, I can only tell you it is heavier, comes with a tripod collar, has 9 rounded aperture blades and built-in OSS. It is also way more expensive, even when taking the needed Canon -> EF adapter into account.

70/80-200mm 2.8:
There are also many legacy 70-200mm 2.8 and 80-200mm 2.8 lenses available. As they are much heavier I did not put that much effort into further research here.

Conclusion

good

  • very good sharpness and contrast
    already at maximum aperture (except for extreme corners)
  • CA correction
  • vignetting
  • distortion
  • price
  • weight
  • build quality
average

  • manual focus experience
  • sunstars
  • bokeh
not good

  • flare resistance
  • size
  • corner sharpness (on 42mp sensor, at 70 and 200mm)

When taking a look at the table above you can see quite a lot pros and only a few cons. I think this lens is very well balanced regarding optical properties, size/weight and also price. The build quality is also very good, as one would expect from an “L”-lens. The real flaw is the performance against bright light, as the sun inside or near the frame will result in lots of ghosts all over the frame.
But if you can live with this and the size of the lens you can get quite a nice match for the A7 cameras which is also very decently priced (used and also new).

The problem may be the adapter situation here. All three adapters I tested had no problem controlling the aperture, but the AF only seems to be really usable on the more expensive adapters (on the A7rII). So in case this is the only Canon lens you intend to use you really have to question yourself if it is worth buying a 300$ adapter to use only one 350$ lens.

So, who is this lens for? Anyone, who looks for a very good, moderately fast tele zoom with great build quality which does not cost a fortune. You should try the adapter you want to use with the lens before buying either, but don’t have too high hopes for the cheaper adapters, I had these hopes and only got disappointed.

You can get one for 450-500$ on ebay.com (affiliate link) and for 400-450€ on ebay.de (affiliate link).

Sample Images

canon ef 70-200 mm 4.0 l non is usm sony a7 series adapter mc-11 commlite
Sony A7rII |Canon EF 70-200mm 4.0 L | 200mm f/4.0 | full resolution
canon ef 70-200 mm 4.0 l non is usm sony a7 series adapter mc-11 commlite
Sony A7s |Canon EF 70-200mm 4.0 L | 200mm f/4.0 | full resolution
canon ef 70-200 mm 4.0 l non is usm sony a7 series adapter mc-11 commlite
Sony A7rII |Canon EF 70-200mm 4.0 L | 125mm f/4.0 | full resolution
canon ef 70-200 mm 4.0 l non is usm sony a7 series adapter mc-11 commlite
Sony A7s |Canon EF 70-200mm 4.0 L | 75mm f/4.0 | full resolution
canon ef 70-200 mm 4.0 l non is usm sony a7 series adapter mc-11 commlite
Sony A7s |Canon EF 70-200mm 4.0 L | 120mm f/4.0 | full resolution

About me

My name is Bastian and for many years I have been mostly shooting Nikon DSLRs. Today I am also using cameras from the Sony A7 series on which I use nothing but manual lenses.
My passion is landscape photography but I also like to delve into other subjects from time to time. You may follow me or take a look at my flickr-account http://www.flickr.com/bastian_k or visit my homepage http://www.fotoworkshop-bw.de  (only available in German).

Further Reading

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My name is Bastian and for many years I have been mostly shooting Nikon DSLRs. As of today I have made my transition from Nikon to Sony and I am mainly using small but capable manual lenses. My passion is landscape photography but I also like to delve into other subjects from time to time.

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23 thoughts on “Review: Canon EF 70-200m 4.0L USM”

  1. If AF is not a priority, I wonder how the Canon FD 80-200/4L would compare to this lens? I thought Phillip reviewed it (or owned one), but didn’t see it listed in the Canon FD reviews, so maybe I’m wrong.

    1. Hi Ron,

      my copy of the FD 4/80-200 wasn’t well centered and neither was Jannik’s. I really liked it but since it is a bit rare prices for it went up quite a lot with since the a7 was released and I find it hard to justify spending nearly as much on this old lens when it’s successor can be had for only a little more. I think performance wise it is very close to the EF 4/70-200.

      1. To be honest here, I have tried two samples of the EF 70-200mm 4.0L already and they were both not perfectly centered as well (tested each with 3 adapters, so can rule that one out). So still looking for one…
        Meanwhile I am using the 135mm 2.0L, got a very good copy here (at first attempt) for a change 🙂

        1. Thanks for the info Phillip. That’s also interesting, Bastian. I’ve been shooting the Canon 70-200/4 IS version since it was first released. Supposedly it’s slightly better performance than the non-IS version, but I’ve never compared. That said, I don’t think it’s super great for some highly technical applications, but good enough for what I’m doing. However, it’s also considerably more expensive than the non-IS version and I guess getting close to the 70-200/4 FE, let alone the need for the adapter. FWIW, I recently shot an a7RII and the Sony 70-200/4 and thought the results were good (I also tried the new 70-300 but that copy was decentered – soft left side). Last year I picked up a Leica 180/3.4 R… also not a cheap lens, but its performance is quite impressive. It would probably be fun to use on an IBIS body, unfortunately I don’t have one and have to watch shutter speeds or else risk camera shake induced image degradation.

  2. Not entirely sure how it would compare with the more modern lenses, but have you considered looking at the Minolta 70-210mm F4 (Beercan)? Combined with the Sony LA-EA4 it should give excellent auto-focus performance and is a classic lens.

    Weights 695g.

  3. Was also a little disappointed about the Canon 70-200-f4 on A7r2. Made me move to the Sony 70-200 but also with this lens I have some mixed results regarding corner sharpness. Disappointing 200mm results in the corner.
    Made me buying an old guy, a Minolta 200mm f4.0 MC for a very good price. Had luck, the copy was OK.
    Think I will use more this lens for my landscapes, reserve the Sony 70-200 more when there is some action to take care off…
    CA are easy to correct and the sharpness is like mentioned here : http://artaphot.ch/minolta-sr/objektiv-vergleiche/333-sony-a7r-ze-1-8-55mm-mc-1-4-50mm-mc-2-8-21mm-mc-4-200mm
    Thanks for this excellent review

      1. I still have to put it through real testing (haven’t check for sharpness at infinity yet, as artaphot did, only at medium distances), but I am one of the maybe 5 persons on earth who doesn’t think sharpness is everything and there are two real downsides for me: minimum focus distance of about 2.4 m and six-bladed aperture diaphragm : /

        Bastian

    1. You are welcome!
      I am currently preparing a 180/200mm head to head comparison.
      So far I have the MC 200mm 4.0 you mentioned lying here and in addition the Leica-R 180mm 4.0, the Nikon AI-S 180mm 2.8 ED and the Nikon AF-S 200mm 2.0 VRI.
      I still hope to find a very good copy of the EF 70-200mm 4.0L and maybe someone will offer to lend me some other lenses, would love to see the 180mm 2.0 Zuiko or the 180mm 2.0 APO lens from Leica in this comparison.

      Bastian

  4. I have the Minolta MC Tele ROKKOR 200mm f4 and a variant of the Minolta MC Tele ROKKOR-X 135mm f/2.8 – diamond shaped star and 7 wafel zoom ring (There are 16 different variants!). I think they are outstanding. You should give them a test run – and they are not expensive 😉

    A side note – overall I think the lenses you test is too expensive. There are a million old vintage lenses out there – try to test some of the more affordable 😉

    Otherwise great site…

  5. Hi Bastian,

    thanks for this review! What would we E mount shooters do without your supporting work!

    Some remarks:

    – I have tested and own also quite a few AF adaptors for Sony E mount, and in my experience the ones with the best overall compatibility (with A7II and A7RII) are definitely the metabones (Mk IV). They work reasonably well with all EF mount lenses I could try (so far: Canon 4/24-70 IS, Canon 4/70-200 IS L, Canon 4/300 IS L, Canon 5,6/400 L, Canon 100-400 IS L Mk. II, Sigma Art 1,4/50, Sigma 2,8/150 Macro OS, Sigma Sports 150-600). The praised Sigma MC-11 is definitely inferior with the 150-600 (latest firmware) – for which lens I had purchased it… The same seems true for the “older” Sigma lenses – Metabones working quite well, about the same level as a Sony A mount lens with LA-EA3. And of course, large apertures and a bit of light help…

    – I have thrown away my Commlite adaptor in anger and also because I did not want to sell crap to somebody on ebay. I have regretted that, though, as I could have used it for manual lenses like Zeiss ZE… but I was really annoyed about the erratic function of that piece which even caused my bodies to need a reset several times.

    – I agree with some comments that the Canon IS 4/70-400 lens is better optically compared to the non IS version – basically with very similar weight and dimensions.

    1. Thanks Uwe for sharing your experiences!

      After the warning lensrentals put out about the metabones adapter I couldn’t justify the high price tag.
      And as I know Sigma knows a thing or two about reverse engineering and they keep pushing out updates even for their older stuff I indeed do hope for further improvements here.

  6. I do have the Metabones IV and a Canon 70-200mm f4 L IS. They work very well on the a7R II using phase detection indoors and out. Sharpness is superb.

  7. I tried this one on the A7 Mark 2 and made a comparison against the Sony FE 70-200/4. The Sony is so much better. Even on the 24 MP Sensor. In my opinon the Canon 70-200/4 is hardly usable if you want something sharp outside the center wide open. Maybe the IS version is better.

  8. Nice review! Would you recommend this lense with manual focus on an A7 Mk I?
    I dont want to spend that much money on adapters and I am good with manuel focussing.

  9. Hi guys, just to let you know if it helps, I tried this lens on the Techart III adapter and Af functions mostly worked most of the time but I don’t remember if it was in Nor or Fn mode..
    I moved to Sony 70-200 f4 (mostly because sometimes depending on the used mode it would function erratically and it got on my nerves) since then, but I wasn’t disappointed with the image quality, considering the price of the lens used.
    I also have the 80-200 FD f4, and the 70-210 f4 FD, and both lenses are ok, but I thought colours were better on the EF version straight out of camera. I do have a couple of examples on my flickr account of the EF version, and maybe even of the FD one.
    Thanks anyway for this website that is really, REALLY helpful !
    my 2cts

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