Canon RF 70-200mm f/2.8 USM L IS - Test Report / Review
Lens Reviews - Canon EOS (Full Format)

Review by Klaus Schroiff, published January 2020

Introduction

Over the last couple of decades, we came to expect how a 70/80-200mm f/2.8 shall look like - these lenses are fairly big with a length around the 20cm mark, quite heavy (~1.5kg) and first and foremost - they have to have a constant physical size across the zoom range. Well, this time Canon had different ideas with their new Canon RF 70-200mm f/2.8 USM L IS and the initial reaction within the community was a bit of a mixed bag. The new lens is about 27% more compact and light-weight and as such nicely aligned to the smaller mirrorless cameras. Nobody complains about that for sure. However, the lens does extend when zooming out. Despite the promise of weather sealing, this raises question marks around the long term reliability. Now yours truly isn't overly concerned by this because Canon has been offering many L-class zoom lenses of this kind over the years and that worked out for most people. However, another aspect that may produce more headaches is the price tag of the lens. Fast tele-zoom lenses have never been cheap but at around 2700USD/2850EUR, the Canon lens reaches new heights. Of course, it is inevitable that prices have to go up when the production volume tanks but it seems as we are in a vicious cycle of price increases which will alienate many users because camera gear is just getting unaffordable.

Regardless of what you may think of the extending zoom mechanism, the quality of the construction is superb - albeit you expect no less than that from such an expensive lens. The lens body isn't made of metal but whatever it is, it feels as sturdy. The zoom and focus control rings operate smoothly. The extra, configurable RF control ring is also provided. The tripod mount is detachable - see also the picture above where we removed it. With the attached tripod mount, the camera-lens combo is back-heavy, even if the lens is fully extended. The lens hood is now using a white/cream color scheme with a rubber ring at the front. There's also a sliding window for operating polarizer filters on the hood. We didn't notice any zoom creeping during our time with the lens but there's a transport lock just in case.

The AF system uses Canon's "Nano USM" with two motors instead of just one. The result is pretty astounding - the AF speed is extremely fast and pretty much second to none in this lens class (for mirrorless lenses at least). Manual focusing works, as usual, by-wire. This is more precise than a coupled mechanism and we have no issues with this whatsoever. The distance scale is gone because of that though. While the focus action is very precise, we weren't overly impressed by the focus accuracy - more on this later. The lens does exhibit a certain degree of focus breathing (change of focal-length/magnification during focusing) which not ideal for videos or exotic use cases such as focus stacking.
Of course, Canon implemented its last generation image stabilizer with a claimed gain equivalent to 5 f-stops. Whether you can reach such a gain depends on a variety of factors but it's a good idea not to exploit this to the max unless required. Interestingly, the lens features three IS modes. There are the usual two for still photography and panning and a new 3rd one for "irregular movement" (e.g. sports photography).

Specifications
Optical construction17 elements in 13 groups including 1xSUD, 3xUD, 1x UD-aspheric, 1xaspherical elements
Number of aperture blades9 (rounded)
min. focus distance0.7m (max. magnification ratio 1:4.34)
Dimensions89.9×146mm
Weight1200g (1070g without tripod mount)
Filter size77mm
Hoodbarrel-shaped (bayonet mount, supplied)
Other featuresweather-sealing, image stabilizer (5 f-stops), additional control ring, fluorine coating