Lens Lust

I’ve never rented a lens before, I just always hated the idea of paying say 10% of the lens’ value to rent it and then buy it later, it seemed like a waste of money.   But in the case of the Canon 70-200mm 2.8 IS II,  the $140 rental fee for one week (including shipping, insurance etc) seemed justifiable to evaluate if the lens could possibly be worth the $2500 price tag. ( I also have a family session this weekend, so I’m writing it off in my mind as a business expense for that shoot!)

Aside from wanting to evaluate the image quality, I wanted to see if I really found the 70-200 range preferable to the 24-70 (or would it be too long for toddlers?) and more importantly if I could manage to handle the sheer weight of this giant lens!

The answer on all accounts is Yes and Yes (though my wrist does ache a little bit!).. this lens is pure magic. I don’t know how I’m going to part with it when my week is up.. true, it is a beast but it’s a zoom lens that has the sharpness of a prime. Seriously, I don’t see any difference in sharpness between this and my 85 1.8 which is SHARP.

I haven’t had a chance to use it yet in a great location at the optimal time of day, but even my crappy test shots like the first one below look pretty decent with the mojo of this lens behind them.. the crispness of the details combined with the creamy bokeh that only a telephoto can provide = photographic bliss!


My Little Rockstar


That last shot was taken at Gymboree- yes, even the brightest and busiest background can turn into something smooth and beautiful with this lens.

I am hooked. The only question now is if the new stabilized Sigma 70-200 2.8 that is schedule to be released in June can come close to the cannon.  At $1600 the Sigma costs almost $1000 more than the previous Sigma version (which shocked a lot of people!) but they’ve packed a ton of improvements in there, not the least of which is stabilization,  and it is $1000 less than the Canon II version, but the same price as the Canon I version.

When the II version canon came out, I thought to myself that I’d never want/need the II, the I version would be good enough for me.. but then I realized that the image quality (IQ) of the version I was seriously lacking compared to even the Sigma and the Tamron versions.. the only benefit to the Canon version being the stabilization and the autofocusing speed. But, the version II has unquestionably taken care of any IQ issues, this lens is SHARP, see the comparisons here between the version I and II.

The complaint with the Sigma was that the focus sometimes missed, was slow and there was no stabilization, so we’ll see how the new Sigma stacks up.  I’m going to wait to make my final decision until hearing any reviews of the new Sigma once it’s released in a few weeks.. but I have to say it will be a LONG couple of weeks because now I’m completely in love with the 70-200 focal range.

In the meantime, I am dreading this Thursday when I have to pack up the giganto white lens in it’s little pelican case and send it on it’s way back to Lensprotogo. It’s a bit like if the day after Christmas you had to rewrap all your presents and give them back to Santa..

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Jacqui says:

Hi ariana!

I have the canon 70-200mm 2.8/l withOUT IS! big big big mistake. At the time I thought my hubby could keep it steady for wedding photos but it ends up being a waste without the IS. I was considering investing in the the 50mm 1.2 L by canon but I notice you have the 50 mm 1.4. Maybe I will try that out and save my money for the canon 70-200mm IS.

Will you let us know what lens you go with? Thanks for your awesome blog; I’m a huge fan.

ariana says:

Hi Tracie, is it the II or the I version? I ask because the II has closer min. focus distance that is really flexible for families.

But other than that, I just suggest you get in a few practice sessions with Ava to get used to the weight. It only took one session for me to feel comfortable with it, but I definitely felt awkward that first time out! Hope that helps and good luck!!

Davezwife says:

Hey Ariana!!
I’m renting the 70-200L (IS) next weekend, and have the weekend booked with outdoor woodsy-pond shoots with families.
Any tricks or tips for using this lense? I’m clueless when it comes to something with this kind of reach, and still learning how to drive my 5D. It’s a huge leap to put down my beloved primes.
Any advice welcome!
Back to doing pushups. Must. bulk. up. for. lense.

ariana says:

Alicia, long means long focal length, so because the crop sensor multiplies every focal length of a lens by 1.6, what is 70-200 on a full frame acts like 112-320mm on a crop sensor. That can be great if you are going on safari, but for families you would have to back up or be farther away from them to get the same framing that someone with a full sensor would. The problem of course is a)do you have enough room to back up that much? b) do you like being that far away? The Tamron image quality is actually excellent, but neither has image stabilization and there are numerous reports about focusing issues with both the Tamron and Sigma version I. You can read reviews about that here:

The new sigma coming out I think resolved the version I issues and it has image stabilization, so I’m hoping that will be a cheaper alternative to the Canon version II. Of course it’s as expensive as the Canon version I, so not cheap. I guess there isn’t a really great “affordable” option in this focal range!

alicia says:

Really dumb question: what does it mean when they say a lens is “long” on a crop sensor? or too long for toddlers?

I’ve been having fun with my 28-75mm (on a crop sensor), but really want to get a new lens with my upcoming bonus – not sure which yet. Is the Tamron 70-200 2.8 even remotely comparable to the Cannon/Nikon equivalents?

ariana says:

Lindsey, I think I would/will use it more than the 85.. I like my 85 for adults (maternity, seniors if I did them!) but really prefer the zoom for kids! Plus, 85mm has nothing on 200mm bokeh wise :)

Justina, I’ve heard that is an AWESOME lens. I’ve thought about that one too, the only reason I would go with the 2.8 is for indoors, I’m thinking school plays in the future etc!

Critina, that’s a tough one.. I love this lens, but you’d have to pry the mark II out of my cold dead hands. Also, the 70-200 is really long on a crop sensor like the rebel, much better on a full frame, so I’d go full frame first. Note that most people say to invest in lenses first, I am the exception to that rule!

critina says:

Hello Ariana,
I follow your blog and love all the info you share. I wanted your opinion: if you had to purchase either the 70-200mm 2.8 IS II or the EOS 5D Mark II which one would you purchase. I currently have the Rebel xsi and use EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM. I might be able to upgrade this summer but after reading this post am torn on which would be better to buy first.

Justina says:

Ohhh… the bokeh’s really nice in these shots! We have the f4 version of the telephoto zoom, and we really love it for wildlife shots and for getting the narrow depth of field too… :)

Lindsey says:

Now I want it too. I second shot a wedding last weekend and my arms were sore just from my 24-70. I can’t imagine with that beast! Gorgeous pics though! So would you recommend that over the 85?

kari says:


(btw – i am still lusting after the tamron 28-75!!) but then again… i am on the slow boat of photography.

good luck this weekend!

Lindsay says:

Oh no! You just gave me something else to lust after!! Those pictures are BEAUTIFUL! Loooove the bokeh! You could do a shoot anywhere and not have to worry about the background!

ariana says:

Georgia, I just saw the wedding shots on your blog, I really love the outdoor daytime wedding shots! I’ve always said I would never do a wedding – too much pressure! But second shooting seems like it could be fun :)

Georgia says:

It’s a great lens for weddings too. If I were to do more weddings during the year, I’d absolutely purchase it, but I only have 2 more booked this year.

ariana says:

Ava, I always hear that about using this lens for sports and events (which it’s obviously great for) but it’s also such an amazing portrait lens, don’t discount it for that!! The isolation of the subject makes it ideal and that’s the reason it’s also the top choice of fashion photos etc.

I definitely would need to work my way up to carrying this beast around all day for a wedding.. I’m glad I only do portrait sessions!

Ava says:

Yeah, this lens is on my wish-list. As I don’t do any event photography it’s not a critical piece in my arsenal yet. But after G turns 2 and starts soccer I’m gonna get it. It was the deal I made with myself: no more lenses until that one.

And you’re right that it’s a monster. I assisted at a wedding a few years back and carried a camera with this lens during the reception. Holy cow were my pecs sore the next day!!!