Jason Talks Gear: Canon EF 200mm f/2L IS USM | Jason Scott Photography
Jason Scott Photography
Sarasota Wedding Photographer - Siesta Key Beach Portraits

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Jason Talks Gear: Canon EF 200mm f/2L IS USM

This is part of a series of blog entries written by Jason about the more technical side of Jason Scott Photography. 

The Canon EF 200mm f/2 - my favorite thing.

The EF 200mm f/2 IS USM is my favorite thing. Okay, I’m not comparing it to sentimental possessions, but this thing is VERY cool.

If you're reading this, chances are, you're already being consumed by the desire to own this lens. I have wanted one for a long, long time but haven't been able to afford one - until now.

While we were in Tokyo last month, we were able to visit Yodobashi Camera in Akihabara.  They had all the Canon EF lenses out on the showroom floor including the the 800mm f/5.6, 500mm f/4, and 600mm f/4. The 200mm f/2 and the 400mm f/4 DO were the ONLY Canon lenses behind the counter - under the glass.

Luckily, they had no problem letting me check it out (as you can see in the iPhone photos of me below), and I took a snapshot of Allyson using the lens on my own camera.  I was instantly sold on the lens, but at 785,520 yen (about $7800), it was a bit pricey. Plus, I didn’t know how I would get it home from Japan. Would the lens need a train ticket? Its own hotel room? A passport? I decided to wait until I returned to the states to take the plunge.


When I got home, I wanted one sooooooo badly; I was ready to jump on a full price new one from B&Hphoto.com, but I decided to be patient and wait for a used one to come up on ebay.  I didn’t have to wait long. KEH camera had an email promotion for 11% off all film purchases over $250 and the promo code worked on this lens.  So, I finally got one.

If you have seen any reviews for the 200mm f/2, you probably know it is heavy and it costs $6,000.  My copy was $3,791.51 delivered from KEH photo (like new).  So, they can be had for significantly less than what everyone is claiming.

So, how good is the 200mm f/2?  It could be the best lens ever. The background blur is second to none.  The lens is also very sharp, produces beautiful colors, and has great contrast.  It is VERY sharp wide open (sharper than the 70-200mm f/2.8L at f/4).  The lens has fast autofocus and nice controls.

The 200mm f/2 has some predictable disadvantages.  First, the retail price of $5,999 has made me terrified that something bad is going to happen to this lens. I’m afraid to put in my car (because of beach sand), loan it to my friends, drop it off my camera strap, drop it off my tripod mount, bang it into door frames, and so on.  I’m thinking about putting a “kid seat” in my car for this thing to keep it safe.

Also, you are stuck at f/2; I suppose you could stop it down to up to f/32, but if you wanted to shoot at anything less than f/2, you could save $5k and get the 200mm f/2.8.  Seriously though, when using the 200mm f/2, you are truly stuck at 200mm and that’s not a great focal length for most things.  Don’t get me wrong, the 200mm focal length takes awesome looking photos, but your distance from your subjects is a bit long for posed group photos and a bit short for nature.

The weight of this lens is also an issue. I had to retrofit my Manfrotto Hydrostatic Ball Head with an Arca-Swiss head and a Wimberley Sidekick. This was a $500 adventure worthy of a different blog post.  In spite of the weight, hand-holding this lens has turned out to be my best option for action shots.

So, where does the 200mm f/2 shine? It does a great job with moving subjects. I had a great time taking photos of our dog in our backyard (I’ll have that $3,791 back in no time).  In the beginning, I had several auto focus issues, but switching my 5d Mark iii from AI Focus to AI Servo cleared up most of them.  The photos had a lot more POP than photos taken with any of my other lenses. This lens does deliver! 

I also had a good time taking playground photos of our nephews at Bayfront Park in downtown Sarasota and our friends’ daughter at Blue Ridge Park in North Port.  (As you can see, this lens is going to be a real gold mine for Jason Scott Photography.) This lens works great for photographing kids in motion.  I was able to hang back at the edge of the playground and snag winner after winner.  200mm with the f/2 aperture is ideal for keeping the entire kid in focus, while at the same time blurring out foreground and background objects.  This results in very cool, emotionally connected photos.  

In conclusion, this lens is awesome! If you can afford one, go for it! If not, get the 135mm f.2. The 135mm f/2 is the best lens for your money and is 80% as awesome as the 200mm f/2.  With a retail price $5,000 less than the 200mm f/2, the 135mm is a super value. It is also much easier to carry around. 

To find out more about the professional gear we use when we photograph Sarasota Weddings and Siesta Key Beach Portraits, click here.

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