The Canon 200mm L is another lens that is often overlooked in favor of the convenience of owning the all in one 70-200mm option. This is actually the Mark II version of this lens and was redesigned ever so slightly to be re-released alongside it’s now well accepted sibling the 135mm f2. Both lenses hit stores in 1996, but this one made the debut. This lens shares in some of the incredible attributes of it’s younger brother. Such as remarkable sharpness, massive bokeh and a very nice price tag. While it is an awesome lens it has flaws that aren’t apparent in it’s younger bro.
This lens is a top notch performer in bright daylight and it’s impressive distance makes one feel masterful of their domain. None of it’s flaws are apparent at all outside in daylight, it really performs like an italian sports car! It can get you close enough to a groom that you can actually capture a tear and render it with incredible sharpness. It’s been aptly nicknamed “the bokeh pipe” for it’s incredible ability to render and compress bokeh so beautifully. In addition its ethereal look will create images that you’ll notice over and over again.
Another interesting point of merit is this is Canon’s longest focal distance to retain a black body. For most of us Canon shooters we must accept the hideousness of the white telephotos at some point, but not with this black stallion. Obviously this doesn’t affect image quality. Let me state it another way… over time the white lens had become synonymous with “pro” while the black 200mm still looks enough like everyone else’s pro-sumer camera and it can easily be carried into events that would otherwise get you flagged with Canon’s bulky “check me out telephoto lens”.
The pitfalls aren’t so much in the lens’s design, but rather the introduction of this gargantuan focal length. Once you shoot this lens inside, you will immediately expose it’s weakness. At 200mm with an aperture of only f2.8 you need to be firing at serious shutter speeds to get sharp images. This of course is fine if you have the light for it, however inside a dimly light church it can become very tricky. Even at ISO 1250 the camera has trouble reaching the necessary 200 shutter speed to render crisp enough exposures that aren’t very dark. We have found that we can get the shutter speed we need by cranking the ISO up past our self governing limit of 1250. However, the images start to show lots of orange color noise, along with the sensor noise when paired with our Canon 6d full frame sensor. As a result we rarely use this lens inside. Requests for an updated version will likely fall on deaf ears, as this is quite possibly Canon’s least selling L lens due to the popularity of their 70-200 lineup.
Distance, this things got you covered
Incredible bokeh that looks amazing
Incredibly sharp across the entire frame
Very cost effective for an L lens
Almost unusable indoors w/ low light
Requires very high shutter speeds to render crisp results
We really own this lens out of necessity, more so than any other lens we own. Occasionally we will run into standing restrictions when shooting live events or wedding photos at ceremonies. In which case we might just need this very long focal length to capture any sort of emotion whatsoever. But, admittedly this lens spends more time in the bag than many of our other lenses. When the perfect situation arises this lens can create amazing images that evoke the emotion of the event much more than any wide angle lens ever could.
Are you interested in learning more about this lens? There are lots of great useful resources all of the web to help us photographers achieve our photographic dreams! We have included some of the articles and resources that were helpful for us when researching our own gear purchase.
Canon Official – 200mm Tech Specs