I need your (lens) help!

I need to buy a new telephoto lens like, today or tomorrow, to have it shipped in time to receive before leaving for my Sonoma shoots on the 25th and 26th. 

I am stuck between the 70-200mm 2.8 IS L and the 70-200mm 4.0 IS L (both Canon). (**please note: both of these lenses are L-series lenses, and both have image stabilization).

I have been to Glazers and had conversations with the guys there, have talked to a couple of photographers I know who have used both, have read reviews and I am still stuck right on the fence. I need to make a decision ASAP, so that I can get it in time for the Sonoma trip. I also have like NO time right now to spend reading every review and doing any in-depth research. 

Here is what I HAVE read/know:

The 4.0 is significantly lighter and smaller than the 2.8. I held both of them yesterday and was truly shocked at the difference in weight. In fact, the 70-200 4.0 may even be lighter than my 24-70 2.8 L. (yep, I just looked it up and it IS lighter than my 24-70). This is a big consideration for me as anyone who has watched me work knows (no, I am not missing an arm or anything, it’s just my photography style that plays a big role in what I can use effectively and weight plays a big role). FYI: I don’t ever plan to use a tripod with either one of these- they will be hand-held 99% of the time- hence the need for IS. 

I have used the 2.8 IS L, and loved it, although it was heavy. Heavy enough I worry that it might take too much of my attention off my subject, as I am concentrating on holding my camera and brick-like lens. I don’t want to feel encumbered by my camera/lenses or anything else while I am shooting. Also, fully packed my crumpler whickey and cox backpack is *heavy*. Any less weight will be appreciated by my arms and back, especially while traveling. 

I have also read that the 4.0 is a significantly sharper lens. (mmm, sharp good).

The downsides that worry me about possibly going with the 4.0 over the 2.8 are: if I am shooting late afternoon and there is little available light, will I have enough light hitting the sensor to prevent blur in my furry moving subject. I do know that the image stabilization on both helps in this respect but that the 4.0 gains you another stop (or several) only if your subject is stationary. If it moves all bets are off. 

The other major difference between the lenses? Oh, $600-$700, with the better price going to the 4.0.

So, you’ve got a lightweight lens that is super sharp, has image stabilization, and is part of Canon’s fancy glass series, and $700 less expensive, OR, the same lens, only much heavier, softer in terms of sharpness, $700 more (it’s a $1700 lens), BUT, a wider aperture so better for low light, esp moving subjects IN low light.

Sure I could rent the lens from borrowlenses.com or Glazer’s, but I need to own the lens anyway. I don’t like the idea of paying $100+ to rent a lens that chances are good I will purchase right away anyway. Ideally I’d rent both and take both with me, but there is no way they would both fit in my pack. 

I have also looked for used 70-200mm 2.8 IS L lenses every single place that sells used lenses (trust me I have looked), and they are impossible to come by, short of buying one from some shady character on ebay who can’t tell you where it came from/why there are selling. And still, is the 2.8 what I even want?? The weight thing, sharpness factor and gut level feeling have me strongly leaning toward the 4.0, but I don’t want to end up disappointed. I vowed a long time ago I would never use anything slower than a 2.8 for pet photography!

Help me out here- what should I do??

UPDATE 2:50 pm

I realized I should put what I need the lens for in this post!

I have the 24-70mm 2.8 L and use that about 75% of the time (the rest of the time I use the 20mm 2.8 prime and 50mm 1.8 prime).

I will need the telephoto exclusively for outdoor photography, at varying times of day. I don’t shoot anything but dogs (kitties inside but I use the 24-70 for that), so that is what it will be used for at least 98% of the time. No people, no weddings, no events, etc (I don’t do any of that photography). 

I want to be able to capture long shots, more for dramatic effect than anything else. 

I have no idea what time of day I will be shooting for my destination travel shoots. Most likely early morning and mid-late afternoon for most of them.

I will need to use the lens for at least 3 or 4 sessions in one day. I’m thinking about 30-45 minutes of use per session amounts to about 3 hours of use in one day over the course of 5 or so hours. Multiply that by as many as 3 days in a row for travel sessions in 2009. 

I have an upcoming trip to Sonoma and will need to use the lens as much as I can over the weekend for a handful of private client shoots on location. All dogs of course. I *don’t* want to be limited by how much my arm muscles can handle. But then I also don’t want to lose any shots by using a slower lens. (and there is the dilemma)

I may use some auxiliary light, and can have my clients hold reflectors on the dogs while I am zoomed in on them, but in general it will be natural/available light. 

I think that pretty much sums it up! Thanks everyone for your help!! It means a lot to me. 🙂

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26 thoughts on “I need your (lens) help!

  1. Hi. I have to go against the masses here. I’ve never used the 70-200 2.8L, but I have the f4 and I LOVE that is isn’t super heavy and it is sharp. I don’t think I’d be able to drag a big lens around- gees- the 24-70 2.8L seems heavy enough for me after shooting for many hours a day… I can’t imagine draging around that weight while laying in the grass or running after pups. I think it is great to have the 2.8 option, but with the new cameras the noise is supposed to be better- so couldn’t you just pump up your iso a tad? It would save your back 🙂 Just my 2cents!

  2. Just so you know that I am not a blog stalker, I added this to correct my website info. My head is still spinning from last weekend and I can’t even remember my site info!!!

  3. Jamie, I say go for the Nikon 70-200 2.8 as well! LOL Seriously, I love my big lens. It is what I am able to get all of my fast action shots with. IMHO, it is very worth the weight. In your spare time, you can start lifting weights to buff up your arms! BTW, did I mention how much I enjoyed the workshop?


  4. Jamie: here are the neoprene straps to which I was referring: http://tinyurl.com/456g6w You will be amazed at the difference – it seems like magic!
    I keep hearing people say the f4L/IS is sharper than the 2.8 – I don’t know how this could be possible, but I’ve got to see it for myself.

  5. Thanks for the link and tips! 🙂 I leave today for my trip and will have to go without a wide angle lens. 🙁 I will want to return to Paris someday I am sure as I am only getting 3 days on that part of my trip! I will start saving when I get back!

  6. Okay.. I posted this long comment about why you should switch to Nikon. Haha. Well actually I just mentioned something about it. But I agree with Joey. Get the Nikon 70-200 2.8! 😉

  7. Definitely the 2.8! I use the Nikon 70-200 2.8 to shoot weddings, portraits, pets, etc. It is heavy, but you totally get used to it. Don’t sacrifice quality for weight!

  8. thanks again so much everyone! turns out I have a couple more days to order from B & H because they are closed until Friday. So much to think about but the resounding answer seems to be the 2.8, even though it’s about 100 pounds heavier, which is really the last thing I need for traveling. boy, this is such a hard decision. I had decided to go with the 2.8 quite awhile ago until a photographer friend told me about the 4.0 recently. The sharpness tests show no comparison, with the 4.0 being a much, much sharper lens. BUT, it’s not 2.8. good god, why is photography so damn complicated. bev I do like the idea of using a monopod, i’d need to see if it would fit onto my pack, i don’t recall if there are any straps to carry auxiliary equipment. and stephen- pardon my ignorant attitude about all wedding photographers having assistants! i am such a dolt!! and I can’t even imagine you doing back to back weddings! you must really need a nice long nap afterward, lol. and simon, what are these neoprene neck straps that you speak of? I have chronic shoulder and neck pain, with shoulder muscles like bricks, so any heavy weight on them throws me into charlie horse city in no time. sucks to be doing a shoot with a perma charlie horse. the good news is my crumpler backpack has seriously padded straps that evenly distribute weight. although, the thing is *heavy* as it is. also wonder if it would fit on the plane fully loaded with the 2.8. maybe the answer is just to get a rolling bag for travel shoots, then use the pack in seattle. criminey, maybe I’ll just rent both and then do some in-depth non-scientific analysis to share with the world. that way everyone would benefit and I’d be sure to get the lens that is perfect for me. decisions, decisions. oh and jana- have you thought about a sigma or tamron wide angle prime? I can’t imagine they would cost that much (a couple/few hundred dollars)? I have a 20mm 2.8 prime lens (not fancy L-series glass) that I LOVE. I think you wouldn’t regret spending the money on the wide angle lens at all- it opens up a whole new world while traveling. and for some buildings in paris you will wish you had one! this would give you a nice wide-angle even with your crop factor: http://www.amazon.com/Tamron-17-35mm-2-8-4-0-Aspherical-Digital/dp/B0000ZL2J8/ref=sr_1_33?ie=UTF8&s=photo&qid=1223495453&sr=1-33, plus you could do indoor photography at higher ISO’s at night- great for those cozy Paris restaurants. 🙂

  9. ^Stephen^ (and anyone else with heavy kit)

    Have you tried those elasticated neoprene neck straps? they make a massive difference to neck/shoulder strain. I wish I’d discovered them years ago.

  10. 2.8! you live in Seattle Jamie, not Honolulu.

    I’m probably too late with this comment, but your wrists will soon get used to the weight. The bokeh and sharpness wide open still amaze me, even after using quite a few good Nikon, Canon L and Zeiss lenses over the years. The extra stop makes it much more versatile, and if you aren’t used to IS, that’s going to blow you away too. My favourite lens by a country mile, until I can afford an 85 f1.2L.

  11. I don’t have lens advise as I am just learning about the different lenses. I had to comment to say you made me feel better about not renting a lens for my Paris & London trip! I really wanted a wide angle lens to take photos of the Eiffel Tower but I will just have to do with the lens my Canon 40D came with. I do want to own a wide angle and hated putting $100 on renting when I could apply that money to a new lens. 🙂

    I also have to add that you take amazing pet photos and enjoy checking out your blog! I am glad I found you with a google search this summer! 🙂

  12. Jamie, I can’t totally answer your question because I’ve never used the 4.0, but I do love my 70-200 2.8. If low light is your main concern, I would definitely get the 2.8. You could get the 4.0 and the 200 prime, but then you’d only have 2.8 at one focal length.

    If most of your shoots are in daylight, you could probably get by with the cheaper, lighter alternative. You could load up on primes and get the 85 1.8 (a great cheap lens), the 135 and the 200. It’s fun spending other people’s money! 🙂

    Oh, and not all wedding photographers have assistants carry their gear. I lug that heavy beast around with me for all my weddings (two this coming weekend). I’m used to the weight and am usually okay after 1 wedding. I do start to feel it after back to back weddings. I shoot with two cameras (even for my dog shoots) and usually keep the 70-200 on one camera exclusively because, with the weight, it’s more awkward to carry it in my Boda bag.

  13. Jeez, go get my dog an MRI, and look what I miss. I have the 2.8, and use that most the time, around my neck, pushing a wheelchair ha ha. Yeah. It’s heavy. I’ve shot dog events all day, for like 8 hours, and arms are definitely tired at the end, but it’s not unbearable. But maybe it’s an advantage sitting? If I wasn’t suspecting that my lens needs to go in to Canon for another repair (Got it from B&H with a loose barrel), I would ship it to you to use! It takes some super sharp shots, but at long distances, I often find myself frustrated at the softness. But again, I think that’s my individual lens. My next dream lens is the 24-70, but I can’t afford it right now, alas. I rented it awhile back and fell in love.
    With the speed, I got frustrated when I had the 70-300 DO IS USM with the speed, which is why I got the 2.8, and just put up with the heaviness. Looooove bokeh!
    Can’t wait to see the shots from Sonoma!

  14. @lin- I have actually toyed with switching to Nikon, because I think Nikon does a better job with even exposure- Canon seems to add their own contrast in, which many love but I find annoying sometimes (I shoot in RAW too). This was actually a small part of why I am on the fence about which lens- if I am going to switch to Nikon soon, do I really want to be buying expensive Canon lenses only to lose money on them during re-sale shortly after buying them? And I will correct you in saying that wedding photographers lug the 2.8 around all day- it’s not the photographers doing the lugging, it’s their assistants, hee hee. (poor assistants). Ah, I can only imagine shooting without having to carry a single thing except the camera. Someday! Also, I rent stuff regularly at Glazer’s in Seattle (a fantastic camera store), including the 16-35mm 2.8 L recently (heck, I was just there yesterday!), so that is totally an option (and they do 10 day rentals), but again goes back to everything I said in the post and my comments about renting. BUT, you better believe I will be renting the 5D mark II when it comes out, I AM anxious to try that body out! Telephoto lens first though. 🙂

  15. Easy solution to choose between the 2.. Switch to Nikon! Problem solved. 😉 Hmm.. Wedding photographers lug the 2.8 around all day. If the Canon is anything like the Nikon, then ya, it is pretty heavy. Might be ordering you a ShootSac soon!! Samys does a full 7 day rental for either 3 days fee or 4 days fee. Depending on the lens. Not sure if there is a Samys near you though. =o| Hmm…

  16. Oh man…I missed all the fun. I was going to say the weight thing would be a big factor for me, which is why I got the Canon EF 70-300mm f4.5-5.6 DO IS USM. I got this mainly because I mostly use it when backpacking around the world, and then weight it the prime factor as far as I’m concerned.

  17. In thinking wayyy outside the box (which I love to do!) I think I have the perfect answer for my particular needs! I won’t tell you guys what it is, instead I’ll have you guess after I post the Sonoma images to my blog. (Ah the suspense). Whoopee! Thanks again everyone! 🙂

  18. Ayiyi decisions, decisions. I love the 2.8 but I also love shooting way open. I rarely if ever even shoot at f/4. But the weight thing is obviously a huuuuuge issue for you… your solution above actually sounds really good. GOOD LUCK!

  19. one more option I just thought of. I buy the 70-200mm 4.0 IS L AND the 200 2.8 L II prime, which I have read amazing things about. Total equals the same as the 2.8. 70-200 IS L. Just a thought.

  20. Thanks everyone! Has anyone actually used BOTH the 2.8 IS L and the 4.0 IS L? I am still concerned about the weight issue. During traveling shoots I may be using the telephoto handheld for several hours every day for several days in a row, and I can’t fathom doing that with a 3.5 pound lens. For those who have the 2.8 IS L, what is the longest you have used it over a day or several days in a row? Would 4+ hours a day be unreasonable hand held? In terms of getting what you pay for, the 2.8 is a more solid build, but the 4.0 has better image quality, so the ‘better’ lens is subjective. Everything I have read says that the 4.0 is Canon’s most overlooked best lens, with the sharpest IQ of any telephoto zoom out there. I haven’t made up my mind yet, I don’t just want to get a 2.8 lens because it’s what everyone else has (I tend to be a rebel with these things). BUT, if it’s the best lens for MY needs, then absolutely it’s what I will get. So- anyone have any comments about numbers of hours one can use the 2.8 for without their arm falling off??? (I’m a pretty strong girl- tall german heritage- but no popeye). Also- Lin- if I rented I need it for my Sonoma trip for my private client shoots down there. I will be GONE for 7 days, which means I’d need a 10 day rental. I don’t think there is time for me to rent before going, and then buy before I leave, unless I buy in person in Seattle (as opposed to ordering from B & H), which would cost me an extra $175 or more at Glazer’s for the 2.8 (yikes!). I just found a used 2.8 IS L for $1450. (not saying where it is!!). BUT, I’d have to pay shipping and a paypal fee on top of that. Again, I am just worried about the weight using it over the course of several hours per day for several days in a row. BUT, I also already have filters for the 2.8 (don’t for the 4.0). Also, I won’t ever use anything slower than 2.8 for indoor shoots and can’t imagine needing anything more than 70mm indoors, so my 24-70mm 2.8 L is my perfect workhorse for most shoots. I would use the telephoto exclusively outside. Ugh, still on the fence. I want both!! Andrew I totally hear what you are saying about getting the 2.8 first, then if I change my mind sell it and go for the 4.0. The 2.8 lenses sell like hotcakes so there would be no issues there at all. But if I am using it for my Sonoma shoots and find that I just can’t handhold it for all of my scheduled clients, in the way that I need and want, I will be in trouble! I just need one more month to figure it out, lol.

  21. Go with the f/2.8 lens! After going with a faster lens I will not go back. (I have the 24-70mm f/2.8 L) The lens you speak of will be my next. I actually have a picture of that lens as my current wallpaper at my office. Yes I am a nerd, and proud of it.
    Since these lenses hold their value, I would go big first, then if you change your mind you will not have to invest more money. Which would likely sway your decision to upgrade if you got the f/4.0 first.

    Don’t break your vow to the f/2.8

    f/2.8 FTW!

  22. You get what you pay for, the 2.8 is brick…I’ve used (rented) it myself. However, you said you wouldn’t use anything slower than 2.8…stick with your fundamentals. I think you would end up with a bigger smile on your face at the end of the day using the 2.8…especially considering the lack of light as we turn into fall!

  23. Oh to add another comment. $100 to rent that lens? For how long? I rented it from 4pm on Friday to 10am on Monday for only $35 at Samys. The lens is wonderful. Heavy for sure. And super heavy when you add the D300 (or in your case the 5D) and a battery pack, but hey. It serves a dual purpose (works out your arms AND takes great shots!).

  24. Sorry sweety, I don’t shoot Canon. But the Nikon 70-200 2.8 that I have used before made me fall in love. I would rather buy one lens and know I am covered during low light situations. And the bokeh would be fabulous for portrait shots too. I vote 2.8 and be done with it. It’ll be the only telephoto in that range you’ll ever need. 🙂

  25. the right one is cuter, it has a foot. i can imagine it hopping around 😉 (sorry, that’s all the help i am. but i hope i made you smile!)

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