Canon has developed a reputation for building high-quality telephoto lenses and the EF 200 mm f/2.0 L is amongst the best in terms of optical quality. The primary reason for investing in this lens over a Canon 70-200 mm 2.8L II zoom is that it is full stop faster (allows in 2x more light), which allows for better background blur and faster shutter speeds. The prime lens is also one of the sharpest lenses in the Canon line-up and performs better with both 1.4x and 2.0x extenders than the zoom. Nikon has a similar 200mm prime lens, although the Canon version weighs a pound less than the Nikon: 5.6lbs versus 6.4lbs.
The penalty you pay for optimal image quality and fast aperture is the higher price, size and bulk of course. It takes extra motivation to put this lens in your camera bag, particularly while traveling . On the positive side, you can use the lens as a dumb bell and get some exercise during your travels : )
Here are a few photos demonstrating the special qualities of this lens:
The photo above was taken on top of Altare della Patria in Rome, Italy near sunset at f2.0 1/60sec with available light. Notice how the background is rendered buttery smooth at f2.0, which is the effect I was after for this particular shot. Also, the shutter speed was barely fast enough to avoid blur from camera shake, any slower and this shot would not have worked without a tripod.
The Canon 200mm f2.0 L is an amazing portrait lens, enabling you to capture sharp facial features, particularly eyes with great detail. Notice in the photo above how the subject’s hand, hair and body are slightly blurred encouraging the viewer to focus in on the eyes. The color and contrast produced by this lens are superb.
Shooting wildlife is another area that this lens excels in, especially in combination with the Canon 1.4x and 2.0x III extenders. Attaching extenders to the Canon 200mm f2.0, gives you an excellent 280mm f2.8L and a great 400mm f4.0L lens. With the 2x extender attached I recommend stopping down the aperture to f4.5 or f5.6 to gain additional sharpness.
Bird park in Kuala Lumpur – Malaysia with Canon 5d II, 200mm f2.0, 1/250sec, ISO 400
Near Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – Canon 5d II, 200mm, f2.0, 1/200sec, ISO 100
Peacock strutting his features at Woodland Park Zoo – 200mm, f2.0, 1/500sec, ISO 100
Seattle zoo – Canon 5d II, 200mm f2.0 L + 1.4x extender, f2.8, 1/160 sec, ISO 100
The Canon 200mm f2.0L lens has enabled me to capture shots that would not be possible with a zoom lens and I don’t miss the flexibility of the zoom. If portrait, landscape, sports and wildlife photography is your cup of tea then definitely give this lens a try.