Ask Me Anything About Photography • Canon 70 – 200 IS or no IS? Is it worth the difference in price?:
Canon 70 – 200 IS or no IS? Is it worth the difference in price? If I was a full time wedding shooter then I think the IS would be worth the difference simply for the ceremony shots in bad light where the 200 is an important focal length for those conditions. You can live without it though. I have the non-IS version to save the money. I barely use it. Been thinking of selling it.
Going to add another question to this to make it one post… Anonymous asked…
Are there times when you do not use the image stabilizer function on image stabilized lenses?
I only have one IS lens and that’s mainly bolted onto a 5d2 on a product set. I take it out on occasion and have yet to get used to the IS function. I feel the lens vibrating and my image in my viewfinder is moving around and it’s, initially, a pain. I don’t like it because it feels different.
I think the rule of thumb on IS lenses is to not use them when you have the camera on a tripod. When I have used this IS lens I’ve turned it off because I wasn’t shooting at shutter speeds where I needed it. I guess it would be helpful around the 30th of a second mark or below. I don’t know.
As you can see… IS (or VR for Nikon heads) isn’t that big of a deal for me.
Been really enjoying Zack’s tumblr blog as he does a Q&A with the greater world around him.
I did want to take on this question for him from the view of someone who’s both a nature photographer and an owner of various IS lenses.
Whether it makes sense to buy an IS lens or not depends on what you’re doing. To the degree that you’re in control of the shot and the environment the shot is being taken in, you’ll find IS doesn’t matter much, and I’d spend my money elsewhere. A simplistic way to think about it is this: the more your shooting is:
- In a Studio
- Surrounded by lighting gear
- On a tripod
The less you need IS. If you’re building the light for the shot with gear, then IS will rarely make a difference for you.
Where IS shines is where you’re reacting to a situation and making a shot rather than creating a situation for the shot to be made. To that degree, the more you are
- Hand-holding your gear
- Dealing with whatever light life brings you
- Not in control of your models (or your models are actively running/flying away from you)
you want IS if it’s available. A bird that is flying between sun and shade and back to sun — as the sun goes down — and refuses to stand still or let you get close enough for that 85mm lens to be useful; those are the times you’ll appreciate having IS, because it can mean the difference between getting the shot and showing off pictures of fuzzy blurs. There is a very fine line between this:
So there are times where every edge comes in handy.
Nine months ago I did a significant upgrade to my lenses, going to the 24-105f4IS and the 70-200f2.8IS, along with my trusty 300F4IS. I upgraded from a Tamron super zoom (nice, but effectively a kit lens quality) and the 100-400F5.6IS. (Look here if you want to understand why I made these choices. )
Having lived with these lenses for the better part of a year, you’ll tear the 24-105 out of my cold, dead hands. I fell in love with that lens quickly, it’s got a look that I think is awesome, and it’s just a great lens. My 300F4 (usually paired with a 1.4x tele as a very cost effective birding/wildlife lens) continues to create really nice, sharp images, even if there are days when I want more reach (but price out that combo and then a 500mm lens…. yeah…)
The 70-200F2.8IS? It’s a great lens, but honestly I still struggle to take advantage of it. In practice, I can only think of two outings where the combination of it being F2.8 fast and the IS made a significant difference in my getting some shots or not. The IS is not a huge benefit for me right now, and honestly, neither is the speed of it being F2.8. And it’s big, it’s hefty, and you notice it when you carry it around. It saves me neither size nor weight off my former friend, the 100-400.
So if I had to do this again, I would EITHER upgrade to the 70-200F2.8ISII (IS II vs. IS), which would have cost me another thousand dollars or so, or I’d have gone with the 70-200F4IS, which would have saved me a few hundred dollars, but it’s a lot smaller, a lot lighter, and the quality of the glass is right up there. The primary reason for considering the shift from the IS to the IS II is that it would allow me to use a 2x tele on the lens (the Art Morris birding combo), allowing me to sell the 300F4 and take that weight out of the camera bag. The thought of carrying two hefty lenses and two teles instead of three hefty lenses and one tele makes me smile. I may still do that one of these days.
But for most people who aren’t chasing small flying things through cold damp marshes? I think the 70-200F4 is an awesome choice. Think long and hard whether you need the cost (and weight) of F2.8. You probably don’t.
Heck, I have — I’m not joking — seriously considered buying the 70-200F4 non IS ($700 at amazon) just to have the option of leaving the heavy artillery at home. At that price, it can almost make sense to own both for the situations they work best for.
So really, this is two questions if you’re looking to buy the 70-200 for a Canon: F2.8 or F4? and IS or non-IS? Canon has made variations for all comers, just to make life a bit more complicated for us all. And my answer is: for most people, the F4 should be fine. Given what I shoot, I will typically buy the IS version. If you’re someone working under lights or in a controlled environment? don’t bother. Can you put the camera on a tripod? don’t bother with IS: spend the money (about $600 difference between the IS and non-IS lenses) on a better tripod.
Words like street? hand-held? walking around? dark shadows? Wildlife? late-night paparazzi? Then IS is probably a good investment.
Otherwise? I’d recommend spending your money elsewhere.