As photographers, some pieces of advice are universal; the same can also be said for some camera gear. The 70-200mm lens is a staple for a reason, found in pretty much every pro’s camera bag around the world, they are trusted on location from portrait studios to the heart of the Amazon.
So here is why you need one in your kit.
Let’s start with the big reason, optical performance. The 70-200mm is a professional lens and features the latest in optical design and quality.
Perfected over the last 30 years they have an excellent edge to edge sharpness, both wide open and stopped down. Featuring the ED elements and the latest lens coatings, they fend off chromatic aberrations and flare very well and produce stunning sharp, contrasty images shoot after shoot.
Short telephotos and wide-angle lenses are fantastic for getting up close into the action or taking the wider view, however, they can often be problematic. If you are trying to photograph wildlife, candid portraits, or anything that you can’t get close to, the 70-200mm lens will come in handy.
The reach of the 70-200mm is perfect for so many situations, allowing you to focus in on key subject areas, crop out distracting areas or elements in your frame and just get closer to the action.
The focal length allows you to also give your subject space to move without you having to be right up in their face, while still giving you the scope for those tight shots. It also allows you to be creative in new ways, giving you options to focus on small details within a composition or landscape, all the while not needing to move your feet.
Large Maximum Aperture
The 70-200mm f/2.8 is a fast lens, with the wide aperture being a key reason why so many pros love it. This gives you a number of benefits for shooting on location, once again making this a top quality lens in which to invest.
The first benefit is the bokeh (or out of focus areas). The fast f/2.8 aperture means depth of field wide open is very limited. This results in much of the background and foreground dropping into mushy out of focus goodness, helping to keep the viewer’s attention on your main subject.
The large aperture, combined with the telephoto reach of the lens, really allows for the rendering of wonderful out of focus elements. This gives a truly dreamy quality and feeling to the images produced with the 70-200mm lens.
A second benefit of the wide open aperture is that of the low light performance. Having a fast f/2.8 aperture means the lens lets in far more light than slower alternatives. This, in turn, means the camera has more light to work with. So, when the light starts to fade you can still get sharp shots with reasonable shutter speeds without the need to stretch your ISO capabilities.
Another benefit of the fast aperture is the brightness it brings to the viewfinder. If you haven’t used fast lenses before you’ll soon fall in love with the brighter viewfinder experience that comes with the 70-200mm f/2.8. This might not sound like a big deal, but being able to see your composition better allows you to be more focused on selecting what you want in and out of the frame, helping you to hone your compositional skills for better images.
When working with fast paced action, speed is imperative, and the 70-200mm lens doesn’t disappoint. As a pro spec lens, the 70-200mm offers brilliant AF speed that is a huge benefit when working with erratic subjects on fast paced shoots.
The autofocus, aided by the fast aperture, locks onto subjects quickly and focuses through the range in the blink of an eye (something that certainly can’t be said for all telephoto lenses). The speed of the focus reduces frustration when trying to pick up moving subjects, helping you to focus on composing your shots rather than the frustration of your lens not focusing.
Size and Weight
Some people think the 70-200mm is a large lens, however, that weight and size also have their advantages. The physical length of the lens itself, being around 25cm, provides for good placement of the controls, with the large zoom and focus rings being well spaced on the lens’s barrel.
The length also allows for the inclusion of a tripod mount (collar). This is handy for working with a tripod for better balance and for lowering the stress on the bayonet mount between the camera and lens.
The size also lends itself to being comfortable for handholding. The wider barrel fits well in the hand, with the weight of the lens balancing well with medium to large camera bodies. The lens is also a little front heavy that means when attached to the camera it helps equal out the balance to a comfortable feel.
Of course, modern versions of the 70-200mm f/2.8 also include the implementation of image stabilization (VR, IS, or OS) helping to once again improve the abilities of this lens when working handheld. The optical stabilization systems help to reduce camera shake by up to 4-stops, meaning even when the light gets low you can work handheld with sharp results. That is something that can really come into its own when on location on a fast moving shoot.
The 70-200mmm f/2.8 is designed to be used by pros, and it’s constructed like a tank. Metal construction and weather sealing mean it’s built to last while being taken out and abused day in and day out.
My 70-200mm has been everywhere with me and is built to withstand the elements.
The 70-200mm lens is also a fantastic addition to the kit bag for those nature photographers who also have a passion for landscape photography. The focal length is excellent for giving you the reach to pick out sections of a landscape, details within a scene or for compressing layers for flattering images. The 70-200mm offers flexibility for composing, with the telephoto reach helping to compress a scene for flattering perspectives that might not work with a wider focal length.
I’ve had my 70-200mm lens for many years and worked with it in the rain, snow, freezing conditions, as well as the jungle and it’s never skipped a beat. Rugged and reliable, just as you want a working tool to be!
This lens was also designed with the ability to work with teleconverters in mind. These small optical devices fit between the camera and lens, helping to magnify the image for a greater telephoto effect.
That means that the 70-200mm, when paired with a 1.4x teleconverter, becomes a 105-300mm equivalent or a 140-400mm when paired with a 2.0x converter. This can be very handy if you need some extra reach but don’t want to invest in a super telephoto or you just can’t fit it into your bag.
Shot at about 280mm using the 1.4x teleconverter.
Going the other way you can also add extension tubes to the 70-200mm to reduce the minimum focusing distance. That results in the ability to get ultra close for some semi-macro images, once again showing the scope for the versatility of this stable lens.
The 70-200mm lens is truly a worthy lens to be part of every photographer’s kit bag. Offering top optics, a fast aperture, excellent speed, ergonomics, and weatherproofing. They are built to last and perform day in, day out.
They are expensive, but as a long-term investment, the 70-200mm f/2.8 is certainly one that every keen photographer should think about making. You certainly won’t regret it.
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Author: Tom Mason
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