The 70-200mm is probably the most-used focal length on the telephoto side, and it’s probably the first zoom that every serious photographer goes in for.
Until recently, these lenses were available only in the professional version with the widest aperture of f/2.8. This made these lenses not only very expensive, but also made them quite heavy. Realising this handicap, both the leading manufacturers – Canon and Nikon – introduced the f/4 version of this much sought-after focal length. Let’s see which lens proves to offer a better value for money.
Design and Build Quality
Both the lenses seem adequately well built. The outer body is made from metal and plastic, with comfortable rubberised grips for the zoom and focus rings. The lens aligning index on the Canon is a raised, red plastic dot whereas the Nikon has a larger, white, raised plastic dot that is better visible. The Canon’s zoom ring turns anti-clockwise when going from 70 to 200mm whereas the Nikon’s zoom ring turns clockwise when going from 70 to 200mm. The distance scale in feet (under the plastic window) in the Canon lens is rather difficult to see when compared to that in the Nikon lens. The Canon comes bundled with a deeper lens hood as compared to the Nikon’s.
While I definitely prefer the very clearly visible lens aligning index and the distance scale (in feet) on the Nikon, the deeper lens hood on the Canon equalises the score.
Key Features: Let’s see the similarities and differences:
||EF 70-200 f/4L IS USM||AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/4G ED VR|
||Full frame||Full frame|
|Construction||20 elements/15 groups
(includes1xFluorite, 2xUD elements)
|20 elements/14 group (Includes 3xED, 1xHRI elements)|
||IS, 4-stops||VR, 5-stops|
||Inner focussing, with Ring type USM||Internal, Ring type Ultrasonic|
||1.2m (3.9ft)||1.0m (3.3ft)|
||Sold separately||Sold separately|
|Dia. X length
||76 x 172mm||78 x 178.5mm|
||820g, with hood||885g, with hood|
||Can be used||Can be used|
The Canon is marked at 70, 100, 135 and 200mm settings whereas the Nikon is marked at 70, 85, 105, 135 and 200mm. Going by the similarities and differences, the differences seem minor, though the Nikon lens has the definite advantage in having a 5-stop VR against the 4-stop IS of Canon. Canon on the other hand has the advantage of lower weight.
The Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM lens was tested on a Canon EOS 5D Mark II body whereas the AF-S Nikkor 70-200 f/4G ED VR was tested on a Nikon D600 body. Both the lenses offer internal focussing due to which the lens’ length does not alter. Both the lenses balanced comfortably with their respective bodies. Graduated filters and Polarising filters can be used with equal ease on both the lenses.
Nikon : 8/10
The Canon 5D Mark II is a 21 megapixel body whereas the Nikon D600 is 24 megapixel. In theory, there can be some advantage to the Nikon, but practically speaking, the extra 3 MP does not offer any advantage worth talking about.
Autofocus speed and accuracy
Autofocus speed depends on the body as well as the lens. Since both bodies (5D Mark II and D600) are high-end, we shall equate them as close to equal as possible in terms of autofocussing accuracy. We have no scientific equipment to measure autofocussing speed, so this judgement is based on 3 technical users in the editorial team. For this test we autofocussed using the optical viewfinder, which uses Phase- Detect AF for faster focussing. The Focus Assist lamp was switched off.
In bright sunlight: Both the lenses focussed very fast.
Indoors, in normal reading light: Autofocussing speed appeared slightly slower with both the lenses, but they still focussed well.
In low light (EV 3): AF definitely slowed down with both the lenses. The Canon lens autofocussed very silently whereas the Nikon lens was audible when the focus ring reached its end of travel at the minimum and infinity end.
Canon EF 70-200 f/4L IS USM
Shutter speed: 1/200sec
AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/4G ED VR
Shutter speed: 1/200sec
IS / VR
For this test we shot (hand-held and using single-shot firing) 10 frames with IS/VR ‘off ‘ and 10 frames with IS/VR ‘on’. The cameras were set to Shutter Priority at 1/15sec at ISO 100, at 200mm setting and a newspaper page flat against a wall was photographed from about 12 feet away. So as not to add to camera movement during exposure, we rested a while after every 2-3 shots. This test was conducted by two individual users and the results were averaged, which would give us a fair idea as to how the IS/VR performed.
The slight difference in the number of acceptably sharp images with VR ‘on’ with the Nikon is not significant enough to indicate that it is superior.
Identical subjects were photographed with both the lenses, keeping exposures and ISO identical. The camera settings too were as identical as possible. Most of the time it was rather difficult to say which lens produced sharper images. However, after comparing many images, we felt that the Canon lens produced slightly sharper images.
Distortion at 70 and 200mm
The Canon lens showed slight barrel distortion at 70 and pincushion distortion at 200mm, while the
Nikon lens showed slight barrel distortion at 70mm and no visible distortion at 200mm.
An object was photographed against a white backdrop. The backdrop was purposely overexposed by 3 stops to induce flare. Both the lenses showed equal amount of flare (though slight).
Both the lenses showed purple fringing in strong against-the-light shots but the Canon showed less colour fringing.
Corner Darkening at 70mm
Here too both the lenses performed equally well. Both lenses had corner darkening at f/4, which diminished by f/5.6 and was not very noticeable by f/8.
Value for Money
The Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM is available at an MRP of Rs. 89,995 whereas the AF-S Nikkor 70-200 f/4G ED VR is available at an MRP of Rs.86,950. In retrospect, I consider both the prices as ‘high’ (both Canon and Nikon have jacked up their lens prices – almost all lenses – taking them beyond the purchasing power of most users. This of course will very likely re-start the grey market that Canon India worked so hard to put an end to!), but the price difference being nominal, shall
award equal marks to both.
|No. of acceptably sharp frames with IS/VR ‘off’||No. of acceptably sharp frames with IS/VR ‘on’|
It was not an easy task to dissect two very good products and say which is better. Both do their job very well. Both the lenses provided very sharp images, and are neutral in their colour rendering. Going by the marks indicated above, both score 57.5 out of 75. We clearly have two winners!