Recently, one of our virtual camera club members sent me a note about a Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS lens that he wanted to sell. I've been looking for a well-kept version of this pro telephoto glass for some time. I have the 70-200mm f/4, and I absolutely love it. But there have been times when I wanted that extra f/stop of light.
The f/2.8 is an interesting lens. It's been around since late 2001, so I've wondered if a revision is in the works where it would receive the same 3rd generation image stabilizer that the f/4 version uses, which is good for four stops instead of the three stops of stabilization that the current f/2.8 can achieve. Plus I've wondered if they are going to tweak the optical formula or stick with the successful recipe they've enjoyed for years.
Despite these questions, I decided to buy the lens. Even though its owner had used it for a couple years, it was in great shape. The first thing noticed when I mounted it on the Canon 5D body is how heavy the lens really is, especially if you're used to the f/4. The second wave of realization was how sweet f/2.8 is for portraits and fading light -- add to that the creamy boca effect for soft backgrounds, and it's easy to see why this is such a popular lens.
Focusing is fast and quiet with the USM motor. But be careful when shooting wide open at 200mm. You can easily make a focusing mistake resulting in a "soft eye" if you get lazy. The image stabilizer works well, though a little louder than the current versions. Plus, there are the included extras: nice case, lens hood, and tripod collar.
I've used the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS lens for two shoots, and I'm already hooked on it. Normally, it sells for about $1,700 new, with deals around $1,600. But you can find pristine condition used versions for $1,100 - $1,400. It's big, it's heavy; but for portraits, events, and fading light, it's an outstanding zoom.
Photo of brother and sister by Derrick Story captured with a Canon 5D and Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS lens at 200mm, f/4, 1/500, ISO 250, using the spot meter pattern.