I was thinking of buying a Canon EF 70-200m f2.8 mk1 (I would love to buy mk2 but here's a noticable difference in price, at least in my country), but after awhile I came to the conclusion that this lens is not as good as the mk2.

People say that sharpness isn't good enough if we compare mk1 with the Sigma or Tamron. So I decided to research the Sigma 70-200 mm f2.8 APO EX DG OS HSM; It appears it's not that bad - maybe not that good as mk2, but...

Then I found the web-site Comparision of image quality

and it doesn't seems like it's that much better, actually it looks like it's softer. Then I read some threads on CanonRumors and found, that people say, that it's probably better to go with the L f/4, rather than the f2.8 mk1, because it will perform much better.

and as you see, I just gave up and came to ask you guys.

Which one is better to buy?

P.S For sure, I would love to have a f2.8, but if this lens such a bad one, and I will have trouble upgrading later on (sell this lens) and buy a better one. Probably it's not that good idea to invest into mk1.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Hi. The problem with this question is that whether something is worth the extra $$ is always a personal choice. Depends on your budget, and what type of photography you're doing. Have you looked through the site for questions on these lenses? Canon 70-300 \$\endgroup\$
    – MikeW
    Commented Mar 26, 2013 at 2:34
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ What are you intending to use this lens for? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 26, 2013 at 2:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MikeW thanks! to be honest, probably I didn't find really a point why people buying these lens. I was thinking to shoot some stuff outside, interesting to make a portraits, actions of people in city. The second point was to make some footage of food, last but not least, make some videos inside of the building. Probably thats why I wanted to buy a f2.8 \$\endgroup\$
    – user17977
    Commented Mar 26, 2013 at 9:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ I have both canon 70-200 f4is and sigma 70-200 ex dg os hsm after few days of using sigma canon is for sale quick iq comparsion at 200mm sigma wins all the way ! flickr.com/photos/mg83/sets/72157633379930136 \$\endgroup\$
    – user19655
    Commented Apr 29, 2013 at 15:45

3 Answers 3


Be careful worrying too much about the numbers. They tell you a lot about the lenses, but not things like "is it sharp enough for my photography?" -- because the number is absolute, but not something you can put into context until yu actually use some of the lenses and have some comparison points.

To cover some of the questions issues you brought up, though, the 7u0-200Mk1 is not as sharp as the 70-200F2.8Mk2, which is just an unbelievably good lens. That's why the mk2 is so much more expensive. But the Mk1 is still a very good lens. It takes a 1.4x tele quite nicely with good sharpness (the Mk2 can take a 2X. IMHO, the MK1 can't; not with acceptable sharpness to me).

But the 70-200 F4 is a lot smaller and lighter and cheaper, and you only give up one stop. It's also quite a nice lens. All in all, if I was not willing to buy a MK2 70-200, I'd buy the F4 over the MK1. you give up a stop of light, but that stop isn't something you'll need to have much, and the cost and weight savings win.

Can't compare these to the sigma's, I haven't used them. I will say the 70-200F2.8Mkii is worth the money in the right situation, but that many photographers really don't need the speed or the sharpness. The F4 is just fine for most. I've seriously considered buying the F4 to go along with the F2.8 so I can carry it instead when I want to reduce weight instead of go for maximum sharpness. They're all really nice lenses.

As I always say, try the lenses before commiting money to lenses this expensive. Find photographers you can shoot with and use them, or borrow them or rent them. Don't make these decisions based on pure numbers. you may find the less expensive lens works just fine for you with what you do, or you may find it's a dog for what you need. Do so before you put out the dollars, not after. And the only way you can do that is by shooting the lens the way you plan on using it, not studying a review. The review might help you decide what to test. It shouldn't make you decide what to buy.

  • \$\begingroup\$ The thing is, depending on what kind of work you're doing, you may want that one extra stop of light. \$\endgroup\$
    – Davidw
    Commented Mar 7, 2021 at 1:24

Here's a little context for comparing the various versions of the Canon 70-200mm "L" lens series:

  • EF 70-200mm f/2.8L was introduced in March 1995. This design is almost 25 years old!
  • EF 70-200mm f/4L was introduced in September 1999. The design is almost 20 years old.
  • EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS was introduced in September 2001, over 17 years ago.
  • EF 70-200mm f/4L IS was introduced in November 2006. That's over a decade ago. It was replaced in Canon's lineup by the EF 70-200mm f/4L IS II, a lens with a new optical formula, in 2018.
  • EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II was introduced in April 2010. That's over nine years. It was replaced by the EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III in 2018, but the "III" has the exact same optical formula as the "II", other than some updated lens coatings that doo reduce flare significantly in certain lighting situations..

Some people think these are all pretty much the same lens with various apertures and with or without IS "added". They are not. Each lens is an entirely independent design and reflects the state of materials and lens design technology available at the time they were released. The EF 70-200mm f/4L IS, for instance, has four more elements spread over two more groups than the EF 70-200mm f/4L.

Some of the popular alternatives to the Canon 70-200mm lenses include:

  • Tamron SP AF70-200mm f/2.8 Di LD (IF) Macro was introduced in 2003.
  • Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG HSM II Macro was introduced in 2001
  • Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 APO EX DG OS HSM was introduced in 2010.
  • Tamron SP AF70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD was introduced in 2012.

As you have already noted in your question, there is a wide range in the pricing between these various lenses. Which one is right for you depends on several things such as your budget, intended use, and intended viewing size and audience for the photos you produce with it. For highly competitive professionals where technical image quality can sometimes determine the difference between you and your competition in the eyes of your potential clients, the price of top notch lenses like the EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II is just the cost of doing business. For many photographers whose livelihood does not depend on the technical image quality of their photos, these other lenses are also very good options.

If you are primarily shooting out of doors in bright light, the money you save on an f/4 variant can be used for other things. If you are shooting static or slow moving subjects handheld in low light, or you also plan to shoot video, you need a form of image stabilization. If the subjects are moving fast enough that you need a faster shutter speed than 1/focal length then f/2.8 becomes indispensable. There's a huge difference between 1/250sec @ f/4 and 1/500sec @ f/2.8 when trying to freeze the action in low light.

I own the EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II. It is the best zoom lens I have ever used. I had to save for quite a while to be able to buy it. Many meals that could have been eaten in restaurants were cooked at home. Many other things I wanted were put on the back burner. The cost of this lens was totally forgotten when I looked at the first images I shot with it. It is worth every penny I paid for it. I consider it some of the best money I have ever spent on anything. Whether that is true for you depends on what you need and expect out of a 70-200mm lens, and how much you are willing to pay for it.


Looking at the comparison images at that site, notice that the center of the image actually looks sharper on the Sigma lens at f/2.8. It's only midfield it starts to not look as good, moreso at the edges.

But if you take both to f/4, both center and midfield look about the same - it's just the very edges that do not look as good, that difference being slight.

If you are shooting f/2.8 it's a good chance you will mostly care about the area around the center of the image anyway, as you are going to get a very shallow depth of field.

I have the Sigma 70-200 f/2.8 OS and think in practice it's a really sharp lens, I have been quite happy with it.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Not necessarily. If you're using f/2.8 because you're shooting action in low light you still want the plane of focus to be sharp from edge to edge. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Commented Apr 29, 2013 at 22:08

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