I am considering between these 2 telephoto lenses but I cannot make up my mind on which one to buy. I have read a lot about the pro's and con's of both these lenses.. For example

70-200 f2.8 IS II


  • f2.8 across all range
  • clearer sharper pictures with background blur
  • excellent for indoor and low light photography


  • bulky (1490 grms)
  • price ($2,128.00 on Amazon)

70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM


  • Lightweight 1050 grms va 1490 grms for 70-200mm above Size
  • easy to Carry as the zoom lense is retractable in size Zoom
  • 100mm extra zoom as compared to the 70-200 which is excellent for wild life Photography
  • Price ($1,499.00 on Amazon)


  • f4 (pictures are not as sharp/ crisp as 70-200)
  • May not be such a great camera for indoor low light photography

Lenses I currently own

  • EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM kit lens for my 5D mark iii
  • 50mm f/1.4 USM (which is great for indoor, low light photography)

Reason for my dilemma

On the one hand I like travel photography so carrying the 70-300 all day long should not be an issue as it is compact and reletively light weight.

On the other hand I intend to be go semi-professional i.e taking pictures for occasions such as childrens birthday parties, small family occasions (may be weddings some day) on a part time basis in which case the 70-200 may come in more handy (keeping in mind that i already have a 50mm f/1.4 USM

Could you experts please recommend which of the 2 lenses should I go for?


Should I be looking at something completely different?


Am I suffering from lens lust?

  • 2
    Related 70-300 vs 70-200 f/4
    – MikeW
    Apr 7 '13 at 19:22
  • 3
    I don't shoot Canon so won't answer, but I don't think the 70-300 will cut it indoors. IS won't help with moving children, or moving anything. For semi-pro work you'll want an f/2.8 lens. Wouldn't consider it for travel though - I'd just live with the 24-105 for that. For wildlife the question is how sharp the 70-300 is at 300mm. If not very, then a 70-200 + teleconverter might be a better choice.
    – MikeW
    Apr 7 '13 at 19:26
  • If you are serious about weddings or portraits, you will want to drop the 24-105mm and probably get the 24-70mm along with a 70-200 f/2.8 of some kind. Keep that in mind. No lenses thus far mentioned anywhere in this thread are anything to pass though, they are all great for their intended purposes.
    – dpollitt
    Apr 7 '13 at 19:57
  • 1
    @MichaelClark - The original question included a tag for the Canon 5D MkIII, it is a full frame camera.
    – dpollitt
    Apr 7 '13 at 22:15
  • 1
    @dpollitt I'd clarify that it's the 24-70 f/2.8L II he's looking for. The 24-70 f/4 has some advantages over the 24-105 f/4, but it's more expensive and not worth it IMHO unless he wants to use it for close-up work. The 24-70 f/2.8L I is not quite as good and not cheaper enough to be worth considering. Apr 7 '13 at 22:16

This is an easy answer. Are you shooting in lower light or need the most out of focus background possible? Then you will want the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS MkII. Are you often carrying the lens on your back and often needing the extra 100mm reach? Then you will want the Canon 70-300mm f/4-5.6 L IS. Do you need to both shoot in lower light and have the extended range? Then buy the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS MkII lens with the Canon EF 1.4x III Extender. You did mention the price difference, but don't specifically mention it as a big concern. If cost is not the driving factor then the above stands true.

Try this. Sit down with a list. Order it 1-10. Note your most important requirements top to bottom, such as:

  1. Image quality from 70-200mm
  2. Low light ability
  3. Reach
  4. Cost
  5. Size/Weight
  6. Convenience
  7. Stopping action
  8. Etc...

From the notes you have in the question the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 IS MkII is an easy recommendation. Pickup a 1.4x extender and throw it in your bag when/if you plan to shoot wildlife occasionally. You won't need the extender for weddings or portraits.

Another question here that has a good overview of these lenses as well as others in the range: What is the best Canon telephoto zoom lens (around $1500-$2000) for general use?

Simple answer

  • Landscapes or general purpose: Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 L IS USM Lens
  • Portraits or general purpose: Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS II USM Lens
  • All of the above plus more: Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS II USM Lens + Canon EF 1.4x III Extender
  • 1
    With the EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II I would recommend the EF 2X III extender. That lens is good enough to handle a 2X extender in terms of both IQ and focus speed and accuracy.
    – Michael C
    Apr 7 '13 at 21:37
  • 1
    @MichaelClark - I don't disagree that it can handle the 2x, but the 1.4x would allow close to the 300mm range of the 70-300mm, that is why I recommended it.
    – dpollitt
    Apr 7 '13 at 22:15
  • I don't disagree with your recommendation of the EF 1.4X III either, but I personally prefer the 2X with that lens. In the past you gave up a lot of IQ between a 1.4x and 2x converter, but with this lens that is much less the case.
    – Michael C
    Apr 8 '13 at 0:56
  • If size/weight ends up high on the list (or a 'Travel' option were included in the simple answer) then the 70-200 f/4L IS should also be considered (300g lighter than the 70-300L) Jan 30 '14 at 4:40

I'm of the opinion that when buying lenses you should get the best available lens for a specific role that your budget allows. In the long run it usually saves you money. See a humorous look at this in the well circulated letter to George.

If the EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II is within your budget, it is the lens I would recommend for you. If you are considering doing photography for hire, I would also recommend the "II". Either lens you asked about would probably get acceptable results for children's parties, family reunions, and the like but your portfolio will shine brighter with the DoF, bokeh, and IQ advantage the f/2.8 has over the f/4-5.6. (As an aside, assuming there is a minimal level of quality in your photos, how well a part-time "side" photography business does has much less to do with the quality of your work than the effectiveness of your ability to market your service and the size and demographics of your social network.)

The 5DIII plus battery is a little over two pounds, so the weight difference between the two lenses mounted on a 5DIII is about 4.4lbs (2Kg) vs. 5.38lbs (2.44Kg), that's only about 20%. Not a huge difference unless you are a fairly small person or plan on a lot of wilderness trekking.

As others have said, the EF 24-105mm f/4L IS is still going to be your primary travel lens, regardless of which of these two you purchase. Even on a FF body 70mm is a little too long for many common uses, especially indoors. If you really want a single lens solution for travel, give up just a little more IQ compared to the EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS and consider the EF 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6 L IS. You probably don't want to shoot anything for hire with that lens, though. Of course it is also heavier, more expensive, and has the push-pull zoom design that some of us don't care for. There's no free lunch when it comes to lenses. [Sigh]

I've related this before, but I'll say it again. I own the EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II. It is the best zoom lens I have ever used. When I needed a fast, constant aperture tele-zoom, I considered some of the cheaper alternatives but decided I would always wonder if I should have went ahead and bought the best of them and would eventually wind up buying it anyway. So I decided to wait until I could afford the "II". 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.

  • That article you linked to from George is hilarious, sad, and so truthful. I love it! Keep in mind that the article might discourage the purchase of a giant 70-200 lens! I for one have owned them and do not carry them with me due to the ridiculous size!
    – dpollitt
    Apr 8 '13 at 16:18
  • I carry mine with me just about everywhere. With the hood reversed it doesn't seem that big to me.
    – Michael C
    Apr 9 '13 at 0:35

A few more (potential) cons of the Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM that should be considered:

  • The focus and zoom rings are swapped compared to most other Canon EF lenses. That is, the ring close to the camera is the manual focus ring and the ring towards the front lens is the zoom ring. If your photography works by choosing one lens for the single task at hand (e.g. either landscape or wildlife, not both) and working with it the rest of the day, you nearly always use auto-focus shooting handheld and/or are not easily annoyed by usability issues of things, this probably is not an issue at all. If however your photography works by going on a trip to pick up whatever you encounter (e.g. doing landscape and wildlife alternative on a hike) thus frequently changing lenses and are easily annoyed by usability issues, the permanently changing position of the rings could drive you nuts. Working with manual focus or working with a tripod where you have auto-focused your subject before your composition moved it to a part of the frame where no AF sensor happens to be adds further to the frustration of inadvertently defocusing.

  • The lens retraction which is an advantage regarding carrying size, is a disadvantage when it comes to dirt looking for a place to hide.

  • The lens is officially incompatible with extenders. According to information on the Internet extenders fit when the lens is zoomed all the way to 300mm, but as the rear lens extends zooming out again, there comes a point when it hits the extender, risking damage to both. Furthermore, many but the top-of the line (1D) can not auto-focus with apertures smaller than f/5.6, making any use with an extender manual-focus only.¹

A third alternative to consider could be the Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM, at 760g it is quite light and nearly half the weight of the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM (and also half the price, if that matters). Image quality I can not comment myself, but most reviews seem to put it right in between the other two, potentially closer to the 70-200 f/2.8 than the 70-300.

¹ Current Canon DSLR bodies that can officially focus at f/8 when using PDAF via the viewfinder: 1D X Mark II, 5D Mark IV, - up to all 63 AF points with v.III extenders and certain lenses; 1D X, 1D C, 5Ds, 5Ds R, 5D Mark III, 7D Mark II - center AF point with surrounding 8 points as 'assist' points; All other 1-series bodies - center AF point only; 6D Mark II, 80D - center AF point only except 27 AF points with 100-400 II and 200-400. No other Canon DSLR bodies officially support viewfinder based AF at f/8 or narrower. Many models older than about 2011 will try to AF with such combinations. A few, such as a 5D Mark II + Kenko 2X + 24-105/4 at 210mm/f/8, will even succeed. When using Live View with DSLRs a different AF system is used and performance using lenses with apertures narrower than f/5.6 will vary based in the camera's capability, the lighting conditions, and contrast of the target subject.


Consider checking out the 135mm f/2 if price is an issue and you're happy to lose the extra reach in a telephoto. Better bokeh, sharper, extra stop.


The 70-200 2.8 is a sweet lens. I shoot Nikon, but I had this same question, and have not been disappointed. I do sometimes use a teleconverter. I don't think the slower -300 lens is worth the extra reach if you can't keep the added movement out with shutter speed (requiring faster lens). When I'm ready to REALLY reach out, I'll go beyond 300mm for the big glass. Meanwhile, the 2.8 makes for wonderfully blurred backgrounds and tack sharp images.


Consider the 70-200 EF f/4L. It's half the cost and much lighter than the f/2.8L (a big consideration if you have to carry it around all day). It's sharp as hell and a great lens. Sure, "all things being equal" you'd like the extra f-stop. But all things aren't equal.


Really depends on what you are shooting. If you are shooting primarily outdoors, and find yourself at the long end of your lenses, go 70-300. I love my 70-300 and is my favorite lens considering I do Roller Coaster Photography, which requires long focal ranges. Plus in daylight, you will shoot around F8 anyways. If you want a telephoto to use low light or to get portraits with, I'd go 70-200. The 70-200 has great image quality even wide open, but keep in mind 2.8 is only 1 stop brighter than F4, so it's no at big a deal as people say it is. I personally would say go 70-300 since the extra reach and is quite a big difference especially on a full frame. But I don't know personally what you do, but I can say 100mm extra reach is more important then 1 stop brighter, but thats just me. If you own an APS-C camera then go 70-200 2.8 because on an APS-C, 200mm is long enough

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