Canon 200mm f/2L IS USM Lens Review

Canon 200m f/2L Real World Lens Review by Nick Sparks. 

(Canon 5DSR + Canon 200mm f/2L IS USM. ISO 100, f/2, 1/500)

So you own all of Canon’s modern L series prime lenses. Now what? 

You get the Canon 200mm f/2 IS L lens. This lens compromises its portability and pricing to be able to open up all the way to f/2. Although still a problem, everything I read online about portability seemed blown out of proportion. I hauled the lens through three shoots without a monopod. I couldn’t see myself carrying it around for a whole wedding day, but an hour here and there would be no problem. I am a fairly big guy, so I’m sure other people’s experiences may vary.

(Canon 5DSR + Canon 200mm f/2L IS USM. ISO 100, f/2, 1/500)


The best thing about this lens is that it is tack sharp wide open, which I was very happy about, because f/2 was the only aperture I was interested in shooting this lens at. Wide open and with that long focal length of 200mm, backgrounds melted away. (I’m a fan of melted backgrounds.)

Image stabilization is nice on a lens this long. It’s not a must have feature for me, because I don’t do many extended exposures or ever risk missing shots due to motion blur. I shot this lens at around 1/125 of a second most of the time and it worked great.

It renders nice clean colors, but the colors tend to stray away from the Canon 85mm f/1.2 ii and Canon 35mm f/1.4 ii lenses that I use as staples of my photography. I prefer the skin tones out of the 85mm and 35mm, but if you don’t mind a little more work, I’m sure that this lens would match up with a few color slider adjustments.

(Canon 5DSR + Canon 200mm f/2L IS USM. ISO 100, f/2, 1/125)

Real World Use 

I’m sure that many wildlife and indoor sport photographers love this lens, but this section relates strictly to wedding and portrait photographers, because that is how  I used it. 

The compression of the 200mm focal length is bit much for portraiture in many situations. There seems to be more of a disconnect between the viewer and the subject when shooting portraiture at focal lengths this long. My longest lens is usually a 135mm— unless I’m doing headshots. On a normal work day when I do portraits or weddings, I tend to pick up my Canon 85mm f/1.2 L ii over the 135mm whenever possible, so I may be a bit more sensitive to the perceived disconnection effect I’m talking about than most other photographers.

I can imagine a few instances where I might use this lens: dimly lit winter ceremonies in churches, headshots, and for when I want to turn bokeh up to 11 to melt away any background. None of these scenarios call for the almost $6000 price tag though. I can easily work with my current set-up in all the situations mentioned. 

For example, I shoot on a 5DSR, so cropping in on my 135mm f/2 is easily handled if I need a bit more focal length in a church. I use the Canon 200mm f/2.8 L when I do headshots and I find if you open a 200mm lens past about f/3.2, then people’s noses will be out of focus which is not ideal for a headshot. In conclusion, I could see limited practical use for this lens, but I had a lot of fun shooting it. 


-Sharp wide open 

 -Great build quality 

 -The ability to get a look that very few other photographers can 




-Its practicallity for most working photographers is a con


Yes, this lens has quite a few downsides, enough to make small business owners a little bit sick to their stomachs with its huge price tag. 

Ultimately, I wanted some more time shooting at f/2 (or below) at 200mm and opted to pick up the older and more affordable version of this lens on ebay— the Canon 200mm f/1.8 L. With this version you loose a bit of sharpness and IS, but gain a small amount of light gathering at f/1.8. And it’s even heavier. This old version was only made for a short amount of time and there are only about 8,000 of these lenses. Rumor has it, Canon stopped production due to factory worker health hazards that occurred while infusing the lens elements with lead, and they couldn’t make that particular version without lead. I’ve been using the Canon 200mm f/1.8 at many weddings the last month or so and plan to give a update on its performance in the near future.

Authored by Denver wedding photographer Nick Sparks | ig: |  weddings: