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Perseverance pays off — crisp Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II

Readers know that the new Canon 70-200mm gave me fits while testing it, due to various optical problems, documented in my review of the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II in DAP. I tested 4 samples for that review, and none were optically right.

Yesterday I finally gave in and bought one locally at Keeble and Shuchat, taking advantage of the store-pays-sales-tax deal (no small potatoes at 9.25% in tax-pig California). I tested it at 1pm, went home, promptly found symmetry problems (soft on one side), went back at 6pm, retested and also with a 1.4X teleconverter and other lenses, which both confirmed the problem and looked pretty poor with the 1.4X on a good chunk of the right side of the frame. This process is very time consuming, because just one quick test won’t do, multiple aperture series and cross checks with other lenses are mandatory to verify such things beyond a doubt. My time spent doing quality control that Canon skipped for their $2500 lens: about 8 hours of shooting and analysis and cross-checking. Now that’s an expensive lens.

Today, my local dealer agreed to exchange the lens (one reason to support your local dealer!). Taking a chance on another dud, I instead finally got lucky: this lens shows symmetric sharpness and is crackling sharp wide open out to the corners. It only took six (6) samples to get one that is optically symmetric, as it ought to be. Your luck might be better, especially since you won’t notice minor skew issues with most subjects. But Brand-new Blur is my reality, based on experiences with many lenses. And this issue will only grow in importance with higher resolution DSLRs.

But dang, this Canon zoom is very impressive now that I have one working the way it ought to. My copy is a keeper, and f/2.8 is outstanding. Highly recommended.

Right edge of frame wide open at f/2.8
Canon 5D Mark II + 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II

Now if only my brand-new Canon 5D Mark II didn’t have a bright white hot pixel at ISO 200.

Hot pixel at ISO 200, brand-new Canon 5D Mark II

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