Is the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM Telephoto Zoom Lens the Best Wedding Photography Lens?

canon-70-200mm-camera-lens-review

In terms of getting the most bang for your buck, the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 II camera lens is a phenomenal lens to have in your wedding photography camera bag. In terms of cost, it is no doubt a real "investment lens," coming in at a price of around $2,000 - but the value it offers, flexibility of use it provides, and quality of image it outputs when paired with a quality camera body makes it worth it.

The obvious appeal of this lens is the fact that it can zoom in-and-out. Well, that and the fact that it's off white colored body looks really unique in a lineup of Canon lenses, and sticks out to make any photographer using it look cool. Okay, there is a little bit of sarcasm in there, and maybe a hint of truth, but it's one of those lenses you will see pop up every now and again - even in "real life." All the times walking around NYC, or even just visiting a popular local hiking area that avid bird watchers and wildlife photographers like to frequent, shows how this 70-200mm has some real world applications for all types of photographers.

canon-70-200mm-lens-camera-photo-example-review

Playing with the 70-200mm's strengths

The real highlight of our Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 review is going to be simply summed up with the word "flexibility." Out of all of the lenses we own and use regularly, this is the one that can adapt in a seconds notice to a changing environment.

During the course of a wedding day, there are several key moments that are critical to have shots of - and many others that just happen unexpectedly, but need to be captured because of how intensely intimate, emotional, or even just fun and funny! One of our favorite candid, in-the-moment shots came during a wedding ceremony - where the kids of the bride & groom were walking down the aisle, and things didn't exactly go as planned :) Things like this happen all the time, and as photographers hired to capture the wedding day, these types of moments are especially important to get right.

By being able to zoom in-and-out with the focal lengths of 70mm to 200mm, this lens is suited for candid shots, portraiture, wedding ceremonies, etc. Unless you are looking for a wide angle shot that would require a lens with a smaller focal length such as the Canon 24mm f/1.4 II, this lens ultimately serves as a jack-of-all-trades. If you are a wedding photographer on a budget, but still want high quality gear and images, you could likely shoot an entire wedding with this lens plus the aforementioned 24mm...

The main downside of the 70-200mm

Now, about that whole...you can shoot an entire wedding with this lens...thought.

It is possible, yes.

But, the main downside that comes with this lens is the weight.

While ~1.5lbs doesn't sound like a heavy piece of equipment, it becomes noticeable as you shoot with it for extended periods of time. The main issue is not so much that it is heavy, but that keeping it perfectly stable is not always possible in prolonged shooting environments. While this is counteracted by the built in image stabilization function (a life saver), blurry and missed focus images can occur if you are not up to task for actually carrying this baby around all day. It is not a joke, it literally has the size and weight of a small child.

More on our personal workflow with this lens

As we've touched on the main downside of this lens (honestly, the weight is the only glaring problem that comes to mind after extensive use ourselves) - we thought it would be useful to dive back in to explaining how we use the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 II in our own workflow.

As we mentioned earlier, this lens is most dominantly used during wedding ceremonies. We also use it on occasion during portraits - usually in the hands of the backup shooter looking for different perspectives. One example of wedding ceremony flexibility is being able to zoom all the way in when the bride & groom are at the altar - enabling the shooter to stand way back - yet be able to zoom back out to 70mm in order to capture fast walking-from-the-altar shots of the bridal party. This enables us to capture many different angles, and in the case of the latter set of bridal party photos, have more options when it comes to framing of the actual shot as we are not limited to one static focal length that may-or-may-not be sufficient for where we are standing.

Of course, as should be expected from any wedding photographer, choosing to work with the 70-200mm on the day of is dependent on scoping out the location and making the decision to use this lens over another. If we were shooting a smaller wedding ceremony in a tighter space, it may not be necessary to pull this one out of the camera bag, but in a large number of venues that we have encountered- this zoomable set of focal lengths is really essential.

In fact, this 70-200mm lens was actually bought as an "upgrade" to replace our original use for the Canon 135mm f/2 II lens. The 135mm is a beautiful lens that we purchased for the longer focal length, in an effort to become "professionals on a budget" and have a lens that could reach the altar from the back of a venue so we would not be required to stand front and center with a 50mm lens (yes, the times are changing for us!). While there is value in owning some prime lenses - specifically for portrait photography where you will take advantage of the wider apertures - the aforementioned 135mm's f/2, or our Canon 85mm f/1.2, definitely have a different look than the 70-200mm f/2.8. But, at a f/2.8 aperture you will still find your photos to look beautiful, have a rich depth of field, and churn out the nice bokeh effect we all know and love.

Another valuable element of this lens we have noticed significantly is the color and detail in the images it outputs. One particular instant where this was especially noticed, and substantially impacted the quality of a shoot, was in the quality of the images compared to that of comparable images shot with other lenses such as a 50mm and the aforementioned 135mm. This was in the context of shooting inside a poorly lit Catholic church with a no flash policy, making us reliant on our camera bodies (Canon 5D Mark III and Mark IV), lenses, and bumping the ISO that much more than we normally would like. The 70-200mm captured the colors richly - in particular the detail of the red carpet - far better to the other lenses. Due to quality camera bodies paired with this lens, the performance at higher ISO's was very good all things considered.

Will your wedding photography benefit from a Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 II lens?

Every wedding photographer brings a different approach to how they are going to capture the wedding day. No doubt, there are photographers out there who strictly shoot weddings with prime lenses. In our eyes, this is doable, but not easily doable in every wedding environment. For us, the 70-200mm lens provides a certain level of comfort in exchange for a few aperture stops. In particular, when shooting wedding ceremonies when discretion is really a must, or capturing candid moments of people hanging out during cocktail hour - this lens shows its real value. The fact that it is flexible enough to be used in other parts of the day - such as portraits - just speaks volumes to why the flexibility being offered has the potential to be useful for seasoned photographers as well as those just starting out on a budget.

No doubt, it is quite an investment, coming in at around $2k for this lens. Still, when compared to some primes lenses running from 1k - 2k on their own, the value is more apparent here because you have access to an adjustable focal length ranging from 70mm to 200mm. Unless pushing your aperture down to f/1.2 is something you want to do in all situations, taking advantage of this lenses respectable f/2.8 aperture while being able to adjust to get close shots at 70mm or 85mm, then zoom in to give some distance to 135mm or even 200mm goes to show that this lens is really like getting multiple lenses in one.

Our Last Thoughts on the Canon 70-200mm

Put plainly, the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 II camera lens is excellent. Its wide range of uses on a wedding day makes it essential, and far easier to utilize to capture shots as they happen without having to rush to change lenses, or swap camera bodies containing different lenses already on them. When tasked with capturing these beautiful moments, many of which evolve naturally and quickly without much warning, makes being able to raise your camera and get the shot all that more important. While maybe not for everyone, especially those put off by the idea of dropping $2,000 on a lens, it has displayed its value to us on many, many occasions and if we were to lose it - would have to buy a new one to replace it quickly.