Canon zoom for portraits incl new 70-200


Aug 16, 2014
Hi All

I had been considering buying a 70-200 2.8 recently for taking pictures of the 1 year old grandchild. Given that the Mark III was coming I thought I’d hold off for the new release and then either buy the new upgraded lens, or get a Mark II secondhand at an extra discounted price. The new release information has led me to question what I should do.

Currently I have a 6D Mark II, 24-105 Mark I and 70-300L. I have some other lenses but they aren’t relevant for this purpose.

I am primarily looking for pictures with good subject isolation and background blur, and these will be shot mainly with available light both indoors and outdoors and with the grandchild just doing what she does, not staged stationary portraits. I am also not looking for the ultra short DOF with the eye in focus but the nose and ear blurred. I am also not looking for primes. I’ve tried an 85 1.2 and 200 2.8 and sold both, as well as still having an 85 1.8 but it’s not flexible enough for a fast moving kid.

So my options are:

1. Stick with the existing lenses. 24-105 doesn’t give me as much isolation and blur as I’d like, and the 70-300 drops to 5.6 fairly early in its zoom length, so once I am out to 200 or so I am now pushing iso and possibly not getting as much isolation / blur as I’d like.

2. Buy the 70-200 2.8 Mark II (maybe used) and hopefully save a reasonable amount of cash vs the Mark III for pretty much the same optical performance.

3. Buy the new 70-200 2.8 Mark III - pay full price but get the latest coatings and a new product warranty.

4. Buy the new 70-200 F4 Mark Ii IS. Lose 1 stop vs the 2.8, but save cash, get the latest updates and warranty. But am I going to get the isolation and blur that I want? Up to 105 mm I might as well use by 24-105 at the same aperture, but above that I am spending quite a bit of money to only get 1 stop extra vs my existing 70-300 and is that difference worth spending so much money to get?

I should also mention the I would intend to keep the 70-300L regardless as a travel lens as the 70-200 2.8 is so much heavier and larger, and the extra 100mm over the F4 makes it more flexible. So there would be no selling this lens to offset the cost of a new lens.

So let me know what you think, and I’d especially like to hear from anyone who has previously owned the 70-300L and can give me their experiences.

Thanks in advance.



CR Pro
Dec 20, 2012
Without speaking to the new version, you cannot go wrong buying a 70-200mm f/2.8 II right now. It's heavy, so not much fun for extended walkabouts, but for portraits, even of moving subjects, it might be one of the best lenses ever made.


I post too Much on Here!!
CR Pro
Jul 21, 2010
The 70-200/2.8 II is my go-to zoom for portraits (and I have no interest in updating to the MkIII). I use the 70-300L for travel.


The dark side - I've been there
CR Pro
Nov 7, 2013
Hi Rob!

First a short excursion to portrait and children portrait photography from me as a father that has started photography again because of taking good pictures of my children for now more than 9 years (please skip, if not necessary or interesting):

As you surely know the typical FL for portraits with FF cams is somewhere between 70 and 135 mm (plus all individual likes) with the "sweet spot" around 80 to 100 mm.
As I found out, when my children grew older, it is better to have some distance between you and the child to maybe avoid attention and to take pictures in natural behavior. Here I prefer the 120 to 200 mm FL.

If you now want to have shallow DOF and good background blur with these FLs I'd go for an aperture of f/2.8 or wider. As children are sometimes moving fast and/or unpredictable I would recommend a wider aperture than f/2 only for a dedicated portrait session or if the light is bad. Don't forget short exposure times.

So my recommendation to your options:
  • Forget about the f/4 zooms (but keep using your 24-105 as walk around)
  • If you want the reach and the flexibility of a 70 - 200 mm zoom, go get a Mark II.
    You won't see the differences from the new Mark III, and if, you won't be willing to pay the extra money.
    But think about the weight and long time handholding while waiting for the right moment.
  • Keep in mind that the 85/1.8, 100/2.0 are quite good, small and relatively cheap prime alternatives
  • A 100/2.8L macro will also do the job and offers you macro an HIS as add on.
  • A 135/2.0L is also interesting but a little bit specialized

So if you are willing to pay the money and carry the weight around, the 70-200/2.8 Mk II is the most flexible choice.
Maybe rent or borrow one of these lenses and try it out before you decide.


Particular Member
Aug 16, 2012
The 70-200 Mk II isn't out of production. You can save some money and get a new warranty with that, all while enjoying a performance level that looks vaguely similar to the Mk III. ::)

- A


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May 4, 2011
If you are looking for best price/performance ratio I would suggest to you option two.

If you have a large budget AND demand the best you can afford with no regrets, go for option three.

For me it did not make sense to have both the 70-300L and 70-200 f4, too much overlap in their capabilities - so I would discourage option 4.


Aug 31, 2010
I use my 70-200 for pictures of my 3 and 1 year olds. It is perfect! I also go on long hikes with it. If it seems heavy at first, beef it up. You will grow in strength. When I first started using my 600f4, it took a while before I could hand hold it without my muscles screaming. You will get there. As far as the cost, get what you truly want. Don't get what you don't want the eventually get the better later. Life is too short to settle. Get the one you really want and enjoy it to the fullest!!!


EOS 5D Mark IV
Feb 28, 2013
If you can get a good second hand EF 70-200mm f2.8L IS USM II lens or can stretch to a new one (MKII or MKIII) you will not be disappointed.

Its my favourite zoom for portraits and I use it much more that the EF 24-70mm f2.8L USM II.


Canonet QL17 GIII
Sep 22, 2012
St. Paul, MN
neuroanatomist said:
The 70-200/2.8 II is my go-to zoom for portraits (and I have no interest in updating to the MkIII). I use the 70-300L for travel.
+1 on the 70-200 (don't have the 70-300L yet)

Watch the Canon refurbish store for the 70-200 f2.8 IS Mark II. You can get a good price for this lens that has been checked out by Canon and backed by Canon's one year warranty.

This is my goto lens for most things including indoor sports, school events, portraits, and capturing little tikes around the house or the back yard. I love this lens for candids of people of all ages. Every lens in my signature line has a valuable purpose for me, but none more than this one.
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