Review: Canon RF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM by TDP

Canon Rumors Guy

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Bryan at The Digital Picture has completed his exhaustive review of brand new Canon RF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM. A lens that really showcases Canon’s ability to make new and unique designs for older dependable lenses.
It shouldn’t shock us that Bryan came away thoroughly impressed with the new offering from Canon, and I personally can’t wait to get my hands on one.
From TDP
The Canon RF 70-200mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens was a game-changer, and the Canon RF 70-200mm F4 L IS USM Lens is the same, taking the game down to a new size and weight low. Those carrying this frequently-needed telephoto zoom lens for extended periods will love this lens’s new size and weight.
As part of the elite L-series, the RF 70-200 lens is extremely well built, including environmental sealing. As said before, this lens is ready for the rigors of daily professional use. The smooth external design...

Continue reading...


 

SwissFrank

from EOS 1N to R
Dec 9, 2018
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I think the age of the f/2.8 trinity is past us.

It used to be necessary for AF, so we could see a bright image in the viewfinder, and so we could shoot fast enough to avoid camera shake blur.

None of these are necessary any more.

The fourth reason would be bokeh, but you can get equivalent bokeh with an f/4 or smaller lens, too. Bokeh really comes from the apeture width in mm, not the f/stop. And a 24-105/4 has a 25-26mm aperture wide open at the long end, identical to a 24-70/2.8.

So for me that leaves the 24-105/4 as the middle zoom, and the only question is why you'd want a 70-200/4 as your long zoom? I'd prefer the 100-500/4-7.1. If it's just size and weight, then maybe a 100-300/5.6 would be about the same weight and cost of the 70-200/4, but without the overlap.
 

HMC11

Travel
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Sep 5, 2020
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The fourth reason would be bokeh, but you can get equivalent bokeh with an f/4 or smaller lens, too. Bokeh really comes from the apeture width in mm, not the f/stop. And a 24-105/4 has a 25-26mm aperture wide open at the long end, identical to a 24-70/2.8.
I am a little confused here. Doesn't bokeh depend on subject distance? At the same subject distance, and keeping the same perspective means shooting at the same focal length, which would make a 2.8 produce a greater bokeh effect than a 4? If we keep the same perspective, but shoot at long ends of both, it would mean that the 24-70 would have to get closer to the subject compared with the 24-105, which reduces the depth of field and hence (?) have a greater blurring effect?
 
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H. Jones

Photojournalist
Aug 1, 2014
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I think the age of the f/2.8 trinity is past us.

It used to be necessary for AF, so we could see a bright image in the viewfinder, and so we could shoot fast enough to avoid camera shake blur.

None of these are necessary any more.

The fourth reason would be bokeh, but you can get equivalent bokeh with an f/4 or smaller lens, too. Bokeh really comes from the apeture width in mm, not the f/stop. And a 24-105/4 has a 25-26mm aperture wide open at the long end, identical to a 24-70/2.8.

So for me that leaves the 24-105/4 as the middle zoom, and the only question is why you'd want a 70-200/4 as your long zoom? I'd prefer the 100-500/4-7.1. If it's just size and weight, then maybe a 100-300/5.6 would be about the same weight and cost of the 70-200/4, but without the overlap.

The fact that people are buying dozens and hundreds of the $3000 28-70 F/2 so fast that it sells out of stock within seconds and has been generally out of stock since July is pretty great evidence that there's more to the story than you're implying. Plus, the 300mm F/2.8 wouldn't sell for $6000 if you could pull off the same images with the $600 300mm F/4. It's almost as if there's different kinds of photography with needs that are different than yours.

I personally would far, far prefer the 28-70 F/2 over the 24-105 F/4 and have never considered picking up an F/4 zoom in my life other than my 16-35mm, which I only use for landscapes. I primarily shoot night time breaking news at over ISO 8000 at F/2.8, so F/4 just isn't an option for that. Neither is F/4 workable for people who cover night sports in badly lit gyms and stadiums. ISO has improved over time, but even on the R5 downsized things are going to be a mess at over ISO 8000. Nevermind the fact that while ISO noise has gotten better, you're still throwing out almost all of the camera's dynamic range and color depth at those ISOs.

You'll note also that AF is still determined by aperture of the lens. The EOS R, R5, and R6 can focus in the lowest light possible when using an F/1.2 lens, and every stop wider on a lens still allows the camera to focus easier in the dark. Wider lenses also allow the camera to run the viewfinder at a higher framerate at the same exposure in the dark, since it doesn't need to drop shutterspeed to make up exposure. I've definitely seen examples of it while using the 100-400 with an extender at F/8, where certain shade situations make the exposure time wide open drop long enough that you get framerate drops or blurry movement in the viewfinder.
 

CanonFanBoy

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I think the age of the f/2.8 trinity is past us.

It used to be necessary for AF, so we could see a bright image in the viewfinder, and so we could shoot fast enough to avoid camera shake blur.

None of these are necessary any more.

The fourth reason would be bokeh, but you can get equivalent bokeh with an f/4 or smaller lens, too. Bokeh really comes from the apeture width in mm, not the f/stop. And a 24-105/4 has a 25-26mm aperture wide open at the long end, identical to a 24-70/2.8.

So for me that leaves the 24-105/4 as the middle zoom, and the only question is why you'd want a 70-200/4 as your long zoom? I'd prefer the 100-500/4-7.1. If it's just size and weight, then maybe a 100-300/5.6 would be about the same weight and cost of the 70-200/4, but without the overlap.
Uhhhhh, no. The only way f/2.8 lenses are over for me is if there happens to be something faster I can pick. I can always stop down if needed. The problem is I don't want to take a hole saw to a lens if I want it wider.
 

SwissFrank

from EOS 1N to R
Dec 9, 2018
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I am a little confused here. Doesn't bokeh depend on subject distance? At the same subject distance, and keeping the same perspective means shooting at the same focal length, which would make a 2.8 produce a greater bokeh effect than a 4? If we keep the same perspective, but shoot at long ends of both, it would mean that the 24-70 would have to get closer to the subject compared with the 24-105, which reduces the depth of field and hence (?) have a greater blurring effect?
Take a 85/1.2, 135/2, and 200/2.8., heck and 300/4 and 400/5.6 too.

They all have basically the same 72mm "entrance pupil," or aperture (as distinct from f-stop).

At a fixed subject distance, take the same shot with all of them, then crop the wider image to the width (in degrees) of the narrower image, and you'll have basically the same background blur and so on.

At a fixed subject size, the wider lens lets you get closer, making bigger "circles" of highlights in the background in terms of degrees, but NOT in terms of percent of image height/width. If a head-and-shoulders portrait with one of these lenses shows a point light at infinity as a circle 1/6 the height of the image, then the others will too.

Meanwhile, the wider the lens the more you can change your background by swinging around the subject just a step or two. So, you can obtain a smoother background simply by... choosing a smoother background. In this way your chances of getting a smooth background with the 200/2.8 may be higher than the 85/1.2.

Another practical comparison would be say, 35/1.0 vs. 50/1.4. Both are a 35mm entrance pupil, so to imagine them wide-open, the center half the area/70% the width of the 35/1.0 will look nearly exactly like the 50/1.4, but the photo will continue past the frame edge of the 50/1.4 shot to be about 50% wider and taller.
 

SwissFrank

from EOS 1N to R
Dec 9, 2018
490
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Uhhhhh, no. The only way f/2.8 lenses are over for me is if there happens to be something faster I can pick.
???

There is. With the massive weight savings from not dragging around f/2.8 zooms and teleconverters, you now have the space in the bag for a 85/1.2 and 35/1.0.

I mean, you be you. If you're content with f/2.8 and never want to go bigger, enjoy your life. I do want the big apertures, and I'm content to let go of the 2.8 trinity in order to give me the carrying capacity for some truly big apertures.
 
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privatebydesign

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???

There is. With the massive weight savings from not dragging around f/2.8 zooms and teleconverters, you now have the space in the bag for a 85/1.2 and 35/1.0.

I mean, you be you. If you're content with f/2.8 and never want to go bigger, enjoy your life. I do want the big apertures, and I'm content to let go of the 2.8 trinity in order to give me the carrying capacity for some truly big apertures.
By the same token you be you, but anybody that declares “the age of f2.8 zooms is past” obviously doesn’t shoot the same situations many of us do. When you walk into a situation where you have to deliver shots but you really don’t know what you are going to walk into, location, numbers of people, access, perspectives, lighting etc then nothing touches the 2.8 zooms for flexibility and utility. They are the best general purpose lenses out there. They are not the smallest, lightest, or have the fastest apertures, but there is a very good reason Canon released them as early in the RF cycle as they did
 

Bdbtoys

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???

There is. With the massive weight savings from not dragging around f/2.8 zooms and teleconverters, you now have the space in the bag for a 85/1.2 and 35/1.0.

I mean, you be you. If you're content with f/2.8 and never want to go bigger, enjoy your life. I do want the big apertures, and I'm content to let go of the 2.8 trinity in order to give me the carrying capacity for some truly big apertures.

There are always compromises... but who's to say someone doesn't have 2.8's and use the fast primes? Also grabbing a 2.8 can prevent you from having to pull out a prime if you're using 4's.

Primes aside... The choice of 2.8's vs 4's (or even the mighty f2) zooms basically comes down to specs, versatility, cost, size/weight. Or can be as simple as what's on your shelf and what you're taking for the day depending on the needs/expectations.

For me personally, the 2.8's are more versatile. But that is my perspective, there is no right way to look at it, nor can you fault anyone for looking at it differently. Honestly, I go back and forth in what I feel is the 'most versatile' depending on what I'm doing at the time... and can easily justify many choices of kits... but I typically settle back to the 2.8's.
 
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CanonFanBoy

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???

There is. With the massive weight savings from not dragging around f/2.8 zooms and teleconverters, you now have the space in the bag for a 85/1.2 and 35/1.0.

I mean, you be you. If you're content with f/2.8 and never want to go bigger, enjoy your life. I do want the big apertures, and I'm content to let go of the 2.8 trinity in order to give me the carrying capacity for some truly big apertures.
Yeah well, that sounds like a 180 from what you were saying in your original post. I took it as "f/4 is the new f/2.8" (paraphrased) and that wider apertures are no longer needed by the rest of us. You were, in your post, making the declaration for us all. Kinda like the people who declare, "Nobody needs f/1.2". It wasn't worded as a personal epiphany. So you go and be you. I've always been just little old me.

I've had the RF 28-70 f/2L, RF 50 f/1.2L, and the RF 85 f/1.2L. I've also had the RF 24-105 f/4L. While the 24-105 was a nice lens, it just didn't fit for me... though I wish I still had it.

God willing, after the pandemic turmoil of the last year, I'll one day get those lenses again. The weight is the least of my worries. Dropping one, that's a worry.

"I think the age of the f/2.8 trinity is past us.

It used to be necessary for AF, so we could see a bright image in the viewfinder, and so we could shoot fast enough to avoid camera shake blur.

None of these are necessary any more."
 

Joules

doom
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Jul 16, 2017
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I think the age of the f/2.8 trinity is past us.
Why would Canon prioritize the release of their fast zoom lenses then? The 15-35, 24-70, 70-200 2.8 versions are all already out. So is the 28-70 2.0. Seems to me Canon considers these to be more important offerings.

You are correct in saying that for two lenses, so long as their physical aperture is the same (focal length / f-number), i.e. 70-200 2.8 and 100-400 5.6, you can take two images with the exact same settings, including subject distance, and crop the wider lens to match the longer one to end up with virtually identical pictures.

To me, that's a great argument for fast aperture lenses, not against them. Given a high quality lens and high resolution body, you essentially save on carrying an additional long lens with you. That's less weight and cost if the entire bag is taken into account.

People complain that there's no TC support in these lenses, but if they previously used a 5D IV and are now on an R5 they have a 1.2 TC essentially built into the body. When the high resolution R eventually comes out at or above 90 MP, it will be like an internal 1.7 TC. And I doubt those will be the last increases in resolution we'll see.
 

HMC11

Travel
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Sep 5, 2020
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Take a 85/1.2, 135/2, and 200/2.8., heck and 300/4 and 400/5.6 too.

They all have basically the same 72mm "entrance pupil," or aperture (as distinct from f-stop).

At a fixed subject distance, take the same shot with all of them, then crop the wider image to the width (in degrees) of the narrower image, and you'll have basically the same background blur and so on.

At a fixed subject size, the wider lens lets you get closer, making bigger "circles" of highlights in the background in terms of degrees, but NOT in terms of percent of image height/width. If a head-and-shoulders portrait with one of these lenses shows a point light at infinity as a circle 1/6 the height of the image, then the others will too.

Meanwhile, the wider the lens the more you can change your background by swinging around the subject just a step or two. So, you can obtain a smoother background simply by... choosing a smoother background. In this way your chances of getting a smooth background with the 200/2.8 may be higher than the 85/1.2.

Another practical comparison would be say, 35/1.0 vs. 50/1.4. Both are a 35mm entrance pupil, so to imagine them wide-open, the center half the area/70% the width of the 35/1.0 will look nearly exactly like the 50/1.4, but the photo will continue past the frame edge of the 50/1.4 shot to be about 50% wider and taller.
Er...r, not quite sure I agree with everything. Yes, at a fixed subject distance, the perspective is the same whatever focal length is used, and hence they have essentially the same 'compression'. However, to 'fix' the subject size, different focal lengths would mean different subject distance, and indeed the blurring effects would be different. And while an object at infinity would always appear to be a point source, there are also objects not quite at infinity which would then vary in size. In other words, at sufficiently far distance such that it can be treated as effectively at infinity, then it doesn't matter what the subject distance is, as effectively the same amount of light from these 'infinity' points pass through an identical size aperture. The same is not true for nearer objects that cannot be treated as effectively at infinity. For a light source at such a distance, the amount of flux/light reaching the camera would depend on the distance from the light source to the camera following an inverse square law. Hence, a shorter focal length means it will collect more light (being nearer the object), whereas a longer focal length less as it is further away. Wouldn't this affect the blurring effect? Besides, a shorter focal length, hence wider field of view, would naturally increase the number of light sources that can reach the camera, which leads to a greater blurring effect. Have I understood this correctly?
 

YuengLinger

Godzilla needs boxing lessons.
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"This is the death of anything faster."

This, in fact, is an excellent example of how our own shooting habits, styles, and subjects lead us to believe that what works for me must be right for every other photographer. (Personally, when first learning about the 100-500mm's fastest aperture at 500mm of "only f/7.1," I was outraged. Now I love that lens!)

How pervasive this myopic view of EVERYTHING has become in an age when we have more information at our fingertips than ever before! But, perhaps, with our increasing isolation, our ability to find opinions confirming ours, while being able to block counterpoints, it should not be surprising.

There are already so many well stated arguments for having choice in lens speed. I'm afraid anybody who posts such nonsense as "my fastest aperture is sufficient for the rest of humanity," won't be persuaded by another dose of logic.

Thank you, Canon, for providing CHOICE! (And, dang, would this be cool for travel so I could leave my f/2.8 to rest at home!)
 
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Antono Refa

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Mar 26, 2014
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It used to be necessary for AF, so we could see a bright image in the viewfinder, and so we could shoot fast enough to avoid camera shake blur.
Is MILC AF aperture blind, and focuses at f/4 as quickly and accurately as at f/2.8?

There's no connection between EVF brightness and camera shake. Its that Canon offers IBIS on MILCs, but not DSLRs. Also, that doesn't help any with motion blur.

The fourth reason would be bokeh, but you can get equivalent bokeh with an f/4 or smaller lens, too. Bokeh really comes from the apeture width in mm, not the f/stop. And a 24-105/4 has a 25-26mm aperture wide open at the long end, identical to a 24-70/2.8.
With 100mm, you'll have to either stand farther away, changing perspective, or crop from 70mm, losing ~50% of the pixels.

Don't get me wrong, with today's sensors, one can often get away with throwing that much. I share photos from family events at 3MP (the golden balance between people complaining photos look pixelated when printed 5" by 7" and people complaining it takes too long to download). Point is there are some photographers, e.g. the type that comes to this site, that would object to throwing that many pixels.
 
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Billybob

800mm f/11 because a cellphone isn't long enough!
May 22, 2016
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Bokeh is not synonymous with blur. While this is obvious to just about everyone reading it, the point isn't to just maximize blur, but to get the highest quality blur. Although there is a clear correlation between large aperture and blur, just having a large aperture for a given focal length doesn't make it the best. Take two different 85mm f/1.4 lenses, say a Canon EF and a Sigma, and the bokeh will differ (I won't opine as to which is better). The 200mm f/2.0 arguably has among the best bokeh, but the RF 85mm 1.2 and Nikon 105mm 1.4 are right there with it. My RF 70-200 f/2.8 produces the most pleasing bokeh I've seen in a zoom lens. The Tamron 70-180 f/2.8 for Sony is purportedly sharper than the RF version, but its bokeh is underwhelming at best. I have both lenses and have basically not touched the Sigma since acquiring the Canon because the difference is that noticeable. I haven't tried the new f/4 version, but from my experience with previous f/4 zooms (multiple 70-200 and 24-105 lenses), there is a difference in rendering that leaves me cold. Sure, these lenses probably look very similar stopped down to f/8, but unless I'm shooting landscapes, I try to keep my aperture at f/5.6 or larger.
 
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SwissFrank

from EOS 1N to R
Dec 9, 2018
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Why would Canon prioritize the release of their fast zoom lenses then? The 15-35, 24-70, 70-200 2.8 versions are all already out. So is the 28-70 2.0. Seems to me Canon considers these to be more important offerings.
More accurately, Canon believes the BUYERS consider these to be more important offerings.

More specifically, the 28-70/2.0 is a halo lens to get people talking about the RF system. I don't think they'll account for even 5% of the pro zoom photos between 28-70mm, when you have the 2.8 and more importantly (I am arguing) the 4.

And when did they release the 24-105/4? I think that was among the 4 initial lenses, no? It was the 24-105/4, 28-70/2, 35/1.8 and 50/1.2, I think. And note: no 2.8 zooms either, so to the extent you're right, Canon's actually agreeing with me: their initial lens release was saying don't get a f/2.8 zoom, get a f/4, and a f/1.2 prime.

I'm not going to check the exact release date of the RF100-500mm F4.5-7.1 L IS vs. the 70-200/2.8 but the fact is they've released both in the first year or two. They're allowing people like me to shoot f/4+ zooms 24-500mm and carry a couple big primes (in my case a Leica 35/1.4 and the RF50/1.2).
 

SwissFrank

from EOS 1N to R
Dec 9, 2018
490
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Bokeh is not synonymous with blur. While this is obvious to just about everyone reading it, the point isn't to just maximize blur, but to get the highest quality blur.
It should be clear to all readers that I'm talking about amount of blur, not some judgement as to the niceness of that blur. If you want to go attack people, go attack someone else.
 

Bdbtoys

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Jul 16, 2020
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And when did they release the 24-105/4? I think that was among the 4 initial lenses, no? It was the 24-105/4, 28-70/2, 35/1.8 and 50/1.2, I think. And note: no 2.8 zooms either, so to the extent you're right, Canon's actually agreeing with me: their initial lens release was saying don't get a f/2.8 zoom, get a f/4, and a f/1.2 prime.

That's a bit of a reach there...

Here's my take on it...
24-105/4 is basically a really great kit lens to sell with the camera's... w/o it inflating the price too bad.
28-70/2 is their 'look at what we can do lens'.
50/1.2 was a surpassing of the nifty 50 (IQ, not size).
35/1.8 was showing off an affordable prime (it's not a L).

However, this all factors that you don't have a RF>EF adapter... which was basically included with the camera's for quite some time. Which by default grants access to what the EF has to offer already.

Remember, Canon is trying to sell a system... those that were new into the Canon eco-system, the 'starter' lenses they released was pretty mouth watering... I mean that kit lens it really good. However for those with the EF's (probably those that have their favorite lenses already), can see the wow of the new system, but bring all their lenses along for the transition... so perhaps Canon was banking on those critical of the 2.8's (or any other lens for that matter) would already own some of them or could get access to them?

Also, if the 4's were the 'be all, end all', why did the 2.8 trinity get released first? We only have the 2nd lens of the f4 trinity and the 3rd might make it this year if lucky.

I'm not going to check the exact release date of the RF100-500mm F4.5-7.1 L IS vs. the 70-200/2.8 but the fact is they've released both in the first year or two.

The 2.8 was released over a year ago, where-as the 100-500 was just recently released. This lens in my opinion is not competing with the 2.8 or even the 4 trinity lenses. It is really just to replace the EF 100-400 as another 'we can make it better lens'. However one could also say the 100-500 is also filling a gap until the bigger primes come out (where users want more than the 2 DO's). If you can say the 100-500 is competing with the 70-200/2.8...why even make a f4 variant.

The point of all this is, you seem to be stating that Canon agrees with you... but it is really easy to apply whatever logic fit's your (or even my) thoughts... since what I wrote is just as strong reasoning that contradicts what you put out.
 

Billybob

800mm f/11 because a cellphone isn't long enough!
May 22, 2016
153
274
It should be clear to all readers that I'm talking about amount of blur, not some judgement as to the niceness of that blur. If you want to go attack people, go attack someone else.
Attack? I thought this was a discussion. I simply added my 2 cents. You gave your opinion, I gave mine. No reason to take it personally.

You started the discussion with the provocative premise that "the age of the 2.8 trinity is past us", and you posit as one of your arguments that "you can get equivalent bokeh with an f/4 or smaller lens". Okay, I won't be pedantic and point out that if you were only referring to the amount of blur, you were misusing the term. But even if you replace "bokeh" with "amount of blur" in your original statement, I'd still assert that blur is not the only reason to purchase a 2.8 lens. The quality of blur matters, and the Canon RF 70-200 f/2.8 has very high quality blur indeed. Opticallimits.com tries to apply an objective standard and they find it superior to all the Sony mount offerings in this range describing the Canon's blur as "almost prime like". The-digital-picture and Dustin Abbott also praise the quality--not just the amount--of the 2.8 zoom's blur.

So, for many of us who either don't have the best primes or prefer the flexibility of a zoom, the f/4 zooms won't replace 2.8 zooms anytime soon just on the basis of bokeh--not just lens blur. If you don't care about bokeh--and lens blur regardless of what it looks like is fine for you--then by all means save your money and get f/4 primes. I respect that, and I'm sorry you perceived my contribution to this discussion as an attack.
 
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