Canon EF70-200 f2.8 L vs Nikkor 80-200 f2.8 ED - by Jonathan Kwok
|I was getting so tired about hearing of continuous rants between canon vs nikon lenses
and how inferior canon lenses were that I decided to do my own tests. (Yes, I've read most
of those lens tests, from those by pop photo to Klaus' postings to those from
Photodo.com). But it's always better to convince yourself right? Working as a journalist,
I often hear pros make sweeping statements that Nikon lenses are better than Canon's.
Nikon has better contrast and sharpness, they say. As EOS users, I'm sure you must have
sometimes wondered if such statements are true.
Anyway, I have a good friend, a pro who uses the Nikon system so we paired up and decided to have a lens test. Our first test was between the new Tokina 20-35 f/2.8 vs Canon 17-35L f/2.8, since he was planning to buy the tokina for his F5. I won't go into the details of that test now, but suffice to say, my friend won't be buying the Tokina after comparing the results with the 17-35L. Wide open, the Tokina is no good while Canon at f/2.8 (at all focal lengths, including that "dreaded" 17mm) can still rival the Tokina stopped down to f/8. No flaming pls, these were both our observations.
We then ran another test on his new Nikon 80-200D f/2.8 ED (with tripod collar) vs my one year old EF 70-200L f/2.8. Setup is as follows:- Cameras EOS1n and F5 triggered with cable release, using mirror lock. Fuji Velvia rated at ISO 40 (we agreed that's truer to its real speed). Exposure taken using a Minolta autometer IVF ambient light setting. Cameras mounted on the heavy Manfrotto 055C tripod with 029Mk2 pan and tilt head. Test target was a "home made" computer designed "high resolution" chart with words ranging from large fonts to fonts only 2mm large. The target measured approx 24 inches x 16 inches. It also had grids drawn by computer on it to check for distortion, and a colour chart with various colours and patterns including gradations plus a few items glued on like bar codes and some pictures to check for color reproduction. Target mounted on a flat wall. All lense protection filters were removed.
Cameras precisely framed with the targets almost completely filling up the viewfinder. Composition was reconfirmed by both of us to double check it was properly aligned. Lenses tested at: (70/80mm at f/2.8, f/4, f/8), (135mm at f/2.8, f/4, f/8), (200mm at f/2.8, f/4, f/8). Results were examined with a schneider 4x loupe and two 8x loupes on a light box. We tried to be as neutral as possible. and remember, I was cross examining the results with a Nikon die hard.
At 70/80mm setting:
Wide open, very little but noticeable light falloff and vignetting at the edges of pix taken by both lenses but was slightly more pronounced on the Nikon. Both lenses showed very light barrel distortion. By f/4, Canon lost all traces of vignetting and had very even illumination,
while a tad of vignetting could be spotted on the Nikon's pix. Sharpness was really neck and neck, both are so damn good from centre to edges even wide open, but we both agreed that Canon had the slight edge in terms of sharpness and slightly higher contrast. (do I hear cheers already? :) Stopping down to f/4 for both lenses improved sharpness marginally. I'd confidently use both lenses wide open, but if I wanted it that extra bit sharper, closing down one stop would do the trick. At f/8, frankly, we couldn't discern any improvements in sharpness...but perhaps psychologically, we thought it was ever so very very slightly sharper.
At 135mm setting:
Wide open, Canon had more severe vignetting and light fall off at edges compared to Nikon, but again, it was only marginal and still within reason. Nikon however, had more pronounced pincushion distortion than Canon. Interesting to note, the distortion of both lenses have now turned from barrel to pincushion. Even so, distortion on both lenses was not disturbing.
If it were not for the grid lines, it would hardly be noticeable. Again, we agreed that canon's shots looked marginally sharper as it had very slightly more contrast. Both lenses had good sharpness from centre to corners.
Stopping down to f/4, Canon still had a hint
of light fall off at the edges while Nikon had good even illumination across the frame. As
expected, stopping down one stop improved sharpness quite a bit, although wide open, both
lenses were already very good. At the centre, there was no difference in lens sharpness
between both lenses but Canon had the advantage at the frame's edges...a very small
advantage I must point out. By f/8 illumination on both lenses were on par. Absolutely no
vignetting detected. Edge definition of both lenses improved marginally. Frankly, both are
equally good here, stopped down to F/8.At this setting, centre to edge sharpness was
outstanding for both lenses.
In terms of sharpness and contrast, again it was so very close, but my pro-Nikon friend
grudgingly admitted that the Canon still had the slight advantage as the image looked
slightly more crisp especially at bigger apertures. Wide open, both lenses were already
very good, but edge sharpness of both improved quite a bit when stopped down to f/4. By
f/8- there was no difference in both lenses.
AF speed on both were comparable...heck, if there's any difference, you need
instruments to measure it, but I noticed the canon with its USM lens could focus
marginally faster in bright light and could drive it's lens from nearest focus to infinity
faster than the F5.
All in all, I must admit that this lens test echoed the results of the MTF lens test
posted in www.photodo.com/ To those who feel that
Nikon is always better than Canon, I'd say...use your Canon L lens with confidence and
pride. As far as telephoto zooms are concerned, I'd go for the Canon 70-200L any day -
less distortion, better illumination, slightly sharper in the edges and slightly better
contrast than our rival's equivalent lens. Add the smooth USM focusing and ability to use
converters and we have a lens that is very hard to equal and surpass. Both lenses managed
to reproduce even the finest resolution targets sufficiently for us to read while all
gradations and colours were accurately rendered. Amazing!