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Canon L series: big "L" and little "l"?
Old 06-05-2006, 04:19 PM   #1 (permalink)
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I've noticed that Canon seem to be developing two lines of lenses within the L series.

There are the traditional L series lenses: big, heavy, rugged, and dependable, like the 16-35mm f2.8L, 24-70mm f2.8L and 70-200mm f2.8L, plus the really big boys, like the 400mm f2.8L IS. I think of these as the "big L" series.

And then there are the newer L series lenses: a bit smaller, rather lighter, like the 17-40mm f4L, 24-105mm f4L and the 70-200mm f4L. These seem to warrant a new category designation: I have been thinking of them as the "small L" series, or maybe "L-lite". It's not an inappropriate term, because they are noticeably lighter. And that's not a bad thing - having walked around with a 5D+70-200 f2.8 IS, I know I'd have preferred the lighter weight of the 70-200 f4 (although I don't want to give up the IS).

The "L-lite" lenses are noticeably cheaper than their "big L" equivalents, but they don't always include the accessories that we see with the "big L" series: things like lens hoods and tripod collars may be optional extras, instead of being included.

Does anyone know if this is a conscious decision on Canon's part? Are they trying to produce two lines of L lenses? And is it limited to zoom lenses, or are there "L-lite" primes, too?
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Re: Canon L series: big "L" and little "l"?
Old 06-05-2006, 07:52 PM   #2 (permalink)
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I'll take a stab at this.

The Big-L's are for marketed towards the pro's who need the quality glass AND the extremely wide aperture.

The Little-L's are perhaps geared towards the studio and prosumer market where the huge aperture is less used, but the quality of the glass needs to be maintained, while still providing a decently short depth of field.

Shooting a sports or low lite event? Have the caddy hand you that 2.8 with IS.

Got a model on a chopper in a bright sunny field? The 4.0 should more than do the trick.

Now my question: has anyone used, or seen a reliable review or comparisson, of the two lens categories?

Cheers!
Glenn K.
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Re: Canon L series: big "L" and little "l"?
Old 06-05-2006, 09:15 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GKruts
Now my question: has anyone used, or seen a reliable review or comparisson, of the two lens categories?
Cheers!
Glenn K.
Luminous landscape put the Canon 16-35mm f/2.8L vs the Canon 17-40mm f/4.0L as well as 24-105mm f/4.0L IS vs. the Canon 24-0mm f/2.8L (not sure if you'd put the 24-105 f/4.0L in the 'little L' or not.
I'd like to see a Canon 70-200mm f/4.0L vs. 70-200mm f/2.8L vs 70-200mm f/2.8L IS some day. I opted for the middle one as a fathers day gift and it's on the way via UPS to me right now, $600 for IS seemed a bit much.
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Re: Canon L series: big "L" and little "l"?
Old 06-05-2006, 09:32 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Canon has always used the "L" designation the way Nikon has used the "ED" designation: to indicate that those lenses are constructed with Flourite or Ultra-Low Dispersion lens elements. These elements are used to greatly reduce lateral chromatic abberation and longitudinal chromatic abberation, thereby improving lens performance.These materials are more expensive than "normal" optical glass and therefore make the lenses more expensive.

The biggest difference in your two categories of lenses is maximum aperture. Lenses with large maximum apertures are more expensive to manufacture at the same quality standards than a lens with a smaller maximum aperture. They require more elements, more exotic materials, and tighter construction tolerances than slower lenses. Extreme wide angle and super telephoto lenses bring additional issues to the table that make them expensive to make both fast and high performance. Fast lenses require larger elements as well as additional elements. "Bigger" and "more of them" equals increased size and weight.

Regarding price, the 24-70 f2.8/L and the 24-105 f/4.0L are within $100 of each other. The 17-40 f/4.0L is half the price of the 16-35 f/2.8L because of the maximum aperture and the difference in cost it takes manufacture a lens with that aperture and still maintain image quality standards. The same thing goes for the 70-200 f/4.0L and the 70-200 f/2.8L. You're paying to overcome physics.

I can't speak for lens hoods, but you will almost always only find a tripod collar on zoom telephotos and super telephotos where it makes sense to move the center of gravity away from the underside of the camera body.

As for comparisson, the link below address just about every lens you mentioned:

http://www.luminous-landscape.com/re...n_lenses.shtml

-Chip
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