Thread: Canon 80-200mm F2.8 L - A Real Magic Drainpipe

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  1. #1 Canon 80-200mm F2.8 L - A Real Magic Drainpipe 
    Senior Member Shervin Mandgaryan's Avatar
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    The Canon 80-200 F2.8 L "Magic Drainpipe"



    The History:


    In the late 80's, Canon released their new Autofocus camera and lens system known as EOS and EF, which impressively Canon touted out as the most 'Professional' and 'Reliable' of that era. Amongst the launch were a few legendary lenses which we can consider classics today... the 50mm F1.0 and the 85mm F1.2... though one lens would capture much fame among Canon pro shooters in the coming years... enter the 80-200mm F2.8 L.

    It was built like a tank, had a constant F2.8 aperture, fast AF (for the time) and was TACK sharp. It's regarded as Canon's first serious zoom and was common to find amongst sports shooters in the late 80's and into the 90's. Simply put it was a work horse than went unnoticed for a long time after they stopped making it. It's king status as Canon's flagship telephoto zoom was diminished when Canon started making similar ranged lenses with built in IS. It quickly faded out into the late 1990's and 2000's as more and more pros dropped their beloved 80-200mm's for the newer IS and was eventually forgotten about.

    Sadly, in 1995 the lens was discontinued (Along with the legendary 50mm F1.0) and a lot of speculation had been built up as to why it was discontinued. Some say it had a technical flaw in it's AF system and wouldn't last rigorous use... a few people said it had too much vignetting wide open at 200mm and perhaps the 72mm filter thread opening was too small... and others said it was too expensive for Canon to make and was ahead of it's time (The same remarks for why the 50mm F1.0 was discontinued as well). Either way, it was one of the sharpest lenses Canon has ever made wide open and was ONLY bested in 2010 when the 70-200mm F2.8 L IS II came out, which arguably is only a tiny bit sharper wide open than the 80-200mm 2.8 from 1987.

    Today it's known as the 'Magic Drainpipe' among photography enthusiasts and retains prominence among photographers looking for amazing bang for buck. It's quite rare nowadays as they stopped making the lens in 1995, but perfect or near mint examples do pop up on eBay from Japan now and then and function fine mechanically. The copy I have is New Old Stock from 1993 and looks exactly like the day it rolled off the production line back then... performs the same way as well!

    The 'Magic Drainpipe' name came after notoriety of the lens looking and being 'as heavy as a real drainpipe'. It's pretty much solid metal to the core inner workings and is very hefty and well put together. There used to be a similarly built mid-range zoom lens the 28-80mm F2.8-4 L that sold alongside the 80-200mm nicknamed 'Mini Magic Drainpipe' but has failed to really be a cherished gem in this day and age.

    Getting back onto the 80-200mm... I bought the lens after hearing the hoopla on photography forums and it dawned on me that this would be a perfect match for cinematographers on a budget looking for that classic look. As I delved deeper and deeper in examining the lens, I'm convinced it's application for digital cinema is well worth the trouble in finding one.

    Anyway, lets get into the good bits and talk about why this lens matters for Cinema use.


    Why it's good:

    This zoom has a lot going for it not taking the drawbacks of it's availability and it's scarce availability of parts for repair.

    Firstly, it's a parfocal zoom. It holds focus perfect on subject from 80mm to 200mm. The zooming mechanics are a little bit spotty and the zoom ring doesn't have a dampened fluid feel to it, but it does work and coupled with a follow focus will give you a nice stable motion for zooming.

    Secondly, it's got incredible bokeh. This goes without saying as most Canon L telephoto zooms offer incredible out of focus quality and creaminess.

    Thirdly, focus rotation isn't too bad! At only 90 degrees it may be a deal killer for some but it's quite decent given that it is an autofocus lens.

    And lastly, it's got Zeiss quality micro-contrast and feel, and would pair EXCELLENTLY with AE or MM Contax lenses. Think of it like how Angenieux zooms pair excellently with Cooke primes... the same thing is going on here. Angy and Cooke lenses are not exactly the same, but they're very complimentary and offer similar look. Same thing goes for the 80-200 F2.8 L and Contax primes.

    Oh, and did I mention it was tack sharp at F2.8?

    The drawbacks:


    Breathing, close focus, mechanical noises and reparability.

    The breathing issue is pronounced if you're focusing from infinity to close focus. From my tests if you rack the focus alot you will see the image getting significantly smaller and larger, so if you're the kind who likes long focus pulls from subject to subject, this may not be the zoom for you.

    Close focusing is another issue as the MFD is only 1.8 meters. Again, maybe a deal killer for some, especially people wanting to do some close up 'macro' work.

    Mechanical noises are a bit of an issue for sound as my particular copy does make a bit of a friction sound (As if gears are rubbing against each other), but given how old this zoom is it was normal for the time.

    Reparability may be the biggest problem for many. If this lens goes kaput one day... you're basically left with two options. Convert the lens into a travel mug, a looking glass, or use it as an actual drainpipe... or find someone who will repair it and slap you with a huge bill for finding scarce parts.


    Conclusion:

    There you have it, I think I went over the history of the lens and why it's a solid choice to pick up. They used to retail for $1800 back in 1987. Today you can pick up the lens in factory mint condition (Provided you find one of that condition) for lens than $800. You can find used ones that are in rougher shape for less than $600... but the chance of that lens dying on you unexpectedly is a lot more and wouldn't be worth getting in my opinion (If you don't mind using the lens as a looking glass after something breaks inside).

    Happy shooting.

    Links:

    Ken Rockwell's Review

    Flickr Photo Group
    A more detailed history
    Last edited by Shervin Mandgaryan; 01-31-2013 at 01:04 AM.
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    Shervin Mandgaryan

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  2. #2  
    Senior Member Shervin Mandgaryan's Avatar
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    Image Samples:

    Note: These are basic unscientific tests comparing the Magic Drain Pipe against a Zeiss Contax prime at equal focal length and aperture. It's essentially designed to compare contrast, vignetting, color rendering, chromatic abberation and sharpness. Image samples are never scientific and nor did I have the intention in getting to the details. I did not use the Scarlet-X for testing as I found the AA filter present on the Scarlet does not give accurate sharpness for comparing photographic lenses, hence why I opted to take photos using the 5D Mark II instead. Neither lens had any filter in front to affect or otherwise impair image quality. I've also tried to include a bright highlight source and shadow in each example image.

    135mm F2.8 Image Samples:

    Without checking exif data on either image, can you tell which one is the zoom and prime? (Zoom is 80-200mm F2.8 at 135mm wide open, and prime is Contax Zeiss 135mm F2.8 wide open). These photographs are straight from camera without ANY processing or enhancements done.

    1st Example:

    Image A:

    Full Resolution: https://dl.dropbox.com/u/51913995/IMG_1531.jpg
    Raw CR2 File: https://dl.dropbox.com/u/51913995/IMG_1531.cr2

    Image B:

    Full Resolution: https://dl.dropbox.com/u/51913995/IMG_1535.jpg
    Raw CR2 File: https://dl.dropbox.com/u/51913995/IMG_1535.cr2

    2nd Example:

    Image B:

    Full Resolution: https://dl.dropbox.com/u/51913995/IMG_1537.jpg
    Raw CR2 File: https://dl.dropbox.com/u/51913995/IMG_1537.cr2

    Image A:

    Full Resolution: https://dl.dropbox.com/u/51913995/IMG_1540.jpg
    Raw CR2 File: https://dl.dropbox.com/u/51913995/IMG_1540.cr2
    Last edited by Shervin Mandgaryan; 03-19-2013 at 01:01 PM.
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  3. #3  
    I agree. I have had one for over 20 years and it has provided amazing stills and now video for the entire time. Plus it is really low profile compared to the white 70-200's that scream pro at work. Really really sharp and pretty light. Great lens for sure.
    Mike McEntire
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  4. #4  
    Senior Member Daniel Pearson's Avatar
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    Two examples on ebay as we speak

    http://www.ebay.com/itm/CANON-EF-ZOO...item337f61fc13

    http://www.ebay.com/itm/CANON-EF-USM...item337f802582

    Interesting alternative to the 70-200mm, thanks for the info.
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  5. #5  
    Senior Member Shervin Mandgaryan's Avatar
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    The sample shots that I'm going to get posted up soon will convince you guys it's a perfect match as a Zeiss zoom counterpart. I can't say they color match 100%, but the zoom performs very very close to my MMJ Contax set, it's a bit shocking really.
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  6. #6  
    Senior Member Nick Morrison's Avatar
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    Very cool review Shervin. Thanks!
    Nick Morrison
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  7. #7  
    Senior Member Samir Patel's Avatar
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    Shervin, can you post those samples. Considering this lens as an alternate to everything above 85mm in Contax.
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  8. #8  
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    Are these better or the same as the later versions ? How's the Chromatic Aberration when wide open ?- I've noticed that Canon can be less concerned about CA than other lens makers are. I'm in the market for something like this for a lens hacking experiment, too chicken to cut up a Leica 70-180 !

    Matt Uhry
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  9. #9  
    Senior Member Shervin Mandgaryan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Samir Patel View Post
    Shervin, can you post those samples. Considering this lens as an alternate to everything above 85mm in Contax.
    I haven't had access to my Scarlet in quite a long time... I was going to wait until I had a good few days with it to post some .r3d examples. If you don't want to wait I can shoot photo stills with my 5D MK II instead.

    Quote Originally Posted by Matt Uhry View Post
    Are these better or the same as the later versions ? How's the Chromatic Aberration when wide open ?- I've noticed that Canon can be less concerned about CA than other lens makers are. I'm in the market for something like this for a lens hacking experiment, too chicken to cut up a Leica 70-180 !

    Matt Uhry
    www.mattuhry.com
    There's very little CA wide open on the 80-200 2.8 L, not as pronounced as some Zeiss examples wide open but not entirely CA free either. The CA that's present anyway adds character and reduces the edge off highlight points... it's actually decently pleasing.

    In the typical Canon roundup of lenses from that era... this lens does not belong in the set. Something about it sets it very far apart from other Canon lenses at the time in terms of look... so I don't think the typical Canon lens attitude applies... it's on a league of it's own.
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  10. #10  
    Senior Member Shervin Mandgaryan's Avatar
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    Added a few image samples.
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