Epic fail? 70-200s of all makes among least reliable lenses


Which words spring to mind when you think about 70-200mm zoom lenses – solid and dependable or fragile and unreliable? Lenrentals’ Roger Cicala has just published an analysis of the failure rates of the 12,000 lenses he rents out, and the results may surprise you. Even having taken into account popularity and accidental damage, five 70-200s turn up in his highest failure rate table – including the latest models from Canon and Nikon.

As always with Roger’s work, we’d recommend reading his entire article before commenting – partly because he openly discusses the inherent weaknesses and gaps of his analyses, but mainly because it’s really interesting.

A picture of complexity – between the optics and the case of this Canon 70-200mm you’ll find gearing to reverse the movement of turning the zoom ring, along with a small screw for adjusting the tilt of one of the lens elements – as well as all the electronics and motors you might expect. Picture courtesy of Lensrentals

Even having removed instances of the lenses being damaged, Cicala found the Nikon 70-200mm F2.8 VR II, Sigma 70-200mm F2.8 OS, Canon 70-200mm F2.8 IS II, 70-200mm F4 IS and Sony 70-200mm F2.8 to be amongst the eighteen lenses that last the least amount of rental weeks between requiring servicing. Indeed all of them needed repairing nearly twice as often as the average lens (which would last for a little over 100 rental weeks between services).

So why is it these reputedly ‘bomb-proof’ workhorses need constant maintenance? A closer look at the Lenrentals figures sheds a little light on some specifics – 40% of failures of the Nikkor come from jammed zoom mechanisms, while all the Sonys suffered from AF motor failures, suggesting some of the problems stem from specific design flaws.

A close-up of that adjustment screw – just one of many widgets-per-cubic-centimeter typical in a 70-200mm lens. Picture courtesy of Lensrentals

We spoke to Cicala, wondering whether it was their very reputation for durability that was the 70-200’s undoing. ‘I think that’s part of it’ he agrees: ‘they tend to be hard-use lenses, with sporting events and action shooting being the order of the day.’

We also wondered whether it was a consequence of shipping such large, heavy lenses around – something Cicala had also considered: ‘they are heavy and when they bang into a table, hanging from a neck strap, or get dropped during shipping, that’s a lot of momentum jarring the insides.’

But there’s more to it than this, he suggests: ‘supertelephoto primes are also heavy and get shipped just as much but they hardly ever fail. This could be because they tend to be monopod or tripod mounted, and people baby them (they’re aware that dropping a rented 600mm f/4 IS would cost a fortune), but I don’t think that explains the whole difference.’

The final factor, he says, is complexity: ‘When we disassemble any of the 70-200 F2.8s, the insides are exceedingly robust and well put together, but they’re also probably the most complex as far as widgets-per-cubic centimeter of any lens. The supertele primes aren’t nearly as jam-packed – there’s a lot more space between components, usually.’

So, while Cicala’s data doesn’t allow us to pin-down precisely why his 70-200s keep failing, it’s something worth considering, before you consider actually trying to use your 70-200mm to hammer nails in.


Franka T.L.

No surprise again. The complexity itself, together with the hard use and likely the rough handling these lens had to endure , and not to mention that they are still Zoom, and thus build less so bulky and heavy duty as their fix focal contemporary behemoths. All that would contribute to them fail more often.

Take a look at the Canon 70-200 of all 3 of them and now take a look at the Same Mfr’s 200mm/2.8 lens. Now figure, the Mfr had to squeeze all those glass, mechanicals and all inside a barrel not really significantly larger than that of the fix focal .. Its no wonder they would lens per lens not so laden up.

Yes there are inherent fault , might be , in and among the design, but we users also had ourselves to blame. We want the speed, the IS, the so and so, and so and so, and yet we would not accept that they need to be build much heftier and solid. Somthing just have to give , right


When I was renting lenses, the one that went back most to the CPS (Canon Professional Service) was the 100-400 IS.
That does not necessarily means it’s weak, but may be that the users are clumsy…

Fog Maker

Another b*llsh*t article by Roger. The man’s been instrumental in giving the Canon 24-70 (I) a bad reputation it doesn’t deserve (it rates better than the 70-200). And every time someone ask a question about it, some brainless individual links to that article-

Its of course a double win for Roger. Since people will always be hesitant to buy an expensive item, which is rumoured to be prone to failure and chances are they may rather rent it. And as we all know, increased traffic on his site will of course generate money in itself.

He is a businessman with no interest in doing anyone any favours. Remember that before buying into his unscientific crap.

The 24-70 and 70-200 are his money makers-

(that people don’t take sufficient care of rentals is another question altogether)




I wonder how the Panasonic 35-100mm F2.8 lens fares. It would be interesting to see if it is more reliable because of its much smaller size.


I’m sure Roger is thrilled that his work has been filed under “Epic Fail”.


Thank you, doctorbza! That just made my day 🙂
I’m sure a lot of people file most of my work under “Epic Fail”.


Why no mention of the Tamron 70-200 versions? Do you rent the Tamron 70-200?


It wasn’t on the list (5% most repaired). We’ve only had the 70-200 f/2.8 VC in stock for 6 months or so, though, so it’s early to say much other than looking good so far.


This article makes more sense and is more serious than the one when on June 13, 2013 he got “inTouit with a new Zeiss lens”.

This article even throws a new light on the force that drives Cicala into his passion of dismantling lens systems. I can understand him now.

Central Fla

Does this take into account that the lenses are heavier than most and each time they are rented they have to be shipped through the dreaded 3. I cringe having to ship my stuff once let alone a hundred times and that does not even take into consideration the “rental car” mentality of the customers. The big 3 shippers in the U.S. are terrible, and the fact that a heavy lens last 100 weeks is a testimant to their build.


If you read the last third of this article, you would know that they already considered weight as a possible factor. The significantly heavier telephoto primes aren’t repaired nearly as often.

I’ve rented from Lens Rentals, and their packaging is well padded enough that even the worst US shipper would have to go out of their way to damage the contents.

Central Fla


I wonder if those big primes are in bigger boxes ?

Erik Magnuson

This is mostly a “duh”. 21 elements in 16 groups (Nikon) or 23 elements in 19 groups (Canon) means these are some of the most complex lenses in common use.


Those elements are in four groups, one of which is stationary, and three which move together (focus, zoom, and stabilization). Compared to any other zoom lens with stabilization, there is no more mechanical complexity there. Lenses that extend during zooming are likely far more complicated designs, especially the Nikon pro normal zooms that contract first then extend as you zoom in.


The best is to read the original post of Roger before concluding anything. The original post is not as strong in conclusions as this one. Why?


Because inflammatory headlines are clickbait.


Apparently problem is more pronounced with 70-200 f/2.8… Seems It’s safer to hammer nails in with 70-200 f/4.


the use of the f2.8 should be restricted to pressing garlic.


That’s EXACTLY what I thought each time a client brought back a broken 100-400 : Why do they use it to hammer nails ?
Small world 😉


somewhere there must be people wondering why their hammers can’t take good photos.


I know both their previous versions can easily go wrong but people usually handle new ones with care.


Having just had my Nikkor 70-200 f2.8 VRII repaired at a cost of AU$850 to replace a failed focus motor control PCB and VR mechanism and also having to have my previous Nikkor 70-200 f2.8 VRI repaired for a sticking aperture I can only think that the report is fairly accurate.


so… buy Voigtlander lens, then…

Random Asian Guy

Has something different happened to dpreview recently? I already follow sonyalpharumors and LensRentals and 2 out of the 3 latest posts I’ve already read about.

Is dpreview really running out of their own articles?

Der Steppenwolf

Why create when you can just change some frases, add some fluff and call it an “article”.
Welcome to internet age.


This generates more clicks. Look at the phrasing about it being crucial to click through before commenting — clicks are ads, and ads are money. Content is irrelevant; eyeballs on the content are all that matters.


I miss the old dpreview, when it was almost entirely about reviewing cameras and lenses. None of this ‘reblogging’ and endless social networking. Oh yeah, and clicking on the review actually took you right to the review.

Marco Cinnirella

Tamron’s 6 year warranty is sounding more appealing if you are going for a 70-200 f2.8 than chancing it with a Canon, Sony or Nikon lens and, at most, a 2 year warranty?


Nikon gives 5 years on US lenses.


Wow. If you read the actual article he clearly describes why that one has more logged fails – because it’s a complex lens that is rented out a phenomenal amount.

What crappy, sensationalist headline grabbing reporting dpreview.

Poor show.


….I am shocked by your shockedness


And this article clearly states that, before commenting, the reader would be wise to read the ENTIRE original article. Did you miss that part?


If you read the actual article, you’ll see that he normalizes for the amount of time the lenses are rented. He uses a metric called “rental weeks per failure” so 70-200mm lenses really are less reliable than other name brand lenses.

Source Article from http://www.dpreview.com/news/2013/08/13/epic-fail-lensrentals-finds-70-200s-including-canon-nikon-to-be-some-of-the-least-reliable