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Author Topic: Primes vs. zooms  (Read 13680 times)
BobMcCarthy
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« on: May 20, 2005, 10:35:26 AM »
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Jonathon, I agree with you regarding the dust issue.

I don't have a basketful of old lenses left over from the film days so I thought I ask others if they tried. I'm quite sure the issue is the same for both Canon and Nikon owners and its only a wide issue as tele's work just fine.

I like to keep a camera with me at all times. Like most here, I own a weighty chest of lenses for all times and places.

These high pixel cameras are just amazing and put me finally off film. But film was simple. My M2 was set on 1/125 @ f11 with high res film Chrome 64 or Vel50. It was zone focused (hyperfocal) and I carried a Luna Pro. I do an incident reading for HLights and if needed a reflected reading for the shadows.

One camera - one lens, simplicity itself. This is for the fun side of my life.

I'm going to buy a 20mm, probably mf. I may run the camera on M exposure mode for grins. Agreed its massive overkill to use a pro body and if I had a choice, I go with something lighter and more basic.

I'm sure there coming. The latest generation of high rez sensors has changed the game completely. 6-8 doesnt get it for me (film can be a viable option), 12.4 is a whole new world. (BTW, sub 11 and 16.7 where appropriate)

Bob
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jani
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« Reply #1 on: May 22, 2005, 02:31:19 PM »
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If I were still a Canon user, I would prefer the 70-200 f/4 L over its two pounds heavier f/2.8 big brother, and likewise the 17-40/4L over the 16-35/2.8L.
I recently bought the 70-200 f/2.8L IS. Yes, it's heavy. But the IS makes it usable at 200mm with the reduced frame of the 20D.

I've tested with and without IS for my continuing sunset fascination. I really can't see how I'd get enough keepers without IS, especially when I've got the 1.4 Extender on.

So as long as I want to capture images througout the range, the weight problem is mostly irrelevant to me.


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Maybe there should be a 28-70 f/4 L to fill out the high quality f/4 zoom range?
Yes, that would be nice, if it was as good as the f/2.8L optically!

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The 18-85 EF-S is close I suppose.
Except for being EF-S, of course.
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Jan
BJL
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« Reply #2 on: May 23, 2005, 10:30:53 AM »
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I recently bought the 70-200 f/2.8L IS. ... the IS makes it usable at 200mm with the reduced frame of the 20D.

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The 18-85 EF-S is close I suppose.
Except for being EF-S, of course.
Clearly IS is useful for you and many other people, but not much for my style. A monopod or tripod when needed is enough for me, and I can leave that extra weight behind when not needed, whereas the extra weight of IS (and f/2.Cool is always there.

And since you are using a 20D, why is EF-S vs EF an issue, apart from the likelihood that a competently designed lens optimized for the format and sensor type in use is likely to perform better than a lens designed for some other format, and maybe for a different sensor type (film)?
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BobMcCarthy
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« Reply #3 on: May 23, 2005, 05:57:01 PM »
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I was just crusing photozone and the thought crossed my mind. In the old days, the zooms get rated as a group and the primes separately as their own group(standard). The standards were not the same as a zoom was expected to have lower resolution/optical quality than a prime.

Is the ratings at Photozone or at Bjorn Rorslett site still infulenced by the same mind set or different expectations?

I see quite a few 5's in zooms and mostly 4's in the better primes.

Is the standard different?

Bob
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Ray
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« Reply #4 on: May 24, 2005, 07:43:20 PM »
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Checking the reviews on the net I see once again there is total disagreement regarding the quality of the EF-S 17-85. Some people find it sharper than their 17-40, others find it no where near as sharp. Dear me!

Some reviewers do appear to have successfully used 1/6 and 1/8sec shutter speeds though. Could be useful in those Italian museums that don't permit flash or tripod.
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Ray
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« Reply #5 on: May 25, 2005, 07:04:31 PM »
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I never tried handheld at those speeds, but I would not even think of trying that because that is the sweet spot for mirror vibration. Why ask for trouble?
That's a good point I never considered. However, I guess untuitively I thought that grasping a camera firmly with both hands and pressing to it one's face might be a very effective method of dampening mirror vibration  Huh
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DiaAzul
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« Reply #6 on: May 26, 2005, 07:04:40 PM »
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There is one new, fast stabilized 200mm prime aimed at use with "DSL formats", the Nikon 200/2 VR. Probably Nikon has more interest than Canon in a fast lens at that focal length, since they are aiming their new top level lenses at use with DX format, while Canon's best lenses are probably still aimed mostly at use with EOS-1 digital family, so 35mm or 1.3x format.
The only two lenses I can remember that Canon have brought out recently for 1-series cameras are the 400mm DO and the 70-300DO. I suspect part of the reason for a lack of new lenses targeted at the 1-series camera is a desire on Canon's part to perfect the DO technology such that it provides them with a differentiator in the marketplace. As to 200mm on a Canon a prime it would have to be going some to beat the quality of the 70-200 zoom lenses, perhaps having wider apeture would be the differentiator. Now a 200mm/f1.2 DO IS lens at half the weight and size of the zoom may be interesting.
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David Plummer    http://photo.tanzo.org/
BobMcCarthy
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« Reply #7 on: May 27, 2005, 09:08:47 AM »
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There is one topic we haven't hit upon. That is the extra light being bounced around inside the mirror box/lens by significant overcoverage of the sensor and the fact the sensor itself is hmmmm 'reflective' and throws light back. I can see where the new design DX lenses can minimize the impact. I'm assuming the older primes have more of an issue.

Is this true or is the problem more theory than reality?

bob
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jani
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« Reply #8 on: May 30, 2005, 03:15:48 PM »
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They certainly could have limited it to the the reduced frame cameras they already had, the D30, D60 and 10D; they could have done something like what Nikon, Pentax, Konica-Minolta, Sigma, Tamron and Tokina are all doing: design a 17-something lens for the "APS-C" image circle, compatable with their existing EF mount.
Well, judging from what I've read of the 17-40L, it seems that it's a lens doing exactly this; it's optimized for a reduced image circle (up to the APS-H -- 1.3x -- models), yet utilizes the same mount.

Someone please correct me if this impression is wrong.

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That less extrem wide angle design would have allowed some combination of lower cost, lower weight, and less restricted zoom range, and would have been of great benefit to owners of their early 1.6x DSLR models.
Compared to the 16-35L (and formerly, the 17-35L), the 17-40L certainly has a greater zoom range (a minute difference, I agree), lower cost (this difference is significant) and lower weight (475g vs 600g for the 16-35L).

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In fact I have still seen no good explanation of why the shorter back focus of EF-S designs is useful, apart from some mild cost savings mostly relevant to lower level lenses
I thought the shorter back focus also made it easier to cut down on weight and made optics a bit easier to handle.

The EF-S 10-22 weighs only 385g, and is insanely wide for a zoom. But no more so than the 16-35mm is for a FF 35mm sensor.

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Another intermediate option might have been making it cover up to 1.3x, with a bit more zoom range like 17-50 possible due to the less extreme wide angle design, to give 1D owners a more useful wide angle option.
That's what's sad about using a 1D (MkI or MkII), you just won't get a really wide angle zoom from Canon. But could they even have made something similar to the 10-22 viable for the APS-H format? From what I see in my own pictures, the vignetting is already significant with a 20D, a 1D would make it awful.

I guess the complaints about the qualities of the 10-22 on a 1D MkII would be similar to the ones seen on naturfotograf.no about the 17-40L used on a 1Ds MkII.

It's a good thing we can turn to Sigma and Tamron, no?
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Jan
BJL
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« Reply #9 on: May 30, 2005, 03:58:35 PM »
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Well, judging from what I've read of the 17-40L, it seems that it's a lens doing exactly this; it's optimized for a reduced image circle (up to the APS-H -- 1.3x -- models), yet utilizes the same mount.

Someone please correct me if this impression is wrong.

Compared to the 16-35L (and formerly, the 17-35L), the 17-40L certainly has a greater zoom range (a minute difference, I agree), lower cost (this difference is significant) and lower weight (475g vs 600g for the 16-35L).

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In fact I have still seen no good explanation of why the shorter back focus of EF-S designs is useful, apart from some mild cost savings mostly relevant to lower level lenses
I thought the shorter back focus also made it easier to cut down on weight and made optics a bit easier to handle.

The EF-S 10-22 weighs only 385g, and is insanely wide for a zoom. But no more so than the 16-35mm is for a FF 35mm sensor.
The 17-40 is a 35mm format ultra-wide lens, even if partly intended for used as a moderately wide lens after 1.6x crop. Canon describes it as "ideal for both film and digital SLRs" at http://consumer.usa.canon.com/ir....id=8940 anf gives MTF urves al teh way to 22mm radius.

Its zoom range of 2.3x is good for an ultra-wide zoom, but unusually narrow for a moderate wide to moderate telephoto (which is what it becomes after a 1.6x crop).

To see the cost, weight and zoom range limitations of having to produce an ultrawide 35mm format image at 17mm, compare to the Pentax 16-45 f/4, which has a wider focal length range in both directions, with the same minimum f-stop, and is substantially lighter and less expensive. Or compare to the Olympus 14-54 f/2.8-3.5, which again goes to shorter and longer focal lengths, with substantially larger maximum apertures, and again is lighter and cheaper.

The 17-40 f/4 is lighter than the 16-35 f/2.8 largely because it is one stop slower, which roughly halves the size (area) of the front elements.

The EF-S 10-22 again saves weight by having quite small maximum apertures, f/3.5-4.5; I see no evidence that short back-focus design is a major factor in this. It is only 100g lighter than the slightly faster and longer Nikon 12-24 f/4, or the even faster Olympus 11-22 f/2.8-3.5; both of those are very highly rated for their optical performance too.

And to repeat, given the very good optical performance of lenses like the Nikon 12-24 and the various highly retro-focus Olympus Four Thirds format lenses, I have not yet seen any evidence that short back-focus has much benefit as far as making "optics a bit easier to handle".
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RobertJ
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« Reply #10 on: June 27, 2005, 04:27:56 PM »
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The widest I have right now is a Zeiss 28mm f/2.8 Distagon that I'm using on my 20D (which makes it not so wide).  For something even wider, I'm about to pick up a Zeiss 18mm f/4 Distagon that should work out quite nicely.  But I do hope that Canon comes out with some nice wide primes in the future, otherwise, I'm using Zeiss instead.
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BobMcCarthy
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« Reply #11 on: August 03, 2005, 02:47:36 PM »
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I guess I can blame it on Didger. He talked about buying an old manual focus 35/f2 for his d2x. About a month ago, I was in my primary camera store. I was looking at the used lens display and saw a pristeen old AIS 28/f2.0 and said what the heck, and bought it with the agreement from the store that if I wasn't happy, bring it back.

I have an obstacle course in the back yard where I do lens testing. Includes the typical brick walls, birding (with fake birds) setups, highlight targets, shadow targets.

well the 28 passed with flying colors. Small(compared to AF anyway), and sharp. Got me thinking. Since then I bought a AI 20mm f/4 (might be the best lens I've ever see at this FL), a AIS 85/f1.4 (little soft at 1.4 (usable), amazing from f2.8 to f16 where it starts going soft again) and a 50-135 (rare bird, only built for 2 years) which is as good as any tele zoom I've owned Canon L or Nikon ED. With the crop factor its a 75-200 on the DX and is sooo much smaller that the AF70-210/2.8 VR I own.

The only bust I have seen is a 105/2.5 that has the rep of being one of Nikons very best, well not this one anyway. Dealer took it back w/o question.

The amazing thing is I now have a very light walking kit, which cost me bubkus compared to their AF brothers, don't consume battery and are nearly indestructable.

Its nice that the D2x allows full metering and focus (light) with these old jewels. No more chipping, etc required

Bob
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BobMcCarthy
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« Reply #12 on: May 19, 2005, 08:58:00 AM »
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My question is not motivated by the idea that primes "are better" than zooms. That's old think, but now the question is "are primes as good" as zooms.

My 17-55 works well, but I have "Zoom" shoulder. My favorite way to relax on the occasional free weekend is to walk/hike with my family and carry a Leica M2 w/ 2 lenses, a 35 and a 90. Often the 90 stays home.

I was willing to scan film up to about 6 mpxls or so. The D2x just shut that down. I'm trying to get lightweight with the D2x. Yes I know the 12 mpxl D200 is coming. Until then, I'm thinking of a 20 or 24 if I can get good performance. I tried it with a 50/1.4 last weekend and it was a pleasure to carry compared to the D2x/17-55/70-200 kit that is my base setup.
Even leaving out the 70-200 doesn't get me there'

Unlike many here I don't own any legacy lenses. I was a Canon user for ever. I got caught up ($-killed) in the FD to EOS changeover. I stayed mf for years, quite happily I should add. I bought a 10D and a couple of L's to dip my toe in to digital. When the new Canon reduced format lenses hit and the 10D wasn't compatable, I threw a hissy fit and dumped Canon. I must be the only guy on the planet changing in that direction at the time.

The D2x killed my MF (2 1/4) setup and it went away.

I'm just tired of the weight.

Bob
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BJL
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« Reply #13 on: May 20, 2005, 12:28:56 PM »
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It seems that the reasons for using primes apply mainly when large apertures are wanted: primes go larger, and zooms with large maximum apertures tend to be heavy beasts, and resolve worse at those large apertures than a prime at equal aperture.

But for those of us who are almost always stopping down for a fair amount of DOF and are not greatly concerned with speed, there is a great attraction to using zoom lenses of good quality but only moderately large maximum apertures. The ever increasing usable ISO speeds of DSLRs make such zoom lenses usable in an ever larger range of situations.

If I were still a Canon user, I would prefer the 70-200 f/4 L over its two pounds heavier f/2.8 big brother, and likewise the 17-40/4L over the 16-35/2.8L. Maybe there should be a 28-70 f/4 L to fill out the high quality f/4 zoom range? The 18-85 EF-S is close I suppose.

As it is, with Four Thirds, my 14-54 f/2.8-3.5 is sufficiently light, fast and versatile that I would gain almost nothing by carrying one or two primes instead. (Except for macro performance, which is my only reason for contemplating a prime.)
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RobertJ
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« Reply #14 on: May 22, 2005, 03:08:33 PM »
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or would you prefer to cherry-pick the focal lengths you use and put up with the hassle of changing lenses while shooting and increased dust ingress, as well as the limitation of available focal lengths.
I'm definitely a cherry-picker.  I carry around a 35mm f/1.4L, 50mm f/1.4, 85mm f/1.8, and a 135mm f/2L.  This is mostly for shooting people at events, or candids.

If I was a photojournalist, or nature/wildlife type of guy, I'd probably have more zooms and fewer primes.  And if I did more landscapes, I'd probably stick with one ultrawide prime, and some zooms.  I personally enjoy shooting with primes more than zooms, and I'm usually shooting almost wide open, so the dust hasn't been a problem in my images, however, the sensor IS pretty dirty.  Needs a cleanin'.
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Jonathan Wienke
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« Reply #15 on: May 22, 2005, 10:44:03 PM »
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Cheap zooms really suck. But good zooms (like the 70-200L in any flavor or the 24-70/2.8L) aren't really giving up that much to primes. A 70-200 @ 200mm will give you a better print than the 135/2L on the same camera at the same distance cropped to match FOV. The crop necessary for the 135/2L shot will throw away more detail than you lose by "downgrading" to the 70-200/2.8L IS. I have both lenses, and though the 135/2L is better, it sits in my bag most of the time and the 70-200/2.8L IS is the default lens on my 1Ds. But I'm a bit obsessive about getting the composition as right as possible in-camera so that the only cropping I have to do is to change aspect ratio (like 8x10 prints).
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BJL
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« Reply #16 on: May 23, 2005, 05:07:48 PM »
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Jani,

   that is a fairly good summary on EF-S: backward compatability with Canon film cameras, and the slight chance of upgrading to a larger format Canon mount DSLR, and thus having to sell EF-S lenses to one of the vast number of other photographers still using EF-S bodies.

The latter really would not worry me; it is the same remote and unlikley prospect as having to change lenses if I changed from 35mm to medium format in film. Putting up in the meantime with the typically lower MTF of cropped larger format lenses seems a false economy. However, as Canon has not yet provided MTF graphs for the 17-85 or 10-22 EF-S lenses, I suppose it is not quite sure that they do have that expected better MTF performance.
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jani
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« Reply #17 on: May 25, 2005, 01:53:39 AM »
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Checking the reviews on the net I see once again there is total disagreement regarding the quality of the EF-S 17-85. Some people find it sharper than their 17-40, others find it no where near as sharp. Dear me!
I'm not surprised, since I've seen varying reports regarding the quality of the 17-40 also.

It looks like most of the people who think that the 17-40 is very good or excellent, are those owning a camera with an APS-C sized sensor, though.

My sample of the 17-40 is reasonably sharp, even toward the edges, but I see that the quality is lower there. There is no way I could bring myself to use this lens on a FF 35mm digital, if I don't want the periphery to be soft.

There probably is some sample variation in the 17-40, and definitely for the 17-85, so comparing two of them isn't enough to get a meaningful result.

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Some reviewers do appear to have successfully used 1/6 and 1/8sec shutter speeds though. Could be useful in those Italian museums that don't permit flash or tripod.
Yes, absolutely. At 1/6 or 1/8 shutter speed, I could take a few pictures of churches indoors, at least at ISO 1600. Probably not the famous one in Milan, though.
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Jan
John Camp
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« Reply #18 on: May 25, 2005, 09:34:06 PM »
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Bob,

For the kind of stuff I do, zooms have always been good enough, and so undeniably handy, that I rarely used anything else. There's also the dust issue which almost drove me crazy with the D1x and the Kodak SLRn, and probably will with the D2x (I got one a few weeks ago) if I'm forced to change lenses very often. There's a great deal to be said for keeping your DSLR sealed when outside...

However, I just yesterday bought a Nikor PC Micro 85mm F2.8; and whoa! What a neat lens. You can do nice portraits while walking with your family, etc., but if you want to sit down and take a minute, and shoot that carpet of wildflowers with the kid in the background, or the water lilies with the cabin...you ain't gonna do that with a zoom. So this and the 105 micro for small-object photography are going to be my exceptions to the zoom rule...

I will say that the PC micro 85 is no lightweight. The lens case looks like the crown of a tophat.

JC
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BJL
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« Reply #19 on: May 26, 2005, 06:25:55 PM »
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Is it only me, or are there others who think there's a hole in the prime lens lineup around 200mm? Sure, there's that chunk of L glass, but there's no IS! I'd really like a 200mm prime with IS. But maybe everybody who wants that just buys the 300mm f/4L IS instead.
I suppose you mean 200mm for the mainstream "DSLR" formats, not 35mm, since fast 200mm primes in 35mm format have gone out of fashion, with 70-200 f/2.8 stabilized zooms taking over I suppose. Maybe the prime weight advantage I talked about only really pays off at even longer focal lengths, 300mm and up.

There is one new, fast stabilized 200mm prime aimed at use with "DSL formats", the Nikon 200/2 VR. Probably Nikon has more interest than Canon in a fast lens at that focal length, since they are aiming their new top level lenses at use with DX format, while Canon's best lenses are probably still aimed mostly at use with EOS-1 digital family, so 35mm or 1.3x format.
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