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Canon 200mm f/1.8: A Legendary Lens Known as the ‘Eye of Sauron’

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If you’d like to get your hands on a legendary Canon lens without having to take out a mortgage, the 200mm f/1.8 may be one to consider. Sometimes referred to as the “Eye of Sauron” — a Lord of the Rings reference — the 200mm f/1.8 only saw 8,000 produced during its run from 1988 through 2004.

Compared to the ultra-rare $180,000 1200mm f/5.6L, of which around 12 were made, the 200mm f/1.8 often shows up on the market and a used one can be purchased for around $3,000 to $4,000 these days. Not bad for a lens touted as the fastest 200mm lens ever produced.

Of the 8,000 units out there, horse racing photographer Jim Anderson owns 7 of them. Anderson is the same photographer who shoots photo finishes with his ultra-rare Canon 300mm f/1.8.

He originally paid $5,000 for each of the used lenses and had them shipped from Japan. His main everyday camera kit these days is one of these 200mm f/1.8 lenses mounted on his Canon 6D DSLR.

“I have 5 in use for photo finish at any one time, another for back up, and one for personal use” Anderson tells PetaPixel. “Absolutely fantastic lens. I hand hold mine for pics, and that can be a little tough.”

The 200mm f/1.8 weighs 6.6 pounds (3.01kg) just by itself, and the lens hood adds another .5 pounds (.23kg). The lens also measures 8.2 inches (~20.8cm) long without the hood, and 12.8 inches (32.5cm) long with the hood attached.

By comparison, the Canon 200mm f/2.8L II is just 5.4 inches (13.7cm) long and weighs just 1.68 lb (.765kg).

Want to see what the 200mm f/1.8 can do? Here are some photos Anderson shot using it:

“I mostly shoot racehorse pics, even on my own time,” Anderson says. “Also, I do not have Photoshop. I do not shoot in raw. Every photo is with the camera being handheld. I do not have a tripod or monopod. Any nighttime and indoor photo is shot using available light.”

Here’s another interesting fact about the 200mm f/1.8: the lens uses a “focus by wire” system in which the focus ring drives the motor while you’re focusing in manual mode (as opposed to the focus ring directly causing the lens to adjust focus through mechanical means). Other non-STM Canon lenses that use this “focus by wire” system are the 50mm f/1.0, the 85mm f/1.2, and the legendary 1200mm f/5.6.


Correction: We originally stated that the 1200mm f/5.6 was the only other Canon lens with “focus by wire.” There are a number of others, which we’ve now edited the text to reflect.


Image credits: Photographs by Jim Anderson and used with permission

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