Whenever manufacturers release refreshes of their products, you know that this newer version will have to dazzle to rake in any sales, as it must also compete with its predecessor. That is exactly what we see here, with the MK1 and MK2 being two incarnations of a luxurious telephoto lens. The MK2 adds the USM moniker, a surprising but welcome addition. It’s important to take a good look at the differences between the two, because at first glance, there isn’t much to tell.
Side by Side
One distinct advantage that the newer lens has is a more precise autofocus system. This can be evidenced by the autofocus range switch, which is partitioned into two modes on the Mark I, 2.5 meters to infinity, and 4m to infinity. The Mark II has its second range start at 3.5 meters, showing that focusing through its entire range now takes even less time, around a third of a second to be specific. The USM tag means that the newer lens operates in silence, with no clicks or grinds to be heard, no matter how hard you may try. This feature may fall upon deaf ears however, as telephoto shots are usually taken further away from the action, well out of the audible range of even clunky optics. One thing to note however is that the newer MKII ships with a lens hood, caps, and a soft case, whereas consumers of the first edition will not be as well treated.
There is one reason, however, that the MKI is an unquestionable underdog, and that is the sale price. The first edition can be had for around $1600 on eBay, more than 30% off what you will find new lenses for. At this difference, your decision will revolve mostly around whether you prefer new or used, as not many would argue that the silent improvements to an already fantastic AF system is worth $800 on its own. To those who are apprehensive about used hardware, especially for such an investment, consider that this lens is so sturdy that can be dropped off countertops and still live to be one of the better telephoto lenses that you’ve ever used. This benefit alone ensures you won’t need to replace it in the near future.
Whatever the decision may come down to for you, one thing is for certain; you will not be disappointed with the purchase of either lens, old or new.