Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM Zoom Lens
In a series I’ll eventually call “What’s in my bag!” I will be reviewing those things found in my bag for various shoots, all gear related. This will be the only “intro” to such a review, the others will be straight to the point.
I decided on this lens for two reasons. 1) I needed something within the 24-70 focal length, and 2) I needed f/2.8 capabilities. Would I love this lens to be f/2.0? You bet. Would I love IS? You bet. And would I love the lens to weigh less? No, though some people complain about the weight.
Let’s look into the focal length, which is one of those questions that comes up in the forums frequently: What lens should I get? A Canon 24-70 or the 24-105? Well, first of all, when you are selecting lenses, aside from aperture, focal length is usually the first or send item on the list of requirements. I use the word requirements due to the fact that most people blindly go in for a purchase without understanding their needs and requirements. You should understand your subject distance before selecting the appropriate lens. In this case, 24-70 isn’t a huge FL, so you should want to keep within that range, and move the rest with your feet for when you need more. If taking FL at face value, the 24-105 seems like a better choice giving JUST that much more reach, and at a cheaper price. And maybe you are the type of user who needs that extra reach, but is willing to sacrifice a couple stops as a result. Now is a great time to segway into aperture…
Aperture is by far the second, or in some cases, the first requirement in a lens. If you find you shoot more low light (read, not ULTRA low light) photography, then you want to maximize the speed of your lens with a wider aperture, such as f/2.8 versus f/4, found on the 24-105. For most of the day outside, f/4 is plenty. Once you step inside, or approach evening or dawn, you will quickly find some of the limitations of f/4 (not counting bokeh). If your camera can produce higher ISO that is clean, then f/4 could potentially work for you. Otherwise, You have to invest into the aperture you need.
Okay, circling back around, I knew my FL was for indoor 1-4 people group shots, such as a wedding or event, and that since it was indoor, I needed versatility of a zoom, as well as a wide aperture like f/2.8. Knowing that, my choices became smaller, and short of doing a prime setup, decided to go with the 24-70. I really didn’t need anything wider than 24, and my 70-200 2.8 IS II would cover the longer FL range. Again, once you understand your requirements, it makes it VERY easy to select a lens. If people can get this concept, then we’d all be a lot better off. Of course, manufacturers have sometimes several choices of lenses to choose from.
Enough about selection. Now that I have the lens, I can do some testing and see how sharp the copy is on my Canon 1D Mark II. Out of camera results were pretty amazing, and I have not only the original which you can view at a medium resolution, but also corner and center shots labeled below.
Canon 24-70 @ 70mm f/3.2, Center Sharpness 100%
Canon 24-70 @ 70mm f/3.2, Top Left Corner Sharpness 100%
Canon 24-70 @ 70mm f/3.2, Top Right Corner Sharpness 100%
Canon 24-70 @ 70mm f/3.2, Bottom Left Corner Sharpness 100%
Canon 24-70 @ 70mm f/3.2, Bottom Right Corner Sharpness 100%
I’d say this lens is sharp, but here is my disclaimer: If you cruise the forums, you may notice a trend with the Canon 24-70 2.8L USM in that copy to copy, there may be calibration issues, even on new copies. Not to mention that a new version may be coming soon. Thankfully through some testing, I can determine that the copy I have is very sharp. YMMV.
Positives & Negatives
The positives are clear. f/2.8, a solid FL range for a multitude of applications, macro capabilities, solid construction, and a good lens to mate with a 1D series camera. The quality of optics are spot on, and very sharp (see notes above). The lens feels very solid, and while the barrel does extend out the front, the front element does not rotate. So circular polarizers and ND filter users will not have a problem using this lens.
If you’ve read this far, mine as well toss out the negatives. It’s a heavy lens, and will not work well for everyone. Copy to copy sharpness may vary as well, so keep that in mind if you are shopping around.
It’s not cheap, coming in with a street price of around $1,200 used, and $1,550 new. You really would only buy it if you need f/2.8, otherwise the very sharp 24-105 is a fantastic lens. But when you beed f/2.8, you NEED f/2.8. Focal length would be great if it went a pinch further on the long end, but not a deal breaker. Some people will complain about weight, and copy variations however, do your homework and test samples when you can.
Let me know if you found this information useful, or if you’d like to see more samples.