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Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM Lens Review

Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM Lens Review - Gary Wolstenholme reviews the EF 24-70mm f/2.8L professional standard zoom lens from Canon.

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Category : Interchangeable Lenses
Product : Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM
Price : £969
Rating :
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Features and Handling
Performance
Verdict
Specification
Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM
First introduced in 2002, this ageing professional standard zoom from Canon costs around £960 and sports weather sealed build, a fast constant f/2.8 maximum aperture and ultrasonic focusing with full-time manual override.

Third party offerings include Sigma's 24-70mm f/2.8 IF EX DG HSM, which costs around £640 and Tamron's SP AF 28-75mm f/2.8 XR Di, which costs around £360. The Sigma also features a silent focusing motor, whereas the Tamron doesn't and neither lens has the weather sealing of the Canon optic.

Here we'll investigate whether this optic from Canon still holds its own despite being around almost a decade.

Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM: Handling and features

Weighing 950g the 24-70 is quite a weighty lens for its size, especially when compared to third party equivalents. For the extra weight, you get a ruggedly built optic with weather sealing designed for daily professional use. A rubber gasket is located around the lens mount to prevent dust and moisture from getting into the camera.

Standard 77mm filters can be fitted via the front filter thread and focusing is performed internally, so the front element does not rotate, making use of polarising filters simple. The lens does extend during zooming and is at its longest at the 24mm setting. This action is hidden away when the supplied petal shaped hood is fitted, as the front element moves back and forth inside the hood.

Zooming is fairly smooth, requiring little force to move it through the range. There is just enough mechanical friction to prevent zoom creep although the zoom mechanism is looser at the telephoto end than at the wide end. The manual focus ring is well damped, which helps when making fine adjustments.

Thanks to the ultrasonic motor, focusing is quick and virtually silent on the EOS 5D MkII used for testing. The minimum focus distance is 0.29m throughout the range, which is not true macro, but is usefull for frame filling close-ups all the same.

Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM: Performance

Wide open at 24mm, sharpness in the centre is already very good and improves steadily as the lens is stopped down as far as f/5.6 where its performance in the centre is outstanding. The quality towards the edges also improves as the lens stops down, reaching good levels at f/4. Images taken at f/5.6 display the highest levels of sharpness across the frame for this focal length.

Zooming the lens to 35mm results in the sharpness wide open dropping a little, but still remaining good in the centre. Quality towards the edges of the frame is fair, but this improves dramatically as the lens is stopped down. Peak quality across the frame is achieved at f/8, where the sharpness in the centre is outstanding, and very good towards the edge of the frame.

Centre sharpness at 70mm and f/2.8 is very good and the quality towards the edges is improved over 35mm also. Peak quality across the frame is achieved between f/5.6 and f/8, where sharpness in the centre is excellent and the resolution towards the edges is very good.

Resolution at 24mm Resolution at 35mm
Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM Resolution at 24mm Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM Resolution at 35mm
Resolution at 70mm

How to read our graphs

The blue column represents readings from the centre of the picture frame at the various apertures and the green is from the edges. Averaging them out gives the red weighted column.

The scale on the left side is an indication of actual image resolution. The taller the column, the better the lens performance. Simple.

For this review, the lens was tested on an Canon EOS 5D MkII using Imatest.
Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM Resolution at 70mm

Chromatic aberrations are quite well controlled, with Imatest detecting fringing covering 1.3 pixel widths at 70mm and f/8 near the edge of the frame. This amount of fringing shouldn't pose too many issues, only becoming visible in very large prints, or harsh crops taken from near the edge of the frame.

Chromatic Aberrations at 24mm Chromatic Aberrations at 35mm
Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM Chromatic Aberrations at 24mm Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM Chromatic Aberrations at 35mm
Chromatic Aberrations at 70mm

How to read our charts

Chromatic aberration is the lens' inability to focus on the sensor or film all colours of visible light at the same point. Severe chromatic aberration gives a noticeable fringing or a halo effect around sharp edges within the picture. It can be cured in software.

Apochromatic lenses have special lens elements (aspheric, extra-low dispersion etc) to minimize the problem, hence they usually cost more.

For this review, the lens was tested on an Canon EOS 5D MkII using Imatest.
Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM Chromatic Aberrations at 70mm
At 24mm, falloff of illumination towards the corners is well controlled. Here the corners are 1.19 stops darker than the image centre at f/2.8 and visually uniform illumination is achieved at f/5.6. At 70mm this optic shows a similar amount of evenness of illumination. Here the corners are 1.08 stops darker than the image centre at f/2.8 and visually uniform images are produced at f/4.

Barrel distortion at 24mm will be noticeable, but Imatest detecting 3.44% barrelling, which isn't too high a level. At 70mm the barrelling found at 24mm is replaced with 1.37% pincushion distortion, which may be quite noticeable under certain circumstances. Luckily the distortion pattern at each end of the zoom is uniform across the frame, so should be quite easy to correct in image editing software afterwards.

Strong light sources just outside the frame can cause flare on occasion, especially when shooting at the wide end of the zoom range. The supplied hood does a decent job of shielding the front element at longer focal lengths. Shooting into the light generally causes a noticeable loss of contrast, especially at bright apertures.

Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM Maximum magnification   Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM Shooting into the sun
Maximum magnification – ISO200, 1/125, f/11, 70mm   Shooting into the sun – ISO100, 1/250, f/8, 24mm
Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM wide-angle   Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM telephoto
Wide-angle – ISO100, 1/100, f/16, 24mm   Telephoto – ISO100, 1/80, f/16, 70mm

DxOMark provides objective, independent, RAW-based image quality performance data for lenses and digital cameras to help you select the best equipment to meet your photographic needs.

Visit the DxOMark website for tests performed on the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM.

Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM: Verdict

Despite its age, Canon's 24-70mm f/2.8L is still able to hold its own, producing images with very good to excellent sharpness, especially in the centre of the frame. The price tag of just under £1000 seems very reasonable to me, especially as its a lens that's built to last. It should prove a worthwhile investment for any Canon user looking for a lens in this range.

Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM
The Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM lens is a solid all round performer.

Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM: Pros

Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM Excellent weather sealed build quality
Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM Very good sharpness throughout the range
Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM Decent performance in the centre when shooting wide open
Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM Focuses close

Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM: Cons

Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM Loss of contrast and flare sometimes an issue at 24mm
Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM Pincushion distortion at 70mm

FEATURES Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM
HANDLING Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM
PERFORMANCE Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM
VALUE FOR MONEY Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM
OVERALL Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM

Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM: Specification

Price £968.99
Contact www.canon.co.uk
Filter size 77mm
Format Full-frame
Construction 16 elements in 13 groups
Angle-of-view 74° - 29°
35mm equivalent focal length (on APS-C body): 38.4-112mm
Internal focusing Yes
Image stabilisation No
Minimum focus 29cm
Maximum aperture f/2.8
Minimum aperture f/22
Weight 950g
Size (lxw) 83.2mm x 123.5mm
In the box LP1219 lens case, EW-83F lens hood, lens caps.

The Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM costs £968.99 and is available from Warehouse Express here:

Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM

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Comments


Phil1958 5 272 4 Wales
20 Apr 2011 10:55AM
This is an excellent lens which I had the pleasure of using for a while but soon went back to my 24-105 for the lighter weight and flexibility when shooting a wedding - getting closer without getting close if you catch my drift. As regards the weather sealing, build quality etc of L lenses in general, I once dropped my 24-105 on to wet sand - after a quick dust down at my local camera shop it still performs excellently and is still tack sharp.

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22 Apr 2011 4:45AM
When upgrading my original 24-85, I looked at two lenses, the 24-70 and the 24-105. The focal length of the latter appealed, but so did the minimum 2.8 of the 24-70. I went for the wider aperture and have no regrets. The depth of field and bokeh is superb and images are sharp throughout the range. The lens is used with a 5D2 and the two are a great combination. The extra stop make low light conditions easier. The lens is heavy, but that's the trade off when you carry quality glass. Some say the lens hood is too large, but I find that useful, especially when working in a crowded environment, where the hood offers protection for the lens, or filter. Overall, a great lens.
pepster 6 5 Switzerland
26 Apr 2011 3:07PM
I'm currently using a Canon 50D and am looking at upgrading my lenses. I shoot mostly landscapes and am considering either the 24-70 or 24-105, leaning more towards the 24-70 based on the post above. Being a full frame lens will I notice a lower performance not using a full frame camera?
markjh 1 Singapore
2 Jun 2013 8:30AM
This used to be my 'walk-around' lens for several years. I loved it. The only thing I found slightly off-putting was the weight. Contrast, sharpness, solid feel - everything worked for me. Vignetting on a FF camera was noticeable but easily manageable.

I changed to the Mk II recently and love it even more! Better IQ and lighter.

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