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

Gary Wolstenholme reviews the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens.

|  Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM in Interchangeable Lenses
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Handling and features
Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM

A professional standard zoom lens covering the popular 24-70mm focal range, which sports a constant fast maximum aperture of f/2.8 and silent focusing with full-time manual focus override. This lens carries a very high price tag of around £2300, which is really quite expensive for a standard zoom lens. In this review we'll take a look at how it performs and whether the premium price is justified.

Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM


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

Build and design is typical of Canon's L series lenses, with tough black plastics and metal used throughout. The lens is weather sealed and designed to take the rigours of daily professional use. Despite the excellent build, this lens isn't overly heavy, weighing 805g. As a result the lens balances well on the EOS 5D MKIII used for testing even without a battery grip attached.

Auto focus is powered by an Ultrasonic motor, and focusing is very fast and accurate as a result. Manual adjustments can be made quickly at any point by turning the focus ring. The focusing ring is smooth and precise, which makes fine manual adjustments a pleasure to apply. Minimum focus is 38cm from the sensor plane, which is great for shooting in claustrophobic environments.

As focusing is performed internally, the 82mm filter ring does not rotate , which makes the lens ideal for use with graduated and polarising filters. The large 82mm diameter may be off-putting for those who've invested heavily in 77mm filters as this lens' predecessor accepted. Unlike the MkI version of this lens, the zoom mechanism extends as it is zoomed towards 70mm and a relatively shallow petal shaped hood clips onto the end of the lens.

Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM


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

Sharpness in the centre of the frame is very good to outstanding throughout the zoom range. At 24mm and f/2.8 sharpness is just a shade below excellent levels in the centre and very good towards the edges. Stopping the lens down to f/4 results in outstanding sharpness in the centre at this focal length, with clarity towards the edges that approaches excellent levels.

Zooming to 35mm results in an increase in sharpness in the centre at maximum aperture, although the clarity towards the edges decreases slightly. Peak sharpness across the frame is achieved at f/5.6 for this focal length, where sharpness in the centre is outstanding, and approaching very good levels towards the edges of the frame.

Finally, at 70mm, the performance of this lens holds up very well indeed. At f/2.8 sharpness in the centre remains very good, with good clarity being produced towards the edges of the frame. Peak sharpness is again achieved at f/5.6. Here the clarity in the centre is outstanding, and very good towards the edges of the frame.


Resolution at 24mm
Resolution at 24mm
Resolution at 35mm
Resolution at 35mm
Resolution at 70mm
Resolution at 70mm

How to read our charts

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 a Canon EOS 5D Mark III using Imatest.


Chromatic aberrations are very well controlled, barely exceeding half a pixel width at most apertures and focal lengths. CA's just exceed half a pixel width between f/2.8 and f/11 at 24mm, rising as the lens is stopped down further. Still, this low level should cause very few issues, even in large prints and harsh crops from the edges of the frame.

Chromatic aberration at 24mm
Chromatic aberration at 24mm
Chromatic aberration at 35mm
Chromatic aberration at 35mm
Chromatic aberration at 70mm
Chromatic aberration 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 a Canon EOS 5D Mark III using Imatest.

As is typical with lenses covering this focal range, falloff of illumination towards the corners of the frame is quite pronounced at 24mm. Here the corners of the frame are 2.6 stops darker than the image centre and illumination isn't visually uniform until the lens is stopped down to f/8. Falloff is less pronounced at 70mm. Here the corners are 1.7 stops darker at f/2.8 and illumination is visually uniform by f/5.6.

Distortion is very well controlled for a lens of this type. At 24mm 3.32% barrel distortion is present, which is replaced by 0.834% pincushion distortion at 70mm. The distortion pattern is uniform across the frame, which should make applying corrections in image editing software afterwards relatively straightforward.

Though the supplied lens hood isn't very deep, resistance to flare is very high and contrast remains excellent, even when shooting into the light.

Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM Sample Photos


Value for Money

There is no way that the performance of this lens can be disputed however, the value for money aspect may be this lens' Achilles heel. Currently priced at around £2300, this lens is more than double the price of the optic it replaces, which retailed for around £1000 before it was discontinued. Even when comparing the price of this lens to Nikon's 24-70mm f/2.8, which has an excellent reputation for the performance it delivers, there is a gulf of around £1000 in price, as the Nikon optic retails for around £1250. This makes the Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 II USM look very expensive, or even overpriced.

Photographers on a budget, who require a lens covering this range, with a fast f/2.8 maximum aperture may also consider Sigma's 24-70mm f/2.8, which can be picked up for around £600. This lens lacks the weather sealing found on the Canon lens but sports a similar silent focusing motor.

Tamron's image stabilised 24-70mm f/2.8 VC USD may also be considered. This lens can be picked up for around £860 and sports optical stabilisation, a similar silent focusing motor and weather sealing.

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

It seems Canon may be attempting to distinguish themselves from the competition by pricing their lens at a premium. There is no doubt that this lens delivers excellent optical performance in pretty much every way, but not many photographers, professional, or otherwise will be able to justify paying £1000 over the odds for this.

However if you do have £2300 burning a hole in your pocket, this lens will reward you with excellent sharpness, low CA, low distortion and excellent resistance to flare and loss of contrast.

The Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM L lens offers good build quality and excellent sharpness.

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

Very good build quality
Excellent sharpness
Relatively lightweight
Low CA
Low distortion

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

Reassuringly expensive
Falloff at 24mm is quite pronounced at fast apertures and doesn't even fade out until f/8


Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM Specifications

Lens Mounts
  • Canon EF USM
Focal Length24mm - 70mm
Angle of ViewNo Data
Max Aperturef/2.8
Min Aperturef/22
Filter Size82mm
35mm equivalentNo Data
Internal focusingNo Data
Maximum magnificationNo Data
Min Focus38cm
Box Contents
Box ContentsNo Data

View Full Product Details







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JJGEE 14 7.6k 18 England
30 Oct 2012 2:59PM

Quote:At 24mm 3.32% barrel distortion is present, which is replaced by 0.834% pincushion distortion at 70mm

How did you go about measuring the % distortion ?

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josa 7 25 Czech Republic
30 Oct 2012 3:25PM
A photo of a brick wall or...would give us an idea about 3.32% lens but way, way overpriced!!!
30 Oct 2012 3:36PM
How much!Sad
31 Oct 2012 12:38PM
Canon always bring out new cameras and lenses at extortionate prices, and though these gradually come down to what most photographers would feel is a reasonable level for that particular piece of kit, the time when this price is reached is generally just before they upgrade it sufficiently in performance to make you wonder whether you should go for the new one.. (Don't you just love marketing departments?..)
dmhuynh72 11 44 3 United Kingdom
1 Nov 2012 5:36PM
It is the UK that is charging too much and not Canon as you can pick one up in Asia or the USA for a1500-1600.
theorderingone 15 2.4k
3 Nov 2012 4:45PM

Quote:How did you go about measuring the % distortion ?

Distortion is measured in Imatest along with falloff, sharpness and CAs
MrGoatsmilk 11 1.5k England
4 Nov 2012 10:23AM
At that price I shall not be putting that on my Xmas list
ikett 9 545 England
5 Nov 2012 4:49PM
How effin' much!
Paul Morgan 18 19.4k 6 England
5 Nov 2012 6:51PM
LOL the M4/3 equivalent (12-35) looks cheap compared to this Smile
markjh 6 Singapore
2 Jun 2013 8:35AM
Great review.

I have this lens, as a replacement to the original 24-70. The previous 24-70 was an awesome walk-around for me. This one is noticeably better, even for an amateur like me (especially contrast) but the price was very painful.

The difference in weight is noticeable as well.

The only negative, for me, is the plastic filter thread. While not a problem to date, I am worried this might become an (expensive) problem in a year or so.

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