Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM
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November 28, 2012
by Andrew Alexander
Announced in February 2012, the Canon 24-70mm ƒ/2.8L II USM is an update to its popular 24-70mm L-glass lens. The lens is completely redesigned, using a combination of UD and Super UD glass elements in addition to aspherical elements.
The lens was designed to fit the 35mm frame, and will also work on APS-C or APS-H camera bodies: on the former, the lens will produce an effective field of view of 38-112mm, while on the latter, the lens will produce an effective field of view of 31-91mm. The lens features a constant ƒ/2.8 aperture.
The lens ships with a petal-shaped lens hood, takes 82mm filters, and is available now for around $2,400.
We'd like to thank Roger from LensRentals.com for providing us with a sample of this lens to test!
The Canon 24-70mm ƒ/2.8L II USM is one of the sharpest lenses Canon has produced. While it is criticized by some for not incorporating image stabilization, its omission allows Canon to produce very sharp results that are often uncommon in a zoom lens.
Mounted on the APS-C Canon 7D, the lens produces images that are tack-sharp at ƒ/2.8 between the 24mm and 50mm focal lengths. At 70mm, there is a slight amount of corner softness, but it is very slight indeed. After that, it's all variations on a theme, and that theme is extreme sharpness. There's no real impact on sharpness until diffraction limiting sets in at ƒ/11, and it's a very slight hit on sharpness from corner to corner. At ƒ/16 there is a bit more significant impact; at ƒ/22 it's as bad as it gets, and it's still quite good, even fully stopped-down.
Obviously on a sub-frame camera the corners of the lens are not examined by the sensor, so it's not surprising that we see a bit worse performance in the corners with the lens mounted on the full-frame Canon 1Ds mkIII. Performance is still very good when used at the ƒ/2.8 setting; from 24mm to 70mm, we see a sharp central region with some corner softness in each focal length. The lens never shows the tack-sharp results it does when mounted on a sub-frame camera, but the corners are only slightly soft. When diffraction limiting sets in at ƒ/11, it also serves to equalize the corners with the center of the frame: the center isn't as sharp, but the corners aren't as soft. Again, performance at ƒ/16 is marginally less sharp than seen at ƒ/11, and at ƒ/22, the results are only moderately sharp.
The Canon 24-70mm ƒ/2.8L II USM keeps chromatic aberration very well under control: there is only a slight amount of magenta-green fringing on areas of high contrast in the extreme corners.
Mounted on the sub-frame Canon 7D, corner shading is not an issue at any focal length or aperture.
On the full-frame Canon 1Ds mkIII however, the lens creates images with corners that are significantly darker than the center. In the worst case, 24mm at ƒ/2.8, the extreme corners are almost 1 1/3 EV darker than the center. Other focal lengths at ƒ/2.8 show corners that are darker to the tune of 3/4 to 1 EV. Stopping down to ƒ/4 improves this dramatically, however, the only settings you can use which will guarantee you have no corner shading are to use 35mm or longer, and an aperture of ƒ/5.6 or smaller.
Our testing for distortion shows a complicated pattern with a point of near-zero distortion. Used wider than 35mm, we note some typical barrel distortion, not too much in the corners (+0.5% on the 7D, +0.7% on the 1Ds). At 35mm it's still slightly barrel-distorted, but quite near to zero. Above 35mm central distortion stays in the realm of barrel distortion, but quite low, while corner distortion becomes the pincushion variety (-0.2% on the 7D, and -0.5% on the 1Ds, worst at the 70mm setting). All in all, these aren't large numbers, and correctable in post-processing software.
With its USM (ultra-sonic motor) designation, it doesn't get much quieter and faster when focusing the 24-70mm ƒ/2.8L II lens. Going from infinity to close-focus takes well less than one second, and point-to-point focusing is lightning quick. Focusing results can be adjusted at any time by just turning the focus ring, and focusing operations do not rotate attached 82mm filters.
The 24-70mm ƒ/2.8L II USM has a rated close-focusing distance of 38cm (1.25 feet), but this isn't a lens you'd typically use for macro work. The magnification rating is 0.21x.
Build Quality and Handling
As an L-class lens, Canon doesn't spare much in the way of expense to ensure that these lenses keep going and going. The 24-70mm ƒ/2.8L II USM is weather- and water-resistant, employing several rubber gasket seals. Its construction is primarily metal, weighing in at a chunky 805 grams (28.4 oz).
There are several changes implemented in the II version of this lens. Including the following:
- Filter size increased from 77mm to 82mm
- Aperture now made up of 9 curved diaphragm blades, instead of 8 straight, to improve bokeh performance
- Lens designed with 18 elements in 13 groups, including 1 Super UD and 2 UD elements; changed from 16 elements in 13 groups, including 3 asperical elements and 1 UD element
- Weight decrease from 950g to 805g
- Price increase from $1,500 to $2,400
There are only two switches on the lens: one switch to enable or disable autofocus on the lens ("AF / MF"), and a second switch to lock the zoom to the 24mm setting. A window provides distance information in feet and meters: there is no depth-of-field scale, and neither is there an infrared index.
The focusing ring is quite large, composed of rubber with small ribs about an inch wide. The ring provides excellent manual focusing fidelity, with a slightly smooth resistance and plenty of travel. The ring ends in soft stops on both ends of the focusing spectrum, and will focus past infinity.
The zoom ring is composed of rubber with large ribs, also about an inch wide. The ring takes about ninety degrees of turning action to go from 24mm to 70mm, and again, the ring is very smooth, firm but not too tight; it requires two fingers to move. Zoom creep wasn't a problem with the lens we tested. There is some lens extension when the lens is zoomed out to 70mm; the lens grows by upwards of an inch.
The EW-88C lens hood is petal-shaped, attaches via a bayonet mount, and adds about 1 1/4 inches to the overall length of the lens. The interior of the hood is flocked to reduce any stray light, and there's a locking mechanism to keep the hood attached to the lens.
Canon EF 24-70mm ƒ/2.8L USM ~$1,500
The previous version of the Canon 24-70mm is now discontinued, but retailed for significantly less than the newer version. The previous version is not as sharp as the subject of this review, particularly at 70mm, where Canon seems to have paid special attention. Corner shading is better: distortion and chromatic aberration results are about the same.
Sigma 24-70mm ƒ/2.8 EX DG HSM ~$900
Sigma produces a similar lens at a lower price, but optically, it doesn't meet the standard the newest Canon 24-70mm has set. The Canon is much sharper (particularly on full frame): we also found chromatic aberration and corner shading to be particularly high.
Tamron 24-70mm ƒ/2.8 Di VC USD SP ~$1,300
We haven't yet reviewed Tamron's entry into this category, which is interesting as it is the only available option at the time of writing in the 24-70mm ƒ/2.8 lens category that is equipped with image stabilization.
There's not much to add that the test results don't already show: Canon has made dramatic improvements to this lens series, which is sure to become the darling of Canon wedding shooters around the globe. The price tag is significantly steep, but there are enough improvements over the previous lens to more than justify the price.
The VFA target should give you a good idea of sharpness in the center and corners, as well as some idea of the extent of barrel or pincushion distortion and chromatic aberration, while the Still Life subject may help in judging contrast and color. We shoot both images using the default JPEG settings and manual white balance of our test bodies, so the images should be quite consistent from lens to lens.
As appropriate, we shoot these with both full-frame and sub-frame bodies, at a range of focal lengths, and at both maximum aperture and ƒ/8. For the ''VFA'' target (the viewfinder accuracy target from Imaging Resource), we also provide sample crops from the center and upper-left corner of each shot, so you can quickly get a sense of relative sharpness, without having to download and inspect the full-res images. To avoid space limitations with the layout of our review pages, indexes to the test shots launch in separate windows.
Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM User Reviews
9 out of 10 points and recommended by RonHorton (1 reviews)Sharpness stunning, weight, balance, size, contrast.Close focus distance. Build not as solid as Mk 1. Cost.
I have had a Mk1 version of this lens for over 10 years and it was used regularly at weddings but not elsewhere due to it's weight.reviewed November 19th, 2015 (purchased for $1,350)
The Mk 2 version is now on the camera (5D III) all of the time and my 24-105L has been sold as it will not get used.
The Mk2 is far better balanced compared to the Mk 1 - it is not just that it weighs less, the balance is great.
The sharpness is simply stunning and you could not ask for more. Colour / contrast from the lens are a notch up on the Mk1 as well - and that was a great lens.
I am not in love with the cost - £1350 was a lot and that is less than many sellers in the UK offer it for.
I love the lens but notice at close focus it is not as good as the Mk 1 - it won't focus as close and at f2.8 is not as sharp. In all other ways though this lens is far superior.
The lens hood comes off easily and is much smaller than the Mk1. Canon copies of the lens hood are silly money but cheap copies can be had on ebay that are just as effective for only £10.
I had one copy of the Mk2 that was faulty .... so maybe build quality is variable but the 2nd copy was fine. FWIW the first one would not focus sharply at f5.6 let alone f2.8 !
I went away with the other half and we fought over use if this lens ... neither of us wanted the 24-105 we had taken as well !!
My tiny (and they are really) reservations apart ... Buy it, you won't regret it ! Possibly the best lens short of our 70-200 f2.8 IS we have bought over the last 15 years.
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0 out of 10 points and recommended by joby (2 reviews)
Why not testing the recent Tamron 24-70 mm- alternatif with VC and constant F/2.8 ?reviewed January 26th, 2014
10 out of 10 points and recommended by MartinM (31 reviews)Tack sharp, design, AF speed, IQ wide openprica tag
I had now several standard zooms on Canon. All of them left much to deserve wide open.reviewed December 3rd, 2012 (purchased for $2,200)
When comparing with the Zuiko 14-35 and the Sony Zeiss ZA 24-70, no Canon standard lens was close to them.
Today I can positively remark, this Canon 24-70 made my day. It is sharp wide open and the focus is perfectly fast
The new design with the smaller hood is outstanding. The new designed zoom and focusing rings are perfect to handle even with gloves.
The missing IS might be the only drawback. But keeping in mind the ISO performance of my 5D III, the IS is no issue. For filming yes, to have IS is better.
The new 24-70L IS that will show up shortly, might be a very good alternative if you don't need f/2.8
10 out of 10 points and recommended by kinematic (13 reviews)Better vignette control, weather proof build, lens hood locks, superb image82mm filter thread
Simply the best zoom lens Canon has made.reviewed September 15th, 2012 (purchased for $2,200)
Excellent improvements made over the previous generation and superb image quality. I never thought I would say this about a zoom, but best lens that Canon has made to date.
Pros are certainly in better vignette control, the weather proof build, locking lens hood, and image quality. Some might think a poly carbonate build is not better than metal. After dropping my 100L of the same kind of build 3 times, I can tell you this is better than metal.
Another concern some might make is the lack of IS. I have no issues that this doesn't have IS and kind of glad they didn't as it would have added weight to this lens which they tried hard to lighten up.
Here's where I share my images of from lens:
My more complete review of this lens: