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.

Posted 14/Nov/2012 - 10:04AM
Handling and features
Performance
Verdict
Specification
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

Wide Angle | 1/320 sec | f/6.3 | 24.0 mm | ISO 100<br /><a target="_blank" href="http://www.addyourface.co.uk/equipment/images/equipment/EF-2470mm-f28L-II-USM-4014/highres/Canon2470mmf28II_199_1351595397.jpg">High-Res</a>

Wide Angle | 1/320 sec | f/6.3 | 24.0 mm | ISO 100
High-Res

Autofocus is accurate, even at close distances | 1/640 sec | f/6.3 | 70.0 mm | ISO 100<br /><a target="_blank" href="http://www.addyourface.co.uk/equipment/images/equipment/EF-2470mm-f28L-II-USM-4014/highres/Canon2470mmf28II_200_1351595443.jpg">High-Res</a>

Autofocus is accurate, even at close distances | 1/640 sec | f/6.3 | 70.0 mm | ISO 100
High-Res

Sharpness in the centre is very good to excellent throughout the zoom range at f/2.8 | 1/80 sec | f/2.8 | 70.0 mm | ISO 320<br /><a target="_blank" href="http://www.addyourface.co.uk/equipment/images/equipment/EF-2470mm-f28L-II-USM-4014/highres/Canon2470mmf28II_205_1351595554.jpg">High-Res</a>

Sharpness in the centre is very good to excellent throughout the zoom range at f/2.8 | 1/80 sec | f/2.8 | 70.0 mm | ISO 320
High-Res

Falloff of illumination towards the corners isn't eliminated until the lens is stopped down to f/8 at 24mm | 1/100 sec | f/8.0 | 24.0 mm | ISO 100<br /><a target="_blank" href="http://www.addyourface.co.uk/equipment/images/equipment/EF-2470mm-f28L-II-USM-4014/highres/Canon2470mmf28II_210_1351595590.jpg">High-Res</a>

Falloff of illumination towards the corners isn't eliminated until the lens is stopped down to f/8 at 24mm | 1/100 sec | f/8.0 | 24.0 mm | ISO 100
High-Res

1/80 sec | f/7.1 | 70.0 mm | ISO 800<br /><a target="_blank" href="http://www.addyourface.co.uk/equipment/images/equipment/EF-2470mm-f28L-II-USM-4014/highres/Canon2470mmf28II_197_1351595342.jpg">High-Res</a>

1/80 sec | f/7.1 | 70.0 mm | ISO 800
High-Res

1/640 sec | f/2.8 | 70.0 mm | ISO 100<br /><a target="_blank" href="http://www.addyourface.co.uk/equipment/images/equipment/EF-2470mm-f28L-II-USM-4014/highres/Canon2470mmf28II_201_1351595472.jpg">High-Res</a>

1/640 sec | f/2.8 | 70.0 mm | ISO 100
High-Res

1/60 sec | f/4.0 | 70.0 mm | ISO 1000<br /><a target="_blank" href="http://www.addyourface.co.uk/equipment/images/equipment/EF-2470mm-f28L-II-USM-4014/highres/Canon2470mmf28II_204_1351595518.jpg">High-Res</a>

1/60 sec | f/4.0 | 70.0 mm | ISO 1000
High-Res

1/60 sec | f/5.6 | 70.0 mm | ISO 640<br /><a target="_blank" href="http://www.addyourface.co.uk/equipment/images/equipment/EF-2470mm-f28L-II-USM-4014/highres/Canon2470mmf28II_211_1351595626.jpg">High-Res</a>

1/60 sec | f/5.6 | 70.0 mm | ISO 640
High-Res

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

FEATURES  
HANDLING  
PERFORMANCE  
VALUE FOR MONEY  
OVERALL  

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

ManufacturerCanon
General
Lens Mounts
  • Canon EF USM
Lens
Focal Length 24mm - 70mm
Angle of View No Data
Max Aperture f/2.8
Min Aperture f/22
Filter Size 82mm
35mm equivalent No Data
Internal focusing No Data
Focusing
Min Focus 38cm
Stabilised No
Construction
Blades 9
Elements 18
Groups 13
Box Contents
Box Contents No Data
Dimensions
Weight 805g
Height 113mm


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