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

The Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L USM Lens is an impressively high performing zoom lens. I regard it as one of the best general purpose lenses available and for the same reasons, it is one of the most-professionally-used Canon lenses. The 24-70 L is as good as it gets in this focal length range.

Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L USM Lens With Lens Hood in Place

The 24-70 L shown above is mounted to a Canon EOS 1D Mark III.

The Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L USM Lens is a very sharp lens - few zoom lenses reach this level of sharpness. The 24-70 L is sharp in the center at f/2.8 at all focal lengths and performs very well in the corners. Some corner softness is visible at the wide end of the focal length range and more softness is apparent in the 50-70mm corners. As usual, stopping down (selecting a narrower aperture) to f/5.6 makes a big difference in the longer focal length corners.

The wide open 24mm corners are most-affected by vignetting. Vignetting is very well controlled, but apparent in the corners at f/2.8 at 24mm on a full frame body. Vignetting improves as the focal length increases and the aperture is narrowed. At comparable apertures, the 24-70 L shows less vignetting than the also-excellent Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM Lens - a typically-expected result when comparing a fast lens to a slower lens.

Like most 24-xx zoom lenses, the 24-70 L shows some barrel distortion on the wide end. More specifically, a bulge in the middle of the frame. Barrel distortion disappears around 35mm. A very slight pincushion distortion begins at 50mm and becomes moderate by 70mm.

Color, contrast and saturation are excellent. CA (Chromatic Aberration) is very well controlled - especially for a zoom lens. The wide 8-blade aperture produces a nice quality background blur and a nice amount of it.

Prime lenses (fixed focal length lenses) are often compared favorably to the 24-70 L. They are generally less expensive, smaller, lighter, faster (aperture) and very sharp. My personal preference is for zoom lenses for my photography applications in this focal length range. To me personally, the ability to change framing instantly far outweighs the slight image quality advantages fixed focal length lenses offer over the 24-70 L.

I'm often asked - can images shot with a consumer zoom lens be post-processed to result in images similar to 24-70 L images? The answer is: you can adjust contrast and saturation, but you cannot add missing detail. And, color can be very difficult to match later. So, using a better lens will usually result in better post-processed images. Most primes and L lenses are noticeably better than consumer zooms.

Image quality is not the only pro-grade feature of the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L USM Lens. Excellent AF is part of the equation. A Ring USM (Ultrasonic Motor) AF system delivers quiet, fast and accurate autofocus. The 24-70 L's f/2.8 aperture enables the enhanced-sensitivity of many Canon EOS DSLR body's AF points. As usual for a Ring USM AF system, FTM (Full-Time Manual) focusing is enabled. The 24-70 L does not extend with focus and the 77mm filter ring does not rotate.

ModelMFDMM12mm ET25mm ET
Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8 L II USM Lens0.92'(0.28m)0.22x  n/c - 0.62x  n/c - 1.11x
Canon EF 17-40mm f/4 L USM Lens0.92'(0.28m)0.25x0.83 - 0.32x1.02 - 0.40x
Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens1.15'(0.35m)0.17x0.45 - 0.23x0.71 - 0.51x
Canon EF-S 17-85mm f/4-5.6 IS USM Lens1.15'(0.35m)0.2x0.43 - 0.14x0.72 - 0.33x
Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L USM Lens1.25'(0.38m)0.29x0.63 - 0.18x1.25 - 0.40x
Canon EF 24-105mm f/4.0 L IS USM Lens1.48'(0.45m)0.23x0.60 - 0.40x  n/c - 0.61x
Canon EF 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM Lens1.64'(0.50m)0.19x0.53 - 0.09x1.09 - 0.21x

The Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L USM Lens' MFD (Minimum Focus Distance) is about best (shortest) in class even without an extension tube. This short focus distance provides a very nice MM (Maximum Magnification). While not close to a 1:1 macro lens, the 24-70 L can take nice flower shots, product pictures ... Although it is not compatible with Canon's extenders, extension tubes will extend the 24-70 L's macro capabilities. Canon's extension tube offering are the FE 12mm extension tube and EF 25mm extension tube. The Canon 500D is a close-up lens that attaches to the filter threads - it also allows closer focusing distances - sorry, I don't have the spec for this one.

Sporting a red Canon L Series Lens ring, the 24-70 L's build quality is also, as expected, top of the line. Though not light, the 24-70 feels solid, is comfortable to handle and has a logical layout. The focus and zoom rings are nicely-sized and operate smoothly. Weather sealing (when attached to a weather sealed body) completes the physical quality package.

ModelWeightDimensions w/o HoodFilter
Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8 L II USM Lens22.4 oz(635g)3.5 x 4.4"(88.0 x 112.0mm)82mm
Canon EF 17-40mm f/4 L USM Lens17.5 oz(500g)3.3 x 3.8"(83.5 x 97.0mm)77mm
Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens22.8 oz(645g)3.3 x 4.4"(83.5 x 110.6mm)77mm
Canon EF-S 17-85mm f/4-5.6 IS USM Lens16.8 oz(475g)3.1 x 3.6"(78.5 x 92.0mm)67mm
Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L USM Lens33.6 oz(950g)3.3 x 4.9"(83.2 x 123.5mm)77mm
Canon EF 24-105mm f/4.0 L IS USM Lens23.6 oz(670g)3.3 x 4.2"(83.5 x 107.0mm)77mm
Canon EF 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM Lens18.9 oz(540g)3.1 x 3.8"(78.4 x 96.8mm)72mm

The Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L USM Lens tips the scales at 33.6 oz (950g) - about 50% more than it's closest Canon competitors, the Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens and the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4.0 L IS USM Lens. Of course, the 17-55 gains its advantage by not delivering a full frame 35mm image circle (being an "EF-S" lens) and by having a lesser build quality. And the 24-105 allows only 1/2 as much light through its body at wide open aperture (f/4 vs. f/2.8).

The 24-70 L's 77mm filter diameter makes sharing filters (such as a circular polarizer filter) with most of Canon's other L-Series zoom lenses easy (and more affordable of course).

Canon Normal Zoom Lenses Size Comparison - Retracted

Pictured above from left to right are the Canon EF 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM Lens, Canon EF 17-40mm f/4 L USM Lens, Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM Lens and Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L USM Lens.

Canon Normal Zoom Lenses Size Comparison - Extended

Pictured fully extended above from left to right are the Canon EF 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM Lens, Canon EF 17-40mm f/4 L USM Lens, Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM Lens and Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L USM Lens. Of note is that the 24-70mm L reverse extends - it becomes longest at 24mm as shown above. Most lenses including the 24-105 L become fully extended at their longest focal length setting.

Canon Normal Zoom Lenses Size Comparison - Hoods On

Pictured above from left to right with their respective and included lens hoods in place are the Canon EF 17-40mm f/4 L USM Lens, Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM Lens and Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L USM Lens. Of note with the lens hoods is that the 24-105 L's hood extends with the lens while the much larger 24-70 L hood stays in one place. Most lenses including the 24-105 L become fully extended at their longest focal length setting and their lens hoods travel along with this extension, but the 24-70mm L reverse extends - it becomes longest at 24mm as shown above.

Because the 24-70 L lens hood is in a fixed position (it does not extend/retract), the objective lens retracts deeper into the hood as the focal length is increased. In other words, the 24-70 L lens hood extends much farther from the objective element of the lens at 70mm than at 24mm. The 24-70 L is using an appropriate-for-the-selected-focal-length lens hood at all focal lengths while the 24-105 and most other lenses are using a made-for-24mm hood at all focal lengths (like most zoom lenses).

24-70mm falls right in the middle of the general purpose lens focal length range. The Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM Lens review has a helpful focal length comparison that includes this range.

Though not ultra-wide on a 1.6x FOVCF body, 24mm is noticeably wider than the 28mm minimum focal length provided by lenses such as the discontinued Canon 28-70 f/2.8 L Lens and some of Canon's consumer zooms such as the Canon EF 28-135mm IS USM Lens (a good value lens).

24-70 L and wireless tranmitter mounted on a 1Ds Mark III body

The real world uses for the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L USM Lens are endless.

The 24-70 L is the bread and butter wedding lens for many professional photographers. The 24-70mm focal length range allows a large group shot or a close-up picture of the bride without a lens change. With a fixed maximum f/2.8 aperture across the entire focal length range, this lens is easy to use and is as fast (wide aperture) as any Canon zoom lens made. Available light shots are possible indoors including in most churches (though a high ISO setting will usually be required). Wide open camera settings do not change with the focal length - allowing the photographer to focus on getting the job done.

As portraits are a staple of wedding photography, the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L USM Lens makes a great portrait lens. On a full frame body, group, environmental and moderately tight portraits work best. Some pincushion distortion at 70mm will even slim your subject a little. :) 70mm is too wide for a tight head shot - for my taste at least. Save those for the 70-200 L. On a 1.6x body, more space is needed for group photos at 24mm, but tighter 70mm portraits are more pleasing due to the longer distance they will be framed from.

Since shooting a wedding is not too dissimilar from photojournalism (and many wedding photographers employ similar techniques), the 24-70 L is a great photojournalism lens.

Indoor and low light sports photographers are often working in similar conditions as wedding photographers and photojournalists. Thus the 24-70 L is often employed for sports needs in this focal length range. Since sports action is usually moving fast, the f/2.8 aperture is often the minimum opening necessary to stop action at these venues.

The Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L USM Lens will work just as well in your home as it does in the church or other indoor venue. Capturing the memories of family life is, in my opinion, one of the most important photography pursuits. You can sell the lens later, but those precious family moments will never be back.

The 24-70 L is a very good landscape lens on a full frame body. It will work fine on a crop body, but 24mm is a little long for the wide end of a dedicated landscape lens. Add a Canon EF-S 10-22mm USM Lens to your 24-70 L kit if landscapes are your goal. Or get the EF-S 17-55.

The biggest downside of the 24-70 L (in my opinion) is it's size and weight. Especially with its large lens hood, this lens is not small - or light - when used as a walk-around lens. If you care about your image quality, you will quickly get over this downside after reviewing your results.

All said, I think the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L USM Lens is one of the best Canon walk-around/all-purpose lenses made. Be sure to read the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM Lens review and, if you are using an EF-S capable body, the Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens review before making your decision.

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