Canon EF 24mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens Review

The Canon EF 24mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens delivers fast and accurate AF, very good image quality and image stabilization in a light, compact and moderately-priced package. This of course sounds great - and truth is, I really like this lens.

Canon EF 24mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens on Canon EOS 1D X - Front

The Canon EF 24mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens review was created simultaneously with the Canon EF 28mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens Review. These nearly identical lenses arrived at the same time and replace the also-similar-to-each-other Canon EF 24mm f/2.8 Lens and Canon EF 28mm f/2.8 Lens. The 24 IS and 28 IS have improved image quality, add image stabilization and Ring-type USM AF, have a reduced minimum focus distance and have a much improved build quality - including a much better MF ring than the replaced 1987/1988-era designs. The big downside is a significantly higher price tag (at introdcution) than these 25-or-so-year-old lenses were blessed with.

The 24mm focal length is a very popular one. While not ultra-wide even on a full frame sensor format body, 24mm images often look best with a subject being emphasized from a close perspective.

Canon EF 24mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens Sample Picture

Unless the subject is a person of course. Environmental and group portraits are the best people photography styles for a 24mm full frame image.

The 24mm focal length is perhaps my most-used landscape and architecture focal length. This is partially due to 24mm being the widest available focal length available on my oft-used L zooms (such as the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM Lens), but it is also due to 24mm yielding the ideal perspective for a large number of my landscape and architecture images. Case in point:

24 f/2.8 IS Sample Picture

I had a stop-over in South Portland, ME planned on a recent trip to the northern-most section of the Maine North Woods. While there are many great coast scenes to shoot in the South Portland and Cape Elizabeth areas, I had only one late evening and early morning available - and chose to point my lenses at the Portland Head Light.

Arriving too late to catch the sun on the lighthouse, I was fortunate to have a thunderstorm being lit by the setting sun in the background. Two Canon EOS 5D Mark III-mounted 24 f/2.8 IS exposures merged in Photoshop provided the above image.

I was not nearly as fortunate the next morning as the apparently-wildly-popular "Beach to Beacon 10k" run was coincidentally scheduled (note made to self). I opted to avoid battling the road closures, lack of parking, huge crowds and thousands of competitors.

My time in Maine did give me chance to use the Canon EF 24mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens with high frequency, and along with shooting locally, I have developed a very positive opinion of it.

Here is another look at the 24mm focal length - this time in relation to 28mm (Canon EF 28mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens) and 40mm (Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 STM Pancake Lens).

Canon EF 24mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens Focal Length Range Example

The 24mm focal length can be used for a very wide variety of subjects - both indoors and out.

When used on an APS-C format DSLR, the 24mm focal length frames like a 38.4mm lens on a full frame sensor format body. While still a wide angle focal length, this angle of view becomes more of a general purpose, wide-normal one with full body portraits and people-emphasized events (such as receptions, parties, etc.) being a good capture at this focal length.

Reportage is another good use for this focal length.

Canon EF 24mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens on EOS Rebel T4i/650D - Angle

For a prime lens in this focal length, f/2.8 is a relatively narrow max aperture. When compared to Canon zoom lenses, f/2.8 is the widest aperture you can find at any focal length. And, the Canon EF 24mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens along with its sibling 28mm IS Lens are the first Canon prime lenses wider than 100mm to have image stabilization. The combination of an f/2.8 aperture, 24mm focal length and 4-stop IS makes the 24 IS, at review time, arguably the most low-light-handholdable full frame format Canon lens available. And perhaps the most handholdable Canon lens available.

As you would expect from the maturity of today's in-lens image stabilization, this IS implementation works very well. The IS sound from this lens is barely audible. I have to put it to me ear to hear the light IS shhhhhhh that is mixed with light clicks when the lens is moved. The viewfinder shows no evidence of image stabilization going into effect (jumping/shaking/etc.) - aside from the stabilize view in the viewfinder.

With good technique and a stable, standing shooting position, I am getting a very good percentage of sharp shots at .4 seconds. The keeper rate drops off from there, but I still can get some sharp shots at up to a seemingly-incredibly-long-to-hold exposure time of .8 seconds. The IS assistance I experience is 3+ to just over 4 stops at best.

Here is a .8 second exposure example with and without IS.

Canon EF 24mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens Image Stabilization Example

 
I would not be able to achieve these same really long handheld exposure results on top of a windy mountain, but ... IS will still help a lot in that situation - perhaps making the same relative difference in results.

Image stabilization, of course, cannot stop subject motion blur.

This is not Canon L Series Lens, but it has image quality that challenges these impressive lenses - and carried an introductory price that made some of us wonder why Canon did not take the extra steps required to add weather sealling and put the red ring on it.

As often happens, Canon made the Canon EF 24mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens's MTF chart available long before the lens was publicly available. And the early indications from this chart was that the new lens was going to perform better optically in the center of the frame than the previous EF 24mm f/2.8 Lens with corner performance showing less improvement.

Canon EF 24mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens MTF Chart

If we look at the ISO 12233 Chart comparison between these two lens, we see that this MTF prediction is indeed reality. Overall, the 24 IS is sharper and has better contrast than the original EF 24.

The 24 IS is very sharp in the center of the frame at f/2.8 and shows very little improvement at even much narrower apertures. The original EF 24 becomes sharper at f/4 where it compares better with the newer lens.

The 24 IS has a nicely-flat plane of sharp focus. In the full frame corners, the 24 IS performs very well even at f/2.8, but not as impressively well as in the center of the frame. CA and vignetting (more below) are partially the hindrance to seeing ultimate corner sharpness at f/2.8, but by f/5.6, the 24 IS' corners are looking quite sharp. From f/5.6 through just beyond your full frame DSLR's DLA (Diffraction Limited Aperture), the corners are very sharp. APS-C format sensor DSLR owners will as usual enjoy sharp corners at wider apertures - figure f/4 in this case.

The 24 IS becomes more noticeably sharper than the 24 in full frame corners at narrower apertures - f/5.6 and beyond. This difference is noticeable even in APS-C images.

The EF 24 IS shows a modest amount of CA in the corners - and as usual, CA will be most noticeable in full frame format sensor image corners. The previous 24mm f/2.8 Lens produces a similar amount of CA.

The 24 IS also shares its predecessor's vignetting pattern, showing over 3 stops of shading in full frame corners. About one stop less shading remains at f/4 and about 1.2 stops of shading remains even at f/16. APS-C sensor format users should expect a just-noticeable 1.2 stops of shading at f/2.8 and will not likely notice the remaining vignetting at f/4 and narrower aperture settings.

The 24 IS does not produce strong flare effects even when the sun is in the corner of the frame. The prior version of this lens, with one less lens element (9 vs. 10) but older lens coating technology, is not far behind in flare performance.

The Canon EF 24mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens has a small amount of barrel distortion - very slightly more than the older 24. EF 24mm IS images captured with APS-C sensor format DSLRs will not likely exhibit distortion that is noticeable.

The 24 IS and its 7-blade rounded aperture delivers nice background blur quality (often referred to as bokeh). Click on the image below to view a comparison of several lenses focused on the same very close subject from a fix tripod position under a clear sky (opens in a new window).

Canon EF 24mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens Aperture Comparison

The obvious observations from these 5D III-captured images are that wider apertures and longer focal lengths deliver a more strongly blurred background. The 24 f/1.4 L II and 28 f/1.8, at their widest apertures, rule the blur game in this comparison.

Not as in-your-face is that the new 24 IS and 28 IS deliver smoother blur with more-rounded specular highlights than their predecessors. This difference is most noticeable in out of focus highlights (small flowers in this example) at stopped-down aperture settings (try comparing the f/5.6 results). At equivalent apertures, the differences between the 24 L II and 24 IS are not big. I like the 24 L II's modestly more blurred background slightly better at f/2.8, but by f/8, I slightly favor the 24 IS' blur quality.

Let's review an outdoor image quality comparison shot with a Canon EOS 5D Mark III under clear skies (any clouds in the sky can change the lighting and unfairly change the images in a comparison). The 100% crops shared below are taken from near the lower left corner of the frame. Exposures are equalized.

These images were captured in RAW format and processed into 16-bit TIF images in DPP using the Standard Picture Style with a Sharpness setting of "1" (very low). Adobe Photoshop was used to output these 70-quality JPG crops.

Be aware of the location of the plane of sharp focus in each image - the DOF (Depth of Field) does not include all features shown at the widest apertures tested. Vignetting is very apparent at this location in the frame and the advantage goes to the wider aperture lenses when identical apertures are compared.

As I said earlier in this review, I was evaluating the Canon EF 28mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens at the same time, so lenses with both focal lengths are exampled here. In this comparison, the camera was moved farther from the scene for the 28mm examples - the horizontal framing was closely matched for both focal lengths tested. Click on the image below to see the results.

Canon EF 24mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens Image Quality Comparison

Here are some observations from this comparison and in general:

You can see the slightly increased barrel distortion in the 24 IS samples compared to the 24 in this example - watch the details twist/warp in the near-corner examples. The 24 IS delivers a slightly brighter image with better color and contrast than the 24.

The Canon EF 24mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens compares surprisingly well to the Canon EF 24mm f/1.4 L II USM Lens. The 24 L II has negligible distortion and has considerably less vignetting at identical apertures. Otherwise, the 24 IS image quality is remarkably similar for the 50% less than 24 L II price tag. With its smaller lens elements, the 24 IS shows less flare at narrow apertures.

The 24 L II is in a different class for build quality including weather sealing. If you are shooting action in low light, wide apertures rule - they are needed for the shorter exposure durations needed to stop subject movement. The f/1.4 aperture can let in 4x more light than f/2.8 - stopping action and blurring the background as the 24 IS can only dream of.

If your subject is not moving and you want as much DOF as possible, the 24 IS can actually be a better option due to its very desirable image stabilization feature. The 24 IS is smaller and lighter - and focuses considerably closer.

The 24 IS and 28 IS are nearly identical in all ways, but the 28mm option has slightly less distortion. I would strongly prefer the 28 IS over the other two 28mm options compared here.

Canon EF 24mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens Side View

Utilizing Canon's Ring-type USM (Ultrasonic Motor), the Canon EF 24mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens internally focuses quickly, very quietly and very accurately. In a quiet environment, you will be able to hear the soft shuffling of elements inside the lens while autofocusing, but ... this is one of the quieter-focusing lenses available. FTM (Full Time Manual) focusing is available, and filters do not rotate during focusing.

The EF 24 f/2.8 IS lens' autofocus system is a major upgrade from the older EF 24 f/2.8. And the manual focus system is at least as much improved.

The 24 IS has a nicely-sized manual focus ring that is smooth and nicely damped. There is a nice amount of rotation and no play. You will see subject sizes change somewhat as this lens is focus distance adjusted, but the framed image remains smoothly centered.

Another focus-related improvement this lens enjoys is a shorter MFD (Minimum Focus Distance) and higher MM (Maximum Magnification). There are only two review-time-current non-macro and non-tilt-shift Canon prime lenses with a higher MM value. Those two lenses, the Canon EF 35mm f/2.0 Lens and Canon EF 300mm f/4.0 L IS USM Lens, with a 0.24x MM value, better the Canon EF 24mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens by only 0.01x.

ModelMFDMM
Canon EF 14mm f/2.8 L II USM Lens7.9"(200mm)0.15x
Canon TS-E 17mm f/4 L Tilt-Shift Lens9.8"(250mm)0.14x
Canon EF 20mm f/2.8 USM Lens9.8"(250mm)0.14x
Canon EF 24mm f/1.4 L II USM Lens8.3"(210mm)0.16x
Canon EF 24mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens7.9"(200mm)0.23x
Canon EF 24mm f/2.8 Lens9.8"(250mm)0.16x
Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5 L II Tilt-Shift Lens8.3"(210mm)0.34x
Canon EF 28mm f/1.8 USM Lens9.8"(250mm)0.18x
Canon EF 28mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens9.1"(230mm)0.23x
Canon EF 28mm f/2.8 Lens11.8"(300mm)0.13x
Canon EF 35mm f/1.4 L USM Lens11.8"(300mm)0.18x
Canon EF 35mm f/2.0 Lens9.8"(250mm)0.24x
Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 STM Pancake Lens11.8"(300mm).18x
Canon TS-E 45mm f/2.8 Tilt-Shift Lens15.7"(400mm)0.16x
Canon EF 50mm f/1.2 L USM Lens17.7"(450mm)0.15x
Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM Lens17.7"(450mm)0.15x
Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II Lens17.7"(450mm)0.15x
Canon EF 50mm f/2.5 Macro Lens9.1"(230mm)0.50x

Having a lens that focuses very closely adds greatly to your creativity opportunities.

Adding extension tubes to a wide angle lens generally makes a dramatic difference in that lens' abilities to focus closer. With the Canon EF 12mm Extension Tube II behind it, the 24 IS has a 0.62-0.43x MM spec. Use the Canon EF 25mm Extension Tube II and MM goes to 1.13-0.95x.

This lens is not compatible with Canon Extenders.

Canon EF 24mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens Product Images

Select View:  MFD |    w/ Hood:  MFD |    Rotated        Compare >

The Canon EF 24mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens has a clean, smooth, fixed-size design that is comfortable to carry and use. While light and small, the 24 IS feels solidly built. The barrel is made of an engineering plastic that does not have the cold, hard feel of metal, but still has a nice quality feel to it. Plastic is light.

Smaller max apertures require less glass which also means less weight - and less size.

ModelWeightDimensions w/o HoodFilterYear 
Canon EF 14mm f/2.8 L II USM Lens22.8 oz(645g)3.1 x 3.7"(80 x 94mm)mm2007
Canon TS-E 17mm f/4 L Tilt-Shift Lens28.9 oz(820g)3.5 x 4.2"(88.9 x 106.9mm)mm2009
Canon EF 20mm f/2.8 USM Lens14.3 oz(405g)3.1 x 2.8"(78 x 71mm)72mm1992
Canon EF 24mm f/1.4 L II USM Lens22.9 oz(650g)3.5 x 4.2"(88.5 x 106.9mm)77mm2008
Canon EF 24mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens9.9 oz(280g)2.7 x 2.2"(68.4 x 55.7mm)58mm2012
Canon EF 24mm f/2.8 Lens9.5 oz(270g)2.7 x 1.9"(68 x 49mm)58mm1988
Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5 L II Tilt-Shift Lens27.5 oz(780g)3.5 x 4.2"(88.5 x 106.9mm)82mm2009
Canon EF 28mm f/1.8 USM Lens10.9 oz(310g)2.9 x 2.2"(74 x 56mm)58mm1995
Canon EF 28mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens9.2 oz(260g)2.7 x 2"(68.4 x 51.5mm)58mm2012
Canon EF 28mm f/2.8 Lens6.5 oz(185g)2.6 x 1.7"(67 x 43mm)52mm1987
Canon EF 35mm f/1.4 L USM Lens20.5 oz(580g)3.1 x 3.4"(79 x 86mm)72mm1998
Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM Lens11.8 oz(335g)3.1 x 2.5"(77.9 x 62.6mm)67mm2012
Canon EF 35mm f/2.0 Lens7.4 oz(210g)2.6 x 1.7"(67 x 43mm)52mm1990
Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 STM Pancake Lens4.6 oz(130g)2.7 x 0.9"(68.2 x 22.8mm)52mm2012
Canon TS-E 45mm f/2.8 Tilt-Shift Lens22.8 oz(645g)3.2 x 3.5"(81 x 90.1mm)72mm1991
Canon EF 50mm f/1.2 L USM Lens19.2 oz(545g)3.4 x 2.6"(85.4 x 65.5mm)72mm2006
Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM Lens10.2 oz(290g)2.9 x 2"(74 x 51mm)58mm1993
Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II Lens4.6 oz(130g)2.7 x 1.6"(68 x 41mm)52mm1990
Canon EF 50mm f/2.5 Macro Lens9.9 oz(280g)2.7 x 2.5"(68 x 63mm)52mm1987

For many more comparisons, review the complete Canon EF 24mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens Specifications using the site's Lens Spec tool.

I carried the 24 f/2.8 IS, 28mm f/2.8 IS and 70-300mm f/4-5.6 L IS lenses along with an EOS 5D Mark III on a rough 6 mile, most-of-the-day hike in Maine. I barely knew that the smaller two lenses, weighing just over 1 lb total, were on my belt.

As you probably noted in the above chart, the 24 IS utilizes small and moderately common 58mm filters.

Canon EF 24mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens Compared to Similar Lenses

Positioned above from left to right in their fully retracted positions are the following lenses:

Canon EF 24mm f/2.8 Lens
Canon EF 24mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens
Canon EF 28mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens
Canon EF 28mm f/2.8 Lens
Canon EF 28mm f/1.8 USM Lens
Canon EF 24mm f/1.4 L II USM Lens

The same lenses are shown below in their fully extended states with their lens hoods in place.

24 f/2.8 IS Compared to Similar Lenses with Hoods

Want to see more 24 IS product images? As you can see above, the 28 IS is nearly identical the the 24 IS (slightly shorter) - you can essentially use the product images in the Canon EF 28mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens review interchangeably with those in this review.

Canon EF 24mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens on Canon EOS 1D X - Top

The optional Canon EW-65B Lens Hood has a crazy price tag on it (perhaps because it has the fancy new release lock on it?) and is nearly impossible to get as of review time. I ordered mine from Japan. I admit that I'm wondering what Canon's reason for this shortage/delay is.

The EW-65B Lens Hood is nicely made, looks nice and works well, except ... The lens cap is very difficult to install or remove with the hood in place. The hood is not very deep, but the design of the rear of the lens hood is such that there is little clearance for the lens cap that sits deeply within the hood mounting rim. Fingernails are required to remove the lens cap (unless the hood is removed first).

The 24 IS does not come with a case. Also note that the Canon EF 24mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens is not weather sealed.

Canon EF 24mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens on Canon EOS 5D Mark III - Angle

Canon EF 24mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens on EOS Rebel T4i/650D - Front

Canon EF 24mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens on Canon EOS 1D X - Angle

The reviewed Canon EF 24mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens was purchased retail.

Being a non-L lens with a moderately high price tag (at introdcution), I fear that this lens may be overlooked by those who could be well-served by it. A lower price is always welcome and this lens has seen some price drops over time. I think that many will find the value in this lens.

As I said in the beginning of the review, the Canon EF 24mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens delivers fast and accurate AF, very good image quality and image stabilization in a light, compact package. I will continue to make use of this lens.

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