Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM Lens Review

Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM Lens
In-Depth Review

Everyone loves the 24-105mm f/4L IS version I lens. At least it seems that way. This lens has been a significant part of a high number of amateur, enthusiast and professional kits. It is a great general purpose lens and it was an especially great value when purchased in various full frame DSLR kits. Everyone needs a general purpose lens and since these lenses tend to be the most-used in the kit, there is an emphasis on having a high quality version of this most important lens. And, a version II lens is always better, right? Bettering an already popular lens is a simple recipe for success and the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM Lens has both the lineage and the specs required to make it Canon's best general purpose lens ever.

Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM Lens Front View on Camera

For many years, the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM Lens was my most-used lens and my primary full-frame walk-around/general purpose lens (and it still may be my most-ever-used lens). Then came the Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS USM Lens. This lens, featuring some advantages including an incredible maximum magnification capability, made the decision process a tough one. Though I would not have been surprised to see the original 24-105L discontinued after the 24-70 f/4L IS hit the streets, it was not and has remained popular. I went back and forth between these two lenses and had both in my kit at the same time for years.

What does a new, updated 24-105 f/4L IS lens mean to Canon's lens lineup? Certain is that the ideal Canon general purpose/walk-around lens decision process remains at least somewhat complicated. Also certain is that another great choice for this lens category is now available.

I don't recall Canon updating a lens model without improving it and this one indeed has improvements. The first 24-105 f/4L IS was great and with over a decade of technological advancements available, greater was assured with the II. How much greater is the biggest question and many of us are now asking: "Is the EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM Lens now Canon’s best general purpose/walk-around lens ever?" Read on my friend.

Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM Lens Side

Focal Length Range

Back to Top

To be my most-ever-used lens means that the focal length range (FLR) must be useful for the scenarios I most frequently encounter. Specifically, such a lens will cover what I consider to be the heart of the general purpose focal length range, or about 28-70mm for a full frame camera. The 24-105mm range is of course a solid superset of this range. The extra 4mm this lens provides on the wide end is especially valuable for landscape photography and for capturing images in tight places. The extra 35mm on the long end is useful for a wide range of subjects, but especially for portraiture including tightly framed portraits (such as headshots).

While few would consider this to be a "super zoom" lens, the 24-105mm range is the longest general purpose full frame focal length range that I have found to deliver the high-end, pro-grade image quality I am looking for (among the currently available lenses). Choosing a longer focal length range means giving up something I have not been willing to give up. More specifically, image quality is often sacrificed (especially the always-important image sharpness aspect) and size/weight typically go up rapidly.

Still, the 4x, 24-105mm zoom range packs a host of wildly-popular individual focal lengths into a single lens, including the well-represented-by-primes 24mm, 35mm, 50mm, 85mm and 100/105mm focal lengths.

This FLR is especially ideal for landscape photography. It is not difficult to create compelling landscape compositions using the 24mm perspective, while still providing emphasis on a foreground subject against an in-focus background with the viewer feeling a sense of presence in the scene. At the other end of the range, 105mm works great for modestly-compressed landscapes featuring distant subjects, such as mountains, being better emphasized. I utilize all of the focal lengths in between when photographing landscapes is my primary objective.

With a great portion of the ideal portrait FLR covered, this lens is ready to capture the world's most important subjects. That of course references people and the things that people are photographed and filmed doing: weddings, parties, events, documentaries, interviews, lifestyle, fashion, portraiture, sports, candids captured around the house and much more. The wide end works great for environmental-type portraits, the long end is well-suited for relatively tight headshot-type portraits and the balance of portrait needs, including group photos are covered by the focal lengths in between.

This lens is a great choice for photojournalistic needs, it is ready to capture a wide range of product images and it works great for general commercial and studio photography.

Do you travel? If so, this lens has your name on it. It is well suited for capturing much of what you will find while sightseeing and it will not be a burden to take with you. That includes interior and exterior architecture, cities, countrysides, etc.

As always, an APS-C format DSLR utilizes a smaller image circle. This means that these cameras frame a scene more tightly, with 1.6x being the multiplier (FOVCF) used to determine the full frame angle of view equivalent. Multiplying 24-105mm by 1.6x yields 38.4-168mm, the full frame 35mm format camera angle of view equivalent for this lens used on an APS-C body.

The uses for this angle of view are similar to the 24-105mm range (there is a lot of overlap), but for my taste, the lens shifts from landscapes toward portraits in its overall usefulness profile when APS-C-mounted.

I mentioned "overlap" in a slightly different context, but I think this word warrants a short discussion in another sense. While the 24-105mm focal length range appears to match up perfectly between the Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM Lens (or similar) and the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens (and those three lenses would make a great kit), the also-popular Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM Lens (or similar) and Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM Lens (or similar) kits will have a lot of redundant focal lengths in them. Let me assure you that focal length overlap is not bad to have. Having the focal lengths you need in a lens that is mounted at any given moment is often crucial for maximizing image making opportunities. Photos will sometimes be missed if a lens change is required to capture them.

I always find it helpful to view a comparison sample of the focal length range. All 24-105mm lenses provide the same (or at least close to the same) range of angle of views, so here I'm borrowing a comparison sample I like from the Canon EF 24-105mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM Lens review (captured with a full frame Canon EOS 5D Mark III DSLR camera.

Canon EF 24-105mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM Lens Focal Length Range Example

24mm | 35mm | 50mm | 70mm | 85mm | 105mm

It is hard to not like those angles of view. Pay specific attention to the 70mm vs 105mm comparison as that difference between what this lens offers compared to what the to-70mm alternative lenses provide.

Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM Lens Top View with Hood

Max Aperture

Back to Top

The f/4 in the lens name refers to the lens's max aperture opening, the relationship of lens opening to focal length. The lower the number, the more light the lens will allow to reach the sensor. Each "stop" in aperture change (examples: f/2.8, f/4.0, f/5.6, f/8, f/11) increases or reduces the amount of light reaching the sensor by a factor of 2x (a big deal).

An f/4 lens is one stop slower than what is typically found in the fastest zoom lenses covering this focal length range. A 1-stop narrower max aperture means that less glass is needed, resulting in lighter weight, smaller size and lower cost. A 1-stop narrower max aperture also means that there may be better options for stopping action in low light. I emphasize "action" as this lens's image stabilization system (discussed soon) makes this lens better suited to handheld low light non-action photography than a non-stabilized f/2.8 option.

An f/4 aperture is 1 stop wider at many focal lengths than many APS-C format kit lenses covering the same range. So, I'll call this lens's f/4 max aperture moderately fast. While the f/2.8 variants are twice-better-suited to stopping low light action, this lens can handle moderately low light scenarios, especially with the latest DSLR cameras and their low-noise technology. Of course, the subject speed and how large that subject is in the frame makes this reference situational.

Again falling behind the f/2.8 variants (and in front of many of the to-f/5.6 kit lenses) is this lens's ability to produce a strong background blur. Still, the 105mm f/4 combination along with a relatively close subject and distant background is able to nicely blur away the background:

Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM Lens Maximum Blur Example

An f/4 max aperture is wide enough to produce good viewfinder brightness, but not wide enough activate the higher-precision center point AF mode found in some cameras.

In a zoom lens, the max aperture will sometimes be stated as a range, indicating that the max aperture narrows as the focal length increases. This is not the case in many of Canon's L series zoom lenses and a positive feature of this lens is the fixed max aperture. Manually-set wide open exposures can be retained and counted on throughout the entire zoom range.

Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM Lens Side View with Hood

Image Stabilization

Back to Top

A feature I find critical to have in a walk-around general purpose lens is image stabilization. Unless I am using a camera support, I seldom leave home without IS. While image stabilization does not stop subject motion, it allows handholding of the camera in extremely low light situations with still subjects (or permits motion blurring of subjects with sharp surroundings such as flowing water). The image quality difference made by IS is potentially dramatic.

One situation that I am frequently counting on IS for help with is when handholding in medium and low light levels when more depth of field is needed, allowing narrower aperture use without a tripod. When using a circular polarizer filter with narrow apertures (typical for landscapes and cityscapes), IS can be helpful even under a full sun. I often find myself trail running while hiking with a camera and family/friends (they don't wait for me) and when I stop to shoot, I am likely breathing hard. IS makes that work.

In-lens IS is useful for stabilizing the viewfinder, aiding in optimal composition. IS is also useful for video recording, helping to avoid motion sickness in susceptible viewers.

This IS implementation makes a light "chssh" sound when starting and stopping, but it is quiet while active. It is hard to hear humming while active even with an ear next to lens. Canon's IS systems have long been well behaved, meaning that the viewfinder image does not jump and I do not find myself fighting against IS while recomposing. The image framing sometimes drifts slightly while IS is active. The manual instructs to turn off IS when panning with subjects in motion.

Canon has rated this IS system at 4 stops of improvement (up from 3). In other words, an ISO setting 4 stops higher, ISO 1600 instead of ISO 100 or ISO 12800 instead of ISO 800 for example, would be necessary to increase the shutter speed enough to compensate for omission of this system. That difference is huge in terms of image quality.

I said that I would be surprised to find this lens's real world IS assistance for me personally to be less than 3.5 stops and 4 stops would not be at all surprising. Those expectations were met and exceeded. At 24mm, I am getting a high keeper rate at .5 seconds, a still good rate at 1 second and even decent at 1.3 seconds (including a string of 6 sharp images in a row). The latter represents about 5 stops of assistance for me without accounting for the 5Ds R's high density sensor. The keeper rate drop-off is gradual as shutter speeds lengthen. Being able to capture a sharp image at 1.6 seconds is quite remarkable to me. Testing IS on a lens that can do this is exhausting.

At 105mm, I was similarly impressed. I had good results at 1/4 second shutter speeds and still had a decent rate of sharp images at .6 seconds for 4-6 stops of assistance. Again, the keeper rate drop-off is gradual as shutter speeds lengthen.

These numbers should be considered about the best I can do. While I'm not the steadiest photographer, testing is done indoors on a concrete floor. Quickly hike up a big mountain and shoot from an unstable position in the wind and the results will be far less. However, the amount of assistance should remain similar and that is important.

Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM Lens Top View

Image Quality

Back to Top

What was I hoping for from the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM Lens in terms of image quality? Well, perfection is always nice. But, we all know that there are no perfect lenses and, at announcement time, I was sure that Canon did not just invent one.

From a sharpness perspective, the original 24-105 L was a good lens, but it left a little room for improvement, especially at the long end. So, I was hoping for slightly increased sharpness overall and especially hoped to see 105mm improvement.

Our first hint to a lens's optical performance often comes from the manufacturer-provided MTF charts, so let's review an MTF chart comparison between three Canon 24-105mm lenses and the 24-70 f/4L IS lens:

Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM Lens MTF Chart Comparison

The thick lines show contrast while the thin lines show resolution. The solid lines show sagittal (lines radiating from center to the image circle periphery) results while the dashed lines show meridional (lines perpendicular to the sagittal lines) results. The black lines indicate a wide open aperture while the blue lines show results at f/8. The left side of the chart shows center-of-the-image-circle measurement and the right side shows peripheral measurement. The higher the lines, the better the lens performs. When all of the lines get crushed into the top of the chart, the lens promises to be amazing.

Does the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM Lens have a better chart than its predecessor? Yes. However, the difference does not appear to be striking. The MTF charts point to the II's corners performing better at 24mm and the center appears sharper at 105mm. It also appears that the II would compete well against the 24-70mm f/4L IS, though again, the difference does not appear to be dramatic. We can't compare 70mm performance in these charts, but the 24mm results are comparable, yet differing.

Perhaps the most interesting point made in these graphs is how close the 24-105mm f/3.5-5.6 STM IS Lens competes to the II. Keep in mind that the STM lens is f/5.6 max at 105mm as you review this comparison.

The lens in hand of course always brings the truth to light.

In the central portion of the frame, 24-105mm f/4L IS II images have good sharpness that remains remarkably similar throughout the focal length range and unusually similar across the aperture range – until diffraction begins to affect (soften) the results at narrower apertures. The site's image quality tool provides a great view of this lens's performance, but let's take a look at some 100% center-of-the-frame crops from an outdoor scene. The following images were captured in RAW format and processed in DPP using the Standard Picture Style with sharpness set to "1".

Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM Lens Sharpness Comparison Example

24mm: f/4.0 | f/5.6 | f/8.0
50mm: f/4.0 | f/5.6 | f/8.0
105mm: f/4.0 | f/5.6 | f/8.0

Basically, these results say that, with this lens, you can freely select the ideal aperture for your image with little regard to image sharpness. That is a great feature. Not as great of a feature and notable is a bit of focus shift to the front that occurs when this lens is stopped down.

The full frame corner performance from this lens is not as consistent across the focal length range. Before diving into the corner description, I'll share some 100% extreme-bottom-left crop examples (captured and processed same as above).

Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM Lens Corner Sharpness Comparison Example

50mm: f/4.0 | f/5.6 | f/8.0
105mm: f/4.0 | f/5.6 | f/8.0 f/4.0 | f/5.6 | f/8.0

If your full frame corners must be tack sharp at 24mm, this is probably not the right lens for you. However, there is some noticeable improvement recognized by stopping down to f/8 (f/11 results were similar to the f/8 results). Zooming to 35mm brings about a noticeable improvement in corner sharpness at f/4 and some improvement is seen when stopping down until f/8.

At 50mm, corner performance is quite good. See how sharp the orange pumpkin in the bottom left of these samples appears? Results at 105mm remain similarly good. While this lens shows even sharpness in all four corners, 85mm is a slight exception with the upper right corner (the corner shown in the image quality tool) being slightly softer than the others.

Keeping us grounded is the comparison to near-perfection move the mouse over and off of the crops to switch back and forth between the lenses). These are two completely different lenses and the expensive prime telephoto should have higher resolution and contrast, but the comparison keeps things in perspective. It shows where the 24-105 L II fits in. And, it has good sharpness across a wide range of focal lengths.

Overall, the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II Lens compared to the version I lens shows the two more similar than different with the new lens showing a slight advantage at 105mm and the two trading small wins in other comparisons. But, even if you don't think the image quality upgrade was a home run, this lens has other more-compelling feature advantages.

It is expected that a lens will show some peripheral shading at its widest aperture when used on a full frame camera. The amount, however, is a variable. In this case, the amount is visible but not strong.

Expect a relatively low about-2 stops of shading in the corners at 24mm f/4. By 35mm and through 50mm, the shading amount drops to about 1.4 stops (relatively low) and then climbs back up to close to 2 stops. From 70mm through 105mm, vignetting is just barely two stops in the extreme corners. Stop down to f/5.6 and vignetting is cut by approximately 50% over the entire focal length range.

A rough rule of thumb says that shading above 1 stop is sometimes noticeable (though even less may be noticeable on a blue sky or similar). At f/8, about 1 stop of shading remains at 24mm, about .6 stops remains from 35mm through 50mm and just slightly less (.5-.4 stops) remains over the balance of the range. Only mild improvement is seen at f/11 with nearly a stop of shading remaining in 24mm corners.

At the 24-105mm f/4L II’s announcement time, Canon talked about greater evenness of illumination, so some improvement in vignetting was viewed as quite likely. That happened. The Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L II vs. I Lens vignetting comparison shows the new lens to have nearly a full stop of improvement in 24mm corners.

If the all wavelengths of light in the visible spectrum refracted identically, a lens designer's job would be a lot easier. Because they do not, we get aberrations caused by various wavelengths of light being magnified and focused differently.

The most frequently noticed type of CA (Chromatic Aberration), lateral (or transverse) CA, shows as different colors of the spectrum being magnified differently with the mid and especially the periphery of the image circle showing color fringing along lines of strong contrast running tangential (meridional, right angles to radii) as this is where the greatest difference in wavelengths magnification exists. I'll call it "LatCA" and if it is a general purpose zoom lens, latCA is probably present. Fortunately, lateral CA is easily software corrected (often in the camera) by radially shifting certain colors outward to coincide with the others.

LatCA becomes more pronounced by ultra-high resolution cameras and here are worst-case 100% crop examples from the top right corner of 5Ds R images:

Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM Lens CA Example

24 | 24 C | 35 | 50 | 70 | 85 | 105 | 105 100% C | 105 C

Zoom lenses generally have latCA showing the strongest at the two ends of the focal length range and that is the case here. The 24-105 L II transitions from strong latCA at 24mm to a negligible amount at 50mm and back to a strong amount again at 105mm. As mentioned, CA can be corrected with software. With the proper lens profile loaded in Canon DPP (Digital Professional Pro), removing latCA is as easy as checking a box (it is similarly easy in other tools as well). The corrected results are designated above with a "C", but if you already looked at the samples, you likely figured that out. I didn't think the default 100% correction amount completely took care of the problem in the 105mm image, so I shared a tweaked adjustment as well.

A relatively common lens aberration is axial (longitudinal, bokeh) CA, which causes non-coinciding focal planes of the various wavelengths of light, or more simply, different colors of light are focused to different depths. Spherical aberration along with spherochromatism, or a change in the amount of spherical aberration with respect to color (looks quite similar to axial chromatic aberration, but is hazier) is another common lens aberration to look for. Axial CA remains at least somewhat persistent when stopping down with the color misalignment effect increasing with defocusing while the spherical aberration color halo shows little size change as the lens is defocused and stopping down one to two stops generally removes this aberration.

In the real world, lens defects do not exist in isolation with spherical aberration and spherochromatism generally found, at least to some degree, along with axial CA. These combine to create a less sharp, hazy-appearing image quality at the widest apertures. Shown below are 100% EOS 5Ds R crops taken from the center of the frame. Notice the how the fringing color changes from in front of the plane of sharp focus to behind it in these images.

Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM Lens SA Example

Stopping down removes the fringing shown above.

With 17 elements in 12 groups, it was highly unlikely that this lens would be completely void of flare. However, Canon's ASC coating (more below) promised to keep flare to a minimum. With a wide open aperture and the sun in the corner of the frame, this lens shows practically no flare effects at either end of the focal length range. A mild amount of flare effects are present in the mid focal lengths at f/4. Flare effects are typically stronger at narrower apertures and they are stronger in this lens, but the 24-105 L II does a good job of keeping them under control. I see a modest improvement over the version I lens in this regard.

Coma is generally recognized by sharp contrast towards the center of an image and long, soft contrast transition toward the image periphery. Coma is most visible in wide aperture corners and significantly resolves when the lens is stopped down. The pin-point stars in the night sky are the subject that makes this aberration, along with some others, most easily recognizable to me. Following is a set of 5Ds R-captured 100% crop samples taken from near the top right corner of the frame.

Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM Lens Coma Example

24mm | 35mm | 50mm | 70mm

The corners are somewhat soft at 24mm, making it hard to discern the issues at work here. The other focal lengths shown above have a moderate (about normal) amount of coma. I stopped the testing at 70mm as motion blur becomes a distraction at long focal lengths without a tracking mount, even with a northern sky as the subject.

This lens has barrel distortion at the wide end that transitions into negligible distortion and on into pincushion distortion at the long end. That line can describe most of the zoom lenses out there and this one is included. The site's distortion tool is ideal for testing and comparing lenses in this regard, but here is a set of examples with straight lines running parallel to the edge of the frame. These examples are full frame images reduced and vertically cropped to the top of the frame.

Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM Lens Distortion Example

24mm | 35mm | 50mm | 70mm | 85mm | 105mm

At announcement time, Canon referenced improvements in linear distortion for this lens, and while the barrel distortion remains relatively strong at 24mm, it is noticeably less than the version I lens had. By 35mm, the negligible distortion point has been passed and moderate pincushion distortion sets in, remaining relatively constant from 50mm through 105mm.

Not only is geometric distortion an issue for straight lines running near the borders of the frame, but it makes framing a scene with a straight horizon, such as the ocean, challenging as there are no lines showing parallel to the edges of the viewfinder or viewfinder gridlines. Cameras with electronic levels have a big advantage in overcoming this issue. While there is some variation between zoom lenses in this regard, prime lenses usually have a linear distortion advantage (unless the zoom lens's negligible distortion focal length is selected).

As mentioned earlier in the review, a normal zoom lens with moderately wide f/4 max aperture is not going to be the best at blurring the background away. However, with a close subject and a distant background, telephoto compression can enable a serious background blur at 105mm. And, the quality of that blur appears nice. Here is a pair of examples showing out of focus specular highlights.

Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM Lens Bokeh Example

There are 337 lenses in our lens spec database and none aside from this one has more than 9 aperture blades. So, the 10 blade design was an interesting choice.

More blades mean the opening can be kept rounder at narrow apertures and Canon informed me that the 10 blade aperture was indeed selected to improve the out of focus areas and provide a nearly circular effect. An even number of blades means the same number of points are produced on star effects created from bright lights captured at narrow apertures (10 in this case).

The points on these stars are coming from the blades of the aperture. Each blade is responsible, via diffraction, for creating two points of the star effect. If the blades are arranged opposite of each other (an even blade count), the points on the stars will equal the blade count as two blades share in creating a single pair of points. The blades of an odd blade count aperture are not opposing and the result is that each blade creates its own two points. For example, nine blades times two points each create 18-point star effects.

Are 18 points better than 10 points? That answer involves some personal preference, but here is an example of the look this lens's 10 blades create:

Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM Lens Specular Highlight Star Example

As the 24-105 f/4L IS II is a brand new professional-grade L-Series lens, my overall image quality expectations were automatically high. I wouldn't say that my expectations were exceeded in this case, but ... they were met. This is a solid-performing lens that, considering all aspects of image quality, exceeds the performance of its predecessor, a lens that a huge number of photographers are happy with.

Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM Lens Element Diagram

Special Lens Elements and Coatings

Back to Top

Notable is that this lens design includes 4 aspherical elements including an element with two aspherical surfaces. Specific lens elements in the EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II receive Fluorine and Air Sphere Coating (ASC). Reducing flare and ghosting is the primary goal with increased contrast being the end result.

Canon Air Sphere Coating

ASC is the latest coating we have seen from Canon. "This is a hybrid coating consisting of nano particles that trap capsule-like air between the ASC layer and conventional multi-layer coatings. The Air Sphere particles form a super low reflective coat on the surface of the lens element to reduce reflection and act as a ‘crash mat’ to slow light down to roughly the same speed as light travels through glass, thus preventing the cause of reflection." [Canon]

ASC has been used on some of Canon's greatest-ever lenses including the EF 11-24mm f/4L and EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II.

The other coating, Fluorine, is applied to the front and rear lens surfaces. Fluorine's non-stick properties prevent dust and water drop adhesion and makes lens cleaning much easier. Fingerprints, for example, easily wipe off of lenses with this coating (many of Canon's better lenses now have this). This coating is especially valuable on a wide angle lens as dirt on the front lens element can appear in images.

Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM Lens Angle Extended View


Back to Top

Especially with a general purpose lens that is likely to be used in AF mode much of the time, accurate autofocusing is the key to a lens delivering its ultimate image quality. As Canon's Ring USM (Ultrasonic Motor) driven AF systems have long set the standard for both DSLR lens focus speed and accuracy, I saw no reason why the 24-105 L IS II should be any different and I am impressed with what has been delivered.

The Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM Lens focuses fast with only some lens group shuffling sound being audible if close to the lens in a quiet environment. Even more important is that focusing has proven consistently accurate.

Focusing is internal and FTM (Full Time Manual) focusing is supported. This lens reportedly has been given smoother AF that is especially well-suited for Dual Pixel CMOS AF systems, but the short adjustments are still relatively abrupt and I'd prefer STM or Nano USM lenses for video recording.

Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM Lens Angle View

Subjects change size a modest amount during full extent focus pulls. While this attribute is not unusual, photographers intending to use focus stacking techniques involving focus distance adjustment, videographers pulling focus and anyone critically framing a scene should be aware of this.

The subject repeatedly comes in and out of focus while the review copy of this lens's zoom ring traverses the focal length range. As with most non-cinema lenses, the 24-105 L II (the review copy at least) is not parfocal and photographers should refocus after changing focal lengths.

The 24-105mm f/4L IS II's manual focus ring is nicely sized and positioned toward the front of the lens (where I like it). This ring is smooth, well-damped, has no play and has a rotation amount that provides a good balance of precision focusing and focus acquisition/tracking speed. Overall, this lens delivers a nice manual focusing experience to match the excellent AF performance.

A focus distance scale is provided (in a window), though a DOF scale is absent (normal for this class of lens).

The 24-105 L II has an MFD (Minimum Focus Distance) of 17.7" (450mm) for a 0.24x MM (Maximum Magnification) at 105mm. While a pair of lenses in the table below exceed the 24-105 L II's MM capability, the 0.24x number is a good one in the overall pool of non-macro lenses and slightly better than the original 24-105 L.

ModelMin Focus Distance "(mm)Max Magnification
Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM Lens15.0(380)0.21x
Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS USM Lens7.9(200)0.70x
Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM Lens17.7(450)0.24x
Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM Lens17.7(450)0.23x
Canon EF 24-105mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM Lens15.7(400)0.30x
Sigma 24-105mm f/4.0 DG OS HSM Art Lens17.7(450)0.22x
Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD Lens15.0(380)0.20x

A 0.24x MM will work great for flower photography and relatively small products can be framed tightly.

To reduce the MFD and thereby increase the MM, mount an extension tube behind this lens. Infinity and even medium distance focusing are sacrificed with an ET in use behind the 24-105 L II and the resulting lens combination becomes a bit darker from an aperture perspective, but the change in magnification is significant. With a Canon EF 12mm Extension Tube II in the optical path, this lens has a magnification range spec of 0.60x-0.12x. The specs for using a Canon EF 25mm Extension Tube II narrow the magnification "range" to just "0.61x".

Extension tubes provide the greatest MFD decrease and magnification increase at wide focal lengths. Reaching the upper limit of the 12mm ET magnification specs results in practically no working distance in front of the lens, making this number rather impractical to reach. Using the 25mm ET results in the available working distance quickly becoming too short as the lens is zoomed wider, but it is usable at 105mm.

Brittany added a special new piece of hardware to her collection, so I took the opportunity to use it as a subject for exploring this lens's MFD capabilities. These MFD examples were all captured at 105mm, where extension tubes provide the most working distance, at the lens's closest focus distance. Clarifying: The 12mm ET can deliver the nearly the same magnification/result as the 25mm ET at this lens's widest focal lengths, but the example below shows what can be achieved at a much more comfortable working distance. The medal measures about 3" (76mm) in diameter.

Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM Lens MFD  Examples

This lens is not compatible with Canon extenders.

Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM Lens Angle View with Hood

Build Quality & Features

Back to Top

Of all of the lenses I've used, most of my favorites are from the Canon L Series. These lenses are built to a higher standard than the average lens; they are ready for professional use. And, they are generally lots of fun to use.

The Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM Lens shares obvious design features with both its predecessor and other recent Canon wide angle and normal zoom lenses in this series. Here is a side-by-side comparison of the old and new lens respectively:

Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS I vs. II USM Lens Comparison

And, here is a closer look at the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM Lens itself:

Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM Lens Product Images

MFD |    MFD |    w/ Hood:  MFD |    MFD |    Rotated        Compare »

The textured deep black finish looks sharp and has proven durable in recently introduced lenses. The zoom and focus rings are nicely integrated into the lens body with only a thin seam showing at the edges. The comfortably smooth, nearly-straight overall design includes flush-mount switches that don't dig into fingers during use.

The rear-positioned zoom ring (my strong preference) is smooth with a good rotation amount and proper dampening. This lens extends with focal length increase (and vice versa).

Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM Lens Lock Switch

An upgrade from the previous version of this lens is the zoom extension lock switch, enabling the lens to remain retracted to 24mm to prevent unwanted zooming such as that caused by gravity. This lens doesn't need the switch, but these switches may become useful after a lens has been used (or abused) heavily. That need can vary from lens to lens.

Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM Lens Mount

Like most of Canon's latest L lenses, the 24-105mm f/4L IS II is weather sealed, though a filter is recommended to complete the sealing around the front lens elements.

While I didn't tear the lens apart (I'll let Roger Cicala do that for me), Canon indicated that this lens had improved build quality. Along with that upgrade and other improvements, this lens takes on a slight increase in weight (4.4 oz/125g), though few of us are going to find this difference substantial. Also increased modestly (as seen in the comparison image above) is the size of the lens. While it is a bit larger and heavier than the version I lens, a lens of this size and weight is a joy to use, is not a problem for most to carry for long periods of time and takes up only a modest amount of space when stored.

ModelWeight oz(g)Dimensions w/o Hood "(mm)FilterYear 
Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM Lens28.4(805)3.5 x 4.4(88.5 x 113)82mm2012
Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS USM Lens21.2(600)3.3 x 3.7(83.4 x 93)77mm2012
Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM Lens28.1(795)3.3 x 4.6(83.5 x 118)77mm2016
Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM Lens23.7(670)3.3 x 4.2(83.5 x 107)77mm2005
Canon EF 24-105mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM Lens18.5(525)3.3 x 4.1(83.4 x 104)77mm2014
Sigma 24-105mm f/4.0 DG OS HSM Art Lens31.2(885)3.5 x 4.3(88.6 x 109.4)82mm2013
Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD Lens29.1(825)3.5 x 4.3(88.2 x 108.5)82mm2012

For many more comparisons, review the complete Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM Lens Specifications using the site's Lens Spec tool.

This lens has grown up. Let's visually compare some of these lenses.

Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM Lens Compared to Similar Lenses

Positioned above from left to right are the following lenses:

Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS USM Lens
Canon EF 24-105mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM Lens
Sigma 24-105mm f/4.0 DG OS HSM Art Lens
Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM Lens
Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM Lens

The same lenses are shown below with their hoods in place.

Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM Lens Compared to Similar Lenses with Hoods

Use the site's product image comparison tool to visually compare the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM Lens to other lenses (I'll preload a comparison you might find interesting).

Yes, even with an aperture 1/2 as wide, the 24-105 L II is slightly larger than the 24-70mm f/2.8 L II. While they weigh practically the same, the extra focal length range is showing some penalty here.

The 24-105mm f/4L IS II Lens utilizes the ultra-popular 77mm filter size. While not small, these filters are frequently able to be shared with other lenses in the kit if necessary. You might notice a slight increase in vignetting when using a standard thickness circular polarizer filter, making slim models such as the B+W XS-Pro my recommendation.

For their L-Series lenses, Canon always includes the hood in the box and that is again the case. The Canon Lens Hood EW-83M, designed for the EF 24-105mm STM Lens is the model. This petal-shaped hood is relatively small, but it does offer a nice amount of protection from both impact and contrast-robbing, flare-inducing light. The push button release makes hood installation and removal easy.

Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM Lens Cap

The 24-105 L II, like the other lenses in its class, is supposed to ship with a Canon drawstring lens pouch (Lens Case LP1219) in the box. I say "supposed to" because the 24-105 L II that I received in a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV kit omitted that accessory. Regardless, these pouches offer some minimal padding on the bottom, but primarily protect from dust and scratches (vs. impact) otherwise. Check out Lowepro's Lens Cases for affordable single lens protection during storage, transport and carry.

Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM Lens Extended View with Hood

Price, Value, Compatibility

Back to Top

One of the hallmarks of Canon's f/4L lens lineup has been a great value price. While there are less-expensive lenses available, the L-series offers great build quality and reliability, great AF performance, great image quality and other features to match. While there are wider aperture lenses available in this series, their prices are often as much higher as their apertures are wider. Lesser lenses, bearing lower prices, will not meet this lens's overall package. The 24-105mm f/4L IS II's price tag maintains the great value price characteristic.

As an "EF" lens, the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM Lens is compatible with all Canon "EOS" cameras (though the EOS "M" line requires an adapter). The reviewed lens was online/retail-sourced.

Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM Lens on Tripod


Back to Top

As the general purpose lens is a high demand product group, one would expect it to be heavily targeted with a lot of options available. Not so long ago, I would have said that the full frame choices were rather limited, but now there is a decent list of options and many of them are good ones. I'll spin through some of them here.

First, if the f/4 aperture is not wide enough, the lens to get is the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM Lens. This lens is an excellent all-around performer, but you must give up image stabilization and the 71-105mm focal length range (and considerably more money) with this choice. Pertinent to most is that the f/2.8 lens is sharper than the f/4. The 24-70 L II has much less CA at 24mm, but, reaching its zoom range extent at 70mm, shows more at that focal length. The 24-70 L II has less distortion and shows slightly less vignetting in most equivalent comparisons including at 24mm f/11. The 24-105 L II shows slightly less flare effects, has a slightly higher MM spec (0.24x vs. 0.21x) and uses smaller filters (77mm vs. 82mm). These lenses are similar in size, shape and weight.

Keeping more money in your wallet is the Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS USM Lens and this is the lens that may create the biggest decision challenge for those considering the 24-105 L II. As with any 24-70mm alternative, this lens gives up the 71-105mm FLR. But, it also gives up some size (3.3 x 3.7" vs. 3.3 x 4.6") (83.4 x 93mm vs. 83.5 x 118mm) and weight (21.2 oz vs. 28.1 oz) (600g vs. 795g). Less money, size and weight are great, but a nice 24-70 f/4L IS advantage is its 0.70x MM (vs. 0.24x).

The image quality comparison between these two lenses does not make the decision any easier. The lenses are more similar than they are different in terms of sharpness. The 24-70 has less CA at 24mm, but more at 70mm. The two lenses have a similar amount of vignetting aside from at 24mm where the 24-105 has an advantage even stopped down. The 24-105 shows less flare effects while the 24-70 has less linear distortion. I'll let you make this decision, but ... I have not decided if the 24-105 L II is a compelling upgrade from the 24-70 f/4L IS (a decision I'm personally making at this time).

The 24-105 L II's predecessor, the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM Lens, has remained popular despite its age (11 years old at II's introduction) and despite the 24-70 f/4L IS' introduction. This is in part due to the great refurbished and white box price this lens has been available for. The version II lens has taken steps forward in performance, though it did gain a small amount of size, weight and price. It also gained build quality improvements along with an improved IS system, rated for an additional stop of assistance (4 vs. 3).

The image quality comparison between these two lenses does not necessarily lead one to a decisive conclusion in regards to sharpness, but the II performs slightly better at 105mm. The II has less vignetting, less distortion and shows slightly less flaring.

While inventory of the version I lens remains available, the decision for many will be whether the improvements are worth the difference in price and that is not an easy one to make. At regular price, I think the II is worth the relatively small price difference, but the version I lens will remain a popular choice as long as the low-cost inventory (Canon-refurbished and white box deals) remains available. Of those already owning the original 24-105 L, the upgrade cost will not be an easy one to justify. I think the new lens is the better option, but ... it is probably not worth the upgrade cost to a solid percentage of these photographers.

Not so long prior, the Canon EF 24-105mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM Lens was introduced. While there was definitely room for this lens in Canon's lineup, it had kit lens written all over it. To date, this lens has not shown up in kits and its stand-alone price has been heavily challenged by the refurb/white box pricing of the 24-105 L version I. One of the 24-105 STM's advantages is the STM AF system for smooth Movie Servo AF during video use, but only two full frame cameras featured Dual Pixel AF when the 24-105 II began hitting the street and the 24-105 STM has still not found great popularity at this time. But, it is not a bad lens and it is considerably lighter, modestly smaller and much less expensive than the 24-105 L II.

While one might think the image quality comparison between these two lenses would be clearly differentiating, it is not so. The STM has less CA at 24mm and has slightly less pincushion distortion at mid and long focal lengths. The L lens has a wider aperture over the 42-105mm range, but the STM has a 1/3 stop advantage for a few mms (24-27mm) and has a higher MM (0.30x vs 0.24). The L lens is better-built including weather sealing and its Ring USM AF system performs especially well.

Another lens manufacturer floating a 24-105mm f/4 image stabilized lens in the marketplace is Sigma. The Sigma 24-105mm f/4.0 DG OS HSM Art Lens, introduced about 3 years prior to the 24-105 L II, is a good performer, rivaling the original 24-105mm f/4L lens. Compared to the 24-105 L II, the Sigma is slightly heavier, similar in size and lower priced. The Sigma has a higher MM (0.30x vs 0.24) to its advantage. Though I prefer the Canon's AF system, this Sigma lens performed well in this regard.

In the image quality comparison, we see the Sigma turning in slightly sharper results at the wide end, the two being similar over most of the focal length range and the Canon taking the advantage at the long end. At 24mm, the Sigma has less CA and slightly more barrel distortion. The Canon has slightly less vignetting at 24mm and modestly less at the long end. Again, this comparison does not lead to a clear advantage for either lens.

Another lens to consider for general purpose needs is the Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD Lens. At review time, this is the only image stabilized (VC or Vibration Compensation) lens available in Canon mount that covers the 24-70mm focal length range with an f/2.8 max aperture. I don't know why no other lens manufacturer offers this feature set in Canon mount, but it really is a great one. Of course, 24-70mm is not as useful as 24-105mm and that trade-off must be considered.

From an image quality perspective, the Tamron is sharper at 24mm f/2.8 than the Canon is at 24mm f/4, but the Canon has the edge in the rest of the f/2.8 vs. f/4 comparisons. Stop the Tamron down 1 stop at it has the sharpness edge throughout the shared focal length range and also has less vignetting. Stopped down further, you will not see much difference in vignetting, but the Tamron has much less CA at the wide end regardless of the aperture selected. The Canon has slightly less barrel distortion at 24mm, but the Tamron has slightly less pincushion distortion at 50-70mm.

The Tamron is slightly heavier, slightly shorter, modestly wider and takes wider 82mm filters. The Tamron's street price is modestly higher than the Canon's, but Tamron rebates (they are frequent) can reverse this factor. The Canon's AF system is my strong preference.

Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM Lens Front View


Back to Top

The announcement of the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM Lens drew a lot of anticipation. The predecessor was famously popular and a "II" version was sure to be even better. Canon has been delivering some incredibly sharp zoom lenses recently and hopes were high that this would be another of them. However, the provided MTF charts did not indicate a big difference in sharpness from the original lens. The Canon USA press release for this lens amounted to, basically, one sentence within the much larger Canon EOS 5D Mark IV press release: "The new EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM Standard Zoom lens features an improved four-stop image stabilization as well as ghosting and flare reduction with air sphere coating." Though the air sphere coating could have a positive impact on image quality, image sharpness was not directly mentioned as being improved from the original lens and one would think that marketing would be quick to tout such an improvement. So, this lens arrived with some expectations set too high.

Bringing this review around to a realistic view of the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM Lens, we have to look at where this lens fits in the alternative comparisons above. And, the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM Lens is the only lens that is clearly better. But, again, that lens is twice as expensive and lacks image stabilization and some of the focal length range. So, the 24-105 L II is at the top of the list and that is a great place to be.

No, it doesn't have perfect image quality, but the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM Lens is one of the best general purpose lenses available. It has an extremely useful range of focal lengths in a very-well constructed body that is ready for professional-duty use. It is nicely sized and has a weight that will not quickly wear you down. And, the excellent image stabilization system will make a dramatic difference in some low light situations. The fast, accurate and quiet AF system will not let you down, the overall lens design will delight and the price is not terribly high. As the 24-105 L I fades into history, this is the lens that will take its place.

Bringing you this site is my full-time job (typically 60-80 hours per week). Thus, I depend solely on the commissions received from you using the links on this site to make any purchase. I am grateful for your support! - Bryan

Can you help right now?

This site and my family depend on your support.
Please share this page!

Share on Facebook! Share on X! Share on Pinterest! Email this page to a friend!

Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM Lens
Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM Lens
Share on Facebook! Share on X! Share on Pinterest! Email this page to a friend!
Can we stay in touch?Free Newsletter
Bryan Recommends Buying It Here
Any purchase made after using this link provides support for this site Any purchase made after using this link provides support for this site
Any purchase made after using this link provides support for this site
As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Any purchase made at WEX Photographic after using this link provides support for this siteAny purchase made at Camera Canada after using this link provides support for this site
Any purchase made at KEH after using this link provides support for this siteAny purchase made at MPB after using this link provides support for this site
Terms of Use, Privacy  |  © 2024 Rectangular Media, LLC  |  Bryan CarnathanPowered by Christ!