Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens Review

Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens

Ask any professional or serious amateur photographer to list their most important lens and a wide-aperture, general-purpose zoom lens will likely be their choice. It is not hard to argue that the RF 24-70mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens is Canon's best-ever option for this need.

Including Canon's dust- and weather-resistant, professional-grade L-series build, the RF 24-70mm F2.8 IS Lens brings the full package. While retaining a size and weight similar to the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM Lens, the RF 24-70 produces image quality that is slightly better and (we've been waiting a LONG time for this) the versatility-improving 5-stop image stabilization enables dramatically better image quality when photographing still or slow-moving subjects in low light. Ensuring that the ultimate image quality can be achieved is the fast, quiet, smooth, and accurate Nano USM AF system that provides an impressive up-to-0.30x magnification capability.

Announced alongside the similar-in-many-regards Canon RF 15-35mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens, the RF 24-70mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens is the second of the trio of RF f/2.8 zoom lenses referred to as the trinity of essential lenses for most pro and serious amateur kits to hit the streets and the third, the Canon RF 70-200mm F2.8 L IS USM Telephoto Zoom Lens, is on my desk as I write this review.

During a conversation, Canon's engineers promised that all RF lenses would have advantages such as smaller size, lighter weight, and/or new features over the EF lens counterpart. In this case, we primarily get, for the first time for Canon in this lens class, the just-mentioned image stabilization feature with up to 5-stops of assistance. In the past, we had to choose either an f/2.8 lens without image stabilization or an f/4 lens with image stabilization and for many of us, that meant two lenses were needed to cover all commonly encountered scenarios.

If you can have only one lens (Canon EOS R-series camera required), the RF 24-70mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens is likely the best choice.

Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens Angle View

Focal Length Range

When determining what a lens is useful for, the focal length range provided is one of the top considerations. Focal length especially matters because it drives focus distance choices which also determines perspective.

Covering the angles of view ranging from wide-angle through normal and on to short telephoto, the Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens' focal length range comfortably covers what I consider the important focal lengths to have in a full frame general-purpose lens, the ideal range for a standard do-everything lens.

Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens Lighthouse Sample Picture

A 24-70mm lens is an essential part of many landscape and cityscape photography kits. At the 24mm end, this lens provides a very wide-angle of view, able to show a strong perspective and create a sense of presence in an image. Still, 24mm is not so wide that composition becomes too challenging. By the 70mm end, smaller portions of a scene can be isolated and distant mountains will appear larger in proportion to closer elements.

Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens Portrait Sample Picture

A 24-70mm lens is often a requirement in a wedding photographer's kit and an f/2.8 version of this lens often becomes the most-used option in that kit. At 24mm, environmental portraits that include the venue can be captured and by 70mm, people can be framed tightly enough for head and shoulder portraits while retaining pleasing perspective. This lens will work well for photographing a wide variety of events, from parents capturing informal birthday parties at home to photojournalists covering formal galas at large venues.

While architecture photographers are typically looking for linear-distortion-free lenses to keep their buildings and walls straight and zoom lenses nearly always have some distortion, this lens has good angles of view for such work. Using the lowest distortion focal length (around 28-30mm) takes care of the distortion problem (removal during post processing is of course another option).

Sports photographers able to get close to their subjects (such as basketball shot from over or under the net) or wanting to capture a wider/environmental view of their events appreciate this focal length range. This focal length range nicely complements a 70-200mm lens for sports uses.

This is an ideal focal length range for videography needs. Especially with this lens' high maximum magnification spec, product photography is on this lens' capabilities list. With an f/2.8 aperture, the milky way and night skies are capturable.

Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens Milky Way Sample Picture

I'm barely digging into the list of uses for this lens but hopefully I got your list started.

See the entire room at 24mm or only a couple of booths at 70mm from a distance that verbal communication remains easy.

Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens Focal Length Range Example

24mm | 35mm | 50mm | 70mm
24mm | 35mm | 50mm | 70mm

See the harbor or just a couple of boats in it.

Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens Front View

Max Aperture

I used to regularly say that f/2.8 is the widest aperture available in a zoom lens with few full frame lenses breaking that mark. Among the Canon RF lenses, the Canon RF 28-70mm f/2L USM Lens notably surmounts that aperture opening with size, weight, and price being substantially higher than the RF 24-70 f/2.8 option. That said, f/2.8 makes for a bright lens and the RF 24-70 compares very well in this regard.

A big advantage of a wide aperture is the amount of light transmitted to the sensor, allowing for lower ISO settings, allowing for shutter speeds capable of stopping camera and subject motion blur in low light, and allowing for improved AF performance. I typically recommend f/2.8 apertures as the minimum opening for indoors sports (this lens has good features for basketball, for example) and other low light action.

Another big f/2.8 aperture advantage is the shallow depth of field available at the widest aperture, enabling distracting background details to be rendered out of focus if desired. Here are maximum blur examples from this lens.

Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens Maximum Blur Example

At 24mm, even distant subjects remain somewhat identifiable while at 70mm, with the background having greater magnification, a more significant blur is generated.

As referenced in the RF 28-70mm f/2 lens comparison, downsides to wide apertures are typically increased size, weight, and price and compared to an f/4 equivalent, this lens has those attributes though in moderation.

Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens Extended Top View with Hood

Image Stabilization

Having an f/2.8 aperture in a zoom lens is great, but also having image stabilization in the same lens is even better with the lens having increased versatility. Unless I am using a camera support, I seldom leave home without image stabilization and I often regret those times when I do. 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 assistance with is when handholding in medium and low light levels when significant 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 direct sunlight. I often find myself trail running while hiking with a camera and family/friends (that don't wait for me) and when I stop to shoot, I am frequently breathing hard and not steady. IS makes that work.

IS is useful for stabilizing the viewfinder and IS is very useful for video recording, substantially improving the quality of handheld recording.

Canon's image stabilization systems are very refined and this one is awesome. IS makes a very faint "hmmm" while active, audible only from about an inch or two from the lens (even when IS is switched off). The viewfinder image does not jump during startup or shutdown and I do not find myself fighting against IS while recomposing or recording video. Image framing drifting while IS is active has not been noticeable.

This lens' IS system is rated at a very-high 5-stops of assistance, aided by the improved communications between the lens and the camera via the new RF mount has made this impressive rating possible. Consider the difference that a 5-stop lower ISO setting makes in terms of image noise. For example, based on this rating and with a still-enough subject being photographed, ISO 100 can be used instead of ISO 3200 or ISO 800 instead of ISO 25600. The image quality difference between these settings is huge.

In testing with the RF 24-70 at 24mm, I had a solid sharpness rate at 0.6 second shutter speeds, was getting mostly sharp images at 0.8 seconds, and was still getting reasonably sharp images at 1.3 seconds. At 70mm, I had a solid sharpness rate at 0.3 second shutter speeds and was getting mostly sharp images at 0.4 seconds followed by a slow trail-off in sharpness rate with still some reasonably sharp images at 1.3 seconds. I find these rates to be very impressive.

While I don't consider myself to be the steadiest photographer, this testing is done under ideal conditions, indoors on a concrete floor. Quickly hike up a big mountain and shoot from an unstable position in strong winds and a significantly faster shutter speed is going to be needed. However, the amount of assistance should remain similar and that is very important.

When you need/want to leave the tripod behind, IS has you covered, helping to ensure sharp images and adding significant versatility to this lens.

Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens on Tripod

Image Quality

Designing a lens that goes from ultra-wide-angle to short telephoto is a challenge for engineers and I was anxious to see how the latest technology utilizing the RF mount could make such a lens perform.

In the center of the frame, the Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens turns in very sharp results with a wide open f/2.8 aperture and the differences seen across the focal length range are very small. Peripheral image quality nearly always trails center of the frame results and the question becomes: How big is the difference? In this case, the difference is small and the corners look quite good. It is difficult to see much improvement in image quality at narrower apertures with most of the visible improvement being in the corners.

These images were captured using an Canon EOS R with RAW files processed in Canon's Digital Photo Professional (DPP) using the Standard Picture Style and sharpness set to only "2" on a 0-10 scale (Note that images from most cameras require some level of sharpening but too-high sharpness settings are destructive to image details and hide the deficiencies of a lens).

Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens Sharpness Comparison Example

24mm: f/2.8 | f/4.0   f/2.8 | f/4.0
40mm: f/2.8 | f/4.0   f/2.8 | f/4.0
70mm: f/2.8 | f/4.0   f/2.8 | f/4.0

These results are looking superb.

In some lens designs, the plane of sharp focus can move forward or backward as a narrower aperture is selected. This is called focus shift (residual spherical aberration, or RSA), it is seldom (never?) desired, and this lens does not exhibit such.

Next we'll look at a comparison showing 100% extreme-top-left-corner crops captured and processed identically to the above center-of-the-frame images. These images were manually focused in the corner of the frame.

Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens Corner Sharpness Comparison Example

24mm: f/2.8 | f/4.0 | f/5.6
40mm: f/2.8 | f/4.0 | f/5.6
70mm: f/2.8 | f/4.0 | f/5.6

The extreme 24mm corner is looking excellent. Our review lens shows extreme 35-40mm corners appearing slightly fuzzy on the left side of the frame. The right side results are better, indicating a slight misalignment in this short focal length range (not unusual for a zoom lens). The 70mm corner is again looking very good aside from some lateral CA separating the color spectrum modestly.

The physical properties of light passing through a lens make it impossible for the same amount of light to reach the edges of the image circle as the center, resulting in a darkening of the corners, referred to as vignetting or peripheral shading. At f/2.8, this lens shows a strong about-4-stops of shading in the extreme 24mm corners. Zooming to longer focal lengths reduces the shading to about-2.5-stops from 35mm through 70mm. At f/4, the 24mm corners brighten by a stop to about-3-stops of shading and the longer focal lengths brighten by 0.5-stops to about-2-stops of shading. The 24mm corners brighten to over-2.5-stops of shading at f/5.6 and the longer focal lengths have about-1-stop of shading at this aperture. Little change in vignetting is seen at narrower apertures.

One stop of shading is the amount often used as the visibility number, though subject details provide a widely-varying amount of vignetting discernibility. Vignetting can be corrected during post processing with increased noise in the brightened areas being the penalty or it can be embraced, using the effect to draw the viewer's eye to the center of the frame.

The effect of different colors of the spectrum being magnified differently is referred to as lateral (or transverse) CA (Chromatic Aberration). Lateral CA shows as color fringing along lines of strong contrast running tangential (meridional, right angles to radii) with the mid and especially the periphery of the image circle showing the greatest amount as this is where the greatest difference in the magnification of wavelengths typically exists.

With the right lens profile and software, lateral CA is often easily correctable (often in the camera) by radially shifting the colors to coincide though it is always better to not have the problem in the first place. Any color misalignment present can easily be seen in the site's image quality tool, but let's also look at a set of worst-case examples, 100% crops from the extreme top left corner of EOS R frames showing diagonal black and white lines.

Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens Lateral Chromatic Aberration Example

24mm | 35mm | 50mm | 70mm

There should be only black and white colors in these images and the additional colors are showing the presence of lateral CA. Not unusual for a zoom lens is that the color separation is rather noticeable in the corners at the focal length extremes (with the color fringing being reversed) with the mid-range focal lengths showing little lateral CA.

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) are other common lens aberrations 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.

In the examples below, look at the fringing colors in the out of focus specular highlights created by the neutrally-colored subjects. Any color difference is being introduced by the lens.

Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens Spherical and Axial Aberration Example

The 24mm and 40mm examples look excellent. The first 70mm example looks ... colorful. Having used the lens a substantial amount prior to conducting the test, I was a bit surprised by this result and did some further testing. The second and third 70mm examples (foreground and background blurs) were captured at a longer distance. Some color fringing remains noticeable.

Flare and ghosting are caused by bright light reflecting off of the surfaces of lens elements, resulting in reduced contrast and sometimes-interesting artifacts. Combating these issues is Canon's Air Sphere Coating (ASC) but with 21 elements in 15 groups (the EF II has 18/13), some flaring can still be expected. At f/2.8, only minimal effects are seen with the sun in the corner of the frame. Stop down to f/16 and, as usual, flare effects are intensified. Overall, considering its optical formula, this lens handles flare nicely.

There are two lens aberrations that are particularly evident when shooting images of stars, mainly because bright points of light against a dark background make them easier to see. Coma occurs when light rays from a point of light spread out from that point, instead of being refocused as a point on the sensor. Coma is absent in the center of the frame, gets worse toward the edges/corners, and generally appears as a comet-like or triangular tail of light which can be oriented either away from the center of the frame (external coma), or toward the center of the frame (internal coma). Astigmatism is seen as points of light spreading into a line, either meridional (radiating from the center of the image) or sagittal (perpendicular to meridional). Remember that lateral CA is another aberration apparent in the corners.

The images below are 100% crops taken from the extreme top-right corner of EOS R frames.

Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens Coma Example

24mm | 40mm | 70mm

While not perfect (we're still waiting for a perfect lens), the stars remain relatively round in the corners for good overall performance in this regard.

This is a standard zoom lens and the standard zoom lens geometric distortion statement holds true. This lens has barrel distortion at the wide end that transitions into negligible distortion (at approximately 28mm) and on into pincushion distortion at the long end. What is different about this lens is the surprisingly low amount of distortion at the wide end, showing less barrel distortion than even the already strong performance of the EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II. These two lenses are mostly similar in this regard at the longer focal lengths with a modest amount of pincushion distortion at 70mm.

The blur and quality of blur seen in the out of focus portions of an image are referred to as bokeh. With an infinite number of test scenarios, evaluating bokeh is challenging. That said, I like what I see. The following are some examples. The first set has full f/11-captured (showing aperture blade interaction) images reduced in size and the second set has 100% crops from the same respective focal length images. The third set has 100% crops containing defocused specular highlights captured at f/8.

Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens Bokeh Example

24mm | 40mm | 70mm   24mm | 40mm | 70mm   24mm | 40mm | 70mm

With the exception of a small number of specialty lenses, the wide aperture bokeh in the corner of the frame does not produce round defocused highlights with these effects taking on a cat's eye shape due to a form of mechanical vignetting. If you look through a tube at an angle, similar to the light reaching the corner of the frame, the shape is not round and that is the shape seen here. Below, the 24mm image is a top-left quarter of the frame and the other two examples are full images reduced in size.

Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens Cat's Eye Bokeh Example

24mm | 40mm | 70mm

As the aperture narrows, the entrance pupil size is reduced and the mechanical vignetting absolves with the shapes becoming round.

When the aperture is stopped down, point light sources will show a starburst effect of some form. 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. This lens' nine blade count times two points means 18-point star effects. Wide aperture lenses usually produce the strongest starburst effects and this lens' 9-blade aperture produces beautiful 18-point stars.

Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens Starburst Effect Example

This lens has a rather complex design featuring 21 elements in 15 groups and internally looks like this:

Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens Design

This lens has somewhat strong vignetting at 24mm and the CA at 70mm could be lower, but overall, the Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens is a great performer. This lens produces beautiful, sharp images that are slightly better in quality than even the already-great-performing EF II lens version despite the addition of image stabilization.

Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens Side View

Focusing

The combined performance of a camera and lens' autofocus system is critical to realizing the potential image quality of the combination (unless using manual focus). Like the Canon RF 15-35mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens, the Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens gets a high-performing Nano USM (Ultrasonic Motor) driven AF system, technology first arriving in the L-series with the Canon RF 24-105mm F4 L IS USM Lens. This lens' AF system repeats the performance of the others and that is a very positive statement.

Nano USM acts like an ultra-fast version of STM AF, combining the benefits of a high-speed Ring USM actuator with an STM system stepping motor's quiet and smooth, direct, lead screw-type drive system. Like Ring USM driven AF systems, Nano USM focuses extremely fast – nearly instantly. Like STM AF systems, Nano USM focuses almost silently, with only faint clicking heard with one's ear next to the lens. And, Nano USM lenses focus very smoothly.

Canon RF 15-35mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens Nano USM

Canon U.S.A.'s Rudy Winston states: "Canon’s new Nano USM technology uses a completely different form factor, but achieves focus results within the lens via the same principles of ultrasonic vibration energy, transmitted here into linear (rather than rotational) movement within the lens. This tiny new Ultrasonic motor achieves the combination of fast, near-instant response during still image shooting, with the smoothness required for good focus during video recording."

Ring USM was Canon's former preference for high-end lens AF systems. While most Ring USM lenses are great performers, they generally do not focus so smoothly in Movie Servo AF, and the Ring USM EF lenses produce considerably more focus chatter. Nano USM (and STM) lenses autofocus substantially smoother and quieter than Ring USM lenses.

Of ultimate importance is AF accuracy and from that perspective, all of the Nano USM-driven AF systems to date have performed impressively.

The manual focus ring is mid-sized and positioned in front of the zoom ring (this is my strongly-preferred position).

Like STM, Nano USM utilizes a focus-by-wire or electrical manual focus design (vs. a direct gear-driven system). The manual focus ring electronically controls the focus of the lens. FTM (Full Time Manual) focusing is supported in AF mode with the camera in One Shot Drive Mode, but the shutter release must be half-pressed for the focus ring to become active. Note that FTM does not work if electronic manual focusing after One Shot AF is disabled in the camera's menu. The lens' switch must be in the "MF" position and the camera meter must be on/awake for conventional manual focusing to be available.

With electronics driving AF, the rate of focus change caused by the focus ring can be electronically controlled and it can be variable, based on the ring's rotation speed. I prefer a linear adjustment speed and have the camera configured for such. In this mode, the RF 24-70 F2.8 L focus is adjusted very slowly, with approximately 330° of ring rotation from MFD to infinity, for very precise focusing capabilities.

The manual focus ring has an ideal resistance and adjustments are smooth and solidly centered with no unusual framing shift happening.

An interesting feature mentioned in this lens' press release is "focus breathing suppression". Normal is for the scene to change size (sometimes significantly) as focus is pulled from one extent to the other, referred to as focus breathing, a change in focal length with focus distance. This negatively impacts photographers intending to use focus stacking techniques, videographers pulling focus, and anyone very-critically framing while adjusting focus.

Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens Focus Magnification Example

24mm: Distant | Close 70mm: Distant | Close

The 70mm results look very impressive from this regard while the 24mm results show a bit of magnification change happening.

The test lens maintains (naturally or perhaps electronically) the proper focus distance (or very close to it) throughout nearly the entire zoom range, being nearly parfocal. Focus at 70mm and zoom out with the image remaining sharp until near 24mm where a slight defocus appears.

Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens Parfocal Example

70mm | 50mm | 35mm | 24mm

Cameras featuring Dual Pixel CMOS AF and Movie Servo AF make video recording very easy and Nano USM lenses are very well-suited for this task. The smooth focusing makes focus distance transitions easy on the viewer's eyes and the sound of the lens focusing is not picked up by the camera's mic. Even the lens' aperture changes are quiet and smooth.

No focus distance scale is provided on the lens, but a digital scale can be enabled in the electronic viewfinder or on the rear LCD.

The RF 24-70mm F2.8 L has a very short 8.3" (210mm) minimum focus distance, just over half of that obtainable by the EF II lens. That short distance results in a very impressive 0.30x maximum magnification, a spec reached by very few non-macro lenses. Here is a chart showing the minimum focus distance specs of many similar lenses.

ModelMFDMM
Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens8.3"(210mm)0.30x
Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM Lens15.0"(380mm)0.21x
Canon RF 24-105mm F4 L IS USM Lens17.7"(450mm)0.24x
Canon RF 28-70mm F2 L USM Lens15.4"(390mm)0.18x
Nikon Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S Lens15.0"(380mm)0.22x
Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8E AF-S VR Lens15.0"(380mm)0.28x
Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Art Lens14.6"(370mm)0.21x
Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM Lens15.0"(380mm)0.24x
Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 Lens15.0"(381mm)0.20x

At 70mm, a subject measuring approximately 5.6 x 3.7" (142 x 94mm) will fill the frame at the minimum focus distance. At 24mm, with a closer minimum focus distance, a subject measuring approximately 5.8 x 3.9" (147 x 99mm) will fill the frame at the minimum focus distance.

Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens Maximum Magnification Example

The 70mm example shown above is very sharp at full resolution.

Magnification from standard zoom lenses is generally significantly increased with the use of extension tubes which are, as their name implies, hollow tubes with electronic connections that shift a lens farther from the camera. This allows the lens to focus at closer distances, though long-distance focusing is sacrificed. As of review time, Canon does not offer RF mount-compatible extension tubes, but third-party options are available.

This lens is not compatible with Canon extenders.

Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens Extended Top View

Build Quality & Features

It's a member of the L lens series and that means this lens is designed for the high reliability and durability required by professionals. While these attributes are crucially important to professionals, a huge number of serious amateurs also recognize this importance.

Canon's RF L lenses have taken on an updated look over the EF L models, but those familiar with EF L lenses will immediately recognize this lens' heritage, highlighted by the red ring.

Canon RF Standard Zoom Lens Comparison

The RF L-series lens look and feel is now firmly established and this lens fits that mold.

Canon RF Standard Zoom Lens Comparison with Hoods

The review-time current RF standard zoom lenses are shown in the above images. Here is a closer look at the RF 24-70:

Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens Product Images

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

With smooth external dimensions and tight tolerance between parts, the Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens is very comfortable to hold and a pleasure to use.

The rear-positioned zoom ring is ideally-located behind the focus ring. A slight diameter increase on the zoom ring, a design feature becoming common throughout the RF lens lineup, makes it easy to find. With the RF lenses gaining an additional ring and the rings consuming a significant percentage of the barrel, finding the right ring becomes modestly more complicated and tactile cues, especially this one, are helpful. With the zoom and focus rings located immediately adjacent to each other, finding this lens' manual focus ring not as easy (look for it just beyond the next bump out).

The additional ring is the knurled "Control Ring", able to be configured for fast access to settings including aperture, ISO, and exposure compensation. A small amount of space is provided between the focus ring and the control ring, aiding in selection between the two. Note that the control ring is clicked by default and this ring's clicks are going to be audible in camera-based audio recordings. Canon offers a click stop removal service for this ring (at a cost).

This lens features a quality plastic external construction. As illustrated in some of the product images in this review, this lens extends modestly (1.15" / 29.1mm) when zoomed to 70mm. The extended inner lens barrel has only a very slight amount of play. An extension lock switch is provided though it was not needed on the new test lens.

Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens Side View with Hood

In days when switches have disappeared from some lenses, I'm very happy that Canon continues to provide these. The AF/MF and IS switches are flush-mounted and low-profile, but just enough raised surface area is available for easy use, even with gloves. They snap crisply into place. Interesting is that changing the AF/MF switch position opens the lens aperture momentarily and audibly appears to engage IS when the camera is powered off.

Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens Mount

This is a weather-sealed lens, not to be confused with waterproof. Still, weather sealing is very helpful and can sometimes save the day.

Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens Weather Sealing

Like most other recent L lenses, the Canon RF 24-70mm f/2.8 L IS Lens features fluorine coatings on the front and rear lens elements to avoid adhesion of dust and liquids and to make cleaning easier. This is one of those features that goes unnoticed ... until something happens in the field.

At 3.5 x 5" (88.5 x 126.8mm) and 31.8 oz (900g), this lens is a mid-sized, mid-weight lens. Still, it is not too large or heavy to carry even for long periods of time and many miles. I packed this lens along with some other gear all over Acadia National Park and did not find it to be a burden.

Here is a chart comparing the size and weight of similar lenses with a couple of additional RF lenses included.

ModelWeight oz(g)Dimensions w/o Hood "(mm)FilterYear 
Canon RF 15-35mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens29.7(840)3.5 x 5.0(88.5 x 126.8)822019
Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens31.8(900)3.5 x 4.9(88.5 x 125.7)822019
Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM Lens28.4(805)3.5 x 4.4(88.5 x 113.0)822012
Canon RF 24-105mm F4 L IS USM Lens24.7(700)3.3 x 4.2(83.5 x 107.3)772018
Canon RF 24-240mm F4-6.3 IS USM Lens26.5(750)3.2 x 4.8(80.4 x 122.5)722019
Canon RF 28-70mm F2 L USM Lens50.5(1430)4.1 x 5.5(103.8 x 139.8)952018
Nikon Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S Lens28.4(805)3.5 x 5.0(89.0 x 126.0)822019
Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8E AF-S VR Lens37.8(1070)3.5 x 6.1(88.0 x 154.5)822015
Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Art Lens36.0(1020)3.5 x 4.2(88.0 x 107.6)822017
Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM Lens31.3(886)3.4 x 5.4(87.6 x 136.0)822016
Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 Lens31.9(904.3)3.5 x 4.4(88.4 x 111.8)822017

For many more comparisons, review the complete Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens Specifications using the site's Lens Spec tool.

Here is a visual comparison of the review-time-current 24-70mm f/2.8 full frame mirrorless lenses from the major three manufacturers:

Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens Compared to Similar Lenses

Positioned above from left to right are the following lenses:

Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens
Nikon Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S Lens
Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM Lens

Note that the lenses are aligned on their mounts, not their caps. The same lenses are shown below with their hoods in place.

Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens Compared to Similar Lenses with Hoods

Use the site's product image comparison tool to visually compare the Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens to other lenses.

All of the major brand 24-70mm f/2.8 lenses have 82mm filter threads. I'm sure that there is a good reason for that and this is a design quality I like. While 82mm filters are not small or light, I have many lenses that use them (including the complementing Canon RF 15-35mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens) and most of those that do not have 82mm threads can be adapted via step-up filter adapter rings. I generally have circular polarizer filters along for each lens but with multiple densities often desired for neutral density filters, I usually carry an 82mm set along with step-up rings.

Note that using a standard thickness circular polarizer filter will increase peripheral shading. A slim model such as the B+W XS-Pro or Breakthrough X4 is highly recommended.

Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens Angle View with Hood

The included, semi-rigid, petal-shaped Canon EW-88E hood is modestly-sized, yet it offers adequate protection from physical impact along with decent light shading. The hood has a durable, easy-to-clean mold-ribbed plastic interior and a push-button release makes the bayonet mount easy to use. A petal-style hood is easier to align for installation (simply learn the petal orientation) while a rounded hood better enables the lens to stand on its hood.

Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens Case

Canon includes a case with their L-series lenses and the RF 24-70 comes with the Canon LP1222 Lens Pouch. Unsurprisingly, this is the same case that comes with the RF 15-35. While the pouch protects against scratches and dust, only the bottom is padded against impact. Pick up a Lowepro Lens Case if single lens storage, transport, and carry is needed.

Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens Cap

Lens caps get used a lot and Canon's current design is great.

Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens Angle View Extended with Hood

Price and Value

This is Canon's best professional-grade general-purpose zoom lens to date and it accordingly bears the highest price of such a Canon lens at review time, matching the list price of the Nikon equivalent and slightly exceeding the price of the Sony equivalent. That said, for many, the image stabilization feature alone is worth the price difference over the other Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 models. While the price tag will be a barrier for some, serious photographers will not have a problem spending this much for a most-used lens.

As an "RF" lens, the Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens is compatible with all Canon EOS R series cameras. Canon USA provides a 1-year limited warranty. The reviewed Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens was online-retail sourced.

Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens Front View on Camera on Tripod

Alternatives to the Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens

It is often the workhorse lens of choice for professional and serious amateur photographers and that means at least one 24-70mm f/2.8 lens model is offered by most major lens manufacturers and that leaves a huge range of comparisons available even without venturing into neighboring options including those with an f/4 max aperture.

Perhaps the most direct comparison is against the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM Lens, a superb lens that has been my first choice standard zoom lens since it hit the streets. In the image quality comparison, the test results from these two lenses are very similar with the RF lens showing slightly better peripheral sharpness at most focal lengths even when stopped down somewhat. The EF lens has less peripheral shading throughout the aperture range — about 1-stop less at 24mm and about 0.5-stops less over the balance of the focal length range. The RF lens has less geometric distortion at 24mm and the EF lens has very slightly less at 70mm.

Canon RF vs. EF f/2.8L Lens Comparison

While the visual difference shows the RF lens consuming more volume, the specs and measurements in the Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens vs. Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM Lens comparison shows these two lenses being very similar in size and weight. The EF lens is slightly shorter and lighter but not having the RF mount means this lens requires a size, weight, and cost-adding Canon Mount Adapter EF-EOS R for use on the R-series cameras. The RF lens has Nano USM vs. Ring USM and the RF lens has a noticeably higher maximum magnification (0.30x vs. 0.21x). Having an awesome-performing 5-stop image stabilization system is another huge benefit to the RF lens. If an R-series camera can be used, the RF lens is easily the better choice. The moderate price difference may be a factor for some.

One of the earliest-available RF lenses was the game-changing Canon RF 28-70mm F2 L USM Lens, featuring an ultra-wide f/2 aperture available over the entire focal length range and image quality that did not disappoint. In the image quality comparison at f/2.8 vs. f/2, the two lenses are similar with each taking some wins at various focal lengths. Stop down the f/2 lens to f/2.8 and it becomes very slightly advantaged in most comparisons. Benefiting from a 1-stop-wider aperture, the 28-70 has about 1/2 as much peripheral shading as the 24-70 at f/2.8 (and less in the 24mm f/2.8 vs. 24mm f/2 comparison). The 28-70 has slightly more barrel distortion at the wide end and less pincushion distortion at the long end.

Looking at the specs and measurements, the Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens vs. Canon RF 28-70mm F2 L USM Lens comparison shows a vast size and weight difference with the 28-70 being the much larger and heavier lens. Larger also is the 28-70's 95mm filter thread size (vs. 82mm). The 24-70 has image stabilization and a useful extra 4mm on the wide end to its benefit while the 28-70 has the wider aperture, better able to stop action in low light and able to create a stronger background blur. Need a high maximum magnification? The 24-70 outperforms the 28-70 by 0.30x to 0.18x. The bigger lens has a bigger price. Event and action photographers will typically prefer the 28-70 while the 24-70 is a better general-purpose choice.

The Canon RF 24-105mm F4 L IS USM Lens is a great general-purpose lens choice. The image quality comparison at f/2.8 vs. f/4 shows the two lenses performing similarly, each with some minor advantages. Both lenses are sharp wide open and neither gain significantly by being stopped down — the f/4 vs. f/4 comparison remains similar. Despite having a 1-stop wider aperture, the f/2.8 lens does not hold a peripheral shading advantage. The f/2.8 lens has less geometric distortion.

Looking at the specs and measurements, the Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens vs. Canon RF 24-105mm F4 L IS USM Lens comparison shows the f/4 lens being moderately smaller and lighter and also having smaller filter threads (77mm vs. 82mm). The f/2.8 lens has a much shorter minimum focus distance (8.3" vs 17.7" / 210mm vs. 450mm) and higher maximum magnification (0.30x vs. 0.24x). The f/2.8 lens has a significantly wider aperture. The f/4 lens has a noticeably longer focal length range and quite noticeable is the lower price tag.

Use the site's tools to create your own comparisons. There are many more relevant ones available.

Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens Top View

Summary

The previous Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L lenses set the performance bar high but the Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens takes the bar to a new height. Once again, we have a Canon RF lens that delivers the complete package.

Of ultimate importance is image quality and this lens delivers excellence in this regard. Some peripheral shading at the wide end of the focal length range and moderate CA, primarily at 70mm, are two opportunities remaining. The incredible-performing image stabilization system will help realize impressive image quality even when shooting handheld.

Ensuring the optimal image quality is achieved is the RF 24-70's fast-yet-smooth, nearly silent, and most importantly, precisely accurate Nano USM AF system. The L-series build grade promises reliable service to those using their lenses constantly and environmental sealing aids in that use outdoors. While not small or light, this lens is quite comfortable to use and the zoom and focus rings perform optimally.

The Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens is another of the now-many lens reasons to get a Canon RF mount mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. The price tag is not low, but the value and versatility of this lens are extremely high. As with the Canon RF 15-35mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens, I plan to include the Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens in my kit.

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My Recommended Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens Retailers

Where you buy your gear matters. You expect to get what you ordered, and you want to pay a low price for it. The retailers I recommend below are the ones I trust for my purchases. Get your Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens now from:

B&H Photo
Adorama
Amazon.com
Canon USA (new)
Check used inventory at MPB
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