REVIEW: Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L II

The Canon EF 24-70 f/2.8L lens has been the trusty sidekick for professional photographers and advanced amateurs alike. Because this lens is probably the most common lens you’ll find in any serious photographer’s camera bag, it’s no surprise that many people have been very apprehensive about Canon “messing with” this lens. Well, they’ve done it, but I think you’ll agree after reading this review, it’s for the better.

Let’s take a look at the new specifications:

Focal Length & Maximum Aperture 24-70mm, 1:2.8
Lens Construction 18 elements in 13 groups
Diagonal Angle of View 84° – 34°
Focus Adjustment Inner-focusing with USM
Closest Focusing Distance 0.38m/1.25 ft.
Zoom System Rotating Type
Filter Size 82mm
Max. Diameter x Length, Weight 3.5 x 4.4 in., 28.4 oz. / 88.5 x 113mm, 805g

 

The notable changes include the addition of 2 elements giving the lens 18 elements in 13 groups, as opposed to the 16 elements in 13 groups of the previous 24-70. Canon also added a zoom lock lever to the lens and as they’ve been doing with other new lenses, increased the number of aperture blades from 8 to 9, while also increasing the filter size from 77mm to 82mm. The filter size change will certainly irritate some folks but this is the route Canon is beginning to take. If you have used the Canon 16-35 f/2.8L lens, you know that lens also has the 82mm filter size. Having to buy new C-POLS and ND filters for your lenses is often an expensive and irritating process, but at least now you’ll be able to use them on more than just the 16-35 lens.

Focusing distances remain the same at 0.38 m/1.25 ft. and the zoom system remains a rotating type. Weight has been reduced from 950 grams to 805 grams, even after adding two new glass elements. The reason for this, of course is the new glass element technologies combined with smaller, more efficient electronics. The new 24-70 also loses 1/2″ of length, taking it down to 4.4″, but gains about 1/4″ of diameter due to the increased filter size.

Now of course, none of this means anything if the lens can’t hold it’s own against its predecessor, and so for that, let’s take a look at the MTF charts:

Consistent Image Quality Throughout Zoom Range

Notice the thick black line on the MTF charts for the new 24-70 lens. This line represents image quality wide open at f/2.8, and shows the falloff as you move away from the center of the lens. The thick blue line represents image quality with the lens stopped down to f/8. The closer the lines are to each other, the better. From these charts, we can see that the image quality is consistent from center to edge with literally no falloff of quality in the 70mm range, and only 11% falloff in the 24mm range. On the older 24-70, we see some falloff at the edges of the lens in the 70mm range, and a very big falloff at the edges at 24mm, about 80% to be exact. These numbers are very telling and really demonstrate the improvements Canon has made to this lens.

Bokeh

Obviously, we can see there is an improvement with bokeh as well. First, notice how the two thin, dashed lines are so close together on the newer version 24-70. The closer these lines are to each other, and the more consistent their position is to each other, the better the bokeh. The thin, dashed black line represents the lens at wide-open f/2.8, while the thin, dashed blue line represents the lens stepped down to f/8. This lens will be consistent in terms of bokeh from the center to edge. The older 24-70 had a more substantial falloff as it approached the edges with as much as an 85% falloff in the edges at 70mm. Not the case with the updated lens.

Buy, or Wait?

WAIT. The original 24-70 f/2.8L is such a good lens, has been my “walk-around lens” for years, and like many other photographers, it’s difficult to accept that there could ever be a worthwhile upgrade for such a great lens. But, after looking at the performance tests of the new 24-70 lens, it’s easy to see how this really is a worthwhile upgrade, especially with the lens being so popular amongst serious photographers. However, with an MSRP of $2,299, nearly $1,000 more than what its predecessor sold for, and the same price you’d pay for the 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II, the lens is overpriced by $500 to $700. That said, I do NOT recommend an upgrade at this time. Keep your original 24-70’s until the pricing becomes more reasonable.

This entry was posted in lens reviews, reviews.

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