Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 L II
Canon 24-70/2.8 L II $1,849 SALE: After rebate, the Canon 24-70/2.8 L II is just $1,849 at Adorama, at Amazon and at B&H. It's such an awesome lens that I'm still happy I paid the full $2,300 for it when it first came out. It's that good.
Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L II USM (82mm plastic filter thread, 1.25 feet/0.38m close-focus, 28.4 oz./804g, about $1,999.) enlarge. I bought mine at Adorama; this free website's biggest source of support is when you use that and these links, as well as this link directly to it at Amazon, when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live. Thanks! Ken.
Canon 24-70/2.8 L II $1,849 CHRISTMAS SALE: After rebate, the Canon 24-70/2.8 L II is just $1,849 at Adorama, at Amazon and at B&H. It's such an awesome lens that I'm not sore that I paid the full $2,300 for it when it first came out. It's that good.
NEW: 24-70mm f/4 L IS (2012-)
24-70mm f/2.8 L (2002-2012)
24-105mm f/4 IS L (2005-today)
Christmas 2013 deal: Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM for $1,699: Price at Checkout $1,999.00, Final Price after mail-in-rebate is $1699.00.
Sample Image Files
There are plenty more sample files in the review below.
The Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L II is among Canon's best lenses ever. It is significantly sharper than the previous 24-70mm f/2.8 L, and also much sharper than Nikon's 24-70/2.8G if you're counting pixels.
This new II version replaces the already excellent 24-70mm f/2.8 L of 2002, adding sharper optics and a lot more plastic compared to the original lens. It costs nearly twice as much as the previous lens — thus the "II" designation — and weighs less than the previous beast.
This new 24-70/2.8 II is so sharp that it's actually sharper than my reference 50mm f/1.8 II and 50mm f/1.4 USM lenses at larger apertures! I can't recall ever testing a midrange zoom that was sharper than fixed 50mm lenses. At f/8 most decent lenses are the same, while at f/2.8 and f/4, this new 24-70 is much sharper if you're counting each pixel and looking in the corners.
Also significantly improved over the old 24-70mm f/2.8 L is a 9-bladed diaphragm that begets magnificent 18-pointed sunstars on brilliant points of light. Long gone are the dorky 8-pointed stars of the old lens.
Another intangible over the less expensive plastic zooms I usually carry day-to-day with my kids is that this new 24-70 L II seems to add a little more overall contrast and color. It's subtle, and it might be imaginary, but possibly due to better internal stray light control, images from this new lens often have more "pop" than from my older, cheaper lenses when shot in low light at larger apertures.
I felt ripped-off as I opened the box for my new $2,300 lens and realized that it's mostly plastic, compared to the mostly metal and far less expensive original 24-70mm f/2.8 L. However, after shooting with this new lens for only an hour or so its images were so subtly and strongly better than the original lens that I was hooked. Other full-time pros have also fallen immediately in love with this lens. If you're shooting it at f/2.8 it's much sharper and more contrasty than the previous lens.
The 24-70 is extremely popular with professional wedding and event photographers. Amateurs usually prefer the Canon 24-105mm f/4 IS because it costs and weighs a little less and has a longer zoom range, however full-time pros prefer this 24-70 because its a stop faster (f/2.8) and has less distortion at the wide end, and because the zoom range between 24mm and 35mm isn't all bunched together as it is with the 24-105mm.
This is a full-frame lens. The 24-70mm range shot on Canon's 1.6x cameras becomes a 38-112mm equivalent lens, which is a very handy range.
AF is immediate and quiet, but not silent. You can grab the big manual focus ring for instant manual focus override at any time.
This lens focuses to within 8 inches (20 cm) or closer in front of the lens at all focal length settings, which means that I never have to move back to get something in focus.
Zooming has just the right amount of space between focal lengths to allow precise selection of any focal length, especially at the wide end. The zoom is reasonably stiff, so you'll usually want to use at least two fingers for zooming. I have no idea why there's a lock; there's no drift on my new lens.
While the cheaper and lighter 24-105mm f/4 IS has Image Stabilization (IS) for sharp hand-held shots of still subjects in dim light, the faster f/2.8 speed of this 24-70mm allows photographing people and action in lower light than with the 24-105mm. Image Stabilization is of no help with moving subjects; IS only helps with camera shake, not subject motion.
Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 L II. enlarge.
This Canon EF EOS 24-70mm f/2.8 L II works perfectly with every Canon EOS camera ever made, meaning every Canon DSLR and every Canon autofocus film camera made since 1987.
As a full-frame lens, I am reviewing it as such for full-frame bodies.
Canon calls this the CANON ZOOM LENS EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L II USM.
EF means "electronic focus," meaning that there is an autofocus motor in the lens itself. All Canon lenses since 1987 have been EF.
L only means as expensive as L; it means nothing technically.
II means twice as expensive as the first 24-70mm f/2.8 L.
USM means Ultra-Sonic Motor. This means autofocus is almost silent, and that you can grab the big focus ring for instant manual focus override at any time.
18 elements in 13 groups.
Internal focus: nothing moves externally as autofocused.
Pumper zoom, grows as zoomed towards 70mm.
Two aspherical elements.
1 Super UD and 2 UD glass elements.
Multicoated, branded as "Optimized Super Spectra Coating."
Fluorine coatings on front and rear elements to help repel fingerprints.
Focal Length top
On 1.3x Canon cameras it will see angles-of-view similar to what a 30~90mm lens would see on a 35mm camera.
On 1.6x Canon cameras it will see angles-of-view similar to what a 38~115mm lens would see on a 35mm camera, which is actually a very useful zoom range.
Angle of View (on 35mm and full-frame cameras)
84º - 34º diagonal.
53º - 19.5º vertical.
74º - 29º horizontal.
Close Focus top
1.25 feet (0.38m), specified, from the image plane.
Since this lens is so big, this actually means that it focuses to within about 8 inches (20 cm) of the front of the lens at the 70mm setting, and even closer as the lens gets longer at the wider settings.
Maximum Reproduction Ratio top
Minimum Field Size top
5.28 x 7.95" (134 x 204 mm).
Extension Tubes top
Use the Canon EF12 II to get close-ups to 0.63x life-size at the image sensor.
Use the Canon EF25 II to get close-ups to about 3/4 life-size at the image sensor.
24-70mm f/2.8 II wide-open at f/2.8 at 50mm. (EF diaphragm not visible). enlarge.
9 rounded blades.
Reasonably round at large apertures to f/5, and straight-sided (nonagonal) from f/8 and smaller for great sunstars. Perfect!
Stops down to f/22.
Hard Infinity Focus Stop? top
You have to let the AF system focus for you at infinity.
Focus Scale top
The ring turns from infinity to the closest macro focus distance in about 120.º
Depth-of-Field Scale top
Infra-Red Focus Indices top
No. Use the original 24-70mm, which has them.
Filter Thread top
Does not rotate and doesn't move with focus, but does move in and out with zooming.
Canon specifies 3.48" (88.5mm) diameter by 4.45" (113mm) long.
It extends as zoomed to longer focal lengths.
28.377 oz. (804.5g), measured.
Canon specifies 28.4 oz. (805g).
Canon EW-88C Hood. enlarge.
$55 EW-88C plastic bayonet hood, included.
As of September 2012, only fits this 24-70mm lens.
$30 LP1219 sack, included.
Oversize 82mm E-82U front, included.
Standard EOS cap rear, included.
07 February 2012.
Shipping Since top
Canon originally had promised it for Summer 2012, but it didn't start to ship to photographers until Wednesday, 12 September 2012.
Made in Japan.
Price, USA top
2014 Christmas: $1,849 after rebate.
2012 September - 2013 Christmas: $2,300.
Box, Canon 24-70/2.8 L II. enlarge.
The Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 L II is optically superb and handles very well. I wish everything were this good.
It's heavy, expensive, and superb!
Autofocus is fast and nearly silent, as we take for granted with Canon. For the still subjects I shoot, it's almost instantaneous.
Just grab the focus ring at any time for instant manual-focus override.
Only move the AF-MF switch if you want to disable the camera from auto focusing.
AF is fast!, as Canons always are.
The AF motor is silent, but you will hear some internal sliding.
In the dark
If it's super-dark (ISO 25,600 territory), sometimes the camera will have a hard time seeing anything, too, to focus, and will be balky. This is normal.
AF Accuracy and Consistency
I saw no autofocus error on my Canon 5D Mark III.
Especially at f/2.8, every shot is dead-on at every focal length.
Focus with zooming
Focus shifts slightly as zoomed, so focus last.
Manual focus is easy; just grab the ring.
It takes only 110º to go from end-to-end of the focus scale.
Bokeh, the quality of out-of-focus areas as opposed to the degree of defocus, is fair to good. It's reasonably good at f/2.8, but gets worse at smaller apertures where it's not as likely to be that important.
Of course the background rarely gets very far out of focus at 24mm; if you want soft backgrounds, shoot at 70mm, keep your subject close and shoot at f/2.8. Subject distance and focal length are more important to throwing backgrounds out of focus than simply shooting at f/2.8.
Focus breathing (the image changing size as focused) is mostly of interest to cinematographers who don't want the image changing size ("breathing") as the lens is focused among different subjects.
The image from the Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 L II gets smaller as focused more closely, at all focal length settings.
The color balance of this 24-70mm f/2.8 L II seems the same as my other Canon EF lenses.
Coma, or saggital coma flare, is when points of light in the corners turn into batwing-shaped blobs. This is often a problem with fast normal or wide lenses.
To my astonishment, this Canon 24-70 II is completely devoid of any coma.
Here's what it looks like at 24mm at f/2.8 on full-frame:
Crop from lower left of above at 100%. Camera-original © file.
The Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 II has significantly more distortion than I expect in a premium midrange zoom, especially in the critical 35-70mm range. The original 24-70/2.8 L is usually better, except at 24mm and 28mm, where this new lens is better than most similar zooms.
At 24 and 28mm, this lens has very little distortion, but goes strongly pincushion by 35mm through 70mm, and is worst at 50mm, where it probably will be used most often and where other lenses have their least distortion.
Use these values in Photoshop's Lens Distortion tool to remove it:
© 2012 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.
* Some waviness remains.
Canon 24-70/2.8 L set to 40mm. enlarge.
Ergonomics are as expected for a big, fat zoom.
Focus is perfect, but a bit of a reach. I prefer the smaller, closer and easier to feel focus rings of smaller lenses like the 28-105mm USM II and similar.
The AF - MF switch falls right under your thumb.
Focus shifts slightly as zoomed, so focus last.
Zooming is very evenly spaced and never crowds any range together, however it's rather stiff and ideally demands two fingers to zoom. Zooming with one finger takes a very strong and determined finger. The sample I bought certainly has no zoom creep, so I'm perplexed as to why it has a zoom lock. There is no bright fluorescent warning when you flip-on the zoom lock.
The zoom and focus rings are made of rubber-covered alloy, while everything else is plastic. Since the alloy rings are covered by rubber, the whole thing feels as if it may as well be plastic.
As a "pumper" zoom that pumps in and out as zoomed, the air has to come and go somewhere.
Enough air pumps through the back of this lens that sometimes I can feel a little bit blowing on my eye as I zoom back to the wide end.
Yes, like many zooms, this does pull air through your camera and viewfinder.
With a lens profile on my Canon 5D Mark III or similar camera, falloff is never visible at any setting.
Falloff is visible on film at f/2.8, and gone by f/4.
I've greatly exaggerated this by shooting a flat gray target and presenting it against a gray background.
Filters are easy, since the huge 82mm filter size is generous.
Sadly, Canon cheaped-out and the filter threads are plastic, so be careful not to cross-thread.
The great news is that there's never any vignetting on full-frame (or any other format) with any filter, even big, fat thick ones.
In fact, vignetting is only very minor even with two stacked standard filters (12.5mm total thickness excluding rear threads). It's minor at 24mm, a bit less at 35mm and 50mm, and gone at 70mm — with two thick stacked filters!
There is certainly is no need for expensive "thin" polarizers or grads.
Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 L II with two stacked filters.
Worst-case vignetting with two stacked filters at 24mm at f/2.8 on full-frame.
At 31mm at f/14, direct view of mid-day tropical sun.
Flare and ghosts are very well controlled, but if you push it, you will get a green dot or two.
As you can see at Coma, under any difficult but still real-world condition, flare and ghosts are a non-issue.
At close-focus distance at 70mm on full-frame, Canon 24-70 f/2.8 L II.
Macro is swell, but not quite as close as the previous 24-70 L. The older lens appears to get closer because the older lens' image doesn't get smaller as focused more closely as it does with this new lens.
The images would be even tighter on smaller-format cameras (see crop factor).
It's super-sharp; here's a crop from a 22MP image at 100%:
Crop from above image at 100%, shot at f/6.3 at ISO 100 on a 5D Mark III. If this is 6" (15cm) wide on your screen, the full image would print at 40 x 60" (1 x 1.5 meters)!
Rear, Canon 24-70 f/2.8 L II. enlarge.
The Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 L II is made very well, but mostly out of plastic. The previous 24-70/2.8 L feels much, much better made. The original lens is all metal, while this one feels mostly like plastic.
The front section of this new lens is all plastic, and if you try to wiggle it when extended to 70mm, a little bit of wiggle is normal.
Canon claims for this new lens that "The mechanical structure of the lens has been improved to offer enhanced zoom durability and greater shake and shock resistance within the lens barrel. The size of the lens has also been reduced by 10mm compared to the previous model, providing enhanced portability and greater convenience in everyday use. A new Zoom Lock lever also enables photographers to lock the zoom position at the extreme wide end to prevent damage to the lens in transit," but it still is mostly plastic on the outside.
Canon claims waterproof construction around the lens mount, switch panel, zoom ring, focusing ring and zoom lock. Yes, Canon said "waterproof," but I don't think they mean that. Since I bought this lens for myself, I have yet to put on the rear cap and drop it in the bathtub to see what happens.
Canon claims dustproof construction.
Canon claims "weatherproof when used with weatherproof EOS bodies."
Pros really do shoot these out in the rain all day with pro bodies like the 1D X (the 5D Mark III is not a pro body). Thank goodness I don't shoot in the rain!
Metal and plastic.
Moisture seal at mount
Laser engraved into the bottom of the plastic lens barrel.
Noises When Shaken
In this snap, focus is only on the wheels and sides of the car. All the plants in the background are out-of-focus.
Crop from above full-frame 22MP JPG image at 100%. If this is 6" (15cm) on your screen, the entire image would print at 60 x 40" (1.5 x 1 meters), a huge print. (24-70/2.8 II at 70mm, f/5 at 1/20 hand-held, Canon 5D Mk III.) Original file.
What makes this cockomacus snap eye-opening is how sharp, colorful and contrasty it is right out to the corners when you see the original file — and this is shot wide-open at f/2.8 at 24mm. Other lenses can't do this. Remember that very little is in focus as you look around.
Crop from above full-frame 22MP JPG image at 100%. If this is 6" (15cm) wide on your screen, the entire image would print at 60 x 40" (1.5 x 1 meters), a huge print. (24-70/2.8 II at 70mm, f/5 at 1/20 hand-held, Canon 5D Mk III.) Original file.
Dog shots are easy; it's no big deal to see every hair.
This said, the Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 L II is among the sharpest lenses I've ever tested. It is extraordinarily sharp and contrasty, even at f/2.8 right out to the corners.
So long as you're in focus, sharpness doesn't vary much from perfection, except by f/11, where diffraction softens the image. In the far corners at f/2.8 at the wide end it's sharp, and will improve a bit by f/4, which is extraordinary performance.
Hey, sorry to spare you endless boring charts, but with a lens this good, there's nothing to show other than sharp pictures under all conditions.
The biggest detriment to sharpness will be a lack of proper vision and technique, never this lens. I bought mine directly from Adorama. I can't vouch for anything if you buy from a local store or chain where you never really know who's opened and played with your lens before you buy it. I never buy retail; too many risks, so why pay more?
Here are Canon's claimed MTF curves, which agree with what I see:
Canon's MTF Curves.
I see no spherochromatism.
Spherochromatism, misnamed "color bokeh" by laymen, is when out-of-focus highlights take on color fringes. The Canon 24-70/2.8 L II's out-of-focus highlights have no color fringes.
Spherochromatism is a completely different aberration from lateral color fringes.
Mid-day sun at f/14 at 31mm.
With its 9-bladed diaphragm, this Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 L II often makes magnificent 18-pointed sunstars on brilliant points of light.
I'm very pleasantly surprised: even though Canon claims "rounded," which usually kills any sunstars, I see sunstars at just about all apertures under the right conditions. Even at f/2.8 at the wide end, the diaphragm is in play, and helps give little kickers to brilliant points of light that I love so much. Sunstars help an image tell the viewer just how bright the points of light are, since a photo can't otherwise reproduce the effect of a light or brilliant reflection shined in your face.
I'm really excited about the sunstars. They usually have sharp points, not the soft muted ones of today's wimpy "rounded" diaphragms, and they can be seen at normal apertures like f/8 and f/11, not needing to squint at f/22.
See also Compared to other Canon 35mm lenses.
If you want the most extraordinary optics overall, especially great sunstars and low distortion at 24mm, get this new 24-70 L II.
While lighter, more plasticy and twice as expensive as the old Canon 24-70/2.8 L, this new lens is significantly sharper in extreme conditions if you're counting your pixels, and most importantly to me, has magnificent sunstars sorely lacking on the older lens.
If you want the toughest-feeling pro lens, want the best bokeh or the least overall distortion in the middle of the zoom range, get the previous 24-70/2.8 L.
If you want a lighter, less expensive lens that adds Image Stabilization, is very sharp and covers a longer zoom range, get the 24-105mm f/4 IS. Personally, I dislike how the 24-105 crams all the wide focal lengths too close together on its zoom ring — making it a pain to zoom in the wide end — and it's loaded with hellacious distortion at 24mm, so I've never been a fan of the 24-105 IS.
Image Stabilization only helps with hand-holding, and only with still subjects (not motion), while the f/2.8 lenses are better for shooting action and people in low light.
* very wavy, not just curved.
I had fully expected to be writing a review poking fun of this lens for its crazy price and plasticyier build quality compared to the previous 24-70/2.8, but within just hours of starting to shoot this new, lighter lens, its superior image quality won me over immediately and I had to buy one for myself. Rats, this has been an expensive review!
I'm eating my own words: this new lens is even sharper at large apertures than my reference 50/1.8 II, which is as sharp as the Canon 50/2.5 Macro (the 50/1.4 USM is much less sharp than any of these if you're counting pixels), and it's 18-point sunstars are the best from Canon ever.
This lens is expensive, and good!
While lighter than the older model, it's still a big lens optimized for full-time use. If you are having to carry it all day but not shooting it all day, a lighter lens like the 24-85mm will be more comfortable to carry all day. Then again, if you're on a dedicated photo outing, nothing beats this lens — not even fixed lenses!
24-70mm f/2.8 lenses are favorites of most professional wedding and event photographers because of their great sharpness, high speed and optimum range for general people photos while walking the grounds and the room. It goes as wide as you'd ever dare for group shots without distorting faces, and goes long enough for decent head shots if you don't have the time to grab your 70-200 — and it's so darn sharp from edge-to-edge, especially at f/2.8, along with great sunstars rarely seen on new lenses. Canon has really got its act together.
Buy one! I did.
For most people on full frame, the 24mm end means you don't need another wide lens like the 16-35mm II. Since I do need the ultrawide end and carry an ultrawide anyway, I'd rather this lens covered 35-105mm instead.
I'd use an 82mm B+W 010 MRC UV filter for protection, or the Canon 82mm UV, or an 82mm Hoya HMC UV. You don't need a "slim" filter; any normal 82mm filter works great. These filters are all very good; the reason to pay more for the B+W is simply if you feel better with a $100 rather than a $64 filter on a $2,300 lens.
If you've found the effort I've spent in sharing this professional review helpful, this free website's biggest source of support is when you use these links, especially these directly to it at Adorama or at Amazon, when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live.
More Information top
Help me help you top
I support my growing family through this website, as crazy as it might seem.
The biggest help is when you use any of these links when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live. It costs you nothing, and is this site's, and thus my family's, biggest source of support. These places have the best prices and service, which is why I've used them since before this website existed. I recommend them all personally.
If you find this page as helpful as a book you might have had to buy or a workshop you may have had to take, feel free to help me continue helping everyone.
As this page is copyrighted and formally registered, it is unlawful to make copies, especially in the form of printouts for personal use. If you wish to make a printout for personal use, you are granted one-time permission only if you PayPal me $5.00 per printout or part thereof. Thank you!
Thanks for reading!
21 September 2012