The Canon 24-70mm f/4 is released in December 2012, together with the Canon 35mm f/2. It is a cheaper alternative to the Canon 24-70 mm 2.8 or its successor, the Canon 24-70 mm 2.8 II. Because the Canon 24-70 mm f/4 IS lens has a built-in image stabilization, this lens is even better suited to take pictures in the dark without using a tripod. Unless the subject is moving rapidly, because only a faster shutter speed helps against that.
Another feature - and possibly even the "Unique Selling Point" - that makes this lens more versatile than both Canon 24-70 mm f/2.8 lenses or the Canon 24-105 mm f/4 IS, is the built-in macro function. This allows you to take pictures with a maximum magnification of 0.7x, so you will need a special macro lens less or may be even not at all.
Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS USM review @ Canon 5D MK3
Field of View Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS USM @ 24 mm
FOV Canon EF 24-70mm IS @ 70 mm
On a camera with a full frame sensor, a 24-70 mm lens provides a very versatile field of view, which includes the popular 24 mm, 28 mm, 35 mm and 50 mm fixed focal lengths and is suitable for wide-angle shots, street photography and portrait photography. Nevertheless, real portrait photographers will prefer a lens with a longer focal length (~ 100 mm) and wider aperture (f/2.8) for a full screen portrait.
The Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS USM is built as you would expect from a Canon L lens. It is like a tank. Yet, this lens (weighing 600 grams) is lighter than its Canon counterparts. The revised design focuses on ease of use. The exterior has a high-quality coating with a leather structure. The lens is dust and moisture proof like all Canon L lenses. The lens gets longer as you zoom in. Furthermore, there are three buttons on the lens: AF / MF, IS on / off and a combined macro / lock button that you can lock the lens with for protection during travel.
On the Canon 24-70 mm f/4 IS is a macro button. Formally, this is not a macro lens, because the lens has no 1:1 reproduction ratio / magnification. Nevertheless, many pictures are taken with macro lenses in practice having a magnification of less than 1. You cannot take a macro shot immediately. You have to do something for it: if you move up this button in the 70mm mode, you can continue to turn the lens. The shortest focal distance is thus reduced to 20 cm (2 cm from the front lens!) and the magnification increases from 1:4.2 to 1:1.5. The following pictures show that it matters much whether you are shooting a subject from 38 cm or from 20 cm. Keep in mind that you often take away the light from the subject you are photographing at a distance of 20 cm.
Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS USM @ 70 mm
Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS USM @ macro
Review without lens aberration correction
The test of the Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS USM is performed on a Canon 5D MK3, for which the camera indicated that no correction data for vignetting and chromatic aberration is available for this lens (yet). Our Imatest measurement results for jpg files, where we did have the lens aberration corrections (vignetting and chromatic aberration) turned on, do correspond with the results of RAW files without lens aberration corrections.
The drive of the autofocus runs quiet and fast, thanks to the ring-type ultrasonic motor (USM). Focusing happens internally: the front lens does not rotate during focusing. Even when AF is enabled, you can still focus manually, overruling the AF by the user, without having to switch a button first. This lens focuses electronically, allowing you to continue to rotate when you have reached infinity when focusing manually.
Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS USM @ macro position
The Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS USM is also equipped with a newly designed IS system that delivers crisp pictures throughout the entire zoom range. Canon's advanced optical IS offers a light advantage of four stops, while Hybrid IS effectively compensates angular and tilting movements during macro photography to ensure sharp close-ups.
The Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS USM features a newly designed Image Stabilizer (IS) system. Canon's advanced optical IS provides, according to specifications, a 4-stop advantage, while the "Hybrid IS" compensates angular and tilting movements during macro photography. We have tested the stabilization at a focal length of 70 mm, where we we see that the image quality begins to wane from a shutter speed of 1/15 second when the IS is switched on. The resolution of an image made without IS at a shutter speed of 1/30 is equal to the sharpness of an image shut with IS and a shutter speed of 1/4. That is an actual gain of 3 stops.
In terms of resolution, the Canon 24-70 mm f/4 IS performs slightly better than the Canon 24-105mm f/4 IS and just as good as the old version of the Canon 24-70 mm f/2.8, which is just very good. In our listings with test results of individual focal lengths, you can compare the test results of these lenses at 24 mm, 35 mm or 50 mm with each other.
Vignetting is a relatively weak point of this lens. For all focal lengths, it goes that you will have a stop or more vignetting at full aperture. This can clearly be identified with the naked eye. At a 70 mm focal length, the vignetting over aperture 8 is no longer recognizable, unless you increase the contrast of an image. Then, still a little bit of vignetting can be recognized in the corners.
At focal lengths of 24 to 30 mm, the barrel distortion is visible, which is not unusual for this type of zoom lenses. At focal lengths above 35mm, the distortion is low.
Those shooting in RAW using standard lens correction profiles from Canon can correct all images taken with this lens for distortion, chromatic aberration and vignetting in one batch.
A fixed aperture of f/4 throughout the entire zoom range offers photographers exceptional creative control and makes a blurred background possible at all focal lengths. A nine-blade circular iris helps photographers to take their subjects forward and create a soft and subtle background blur (bokeh) and it further enhances the atmosphere of the digital photo.
Move your mouse over the image on the right.
Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS USM @ macro position
With 15lens elements in 12 groups, the risk of visible internal reflections in the form of flare or ghosting is relatively big. The lens elements have special coatings to reduce flare. At this point, the Canon 24-70 mm f/4 performs as well as the Canon 24-70 f/2.8 lens, loved among professionals. Compared to a lens with a fixed focal length, such as the Canon 35mm f/2, the Canon 24 -70 mm f/4 IS has more problems with flare in the form of ghosting, but this is not too bad for a 24 mm lens.
The lens design includes two aspherical elements and two UD (Ultra-low Dispersion) lenses to reduce chromatic aberration and color blur. A fluorine coating on the front and rear minimizes the amount of dirt, dust and fingerprints, contributes to a superior image quality and reduces the need for cleaning. This all works well, even without in-camera correction of chromatic aberration (because the test camera had no correction profile available for this lens yet), you will get good performances.
Canon 24-70 mm 2.8 vs. Canon 24-70 mm 4 IS
Two obvious comparisons are those of the Canon 24-70 f/4 IS with the Canon 24-105 mm f/4 IS and the Canon 24-70 mm f/2.8. Optically, you could say that you see no difference in quality between the old version of the Canon 24-70 mm f/2.8 and Canon 24-70 mm f/4 IS. Aside from one stop light intensity, this lens purely provides advantages over the Canon 24-70 mm f/2.8: the lens is cheaper, lighter, more compact, has built-in image stabilization and a macro function.
Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS USM JPG & RAW score: This table normally shows the performances of this lens when saving files in the camera as jpg, with all available in-camera lens corrections enabled. The Jpg score then gives for this lens / test camera combination: "What you see is what you get." However, the Canon 5D MK3 test camera did not have correction data for this lens(yet). This makes the results for a RAW and a jpg file match, because both files are not corrected.
High image quality
Light and compact compared to Canon 24-70 mm f/2.8
Well-built and dust / moisture resistant
Visible distortion at 24 mm and 28 mm
Front lens is 2 cm away from subject at macro function at minimum focal length
This lens offers the same high quality as the Canon 24-70 mm f/2.8. On the other hand, the Canon 24-70 mm f/ 4 IS a lighter and more compact alternative. The Canon 24-70 mm f/4 provides an additional macro function and a built-in image stabilization, with an actual gain of 3 stops. Because these lenses offer very high, almost identical image quality, this macro mode might be the "Unique Selling Point" to choose for the Canon 24-70mm 4 IS.
Author: Ivo Freriks
With Camera Review Stuff I hope to make a modest contribution to the pleasure that you get from photography. By testing cameras and lenses in the same way, evluating the results and weighing up the pros and cons, I hope to help you find the right camera or lens.
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