In February 2012, the Canon EF 24-70 II was announced: the successor of one of the most popular professional Canon zoom lenses. The previous version of this standard zoom lens with a fixed f/2.8 aperture existed since 2002. However, you certainly can't say that the previous version is - in terms of construction or image quality - an outdated lens. That is quite a feat of Canon: there have been many developments since 2002 that improve the image quality of lenses. Canon claims that the new version is even better than the old version: sharper and, especially at 70mm, less distortion. To achieve this, the Canon 24-70 II is a completely new design. The only point that remains on the wish list of a potential buyer, will be image stabilization. The Canon 24-70 mm f/2.8 doesn't offer IS. For our Canon 24-70 II review, we attached this lens to a Canon 5D MK2 MK3, to see if it indeed delivers a better image quality than the old Canon 24-70 mm f/2.8.
Field of view (FOV) Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 USM II @ 24 mm
FOV @ 70 mm
The Canon 24-70 II will surely find its way into the camera bag of many professional photographers who strive for the highest possible quality. The focal length range is almost universal, from wide angle (24mm) , through standard (35mm and 50mm), to slightly telephoto (70mm). This makes it an ideal reporter lens. You can shoot an entire wedding without changing lenses. For the wealthy photographer the Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 II is also an ideal vacation lens. You will not get visibly sharper images if you carry 3 lenses with a fixed focal length (24mm, 35mm, 50mm) with you, instead of the Canon 24-70 mm II.
Compared to the original Canon 24-70 mm lens, the Canon 24-70 mm II is more compact. And the use of high-quality plastics made the new version also 150 grams, nearly 20% lighter than the old version. That's fine for a relatively large and fast (constant f/2.8) zoom lens designed for a full frame sensor, which you are going to carry all day. Nevertheless, the 82mm filter size remains impressive. The professional Canon L lenses are built to function under the most extreme conditions. Therefore this lens is extra sealed against dust and splash water. With the new zoom lock, which is also present on the Canon 24-70 mm f/4, you can lock the zoom ring at maximum wide angle to avoid damaging during transport. The lens has a distance scale in meters and feet, indicating the focusing distance.
A minimum focusing distance of 0.38 meters at all focal lengths and across the entire zoom range makes it possible to capture subjects up close, as you can see in the image of two cups of cappuccino. A ring-type USM (Ultrasonic motor), together with a -according to Canon - powerful processor and advanced AF algorithms, offer silent, accurate and exceptionally fast autofocus. Manual adjustment of the focus is always possible, even when the AF is switched on.
Coffee?, Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 USM II @
Test without lens correction
Normally we carry out our lens reviews with as many as available in-camera lens corrections for jpg files. In this case, however, this was not possible. Our Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 II review is performed on a Canon 5D MK3. The camera indicated that no correction data for vignetting and chromatic aberration were available for this lens (yet). Our Imatest measurement results for jpg files where we had turned the lens aberration corrections (vignetting and chromatic aberration) agreed with the results of RAW files without lens aberration corrections.
Our compliments for Canon for indicating that no correction data are available. Some cameras of other brands do offer the correction option, without showing whether there is a profile available. In such a case, you think your pg files are corrected, where they are left unchanged.
Resolution Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 USM II
At all focal lengths, except for 35 mm, our Imatest measurements for the new Canon 24-70mm 2.8 II showed a higher resolution than the old Canon 24-70mm f/2.8. At a 35 mm focal length, the resolution results were equal. The center sharpness was in our measurements slightly higher at 24mm and 28mm focal lengths than at the other focal lengths. But the most striking feat is that the sharpness is very constant: the extreme corner resolution and at the resolution at the edges are equal to the resolution in the center. At all focal lengths and aperture settings! With the Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 MK2, you'll use the aperture in low light situations to play with bokeh and depth of field, and not because you have to increase the sharpness of your image.
Move your mouse over the image below for the difference in sharpness at 100% between the Canon 24-70 f/2.8 and the Canon 24-70 II.
Vignetting Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 USM II
Canon tried to design this lens as compact as possible. This can be seen in the vignetting results. The Canon 24-70mm USM II exhibits a vignetting at 24 and 28 mm, which is still visible even at f/8. The other focal lengths show no vignetting after stopping down one stop. We've compared our Imatest results for distortion of uncorrected RAW files from both Canon 24-70mm 2.8 lenses (old and mk2): they are equal.
Personally, I do not mind a little vignetting. Often you don't recognize it in real life images. Sometimes vignetting gives the image more atmosphere. Ans if you need to correct vignetting, it can easily be done by your image-editing software. This lens already has a 82mm filter size. If Canon tried to eliminate vignetting at any cost, my comment would have been that this lens is very heavy, and the front lens very large.
With the introduction of the Canon 24-70 MK2, Canon claimed that the new version of this lens has less distortion, especially at 70mm. This is confirmed by our measurements. At almost all focal lengths the new version show less distortion, but at a focal length of 70mm the improvement is best seen. The Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 mk2 show visibly less distortion at 70mm than the Canon 24-70mm f/2.8. As mentioned above, this test is performed without in-camera lens correction, because we did not have access to a lens correction profile. Once there is a lens correction profile is available for this lens, the distortion in jpg files can effectively be eliminated by the camera.
Bokeh Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 USM II
The rounded, circular aperture which consists of nine blades, forms beautiful bokeh. I find it difficult to see differences with the bokeh of the old 24-70 mm version. The bokeh of the Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 II is nicer than the Canon 24-70mm f/4 bokeh. The large number of aperture blades of this lens also offers an impressive star diffraction: If you set this lens to e.g. f/8 and you shoot straight into the sun or a starry sky, you will get sun rays with 18 arms.
Each lens element is coated with Canon's Super Spectra coating to reduce flare and reflection A fluorine coating on the front and back lens elements of the Canon 24-70 mm f/2.8 II diminishes dust, dirt or fingerprints on the lens. This prevents quality issues due to dust on the lens, although I think these dust spots or fingerprints should be very severe, before you will observe it in your final results.
This lens comes standard with a lens hood. If there was a bright light source outside the picture, we saw, even without using the hood, little to no flare or ghosting. You will not be penalized often if you leave the hood at home. This lens is resistant to flare, but a lens with a fixed focal length, such as the Canon 35mm f/2 that we recently tested, shows that it can be improved. Here you see a 100% crop of an image shot with the sun shining straight into the lens. In one of the shadow areas we found this green dagger like ghost. Possibly you're better off at concert photography and night photography with a (perhaps faster) lens with a fixed focal length.
The new optical design includes two aspherical UD (Ultra-low Dispersion) elements and a Super UD aspherical element, in order to minimize chromatic aberration. And chromatic aberration is indeed, at all settings so low that you do not have to worry about it. Relatively speaking, we found the "highest" chromatic aberration at 24 mm and 70 mm. In general, it seems that the chromatic aberration is lower using the smaller apertures. Also in terms of chromatic aberration, the Canon 24-70 2.8 II performed in our tests better than the old version.
Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 USM II 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.
Even higher image quality (sharper and less distortion at 70mm) than its predecessor
Beautiful background blur / bokeh
Sealed against dust and water
Large and heavy
For every professional photography reporter or wedding photographer, who demands the highest image quality, the Canon 24-70 II is a very attractive choice and the high purchase price will not be an obstacle. If you are considering to replace the old with the new version, the new version is indeed better, more compact and thus also (20%) lighter. In most respects, this lens delivers an image quality equal to the image quality of a set of lenses with fixed focal length. It will only be under extreme conditions (i.e.: aiming the lens straight towards the sun) that this zoom lens will be more prone to flare compared to the set with fixed focal lengths. This might be interesting to know for concert photographers. For an amateur photographer with a slightly lower budget, the Canon 24-70 mm f4 IS or the old version of the Canon 24-70, f/2.8 will be an attractive, because cheaper alternative.
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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